The longest serving US military rifle – the Coconut Rifle

Posted By on July 8, 2020

The “Coconut Rifle” … known to most as the Colt ArmaLite AR-15 (SN 000106) … the original for what is now the longest primary service weapon in our country’s military history. The originals firearms (20 of them) were manufactured by Colt in 1959. One of them #106 was involved in a July 4th 1960 “Watermelon Demonstration” for some ‘pentagon brass” at the sales and marketing company, Cooper Macdonald Corp’s annual yearly cookout at gathering at the farm. As they say, the rest is history when it impressed Gen. Curtiss LeMay enough for the U.S. Air Force to order 8,500. That started infamous “Black Rifle’s” rise to popularity. In war, the M16 start service in 1964 in Vietnam and has become the backbone rifle for US Armed Forces ever since (and the semi-automatic AR-15 variants in private use).


When it came time in the day to shoot this new rifle some watermelons were placed at approximately 50, 75 and 100 yards. General LeMay fired at and destroyed two of the watermelons. The General was very impressed with the results and noted there was one target remaining. When he was asked if he wanted to shoot the last watermelon or just go down and eat it, General LeMay sighted in on the lone melon and replied, "Let’s eat the son of a bitch!" It was in the middle of a field, eating watermelon where the discussion arose about an 8,500-unit order for the Air Force. It was at that point that Colt ArmaLite #106 became the rifle that made the M16 weapon system happen. [LINK]

As for the “Coconut Rifle” nickname, the sales demos travelled around the world and spent a little time being demonstrated in tropical places (like South Vietnam) where “coconuts” were used as targets as a way to show the lethality of the rifle.


A well traveled rumor also has Lifetime NRA member President John F Kennedy firing the same rifle “from the deck of his grandfather’s yacht, the Honey Fitz.” Never really documented undisputably but written about in gun publications regularly.

The US M16 family is the longest serving rifle in American history, and its civilian semi-automatic-only variant is the top-selling rifle in America today. It all started with watermelons and coconuts.

Serial number 106 sold to a private collector at a James Julia auction in October 2011 for more than $100,000. (Image courtesy of James D. Julia) [LINK]


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