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MA5B Individual Combat Weapon System
Production information



Assault Rifle

Technical specifications

Handheld, Two-Handed

  • 87.6 centimeters
Damage Per Hit


Magazine Size

60 rounds

Maximum Ammunition

660 rounds or 11 Magazines

Fire Mode

Fully Automatic

Ammunition Type

7.62mm Full Metal Jacket


Gas-operated, rotating bolt

Rate of Fire

900 Rounds Per Minute, 15 Rounds Per Second.


Low to Moderate


Short to Medium (300 meters) [1]


Human-Covenant War


United Nations Space Command

"Hey, soldier, is that an assault rifle in your hands or are you just happy to see me?"
Janissary James[2]

The MA5B Individual Combat Weapon System (MA5B ICWS or MA5B Assault Rifle) is a standard-issue service rifle of the United Nations Space Command.


Design Details

MA5B schematic.

The MA5B Assault Rifle is an air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed weapon designed for automatic fire. The MA5 series rifle is the workhorse of the UNSC Marine Corps and has been in service for more than fifty years. The MA5B has an attached electronics suite that provides information on rounds remaining in magazine, compass heading, as well as several other "housekeeping" functions. The rifle performs well in a variety of environments especially given the perceived delicacy of the attached electronics suite. The MA5 rifle can be outfitted with a number of modifications including sound suppressors, a grenade launcher or a standard issue flashlight and more “exotic” ammunition types like Shredder Rounds; however, these modifications are only available by Mission Conditional Requisition (MCR). The MA5B Assault Rifle is easily one of the most versatile weapons in the UNSC’s arsenal. Due to this versatility, the MA5B is complimented by many of the UNSC's other weapons as either the primary means to a kill or in a secondary role as the fallback weapon.

The MA5B rifle is a bullpup rifle and is made of Titanium Alloy and Polymer - the rifle is a gas-operated weapon with a rotating-bolt and therefore must be cocked before the first shot can be fired. The charging handle used to chamber the round is situated on the left side of the rifle and moves during operation. Once the first round is fired, the gases from that round and those to follow impinge upon a gas piston, which pushes back the bolt carrier, rotating the bolt inside and continuing to chamber rounds until the magazine is empty. Once the magazine is empty, the charging handle must both be pulled back and locked or, must be fully cycled after a fresh magazine is inserted to load the next round. The magazine itself is located at the butt of the rifle and the magazine release button is located above the magazine housing and has an arrow pointing down toward the housing. The electronics suite is integrated along the top rail guard of the weapon. The MA5B is designed for the toughest of situations, able to be subjected to elements that would otherwise jam and render a weapon inoperable. The MA5B has concealed iron sights, although not seen in gameplay. It is used by Marines and other personnel with improper equipment to uploading a targeting reticule to the user's Heads Up Display or Neural Interface. [3]


The MA5B Assault Rifle uses M118 7.62x51mm Armor Piercing, Full Metal Jacket rounds. These rounds are designed to pierce body armor, so the rounds are reasonably large, and are surrounded by a molded jacket of either steel or titanium, which enhances its armor-piercing capabilities. The round might also have a carbide or similar hardened tip, and might also be coated in copper or another metal over the steel, titanium, etc. shell.

However, despite these advanced rounds, the damage done by a single round is very limited, made even worse by the Assault Rifle's low accuracy at long ranges. Although performing poorly against Covenant shields, the AP-FMJ round can easily penetrate the lightly armored Grunts and Jackals and finish unshielded Elites very quickly. The AP-FMJ round is especially effective against all manners of Flood as they are not well armored. This is somewhat paradoxical, since the AP-FMJ round is traditionally less effective against flesh and unarmored targets due to its tendency to overpenetrate tissue.


The most pressing negative aspect of the MA5B is its inconsistent accuracy. Firing the weapon in short bursts will allow much higher accuracy, as opposed to holding down the trigger. One round fired may produce a perfect bull's-eye, but the next may fly out of the targeting reticule circle and slam into the dirt a dozen meters from the same target. This has lead to the belief that the rifle is very incapable of hitting targets greater than close-range; this is untrue. If attacking targets at surprisingly long-ranges, one can effectively wound or kill that target by firing in single shots or bursts. Unfortunately, this lack of consistent accuracy has tarnished the image of the rifle, and the problem has kept the MA5B out of the hands of those who prefer less spontaneous weapons.


The MA5B in both offensive and suppressive situations remains the Marine Corps most reliable weapon. When fired in short bursts, or even single shots, there is a significant increase in accuracy, and the rifle's armor penetrating ability makes it key for handling even the toughest of infantry. The MA5B rifle is effective at killing light armored infantry at close-to-medium range, and the high rate of fire combined with the high ammunition capacity allows its user to spray the whole area with suppressing fire. The MA5B also gives the user an ammo count on its digital readout, as well a compass pointing toward the arbitrary magnetic "north" position. In the hands of someone who can control their trigger finger, the MA5B becomes a deadly weapon in CQB situations.


The MA5B is not without its disadvantages though, its main disadvantage being its horrible accuracy when fired at a range of more than forty meters. At that range, enemy infantry may be hit by a few bullets, or not be hit by any bullets at all. The MA5B Assault Rifle performs poorly against energy shields unless firing on full automatic at close range without giving a shielded infantry time to cover. In comparison to modern assault rifles it can be more related to an over-sized sub-machine gun, as it is seriously underpowered and lacks the ability to select a fire mode.


The MA5B Assault Rifle is one of the weapons which players will love and loathe in equal measures. The rifle's rate of fire makes it a devastatingly powerful weapon in close range combats, and its melee attack usually ensures victory over close quarter battles. The only disadvantage is it's reloading time, takes about 1.5 seconds, which gives your opponent enough time to put you down with a hail of plasma bolts. In a skilled player's hand, the assault rifle can easily put down 2-4 opponents per magazine.


  • The assault rifle has one of the fastest melee speeds in Halo: Combat Evolved.
  • One strategy is to charge forward while firing in controlled bursts, then when in close range, break out into full auto, followed by a melee or two. This is a tried and true tactic for taking down shielded Elites.
  • Another tactic for medium range AR combat is to "rapid-pulse" the trigger; in other words, rapidly press your finger down on the trigger. This will result in rapid, accurate, and controlled bursts. This is very useful in the early levels of the game. However, this is impaired by the fact that the MA5B has a somewhat low accuracy, although all projectiles will hit within the reticule with this tactic.
  • Combined with grenades, the AR decimates enemy ranks. Charge forward and toss some fragmentation grenades to clear out the weaker enemies and soften up the stronger ones, then before the dust clears, hose down anything that's still moving.
  • If you can't find a shotgun on a Flood-infested level, don't panic. The assault rifle will do as a half-decent secondary weapon. When the Flood get too close, just hold down the trigger and watch them wilt under the large volume of bullets. However, do not just stand there shooting, back-pedal into a previously secured area as the Flood can be overwhelming in waves, or get your back up against a wall so they can only attack you from the front.
  • Use melee on infection forms to save ammo - though if your shields are at max, don't even worry about them. Unless there's an entire swarm of them, they will simply burst on your shields, doing no substantial damage.
  • On Normal, less experienced players find that a good tactic is to use a Plasma Rifle to deplete an Elite's shielding, and then switch to Assault Rifle to finish them off. The player can do the same thing with an assault rifle, followed up by a headshot from the M6D magnum, if the player chooses not to carry two full auto weapons at once. This is handy as even on Heroic the assault rifle can drop an Elite's shields at close range, if the player uses an entire clip and follows up with a melee attack in order to drop the shields and cause said Elite to stagger back, which they can follow up by shooting it in the head.
  • When you fight a large number of Grunts of any kind, hold down the firing trigger to send a full-auto landslide of bullets, and if the group consists of more than half a dozen, side-to-side sweeping motions will result in every target receiving fire. Since they are unshielded and will flinch when hit by anything, the bullets will kill them quickly. This is one of the most convenient ways to kill a medium-sized group of Grunts.
  • When engaging a lone Elite, simply fire in short burst to break its shield then advance towards it and finish it off with a melee, as the Elite will repeatedly flinch making the target easier to kill. This is usually done on Elite Minors on Easy or Normal mode in close quarters or open plane.
  • Don't underestimate the assault rifle's strength against Zealots. It can be useful against them if you can dodge their swipes at the right time. It's best to empty out the entire magazine into a Zealot before he charges at you. Try to dodge his attacks while you're reloading, then put a couple of rounds into him and he will be down in no time.


  • The MA5B's accuracy degrades after exactly 1.5 seconds of sustained fire. In order to use this weapon to its fullest, you must learn the most efficient bursts to use at different ranges.
  • When used with effective grenades, the AR can hold its own. Backpedal and use any grenade you have handy, and let the weapon take care of your enemy after his shields are down. This should work unless the enemy has a more powerful weapon.
  • If your enemy is using a Banshee in Halo PC multiplayer, this weapon is a good choice. Just point it in the direction of the Banshee and fire full auto at close range, and controlled shots at mid-range.
  • It is also quite effective against Warthogs. Move in perpendicular path to the Hog and fire on full automatic to quickly bring the driver down, coupling this with a correctly timed grenade or two.
  • In Halo: Combat Evolved, pick up a plasma rifle or plasma pistol to deplete the shields of an enemy and then use the Assault Rifle to destroy their health in seconds.
  • It is also effective at disrupting your enemy's vision; its sustained fire will cause many flashes on an enemy's screen enabling for a more effective retreat. This helps when facing vehicles since it can give the driver a hard time keeping control.

Appearances and Roles in Novels

In the novels, it is often noted that it is very easy to modify and change the weapon's configuration. It was also stated that only suppressors are noted but scopes, grenade launchers and other optional pieces of equipment could be used. Additionally, the SPARTANs often used shredder rounds, mainly against unarmored opponents such as Grunts and Jackals, which are similar to jacketed hollow point rounds of modern guns which splinter on impact for maximum flesh damage. In the novels, the MA5B tends to be far more reliable, even accurate, in comparison to its game counterpart. SPARTAN-II's demonstrated the lethality of the weapon system throughout their campaign against the Covenant, often times hitting the mark with more accurate bursts of fire over full-auto - a trait that carries over to the game.


  • The assault rifle is the second weapon you receive in the Halo Trilogy. The player receives it right before the mess hall on the level Pillar of Autumn.
  • One inspiration for the MA5B Assault Rifle was the "MA–75B Assault Rifle" from the Marathon series.
  • Robert McLees at Bungie has gone on record comparing the basic design of the MA5B to that of the Fabrique-Nationale, FN F2000. According to The Art of Halo, McLees didn't know of the F2000 until after the game was even finished; "I don't know when the images of the FN F2000 appeared, but I didn't see them until three or four months after the game shipped, and I thought 'Oh great,. Now everyone's going to think I swiped the design from Fabrique National.' It was surreal to see how close the Halo assault rifle was to its real-life counterpart... and it was all totally by accident."
  • There is a second melee animation for the assault rifle, in which the user holds the weapon vertically and clubs anyone in front of them with the back end of the weapon. This animation is used in a few Halo Custom Edition maps, but was taken out of the official game.
  • In Halo: Combat Evolved, the compass on the assault rifle points "north" to Threshold, seen in the sky. However, this is inaccurate, as the compass would have been obsolete anywhere too far from Threshold, unless Threshold possessed a strong magnetic field.
  • In the Halo Graphic Novel, there are many Special Operations Grunts seen wielding an assault rifle, as well as an Elite; however, the Covenant generally never use human weapons. The only other visual instance of Covenant using human weapons was during the Battle of Installation 05 when several Brutes were seen using shotguns, although Covenant Elites occasionally used the M6D magnum, as seen in The Flood, albeit with much complaining.
  • In Halo: Combat Evolved, the MA5B's ammo counter in the left hand corner has a 20x3 bullet box. However, even though it has twenty per row, twenty-one will be found on a full, single, row.
  • The term 'Assault Rifle' used in reference to the MA5 series is a misnomer as its 7.62x51mm NATO round classifies it as a battle rifle.
  • The MA5B's magazine size is much too small to realistically fit sixty 7.62x51mm cartridges.



  1. Contact Harvest
  2. I Love Bees, hey_soldier.ogg
  3. Halo: Contact Harvest, page 136-138, and also mentioned later in the book

This article uses material from the "MA5B Individual Combat Weapon System" article on the Halo wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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