BOOK REVIEW: 'The M16AI Rifle: Operation and Preventative Maintenance': Comics Immortal Will Eisner's Classic Guide to Temperamental Service Rifle

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'The M16AI Rifle: Operation and Preventative Maintenance': Comics Immortal Will Eisner's Classic Guide to Temperamental Service Rifle
The AR15 civilian rifle is often targeted by anti-gun people as an "assault weapon" but during the Vietnam war its military equivalent, the  M16, was often hated by grunts in the field because of its often balky action. It was a far cry from the AK47s used by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops. The Russian-designed AK47 and its variants fired a .30 caliber round and rarely if ever malfunctioned -- even if covered with dirt, water and slime.     
  To help solve the problem with the new rifle, the U.S. Army under Chief of Staff Gen. William Westmoreland in 1969 brought comic book immortal Will Eisner (see the wikipedia entry on this genius of comics and graphic novels: back to the drawing board to repeat the success he had as a WWII veteran who used comic book techniques in producing an instruction manual that works and is fun to use.


  As gun expert Robert A. Sadowski points out in his introduction to "The M16AI Rifle: Operation and Preventative Maintenance" (Skyhorse Publishing, 53 pages, hardback, $12.95) Eisner used sex appeal with a curvy female narrator to get the attention of soldiers having problems with their M16 rifles. I've talked to a number of Vietnam vets and to a man they hated this new weapon. They preferred the predecessor, the .30 caliber M14, which had replaced a number of weapons, including the Garand M1, the M1 Carbine, etc. Hampered by a wooden stock -- later replaced with with a fiberglass one that withstood the tropic conditions of Southeast Asia better than the timber one -- the M14 used a round -- 7.62X51 mm NATO (.308 Winchester) -- comparable to the AK. This round was deemed too powerful to be used on full automatic, so most of the rifles were locked on semi-automatic. Today the beloved M14 serves as the basis for the M21 and M25 sniper rifles.


Comic books were something the troops in 'Nam could understand, so the joint venture between Eisner and the Army was a marriage made in heaven. How immortal is William Erwin "Will" Eisner (1917-2005)? The comic book equivalent of the Oscars, Emmys, Grammies and Tonys is  called the "Eisner" award.

The 32-page booklet was more than a simple manual and step-by-step guide, this unconventional yet important military document tried to appeal to soldiers with suggestive chapter titles such as “How to Strip Your Baby,” “What to Do in a Jam,” “Sweet 16,” and “All the Way with Négligé.” A copy of the   booklet was issued to nearly every soldier serving in Vietnam. If manufacturers produced instruction books like this, they wouldn't be tossed into a dark drawer corner: They'd be read.

In addition to the informative  Introduction, Sadowski supplies a history of the M16 and a timeline of the .223 caliber (NATO 5.56) rifle. 

This is a great book for any Vietnam veteran, as well as any firearms collector and shooter. As an NRA member, a member of a Texas gun club and a member of the Texas State Rifle Association, I approve this book for anyone interested in firearms.
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