The 5.56mm NATO cartridge has become one of the most popular and widely used rifle calibers in the world. Its balance of manageable recoil, accuracy, and effective range has made it a standard choice for military and law enforcement agencies globally. Here is a list of the top 10 5.56mm rifles, detailing their origins, manufacturers, history of usage, and countries that use them.

1. M4 Carbine

  • Origin: United States
  • Manufacturer: Colt Defense and FN Herstal
  • History: The M4 Carbine, derived from the M16 rifle, was developed in the 1980s to provide a more compact weapon for use by U.S. military forces. It officially entered service in 1994.
  • Countries: Used by the United States, Israel, Philippines, and over 50 other countries.


  • Origin: Belgium
  • Manufacturer: FN Herstal
  • History: The FN SCAR-L (Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle – Light) was developed in the early 2000s to meet the needs of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). It entered service in 2009.
  • Countries: United States (special forces), Belgium, and other NATO countries.

3. HK416

  • Origin: Germany
  • Manufacturer: Heckler & Koch
  • History: The HK416 was developed in the early 2000s, incorporating a gas piston operating system to improve reliability over the direct impingement system used in the M16/M4 family. It was adopted by several special forces units around the world.
  • Countries: Germany, Norway, France (standard service rifle as the FAMAS replacement), and U.S. special forces.

4. Steyr AUG

  • Origin: Austria
  • Manufacturer: Steyr Mannlicher
  • History: The Steyr AUG (Armee-Universal-Gewehr) was introduced in 1978 and was one of the first successful bullpup rifles, which integrates the magazine and action behind the trigger to reduce overall length without sacrificing barrel length.
  • Countries: Austria, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Malaysia, and others.

5. SA80 (L85)

  • Origin: United Kingdom
  • Manufacturer: Royal Small Arms Factory, Heckler & Koch (later modifications)
  • History: The SA80 family of rifles was developed in the 1980s and has undergone significant modifications by Heckler & Koch to improve reliability and performance.
  • Countries: United Kingdom and several Commonwealth nations.

6. IMI Tavor TAR-21

  • Origin: Israel
  • Manufacturer: Israel Weapon Industries (IWI)
  • History: The Tavor TAR-21 was developed in the 1990s and adopted by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the early 2000s, designed for both urban and open-field combat.
  • Countries: Israel, India, Colombia, Ukraine, and others.

7. SIG Sauer SIG516

  • Origin: Switzerland/Germany
  • Manufacturer: SIG Sauer
  • History: The SIG516 was introduced in the late 2000s as a piston-driven alternative to the M4/M16 platform, offering improved reliability in adverse conditions.
  • Countries: United States (various law enforcement), Canada, Malaysia, and others.

8. CZ 805 BREN

  • Origin: Czech Republic
  • Manufacturer: Česká zbrojovka (CZ)
  • History: The CZ 805 BREN was introduced in 2006 to replace the Sa vz. 58 in Czech military service, designed as a modular platform to accommodate various calibers.
  • Countries: Czech Republic, Egypt, Mexico, Indonesia.


  • Origin: France
  • Manufacturer: Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne (MAS)
  • History: The FAMAS (Fusil d’Assaut de la Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne) was introduced in the late 1970s as France’s standard service rifle. It is known for its distinctive bullpup design.
  • Countries: France, Djibouti, Senegal, United Arab Emirates.

10. Galil ACE

  • Origin: Israel
  • Manufacturer: Israel Weapon Industries (IWI)
  • History: The Galil ACE is a modernized version of the original Galil rifle, introduced in the late 2000s. It incorporates advancements in materials and design while maintaining the reliability of the original.
  • Countries: Israel, Colombia, Vietnam, Chile, Peru.


The versatility and effectiveness of 5.56mm rifles have solidified their place in the arsenals of many countries worldwide. Each of these rifles offers unique features and improvements, catering to various military and law enforcement needs, making them some of the best firearms in the world.


An amateur radio operator, Royal Signals veteran, jack of all trades and master of none.

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