What does the "M" in M-16 stand for?
-- Mira Fae Sobson, UCLA
Remember, Mira, we're dealing here with the U.S. Army. Mostly a no-frills, no-imagination outfit that runs on codes and letters and numbers and dashes and slashes and dots. If you're hoping it's short for something macho or romantic or even mean and nasty, you're out of luck. The M in M-16 stands for "model." As in Model 16 semi-auto rifle. According to the Springfield (MA) Armory National Park, the repository of the largest collection of historical U.S. military weapons in the world, the M designation for rifles goes back before 1800. In the late 1940s, the prototype M-16 was designed by the Armalite company. They called it the AR-15. AR for Armalite. The Air Force was the first military outfit interested in a few thousand of the weapons for their sentries. Eventually the Army wanted it to replace the M-14. Armalite sold the design to Colt, and the Department of Defense renamed the military version of the AR-15 the M-16.