A Chronology of Development by Daniel E. Watters
With Canadian Forces’ C7A1 rifles facing an impending “Inspection and Repair as Necessary” program (IRAN), the Director of Land Resources (DLR-5) and the Directorate Soldier Systems Program Management (DSSPM-5) begin to formulate a mid-life improvement package. The proposed changes for the “C7A2” include a C8-style collapsible buttstock, a modular rail system, and colored polymer furniture (anything other than black).
Denmark awards a $38 million contract for an additional 34,000 Diemaco rifles and carbines for the Army and Home Guard.
TACOM awards Colt a $2,836,412 contract option for 5,413 M4 with improved buttstocks.
HK‘s Rudolf Brandl and Heinz Matt receive US Patent #6,012,374 titled “Automatic Combination Rifle.”
AAI’s Paul Shipley, Frederick S. Brown, Sr., Christopher J. Yaniger, Mark Mayo, George R. Christ, and David O. Cleveland receive US Patent #D418,896 titled “Combination weapon.”
The British MOD issues a solicitation for a PDW with a projected order of 15,000 units. The goal is for a weapon less than 500mm in length, with a loaded weight of no more than 3 kg, and the ability to defeat CRISAT (20 layers of Kevlar and a 1.6mm titanium trauma plate) protected targets out to a range of 150 meters.
Aberdeen’s RD&A office issues a sources sought announcement for an adapter that will couple military Night Vision Monocular (NVM) systems (AN/PVS-14 or 983S) to day optical systems such as rifle scopes. The NVM must be attached through the adapter/coupler to the day optics without any modifications to the day optics.
A British Army report is leaked listing a variety of shortcomings in British military equipment during their deployment to Kosovo. Among the criticisms is that some units had to swap out non-functioning L85A1 and L86A1 rifles for other weapons from nondeployed units. At least one unit dumps the L86A1 altogether.
TACOM deallocates $39,984 in a contract modification to Colt for the M4 carbine.
TACOM conducts a market survey and analysis for 5.56mm Short Range Training Ammunition (SRTA) for use with the M16A2, M4, and M249. The cartridges must be totally lead-free, with toxic-free being desirable. The ammunition must function without any ancillary devices or modifications to either the weapon or the belt/link. In addition, it must present no unusual risks or hazards to the user, allowing the training effect within 25 meters to be identical to that currently obtained with service ammunition. The 5.56mm SRTA must also have a trajectory match and round to round dispersion comparable to the service ammunition out to 25 meters and a maximum range of no greater than 250 meters.
The Director of Combat Developments (DCD) for the USAIC publishes the “Operational Requirements Document for the Objective Individual Combat Weapon.”
FN‘s Charles Denuit files an US patent application for the forward ejection mechanism of the F2000.
TACOM awards Center Industries a $2,006,495.85 contract for the production of 254,955 M16 thirty round magazines.
TACOM–ARDEC conducts a market survey for engineering services to support the M249 SAW. The engineering services sought include, but are not limited to, the following: investigation and development of solutions for performance and interface problems, modification of the Technical Data Package, weight reduction, reliability improvements, feasibility studies, and fabrication of prototype tooling and test components.
NSWC-Crane conducts a second evaluation of two vendors’ bid samples of 5.56mm frangible ammunition. As before, neither vendor’s samples meet all the performance requirements. Deficiencies include overpenetration on hard targets, accuracy, waterproofing, and function & casualty.
TACOM adds an Engineering Change Proposal to Colt’s M4/M4A1 production. Worth $1 apiece, 21,647 handguards using a new adhesive process are to be included in current production lots.
NSWC-Crane also issues a sole-source solicitation to Leupold for 140 3.5-10x40mm M3 riflescopes, with an illuminated, Mil-Dot reticle. These scopes are intended for use with the SPR. As such, the scopes’ BDC must match to the trajectory of M855 Ball fired from 18-inch barrel.
NSWC-Crane issues a sole-source solicitation to ARMS Inc. for 145 throw lever, 30mm scope rings (P/N: 22M), 145 stand alone backup rear sights (P/N: 40), 145 SPR long rail w/PEQ2 Mount (P/N: 38SPR), and 8 Swan Sleeves (P/N: 38S-Ex).
NSWC-Crane issues a sole-source solicitation to Precision Reflex Inc. (PRI) for 4 front short tubes (P/N: 060016), one front long Float front tube (P/N: 060014), 6 M84 Gas Buster charging handles with Big Latch (P/N: M84), 145 Handguard, long carbon fiber float tube, handguard #3ft-R (P/N: 060014), 12 flip-up front sights (P/N: 040030), 145 flip-up front sights SPR/M16 (P/N: 040030), 12 each Carbine Fat Gas Tubes, and 76 Gas Buster M16 charging handles, NP3 coated. The parts are for constructing Special Purpose Rifles (SPR) like those used by the USAMTU.
Armalite’s Mark Westrom receives US Patent #6,044,748 titled “Breech Bolt Assembly for a Firearm.”
TACOM awards Colt $72,000 to procure tooling for the Improved Sliding Buttstock. However, the introduction of the stocks is delayed from July 2000 until January 2001. Thus, the number of Improved Buttstocks is reduced to 9,925 for a loss of $18,000.
TACOM issues a sole source solicitation to Colt for 1,000 heavy replacement barrels for use with the M4.
WSESRB issues safety approval for release of 5.56mm Winchester Ranger frangible ammunition.
To prevent delays in carbine production deliveries caused by the Improved Buttstock bottleneck, the number of stocks is reduced to 8,779 for a loss of $3,438.
NSWC-Crane awards a $14,667,698 contract to FNMI for improved versions of the M249 SPW, now known as the Mk 46 Mod 0 LMG. This is followed by the award of a $1,583,838 delivery order for the Mk 46.
HK is awarded a £80 million contract to refurbish the L85A1 and L86A1. The refurbished weapons will be redesignated the L85A2 and L86A2. Part changes and modifications include:
- Bolt Carrier
- Extractor spring
- Recoil spring
- Firing pin
- Cocking handle
- Magazine Assembly
- Gas plug and cylinder
- Barrel extension
- Barrel (LSW only)
TACOM awards Center Industries a $1,983,240 contract for the production of 252,000 M16 thirty round magazines.
Aberdeen’s RD&A office issues a sources sought announcement for a variable-powered red-dot scope, with a magnification range from as low as 1 to as high as 9 power magnification.
Marine Corps Systems Command issues a sources sought announcement for a Rifle Combat Optic (RCO) for use with the M16A4. The RCO‘s magnification may be between 1.25x and 4x, and ideally be a variable power optic. The RCO must weigh no more than 32 ounces, and ideally be 21 ounces or less.
The Netherlands purchases 2,000 ELCAN EX48 Day Sights for use with their Diemaco C7A1 LSW.
The Canadian military awards a $2.9 million contract to Diemaco for 2,145 M203A1 grenade launchers. (It should not be confused with the US grenade launcher of the same designation.)
128 AN/PSQ-14 Grenade Launcher Day/Night Sight Modules (GLD/NSM) are evaluated by NSW for inclusion in SOPMOD kit. The test samples are later forwarded to the US Army for their own testing as part of their SEP requirements for the M203E2 MWO.
TACOM awards Colt a $400,408 contract option for 699 M4A1 with improved buttstocks. These are intended for delivery to the US Navy and INS. Later, TACOM swaps an order for 3,240 M4 to an equal number of M4A1 with improved buttocks and heavy barrels. These are intended for USSOCOM.
TACOM–ARDEC issues a sources sought announcement for enhancements to the M4 Carbine that will provide measurable improvements in accuracy against individual targets out to 600 meters. Specific areas of interest include, but are not limited to: barrels (heavy, fluted, floating), match triggers, magnified optics with range estimation, 5.56 mm ammunition, muzzle devices, bipods, buttstocks and cheek pieces. This information is being requested in support of the Designated Marksman portion of the Interim Brigade Combat Team.
TACOM–ARDEC, on behalf of PM-Small Arms, issues a solicitation for the development of 5.56mm lead-free, short range ammunition. The primary objective is to develop a 5.56mm training cartridge with lead-free components (primer and projectile), with a maximum range of 250 meters (10 percent of the maximum range of the M855); that has a trajectory match and round to round dispersion comparable to the service ammunition to 25 meters, and provides full functional capability when fired in the M16/M249 family of weapons without any ancillary equipment or weapon modifications.
The Office of Naval Research (ONR) awards a $2,226,176 contract to Amtech, Inc. for the development of polymer case 5.56x45mm cartridges.
NSWC-Crane, on behalf of USSOCOM, issues a market survey for commercial 5.56mm subsonic cartridges. The 5.56mm subsonic cartridge is required to function reliably in the M4A1 Carbine with a suppressor (Threshold), or without a suppressor (Objective).
Olin’s Henry J. Halverson and Anthony F. Valdez receive US Patent #6,085,661 titled “Small Caliber Non-toxic Penetrator Projectile.”
After criticism of the weapon’s performance in Kosovo, the British Army’s Director of Infantry recommends the immediate replacement of the L86A1 LSW with a new LMG. Further criticism is leveled when it is reported that at least two British paratroopers were unable to return hostile fire in Sierra Leone due to jammed safety catches on their SA80.
NSWC-Crane, on behalf of USSOCOM, issues a Commercial Area Announcement (CAA) to solicit research proposals regarding future SOPMOD kit accessories. Items are divided into SOPMOD Block 2 and SOPMOD Block 3 system objectives. Block 2 items are to be fielded to forces within the next 1 to 4 years, while SOPMOD Block 3 items will be fielded in 5 to 10 years. However, the fielding of Block 3 items may be accelerated based on project success and the availability of funds. General goals of both Block 2 and Block 3 include high user acceptance (operational suitability), no batteries (objective) or standard batteries (threshold), light weight, high durability, compactness and miniaturization, snag resistant ergonomic designs, waterproof to a depth of 99 feet, air leak proof to an altitude of 10,000 feet, and exceptionally high reliability, availability, and maintainability in marine, desert, and arctic environments.
Proposed Block 2 systems include:
- Integrated Day/Night Optical Sight (IDNOS)
- Image Intensifier Module (I2M)
- Thermal Image Module (TIM)
- Enhanced Grenade Launcher (EGL)
- Rangefinder Module (RM)
- Integrated Pointer-Illuminator Module (IPIM)
- Enhanced Shotgun Module (ESM)
- Heat Source Detection Module (HSDM)
- Improved 5.56mm Ammunition
- Battery Recharger/Blasting Machine (BRBM)
- Shot Counter (SC)
- Over The Beach Assembly (OTBA)
- Laser Protection and Protection from Optical Augmentation (LPPOA)
- Signature Reduction (SR)
- Sustained Fire Assembly (SFA)
- Enhanced Bayonet/Field Knife (EBFK)
Proposed Block 3 systems include:
- Integrated Carbine (IC)
- Sensor Fusion Module (SFM)
- Improved 40mm Grenades and Other Indirect Fire Munitions
However, any and all potential modular subsystems or components will be considered if they may provide increased combat capability and operator survivability, and that may be attached to the MIL-STD-1913 mounting rails or elsewhere on the M16/M4/M203 series weapons. Any potential contracts may span up to seven years and involve the procurement of up to 50,000 units.
C-More’s Ira M. Kay files a patent application for external design of the LSS.
NSWC-Crane, on behalf of USSOCOM, issues a RFI for commercial 40mm grenade launchers capable of attachment to the M4/M16. USSOCOM desires an improvement over their existing M203 launchers issued in their SOPMOD kits.
NSWC-Crane also issues a solicitation for Grenade Launcher Day/Night Sight mounts. The potential order will range from 100 to 30,000 units over a five year period. (The maximum is later increased to 100,000 units.)
ATK is awarded a $7,480,000 four-year contract for OICW Program Definition and Risk Reduction (PD&RR). ATK is to incorporate lessons learned from its first three advanced technology prototypes. The PM-Small Arms manages the PD&RR with support from ARDEC. The contract’s statement of work requires the design of the OICW to permit reconfiguration into a stand-alone, kinetic energy subsystem that uses the primary weapon’s target-acquisition and fire-control system.
CIS‘ Tuck Wah Chee and Felix Tsai file an US patent application for the design of the SAR-21.
TACOM increases the order for M4 Improved Buttstocks from 8,779 to 9,779.
A contract is awarded for a M249-compatible RAS.
NSWC-Crane issues a request for a set of mold tooling to produce a Government-designed collapsible buttstock for the M4 series carbine.
TACOM issues a sole-source solicitation to FNMI for 60 short barrels for the M249. These are divided evenly between those equipped with standard adjustable gas systems and non-adjustable gas systems, dubbed the monobloc barrel.
MARCORSYSCOM issues a sole-source solicitation to Simunition for 350 to 500 M4 conversion kits, 1,800 to 5,000 M4 conversion kit magazines, and 152,000 to 456,000 blue and 53,200 to 266,000 red FX marking cartridges. This solicitation is in support of MCWL‘s Project Metropolis.
USMC Ground Board 2-00 recommends the replacement of the M16A2 with the M4 for all Marine Ground Combat Elements (GCE). They further recommend that the M4 be fielded as a system to include a day optic, assault sling, an AN/PAQ-4 and/or AN/PEQ-2, and a passive night vision device like the AN/PVS-17. The Second Marine Division (2d MARDIV) is assigned to conduct the testing of the M4 for possible fielding.
TACOM awards a $61,813 contract modification to Colt for M4 carbines.
TACOM awards FNMI $1,441,510 out of a $21,060,471 contract for the production of 500 M249. Later in the month, TACOM awards FNMI a $5,189,436 contract option for for an additional 1,800 M249 for the USMC.
FNMI delivers its first batch of production Mk 46 Mod 0 for further Navy testing. The testing continues through December.
NSWC-Crane, on behalf of USSOCOM, issues a market survey notice to identify sources for either a Carbine Reliability Parts Set (CRPS) for the M4A1, or an alternative Enhanced Carbine (EC) to replace the M4A1. Goals for either the CRPS and EC include: increased reliability, durability, corrosion resistance, ease of cleaning, lubricity/reduced friction; fully functional for a minimum of 15,000 rounds threshold, 30,000 rounds objective; functional reliability exceeding that of the standard M4A1 carbine at high and low temperature extremes as well as other hostile (sand/dust/dirt/mud/surf) environmental conditions. The EC if selected must be available with two different barrel lengths. The short (9-12″) barrel will be used for Close Quarter Battle (CQB). The medium (14-15.5″) barrel will be used for standard SOF missions. The EC‘s barrel must be free-floating.
TACOM–ARDEC issues a market survey announcement to identify sources/technologies for improving the barrel life of the M249. This may be accomplished through modifying the barrel design and/or the barrel manufacturing process. However, the weight of the prototype barrels shall not increase by more than four ounces relative to the standard barrel. Ideally, the weight will remain the same or decrease.
MARCORSYSCOM announces its intent to procure nine standard M249 and 45 in the Minimi Para configuration for limited user testing.
TACOM issues a solicitation for 100 Round Soft Pack Magazines (belt bags) for use with the M249. The order will run from 4,592 to 50,000 units.
At the request of a Joint SOF Requirements Working Group (RWG), a Vendor Technology Demonstration of Grenade Launchers is conducted at NSWC-Crane. Nine vendors demonstrate their grenade launchers to an audience of thirty-two SF operators. Three grenade launchers are judged to superior to the existing M79 and M203. Due to the interest generated, Congress approves an additional $5 million for general procurement of SOPMOD kit items, along with ~$873,000 earmarked for R&D of a 40x46mm Enhanced Grenade Launcher Module (EGLM).
ARDEC awards a $1,687,289 contract to AMTEC Corp. for 40mm M1006 Non-Lethal cartridges.
Formal testing of first generation SPR is conducted at Thunder Ranch.
ATEC publishes the report “System Evaluation Report (SER) for the Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW)” and the briefing “Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW) Strategy Review For Milestone IA.”
British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon asks BAe to reexamine whether the SA80 upgrade can be done at their Nottingham facility rather than at HK in Germany. The issue is particularly sensitive as the Nottingham facility is slated for closure next year due to a lack of work.
HK‘s Manfred Guhring receives US Patent #6,125,735 titled “Self-Loading Weapon.”
Todd Griffin, on behalf of R/M Equipment, receives US Patent #6,134,823 titled “Apparatus for Attaching a Supplemental Device to a Minimally Altered Host Firearm.”
Todd Griffin, on behalf of R/M Equipment, files another patent application for the interbar attachment system of the M203PI.
The Army’s “Close Combat Mission Capability Kit” program is started. This is intended to procure Simunition FX cartridges and kits for use with the M4, M16, M249, and M9 pistol.
MARCORSYSCOM modifies its August 2000 sole-source solicitation to Simunition. Quantities are increased by 600 M4 conversion kits, 3,600 M4 conversion kit magazines, and 304,000 blue and 106,400 red FX marking cartridges.
An improvement program is initiated for the M249 bipod and handguards.
TACOM–ARDEC, on behalf of the Office of the Program Manager-Small Arms (OPMSA), issues a sources-sought/market survey announcement for 5.56mm marking cartridges to support the Close Combat Mission Capability Kit (CCMCK) program. The program is designed to procure, test and field marking cartridges capable of being fired in 5.56mm weapon systems (M16/M4/M249) without major modifications to the weapon. The CCMCK cartridges must perform to the same reliability of the standard service ammunition in 5.56mm and be available in at least two colors to allow force-on-force training. The marking cartridges must also consist of lead-free components.
MARCORSYSCOM announces its intent to procure 160 Rifle Combat Optics (RCO) each from C-More, Leupold, and US Optics for further testing.
TACOM awards Colt a $622,871.04 contract option for 926 M4 and 130 M4A1 with heavy barrels. The carbines will be equipped with the Improved Buttstock if it is available in time. The carbines are intended for the USMC.
The Second Marine Division begins testing of the M4 MWS for possible adoption of the M4 throughout the Corps.
The US Navy Office of the Judge Advocate General (OJAG) completes its interim legal review of the Winchester 5.56mm frangible cartridge. The review limits the use of the cartridge for training use only. However, request for limited operational use of the frangible round will be reviewed by JAG on a case by case basis.
by Daniel E. Watters, Small Arms Historian
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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.