Navy recruits don’t train with the M16

At least according to wikipedia, they don’t. I was doing some research, and in the article about Navy Recruit training, it mentioned that the marksmanship training that naval recruits receive consists of training on the M9 and a Mossberg 500, but not the M16. Initially, my reaction was surprise, but as I spent some time thinking it actually made a lot of sense. Of course, if there are any recent graduates of Navy boot camp that did train with the M16 in boot camp, please let me know in the comments.

But, to the point of the article, it does actually make sense to not bother training recruits in boot camp on the M16, because most sailors are never, ever going to need to be able to use an M16. And so, the small percentage of the Navy that does need to be able to use M16s can probably get training later in their career field. Boot camp probably isn’t the best place for it, because in boot camp they’re trying to jam as much information into your tiny little (likely) teenage head as possible, so why waste a sailor’s time with something they’re likely to never need. Hell, I’d probably need three weeks alone just trying to figure out how to tie that neckerchief correctly.


Obviously different branches of the service have different marksmanship standards, and of course the Marines as an institution genuinely care about rifle marksmanship. As recent conflicts have shown, it makes sense for people in non-combat MOS in the Army, Marines, and even the Air Force to be familiar with the M16 when they’re deployed. But for dudes that are going to spend their entire career sitting on the inside of a tin can looking at a radar screen? Probably not. Do they still call destroyers tin cans? Or is that no longer the turn of phrase?

This really is just an observational post; when most people think of the military they tend to think of the sexy jobs; infantry, artillery, fighter pilots and boarding teams. They don’t often think that the vast majority of people in the military are in non-combat positions – cooks and accountants, radar operations, machinists, just regular jobs that happen to have a bit more risk than you’d encounter in the civilian community.


  1. When my wife was stationed as a firefighter in the Navy on Adak Island, Alaska, her whole experience with firing an M-16 was to aim at a mountain in the distance and empty a magazine. She was taught how to fieldstrip the M-16 in Basic (in 1990), but she never fired one.

  2. Back in my day (mid ’80s) we got 5 rounds through a 1911 with a .22 conversion kit.

    So I’m not up on the current recruit training firearm instruction.

    And yes, shooting a shotgun makes more sense than an M16 inside of a steel walled environment.

    As for the neckerchief, right over left, left over right. Gap to the left. How hard is that? Don’t forget the penny at the base when rolling it, or getting it even will be a bitch. Once you have it rolled and tied properly, leave it alone so you never have to redo it. 🙂

    We called Destroyers and Cruisers “small boys”. 🙂

    Semper Paratus, Caleb!

    1. I saw on the internetwebs that you can buy a pre-rolled neckerchief now.

      And I always struggled with knot tying.

  3. While we’re on the Navy topic, why does the Navy wear blue camouflage? Aren’t most of the ships still painted grey? If I fall off a ship and I’m floating in the ocean I would like to be seen so that I may be rescued.

    1. According to the Navy, the new colors are more resistant to the wear and stains associated with shipboard life, leading to a longer service interval for uniforms.

  4. Weren’t the sentries on the Cole armed with (unloaded) M16s? I supposed if they weren’t trained, it makes perverse sense to have them unloaded.

  5. Navy boot camp for me was in Orlando, Florida (now closed), in fall of 1980. Gun training consisted of field-stripping a 1911A1, then shooting a single magazine of .22LR through a 1911A1 with a conversion kit. The recruit with the best score with the .22’s got to shoot a “real” 1911A1 with .45ACP. No long arms familiarization at all, although you could see pics of them in The Bluejacket’s Manual. On one of the ships I was on TAD (Temporary Additional Duty), USS Deyo, we got to shoot 1911’s, shotguns and M14 off the fantail. again just a single magazine for each.

  6. My wife-ETCS(SW)USN(ret,)- and I-ET1(PJ) USN(ret.) both were on the security reaction teams on diverse ships and trained with the M14. Nothing beats picking off rioters on the pier or suicidal bog-hammers in the gulf like a 14.

  7. navy personnel are “trained” on M4 carbines if their duties require it. Obviously, the training someone who is going to be in a ground combat environment is more extensive than for someone who is merely carrying an M4 while standing watch on the quarterdeck.

    As for the absolutely asinine Aquaflage, teh excuse that it is “necessary” to hide paint drips is ridiculous. It’s a working uniform (it’s right in the name – Navy WORKING Uniform) — if it doesn’t have stains on it, what the Hell is that sailor doing all day long?

    Two facts — 1. Camoflage patterned cloth costs more than solid colors. 2. The Coast Guard seems to do just fine calling up whoever has the current BDU contract and saying, “Uh, yeah, we need another 50,000 sets of BDUs in SWAT Team Blue. Yeah, the Coast Guard contract stuff.” And the Coasties don;t worry if their uniform looks like someone actually gets his hands dirty on the job or doesn’t have room for an ironing board and starch at his rack.

  8. Navy recruits trained on the M-16 in boot camp as recently as 2007 when my brother went through. As far as navy sailors having a need to utilize a rifle, sailors who stand security watches must be qualified on any weapon they are issued. On a Tin Can (it’s a bit archaic, but still in use) over half the crew needs to be qualified on everything from the M-16 to the M-2. Even as an officer I’ve qualified on every small arm onboard. While it’s far from perfect, the Navy has definitely improved it’s physical security since the days of unloaded pistols in widow-maker holsters. As for the NWUs, all I can say is they are comfy.

    1. In bootcamp they use a M-16 trainer, its a laser gun with a compressed air hose which gives it recoil. Def didn’t use a real M-16 doing that timeframe.

  9. As far back as 1979 when I entered the USAF, the M-16 was the A1 and the BCG had a teflon .22LR conversion in it. The stupid thing had many stoppages. I didn’t shoot an M-16 with 5.56 until I joined the Army reserves in ’85.

    1. Ditto. The rifles I shot at Lackland were original Armalite contract AR-15s w/ worn-out .22 conversions. Never shot an M-16 until I was tapped for range duty North of Nellis (some will know where that is). When I finally arrived in an area where 400-600 yard shots would be common, they traded my 16 for an MP5. Yes, those USAF planes don’t run on jet fuel, but on the concentrated genius produced by the decision makers.

  10. GSM1(SW) – We used M9 pistols and M12 shotguns with M14 for ship to ship sniper duty. I was a VBSS team member for 2.5 of my 14 year career (medical separation due to injuries) and my duty weapon was an M9 pistol. In confined spaces of a ship small is practical and less dangerous to all involved.

  11. Tom B — Don;t get me wrong. I LOVE the idea of the NWU. I just think the Aquaflage is stupid. Go solid dark blue (maybe a shade sometimes referred to as. . . “Navy” blue. . . ) with the full color insignia they use on the submarine coveralls. Done. Or, adopt the USCG ODU, with USN insignia substituted for USCG insignia. Done.

    The *cut* and *intent* of the NWU is great.

  12. In 1966, we (USN Seabees) trained, and qualified to Marine Corp standards, with M14’s out to 600 yards. In 1967 we were issued M16’s, but I never qualified with one as I was moved to a weapons platoon and carried an M60 and a 1911 sidearm. Put many thousands of rounds downrange with everything I carried. Nobody cared for the M16 at that time. Security carried Mossberg 500’s or Remington 870’s and a 1911 . Oh, I never wore my dungarees, we wore Marine Core fatigues.

  13. I trained with a m9 and shotgun in Navy basic 2008. I would never be issued a pistol on a ship as I work on aircraft, not security. However, if I was deployed to Iraq I would mist likely carry the m9. More recently
    they are using a sophisticated laser m9 in boot camp that simulates recoil to save on ammunition. A lot of new recruits are not
    shooting the shotgun. Of course if your job is security, you would get training for that outside of boot camp. Regarding the blue digital cammies, it is simply a pattern to help hide stains like someone previously posted. On the carrier people doing jobs that pose the biggest threat of falling off the ship wear flight deck gear which consists of a brightly colored shirt and float coat that matches. No camouflage going on there.

  14. We trained on the gutted “Ricky-nintendo” M-16 with the laser targeting in ’97. Never saw one aboard ship: were still using M-14s for the attachment that allowed us to fire a ‘rifle grenade’ rubber lump across to an adjacent ship for an underway replenishment.

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