The 5.56 X 45mm “Timeline” – 1959

A Chronology of Development by Daniel E. Watters


Fearing the confusion of so many “Triple Deuce” nomenclatures, the
.222 Special is renamed the .223 Remington.

AAI receives two additional Ordnance contracts for fléchette cartridge R&D.

Picatinny Arsenal, which conducts ammunition R&D, is merged to the existing Ordnance Ammunition Command to create the Ordnance Special Weapons Ammunition Command (OSWAC).

Word leaks of Remington and Smith & Wesson’s joint development of a SCHV revolver cartridge.

Colonel Neilson retires.

Robert Fremont leaves ArmaLite to join Colt.

The Powell Board concludes its investigation and issues its report prior to the release of final reports from the Aberdeen engineering tests and the CDEC trials (which are not yet complete). The board approves of the SCHV concept, and recommends that 750 AR-15 rifles be purchased for extended trials. However, no further consideration should be given to the .223 round as a potential replacement for the 7.62mm NATO. Instead, the board recommends development of an AR-15 type of weapon, chambered for a .258 caliber cartridge, be expedited to replace the M14 in the rifle role. However, the M14 rifle should be retained for the automatic rifle role.

Upon review of the Powell Board’s report and urging by the OCO, General Taylor rules that production of the M14 will continue as scheduled. Furthermore, any additional Army purchases of the AR-15 should be canceled. The 7.62mm NATO will remain the standard cartridge, and all further product improvements will retain the caliber unless a new concept offers a very significant improvement. Finally, the development of the All-Purpose Hand-Held Weapon (APHHW) is approved.

ArmaLite protests General Taylor’s decision to Senator W. Stuart Symington (D-MO). Symington enters the protest in the Congressional Record but declines to push the issue any further.

Within days of Taylor’s decision, Colt and Fairchild finalize their licensing agreement. Colt pays a $75,000 lump sum, plus a 4.5 percent royalty on future production of the AR-10 and AR-15.

AAI submits “Proposal for Special Type Small Arms Ammunition, Continuation of Development.”

The final report “A Test of Rifle, Caliber .22, AR-15; Rifle, Lightweight Military, Caliber .224; and Pertinent Ammunition” from the Aberdeen engineering tests is finally released. Laurence F. Moore’s recommendations and conclusions are missing, reportedly excised on the order of Dr. Carten.

Fred A Roff, Jr., now Colt’s President, sends Cooper-Macdonald an advance payment of $5,000 to begin promoting the AR-10 and AR-15. During the following “world” tour (primarily Asia), Robert Macdonald finds that there is very tepid interest in the AR-10. In contrast, the smaller AR-15 is an immediate hit. Small orders for the AR-15 come in from Malaya, India, Australia, Burma, and Singapore. However, some interested buyers, such as the Philippines, are ham-strung by their military assistance pacts with the US. While the AR-15 is an American rifle, it isn’t a US military issue rifle; thus, US military aid funds cannot be used to purchase the new rifle.

CDEC ends its comparative trials of the AR-15, the Winchester LWMR, and the M14.

AAI files “Proposal for the Development of a .22 Caliber Fin-Stabilized Armor Piercing Round.” AAI proposes an armor piercing fléchette made of tungsten carbide.

AAI proposes the construction of a “burst simulator” comprised of five single-shot fixtures bundled into a Gatling-type assembly. The individual fixtures are triggered electronically in a short sequence to simulate a high-cyclic rate burst from a single barrel rifle. This is intended to provide experimental data on optimum burst spread until AAI can construct an automatic weapon for its fléchette cartridges.

The Arctic Test Board publishes “Evaluation of Small Caliber High Velocity Rifles.” Oddly, in one phase involving the firing of 40 cartridges, the AR-15 is charged with 48 malfunctions.

The ORO publishes “Design of Experiment for Effects of Weapon Configuration, Weight, Sights and Recoil on Rifle Accuracy” and “Range Estimation for Infantry Squad Weapons.”

Ordnance Technical Intelligence publishes “Wound Ballistics Tests of the Soviet 7.62mm Bullet.”

CDEC publishes “Lightweight High Velocity Rifle Experiment.”

The final report of the CDEC trials, “Rifle Squad Armed with a Lightweight High-Velocity Rifle,” is released. It projects that a 5-7 man squad armed with AR-15 rifles would have a higher number of hits and kills than the then current 11 man squad armed with M14 rifles. The report particularly praises the reliability of the tested AR-15 rifles, and suggests that a SCHV design such as the AR-15 or LWMR should be further developed as a replacement for the M14.

The ORO publishes the papers “Optimum Duplex Spread” and “Optimum Dispersion for Gaussian Salvo.”

At Springfield Armory, David C. Fletcher and Herman F. Hawthorne publish the report “Feasibility Study of a Caliber .222, Salvo Type Shoulder Rifle.” The rifle under study has three fixed barrels and uses a rotary feeding mechanism. Without muzzle brakes, the rifle will have twice the recoil of a M1 rifle. Muzzle brakes will reduce recoil to less than that of the M1 rifle.

The ORO publishes “SALVO I Rifle Field Experiment.”

Springfield Armory publishes the report “Water Drainage Characteristics of Caliber .22/06 and 7.62mm Barrels.”

General Taylor retires at the end of the month.

Springfield Armory approves AAI’s “burst simulator” design and grants a contract for the manufacture of two units.

While operations manager for the Dardick Corporation, Melvin M. Johnson, Jr. completes an outline of various weapon concepts using the Tround principle. These include a Tround-firing Gatling (the “Dispenser”) and military rifles, all using a “super-velocity” .224 caliber cartridge.

The US State Department’s Office of Munitions Control approves of the sale of 25 AR-15 to Malaya.

Gene Stoner receives US Patent #2,903,809 titled “Cartridge Magazine of Aluminum or Magnesium.”

The new Army Chief of Staff General Lyman L. Lemnitzer reaffirms General Taylor’s earlier position in regard to the small arms situation.

CONARC HQ sends the Infantry Board a directive titled “Evaluation of Single Fléchette.” The Infantry Board is to conduct testing to determine whether the single fléchette has sufficient military value under temperate weather conditions to warrant further development. A similar directive is sent to the Arctic Test Board.

The USAIB publishes “Draft Military Characteristics for All-Purpose Hand-Held Weapon.”

The Combat Operations Research Group publishes “Infantry Small Arms Weapons. Technique for Evaluation and Application to the All-Purpose Hand-Held Weapon.”

The OCO sends the Office Chief of Research and Development (OCRD) “Development of All-Purpose Hand-Held Weapon.” The Chief of Ordnance LTG Hinrichs proposes to the Chief of Research and Development (CRD) LTG Arthur G. Trudeau that development of the APHHW system be initiated, using single fléchette ammunition in the direct fire role.

The Infantry Board receives AAI single fléchette ammunition for testing.

On behalf of the US Army, Albert J. Lizza receives US Patent #2,912,781 titled “Stock and Action Clamp.”

The US State Department’s Office of Munitions Control approves of the sale of 23 AR-15 to India.

Gene Stoner files a patent application for the trigger mechanism of the AR-15.

AAI publishes the report “Final Report – Research and Development Activities on Fléchette Ammunition Test Rifles.” For the purposes of testing, ten Winchester Model 70R bolt-action rifles had been modified to fire individual fléchette cartridges.

The Infantry Board concludes testing of the AAI single fléchette ammunition. The Board sends a preliminary report to CONARC HQ, concluding that single fléchette ammunition has the potential for fulfilling the requirements of the direct fire ammunition for the APHHW.

(Next: 5.56mm 1960)

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.