The 5.56 X 45mm “Timeline” – 1987

A Chronology of Development by Daniel E. Watters

1987

 

The US Army Cold Regions Test Center conducts arctic testing on the M249.

Abu Dhabi (UAE) orders 20,000 Colt Model 727.

The Daewoo K2 enters service with the South Korean Army.

News of Chinese SCHV cartridge research is leaked to the West through interviews with Soldier of Fortune magazine. While at least 50 cartridge configurations have been examined, ranging from 5.2 to 6.2mm, a 5.8x42mm cartridge is reported to be the early favorite. No further details are given concerning the ammunition or host weapons. (More recent sources indicate that the 5.8x42mm was chosen as early as 1979, and that the cartridge completed its final development in 1987.)

HK announces development of a LMG variant of their G11 rifle. Like the parent rifle, the LMG will be chambered for the 4.7x33mm DM11 caseless cartridge.

The British approve an improved version of L2A1 Ball as the Cartridge, Ball, L2A2.

The SADF adopts the R5 carbine.

Ecuador receives delivery of Steyr AUG.

VEB Kombinat Spezialtechnik Dresden and IMES give development order to SW&H for creation of a MPiKMS-74 variant in 5.56mm This is in response to India’s desire for a 5.56mm Kalashnikov-type rifle. The resulting rifles are named the Wieger, and testing begins within the year. Problems are subsequently found in the chrome plating of the barrels.

The British MOD expresses interest in the Beta C-Mag for use with the SA80.

R/M Equipment Company introduces the M203PI (Product Improved), which allows the grenade launcher to be fitted to a wider variety of weapons. (The M203PI’s design is alternately credited to Joseph C. Kurak and Bernard White, the designer of the Desert Eagle pistol.)

January:
AMCCOM awards a $120,000 contract modification to Colt related to the M16. AMCCOM also awards a $150,000 contract modification to Colt for FMS.

Picatinny awards a $50,000 contract modification to AAI for ACR caseless ammunition RDT&E.

Picatinny awards a $37,000 contract modification to Steyr for ACR RDT&E.

The final report from the SA80 troop trials is published. The results are not positive; the pages are filled with a litany of parts failures.

The British ITDU evaluates the SAWES Projector for the SA80. The SAWES unit is a laser training system, the British equivalent to MILES.

February:
Colt begins working with a FATS simulator to test different sighting systems for their ACR.

The Full Acceptance Meeting for the SA80 is postponed from July 1987 until October 1987.

AMCCOM awards a $1,383,000 contract to FNMI related to the M16.

March:
ACR Phase II contracts are awarded to AAI, Colt, HK, and Steyr. ARES and MDHC appeal the decision. Picatinny ultimately awards a $300,000 contract modification to Colt, a $166,000 contract modification to Steyr, a $171,000 contract modification to AAI, a $198,000 contract modification to ARES, and a $138,000 contract modification to MDHC for ACR RDT&E.

Colt conducts live-fire testing with the ACR to confirm the FATS testing results from the previous month.

FN delivers the TDP for an improved M249.

Diemaco completes development of the M16-LMG.

Picatinny is officially redesignated as an Arsenal.

Royal Ordnance wins the second MOD contract for production of 150,000 additional L85/L86-weapons.

The British ITDU has a busy month. They investigate the effect on zero of different firing positions with the LSW. In addition, they evaluate an articulated recoil rod assembly for the SA80.

The GAO denies Daylight Plastics, Inc.’s protest of the US Army’s September 1986 sole source award to Proll Molding Co. for M249 belt boxes.

Phrobis III’s Charles A. Finn files a patent application for the design of the M9 Bayonet.

The ITDU also investigates zero retention of the SUSAT when in mounted in different positions, and it runs endurance trials of the .22 LR adaptors’ plastic parts.

April:
The XM4 carbine’s military specification, MIL-C-70599(AR), is issued. The USMC is the first to standardize the XM4. A proposal has been put forward that the XM4 replace all of the pistols in the Marine Infantry Battalions as well as being used by Force Recon, ANGLICO, and others. Unfortunately, procurement funds for the Marines’ carbines are killed during Congressional review for four consecutive years in a row. Afterwards, the USMC Comptroller refuses to allow the XM4’s inclusion in the small arms budget, and the matter is dropped until the Army ultimately adopts the weapon. In the mean time, the M3A1 are replaced by HK MP5N received from the US Navy.

AMCCOM awards a $3,151,000 delivery order to FN related to the M249.

The House Committee on Armed Services requests that the GAO review South Korea’s compliance with its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United States on coproducing the M16 rifle.

The design of the M16-LMG is frozen at Colt to allow Diemaco to produce 12 pre-production units. These prototypes are sent to Colt for further testing during the summer.

Aberdeen’s BRL publishes the report “Dynamic Tests of the 30-Round Magazine for the M16A1 While Firing from the M231 Firing Port Weapon.” Time displacement records of the magazine spring for the M16A1, while firing from the Firing Port Weapon, were obtained to determine if excessive spring surge was causing a stoppage problem during testing at Aberdeen. Results of the tests show there was no excessive magazine spring surge in the 30-round magazine for the M16A1 when firing from the M231 Firing Port Weapon. The results show the stoppage problem was caused by faulty magazines.

ARDEC‘s Close Combat Armaments Center publishes the report “Caliber .22 Rimfire Blank System for M16 Rifles.” This study successfully demonstrates the use of a .22 caliber rimfire blank system as a substitute for the standard 5.56mm M200 blank cartridge in the M16 rifles. Compatibility of the prototype rimfire blank system in the M16 rifles was firmly established and the possibility of a substantial cost savings realized. Further efforts to refine the configuration for competitive procurement and fielding will be performed.

British Aerospace (BAe) purchases Royal Ordnance (RO). The British MOD allows BAe to reconsider the recent L85/L86 contract.

The British ITDU test a bipod retaining clip for the LSW in an attempt to solve ongoing problems with the bipod swinging loose at inappropriate times.

AMCCOM awards a $2,270,000 contract modification to FNMI related to the M16.

The GAO denies Daylight Plastics, Inc.’s appeal of the GAO‘s decision of the previous month.

L. James Sullivan, on behalf of Beta Co., receives US Patent #4,658,700 titled “Drum Magazine.”

May:
The military specification for M862 Plastic Practice Ball, DOD-C-70463(AR), is amended.

Colt’s Henry Tatro receives US Patent #4,663,875 titled “Rifle Handguard Assembly Having Outer Shell with Outer and Inner Liners.”

Picatinny awards a $472,000 contract modification to Colt for ACR RDT&E.

Picatinny awards a $434,000 contract modification to Steyr for ACR RDT&E.

Picatinny awards a $387,000 contract modification to AAI for ACR RDT&E.

AMSAA publishes “An Evaluation of the Soviet 5.45 X 45 MM, AK-74 Rifle and Type PS Ball Cartridge.”

Pier G. Beretta receives US Patent #4,663,878 titled “Removable Handle with Auxiliary Sights for Transporting Automatic Rifles.”

The British ITDU investigates SA80 zero distribution and reassesses the need for a left-hand SA80 family.

In addition, the ITDU conducts compatibility trials of the SAWES Projector with the SA80 during full-automatic fire, and tests .22 LR adaptors with tracers.

Joseph C. Kurak, on behalf of R/M Equipment, files a patent application for the mounting system design of the M203PI.

June:
Aberdeen’s BRL publishes “Kinematic Analysis of the M231 Firing Port Weapon.” The firing characteristics of a new M231 Firing Port Weapon were checked while firing M196 ammunition loaded with ball and IMR type propellants. Measurements of muzzle velocity and rate of fire were made during these tests. The average muzzle velocity for the M196 ammunition loaded with ball and IMR type propellants is about 914 m/s. The average rate of fire for the M196 ammunition loaded with ball propellant is about 1255 rds/min which is about 50 rds/min higher than the average rate of fire for the M196 ammunition with IMR type propellant. A complete kinematic study was also made on a new lubricated weapon while firing M196 ammunition loaded with ball and IMR type propellants. Displacement versus time of the bolt carrier and the striker were measured using electro-optical displacement followers, Optrons, during firing of the test rounds. Pressure versus time in the bolt cavity was measured using a Kistler 601H Pressure Gage during firing of the test rounds.

The British ITDU evaluates a modified magazine release catch for the SA80.

The military specification for the M203 grenade launcher, MIL-L-45935A, is amended for the second time.

July:
AMCCOM awards a $248,000 delivery order to FN related to M249 RDT&E. AMCCOM also deallocates $537,000 in a contract modification related to M249 RDT&E.

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

The Canadians seal the dimensions for their flat-top receiver rail design. Richard Swan of ARMS, Inc. has been consulted in this process.

Phase C of British Ordnance Board Trials ends for the IW/LSW. The performance is worse yet than the Phase B results. The IW turns in 69 MRBS and the LSW fails yet again to 48 MRBS. Still, the creative accounting continues unabated. With only the most severe stoppages/failures counted during the endurance phase alone, the IW posts a 28,442 MRBF. Under the same method, the LSW achieves 8,422 MRBF, finally surpassing the GSR 3518 requirement. However, this was helped along by the proposed issue of spare bolts and firing pins. While never actually issued, these parts would allow certain “critical” failures to be downgraded (and thus not counted) as the shooter would theoretically be able repair the weapon in the field.

Gene Stoner files a patent application for a telescoped cartridge similar in design to that used in ARES’ AIWS.

HK‘s Rudolf Brandl and Heinz Matt receive US Patent #4,681,019 titled “Magazine for Automatic Weapons.”

Steyr’s Ulrich Zedrosser files an US patent application for an early variation of telescoped cartridge design used by the Steyr ACR‘s SCF cartridge.

Steyr’s Ulrich Zedrosser files an US patent application for the design of the Steyr ACR.

August:
In a letter to Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger, Rep. Richard H. Baker (R-LA) alleges that DOD investigators have been warned of the possibility of serious defects in the M16A2, failed to inform the Army about such concerns, and did not conduct any independent tests of the rifles. In response, an Army spokesman admits that the AMC has been working with Colt on two issues.

AMCCOM also deallocates $841,000 in a contract modification to FN related to the M249.

Aberdeen awards a $166,000 contract to Colt related to the M249.

Picatinny awards a $255,000 contract modification to AAI for ACR RDT&E.

BAe agrees to accept the L85/L86 contract only if production is transferred from RSAF Enfield to RO‘s Nottingham facility.

British armorers receive an improved safety plunger for retrofit to the SA80. The previous model was prone to accidentally engage/disengage when dropped.

September:
AMCCOM awards a $48,224,000 delivery order to Colt related to the M16.

Colt publishes the report “XM4 Carbine Development Program.”

Loren Brunton receives US Patent #4,691,615 titled “M16 Rifle, Improved to More Safely Accommodate Left Handed Shooters.”

Picatinny awards a $68,000 contract modification to AAI for ACR caseless ammunition RDT&E.

Picatinny awards a $1,152,000 contract modification to ARES for ACR RDT&E.

Picatinny awards a $670,000 contract modification to MDHC for ACR RDT&E.

Gene Stoner files a patent application for the design of the ARES LMG (AKA: Stoner 86).

British armorers receive a magazine catch shroud for retrofit to the SA80. Intended to be glued in place, the shrouds are meant to prevent accidental release of the magazine.

Pier G. Beretta receives US Patent #4,693,169 titled “Control Device for Rapid Firing Particularly Automatic Weapons.”

October:
ARDEC‘s ACR Project Office conducts the third quarterly review meeting for ACR Phase II. They announce that ARES and MDHC have both been reinstated in the ACR program.

Aberdeen’s BRL releases the memorandum report “Injury to Personnel from the Partial Penetration of a 19.6 Grain Fléchette.”

The Full Acceptance Meeting for the SA80 is held.

Pier G. Beretta receives US Patent #4,697,495 titled “Tripping Mechanism for the Conversion Closed-Bolt Automatic Rifles to Open-Bolt Ones.”

Steyr’s Ulrich Zedrosser receives US Patent #4,702,144 titled “Cocking Slide for Automatic Hand Firearms.”

The first firing prototypes of the FN P90 are tested.

AMCCOM awards a $74,000 contract to Okay Industries Inc.

AMCCOM awards a $267,000 contract modification to Parsons Precision Products.

November:
AMCCOM awards a $62,000 contract modification to Colt for maintenance and repair.

During an In-Process Review of the ACR project, Colt makes the decision to forego 2 and 3 round burst devices in favor of full-automatic fire.

Picatinny awards a $643,000 contract modification to Colt for ACR RDT&E.

Picatinny awards a $693,000 contract modification to Steyr for ACR RDT&E.

Picatinny awards a $348,000 contract modification to AAI for ACR RDT&E.

Steyr’s Ulrich Zedrosser files an US patent application for the annular primer design used by the Steyr ACR‘s SCF cartridge.

The INSAS LMG enters user trials.

Late:
Diemaco and Colt begin series production of the M16-LMG. Diemaco is responsible for the upper assembly, some of the fire control parts, and the hydraulic buffer. Colt is responsible for the lower receiver, final assembly, and final testing.

The British ITDU publishes a summary of SUSAT trials ranging from 1975 to 1987.

December:
AMCCOM awards a $132,000 contract modification to Colt related to the M16.

MDHC begins development of their Advanced Individual Weapon System (AIWS). L. James Sullivan is hired to design the weapon, based on Hughes’ 1970s-era “Lockless” breech design. (McDonnell Douglas has earlier bought out Hughes’ helicopter and armament interests, which now comprised the MDHC division.) Evoking comparisons to H&R‘s 1962 SPIW entry, the “Lockless” system uses a plastic-cased cartridge. However, unlike the triangular Dardick Tround, the “Lockless” cartridge is described as a “chiclet,” due to its flat, rectangular box profile. The projectile(s) are set in the center of the box, surrounded on either side by compartments filed with propellant. The weapon’s barrel is closed off at the breech end, and the chiclets feed into the chamber through a slot through the side of the barrel. A pressure sleeve then closes over the open chamber’s sides before the round is fired. The spent case is pushed out the opposite side as the next cartridge slides into the chamber. The drawback of this system is that the amount of propellant needed is quite high, in this case nearly 3.5 times that of the 5.56mm NATO. Initial work begins on duplex and triplex loadings of conventional projectiles, but due to high recoil, this is scaled back to multiplex fléchette loadings. This starts with a .42 caliber five fléchette load, and is eventually whittled back to four and then three fléchette loaded in a .338 caliber sabot.

ARMS, Inc.’s Richard Swan writes the JSSAP office proposing that a standard rail interface be developed to replace the variety of existing mounting blocks for different weapons. The proposed rail interface should allow for multiple positions to accommodate different optics’ individual eye relief, quick attachment/detachment of optics without loss of zero, and capable of withstanding the recoil of heavy crew served weapons.

The British ITDU begins testing of the “Low Tech Sound Suppressor” from List Precision Engineering. (Bert List was responsible for the integral suppressor designs of the De Lisle Carbine and the Sterling L34A1 SMG.)

Steyr’s Ulrich Zedrosser files multiple US patent applications for the design of the Steyr ACR.

(Next: 5.56mm 1988)

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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