We have another guest post from Mr. Trey Moore of Mooremilitaria. Moore’s has a huge selection of very exact reproduction Vietnam war clothing and rare camo along with original field gear and other items. He has about anything you would want if you like Vietnam war items, including PAVN and VC forces gear. Mooremilitaria is a friend of looseorunds.com and has shared his excellent article on the XM16 and M16 history. You can visit his great website and find some of the very best Vietnam gear around. SO good most of the Vietnam war gear you see in movies and TV is from Him.
In 1958, the United States military evaluated two prototypes being considered as a new standard issue infantry rifle. One of the requirements identified as centrally important for the new rifle was reduced weight. A lightweight rifle would allow soldiers to carry more equipment, supplies, and ammunition. Just as the new designs were being evaluated, the U.S. Army’s Continental Army Command compiled and eventually published two combat studies from both world wars to help shape the requirements for the new rifle. One of the more compelling statistics from this study revealed that 2/3 of soldiers in combat never fired their weapons and that the vast majority of firefights occurred at close range and commenced as “surprise” encounters, especially in a tropical environments. Assuming that the low-intensity conflict South East Asia would continue to escalate, the Continental Army Command recognized that a lightweight rifle firing a small caliber, high velocity cartridge would be the ideal weapon for the coming jungle war. Of the two prototypes submitted to the U.S. Army’s Infantry Board for evaluation, the ArmaLite AR15, which was based on an earlier design by Eugene M. Stoner stood out early on as the better gun.
Weapons Testing and Reception
In 1961, General Curtis Emerson LeMay is made the fifth Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force and, shortly thereafter, he placed an order for 80,000 AR15′s for U.S. Air Force security forces. However, the President John F. Kennedy’s administration refused the order on the grounds that it the logistical challenges associated with having two different rifle calibers – 7.62x51mm and 5.56x45mm – in use by the U.S. military at the same time would be too great. As the conflict in South East Asia continued to grow, the U.S. sent 10 AR15s to Vietnam for testing and evaluation in early 1962. Soldiers using the AR15 quickly praised the rifle’s effectiveness in combat. In response, the US sent more rifles for South Vietnamese Special Forces unites. Soldiers using the weapon, again, offered unreserved praise for the stopping power of the rifle’s 5.56x45mm cartridge.
Although the AR15 received great accolade for its performance in battle, what no one knew outside of the men using it was that the wounds the rifle produced were ghastly – so much so that the photographs showing these wounds remained classified until 1980. The source of the rifle’s destructive power was not so much the 55g 5.56mm bullet it fired, but the pitch of the rifle’s barrel’s rifling. The 1 in 14 twist rate of the rifling produced sufficient ballistic stability to get the bullet to a target, but on impact with that target, the bullet tended to tumble end over end. Although the 1 in 14 twist rifling produced devastating lethality, it did not produce satisfactory accuracy in cold temperatures. In July of 1963, Secretary McNamara approved the Air Force’s request to change the rifling twist to 1 in 12. The main theory being that the increased probability of a hit outweighed the higher chance of a kill resulting from that hit
Final Stages of Development: M16 vs XM16E1
As the shortcomings of the M14 rifle’s design became more thoroughly understood, more attention was shifted to the new AR15 rifle. The Kennedy Administration and other officials began to push for a “modern” rifle and the AR15 provided the clear answer. With the change to the 1 in 12 twist rate having been already made, the U.S. Air Force’s plans to adopt the AR15 began to move forward swiftly. The Army however, was still dragging its feet and looking for ways to challenge the adoption of the new rifle. The Army insisted on the installation of a bolt closure device so that the troops would have the ability to manually close the bolt on a rifle in the event of a malfunction. Manual bolt closure had been a part of the design of every U.S. service rifle since the M1903 Springfield, and the Army was not about to give up on it now. Both the Air Force and Eugene Stoner insisted that the rifle did not require a bolt closure device and pointed out that there had been no failures in testing that would have been remedied by the addition of the device. The Air Force stood fast on the fact that the bolt closure device was unneeded while the Marine Corps and Navy sided with the Army in recognition of the device being potentially useful.
By October of 1963, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Strange McNamara had no choice but to recognize that the service branches would not all agree on the change and that there would not be a single model of the rifle. Soon thereafter, Contract 508, which was valued at $13.5 million, was issued to Colt on November 4, 1963. The contract was for 104,000 rifles. 85,000 rifles with the bolt closure device (forward assist) would be for delivery to the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps. These were designated XM16E1 rifle (Experimental M16, change one – the addition of the forward assist). The remaining 19,000 rifles would be delivered to the Air Force and did not have the bolt closure device. They were designated as the M16. The only difference between the two models was the the bolt closure device, and the roll marked name designation on the receiver. Delivery of these rifles began in March of 1964.
The Army’s rifles were delivered to elite units including Special Forces, the 101st Airborne Division, the 82nd Airborne Division and the newly formed 1st Cavalry Division. Early use in Vietnam and the 82nd Airborne Division’s use of the weapon in the Dominican Republic indicated that the design was a great success. In July 1965, General Westmoreland asked that a logistical study be conducted to evaluate the possibility of expanding the adoption of the new rifle to such an extent that it would be issued to every U.S. serviceman in Vietnam. In the Fall he advocated ordering 100,000 new rifles. The low recoil, light weight, and impressive rate of fire of the 5.56mm XM16E1 was perfect for the jungles of Vietnam. However, the quick success and immediate need for more rifles would soon lead to problems.
Mistakes and Casualties
With an increase in demand for rifles came an increase in demand for ammunition, which would ultimately cause a series of notorious failures that would plague the M16′s reputation for decades to come. Ammunition manufacturers were struggling with the requirements specified by the technical data package for the M193 cartridge (the official designation for the M16′s 5.56mm ammunition). High gas port pressures, chamber pressures, and cyclic rates of fire, along with arguments over the bullet’s shape initially led all approved ammunition manufacturers to decline bidding on the contract. However, an agreement was eventually reached and DuPont produced CR8136 powder (commonly referred to as stick or tube) and Olin Mathieson produced WC846 powder (commonly referred to as ball powder). This initially satisfied the Army by keeping with the concept of having two approved yet different powders to compensate for shortages, manufacturing problems, etc. However, in reality, DuPont could not meet consistent pressure measurements for the ammunition which resulted in the first 18 months of ammunition production using the WC846 powder almost exclusively.
By September of 1965 evidence and testing clearly indicated that the WC846 powder caused a higher cyclic rate and was more prone to fouling. In fact, the 15th Memo Report on the XM16E1 system stated “the control propellant, WC846 though otherwise satisfactory, does produce quantities of fouling…sufficient to affect weapon function if the weapon is not cleaned after firing a maximum or 1,000 cartridges… that [Olin] be encouraged to modify their propellant.” However, the rifle continued to fair well in Vietnam, primarily as a result of the training that soldiers in elite units had received.
In the summer of 1966, the new rifle began replacing the M14 in all U.S. Army combat arms units – soon, “everyone” would have the XM16E1 rifle. Many units received them in-country with very little attention paid to training the soldier on the care and maintenance of the new rifle. A shortage of cleaning kits, a total lack of a chamber brush, shortcomings in training, and ammunition that created fouling problems soon led to failures in combat that ultimately resulted in a Congressional Investigation, the Ichord Committee, in 1967.
By late 1966/early 1967, chamber brushes, bore brushes, and a swab holder for the new 4 piece cleaning rod were on order. Maintenance cards were printed and circulated to help instruct soldiers on the care of their new rifle. While necessary, it would still take months to get these items into the field. In the late 60′s, the Army turned to artist Will Eisner of Mad Magazine to help illustrate maintenance comics. Anything that could be done to help a soldier care for his rifle would be done.
Revisions and a New Generation
The XM16E1 rifle had many small changes during its development, but there were 10 primary engineering changes that took place before the reclassification of the rifle as “Standard A” and its eventual designation as the M16A1 in February of 1967. The gas tube, buffer, bolt hardness, bolt carrier key finish, firing pin retainer, bolt catch, disconnector, and flashider were all modified, and a raised fence area was added around the magazine release to help prevent hitting the release unintentionally. A chrome plated chamber would eventually be added to the revision list in May of 1967.
While these changes enhanced the rifle’s performance and reliability in the field, they did not address the heart of the issue. The “failure to eject” stoppages were primarily being caused by the change in powder type from a stick propellant, to ball propellant. This switch achieved the desired muzzle velocity of 3,300fps, but it increased the cyclic rate of fire from 850 rounds per minute to 1,000 rounds. This caused poor case extraction as a result of prematurely opening the bolt, and it increased fouling in the rifle in both the gas system and chamber. The main culprit, the ball propellant, would not have its formula adjusted and re-designated as WC844 until January of 1970.
With design improvements, a chrome chamber, reformulated powder, and proper training for soldiers in the field on the use and maintenance of the rifle, reliability improved quickly – as did morale. A testament to the legacy of the M16 series if the M16A4 currently in use the U.S. Marine Corps and the M4 Carbine in use by the US Army. 50 years after is adoption by the U.S. Military, the M16 family is still soldiering on as the longest serving US rifle.
A few weeks ago I got my hands on one of the .45 ACPThompson Semi Auto carbines. The gun is obviously a semi auto copy of the iconic WW2 Submachine gun that every one has seen knows it on sight if not by name. I have been curious about these for years ,I have fired Class III full auto originals before and it is very fun SMG and very, very easy to use and control. So when offered a chance with one I was more than happy to get some time with it. My fun ended very fast once I started to work with it.
The gun is a heavy brute like the original and the 16 inch barrel does not do it any favors. That is to be expected though since it is what it is. One thing I noticed right off the bat was the butt stock was not made correctly. The angle of the butt plate was at such a degree the gun stock would slide off the shoulder. It was very hard to keep it on the shoulder during firing. It required a very awkward effort to keep it up while fighting the weight. The next problem was the tolerances of the gun around the magazine well and breech. When firing the gun, your off hand would get burn up with burning and un burnt powder and anything else it felt like spitting out of the gap. Very hard to concentrate while shooting and not pleasant at all. At times, even with gloves and long sleeves I was had some real painful small burns.
As far as the sights go, the rear aperture was not even close to zero. The POI was often a 10 to 12 inches low from 25 to 50 yards. Once I used the open notch at the top of the rear sight intended for very close range, I was able to shoot close to point of aim.
The shots at the bottom were aimed at the highest dot. I tried several distance and got no better until moving to the open notch.
This group is fired form 25 yards off a bench with an old bunch of Winchester silver tip .45 ACP. I was shocked to say the least. The gun is certainly capable of very decent accuracy. The group below was fired at 25 yards under the same conditions but using Federal Hydra Shock.
Both groups are 5 round strings. Of course I had to use the rear sights open close range notch on the top of the sight. Otherwise there was not way to get close to POI or even shoot a group of any quality.
The group above is from 100 yards using Winchester Ranger T 230 grain hollow points. Again I had to use the close quarters notch. Not too bad considering what we are using. Since it was starting to get dar I was not able to move the bench and fired prone using only the old elbows in the dirt method. It is not to bad regardless,and some conclusions can be drawn from this target and the 25 yard groups. I would expect the gun to be fairly accurate.
Lastly I fired a little over 10 rounds at the head of the Q target from 50 yards off hand, This was very hard to pull off thanks to the improperly made stock and its freakish angle that made holding it on the shoulder for a cheek weld an olympic level event.
Now, the biggest problem in addition to these other complaints is… The gun just will not work. I was able to sometimes get as many as 10 consecutive rounds to feed before I was clearing malfunctions. Often it was failure to feed, bolt not going fully into battery. Double feeds, failures to eject or any number of strange things. While helping me test the gun I and my friend found that sometimes we could use our thumb to close the bolt when the gun would not fire and often we would have to pull the trigger four times before the FCG would work. The bolt is small and smooth and hard to get a hold on. Both of us had our thumbs and hands mangled trying to clear it and keep it working. After about 500 rounds and a bucket of oil to try to keep it working we gave up.
Do not buy this “gun” it is pure garbage. This is tyical of my experiences with Auto Ordnance products personally from this POS to the companies “1911” clones. I have never seen anything good from them. It really is a shame for a once great name.
Today we have another guest post from Andrew Betts about using ball ammo inside your home.
This article is the opinion of Andrew but not necessarily the opinion or philosophy of the owners of looseorunds.com.
Everybody knows that ball ammo penetrates too deeply to be considered for defense, right? Full metal jacket doesn’t expand or fragment so it transfers little energy to the target and just zips on through, leaving wounds that may take some time to incapacitate and representing a not insignificant danger to people down range. This problem only gets worse in a rifle. At least that’s what any self-anointed gun counter “expert” will tell you.
Except that this concept is demonstrably false. To be fair, it is true that FMJ is a poor choice in handgun calibers for exactly the reasons outlined above. It is also true for many rifle loads. There are certain .223/5.56mm FMJ loads than can fragment and some do so very reliably. Copper jacketed 55 gr bullets with an open base and a cannelure (the notched portion around the circumference of the bullet at the point it meets the case mouth) are particularly good at fragmenting. They fragment so reliably that there is no reason not to consider them as a viable defense option.
When a .223/5.56mm bullet fragments, it transfers a LOT of energy into the target very quickly. This energy results in the formation of a very large temporary stretch cavity. At handgun velocities, this stretch cavity is small enough that it does not exceed the elastic limits of human tissue. Think of it like a rubber band. No damage is done to the rubber band, even if you stretch it far past its original length. At a certain point, though, the rubber band can stretch no further and will snap. Just before this happens, the rubber band is also much more vulnerable to tiny cuts than it would be when relaxed. A similar effect is seen when the fragments of a high velocity bullet pass through human tissue. The tissues stretch far enough to begin tearing and the multitude of fragments cause even more dramatic tearing, leaving a surprisingly large and devastating wound. At the same time, these fragments are each slowed individually by the tissues and the entire mass of the bullet is stopped much more quickly than it would have if it stayed together.
Take a look at this video and reconsider whether FMJ penetrates too deeply. Also, a pressurized can full of fruit can eject the contents forcibly enough to act like a rocket, but that’s another story.
While ball ammo can fragment it is highly dependent on velocity and construction of the bullet and jackets and other factors. Some will work wonderfully, while others fail to frag in any way. Ball ammo does have many uses but looserounds highly advises you to use proper expanding bullets for self defense unless you absolutely have no other choice or need something with serious penetration capabilities. In addition to its other short comings, if accuracy is essential for your use, ball ammo is not going to deliver. Editor