A Chronology of Development by Daniel E. Watters
The HEL conducts soldier-machine interface design studies on the Enhanced M16A2.
Picatinny conducts new trials for alternative case material blanks. Candidates include the aluminum XM941 by Omark and plastic cased variants from Action Manufacturing and Winchester. After a year of testing, none are adopted.
The USAIS publishes the paper “Small Arms Strategy 2000” (SAS 2000). Despite the ACR program’s current push for caseless, duplex, and fléchette ammunition, SAS-2000 proposes that the infantry rifle has already reached its technological peak. The only way to increase the hit/kill probability of the infantryman will be to introduce individual weapons that fire explosive/fragmentation warheads. A family of three weapons is proposed: an advanced personal defense weapon (90 percent hit probability at 25 meters), an advanced individual combat weapon, and an advanced crew-served weapon. Admittedly, this is less of a stretch than the “Future Alternatives Assessment” which indicates a need to investigate the application of directed energy (DE) and electromagnetic (EM) technology for individual weapons.
The UK purchases 400 M16A1 for Belize troops.
North Yemen acquires six M16A2 for evaluation.
New Zealand adopts the Steyr AUG, intending to purchase Australian production rifles.
FAMAE of Chile begins licensed production of the SIG SG540 and SG543.
SIG introduces the SG551 carbine.
FFV begins licensed production of the FN FNC (Ak5).
Production of the CETME Model L rifle and Model LC carbine begins.
Panama receives Type 65 rifles from Taiwan.
The USAIB conducts testing of the XM9 Multipurpose Bayonet System.
British Royal Marines training in Norway experience a variety of problems with the L85A1 during troop trials. Besides functioning issues, at least one L85A1 discharges when dropped. The rifles are recalled to replace the trigger and trigger spring. The recall/upgrade spans roughly three months.
Colt employees go on strike. The previous union contract had run out 10 months earlier. The strike ultimately lasts more than four years.
AMCCOM awards $188,000 and $863,000 contracts to Colt related to the M16.
Colt delivers 40 XM4 carbines to Picatinny. The carbines are not yet equipped with the double heat shield handguards.
The Mellonics Systems Development Division based at Fort Benning publishes “Analysis of M16A2 Rifle Characteristics and Recommended Improvements.” It is in many ways a rehash of their December 1982 “Memorandum of Understanding.” The characteristics of the M16A2 rifle developed by the Marine Corps were analyzed to determine what impact the new rifle’s features would have on Army marksmanship training and on combat effectiveness. It was found that use of the M16A2 rifle by the US Army would be extremely problematic, due in part to the vast differences between the marksmanship training philosophies of the Army and the Marine Corps. Numerous recommendations are presented, which could result in simplified training and improved combat performance if adopted.
AMCCOM awards a $95,000 contract to FN Manufacturing, Inc. (FNMI) related to the M16. (FNMI is FN‘s facility located in Columbia, SC. It was created to support production of the 7.62mm M240 (MAG58) for use with the M1 Abrams tank.)
The US Army announces their first major order for the M16A2, totaling 100,176 rifles.
AMCCOM awards a $47,859,000 contract modification to Colt related to the M16.
Loren Brunton files another patent application for the design of the M16A2 upper receiver, which incorporates an improved case deflector.
Picatinny’s ARDC is renamed the Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC).
Pier G. Beretta files an US patent application for the lockwork mechanism of the AR70/90.
AMCCOM awards a $9,240,000 contract to Okay Industries Inc.
The US Army issues a Request for Proposal (RFP) for M249 belt boxes. This includes 216,731 for combat use and 107,686 for training.
TECOM starts the XM4 Carbine program with a direct entry into Development Test / Operational Test II. The USMC Firepower Division, under the leadership of MAJ Jack Muth, later acquires seven XM4 from the Army. Marines from the Foreign Materiel Acquisition and Exploitation unit assist in testing. The testing is with the goal of issuing the XM4 to the USMC‘s Special Operations Capable (SOC) units then under development. The only compact shoulder weapons authorized for use by Force Recon to this point has been the M3A1 SMG (bolstered by very unofficial use of XM177E2). Originally, the Colt Commando was considered to be an acceptable replacement by the USMC Development Center, but certain parties demanded that any potential replacement accept the mounting of a bayonet. This is possible with the XM4.
Picatinny awards a $33,000 contract modification to Colt for the XM4.
Colt makes delivery of double heat shield handguards for the XM4 under evaluation.
AMCCOM fields a Request for Deviation on the M16A1.
The military specification for M856 Tracer, MIL-C-63990A(AR), is revised to MIL-C-63990B(AR).
Pier G. Beretta files an US patent application for the detachable carry handle/rear sight for the AR70/90 family.
The BRL publishes “Candidate Muzzle Devices for the Improved M16.” Among the devices tested are the muzzle brakes of the AK-74 and AKS-74U.
Firing trials restart for Phase C of British Ordnance Board Trials.
HK‘s Horst Jakubaschk and Erich Weisser receive US Patent #4,587,756 titled “Magazine for a Small Arm.”
AMCCOM awards a $666,000 contract modification to Parsons Precision Products.
AMCCOM deallocates $611,000 in a contract modification to Sanchez Enterprises Inc. The contract has been terminated for default. The next day, AMCCOM awards a new $27,000 contract to Sanchez Enterprises.
Steyr’s Ulrich Zedrosser files an US patent application for a folding cocking handle for the Steyr AUG.
AMCCOM awards a $25,000 contract to Cooper Industries Inc.
Diemaco’s Phil O’Dell and Ian Andersen visit Colt to examine a Henry Tatro-designed M16-LMG. Diemaco has been considering the possibility of producing the design in a joint effort. They eventually decide to do so.
Naval Weapons Support Center-Crane’s Weapons Department issues a safety statement for the Ultimax 100. This clears the way for operational testing by the SEALs.
The AMSAA publishes “A Limited Evaluation of the Burst-Fire Performance of the M16A1 Rifle With AK-74 Muzzle Brake Compensator.”
An Interim Report of SA80 troop trials is published.
The British discontinue work with the Saco .22 LR adaptor for the SA80.
Ketron, Inc., under contract to the BRL, submits “Personnel Degradation: Wounding by Flechettes.”
Loren Brunton receives US Patent #D285,236 titled “Rifle Receiver.”
US Army receives proposals for the M249 belt box solicitation. Four days later, the contract officer for the RFP is notified that production of belted 5.56mm NATO ammo is in danger of being stopped at Lake City. Lake City lacks sufficient belt boxes to pack the ammunition. In response, the contract officer awards the belt box contract to Proll Molding Co. as it already has experience in producing the item.
FN begins work on what is to be become their P90 PDW. Initial development of the companion 5.7x28mm cartridge starts with the loading of the polymer core SS90 projectile in various commercial cartridges such as the .22 Hornet and the .30 Carbine. The latter is reportedly used unmodified with sabots and in a necked-down format.
ACR Phase I contracts are awarded to AAI, ARES, Colt, HK, McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Company (MDHC), and Steyr. Picatinny awards $798,000 to ARES, $452,000 to Steyr, $598,000 to AAI, and $828,000 to MDHC for ACR RDT&E.
Aberdeen awards a $208,000 contract to Colt related to the M249.
Naval Weapons Support Center-Crane publishes “Final Report for Joint Services Small Arms Program 6.2: M16A2 Rifle Signature Suppression Project.”
The US Army adopts the Dynamit Nobel (DAG) M862 Plastic Training Ammunition along with the required M2 Practice Bolt for the M16A2.
AMCCOM deallocates $50,000 in a contract modification to Parsons Precision Products.
Daylight Plastics, Inc. files a GAO protest over the US Army’s award to Proll Molding Co. for M249 belt boxes. Daylight Plastics has learned that Proll Molding’s quoted prices were significantly higher than its own. In response, the Army cancels Proll Molding’s contract. However, the Army then issues a sole source solicitation and award to Proll Molding for the same items. The Army justifies the sole source solicitation and award on the account of the urgent need to make deliveries of belt boxes to Lake City by November 30.
The US Government announces its intent to supply 300 reconditioned M16A1 to Papua New Guinea.
The Canadians begin development of a flat-top C7.
Olin’s Randall G. Habbe receives US Patent #4,619,203 titled “Armor Piercing Small Caliber Projectile.”
AMCCOM awards a $3,103,000 contract to La Belle Industries Inc.
Phobris is awarded a contract for the new M9 Bayonet. (Production is licensed to Buck Knives.)
Daylight Plastics, Inc. files a GAO protest over the US Army’s September sole-source award to Proll Molding Co. for M249 belt boxes and the cancellation of the original solicitation. Daylight Plastics alleges that a shortfall of M249 belt boxes will not be experienced, if at all, until March 1987 and not November 1986 as the Army had suggested. Two days later, the GAO denies Daylight Plastics’s protest of the US Army’s August award to Proll Molding. The GAO justifies this since the original contract being protested was canceled.
Pier G. Beretta receives US Patent #4,615,134 titled “Retaining Mechanism for Rifle Magazines.”
The Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences publishes the report “Development of a Stadiametric Ranging Device for the M203 Grenade Launcher.” A prototype stadiametric ranging device that used hole sizes scaled to each of 10 man-sized targets located between 50 and 350m from the firer. Range estimates with the unaided eye typically overestimated the range, while those using the devices typically underestimated. The magnitude of range estimation errors was smaller and less variable when the devices were used as opposed to the unaided eye.
US Army frontline units receive their first M16A2.
The British ITDU conducts endurance and reliability trials of SA80 .22 LR adaptors.
The military specification for the M16A2 rifle, MIL-R-63997A(AR), is revised to MIL-R-63997B(AR).
AMCCOM awards a $1,047,000 contract modification to Colt related to the M16.
Diemaco conducts a function and tolerance study of the M16-LMG‘s firing mechanism. Colt has sent one of their prototypes for reference.
by Daniel E. Watters, Small Arms Historian
Post questions or comments at The 5.56mm Timeline’s Facebook page.
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.