The 5.56 X 45mm “Timeline” – 1985

A Chronology of Development by Daniel E. Watters

1985

 

The US Army orders 50 M16A2E1 rifles for use in testing experimental sighting devices. Oddly, the Army has yet to order any standard M16A2 rifles for issue. Later in the year, the Army terminates its work with optical sights for the M16A2.

The USAIB conducts Operational Test II with the prototype XM4 carbine.

Colt develops a new plastic collapsible stock to replace the original aluminum model.

The US State Department’s Office of Munitions Control returns without action an export license application to send 10,000 M16 rifles and carbines worth $6,000,000 to Guatemala. It also returns without action an export license application to send to Guatemala 3,350 laser sights for the M16 worth $7,750,000.

The UAE orders 30,000 M16A2 with full-auto controls instead of three round burst.

Beretta submits its improved AR70/90 rifle for Italian 5.56mm rifle trials. Other competitors include the HK G41 (submitted by Franchi) and the IMI Galil (submitted by Bernadelli).

HK introduces the GR3, roughly a HK 33 with a 1.5x optic integrally formed with the receiver stamping.

Australia adopts the Steyr AUG, and opts for domestic production of the rifle.

Britain’s Royal Ordnance Factories are privatized, albeit the MOD controls 100 percent of the shares.

The XL85E1 IW and XL86E1 LSW appear on the scene. The differences in the new build standard fall mainly in tolerances between the receiver and bolt carrier, and the fabrication of the magazine well housing. In addition, the twin ejectors have been replaced by a single unit.

The British L1A1 Blank enters service.

SW&H begins production of the MPiKMS-74.

January:
The ACR Operational and Organizational Plan (O&O) is approved.

Picatinny awards a $148,000 contract modification to HK for ACR RDT&E.

AMCCOM awards a $1,147,000 contract to Colt related to the M16.

Aberdeen’s HEL publishes “An Evaluation of the Hitting Performance of the M16A1 Rifle with and without a Sight Rib.” A field evaluation was conducted of a sight rib designed by the report’s author to improve the pointing qualities of the M16A1 and M16A2 rifles. The sight rib is an integral part of a new upper handguard and bridges the space between the front sight assembly and the carrying handle. It is parallel to the rifle bore and creates a strong visual cue as to where the barrel is pointing. Past firing tests have indicated that such a cue would improve a shooter’s ability to hit targets quickly when there is insufficient time to aim properly. Twenty seven combat arms riflemen participated in the evaluation. They fired at pop-up E silhouettes emplaced in a fan at both 30 and 75 meters. The targets were presented for 2 and 3.5 seconds. Both range and exposure time were varied randomly. The test participants fired with both standard and sight rib equipped M16A1 rifles using both aimed fire and pointed fire techniques. Time to fire and hit or miss data were gathered for each target presentation so that the data could be graphed to show the cumulative percentage of targets hit as a function of time. The results indicate that the sight rib on the M16A1 rifle significantly improves the soldier’s ability to hit a target when the target is exposed briefly or the shooter fires quickly.

Lake City AAP issues the study “5.56 Unit Cost & Standard Hours/1000 Rounds.”

The British ITDU begins trials to determine the compatibility of the S10 Respirator with use of the SA80 family.

February:
AMCCOM awards $367,000 and $266,000 delivery orders to Colt related to the M16 for FMS.

The Mellonics Systems Development Division based at Fort Benning publishes “Training Program Development for the M249 Bipod-Mounted Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW).” Research was conducted to develop a program of instruction that includes both familiarization and qualification courses of fire for the M249 SAW. Major findings were: 1) successful engagement of targets at ranges greater than 400 meters is limited by system design deficiencies; 2) the most effective beaten zone is created by firing rapid two to three round bursts with short intervals between bursts for reacquiring and relaying on the target; 3) the M856 tracer round is impossible to observe from behind the sights; 4) the most effective position for firing the SAW is the M60 position published in FM 23-67 (1964); 5) the SAW should be zeroed using single shot fire at a range of 10 meters with 500 meter range setting on the sight; 6) SAW transition range; and 7) both M855 and M193 ammunition are suitable for SAW training; however, ballistic variances preclude mixing of training ammunition and limit use of M193 ammunition to ranges of 300 meters and less.

The Mellonics Systems Development Division also publishes “Training Effectiveness Analysis: M60 Machinegun and Squad Automatic Weapon.”

Picatinny awards a $1,312,000 contract modification to HK for ACR RDT&E.

March:
AMCCOM awards $603,000 and $2,197,000 contracts, and a $32,000 delivery order to Colt related to the M16.

Colt informs the US Army that it is adding the M16A2-based carbine to the 1967 TDP and Licensing Agreement.

AMCCOM awards $233,000, $2,016,000, and $881,000 delivery orders to FN related to the M249.

The military specification for M855 Ball, MIL-C-63989A(AR), is amended.

Picatinny awards a $150,000 contract modification to AAI for ACR caseless ammunition RDT&E.

Picatinny awards a $238,000 contract modification to HK for ACR RDT&E.

The British ITDU ends trials to determine the compatibility of the S10 Respirator with use of the SA80 family.

L. James Sullivan, on behalf of CIS, receives US Patent #4,502,367 titled “Firearms Bolt Carrier Assembly,” and US Patent #4,505,182 titled “Firearm Trigger Mechanism.”

Spring:
Jordan purchases 7,000 M16A2 from Colt.

April:
The AMC creates a soldier individual weapons group.

AMCCOM awards a $1,147,000 contract modification to Colt related to the M16.

Colt delivers M16A2E1 rifles to the US Army for testing. Rifles sent to the USAIB are evaluated in Operational Test II.

AMCCOM awards a $3,000,000 delivery order to FN related to the M249.

Olin’s Randall G. Habbe files a patent application for the Olin “Penetrator,” the trade name for the M855 projectile produced at their facilities. During testing, it has shown enhanced performance over the FN manufactured SS109.

Harold Waterman, Jr. receives US Patent #4,512,101 titled “Rifle Buttstock Assembly.”

Picatinny awards a $33,000 contract modification to AAI for ACR caseless ammunition RDT&E.

Diemaco delivers the first pre-production C7 rifles.

Phase C of British Ordnance Board Trials begins for the XL85E1 IW and the XL86E1 LSW.

The British ITDU begins LSW reliability trials.

May:
Picatinny awards a $397,000 contract modification to AAI for ACR caseless ammunition RDT&E.

The British ITDU ends LSW reliability trials.

The ITDU also evaluates a bracket to fit the IWS Night Sight to the LSW.

June:
Picatinny awards a $214,000 contract to Colt for 40 XM4 carbines for military testing.

AMCCOM awards a $196,000 delivery order to FN related to the M249.

The GAO denies and dismisses Ross Bicycles’ protest of the Army’s RFP for M249 production. Ross alleges that the RFP shows favoritism toward FNMI by not providing manufacturing data for the M249 to other bidders.

RSAF Enfield receives the first production contract for the SA80 family. A total of 175,000 IW and LSW are ordered.

L. James Sullivan, on behalf of CIS, receives US Patent #4,522,106 titled “Gun Hammer Mechanism.”

HK‘s Paul Thevis, Helmut Danner, and Erich Weisser receive US Patent #4,523,509 titled “Shoulder Arm.”

July:
The GAO denies Ross Bicycles’ appeal of the GAO‘s previous protest decision.

The British ITDU evaluates contenders for the CWS Night Sight, a replacement for the older IWS. (The adopted L14A2 CWS is known commercially as the Pilkington Kite Weapon Sight.)

L. James Sullivan, on behalf of Beta Co., files a patent application for a 100-round saddle drum magazine (better known as the C-Mag).

August:
Colt is awarded another contract for 116,722 M16A2.

AMCCOM awards a $53,109,000 delivery order to Colt related to the M16.

AMCCOM awards a $29,000 contract to FN related to the M249.

Aberdeen awards a $114,000 contract to Colt related to the M249.

Under Secretary of the US Army Ambrose suspends M249 production pending the development of the PIP kit. Congress deletes funds for the M249 from the FY 1986 defense budget. Adding insult to injury, Congress retroactively sets aside FY 1985 funds for the M249 program for other purposes, including retirement and pay raises. Although found to be reliable and accurate, the XM249E1 is considered to present unacceptable hazards in the form of an exposed hot barrel, sharp edges, and a front sight that requires special adjustment tools. Over 1,100 XM249E1 already issued are to remain in use, but be retrofitted. The remaining 7,000+ XM249E1 are to stay in depots until corrective changes can be made. (Some XM249E1 already in the field do not receive their PIP updates until after the 1991 Gulf War.)

Colt’s Seth Bredbury and Harold Waterman, Jr. receive US Patent #4,536,982 titled “Cylindrical Rifle Handguard Assembly.”

The military specification for 5.56mm Reference cartridges, MIL-C-46397B(AR), is revised to MIL-C-46397C(AR).

Picatinny awards a $100,000 contract modification to AAI for ACR caseless ammunition RDT&E.

Picatinny awards a $106,000 contract modification to HK for ACR RDT&E.

Diemaco’s pre-production C7 rifles pass acceptance testing. The rifle parts are still a mix of Colt and Diemaco production, with the eventual goal of complete parts production by Diemaco.

Firing trials begin in support of Phase C of British Ordnance Board Trials.

September:
AMCCOM awards a $46,000 delivery order to Colt related to the M16.

The military specification for the M16A2 rifle, MIL-R-63997(AR), is revised to MIL-R-63997A(AR).

Picatinny awards a $27,000 contract modification to AAI for ACR caseless ammunition RDT&E.

Picatinny awards a $197,000 contract modification to HK for ACR RDT&E.

Firing trials are suspended for Phase C of British Ordnance Board Trials. Safety issues have arisen with the safety catch (plunger), firing pin, and hammer.

The British ITDU evaluates the Saco Defense .22 LR adaptor for the SA80. In addition, they test a modified wire-cutting bayonet.

October:
AMCCOM awards a $1,566,000 contract, and $523,000, $1,495,000, and $921,000 delivery orders to Colt related to the M16 for FMS.

Aberdeen’s BRL publishes “Aerodynamic and Flight Dynamic Characteristics of the New Family of 5.56mm NATO Ammunition.” US manufactured M855 and M856 cartridges were tested head-to-head against its Belgian made counterparts SS109 and L110. Tolerances in bullet jacket wall thickness and bullet seating alignment are identified as contributing to the dispersion problem in the US made ammunition.

Lake City AAP issues the study “Standard Hour Cost for 1 OCT 1985 Contract (5.56mm).”

The British Army issues their first L85A1 IW and L86A1 LSW.

AMCCOM awards a $3,975,000 contract to Parsons Precision Products.

AMCCOM awards a $5,042,000 contract to Sanchez Enterprises Inc.

December:
Colt’s Henry Tatro files a patent application for the new double heat shield forearms for the XM4.

The military specification for M197 High Pressure Test, MIL-C-46936B(AR), is amended for a second time.

Royal Ordnance’s Alexander Newman and Derek Skinner file an US patent application for the cosmetic design of the L85A1’s bayonet.

Pier G. Beretta files an US patent application for the open-bolt mechanism of the AS70/90 LMG.

(Next: 5.56mm 1986)

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.

 

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