The 5.56 X 45mm “Timeline” – 1983

A Chronology of Development by Daniel E. Watters



Colt, on behalf of JSSAP‘s Future Rifle Program, begins work on a flat-top M16A2. (This is not the first time that Colt has built flat-top M16-type rifles. In the 1970s, Colt produced a pair of prototype sniper rifles: the M16A1 Special High Profile (RO655) and the M16A1 Special Low Profile (RO656). The “High Profile” mounted its optics to the carrying handle while the “Low Profile” was of a flat-top configuration. Colt engineer Henry Tatro was involved in both the early and current projects.)

Under Secretary of the US Army Ambrose encourages TRADOC to update current doctrine based upon the plans for a caseless ACR.

Production and deliveries of the M231 FPW are complete.

The US makes a FMS of 21,000 M16A1 to Lebanon.

The US makes a FMS of 118 M16A1 and 18 M203 to Honduras.

Gabon purchases a mix of ~2,000 M16A1 and Model 653 carbines.

Elisco Tool Company purchases ArmaLite. Production of the AR-18 rifle by Sterling ends.

The SEALs remove the last of their Stoner LMGs from active duty.

RSAF Enfield is tasked with comparing the XL70 and XL73 to the requirements set down by GSR 3518. The IW is found to be longer than specified, both the IW and LSW weigh more than the stated requirement, the LSW has yet to meet its 8,000 MRBF target, and the LSW in automatic mode is inadequate for suppressive fire. On the positive side, the IW with SUSAT is found to be more accurate than the L1A1 SLR and L2A3 SMG. (However, the deck was stacked, as the SLR was reportedly not fitted with the SUIT during testing.)

IMBEL‘s Fabrica de Itajuba develops a prototype 5.56mm rifle using a number of FAL parts.

The Omani armed forces receive Steyr AUG.

Senegal purchases ~250 FAMAS.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) receives delivery of FAMAS.

The Czech military assigns creation of an AK-74 variant to the Prototypa design bureau.

The US provides 224 M203 to El Salvador as part of a military assistance package.

Colt terminates the South Korean license agreement for default. The South Koreans, in turn, rescind the license agreement, but request that the MOU remain in effect.

SIG‘s Bruno Schwaller files an US patent application for the co-joinable magazine design eventually used in the SG550.

The US Army deallocates $285,000 in a contract modification to Adventure Line Mfg. Co. Inc.

Aberdeen releases the report “Technical Feasibility Test of M16A1E1 Rifle.” Out of the 27 criteria used in evaluation, the M16A1E1 met 19, partially met 5, and failed 3. Some of the problems are blamed on the extremely poor quality of the Lake City XM855E1(FN) cartridges. The major criticism of the rifle centers on the ejection pattern, which results in firers to the right of the rifle being struck by hot cartridge cases. This characteristic was carried over from the M16A1, and there had been training incidents in the past where the adjacent shooter would lose muzzle awareness upon being struck by hot brass and negligently discharge his weapon. In some instances, this had resulted in neighboring shooters being shot, and in certain cases, killed. As a result, this characteristic is classified as a “Catastrophic/Occasional” deficiency. Also noted are marginal firing pin energy and buffer failure in cold temperatures. These are classified as shortcomings.

The US Army awards a $12,682,000 contract modification to FN related to the M249.

The Canadian government grants $1.7 million to Diemaco for the Small Arms Replacement Program (SARP). This paves the way for the eventual replacement of Canada’s 7.62mm NATO rifles and LMG with 5.56mm NATO counterparts.

The British ITDU evaluates Tascorama and Ring Sight optics as possible SA80 secondary sights.

The Swiss Federal Council selects the SIG SG541 over the W+F SG C42 to become the Swiss Army’s next service rifle.

The US Army awards a $3,360,000 delivery order to Colt related to the M16 for FMS.

A BRL representative attends a meeting with personnel of the Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) Project Office. The subject of the meeting is the unacceptably high lot rejection rates of early production M855 Ball and M856 Tracer manufactured at Lake City. The rejected lots fail to meet the accuracy specification, and Lake City has indicated to the SAW Project Office that they believe the government-furnished test barrels might be contributing to the problem. The result of the meeting is a joint recommendation, by the BRL and the SAW Project Office, to conduct a three-part test at the BRL free-flight range facility.

Picatinny awards a $1,140,000 contract modification to AAI for ACR caseless ammunition RDT&E.

The US Army awards a $1,211,000 contract modification to Cooper Industries Inc.

The US Army awards $84,000 and $29,000 contract modifications to Colt related to the M16 for FMS.

Phase B of British Ordnance Board Trials begins for the XL70E3 IW and the XL73E2 LSW. The LSW is now configured for closed-bolt firing only. The weapons have been fitted with 1-in-7″ twist barrels and the test ammunition is NATO spec.

With test materiel and funding provided by the SAW Project Office, the BRL begins the first phase of testing of the Lake City M855 and M856. An accuracy check is performed using the Kart-manufactured barrels supplied to Lake City. Testing includes rejected lots of M855/M856, control lots of the Belgian SS109/L110, and handloaded ammunition using 52 grain Sierra Benchrest bullets, in both Lake City cartridge cases and commercial match grade cases.

L. James Sullivan and Robert L. Waterfield, on behalf of CIS, receive US Patent #4,445,418 titled “Drum Magazine for a Gun.”

Rock Island Arsenal employee, Loren Brunton files a patent application for the design of a M16 upper receiver incorporating an improved case deflector.

The establishment of the US Army Armament, Munitions and Chemical Command (AMCCOM) recombines ARRCOM and ARRADCOM. AMCCOM is headquartered at Rock Island. The Picatinny R&D facilities are renamed the Army Armament Research and Development Center (ARDC).

USAIS publishes “Individual and Collective Training Plan (ICTP) for the Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW).”

Colt learns that Springfield Armory, Inc. is attempting to sell M16-type rifles to El Salvador.

Picatinny awards a $243,000 contract modification to AAI for ACR caseless ammunition RDT&E.

LEW completes construction of 100,000th R4 rifle.

The US Army awards a $437,000 contract modification to Adventure Line Mfg. Co. Inc. for FMS.

The British ITDU publishes a report on Radway Green-manufactured magazines for the SA80.

Orlite Engineering’s Azriel Kadim receives US Patent #4,391,055 titled “Ammunition Magazine.”

The US Army awards a $358,000 contract to Colt related to the M16.

The military specification for the M231 FPW, MIL-S-63348A(AR), is amended for the third time.

L. James Sullivan, on behalf of CIS, files another US patent application for the lockwork mechanism of the Ultimax 100.

The US Army awards a $4,849,000 delivery order and deallocates $1,410,000 in a contract modification to Colt related to the M16. The Army also deallocates $653,000 from a delivery order to Colt for FMS.

The BRL begins the second phase of testing of the Lake City M855 and M856. The tests consist of aeroballistic range firings to determine the aerodynamic and flight characteristics of the Lake City and FN ammunition, using downloaded propellant charges to simulate ranges out to 800 meters.

Colt files suit in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois against Springfield and its sister company Rock Island Armory, Inc. for patent infringement and infringement of federally registered and common law trademarks, false advertising and designation of origin, unfair competition, misappropriation, dilution of distinctive trademarks, and tortious interference with contracts. Colt alleges unauthorized use of Colt’s production trade secrets. Springfield responds claiming that it copied the weapon by reverse engineering.

A South Korean M16 sales agreement is concluded between Daewoo and a US company (Springfield?) to supply 12,500 spare parts for about $127,000. Delivery of the parts is stopped by a court injunction brought by Colt Industries against the US company.

ARRADCOM awards a $679,000 contract modification to HK for ACR caseless ammunition RDT&E.

The SIG SG541 is type-classified by the Swiss Army under the designation Stgw. 90. SIG receives a credit worth 85 million Swiss Francs for a pilot production run of 15,000 Stgw. 90 rifles. This is in hopes of a 1986 delivery date.

The British ITDU publishes the report “The Final Evaluation of Small Arms for the 80s to meet GSR 3518.” Of interest is the statement:

“During all activities the IW proved itself to be a robust, reliable weapon that suffered from few stoppages… The modifications that had been incorporated were, in the main, very successful and the majority of the problems previously noted have now been overcome. There are still a few points that require attention but these are all minor….”

Finding that Springfield Armory had copied Colt’s production secrets, the District Court grants a preliminary injunction. Springfield appeals the decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Abandoning its reverse engineering claim, Springfield Armory now claims that the weapon cannot be reverse engineered. From this claim, Springfield argues that its inability to mass produce the M16 establishes the failure of Colt’s patents on rifle parts to comply with 35 U.S.C. Sec. 112 p 1.

Colt’s Seth Bredbury and Harold Waterman, Jr. file a patent application for the new M16A2-type forearms. Waterman also files a separate patent for the M16A2’s improved buttstock.

L. James Sullivan, on behalf of CIS, files an US patent application for the “Constant Recoil” design of the Ultimax 100.

The M16A2 is type-classified as “Standard A”. The USMC places an initial order for 26,028 rifles.

AMCCOM awards a $40,000 contract modification to Colt related to the 1967 Licensing Agreement.

The Canadian SARP plan receives final approval.

L. James Sullivan, on behalf of CIS, receives US Patent #4,416,186 titled “Sear Buffer.”

AMCCOM awards a $694,000 contract to Sanchez Enterprises Inc.

AMCCOM awards $29,000 and $26,000 contract modifications to Colt related to the 1967 Licensing Agreement.

AMCCOM awards $39,000 and $33,000 contracts to Cooper Industries Inc.

(Next: 5.56mm 1984)

by Daniel E. Watters, Small Arms Historian
Post questions or comments at The 5.56mm Timeline’s Facebook page.

Document History
Publication: 12/10/1998
Last Revised: 05/17/2009


Author’s Note
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.