The 5.56 X 45mm “Timeline” – 1978

A Chronology of Development by Daniel E. Watters



The Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SPRI) publishes “Anti-Personnel Weapons” by Malvern Lumsden. The author recommends that the use of SCHV cartridges such as the 5.56x45mm be restricted by international law.

The US Army and USMC begin discussions with Colt concerning the development of a product-improved M16A1 to replace their stores of severely worn rifles.

The US provides 6,314 M16A1 and 350 M203 to Indonesia as part of a military assistance package. Indonesia also orders an additional ~50,000 M16A1 from Colt. Deliveries of the latter go through 1981.

The US makes a FMS of 8,000 M16A1 to Lebanon.

After an Infantry Board “conceptual evaluation,” the HEL 30mm grenade launcher is shelved.

Development of the ARES FARC ends.

CIS starts shopping around for alternate small designs for export sales and perhaps even domestic use. ArmaLite is approached concerning the AR-18, and are passed along to Sterling. Sterling sends Frank Waters to Singapore with the AR-18, along with his early design. The end result turns into the SAR80. On a tip from ArmaLite, L. James Sullivan also moves to Singapore and ends up developing the 5.56x45mm Ultimax 100 LMG. (This move was reportedly the byproduct of US regulatory attempts to control arms exports for even mere weapon designs, originating from the US.)

The Swiss Federal Arms Factory, Eidgenössische Waffenfabrik Bern (W+F), introduces the MP C21, SG C22, and MK C23.

The Swiss conduct troop trials with 40 SIG SG540 and SG543, along with a number of the W+F rifles. Afterwards, the Gruppe fur Rustungsdienste (GRD) draws up a staff requirement. The new rifle has to incorporate the following characteristics: 1) It should serve as the basis for a family of weapons, including a standard rifle and a carbine; 2) It should be at least as accurate as the Stgw. 57 out to 300 meters; and 3) It should weigh much less than the Stgw. 57.

Delayed by the Cultural Revolution, Chinese SCHV cartridge development begins in earnest.

Remington begins offering the .22 BR as a special order chambering in the Model 40XB-BR bolt action rifle. However, factory formed brass and loaded cartridges are not offered. Jim Stekl later wins the two-gun (Sporter and Heavy Varmint classes) championship with 6mm BR and .22 BR rifles at the 1978 Super Shoot.

Nicaragua buys ~10,000 IMI Galil.

Tunisia receives Steyr AUG.

Interdynamic introduces the MKR rifle with its proprietary rimfire 4.5x26mmR cartridge.

Singapore begins acquisition of 300 M203. Deliveries continue through 1981.

Aberdeen’s BRL is assigned development of the M16 HBARSAW, now named the XM106. Unlike earlier efforts, the XM106 is to incorporate a quick change barrel, a magazine capacity in excess of 80 rounds, fire from an open bolt, attach the bipod somewhere other than the barrel, and include an 800 meter adjustable rear sight.

FN‘s Maurice Bourlet files an US patent application for the FNC’s dust cover.

The US Army awards a $27,000 contract modification to Colt related to the 1967 Licensing Agreement.

The Munition Control License application for Indonesian M16 co-production is approved. The MOU and FMS credits still need to be reviewed by Congress. The State Department and DOD work out a FY 1978 FMS credit of $22 million for the project. However, Secretary of Defense Harold Brown advises that Indonesia should be told that the US is not willing to commit to a multi-year FMS financing plan. Any additional FMS credits for FY 1979 and 1980 will depend upon Congress.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee signs the Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) for co-production of the M203.

HK offers its HK 21A1 with the 5.56mm conversion for further SAW testing. (The HK 21A1 is designed for 7.62mm NATO use.)

HK‘s Tilo Möller and Dieter Ketterer receive US Patent # 4,078,327 titled “Automatic or Semi-Automatic Small Arm.”

Steyr’s Ulrich Zedrosser files an US patent application for bolt/bolt carrier design of the Steyr AUG.

The DSAA informs the USDAO in Singapore that the proper notification for the M203 TDP transfer has not been filed with Congress. Moreover, assurances are still required from Thailand under the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) that no M203 will be sold to other countries without US approval.

The first XM106 SAW prototype is completed. The XM106 project never goes far, as the prototype 83 round drum and the Tri-Mag (a co-joined trio of standard 30 round magazines) are strongly disliked.

Rock Island’s Engineering Directorate publishes “NDT Measurements of Chromium Plate Thickness on Small Caliber Gun Barrel Bores.” The objective of this project was to make use of improved nondestructive testing methods to measure chromium plate thickness in small caliber gun barrels. Chromium-plate thickness of gun barrel bores are necessarily assumed since the air gauges used simply provide differences in bore-size reading before and after plating. The only means previously available to accurately determine plating thickness, including concentricity, is to use destructive methods to examine microspecimens representing cross sections of the gun barrel.

Singapore receives the M203 TDP.

The base components of the Civil Disturbance Control System are type-classified. This is comprised of the M742 and M743 Riot Control Projectiles, the M755 blank cartridge, and the M234 adapter which mounts on a M16A1 rifle. Roughly 500,000 M742 and over 12,000 M234 are built and stockpiled.

The US Army awards a $40,000 contract modification to Colt related to the 1967 Licensing Agreement. The Army also awards a $589,000 contract to Colt for FMS.

Field-testing begins for the NATO individual weapon entries. Testing is staged primarily at the West German Infantry School in Hammelburg. However, other test locations include the European Regional Test Center at Cold Meece in northern England, the Meppen Proving Ground in Meppen, West Germany, the McKinley Climatic Hanger at Eglin AFB, and Camp Shilo in Canada. The rifle tests continue through November. Entrants include Colt’s M16A1 (loaded with XM777 Ball and XM778 Tracer), RSAF Enfield’s 4.85mm XL64E5 IW, FN‘s FNC, France’s FAMAS, HK‘s 4.7mm G11, and an IMI Galil SAR submitted by the Dutch as the MN1.

The control weapons are the 7.62mm NATO HK G3 and the 5.56mm M16A1 loaded with M193 Ball and M196 Tracer. The FN FNC is submitted with FN‘s new SS109 series of cartridges, and the remaining 5.56x45mm entries use M193-type ammunition. The SS109 projectile has a dual core design: steel forward and lead to the rear. It is the latest of a line of experimental cartridges by FN, including the SS92/1 and the SS101. (FN‘s M193 clone is known as the SS92.) These new ball cartridges require a 1-in-9″ twist while the long L110 tracer projectile requires an even faster 1-in-7″ twist. The faster twist offers not only a technical benefit, but a political one as well. Certain European countries, led by Sweden, see the faster twist as a means to reduce the “inhumane” terminal effects of the 5.56mm cartridge. Of course, the G11 and XL64E5 use their own proprietary cartridges.

Villanova University publishes “Heat Transfer of the Folded Cartridge Phase II Report.”

The US Army awards a $2,559,000 contract to Adventure Line Mfg. Co. Inc.

AAI publishes the document “Proposal for the Development of Improved Small Arms Fléchette Ammunition.”

The Human Engineering Labs at Aberdeen publishes “Preliminary Operation and Maintenance Manual for the 30mm Multi-Shot Grenade Launcher (Rifle Mounted for Conceptual Testing on a Modified M16A1).”

On behalf of the US Army, Robert F. Magardo, Leonard R. Ambrosini, and Raymond S. Isenson receive US Patent #4,102,241 titled “High-Rate-of-Fire Rifle Mechanism or Dual Cyclic Rate Mechanism.”

The BRL publishes “A Heat Transfer Study in Folded Ammunition Gun Tube Chambers.”

The US Army awards a $898,000 contract modification to Adventure Line Mfg. Co. Inc.

ARRCOM issues a RFP for tritium front sight post assemblies for M16/M16A1 rifles.

The US Army signs a contract for 18 FN Minimi for the latest SAW trials. The Minimi is now designated the XM249. DARCOM orders that the HK 21A1 be included in the testing. The HK is given the name XM262.

The US Army awards a $77,000 contract to Colt related to the M203.

Thailand provides the US with assurances that that no M203 will be sold to other countries without US approval.

The US Army awards a $790,000 contract and a $442,000 contract modification to Colt related to the M16.

FN‘s Maurice Bourlet receives US Patent #4,112,817 titled “Supply Device for a Portable Firearm by Means of Cartridge Belts or by Means of Rifle Magazines Using the Same Ammunition.”

The US Army awards a $239,000 contract modification to Colt related to the M203. This is for FMS.

The State Department authorizes the US Embassy in Singapore to notify Singaporean authorities that they can transfer the M203 TDP to Thailand.

The US Army awards $5,083,000 and $90,000 contracts to Colt related to the M16.

During discussions with the US Ambassador, the Deputy Commander in Chief of the Indonesian military indicates that while Indonesia would like to eventually establish a M16 co-production facility, the country’s current budget will not allow them to pursue the project. In the meantime, Indonesia will purchase 30,000 M16 from Colt to meet their immediate requirements.

Olin-Winchester’s James H. Johnson, Arnold L. Fowler, Julius E. Brooks, and Harvey H. Friend receive US Patent #4,117,761 titled “Fire control mechanism.”

The US Army awards a $994,000 contract modification to Colt related to the M16. The Army also deallocates $183,000 in a contract modification related to the 1967 Licensing Agreement.

MAS tests an improved three round burst mechanism for the FAMAS.

Singapore and Thailand express interest in co-production of 40x46mm grenades. This will allow them to support their M203 in case the system is phased out by the US Army.

The Joint Services Small Arms Program (JSSAP) is formed.

The British ITDU holds comparative trials of SUSAT sights.

Frank E. Waters, on behalf of CIS, files an US patent application for the bolt and bolt carrier design of the SAR-80.

(Next: 5.56mm 1979)

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.