Ever since I was a kid, I can remember that my uncle would talk very little about his time in the Marines, and serving in Vietnam. My uncle is my personal hero, and I remember him saying he carried an M16A1 in combat. So, being the history nut I was I watched as many films on The Vietnam War as possible. That is where I fell in love with the M16A1, the triangle handguards, 3 prong flash hider, etc.
Recently a fellow contributor invited me to start doing Vietnam reenacting, specifically MACV-SOG. I had to choose who I would be during the living history exhibits and had to choose what rifle and pistol I would carry. That was a no brainer, I would carry my grandfathers M1911A1 from WW2, and build a clone M16A1, mainly because I don’t have the spare coin to buy a real one. Thankfully Brownells released their retro line a couple of years back, and I used them as a resource for this build.
The main reason I chose to go with retro parts was simple. They are new, more durable, and do not cost a black market kidney donation to buy, and it was almost a 1 stop shop to get everything needed, down to the smallest details. I went with black stock, grip, and handguards, period-correct 3 prong flash hider, straight slip ring, a1 receiver with teardrop forward assist from Nodak Spud, and even down to the rounded 5 notch front sight post.
The more modern parts I chose because they were more of a benefit to have than not. I chose a current production PSA lower receiver, simply because of having captured pins. I chose a 20-inch pencil barrel in a 1-9 twist, vs the 1-12 twist that was used during Vietnam. I chose this to have more options with ammo, and better accuracy. The real kicker, instead of cross drilling and pinning the front sight/gas block, I drilled out the hole used to drill the gas port, along with a hole under the bayonet lug, tapped them to 10/32 and used set screws. I chose this for future versatility and the option to convert this barrel set up if needed to something free-floated, and well, secondly, I don’t have the option to cross drill currently.
After all the building and test firing, this is by far one of my favorite rifles that I own. I did add a Geissele trigger, for a bit faster shot count, but even with rapid-fire, this rifle blows me away. It is so smooth, soft recoiling, quick on follow up shots with using irons, just amazing, and the classic look is a head-turner, to say the least. I think I may have to build another one, and maybe the XM177 or CAR15 as many know it.