Mattis Admits The M16 Lacks Lethality

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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Former Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis acknowledged Thursday that the military’s small arms are outdated and lack lethality, and that it may be time for an upgrade in the near future.

Sen. Joni Ernst addressed the military’s outdated small arms, specifically the M-16 rifle and M9 pistol, while questioning Mattis during his confirmation hearing. She noted that the M-16 shoots a bullet that is “illegal for shooting small deer in nearly all states due to its lack of killing power.”

“Do you agree that we cannot grow a more lethal force while using outdated small arms and ammunition?” asked Earnst.

“I do agree with that approach, ma’am. I have been away for several years, and as you know, the Army, the special forces, the marines have all been working on creating a more lethal round for the M-16, M-4.”

Mattis noted he would have to review the military’s ongoing attempts to create a more lethal round, but he did “100 percent agree” with Ernst’s approach.

Ernst noted that while the U.S. continues to use the M16 and its M4 variant, Russia continues to advance its service rifle. Russia began issuing its latest service rifle, the Ak-12, in 2014. The new Russian rifle is based on the infamous AK74 platform, which was first introduced to the Russian army in the 1970s.

The AK12 is slightly lighter and shorter than the U.S. M16, and features a higher muzzle velocity and longer range. Additionally, the AK12 has the capability to fire the 7.62 x 39 mm round, which is larger than the standard U.S. 5.56 x 45 mm.

The U.S. M16 entered service in 1964, first seeing action during the Vietnam War. Several variants have since been introduced, the latest of which is the M16A4, which was introduced in 1990. The various military branches are in the midst of replacing the M16 with the M4 variant, though the transition has been remarkably slow.

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