A Chronology of Development by Daniel E. Watters
The US Army’s plan to equip all basic combat training units with the M16A1 rifle is modified as a result of diversions to the high priority modernization program for South Vietnamese troops. Thus, only units at Fort Gordon and Fort Jackson are equipped with the M16A1. The conversion is now scheduled to be completed in February 1970.
The US provides a military assistance grant of 516,464 M16A1 to South Vietnam.
The US provides a military assistance grant of 4,042 M16A1 to Laos.
Lake City begins production of M196 using GMCS jackets. This is discontinued years later due to complaints of barrel erosion.
Industries Valcartier Inc. (IVI) of Canada begins production of a 68 grain 5.56mm Ball cartridge. This and a companion 800m tracer are later designated XM287 Ball and XM288 Tracer by the US Army.
Frankford Arsenal publishes test results on the solid steel Nosler projectiles. They are considered insufficiently stable, but Frankford recommends that they be studied further for their low cost and ease of manufacture.
The Infantry School publishes “Analysis of Vietnam Weapons Questionnaires (M16A1 Rifle and Others).”
Cadillac Gage introduces a right-hand feed mechanism for the Stoner LMG, which replaces the feed cover and feed tray. However, the existing belt boxes are only configured for left-hand feed. Thus, work on an improved belt box begins, resulting in the definitive 100 round box.
HK engineers Tilo Möller, Günter Kästner, Dieter Ketterer, and Ernst Wössner begin work on what becomes the caseless G11 rifle.
France begins preliminary studies for a new assault rifle. The first prototypes of what becomes the FAMAS are made.
USASASA starts a Personal Defense Weapon program.
Colt’s Henry Into begins work on what will later be dubbed the SCAMP.
Sionics loans the US Army 20 MAW-A1 suppressors for field trials in Vietnam.
Admiral McCain submits two plans for South Korean rifle modernization. The first is the before mentioned M16 co-production plant, and the other is supplying a mix of M14 and M16. 250,000 M14 could be provided from US sources for infantry maneuver units, while M16 could be provided for counter-infiltration battalions and other internal defense units. In reply, the JCS suggest providing 255,000 M16 from US production for Korean maneuver units, and 360,000 M14 for support personnel. All three of the plans will include the conversion of the ROK arsenal to manufacture the required ammunition. However, the Department of the Army can only provide tentative data on the availability of the M14, and warns that the M14 may not be available for free to the Koreans.
Concurring with Admiral McCain’s position, the JCS recommends that alternatives to Philippine M16 co production be examined, even though the Philippine government appears politically unwilling to accept anything less.
Aberdeen files the report “Analysis of Consolidated Cyclic Rate Data for M16A1 Rifle.”
Frankford Arsenal releases the report “A Study of the Effects of Cartridge Case Mouth Waterproofing Compound on Fouling in the 5.56MM, M16A1 Rifle.”
Aberdeen’s BRL publishes the report “A Comparative Evaluation of the 7.62MM and 5.56MM, G3 Assault Rifles.” A test was conducted with 7.62mm G3 and 5.56mm HK 33 Assault Rifles to evaluate and compare the kinematics, reliability, safety features, physical characteristics, recoil impulse, rates of fire, projectile velocities, muzzle motion and accuracy of the weapons. No serious problems were detected during the tests, and the reliability of the weapons was comparable.
The British MOD tests yet another AR-18, a Howa production model. The mud tests continue to pose problems for the design.
Colt’s John Jorczak files a patent application for an improved sight for an attached grenade launcher.
The Department of the Army informs Admiral McCain that firm cost and availability data on the M14 for South Korea will not be available until Army Secretary Resor and the new Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird approve the cost-effectiveness study of the US Army standardizing solely on the M16.
Admiral McCain contacts the JCS outlining why he does not consider their January proposal for reequipping the South Koreans to be a practical solution. McCain recommends that further consideration of Korean M16 co-production be deferred until firm cost and availability data for the M14 can be determined. In reply, the JCS suggests providing 100,000 M16 from US production to meet the immediate Korean Counter-Infiltration/Guerilla and Force Improvement Requirement (CIGFIR), and supporting Korean co-production of 510,000 M16.
Admiral McCain passes along the JCS suggestion to COMUSKOREA, who in reply does not concur. Instead, COMUSKOREA recommends providing 30,000 M16 via CIGFIR funding, and continues to support the full plan for Korean co-production of 600,000 rifles.
WECOM‘s Research and Engineering Directorate publishes “Arctic Test for Small Arms Lubricants (Winter 1966-1967).” An Engineer Design Test of small arms lubricants was conducted at the Army Arctic Test Center utilizing MIL-L-14107 (LAW), MIL-L-46000 (LSA), MIL-L-46010 (S/F) and a pair of experimental lubricants. The weapons utilized were M14 and XM16E1 rifles and M60 and M73 machine guns. The purpose of the test was to determine the suitability of the lubricants under winter (-10 to -59 degrees F) and spring “break up” (32 degrees to 44 degrees F) conditions as compared to the currently authorized lubricant LAW. Data were obtained concerning the number of malfunctions and evidence of rust, carbon and wear for each lubricant, and the ease of lubricant application. It is concluded that the pair of experimental lubricants are best suited for use on all of the weapons.
William C. Davis and James B. Ackley file the report “Results of a Dispersion Test of 2,000 1:12 and 1:14 Twist M16A1 Rifle Barrels.”
Aberdeen’s D&PS publishes the report “Comparison Tests of M16A1 Rifles.”
Admiral McCain proposes two new plans for South Korean rifle modernization. In the first plan, 40,000 M16 will be provided from US production and paid for via MAP and CIGFIR funds. The Korean M16 co-production will then involve 570,000 rifles. In the second plan, 20,000 M16 will be provided from US production and paid for via MAP and CIGFIR funds. These will be supplied to quick reaction forces, and ROK infantry maneuver units will receive 230,000 M14. Support personnel will retain their existing weapons. McCain indicates that he will concur with the JCS recommendation from February as long as the cost of 60,000 of the M16 does not come from the MAP budget.
A week later Admiral McCain concedes that cost and availability data for the M14 will not be provided soon. Thus, all options for supplying the South Korean with M14 should be discarded. McCain now supports Korean M16 co-production as long as it does not represent a continuing cost to the MAP budget beyond the first six years. The Koreans will require a loan of $25 to $35 million for capital investment, and they will cover any labor and utility costs through their own national budget. The MAP budget will cover the costs of raw materials, but the Koreans will progressively take a larger share of the costs over the following years.
Colt’s Robert Fremont files a patent application for an improved magazine design which would prevent double-feeding of cartridges.
Testing firing begins for the completed CMG-2 prototype. Afterwards, Colt begins demonstrations for the US military.
In response to requests from SEAL Team Two for even higher magazine capacities, Colt delivers a prototype 50-round magazine. The magazine is fabricated from three 20-round magazines welded end to end. The design uses a special follower paired with a pair of constant-force springs. (This feature was designed by Navy engineers at Naval Weapons Laboratory (NWL) – Dahlgren.) 35 magazines are known to be made to this pattern for testing by the US Navy. However, their performance is considered to be poor. NWL-Dahlgren later designs a series of 50-rd magazines on its own.
In a memorandum to Secretary of Defense Laird, the JCS recommends: 1) accepting modernization of the South Korean rifle inventory with the M16 as a desirable and pressing military requirement; 2) providing Korea up to 100,000 M16 from US production and allowing the remainder to be manufactured in Korea; and 3) approving the delivery to Korea of 30,000 M16 as an urgent military requirement.
WECOM initiates case study of M16 rife negotiations.
Colt’s Robert Fremont receives US Patent #3,440,751 titled “Firearm Box Magazine with Straight End and Intermediate Arcuate Portions.”
William C. Davis and James B. Ackley file the report “An Investigation of Gas-Port Pressures for Two Lots of 5.56mm Ammunition Containing Two Different Types of Powder.”
The CDC files the report “Noise Suppressor for M16 Rifle and Night Vision Device.”
FN‘s Ernest Vervier receives US Patent #3,440,925 titled “Automatic Firearm with Burst Control Means.”
500 XM203 are sent to Vietnam for a three-month evaluation to determine its suitability for tactical use by US Army units. ACTIV distributes the launchers to the 1st, 4th, and 25th Infantry Division, the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile), and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment.
On behalf of the US Army, Herman F. Hawthorne receives US Patent #3,437,039 titled “Multicharge Cartridge for Multibarrel Automatic Guns.”
In a joint statement, Secretary of State William P. Rogers and Secretary of Defense Laird announce that the US Government agrees in principle to establish a plant for the manufacture of M16 rifles in South Korea. Final approval hinges upon further study of the politico-economic implications.
Aberdeen publishes the report “Combined Initial Production and Inspection Comparison Tests of M16A1 Rifles.”
Remington publishes the report “Report, Feasibility Study to Investigate the Sensitivity of Certain Small Caliber Incendiary Type Bullets.” Remington’s study had been conducted on behalf of Aberdeen’s BRL.
The report “Burst Control Selector M16” is published.
WECOM‘s Science and Technology Laboratory publishes “New Preservative Lubricants for Small Arms Weapons for Use in a Tropical and Saline Environment.” Comparative laboratory evaluations were made with several experimental and conventional preservative lubricants for small-arms weapons. The evaluations covered the protective capacity of these materials on Aluminum 7075 T6 and steel alloy in saline, high-temperature, and high humidity conditions, which simulate the Vietnam environment.
IWK‘s Ludwig Six and Rudolf Niemann receive US Patent #3,442,216 titled “Infantry Rifle Bullet.”
The military specifications for the M199 and M232 Dummy Cartridges are amended.
Aberdeen’s BRL publishes “Drag and Stability Properties of the XM144 Fléchette with Various Head Shapes.” The drag and stability properties of a family of conical head fléchette are presented, with cone angles varying from 5 to 90 degrees. The data cover a range from Mach 2 to Mach 4, determined from free flight spark range tests. Limited results on a spike-nose configuration are also discussed.
Colt Industries splits the Firearms Division into military and civilian production units. Paul A. Benke is promoted to Vice-President of Colt Industries and becomes the executive in charge of the new Firearms Group. William H. Goldbach is named President of the Military Arms Division.
Colt representatives begin negotiations with South Korean officials regarding a commercial licensing agreement for the M16. Several points of dispute surface. Colt representatives are unwilling to offer in-country production of more than 20 parts, with the remainder to be purchased from Colt. Korean representatives claim that the earlier technical study led them to believe that they would be able to produce the entire rifle. Moreover, Colt’s proposal of partial construction is more expensive than the estimates for 100 percent Korean construction.
The Naval Training Device Center publishes the report “Ballistic Tests on the M16 Training Cartridge.”
Colt’s Henry Into and John Jorczak file a patent application for the trap-door buttstock.
WECOM designates the AAI SFR as the “XM19 Rifle, 5.6mm, Primer Activated Fléchette Firing.” At Springfield, GE has redesigned their SPIW, eliminating 58 parts from the 1966 model. GE lobbies for development of fléchette cartridges based on the 5.56mm M193 cartridge case. This would allow them the option of producing either a SFR, a micro-caliber SBR, or even a standard 5.56x45mm weapon. GE even proposes necking the 5.56x45mm case out to 6mm, especially with the saboted ammunition types. The larger bore volume is cited as having the side benefit of reducing flash and blast, equivalent to an extra five inches of barrel length. Olin-Winchester chooses a separate path, developing multiple-fléchette cartridges. (Note: The intended grenade launcher attachment for the competing rifles is to be either the XM203 or the DBCATA.)
Dale M. Davis files a patent application for the basic design of what will become the IMP.
The first competitive bidding for M16A1 rifles results in awards to Colt (DAAF03-70-C-0001) for 458,435 M16A1 and to GM-Hydramatic (DAAF03-70-C-0002) for 229,217 M16A1. Initially worth ~$41 million, Colt’s contract is later changed to total 407,937 M16A1 and 65,000 M16.
In testimony before the Ichord Subcommittee, MG Walter J. Woolwine, AMC Deputy Commanding General of Materiel Acquisition, states that the M16A1 rifles produced by H&R are “a very fine quality.” The next day, government inspectors reject five lots of rifles at H&R. The issues include defective bolts and bolt carriers, and failures to pass accuracy and endurances tests. Later in the month, the Army completely stops acceptance of rifles from H&R.
Frankford Arsenal begins a three-year development effort to create a viable aluminum cartridge case for 5.56mm cartridges.
The military specifications for the M199 and M232 Dummy Cartridges are amended for a second time.
Colt’s Robert Fremont receives US Patent #3,453,762 titled “Disposable Magazine Having a Protective Cover and Follower Retaining Means.”
AR-18 production begins at ArmaLite’s Costa Mesa facility.
The US Army’s Marksmanship Training Unit publishes the results of accuracy testing initiated by Colt. Three standard M16 have been pitted against a trio of heavy barrel M16 rifles. Three National Match M14 rifles are used as the control. At 300m, the heavy barrel M16 rifles produce an average group of 7.6″ versus 12″ from the issue M16 rifle. The M14NM rifles average 6.4″. The MTU reports the obvious superiority of the heavy barreled rifles over the standard M16 rifles. However, they recommend that a heavier bullet and faster rifling twist be investigated for M16 use at ranges exceeding 300m.
Frankford Arsenal publishes the report “M16 Gas Tube Fouling — Composition, Properties, and Means of Elimination.”
Aberdeen issues the report “Product Improvement Test of Redesigned Bolt Catch.”
Aberdeen’s BRL publishes “Terminal Behavior of the 5.56 mm M193 Ball Bullet in Soft Targets.”
WECOM‘s Science and Technology Laboratory publishes “Mechanical Property Evaluations of 7075 Aluminum Alloy Forgings for the M16A1 Lower Receiver.”
The AMSAA publishes “Effectiveness of the 7.62mm M60 Machine Gun (Firing M80 Ball) and the 5.56mm Stoner Machine Gun (Firing M193 Ball and Several Low-Drag Configuration Bullets).”
ACTIV files the report “XM203 Grenade Launcher Attachment Development.” The evaluation finds that the XM203 is suitable for use by US Army units in Vietnam. During combat, personnel prefer to use the XM203 rather than the M79 because the M16/XM203 combo provides greater fire power and versatility. The battle sight and the quadrant sight are useful during training. However, the following changes need to be made:
- Remove the front sling swivel;
- Modify the trigger so the safety does not inadvertently slip to the safe position;
- Modify the trigger guard so the firer’s fingers will not be pinched between the trigger guard and the M16’s magazine;
- Checker the handgrip of the XM203 to give the firer better purchase when his hands become slippery;
- Modify the sling for attachment to the front sight and buttplate;
- Modify the handguard insert so it does not break when the firer tries to disengage it from the front;
It is recommended that the XM203 replace the M79, the modifications detailed be made, and that the quadrant sight be eliminated. The recommendation on adoption is accepted and the XM203 becomes the M203.
Debell and Richardson Inc. publish “Development of Plastic Disposable Magazine for XM16E1 Rifle.” Following the preliminary design studies and material selection, three design concepts were carried into the pilot production stage and field tested. Work was done at the same time on ways to retain rounds in loaded magazines, and on the design and pilot production of a protective cover for loaded magazines.
The maximum allowable level of calcium carbonate in ball powders is reduced from 1 percent to 0.25 percent.
Sen. William Proxmire (D-WI) alleges that the South Vietnamese Government has offered for sale weapons provided by the US, including over 5,000 M16, to private arms dealers.
The military specification for 5.56mm Reference cartridges, MIL-C-46397A, is revised to MIL-C-46397B.
Representatives from the OPMR contact ArmaLite for price quotes on AR-18 rifles and licensing rights. This information for an undisclosed client. ArmaLite offers licensing rights for $500,000 and a 5 percent royalty on each rifle produced.
Litton Scientific Support Laboratory publishes “XM148 Investigation.”
Aberdeen publishes the report “Operational Reliability Study of M16A1 Rifle”
Aberdeen’s BRL publishes the report “Deformation Characteristics of One Lot (LC SP412) of 5.56mm M193 Ammunition.” Physical measurements of the ammunition were taken before and after launch and the results compared on an individual basis. Rounds were launched at standard muzzle velocity, recovered and refired at a reduced velocity and compared with other rounds launched only at the same reduced velocity. Several before and after launch rounds were contour measured and comparisons were made on the shape of the projectile.
Frankford Arsenal publishes the report “Bullet-in-Bore Study of 5.56MM, Ball, M193 Cartridge and M16A1 Rifle.” This test consisted of the firing of cartridges crimped to 100 pound average bullet pull (normal representative production value), 35 pound average bullet pull (minimum specification requirement) and uncrimped cartridges, all reassembled without propellant from each of two 5.56mm, ball, M193 cartridge lots (LC12507 and TW18310) in each of three M16A1 Rifles with varying records of rounds fired.
WECOM‘s Future Weapons Systems Division publishes the report “A Methodology for Choosing the Best Caliber for a Light Infantry Machinegun.” The best caliber is taken to be that one which yields the greatest effective range under constraints on weapon recoil energy and system weight. For bullets and guns having a particular configuration, relationships are developed which express these constraints. Semi-empirical expressions for recoil energy and system weight are obtained as functions of caliber and muzzle velocity. When energy and weight are constrained, a feasible region is defined in the two-dimensional space of caliber and muzzle velocity. Within this feasible regions, the greatest effective range is found at the smallest caliber (and largest muzzle velocity.)
Aberdeen also publishes the report “Engineer Design Test of 20-Round Plastic Magazine for M16A1 Rifles.” A series of engineering design tests was conducted on 20-round plastic magazines of 6-10 nylon with 50% fiberglass reinforcement, for the M16A1 rifle. Equal numbers of test and control magazines were subjected to a series of comparative evaluations to determine function performance characteristics and material durability at extreme and ambient range temperatures, and in adverse conditions of mud, sand, dust, and water. The test magazine material was also checked for compatibility with various nonstandard solvents and lubricants. A displacement time study was made of the magazines to determine cartridge positioning characteristics during firing. The test results reveal that the test magazine requires further design engineering to improve performance in adverse conditions and to increase material durability at low temperature.
USMC issues a request to the AMC for further tests of the Stoner 63A1 machine gun, rifle, and carbine. The tests are to be conducted in two phases: 1) engineering design tests by WECOM, and 2) engineering tests by Aberdeen. Successful completion of Phase 1 is a prerequisite to Phase 2.
CDCEC publishes “XM19 Serially Fired Fléchette Weapon Evaluation.”
At Frankford Arsenal, Andrew J. Grandy publishes “A New Concept for the SPIW.” Grandy’s folded path cartridge concept is examined for use with a multi-fléchette .330 SPIW cartridge. A .330 inch folded system was designed, fabricated, and tested. The system was capable of being used in full and partially recoiless firing modes.
Production of XM177-type weapons is deleted from the second-source contracts.
LTC Rex D. Wing replaces COL Alvin C. Isaacs as PMR. Isaacs has been selected for promotion to Brigadier General and reassignment as Deputy Commanding General of the US Army Tank-Automotive Command (TACOM).
WECOM concludes case study of M16 rife negotiations.
The USAIB publishes “The Development of Combat-Related Measures of Effectiveness for Small Arms Weapons Systems.”
The Army Logistics Management Center publishes “Analysis of Program Factor-Demand Relationships for M16 Rifle Parts.” This report contains results of an empirical study of the relationship that exists between demand for parts of the M16 and rifle density or round expenditure. Actual demands from Vietnam and the actual monthly density and round expenditure in Vietnam for 1967 and 1968 are used in the analyses. Density appears to have no bearing on demand. Round expenditure seems to affect demand but the changes are not proportional. Moreover, forecasts of future round expenditure are not very reliable.
Since Secretary of Defense Laird believes that the cost of producing 600,000 M16 is too high for the South Korean government to support over six years, the DOD considers two new plans for South Korean rifle modernization. The first is to allow Korean production of only 300,000 M16. The second is to substitute Korean production of 600,000 AR-18. The AR-18 is believed to be significantly easier and cheaper to produce. The US Army is expected to expedite testing of the AR-18 so that results will be available by February 1970.
On behalf of the US Navy, Robert A. Leverance and Morrison B. Moore, III file a patent application for a lightweight, inexpensive sound suppressor for the M16 that is easily drained during amphibious operations.
The US Army begins renewed testing of the AR-18. Tests are conducted at Aberdeen and by the Infantry Board at Fort Benning.
The British publish a report titled “Future Small Arms, An Intermediate Calibre Solution.”
The US State Department grants an export license for 10,000 M16 rifles for the Brazilian Air Force three years after the initial request. Brazilian officials had cancelled the order a year earlier.
Aberdeen files the report “Reliability Characteristics of the M16A1 and M14 Rifle Systems at Low Temperatures.”
Colt’s Kanemitsu (Koni) Ito receives US Patent #3,482,322 titled “Method for Preventing Malfunction of a Magazine Type Firearm and Gage for Conducting Same.”
The US Army reports on tests of Colt’s latest belt-fed LMG, the CMG-2. Despite using the 68 grain GX-6235, the CMG-2 is considered to not offer enough range or a high enough rate of fire.
The Stoner 63 Commando LMG (w/ right-hand feed) is officially type classified by the US Navy under the designation “Gun, Machine, 5.56mm Mark 23 Mod 0.” 48 of these are eventually procured.
The USAF awards a contract to Colt for the construction of four Individual Multi-Purpose Weapons (IMP), as a proposed air crew survival weapon. The original goals for the weapon are a “lethal” range of 100 meters, a weight of less than 1.5 pounds, a maximum length under 13,” and a minimum magazine capacity of 7 rounds. Dale M. Davis of the USAF‘s Armament Laboratory (Eglin AFB) is responsible the stockless bullpup design which others dub an “arm gun.” The Colt IMP, later designated the GUU-4/P, are technology demonstrators chambered in .221 Remington Fireball. The .221 Fireball is chosen because in falls in size between the intended final chamberings. The intent is to chamber a survival rifle variant for an experimental .17 caliber cartridge based on a Frankford SPIW case. Firing a 25 grain bullet at 3,000 fps, it measures 1.725″ in length and 0.333″ in diameter at the base. A rifle/submachine gun variant is also envisioned chambered for the standard 5.56x45mm. (The latter idea is developed and marketed commercially years later by Mack Gwinn Sr. and Mack Gwinn Jr. as the Bushmaster pistol.) At least one of the IMP prototypes is rebarreled years later for a trio of .30 caliber wildcats intended for suppressed use. One of these cartridges is based upon a slightly shortened .30 Carbine case while the other two are based upon shortened 5.56mm cases (sort of a stubby forerunner to J.D. Jones’ later Whisper experiments). Eglin will also later (circa 1973) use the IMP in .221 to test Remington experimental cartridges using hybrid polymer/brass cartridge cases. These are often found loaded with a saboted .17 caliber projectile.
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.