Yes, I heard that story several times early during my Army career, which was from 1974 through 2001 (enlisted & officer, RA, NG, and USAR). I've carried M16A1 rifles (that had been used in VietNam) from Colt, GM Hydromatic, and Harrington & Richardson. More recently, I've seen M16A2's from FN and M4 Carbines from Colt (about 4000 early ones reportedly from Bushmaster). A number of foreign countries/companies have produced M16's under license (Phillipines, Canada, etc.). Some other firms are currently making conversion kits (M16A1 to A2 or A3). But I NEVER, NEVER, EVER saw an M16 from Mattel! I think it was considered clever to call the original M16's a "Mattel Toy", because of their light weight, synthetic stocks, unconventional appearance, etc. It's possible that Mattel was subcontracted to make some of the stocks or handguards (but I doubt it), and anyway, the lower receiver is the only component marked with the full manufacturer's name. I do think I recall that Mattel actually did make a TOY M16 during the 60's, but that's about it.
I'm afraid the Mattel M16 story is another urban legend, or maybe better described as another G.I. Bullsh_t story!
On the other hand, there are many current and former manufacturers of civilian AR15-type rifles. But no Mattel.
The best book on the history of the M16 is Blake and Ezell's "The Black Rifle." It definitely doesn't identify the Mattel Toy Company as a contractor for the M16!
Will all this but the Mattel story out of its misery? No way! Here it is, a quarter of a century since I first heard it, and it's still going around! A good tall tale can't die.
Can't say that I ever opened a beer with an M16 (but then I was too young to drink back then anyway), but I do remember that popping the packing straps off the C-Ration cases with the barrel seemed to be SOP. Sure is a multifunctional design!
Wow, looks like I'm the only one who still is a little skeptical about the Mattel story. That's okay, I also believe Oswald acted alone and the Apollo missions really did go to the moon!
I'll lay out the Pros & Cons as I see it.
1. Colt manufactured only 10 of the 126 components of the M16A1--it's entirely possible that the stocks and handguards were subcontracted to Mattel. Non-traditional weapons makers have indeed been involved with U.S. Rifle production, witness International Harvester making M1's, TRW making M14's, and GM making M16's!
2. The story is too pervasive and persistent not to be true--surely there must be some truth to it. Type in M16 and Mattel into an internet search engine and see how many hits you get!
3. We have eyewitness confirmation of seeing Mattel's trademark inside the stocks. Hard to refute that.
1. Why would a government contractor go to a TOY company? Credibility and the Snicker Factor aside, injection molded thermoplastics for toys is an entirely different technology than foam-filled resin impregnated fiberglass (Fibrite) rifle stocks!
2. Only the Prime Contractors place their trademark and address on M16's. Some parts may be coded with a stamped letter or letters. But of all the subcontractors for the M16, over a 40 year period, not one ever stamped or molded their company's trademark or logo on any of the components they produced. Not one. Oh, except for the Mattel Toy Company. Uh huh.
3. The "first AR stocks" did not have removable buttplates (one sits on my desk as I type this). The buttplates were pressure-fitted and glued on. Unlike the later trapdoor buttplates, they weren't designed to come off. Removing them would damage or destroy the stock. So why would Mattel go to the trouble of impressing a trademark in a location that theorectically was never meant to be seen?
4. SP1 was never a military designation. SP1's were semiautomatic Colt civilian "Sporter" rifles. (The early (1962) rifles sent to VietNam were typically marked as Colt Armalite AR15) I've owned three SP1's. Took 'em all apart. No Mattel logo.
4. The toughest evidence to dispute is the "eyewitness testimony". All I can say is that sincere, honest folks (like the guys who post on this forum) can be mistaken about what they saw thirty years ago. Law Enforcement Officers, lawyers, and psychologists have known for years that the "commonsense" assumption that eyewitness testimony is the best way to get to the truth, is wrong! Witness the many people convicted and incarcerated based on eyewitness testimony, only to be exonerated later by DNA evidence. So all I'm saying is that it's possible to genuinely believe 100% that you said or did or saw something a long time ago (or last week), and still be wrong. Now don't flame me! I'm not saying that anyone is lying! Just saying it's possible to be mistaken. I know I can be. So can you.
So that's why I remain unconvinced of the veracity of the Mattel M16 story. Remember, Torpex inquired as to whether there was a book documenting this story--at this point the answer is no.
I don't discount the heresay and recollections posted so far--they indeed are evidence to be considered. They just aren't sufficient for me.
I have a request in to Colt's Historical Services for any information regarding this question. If/when I hear from them I'll post the answer here.
Meanwhile, here's an address you all might like to visit:
Armorer: I have to agree with you, I remember reading something about Mattel making stocks and guards for a while. I think it was in a book about the history of the AR.
The writing went on to say that the plastic Mattel used the to make the stocks was easily broken, thus the reason they went to the thermoplastic/fiberresin compound.
Being in grammar school when this country finally brought our troops home, I have asked my uncle[a medic in the Ashau] about the war alot now. He says he remembers alot of 16's out of commision, but can't recollect exactly what the problem was besides stuck chambers. My .02$
As promised, I contacted Colt's Historical Services, and they state that Mattel was NEVER subcontracted by them for stocks or handguards.
Of course that still leaves GM Hydromatic and Harrington & Richardson. They may have subcontracted Mattel, but they didn't deliver rifles untill 1969, so not exactly early versions of the M16 or M16A1.
Another possibility is that replacement stocks/handguards were contracted directly by the DOD from Mattel. But the question would then be "Why?", if some manufacturer was already making them for the prime contractors.
The truth may be out there, but it's awful hard to find.
I dunno, this Mattell thing might have some substance.......I'm gonna go to Toys R Us and rip open and tear apart all the Mattell trucks for something marked Colt on 'em. Will keep you posted of my findings.
I kinda hope you guys can't find any hard proof, either way. Some urban myths should rest undisturbed. It would take the fun out of it. Sort of like the Wakulla Volcano here-abouts. (A supposed volcano in our local swamp!) We wanna keep the mystique going.
Claim: M-16 rifles used by American soldiers in Vietnam were manufactured by the Mattel toy company.
Example: [FONT=Trebuchet MS,Bookman Old Style,Arial][Morgan and Tucker, 1987][/FONT]
The handgrip of the M16 rifle was made by Mattel. When the gun was first introduced in Vietnam, soldiers noticed the toy company's logo embossed on the handgrip and complained. Later shipments arrived without the imprint, but the grips were still manufactured by Mattel.
Origins: The M-16, a rapid-fire, 5.56 mm assault rifle carried by thousands of American soldiers during the Vietnam War, grew out of efforts to develop a replacement for the standard M-1 Carbine used during World War II. The M-16, constructed using plastics and alloys, was a much smaller and lighter weapon than its predecessors, one that fit in with the developing Vietnam-era strategy of sacrificing accuracy in favor of more easily-carried weapons with rapid rates of fire. Hundreds of thousands of M-16s were supplied to US troops in the mid-1960s as US Army made the M-16 their standard rifle.
However, the M-16, manufactured by the Colt Firearms Corporation, soon developed a reputation for unreliability, frequently jamming and fouling (especially when not kept clean, a next-to-impossible task in the dust and mud of Vietnam battlefields). Problems with the M-16 eventually achieved such prominence that a congressional inquiry was ordered, resulting in design changes, additional troop training, and other modifications that ameliorated many of the reliability issues soldiers were experiencing with the weapon.
To the troops in the field, the original M-16 was new, it was small, it was light, it was made of plastic rather than wood, and it often performed poorly to boot. It was no surprise that many of them started expressing their dissatisfaction by referring to it derisively as a cheaply-made "toy," and that they associated it with the most prominent toy company of the time: Mattel, the Hawthorne, California, toy manufacturer famous for introducing the Barbie doll to the world: One of the sayings soldiers had about the M16 was, "You can tell it's Mattel" which was a toy company's slogan at the time — the gun had a lot of plastic parts, which can't stand up to the vibrations like wood can but it is cheap. The Mattel legend was undoubtedly fed by the fact that Mattel really did sell an M-16 Marauder toy gun in the mid-1960s, a quite good reproduction of the actual weapon, complete with "realistic" sound effects:
The sardonic joke about problem-plagued M-16s being toys morphed into a legend about their really having been produced by a toy company, with "proof" offered in the additional detail of soldier's spotting M-16 handgrips embossed with the Mattel logo. The redesign that improved the M-16's reliability was then attributed to a switch in manufacturers (to a "real" gun company) prompted by soldier complaints.
Hello I was in the Marines in 1972 in boot camp in San Diego Calif. I read off the barrell on my m16 made by mattel. Not on the plastic parts but off the area of the barrell/receiver. I never knew much about the mfg of guns but thought this was funny and have told people about it ever since. My m16 was junk and jammed all the time, the m14 I used was much better and I never had a problem with it. I never knew there was a debate about m16's and Mattel until I saw it on The History Channel tonight. But I can tell you I read it myself and still laugh about it today.
its ok billy just letting you all know mattel did make them. I don't remember seeing the logo on the plastic parts but did see it on the metal parts. Its funny people cant find more info about this. Gary Sgt USMC
A forum community dedicated to hunters and enthusiasts. Come join the discussion about optics, trails, clubs, gunsmithing, styles, reviews, accessories, classifieds, and more. The friendliest gun forum on the Internet!