As the way we wage war evolves, so does our weaponry. Long gone are the days of packing gunpowder, and today’s military weapons focus on quality and versatility to keep our soldiers safe.
There’s a lot of controversy in the military community over which weapons are the best. Take rifles, for example. What makes a superior rifle? Is it accuracy over long distances? Reliability in the field? Comfort and ease of use? Because everyone’s criteria is different, there’s no one true “best” rifle. But we can certainly argue over it anyway!
Here are the 10 best military weapons:
Best Military Weapons
The AK-47 is one of the most well-known and well-loved military rifles of all time. It was introduced to the Soviet Army in 1948, and made its mark as a gun that could take a hit, was easy to use, and cheap to produce. As far as modern day use goes, the AK-47 is considered outdated and less accurate than modern rifles. However, it is still touted for its revolutionary design and how pretty much anyone can pick it up and use it effectively. Russian Ground Forces actually use the AK-47M, a direct descendent of the original AK-47, with smaller 5.45mm ammunition and a 30-round magazine. Today, approximately one of every five firearms in the world is a part of the “AK” family.
The HK416 was developed by German manufacturer Heckler & Koch and based off of AR-15 style rifles like the M16. However, it uses a gas-piston system like the UK’s SA80 instead. This makes the rifle run cooler and require less maintenance from the shooter. It fires 5.56mm rounds and features a 16-inch barrel, giving it a longer range than more compact rifles (like the M4). The HK416 is also known as the M27, and is currently used by Marine Corps infantrymen.
8. Colt 1911
While the Colt 1911 isn’t one of the best military weapons of 2019, it’s a historical gem. This pistol is revolutionary because it turned the focus away from revolvers. Developed in 1911 by John Moses Browning, it became the US military’s first semi-automatic handgun. It’s been upgraded to the 1911A1, which is amazingly still in use today. In fact, the design of the Colt 1911 is what gave birth to the M45A1, which is the standard issue handgun of the Marine Special Operations Command.
7. M4 Carbine
The M4 Carbine rifle was created to be a more lightweight and mobile version of the M16A2. Its barrel is only 14.5 inches long — almost six inches shorter than the M16. It similarly features 5.56mm rounds, a 30-round magazine, and semi-auto and three-round-burst modes. The Army has just upgraded it to the M4A1 with the addition of full-auto, a thicker barrel for sustained accuracy, and controls that cater to both left and right handed shooters.
Developed in 2010 by Remington, the XM2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle was specifically designed for the high altitude and long distance firefights in Afghanistan. It includes a flash suppressor, sound suppressor, and thermal sleeve to hide its heat signature. It’s the ultimate stealth sniper rifle, and can hit targets with pinpoint accuracy from distances of up to 1,200 meters (three-fourths of a mile).
5. Gatling Gun
The Gatling Gun was invented by Richard Gatling and first used during the American Civil War in the Battle of Petersburg. It was the first real rapid-fire gun in American history, and featured a central axis with six rotating barrels. Gatling later upgraded it to 10 barrels, and it could fire up to 400 rounds per minute. The idea was ingenius for its time — as the rotating barrels were able to keep up sustained fire, and the actions of loading, firing, and unloading happened simultaneously in different barrels. The rotating movement also helped keep the gun cool. Though it was eventually phased out, modern day rotary cannons are still referred to as Gatling guns, and it paved the way rapid-fire weaponry of the future.
The GNAT was developed by Abe Karem in the late 1980s as one of the first UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) designated for warfare. We see drones in the civilian world now, and while they’re cool, it’s easy to forget that they are easily one of the best military weapons ever invented. Not having to equip UAVs with pilot systems and controls — as well as not having to train pilots to brave these flights — is a big money-saver. It also created a completely new area of expertise: UAV piloting. The GNAT was the basis for the MQ-1 Predator, a more modern drone that served in many Middle Eastern conflicts for both recon and deadly force.
Precision bombs were first developed at the tail-end of the Vietnam War. Laser-guided bombs provided bomber pilots with a completely new kind of accuracy — suddenly, it wasn’t about just dropping as many bombs as you could and hoping they would hit something. In 2015, nearly every weapon dropped by a US aircraft was precision guided. The PrSM, or Precision Strike Missile, is a newer effort in a long line of precision bombs that’s changed the face of warfare forever. PrSM in particular focuses on long-range missile strikes that can accurately hit targets from distances of up to 499 kilometers away (that’s 310 miles). The main goal is to give field artillery units an edge with increased accuracy, range, and effect.
2. The Atomic Bomb
The A-Bomb is what ended World War II, therefore it deserves a place as one of the best military weapons of all time. While it’s not something the vast majority of us have ever used, or can even really imagine, its sheer power needs to be acknowledged. The Manhattan Project started in 1939 under the premise that the element uranium could be used in a very deadly way. Six years later, two bomber planes — one carrying a bomb called “Little Boy” and another carrying a bomb called “Fat Man” — flew over the island of Japan and destroyed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While it was a sobering end to a terrible war, it was still the end; but it marked the beginning of a nuclear arms race, that in some ways continues today.
The M16 — which many regard as the holy grail of military assault rifles — was developed in the late ‘60s to improve upon the existing service rifle, the M14. When it became the standard service rifle in 1969, it was easy to see why: The barrel came in line with the buttstock, reducing the amount of recoil when shot. This also made the gun easier to control and deadly accurate. These improvements made a big difference, given the fact that every boots-on-the-ground soldier carries a gun, and really relies on it to work properly. The M16 has since been upgraded with a 30-round magazine, improved handguard and grip, semi-auto and three-round burst fire selector, removable carrying handle, mounting rail, and more.
Do you agree with our picks? Let us know in the comments what your best military weapons are, and why.
For more, check out our list of top 10 Army stations.