(Heads-up: some weapon technicality talk coming up. I don’t mean to alienate anyone but I’m hoping that anyone reading this has a passing familiarity, at least, with the subject.)
Shining the laser light for a cat is an amusing game a lot of people like. Cats seem to enjoy the game too (although some people are concerned that it may give the cats anxiety) as they race about, constantly chasing the bright, shiny illusion that they will never catch, because it technically doesn’t exist.
You know who else loves to scrabble about, chasing things like news of “new weapons to replace the M-16” or the bullet (“round”) it fires, the 5.56? Pretty much everyone in the Army, that’s who! And you know what? There is not a lot of difference between the two groups: cats chasing an illusory light, and troops chasing news of an illusory “replacement for the M-16 family of weapons systems”.
A quick note before going on: I know a lot of people will say that the modern Army individual weapon is technically the “M4 Carbine” and not the “M16”, and get hung up on this technicality (yes, I’ve met people who will die on that hill). But the weapons are functionally the same. Take them apart and compare the interior operating parts and you’ll see essentially the same bolt and bolt carrier, retaining pins, gas return system, selector switch, and so on. The only real difference between the two is that the M4 Carbine is physically shorter than the M16; otherwise the design is an obvious evolutionary step that clearly links them. The M4 Carbine is a member of the M16 family.
The M16 family of weapons has been in service since 1964, and it is now 2021. That is 57 years of service from a platform that has had only a few real changes. Yes, there have been tweaks and such to improve it, but the basic internal functioning parts that make it what it is (the aforementioned bolt & carrier, gas return system, etc) are still essentially the same. It fires the same size bullet, the 5.56mm, that it started out with all those years ago, too.
I cannot tell you how many times I have seen articles in the Army Times, Stars & Stripes, or other regular news outlets, even civilian ones, about the Latest & Greatest grand experiment to replace the M16 family. I think we’re looking at, currently, the 5th in the last 20 years at least. I can’t count the number of times I read or heard stories about how the days of the 5.56 round is numbered, that it is taking its final swirl around the bowl, that it is about to be replaced with some magic new round.
And the thing is, all these stories had the air of finality about them. It was a Done Deal, and only a matter of time –and how fast the procurements process could start churning out these new weapons for issue. Replacements have ranged from very modest changes (the HK-416, which looks exactly like an M16-series rifle except for a superior gas-piston system) to radical futuristic space guns such as the OICWS (remember the laser-designated air-bursting 20mm?).
My advice to you: until the arms room guy is literally shoving a physical new rifle into your sticky fingers, it is a laser-show illusion.