Onyx M-16 (Improved for 2019)


By Jeff Burleson

For more than five years, the Onyx M-16 has wowed adventurists with its economical, low profile, lightweight, and easy-to-use design. And this year, Onyx improved their current M-16 version with a more ergonomically designed pull cord mechanism to solve a potential issue. Not only is the pull cord handle easier to grasp, it comes with an underside clip built into the handle for secure stowage and for prevention of accidental deployments.


The former design was essentially a T-bar that was intended to rest inside the belt housing. But, after repeated uses in highly active water sports activities, the yellow pull handle would become mobile. The handle would regularly fall out of the mesh cover and dangle. While this generally isn’t a major issue by any means, the dangling handle could get caught on paddles, fishing rods, ski rope handles, boating accessories, and even in-water structures that would accidentally deploy device when not needed. Additionally, the dangling handle would get caught on the inside of the pack up next to the waist and practically getting lost. The last thing anyone needs in an emergency, potential drowning situation is to have any difficulty finding the handle to their lifeline.


Onyx recognized the potential issues with the pull cord and re-designed the handle for a more reliable system.

Benefits Of The Onyx M-16

The Onyx M-16 is a lightweight, non-invasive, manual inflation life jacket perfect for a whole list of water sporting activities. The unique design allows users to enjoy their favorite water sporting activities without compromising safety and comfort.

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Few lifesaving devices are available that give users freedom of movement in such a lightweight, streamlined package. The one-inch belt with CO2 cartridge in place weighs in at a mere 11.1 ounces. It’s almost like wearing nothing at all. It fits like a small fanny pack, but without the weight.


Buoyancy is a fancy word for the force to stay afloat. The minimum force to stay afloat for most adults is 12 pounds. The 16-gram CO2 charge provides the 12 pounds, plus an additional five pounds to total 17 pounds of force to keep the head and shoulders afloat in an emergency situation from the pull of a handle. And the oral inflation tube can be used to allow additional buoyancy up to 26.5 pounds total when fully inflated.

The Onyx M-16 comes in one size and can fit almost any human over 80 pounds and with a waistline between 24 and 52 inches. The waistband is easily adjustable and can be cinched up on the tag end with the attached strap buckle to keep excess strap from dangling all over.


The Onyx M-16 is the perfect lightweight device that will provide a high level of safety when clipped around their waist and deployed in times of peril. In order for the inflation mechanism to function, the draw cord must be pulled sharply to activate the CO2 cartridge and inflate the vest for floatation.

Manual Or Auto-Inflation Packs? Which Is Right For Me?

Inflation life jackets are made in two versions, including the automatic and the manual inflation versions. Both types of inflation life jackets have their pros and cons for the user. Unlike a traditional closed-cell foam life jacket that uses passive technology to sustain buoyancy, inflation units rely on bladder air inflation to provide the necessary buoyancy. Without the added air by themselves, they will sink and not provide any life-saving protection.


But, which is better, the auto-inflation device or a manually-inflated device? Again, they both have benefits and will equally provide a life saving solution when unexpected water dangers arrive.

Auto-inflation packs will automatically inflate as soon as submerged in water without any need for the user to do anything at all. These packs are great for boating activities or other types of on-the-water activities where the users aren’t anticipating entering the water voluntarily. Often, boating accidents render victims unconscious and the ability to inflate the vest manually is not a viable option. Auto-inflation packs are the best choice for involuntary water immersions during an accident.


Manual inflation packs, such as the Onyx M-16, are manually-inflated by activating the CO2 cartridge from “jerking the cord handle” or by using the backup inflation tube. The manual inflation packs are ideal for on-the-water activities that involves user to be submersed in the water voluntarily and usually quite often. Paddle boarding, water skiing, wade fishing, snorkeling, white water rafting, and even swimming are ideal situations where a manually-inflated life vest should be chosen over an auto-inflation system. The vest can be worn at all times without the need for auto-inflation when the unit is submersed. The manual units don’t have to be deployed unless the user gets in trouble or needs an assist when control is lost in potential drowning conditions. Since re-arming kits for the M-16 units are very inexpensive, users should have some relief in knowing they can pull the cord often and not get hit with a large expense to re-arm unit.


Life Is Better On The Water

Playtime in America is an important aspect to life. Americans spend their free time enjoying a wide variety of both outdoor and indoor activities. Yet, since water makes up 71 percent of the Earth’s surface, humans invest countless hours per year partaking in water-dependant activities for play and sometimes even for work. Americans enjoy the water in more ways than one. From in-the-water activities such as water skiing, surfing, and wakeboarding to other activities that never involve submersion, such as fishing, boating, and sailing. And even though humans are well-equipped to survive without touching the bottom for long periods of time, the human anatomy just isn’t naturally-formed to instantly float like a chunk of closed cell foam.


In all 50 states, life jackets are required for all boating and most on-the-water activities. Too many people drown each year including both non-swimmers and proficient swimmers as well. Over the past two decades, the evolution of life jackets has made wearing life-saving devices less intrusive. The advent of inflation devices has really made it easy to prepare for that unexpected situation no swimmer or boater wants to experience.

Unfortunately, over 350,000 victims drown each year across the globe from both boating and non-boating occurrences. Nearly 4,000 Americans fall victim to drowning each year as well. It’s a staggering statistic to grasp especially when the advances in floating aids have been around for so long. And they are improving every year with very non-invasive devices like the Onyx M-16 and other related products that can easily keep people afloat and save a life.