The 5.56 X 45mm “Timeline” – 1996

A Chronology of Development by Daniel E. Watters

1996

 

Colt receives a contract for M16A2E3.

Work begins on a “green” replacement for the lead core of the M855 Ball cartridge.

FNMI introduces the Floating Integrated Rail Mount (FIRM) system, their contender for the US Army’s MWS requirement. They also announce development of what is to become the M249 SPW (Special Purpose Weapon).

Colt begins work on the 5.56x30mm MARS (Mini Assault Rifle System). In many ways, the cartridge is a throwback to the .22 Gustafson Carbine (.22 APG/.22 SCHV) cartridge. Colt’s James F. Taylor and Special Analytical Services’ (SAS) LTC Michael R. Harris (US Army, Retired) and are responsible for the new design. The cartridge uses pistol powders in the WW296/H110 range to achieve 2,600 fps with a 55gr bullet. Reportedly, the bullet specified is similar to the original Sierra 55gr projectile used in early .222 Special testing. The new cartridge is mated with a bisected Colt Commando. (In some pictures, you can see the welded seem in the upper and lower receivers.)

Spain begins new rifle trials to replace the CETME Model L. Candidates include the Diemaco C7, the FN FNC, the HK G36E, the IMI Galil, the SIG SG550, and the Steyr AUG.

January:
The DOD strikes funding from its FY 1996 budget totaling $13.5 million for the M16 rifle, $6.5 million for the M4 carbine, and $28.5 million for the M249.

The ARDEC engineer authorizes the release of the M4A1 TDP to NSWC-Crane. However, the TDP is not yet complete.

Diemaco completes delivery of C7A1 to the Danish military.

The British ITDU starts SA80 Hot/Dry Reliability Trials.

February:
The OICW Phase 2 system design and critical subsystem technology demonstration stage is completed.

ACALA issues a solicitation for 29,667 M16A2.

FNMI receives an order for 31,700 M16A2.

The military specification for the M249 SAW, MIL-M70446A(AR), is inactivated

The military specifications for M193 Ball, M196 Tracer, M197 High Pressure Test, M200 Blank, M855 Ball, and M856 Tracer are inactivated.

The British ITDU ends SA80 Hot/Dry Reliability Trials.

JSSAP issues a market survey announcement seeking innovative concepts and technologies of a non-conventional nature in support of a future OPW program. The OPW should provide immediate incapacitation out to 50 meters against personnel wearing body armor. Instead of traditional “bullet launchers,” technically advanced, leap-ahead concepts and technologies are being sought, such as pulsed lasers. Anti-personnel effects must have a lethal capability, and can include a less than lethal capability, if such effects are tunable from the lethal effect. Respondents will be selected to give presentations to Technology Assessment panel, which will meet in May 1996.

Aberdeen Proving Ground issues a requirement for a mount to interface between the AN/PAQ-4C Aiming Device and the M4 Carbine Rail System.

March:
Awards are given to support the OICW Phase 3 Advanced Technology Demonstration program. This involves the fabrication of prototype systems for non-firing Dismounted Battlespace Battle Lab experiments.

The “M995, 5.56mm, Armor Piercing Cartridge” is officially type-classified.

The Soldier Enhancement Program (SEP) Executive Council meets and votes to fund 15 new projects and 13 continuing programs in FY 1997. The following project proposals are set for funding beginning in October 1996: M249 feed tray cover, M249 flex mount, M4 improved buttstock, weapon flashlight, and close quarters battle sling for the M4 carbine. Programs to be carried over include an optic sight for the M249, M60, and M240G, 40mm less-than-lethal grenades, and a less-than-lethal 5.56mm cartridge.

NSWC-Crane issues the RFP for the SOPMOD kit sound suppressor. Samples are required in 60 days.

April:
ACALA awards a $29,946 contract modification to Colt related to equipment and materials testing for the M4 carbine.

OPS, Inc. files a protest with the GAO claiming that not enough time is allowed by the SOPMOD RFP to develop a new sound suppressor and deliver samples by the May 1996 deadline. OPS, Inc. also claims that the agency downgraded the RFP specifications in order to make it possible for a particular vendor to be able to meet the specifications. OPS, Inc. maintains that the endurance firing standard of 3,000 rounds is less than one-third that required under the terms of an earlier US Army contract. In addition, OPS, Inc argues that the sound pressure level requirement penalizes suppressor designs that raise the relatively low frequency gun shot sound to a very high frequency.

The Danish military places a follow-on order worth $8 million with Diemaco for 5,000 C7A1 for the Danish International Brigade assigned to NATO‘s Rapid Reaction Corps. (It would appear that 200 C8A1 were ordered around the same time.)

May:
ACALA awards a $927,380 contract modification to Colt for M4 carbines.

ACALA awards a $50,000 contract modification to FNMI for M249 RDT&E.

ACALA issues a sole-source solicitation to FNMI for 9,430 to 13,638 M249.

HK‘s Helmut Weldle receives US Patent #5,513,461 titled “Light-Weight Automatic Rifle.”

ARDEC issues a solicitation for 75 to 4,200 XM145 Telescopes for use with the M249, M60, and M240B.

Colt’s Laurance Robbins files a patent application for an improved four-position selector switch.

The ARL publishes “The Effects of Recoil on Shooter Performance.” The research was funded by JSSAP in support of their bursting munitions program. The goal was to investigate the effects that weapon recoil has on aiming accuracy and on the number of shots that soldiers are willing to fire. The research also investigated the possible benefits of adding a recoil-mitigating device to high recoil weapons. Results showed that although significantly more shots could be fired with weapons with a recoil-mitigating device, the aiming accuracy was no better than that of weapons without the device. However, the higher recoil test weapons had significantly poorer aiming accuracy than the weapon with the lightest recoil, and the aiming error with the high recoil weapons was consistently above the target. Of note is that calculations for the M16A2 and proposed Advanced Rifle Grenade Munitions (ARGM) indicate that the latter combination would exceed the recoil energy of a 10 Gauge Magnum shotgun or .375 H&H Magnum rifle at minimum, and at maximum, even exceed the recoil energy of a .460 Weatherby Magnum rifle.

June:
ARDEC awards a $77,106 contract modification to AAI for ACR RDT&E.

ARDEC issues a market survey/sources-sought announcement to identify potential sources of lead/toxic-free small caliber primers in 5.56mm, 7.62mm, 9mm and caliber .50.

The military specification for the M857 Dummy Cartridge, MIL-C-70468A(AR), is canceled.

The British ITDU conducts additional trials of a modified gas system for the SA80.

NSWC-Crane issues a solicitation for 1,125 to 2,125 M4A1 training ammunition adaptor kits.

ARDEC issues a sources-sought notice for NDI slings or adapters for the current sling. These items will allow either the M16A2 Rifle and/or the M4 Carbine to be carried in an upright, muzzle-forward, assault mode while the weapon is suspended from the sling.

ARDEC issues a sources sought announcement for a weapon flashlight capable of attachment to a standard M16A2, M4, and any other weapon equipped with MIL-STD-1913 accessory rails.

FNMI‘s Christophe Degoix, Gary A. Sniezak, and Kevin Langevin file a patent application for a multiple magazine clamp to be used with the M16, M4, and M249.

FN publicly introduces its 5.7x28mm “Five-seveN” pistol prototype.

Michael Harris and Colt’s James Taylor file a patent application for the MARS design.

July:
ACALA issues a sole-source solicitation to Colt for 9,785 M4 Carbines.

ACALA awards FNMI $24,875,495 of a multi-year contract worth an estimated $35,949,764. The initial order is for 9,430 M249 and TDP maintenance. The anticipated second and third year orders are expected to be for 3,802 and 406 M249 respectively.

ACALA also awards separate $42,655 and $52,596 contract modifications to FNMI for M249.

The GAO denies OPS, Inc.’s RFP protest regarding the SOPMOD kit sound suppressor.

The Security Operations Training Facility at Fort Bragg issues a sole-source solicitation to KAC for 175 non-adjustable flip-up sights, 65 QD shotgun mounts, and detachable pistol grips for the M4 carbine.

ARDEC issues a sources-sought announcement for a recoil attenuating mount (“soft mount”) to interface with both the M249 machine gun and the M122 tripod.

NSWC-Crane issues a sole-source solicitation to Litton Inc., Optical Systems Division, for 325 Submersible Aquila Night Vision Weapon Sights (4X). The sights will be used on the M16 and 7.62mm rifles.

August:
ACALA awards FNMI a $11,840,880 contract for the production of 88,500 M16A2 rifles.

ACALA awards a $170,451 contract to Colt related to the M16 for FMS.

ACALA issues a sole-source solicitation to Colt for 9,785,716 M4 and M4A1 Carbines.

NSWC-Crane releases the M4A1 TDP to 21 contractors in support of the training ammunition adaptor kits. The contractors include FNMI and Colt. Colt promptly informs NSWC-Crane that it has violated the 1967 Licensing Agreement. The US Army also faxes information to NSWC-Crane regarding the licensing agreement. In response, NSWC-Crane quickly attempts to recover the TDP from FNMI.

The ARDEC engineer releases additional drawings from the M4A1 TDP to NSWC-Crane.

ARDEC publishes another report titled “ARDEC Evaluation of Blown 5.56mm M4A1 Carbine Barrel.”

The military specification for M193 Ball, MIL-C-9963F, is amended for a fourth time.

FN‘s Rene Predazzer files an US patent application for the forward ejection system which will be used in the F2000.

ARDEC‘s May 1996 solicitation for the XM145 Telescope is corrected to include up to 20,000 units.

The US Marine Corps Systems Command MARCORSYSCOM issues a sources-sought notice for COTS/NDI products in support of the Special Effects Small Arms Training System (SESAMS). This system is a special effects marking system, used in the training environment, that allows the individual shooter to use his designated service weapon with a low velocity projectile at short range. The following performance capabilities and characteristics apply but will not be limited to:

  1. Kits will convert the current small arms;
  2. Kits will allow for user installation and maintenance;
  3. No bore sighting will be required once the weapon is converted;
  4. Converted weapons will not be capable of firing live ammunition;
  5. The SESAMS bullet will be multiple colors and wash off with standard off-the-shelf detergent;
  6. When fired at any range, the SESAMS bullet will not penetrate human skin clothed in the normal service uniform; and
  7. The kits will cause no more wear beyond what is expected from standard weapons fire.

September:
ACALA awards a $1,775,794 contract modification to FNMI for M16A2.

NSWC-Crane sends out Non-Disclosure Agreements to the 20 other contractors who received the M4A1 TDP. FNMI fails to sign and return the NDA.

ACALA cancels their previous solicitation for 9,785,716 M4 and M4A1 Carbines. The solicitation is corrected to add 716 M4A1 Carbines to a July solicitation for 9,785 M4 Carbines. FNMI submits a unsolicited proposal for the contract, which is rejected. ACALA then awards Colt a $5,510,617 contract for the production of 9,861 M4 and 716 M4A1 Carbines. FNMI in response files a protest to the GAO.

ACALA awards a $772,366 contract modification to Colt for M4 carbines.

Rock Island’s Engineering Directorate publishes the report “Fire to Destruction Test of 5.56mm M4A1 Carbine and M16A2 Rifle Barrels.” Reports had been received of barrels rupturing on M4A1 carbines issued to Special Forces units. Concern was expressed that the M4A1 might be more susceptible than the M16A2 to ruptured barrels due to overheating. M4A1 Carbines and M16A2 Rifles were tested at a high rate of fire until the weapon was severely overheated and destroyed due to ruptures in the barrel. The testing indicates the M4A1 Carbine performs as well as, or better than, the M16A2 Rifle with respect to barrel ruptures from overheating.

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

The military specification for M856 Tracer, MIL-C-63990C(AR), is amended for a third time.

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

Germans troops assigned to the NATO Rapid Reaction Force are issued the HK G36 family. Other Bundeswehr units are issued the G36 as quantities permit.

The XM68 Reflex Collimator Sight (AKA: Close Combat Optic or CCO) is type-classified. (The XM68 is an Aimpoint Comp-M red-dot sight.)

NSWC-Crane awards KAC a contract for suppressors for the SOPMOD kit.

October:
ACALA cancels Colt’s $5,510,617 contract for M4 and M4A1 Carbine production. Colt notifies ACALA that it should not have released the M4A1 TDP to NSWC-Crane, and that NSWC-Crane has breached Colt’s licensing agreement by releasing the TDP to other contractors. The Congressional delegation from Connecticut requests a DOD audit of the US Army and Navy’s handling of the M4A1 TDP, and the decision to cancel the before mentioned contract.

ACALA deallocates $3,673,169 in a contract modification to Colt for the M4 carbine.

Armalite’s Mark Westrom files a patent application for an improved M16 bolt.

The military specification for the M200 Blank, MIL-C-60616C(AR), is amended for a third time.

The military specification for the M857 Dummy Cartridge, MIL-C-70468A(AR), is reinstated.

MARCORSYSCOM issues another sources-sought notice for COTS/NDI products in support of the Special Effects Small Arms Training System (SESAMS). This system is a special effects marking system, used in the training environment, that allows the individual shooter to use his designated service weapon with a low velocity projectile at short range. The following performance capabilities and characteristics apply but will not be limited to:

  1. Kits will convert the current small arms;
  2. Kits will allow for user installation and maintenance;
  3. No bore sighting will be required once the weapon is converted;
  4. Converted weapons will not be capable of firing live ammunition;
  5. The SESAMS bullet will be multiple colors and wash off with standard off-the-shelf detergent;
  6. When fired at any range, the SESAMS bullet will not penetrate human skin clothed in normal service uniform; and
  7. The kits will cause no more wear beyond what is expected from standard weapons fire.

November:
ACALA awards a $4,725,363 contract modification to FNMI for M16A2.

A Live Fire Test and Evaluation (LFT&E) for the M995 AP cartridge is approved.

December:
Colt notifies the Government that the failure to adequately to protect Colt’s proprietary data constitutes a material breach of the 1967 Licensing Agreement. Thus, Colt announces the Government that the licensing agreement is terminated, and that the Government will no longer be permitted to use the data in the procurement and/or manufacture of the M16 and M4 family.

ACALA issues a sole-source solicitation to Colt for 1,012 M4A1 Carbines.

ACALA awards a $28,026 contract modification to Colt for M4 carbines. ACALA also awards a $286,404 contract modification related to the M4 carbine. This includes items for FMS.

ACALA awards a $10,005,792 contract modification to FNMI for 3,802 M249.

A detailed test plan for the M995 cartridge LFT&E is approved.

TACOMARDEC issues a sources sought/market survey for 5.56mm M995 AP Cartridges. A basic production contract will be awarded in the third quarter of FY97 for a quantity of 1,150,000 5.56mm M995 AP cartridges. The contract will include four additional option years (FY98-01) for up to 4,375,000 cartridges.

ACALA awards a $996,167 contract to Colt for commercial R0705 rifles and M203 grenade launchers.

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

(Next: 5.56mm 1997)

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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