Firing US made M16 assault rifles: Unique Experience at Cu Chi, Vietnam - eNidhi India Travel Blog

Firing US made M16 assault rifles: Unique Experience at Cu Chi, Vietnam

M16 assault rifles are US Army’s preferred primary weapon. They are much lighter, more accurate, less recoil and much faster compared to Russia made AK-47s. M16 s were naturally weapon of choice for US Soldiers fighting in Vietnam. However good they were in theory, when put to use in Vietnam, M16s didn’t perform as expected. Despite having various advantages and superiority over AK-47 on paper, M16s couldn’t work well when exposed to rain, mud, slush and other natural elements the soldiers had to battle in Vietnam, in addition to the enemy. AK-47s were used extensively by Vietnam soldiers- though AK-47 had various disadvantages compared to M16, it worked well without jamming or failing when exposed to water, mud, slush and so on. AK-47 would work better under water and in cold/super hot conditions, giving Vietnam soldiers lots of confidence.
Why I wrote above is because recently I fired 20 rounds from an original M16 rifle. Visitors going to Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam have an option to pay and fire from M16 or AK-47. The fee is 550000 VND (USD 25) for 10 bullets (minimum quantity you’ve to buy). All bullets have to be used at the spot- not permitted to take home. On the day I visited, only M16 was on offer. AK-47 was not. Don’t know why but may be the bullets were out of stock. 
I bought my first 10 bullets, was escorted to firing range. Was given a head gear for noise insulation (which was hardly effective). The staff (who are said to be former soliders) loaded the magazine with 10 bullets, inserted the magazine into the gun, readied it and let me fire. The target was about 30 meters away (not very far, the M16 bullet can reach as long as 3.6 kms but in order to be deadly, the effective range is about 550 meters). I fired first one-a deafening sound followed and the empty bullet shell flew out. It was not possible to know if I hit the target or not. Next 9 rounds (each bullet is referred to as a round in weapons world)- 1 round doesn’t mean one magazine or anything. 
Once I came back up, I decided to try one more time. Bought another 10 bullets (total I spent 1.1 million VND on this!). This time I told the staff that I want to load the magazine. My first attempt was failure as I was trying to load in opposite direction. He showed me how to load bullets into a magazine and then I loaded the rest. Inserting magazine into the gun was easy- just a gentle push and it was in position. Next step I had to pull a lever all the way back (retract). I guess this will unlock the gun and position bullet in its firing position. Next was just clicking the trigger. Aiming was not that easy. Either my vision is bad or the target markings have lost clarity over time.
What I didn’t like:
1. Result was not communicated. Previously, when I had fired from a 0.22 Bolt rifle inKanchanaburi Thailand, we were given the paper sheet on which bullet holes were made. This helped me understand the effectiveness of my firing and keep the paper as a souvenir. However no such thing happened in Cu Chi. If the target was a standing structure (like a glass bottle or balloon etc) I could have seen if it fell off or not. The hard concentric circles offered as a target weren’t visible clearly from firing spot to see how accurate was the shot. If they could tell me how did I fare, I would have been happy. I was earlier told they have some prize if we hit at least 3-4 shots at the center of the target. I didn't get any reward so assuming I wasn't as accurate.

2. Can’t fire at moving object. The gun was fixed and I only could fire straight. A moving target like a clay disc could have made a more challenging target. (I had tried that in Copenhagen- read details here)

3. I couldn’t lift the gun and feel it. I couldn’t try from an angle or position of my choice. Just had to click from its fixed position. Not much fun, as any kid can press the trigger. Of course I got to experience the recoil, cartridge flying out and the sound but I need to feel the gun to get full experience.
Overall it was a good experience- as regular citizen we don't get to fire from rifles normally. Even if you want to apply for a gun license in India, you can only have a pistol/shotgun or air rifles. Civilians are not allowed to have automatic rifles. When in Cu Chi, do try your hands at these rifles.

You can watch a short (2 min) video of my experience at Cu Chi's National Defence Sports Shooting Range below.

Watch it on Youtube here. Read other posts from Vietnam here and more adventure posts here


  1. Trust me I will never fire a M16 which is more than 50 years old, this looks lucrative but on the same time very dangerous. The bullets also looks way old.

    1. I am sure the folks here maintain the guns well. Even otherwise, can you explain what is the danger you forsee?
      THere's absolutely no way for the bullet to fire backwards and kill the shooter. It is not a bomb to explode. Main risk is gun getting jammed- empty cartridge not flying out automatically- this is not life threatening.

      What are the other risks you see?


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