A Chronology of Development by Daniel E. Watters
Gene Stoner joins Cadillac Cage to begin work on the 7.62mm NATO Stoner 62 system.
At the World Shooting Championships in Cairo, the Russian “Running Deer Match” team uses the 5.6x39mm cartridge. It is based on the 7.62x39mm M43 cartridge case necked down to .22″. World Records are tied and broken for individual and team scores respectively in the two-shot event. (One source claims that the cartridge dates back to at least 1957, but the earliest found examples bear 1961 headstamps.)
Remington begins development of a bolt-action pistol chambered for a SCHV cartridge. Wanye Leek heads up the development team. Initial efforts center on the .222 Remington, but it is discovered that the cartridge is not as efficient as desired in a 10″ barrel. Experimentation then begins with shortened .222 Remington cases.
First Half 1962:
Springfield continues to supply Aberdeen and Frankford Arsenal with various small arms mechanisms for lethality, accuracy, and dispersion tests. These include multiple and single-barrel test mechanisms to fire micro-caliber, and the XM110 and XM144 fléchette cartridges.
Springfield completes the design and fabrication of both of its SPIW mechanism concepts. The function and development testing of these mechanisms are seriously delayed because of XM144 ammunition development problems, which remain to be resolved. The design, fabrication, and initial testing of a three shot, pump action grenade launcher are also completed.
Springfield completes its preliminary investigations regarding the effects of water in the bore of small caliber rifles, and a report is written. These tests have been conducted with the XM110 ammunition. Preparations for more extensive water-in-bore tests are also completed. Three commercial rifles are modified to fire XM144 ammunition. Each are fitted with three barrels of different wall thickness for the water-in-bore tests. Testing is scheduled to begin in mid-July and awaits a sufficient supply of XM144 ammunition, along with FY 1963 funding.
AAI continues development of small arms mechanisms to fire XM110 ammunition. The major portion of AAI’s work is devoted to decreasing the dispersion of short burst fire in preparation for a series of dispersion tests at Aberdeen. The results of these tests are quite favorable and are indicative of the feasibility of the single-barrel, serially fired approach.
Winchester completes the development of its first “soft recoil” mechanism prototype. While excessive clearances between the barrel-receiver group and the mechanism frame produce wide dispersions, the test results are encouraging regarding dispersion pattern and total recoil distance of barrel-receiver group.
Winchester also completes modification of five LWMR to fire Frankford Arsenal XM144 (FA-XM144) ammunition. (Sometime in FY 1963, Winchester will receive another contract to modify one of the five LWMR rechambered for FA-XM144 to accept Winchester’s own XM144-WE4 ammunition. At the completion of the contract, the modified rifle is then loaned back to Winchester to support a Frankford Arsenal contract.)
Rep. Mahon and the Deputy Secretary Gilpatric are guests at the USAF firepower demonstration at Eglin Air Force Base. Both are impressed by a demonstration of the AR-15 rifle. A similar demonstration is later arranged for President Kennedy.
Secretary of Defense McNamara abolishes the statutory positions of the Technical Service chiefs, transferring them to the Secretary of the Army subject to Congressional approval of his sweeping reorganization plan for the Army. McNamara proposes the creation of an Army Materiel Command and a Combat Developments Command (CDC). The new commands will be raised to the same level as CONARC. The responsibilities and subordinate commands of the formerly independent Technical Services (Ordnance, Chemical, Quartermaster, Transportation, and Signal Corps) will be divided among the three major commands. The Technical Services will lose their materiel functions to the Army Materiel Command, their training functions to CONARC, and their doctrine formulation functions to the CDC. The Offices of the Chief of Ordnance and the Chemical Warfare Services will be abolished, and their staff functions will be transferred to the office of the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics (DCSLOG). The Corps of Engineers and the Surgeon General remain for the most part untouched.
When Congress reconvenes, Air Force Secretary Zuckert visits Rep. Mahon, and one of the items discussed is the AR-15 rifle. Mahon advises that unless the USAF AR-15 rifles are in the budget, it will be better not to bring the matter to the attention of Congress.
The USAF classifies the AR-15 as a standard weapon for its inventory.
ARPA receives the first shipment of their 1,000-rifle order.
In the letter “SPIW – Initiation of Project and Recording of Approved Military Characteristics,” the OCO approves formal specifications for the new Special Purpose Individual Weapon (SPIW). The SPIW combines the point-fire capabilities of the APHHW with the area-fire capabilities of the 40x46mm grenade launcher.
The CRDL issues the report “Wound Ballistics of the 1.7 Grain Steel Fléchette.”
Mel Johnson and Jack Fitzgerald, representing Advanced Developments Inc (ADInc.), meet with ARPA Director of R&D, Dr. William H. Godel and other ARPA staff to discuss ADInc. projects. These concentrate on the rocket fléchette “Discharger” and a .22-caliber “Quick Fix” conversion for the M1/M2 Carbine. On its own, ADInc. obtains two M1 carbines for conversion, plus additional 15 and 30 round magazines. A third carbine is later ordered along with spare barrels and 1,000 rounds of .30 Carbine ammunition.
Project AGILE begins operational testing of the AR-15 in Vietnam.
Congress approves McNamara’s reorganization plans for the Army. Carrying out the reorganization is the responsibility of the Department of the Army Reorganization Project Office (DARPO). MG Besson is chairman of DARPO‘s planning group for the Army Materiel Command, then tentatively called Materiel, Development, and Logistics Command (MDLC).
Mel Johnson completes an outline of an ARPA proposal titled “Advanced Light Guerilla Cal. .224 Sub-Rifle System for Short Lead-Time, Lost Cost and Advanced Performance.” Johnson estimates a budget of $200,000 for prototype fabrication and testing. In addition, Johnson asks for a $18,000 fee to be paid to ADInc. Weeks later, ARPA Director of Special Projects COL Thomas W. Brundage (USMC) declines support for Johnson’s Sub-Rifle and Discharger proposals.
McNamara orders Secretary of the Army Elvis J. Stahr, Jr. to accelerate the Army’s reorganization so that the new Army Materiel Command will be in full operation by 1 July 1962, nine months ahead of the previously proposed schedule. Secretary Stahr protests.
Macdonald calls to report that he has information indicating that the House Appropriations Committee is ready to approve the USAF request for the AR-15.
Remington submits the specifications of the .223 Remington to the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI).
Mel Johnson finalizes plans for the commercial development of the “Johnson Semiautomatic Sub-Rifle” (JSSR).
George Sullivan receives US Patent #3,027,672 titled “Firearm with Aluminum Alloy Receiver.”
The OCSA receives a fact sheet titled “ArmaLite Rifle, AR-15, Cal. .223.”
McNamara approves a plan by MG Besson to establish early operations of the Army Materiel Command. Upon approval of Besson’s plan, the activation of the Army Materiel Command is pushed back to August.
ADInc. and Interarmco make arrangements for Interarmco to represent ADInc. products overseas, particularly the Sub-Rifle/Guerilla Gun. Interarmco provides two additional M1 carbines for conversion to .224.
Aberdeen’s D&PS publishes the report “Test of Rifle, Assault, 7.62mm, Model 1958, Czech.”
The American Rifleman publishes an article on the AR-15. From their limited testing during the winter, the authors allege that the rifle/cartridge combination is unreliable and inaccurate. This is primarily attributed to the stability of the bullet under cold weather conditions. They suggest that the rifling twist be changed from 1-in-14″ to 1-in-12″.
The USAF resubmits its request for the procurement of 8,500 AR-15 rifles and 8.5 million rounds of ammunition. During Congressional hearings, the USAF is asked to rebut the American Rifleman article. Members of the Appropriations Committee are suitably impressed with the quality of the USAF‘s arguments, and within days, the funding is approved.
The US Navy orders a small quantity of AR-15 rifles for service testing by its SEAL teams. Ultimately, 172 rifles are ordered for team use. (One source claims that SEAL Team Two’s Lt. Ray Boehm used the open purchase system to procure 136 rifles straight from Colt, with 66 going to SEAL Team Two and the remainder to SEAL Team One.)
Secretary of the Army Stahr tenders his resignation.
The Department of the Army officially establishes the Army Materiel Command (AMC) as a major field command.
The Johnson “Guerilla Gun” is publicly demonstrated for the first time at the American Ordnance Association meeting at Aberdeen. Mel Johnson leaves one converted carbine behind for testing by the Limited Warfare Laboratory (LWL).
Demonstrations of the AR-15 are held for OSD staff. Those in attendance include Systems Analyst Alain C. Enthoven and Comptroller Charles J. Hitch. Attendees are allowed to test fire the AR-15 along with the M14 and AK-47.
The BRL publishes “Estimated Incapacitation Probabilities of Caliber .14 Bullets.” Tests had been ordered on behalf of Springfield Armory, who had developed manufacturing techniques for micro-caliber barrels. The cartridge, based on a necked down .222 Remington, launched a 17 grain projectile at 4,400 fps.
Winchester is awarded a new contract to design, fabricate and test an improved “soft recoil” mechanism to fire short bursts of FA-XM144 ammunition.
Second Half 1962:
AAI continues development of its small arms mechanisms to fire XM110 ammunition. The contract is extended from August to October, and then to December when it is cancelled. During this period, AAI completes fabrication and limited testing of its Model #4 firing mechanism.
Winchester’s improved “soft recoil” prototype mechanism contract is extended from mid-December 1962 to mid-February 1963. Functional difficulties are experienced.
ARPA‘s operational testing of the AR-15 in Vietnam ends. Later in the month, ARPA releases the report “Test of ArmaLite Rifle, AR-15.” The report concludes that the AR-15 is superior to the M2 Carbine, and better suited for Vietnamese soldiers than the M1 rifle, the M1918 BAR, and the Thompson SMG. Vietnamese troops and their US advisors reportedly considered the AR-15 “the best “all around” shoulder weapon” then in use. ARPA notes that there were no part breakages in nearly 80,000 rounds fired, and only two parts were replaced. The report also includes graphic details of the .223 Remington’s terminal effects. The results are typically described as “explosive.” ARPA recommends that the AR-15 be adopted as the basic weapon for all South Vietnamese forces. No deficiencies are noted, and only two minor changes are recommended. One is to roughen the texture of the upper surfaces of the handguard for a more secure grip when a soldier’s hands are wet. The second is to add an additional section to the cleaning rod along with a T-shaped handle.
Ordnance Weapons Command is renamed US Army Weapons Command (USAWC or WECOM). Ordnance Special Weapons Ammunition Command is renamed US Army Munitions Command (MUCOM). The Office of the Chief of Ordnance is officially abolished at the end of the month.
On behalf of Comptroller Hitch, the Systems Analysis Directorate of the OSD begins a study of rifle procurement.
Department of Defense General Counsel Cyrus R. Vance becomes Secretary of the Army.
The USAF officially awards Colt the contract for 8,500 AR-15 and ammunition. Following the procurement of the initial quantity of weapons, the USAF includes 19,000 new AR-15 rifles in its FY 1963 budget.
The AMC is activated with LTG Frank S. Besson, Jr. as its first commander. AMC is organized initially into five commodity major subordinate commands (MSCs); Electronics Command, Missile Command, Munitions Command, Mobility Command, and Weapons Command; and two functional MSCs; Supply and Maintenance Command (SMC) and Test and Evaluation Command (TECOM). Dr. Carten is reassigned as the Technical Coordinator of the Weapons Development Branch of the AMC‘s Research, Development, & Equipment Directorate.
ARPA sends to the White House a brief titled “AR-15 Armalite Rifle, Test Completion and Adoption for Vietnamese Armed Forces.”
General Harkins, the commander of MACV, requests a $4.6 million add-on to the FY 1963 Military Assistance Program (MAP) budget. This funding will be used to acquire 20,530 AR-15 rifles for implementation of the Project AGILE recommendations.
The CRDL issues the report “Wound Ballistics of the 15.2 Grain Steel Fléchette.”
Secretary Vance requests that the Army reassess the M14 program, taking into account the capabilities of the AR-15 and the SPIW.
Admiral Harry D. Felt, the Commander in Chief, Pacific Command (CINCPAC), denies MACV‘s request for AR-15 rifles. While the AR-15 is considered to be an excellent weapon, the decision is made on the basis of the cost of introducing the new rifle into the MAP. Moreover, these funds are needed for other projects with higher priority. The issue of funding is critical as Secretary McNamara had already reduced the FY 1963 MAP budget.
The Systems Analysis Directorate of the OSD finishes the report on rifle procurement requested by Comptroller Hitch. Titled “A Comparison of AR-15 and M14 Rifles,” known hereafter as the Hitch Report, it details the history of intermediate service rifle cartridges and related theory from the .276 Pedersen up to the current AR-15. The study concludes that the AR-15 is superior to the M14 and AK-47. AR-15 equipped squads are theoretically credited with the potential to inflict up to five times more enemy causalities to those issued the M14. The AR-15 is also credited with being more reliable and durable than the M14. The report further suggests that the M14 is inferior to the AK-47 and even the M1 rifle.
Two days after the Hitch Report is released, the OCSA replies to Secretary Vance’s query in a memo titled “Rifle Procurement Program.” The memo criticizes the AR-15 on several points. First and foremost is logistics and NATO standardization. It is alleged that it would take 27 months for AR-15 production to meet the current rate of M14 production (300,000 per year). It is considered undesirable to have Colt as the sole source of production. The American Rifleman article is cited for the AR-15’s inaccuracy in cold weather, yet changing the rifling twist would likely decrease the rifle’s lethality. Furthermore, the M14 is claimed to already be superior in penetration and lethality to the AR-15. It concludes that “The AR-15 is not now acceptable for the Army for universal use.”
Mel Johnson finishes work on his MMJ 5.7mm wildcat cartridge and “Spitfire” carbine conversion. Based on a necked down .30 Carbine case, the wildcat was designed in conjunction with Lysle Kilbourn (father of the wildcat .22 K-Hornet) and with assistance from H.P. White Laboratory and the Lyman Gun Sight Company.
After receiving a briefing on the Hitch Report, McNamara sends a memo to Secretary Vance asking why the “definitely inferior” M14 was being procured when the “markedly superior” AR-15 was available? Vance passes the question on to the newly appointed Army Chief of Staff General Earle G. Wheeler.
In response to McNamara and Vance’s requests, General Wheeler orders a series of tactical and technical tests of the relative merits of the M14, AR-15, and AK-47. Testing is to be performed at bases in the US, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Arctic.
Department of the Army representatives contact General Harkins indicting that they are now willing to support MACV‘s request for AR-15. Furthermore, they recommend suspending the supply of all M1 rifles and carbines in the Vietnam FY 1963 MAP pending the approval of the AR-15. General Harkins resubmits his request. Admiral Felt again refuses to approve the proposal, stating that the AR-15 has already been considered and turned down.
Representatives from the AMC, Aberdeen’s BRL and D&PS, TECOM, and the USAIB meet at AMC headquarters for an informal planning conference regarding the ordered rifle evaluations. A memorandum from the Infantry Board representative states:
“The US Army Infantry Board will conduct only those tests that will reflect adversely on the AR-15…”
The US Army orders 300 AR-15 and 600,000 rounds of ammunition for test and evaluation.
President Kennedy is briefed on the Hitch Report by science advisor Jerome Weisner.
The Ogden Air Materiel Area sends a letter titled “Production of Cartridge, 5.64 mm, H.V. Ball,” which outlines the USAF‘s additional requirement for ammunition above that already on order. A partial technical data package is sent to Picatinny Arsenal, asking if the Army had any interest. (5.64mm converts to .222″ in reference to the designation .222 Remington Special.)
Springfield is told that it must eliminate one of its two SPIW designs.
With President Kennedy’s interest peaked after the Hitch Report briefing, McNamara demands that General Wheeler provide his conclusions on the rifle issue by January 31, 1963.
Secretary Vance sends a memo to General Wheeler titled “Evaluation of the AR-15 Rifle.” Vance urges that “the CDC test plan be expanded or modified in a manner which will afford further evaluation of the conclusions reached in the…(1959) CDEC report.”
A meeting is held at Frankford Arsenal with representatives from the USAF. Frankford Arsenal agrees that they will prepare an initial technical data package for a one-time Air Force purchase of commercial cartridges for use in the AR-15 rifle.
LTG Besson approves adding 38 AR-15 to the existing order for 300 rifles.
The OSD submits a budget reprogramming action for the procurement of 19 million rounds of .223 ammunition.
Frankford Arsenal creates a small quantity of duplex .223 loads. This consists of a forward bullet of 33 grains followed by a trailing slug of 34 grains. The velocity is quoted as 2,760 fps.
Springfield reviews the SPIW program requirements, formulates a development plan, and down-selects its favored SPIW design for further development. The development plan includes the placement of contracts for support in the design, development, and fabrication of a large capacity magazine, a grenade launcher, and a muzzle device.
At the request of WECOM, contract negotiations with AAI are initiated for the fabrication of three of the Model #4 firing mechanisms. In addition to fabrication, the contract calls for additional development of the mechanism to improve functional reliability.
Aberdeen’s D&PS publishes the report “Comparative Evaluation of AR-15 and M14 Rifles.” During testing, the AR-15 produces groups less than half the size of the M14 in full-automatic fire. However, the water in the bore issue raises its head once again.
The US Army Arctic Test Board publishes “Comparative Evaluation of AR-15, M14, and AK-47 rifles and M79 Grenade Launcher.”
The CDC‘s Infantry Combat Developments Agency files the report “Rifle Evaluation Study.” The objectives of the study were: to evaluate the employment of small arms to determine the desired military characteristics of a rifle; to assess the M14, M14 (USAIB), AR-15, AK-47, and SPIW to determine the preferable weapon in meeting the desired military characteristics; and to make recommendations on retention of the M14, adoption of the AR-15, and development of the AK-47 type and SPIW. The authors conclude that increased emphasis be put on the SPIW program to speed up its development. In the interim, M14 (USAIB) conversion kits should be put into production and be issued as soon as possible to field units. Full or partial adoption of the AK-47 or AR-15 would be unacceptable as they do not meet the requirements for an Infantry squad weapon. The number of malfunctions by the AR-15 indicates that the AR-15 is not now sufficiently reliable for issue to combat units. However, considerations should be made for its possible use by Special Forces units.
CDCEC publishes “Comparative Evaluation of Rifles.”
The CDC publishes its own report also titled “Rifle Evaluation Study.” The author concludes that the AR-15 is the best choice for world-wide use, but the rifle is not yet ready for deployment. The report recommends:
- Continue use of the M14 by US Army Forces in Europe and equip all units earmarked for deployment to Europe with the M14, except airborne and Special Forces units.
- Correct the AR-15’s deficiencies in reliability and night firing capabilities.
- Equip the following with the AR-15 in priority shown:
- Air Assault units;
- Airborne units;
- Special Forces units.
- Slow conversion from M1 to M14 in other areas. Final decision with respect to these units can be based on the experience of the units equipped with the AR-15.
- In units armed with the M14, replace the M14 with a version of the M14 (USAIB) for automatic riflemen only.
- Continue the SPIW program looking toward a long-range marked improvement over all other weapons considered.
The USAIB issues the reports “Rifle Evaluation” and “Comparative Evaluation of AR-15 (Armalite) and M14 Rifles.”
The US Army Infantry School (USAIS) publishes the report “Evaluation Exercise 3 Dec – 20 Dec 62” covering their evaluation of the AR-15.
The CDC also publishes the report “Comparative Evaluation AR-15 and M14 Rifles.”
TECOM issues the report “Comparative Evaluation of U.S. Army Rifle 7.62mm, M14; Armalite Rifle Caliber .223, AR-15; Soviet Assault Rifle AK-47.”
Laurence F. Moore, at the Army Research Office, publishes the report “Studies of Rifle Effectiveness.”
Secretary Vance orders US Army Inspector General MG Edward H. McDaniel to review the Army’s conduct of the comparative rifle testing.
Aberdeen’s BRL issues the report “Comparative Effectiveness Evaluation of the M14 and Other Rifle Concepts.” The study indicates that, in automatic fire, the number of hits per trigger pull for a fléchette-firing weapon will be from 10 percent to 270 percent higher than for the M14 rifle, at ranges between 50 and 300 meters and in bursts of from 3 to 5 rounds. In semiautomatic fire, the fléchette-firing weapon will produce about three times as many casualties as the M14 rifle. Although the incapacitating probabilities per trigger pull are about the same for the two weapons, the fléchette-firing weapon will produce 20 percent more casualties in the same period of time. The hit probability per trigger pull for the fléchette-firing weapon in semiautomatic fire at ranges of from 100 to 300 meters will be between 12 percent and 18 percent higher than for the M14; in automatic fire, the fléchette-firing weapon will be about twice as effective as the M14. On the basis of effectiveness per round of ammunition fired, therefore, the fléchette-firing weapon will be about seven times as effective as the M14.
Ten companies provide formal written SPIW proposals.
by Daniel E. Watters, Small Arms Historian
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Last Revised: 05/17/2009
This article was originally published at The Gun Zone — The Gunperson’s Authoritative Internet Information Resource. My friend and mentor Dean Speir has graciously hosted my articles at TGZ for nearly 16 years. These articles would likely have never appeared online without his constant encouragement and assistance.
With TGZ’s closure in early 2017, Dean encouraged me to find a new home for my scholarship so it wouldn’t be lost in the dustbin of the Internet. Loose Rounds has welcomed me with open arms. In the future, I intend to expand my legacy TGZ articles and add new contributions here at Loose Rounds.