A Chronology of Development by Daniel E. Watters
The US Army begins major fielding of the M16A4 along with the M4 and M5 RAS.
Colt assembles a number M16-LMG with flat-top upper receivers, open-bolt mechanism, and selective-fire components for US military testing. These are dubbed the Colt Automatic Rifle, Colt AR, or simply CAR.
Nepal purchases 10,000 M16 from the US. They receive only 5,000 before deliveries are suspended.
Lake City AAP issues the study “Lake City Scrap Rates: 5.56mm, 7.62mm, .50 Cal., and 20mm.”
Norwegian Special Forces contract with Diemaco for SFW and the new Special Forces Support Weapon (SFSW), a carbine-style LSW.
FN introduces the bullpup F2000 rifle.
IMI introduces an improved version of the Galil MAR.
RO-Nottingham is closed.
The Malaysian production line for Steyr AUG rifles is forced to close due to a lack of orders. 106,000 rifles had been produced over the past ten years.
NATO‘s Land Group 3 commissions France’s Etablissement Technique de Bourges (ETBS) to conduct a comparative evaluation of the FN 5.7x28mm and HK 4.6x30mm PDW cartridges. The testing continues through 2002.
Diemaco delivers the first 200 out of 640 M203A1 ordered by the Irish Army.
Construction begins of 100 second generation SPR for a Limited User Test (LUT).
The Office of the Program Manager-Small Arms (OPMSA) publishes “Acquisition Strategy Report: Program Definition And Risk Reduction for the Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW).”
USAF Materiel Command issues a solicitation for 998 to 2,966 barrels for GUU-5P conversions.
The military specification for M855 Ball, MIL-C-63989C(AR), is amended for a fourth time.
TACOM awards Center Industries a $2,219,340 contract for the production of 282,000 M16 thirty round magazines.
The requirement for Improved Buttstocks is completely removed from the July 2000 order of 3,250 M4A1 for USSOCOM.
USSOCOM publishes the report “M4A1 5.56mm Carbine and Related Systems Deficiencies and Solutions: Operational and Technical Study with Analysis and Alternatives.”
NSWC-Crane, on behalf of USSOCOM, issues a market survey notice to identify sources of COTS/NDI extended-life, high endurance barrels. Improvements are sought in materials, manufacturing process, high endurance coatings, and other unknown technologies. Of interest are barrels manufactured by the hammer/cold forging process with heavy/durable chrome or other resistant material plating of the chamber and bore. Also of interest are barrels that are geometrically and materially optimized for rapid cooling and elimination of barrel burst. Further interest exists in improvements in chamber, bore, and rifling designs that enhance endurance, reliability, and accuracy. These improvements must enhance accuracy performance, and extend barrel life to a threshold of 10,000 rounds, with an objective of 30,000 rounds, under multiple firing schedules. While the eventual goal is to obtain enhanced life barrels for several types of rifles, carbines, and machineguns, the comparative test effort will be based on M4/M16 series weapons. Barrel lengths are sought in three length categories: short (10 to 12 inches), medium (14 to 15.5 inches) and long (16.1 to 18 inches).
ARDEC makes multiple awards for the M249 Improved Barrel Life program. Recipients include:
- Canadian Commercial Corporation – $99,420
- Fountainhead Cryogenic Processing, LLC – $385
- Airtronic Services, Inc. – $14,300
- EJM Aerospace Services – $15,920
LMT‘s Karl R. Lewis receives US Patent #6,182,389 titled “Bolt Assembly for a Firearm.”
The first RFI is for the Family of Muzzle Brakes and Suppressors (FMBS). The FMBS will correct the current operational shortfall of suppressors that are optimized for Close Quarter Battle (CQB), standard carbine, and sniper applications. Sought are improvements in materials, manufacturing process, high endurance coatings, and other unknown technologies that yield extended performance and longer suppressor life to a threshold of 15,000 rounds with an objective of 30,000 rounds under various firing schedules. Four roles are sought that may or may not require different versions of sound suppressors. 1.) A small/lightweight CQB muzzle brake/suppressor tailored for ergonomic considerations on carbines with 9-12 inch barrels that is approximately 75/80 percent as capable a device as compared to the standard QDSS, with a noise reduction capability that allows weapon use in confined spaces without earplugs or other hearing protection; 2.) A standard carbine muzzle brake/suppressor for general purpose use on 14-15 inch barreled carbines equal to or better than the current QDSS; 3.) A high-accuracy muzzle brake/suppressor for precision fire applications, which increases accuracy without notable shift of impact when attached/detached; 4.) A high endurance version muzzle brake/suppressor that is tailored for use on both 5.56mm and 7.62mm machineguns.
The second RFI is for Enhanced Combat Optical Sights (ECOS). Current optics provide Close Quarters Battle (CQB) capability or the ability to improve target-hit probability at longer ranges, but not both. The ECOS will combine those capabilities in a single versatile, multi-function day optic with an illuminated reticule for limited night use. This can be accomplished by battery power or other method, but must function in complete darkness as well as in bright light that may make low power illumination difficult for the operator to acquire. It is desired that the ECOS also incorporate removable Anti-Reflection Devices (ARD) and threat Laser Protection Devices (LPD) to protect the shooter, and electro-optic systems from threat laser damage and laser optical detection.
Two variants of the ECOS are sought. The first type, ECOS-C, will be optimized for use on the M4A1. The ECOS-C will provide CQB capability, utilizing the illuminated reticule on unity or near-unity power (1x) as a reflex-type sight and will also provide magnification for enhanced target acquisition/identification at medium ranges. The ECOS-C must have magnification capability from 1x at the lowest setting to 3-4x at the highest setting. It is desired that a small dot in the center of the field of view is the only portion of the reticule illuminated. The second variant of the ECOS will be optimized for long-range target engagement in conjunction with the Special Purpose Receiver (SPR). ECOS–SPR will provide limited CQB capability by utilizing the illuminated reticule on near-unity power (1x-2x) as a reflex-type sight, and will also provide increased magnification for enhanced target acquisition, identification, and engagement at long ranges. ECOS–SPR must have magnification capability from 1x-2x at the lowest setting to 6-8x at the highest setting. It is desired that the ECOS–SPR optic incorporate a ballistic cam setting indicator that the operator can view through the scope.
The third RFI is for Night Vision Image Intensifier Modules (I2M), which will mount forward of and integrate with current and future optics. The I2M is sought to allow the operator to utilize night vision without removing the day optic, thus providing a constant reticule. An objective device would be a small, modular, unity power (1x), clip-on device, in which the day sight serves as the eyepiece to the night sight.
The fourth RFI is for the Sensor Fusion Module (SFM), which will mount forward of and integrate with current and future optics. Intended to replace the AN/PVS-17, the SFM will incorporate and combine fused color image intensification, thermal sensing technologies, and video image transmission, without requiring the removal of the day optic.
The fifth RFI is for the Integrated Pointer-Illuminator Module (IPIM). The IPIM will combine and improve upon the current capabilities represented by the AN/PEQ-5 Visible Laser, AN/PEQ-2 IR Pointer Illuminator, and VLI. It is desired that the IPIM incorporate the IR pointer/illuminator in the main module and a modular visible light pointer/illuminator that can be detached and mounted separately on the MIL-STD-1913 rail. The modular visible light component, being a normally high-power consumption application, should be capable of operation on its own integral power supply or through the IPIM main module. It is also desired that the IPIM include an ergonomic forward pistol grip that allows for simple, intuitive switching between visible and infrared modes.
The sixth RFI is for a 40mm Grenade Launcher Ballistic Sight (GLBS). The GLBS sub-system should include advanced, automatic ranging, day/night fire control. The primary objective of this requirement is first-round (objective), second-round (threshold) effective fire of existing 40mm grenades. A further secondary objective of this effort is to establish forward-compatibility with envisioned future 40x46mm munitions that repackage and integrate capabilities leveraged from the 40x53mm Advanced Lightweight Grenade Launcher (ALGL). This would combine a new, robust individual grenade launcher (IGL) with an airburst capability, providing increased lethality/bursting radius through pre-fragmented, programmable high explosive warheads.
TACOM‘s M16 MWS Sling Adapter Kit contract with Bestwork Industries for the Blind Inc. is increased in value by another $15,992.94. This is in part due to a change in price and the incorporation of an Engineering Change Proposal (ECP).
CECOM PM-Mines, Countermine, and Demolition (PM-MCD) issues a sole-source solicitation to SAA International, LTD for 7,765 Launched Grapnel Hooks (LGH) Bullet Trap and 3,882 Launched Grapnel Hook Training Bags. The LGH Trap is launched with standard 5.56mm service weapons (M16 rifle) using ball or blank ammunition. The LGH consists of a rifle-deployed grapnel that is tethered to the launch area with a retrieval line. The grapnel has a range of about 100 meters. When the grapnel is pulled back to the launch area, the grapnel’s tines snag the tripwires of tripwire fuzed anti-personnel (AP) landmines, thereby activating the mine a safe distance from the operator. The soldier is then able to advance along a lane free of tripwires. Unit of issue is two LGH per infantry squad, scout section, and engineer squad. Delivery will be to individual Army Reserve National Guard (ARNG) infantry, scout, and engineer units.
HK‘s Berthold Weichert, Jurgen Gablowski, and Gerhard Gielke file an US patent application for the AG36.
TACOM awards Colt a $5,226,875.52 contract option for 9,978 M4. Later in the month, another option worth $309,912.96 is exercised for 389 M4A1 (70 are equipped with heavy barrels). The requirement for Improved Buttstocks is completely removed from the July 2000 order of 499 M4A1 for the US Navy.
A meeting of the SOPMOD Program Integrated Product Team (PIPT) / Requirements Working Group (RWG) is convened to revise the evolutionary acquisition plan to cope with projected budget shortfalls.
TACOM awards Center Industries a $2,423,960 contract for the production of 308,000 M16 thirty round magazines.
Iran’s Defense Industries Organization (DIO) unveils an indigenously produced 5.56mm assault rifle, designated the S-5.56. Defense experts note that the rifle appears to be a direct copy of the Chinese Type CQ rifle, itself a copy of the M16.
TACOM awards Capco, Inc. a $22,740,040.96 contract for 90,181 conversions kits to upgrade existing M16A1 rifles. These kits are earmarked for use by the USAF.
The military specification for M995 Armor Piercing, MIL-PRF-71208(AR), is published.
Natec, Inc.’s Nabil Husseini and David E. Byron file a patent application for their composite plastic body/metal head cartridge case.
NSWC-Crane issues a sources-sought notice for COTS/NDI tactical Visible Bright Light Unit (VBL) for use with the SOPMOD kit. The SOPMOD Program is not seeking alternate sources for the current SOPMOD Visible Light Indicator (VLI), but rather is interested in exploring COTS/NDI lights that show demonstrable improvements over the standard VLI. Sought are improvements in materials, brightness, battery life, shock tolerance, ergonomic controls, and water resistance at depths of 66 feet or greater.
MARCORSYSCOM issues a sole-source solicitation to Simunition for COTS training submunitions available for integration with selected Tactical Engagement Simulation System (TESS) and training devices compatible with 5.56mm and 7.62mm weapons using linked and non-linked rounds.
MARCORSYSCOM Ground Weapons Directorate, PM-Non-Lethal Weapons and Urban Operations issues a solicitation for initial concept papers and final proposals that address the application and employment of new non-lethal neuromuscular disrupters (i.e. stun gun/taser effects). The system can be hand-held, but is preferably M16/M4 attachable such that the system can compliment the lethality of the service rifle with a non-lethal capability. The PM is specifically seeking new technologies for the following enhanced capabilities:
- Increased Range (60 meters threshold / 100 meters objective);
- Tether-less, allowing sequential use on multiple point targets; and
- Area weapon, allowing use on multiple humans simultaneously.
The requirement is for studies to be conducted over a period not longer than two years. It is anticipated that up to three projects will be funded, with awards in the range of $300,000. (Higher awards are possible.)
Naval Special Warfare Group 1 issues a solicitation for 48 each M4A1, MP5N, Remington 870, and SIG P226 Surefire weapon lights. This is later amended to 28 M4A1 (M900) and 16 Remington 870 lights.
The 1st Marine Division commissions a study tasking 2d Battalion, 7th Marines to execute an assessment of several Automatic Rifle (AR) candidates alongside the M249 SAW. The study has two goals: 1) To determine whether the AR is more effective than the SAW in different operational environments, and 2) Evaluate alternate schemes of issue for the AR and SAW by consolidating the issue of the M249 within a single fire team of an infantry squad and within a single squad of a platoon.
Congress is notified of the government’s intent to sell 6,000 M16A1 and 30,000 magazines to Guyana as Excess Defense Articles for the price of $802,800 and $86,400, respectively.
JAG approves 5.56mm frangible ammunition for training use only.
Due to problems in manufacturing the M4 Improved Buttstock, the requirement for 200 improved stocks is removed from the INS order, and another 4,760 is deleted from the earlier standing order for 9,779 stocks.
- Platform Modifications (PMOD) for Rifles and Carbines
- Enhanced Combat Optical Sight – SPR (ECOS-SPR)
- Family of Muzzle Break/Suppressors (FMBS)
- Enhanced Combat Optical Sight – Carbine (ECOS-C)
- Enhanced Grenade Launcher Module (EGLM)
- Clip-on Night Vision Device (CNVD) to replace the AN/PVS-17 MNVS
- Enhanced Indirect Fire Munitions (EIFM)
- Visible Bright Light (VBL) improvements (formerly Visible Light Illuminator (VLI))
The US Army awards a production contract for 50,000 40mm M1029 Crowd Dispersal Cartridges (CDC).
Colt and the US Government amend the M4 Amendment to the M16 TDP.
TACOM issues a sole-source solicitation to Colt for 6,182 M4 Carbines.
The US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine publishes a series of reports under the title “Training Munitions Health Risk Assessment.” The studies investigate the potential for negative health effects to offsite residents breathing air emissions following use of M855 Ball, M885 Tungsten Ball, M856 Tracer, M862 Practice, and M200 Blank Cartridges. Study results show no potential for health risks to residents from inhalation of any of the individual cartridges’ air emissions.
HK‘s Rudolf Brandl and Heinz Matt receive US Patent #6,250,194 titled “Multipurpose Weapon.”
TACOM awards a contract to Polymer Technologies for M249 100 Round Soft Pack Magazines. The first delivery order worth $146,622.56 is for 4,592 magazines.
NSWC-Crane awards a $35,892,362 contract to Litton Electro-Optical Systems for 5000 2.25X miniature night sights (MNS); 2000 4.50X MNS and associated lines. The MNS are intended for use by the USMC on M4, M16A2, and M16A4.
The CF C7A2 update proposals are briefed to A Company, 1st Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment (A Coy, 1 R22eR).
The British Army conducts In-Service Reliability Trials (ISRT) with production-standard L85A2 IW and L86A2 LSW in Alaska, Brunei and Kuwait. During each trial, IWs fired 31,500 rounds in 210 “battlefield missions” devised by the School of Infantry, and the LSWs fired 96,000 rounds in 100 missions. Each rifle was required to fire 50 rounds in eight minutes and 40 seconds, and each LSW fired 960 rounds in 36 minutes. Reliability targets were set at 95 percent for the IW and 70 percent for the LSW, although during the ISRT the latter averaged 90 percent reliability. Comparing the SA80A1 with the production SA80A2 in different conditions, the Mean Rounds Between Failure (MRBF) rates for the IW are:
TACOM awards Colt a $4,018,300 contract option for 6,182 M4 Carbines.
Congress is notified of the government’s intent to sell 1,160,000 rounds of M196 Tracer to Ecuador as Excess Defense Articles for the price of $162,400.
Congress is notified of the government’s intent to make a FMS to Egypt, which includes among other items 12 M16A2.
Phase I of the USMC‘s AR/SAW trials begins with the receipt of three off-the-shelf AR candidates: the Colt CAR, HK MG36, and the Ultimax 100. Eight separate tests are designed to assess the accuracy of the three AR candidates and the SAW in various operational situations. The main focus of these tests is to determine if the AR were more accurate than the SAW in various attitudes, ranges, and conditions. According to the raw data, the accuracy of the AR is better than the M249 in every test; however, the differences are statistically insignificant. On average, the 48 shooters prefer the weapons in the following order: Ultimax 100, HK MG36, Colt CAR, and M249. The observers find this surprising, since the Colt is the most accurate entry. However, the M249 and Colt are viewed as too heavy. More troubling, the Colt suffers multiple negligent discharges from Marines who keep confusing the manual of arms for the open bolt CAR with that of the closed bolt M16A2. Despite their higher ranking, the remaining candidates also have flaws. The HK MG36 fails to stay on target in burst fire, and users of the Ultimax cannot achieve a proper cheek weld on the stock and see the sights at the same time.
At the end of Phase I, a Universal Needs Statement (UNS) is drafted and submitted through 1st MarDiv. The UNS requests that the M249 be replaced with an true AR, although not any of the weapons tested. The desired weapon will fire 5.56mm ball ammunition, use the M16A2’s 30-round magazine, possess a selector lever that proceeds from safe to automatic to semiautomatic (in that order), weigh less than 12 pounds loaded, employ sights equal to the M16A2, use clip-on bipods, and have a rate of fire falling within 450 to 600 rounds per minute.
HK‘s Johannes Murello receives US Patent #6,257,114 titled “Firing Lever Mechanism for Firearms.”
HK‘s Thomas Schweikart files an US patent application for a reversible bolt design for the OICW‘s rifle module. This will provide for users to be able to switch the direction of ejection based upon their dominant side.
HK‘s Johannes Murello and Helmut Weldle file an US patent application for a reversible bolt design for the OICW‘s grenade launcher. This will provide for users to be able to switch the direction of ejection based upon their dominant side.
MARCORSYSCOM issues a solicitation for the Marine Target Acquisition Set (MTAS), which consists of an Integrated Laser Light Module (ILLM) and a separate Light Only Module (LOM). The MTAS is intended for use with the M4, SMAW, and MEU(SOC) pistol. The order will represent a maximum of 6,000 units. (This is later reduced to 3,000.)
In India, complaints arise concerning the performance of the INSAS weapons family in combat in the Siachen Glacier and Kargil Heights. Issues include defects in the selector switch, various part breakages, and bulged and burst barrels.
TACOM issues a sole-source solicitation to Colt for 2,000 M4 and M4A1 Carbines.
TACOM awards Colt an additional $630,840 contract option for M4 Carbine production.
MARCORSYSCOM announces a sole-source solicitation to Eickhorn*Solingen for their Bayonet 2000. The Bayonet 2000 is intended to replace the M7 Bayonet throughout the Fleet Marine Force.
NSWC-Crane awards a contract to Aimpoint for the purchase of up to 15,000 CompM2. Designated the ECOS-N (not to be confused for the ECOS-C), the CompM2 will replace the Trijicon Reflex within the SOPMOD kit.
TACOM awards Center Industries a $3,935,000 contract for the production of 500,000 M16 thirty round magazines.
William R.H. Alexander and Trevor J. Barraclough receive US Patent #6,293,203 titled “Firearms and Ammunition.”
Aberdeen’s ARL issues the report “Computational Fluid Dynamics Modeling of a 40-mm Grenade with and Without Jet Flow.” The researchers attempt to determine if tiny jets can be used to control the movements of a guided 40mm grenade without the need for canards or fins.
Congress is notified of the government’s intent to transfer 30,000 M16 and 120,000 magazines to the Philippines at no cost as Excess Defense Articles.
Phase II of the USMC‘s AR/SAW trials includes testing of the reorganized squads and platoons during a 3-week urban warfare training block at Camp Pendleton MOUT facility. The most successful arrangement is the squad with a dedicated M249 fire team. The AR are found to be more adaptable to CQB use than the M249.
Remington is contacted in hopes of providing development support for the Special Purpose Cartridge (SPC). The SPC, AKA: the Enhanced Rifle Cartridge (ERC), is the pet project of MSG Steve Holland of the 5th Special Forces Group, supported by the USAMU‘s Troy Lawton and Cris Murray. Of particular interest are wildcats based upon shortened .30 Remington cases.
The product-improved L85A2/L86A2 are officially unveiled at the School of Infantry in Westminster.
- Backup Iron Sight II (BIS II)
- Integrated Pointer Illuminator (IPIM) to replace/combine the AN/PEQ-2 IR Pointer Illuminator, AN/PEQ-5 Visible Laser, and possibly even the VBL/VLI.
- RIS II
- VBL III to replace the VBL II and VLI.
TACOM awards a $144,150 delivery order to Polymer Technologies for 5,000 M249 100 Round Soft Pack Magazines.
TACOM completely eliminates all standing orders for M4 Improved Buttstocks due to continuing production problems.
TACOM awards Beta Co. a $374,000 contract for 2,000 C-Mags.
USSOCOM receives Defense Emergency Response Fund (DERF) money to initiate development of the SPR-V. The goal is a complete weapon that uses existing AK-47 magazines and 7.62x39mm ammunition while retaining the handling characteristics of the M4A1 and compatibility with SOPMOD components. Earlier SPR-V experiments were centered only on a drop-on 7.62x39mm upper receiver for the M4A1; however, reliable 7.62x39mm magazines were not available for a standard M4A1 magwell. KAC, LMT, and Robinson Armament are among the companies asked to participate.
USSOCOM, via NSWC-Crane, makes contract awards for the SPR-V. Out of four proposal received, contracts worth up to $700,000 each are known to be awarded to ZDF Import/Export, Inc. (Robinson Armament) and KAC. The first delivery orders are worth $150,000 and $300,000 respectively. Twelve SPR-V are acquired for RDT&E. KAC submits six SR-47, while Robinson Armament submits the RAV02. According to one source, the RAV02 was more popular with the operators during testing. LMT‘s entry was reportedly never completed. (According to USSOCOM‘s FY 2003 Budget Document, 476 SPR-V and sound suppressors were acquired during FY 2002.)
The CF C7A2 update proposals are briefed to the 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment (3 RCR).
MARCORSYSCOM‘s Program Manager, Combat Equipment and Support Systems Product Group issues a sources sought announcement to find a manufacturer capable of producing 106,000 bayonet systems with an 18 month period.
TACOM awards Center Industries a $3,935,000 contract for the production of 500,000 M16 thirty round magazines.
HK‘s Johannes Murello, Rudolf Brandl, and Wilhelm Fischbach receive US Patent #6,314,672 titled “Housing for a Firearm.”
C-More’s Ira M. Kay files another patent application for external design of the LSS.
HK‘s Berthold Weichert and Gerhard Gielke file an US patent application for the sighting system of the AG36.
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.