Long IDF-M16 connection comes to an end

December 18, 2012 - 8:21 PM by

It was bound to happen, but it will always remain in Israeli folklore.

The fabled M16 assault rifle, the mainstay of the IDF for decades, is being phased out, in favor of the Tavor, according to local reports.

The weapon of US choice during the Vietnam War, the IDF purchased the M16s from the US Army during the late 1960s and early 1970s at very low prices. And they became the army’s major armament, replacing the Uzi, Galil, and all of the other rifles that Israel had used up until that time.

Big, clunky and hard to maneuver, the M16’s main virtue was its sturdiness and reliability. But now the IDF is phasing them out in favor of the homemade Tavor, which was custom designed for the IDF by Israel Military Industries in the 1990s. It was then introduced to infantry units and integrated into other units in the 2000s, with reservists the only ones still receiving the M16.

No private in basic training will ever forget the lecture on dismantling the M16 and the threat of what would happen if the miniscule ‘pin shabbat’ was lost. You can guess why the tiny piece got its name – if you lost it, then you spent Shabbat on the base.

I had my own love-hate relationship with the weapon. While I never lost the pin Shabbat, I never got comfortable with the oversized gun, and was a terrible shooter to boot.

One time, in basic training, assigned to guard the perimeter while my fellow soldiers were on the shooting range, I practiced aiming the gun off in the distance to acclimate my eye/trigger hand contact. As I stared through the scope, who did I see coming into view? My commander, and my weapon was pointed directly at him.

After suffering through a severe verbal shellacking (he was 19, I was 31), I explained what I was doing, and that night, he took time aside and brought me to the firing range for some personal coaching. I’d like to say it helped, but my shot never got any better.

So farewell, M16, I won’t be one of those who miss you.

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