Throughout the modern era of conflict two infantry rifles have set the standard for all others, the M-16 and the AK-47. No other infantry rifle has shaped history more in the past sixty years than these two.

They have encountered one another countless times since they first clashed in Vietnam, and critics have compared the two ever since. The AK-47 is an air cooled, gas operated, magazine fed, rotating bolt, assault rifle. It was designed by a Russian engineer named Mikhail Kalashnikov in 1947. It was accepted a few years later by the Soviet Union as a replacement for the SKS Carbine.

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It fires a 7. 62×39 cartridge (Collecting). The projectile is larger and is known to have a heavier impact than the one used by the M-16 but is also known to be a bit less accurate. The use of the larger round means that the AK is able penetrate small cover, such as wood or drywall, better than the smaller round used by the M-16. The maximum effective range for the AK-47 is around 300 yards.

The AK is a very cheaply produced rifle, requiring simple tooling to manufacture and maintain. Furthermore, the rifle requires very little training for the user, while also being extraordinarily reliable.Very few, if any, firearms are able to operate effectively under the poor conditions that the AK can withstand. These characteristics are why the AK-47 is the choice of many forces around the world. In fact, the AK-47 was so influential in the leaders of Mozambique gaining power that it is on their flag. The M-16 is an air cooled, gas operated, magazine fed, and rotating bolt assault rifle as well. It was designed by Eugene Stoner who worked for ArmaLite in the 1960’s.

It fires the 5. 56mm x 45 NATO round, which is a round based on the . 223 Remington.

This round is smaller than the 7. 2 fired from the AK but travels at a much higher velocity and is known to have greater accuracy. Also, the center of gravity of the round, combined with the high velocity, produce a deadly tumbling and fragmentation action upon impact into flesh. A person shot in the leg may have the projectile exit through the ankle, instead of straight through to the other side of the leg, while also having smaller fragments remain in the body. Unfortunately, this can also cause the projectile to be thrown off course by small materials and it is not able to penetrate cover as well as its Russian counterpart.

The maximum effective range for the M-16 is about 600 yards, giving it a definitive advantage over the AK in this category. Early on, the M-16 was known to have problems with reliability, although it was found to be cause by the type of powder in the ammunition rather than mechanical function (Evolution). But even with the newer ammunition, it still cannot match the reliability of the AK. The M-16 is an extremely versatile platform since the whole top half of the rifle can be removed in a matter of seconds, and a different top half can be applied just as quickly.Due to its reliability and cheap cost the AK has been the choice of mostly poorer fighting forces across the globe, while the M-16 has been adopted mostly by wealthier nations for its accuracy and lethality. Both have shown to be more than capable battle rifles and their use over the years now has given them a reputation that precedes them. Their long standing rivalry seems to have no end in sight because these weapons are still the mainstay of armed forces across the globe.