The 5.56 X 45mm “Timeline” – 1964

A Chronology of Development by Daniel E. Watters



ArmaLite goes on a marketing blitz trying to promote their new AR-18. Testing of 10 rifles is performed at H.P. White, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, and Fort Benning (for the Infantry Board).

AR-15 co-designer, Robert Fremont rejoins Colt.

Remington commercially introduces the .223 Remington. Remington also provides the first XM195 grenade launching blanks.

The Historical Evaluation and Research Organization (HERO) publishes “Historical Trends Related to Weapon Lethality.”

The USAF‘s Lackland Military Training Center publishes the report “A Comparison of the Training Suitability of the AR-15 Rifle and M2 Carbine.” The results obtained from the scores fired by basic airmen with no previous military marksmanship training revealed that both the AR-15 and M2 are satisfactory training weapons, although the AR-15 is superior to the reconditioned M2 carbine used in the study. More airmen qualify at both the minimum and expert score on the AR-15 than on the M2. Data concerning the weapon malfunction and failure rate revealed that the malfunction rate for the AR-15 was 1 in 783 rounds (total rounds fired: 50,698), and for the M2, 1 in 449 rounds (total rounds fired: 50,707). Neither of these rates is considered unsatisfactory for training purposes.

Marine Corps Landing Force Development Center publishes the report “Stoner 63 Weapons System.” A service and troop test was conducted on the Stoner 63 weapons system to determine its suitability for use within the USMC as the basic weapon and/or weapons system. The tests were also to evaluate the operational and organizational concepts, doctrine, tactics, and techniques affected by this weapons system. It is concluded that upon the correction of several deficiencies, the Stoner 63 weapons system will be suitable for use within the USMC as the replacement system for the present M14, M14(M), M60, and M3A1 weapons.

Uzi Gal begins work on a 5.56mm rifle. It is based on an earlier 7.62mm NATO prototype he had designed in hopes of replacing the FN FAL.

HK and CETME begin joint experimentation in micro caliber assault rifle cartridges (i.e., calibers smaller than 5.56mm). Efforts eventually concentrate on a 4.6x36mm cartridge (sometimes referenced as the 4.56mm.)

Rheinish-Westfalische Sprengstoff (RWS) introduces the 5.6x57mm RWS. Using a necked down 6.5x57mm Mauser case, the cartridge is designed to meet West German regulations for minimum retained energy at 200m for use in hunting roe deer and chamois. Both rimmed and rimless versions are produced.

Secretary of the Army Vance is appointed Deputy Secretary of Defense. Under Secretary of the Army Steven Ailes is appointed to replace Vance as Secretary of the Army.

A meeting is held at Frankford Arsenal with representatives of the three cartridge producers (Remington, Olin, and Federal Cartridge), DuPont, USAF, and Army to review the requirements of the ammunition TDP. DuPont complains that it must manufacture lots of IMR 4475 that will develop a maximum mean chamber pressure 2,000psi less than that permitted to cartridge manufacturers. DuPont also expresses concern as to whether or not the company can consistently meet a chamber pressure limit increased by only 1,000psi. However, there will be no problem in supplying enough propellant to load one million rounds. The Army agrees to change the cartridge case drawing to reflect the new dimensions proposed by Remington, because Remington maintains that its first drawings had been misinterpreted by the Army. In addition, the Army agrees to a temporary waiver for the M193 pressure specs for only this order. The average chamber pressure limit for the powder is increased to 51,000psi, and the limit for cartridges is increased to 53,000psi, with individual rounds allowed to test as high as 60,000psi. All of the ammunition manufacturers react favorably to the waiver for the initial procurement of 1 million rounds. However, DuPont will not make a firm commitment to being able to meet the specifications for the podwer for the remaining 131 million rounds.

The rifle contract is modified to incorporate the bolt closure device in the XM16E1. Also added are the lightened firing pin and T-shaped charging handle. The number of XM16E1 is reduced by 750 rifles, but an equal number of M16 is added to the contract. The contract is now worth $13,671,195.91.

The TCC meets at Frankford Arsenal. Frankford Arsenal receives permission to test production lots of 25,000rds loaded with alternative powders. If one or more types of powder are selected, contractual changes will be made instead of specification changes. Candidates include DuPont’s CR 8136, Hercules’ HPC-10, and Olin’s WC846. (The latter was then in use by Olin for military production of 7.62x51mm ammunition, just as Remington had once done with IMR 4475.) The TCC is reluctant to allow Olin to submit WC846. Olin is directed to argue its case with the AMC‘s Director of Research and Engineering.

LTC Yount instructs the Ammunition Procurement and Supply Agency (APSA) that it should accept at least two of the bids for ammunition production if the costs can be justified.

In a memo titled “FY64 Ammunition Procurement Program – XM16E1 Rifle,” LTC Yount notifies LTG Besson of the difficulty the Army is having in obtaining responsive bids for the manufacture of the initial one million rounds of the 150 million total rounds required in FY 1964.

WECOM releases “Technical Development Plan – Special Purpose Individual Weapon.” The weapon specifications are quite optimistic: less than 10 pounds while loaded with a minimum of three grenades (increased from a single grenade) and sixty fléchette cartridges. The grenade launcher is desired to be a semi-automatic repeater.

Frederick Reed files a patent application for an improved variation of Richard Colby’s front-to-back tandem magazine used by Springfield Armory’s 1st Gen. SPIW.

Fabrique Nationale begins development of a “Mini-FAL” in 5.56mm.

A purchase order is placed with Olin-Winchester for 13,000 rounds of XM197 High Pressure Test. This will satisfy acceptance test requirements through June 1964 based upon current delivery schedules.

In a memo titled “FY 64 Procurement 5.56mm Ball Ammunition,” PMSO AR-15 MAJ Robert C. Engle notes that the current three bids for M193 ammunition will be 5 million short of the 150 million rounds required by the US Army and USAF (131 million and 19 million, respectivly).

The Boston Army Procurement District notifies Colt that their general quality control plan and detailed written manual satisfy the requirements of specification MIL-Q-9858 as well as other applicable requirements. The manual was reviewed by representatives of the WECOM, LTC Yount’s office and the Boston Army Procurement District.

WECOM subsequently notifies the Boston Army Procurement District that in developing their inspection plan, when verification results reflect consistently poor or inadequate inspection by the contractor, the government representative will not increase product inspection but will take the following action: 1) Defer acceptance of product; 2) Immediately notify the Contracting Officer; and 3) Assure corrective action is taken by the contractor before resuming acceptance of product.

The US Army awards contracts to Remington and Olin to supply 500,000 M193 cartridges apiece under the waiver.

The US Army requests the submission of candidate powders for testing. For the sake of uniformity, samples of the three powders are ultimately sent to Remington for loading in complete cartridges.

LTC Yount writes several letters to the BRL and Edgewood Arsenal’s Director of Medical Research urging early completion of stability and lethality studies of the Sierra bullet. In a letter titled “Evaluation of Sierra Configuration Cal. .223 Bullet,” LTC Yount requests that the BRL prepare a test plan designed to provide data to help determine which bullet design to adopt.

Later in the month, the US Army awards additional contracts for M193 ammunition: Olin – 77,880,000 rounds, Remington – 57,000,000, and Federal – 15,000,000.

Mr. Bowie of Remington’s Government Sales Division writes the USAF‘s Director of Procurement and Production. Bowie thanks him for his willingness to approve alternative propellants to WC846 for use in 5.56mm ammunition. The stated reason is to prevent dependence upon a single powder manufacturer or type.

In preparation for his pending retirement, MG Lynde seeks the opinion of US Army Adjutant General MG Joe C. Lambert regarding an offer of employment from Fairbanks Whitney Corp., the parent company of Colt. He states that in his proposed employment, he will not engage in any activity regarding US Government purchases of the M16.

Frankford Arsenal draws up specifications for the XM196 Tracer.

An US Army report recommends that Springfield Armory be declared excess to the Army’s needs. Its duties would be transferred to Rock Island Arsenal.

Colt applies for permission to use 325 bolts lacking a drain hole.

WECOM releases the completed SPIW Technical Development Plan (TDP).

AAI publishes “Research & Development on .22 Caliber Arrow Ammunition.”

Springfield’s Alfred L. Montana files a patent application for the lockwork for the Universal Machine Gun (UMG).

At the request of WECOM. Springfield tests the AAI Model #4 fixtures with lubricated cartridges.

MG Lynde retires from the Army. BG Anderson takes command of WECOM.

Colt’s monthly shipment of rifles is detained because of inadequacies in the Colt’s quality assurance program. Areas requiring corrections are gauge calibration, the inspection system, and the identification and condition of materiel in process.

Twenty XM16E1 are delivered to the AMC‘s Test and Evaluation Command (TECOM) for comparison testing with the SPIW prototypes. Ten of the rifles are equipped with a Springfield-designed muzzle brake and five of these are also fitted with a new two-round burst device developed by Colt.

Remington and DuPont withdraw IMR 4475 from future use in 5.56mm ammunition.

The BRL recommends to LTC Yount that no tests be scheduled to define the performance of the Sierra configuration bullet, on the basis that extensive data was already available for rifle bullets. The BRL notes that if Sierra’s original bullet design is used instead of Remington’s own design, the rifle’s twist rate will need to be changed from 1-in-12″ to 1-9.5″. The BRL further advises that despite an increase in retained velocity, a review of data indicates that there will be little increase in lethality if the Sierra bullet is chosen. They see no justification for the concurrent investigation of all the aspects of performance defined by LTC Yount but feel that a small scale effort could be undertaken to examine wound ballistics if required. A complete study will require procuring new barrels with a faster rifling twist and another three months of experimentation.

Colt discovers that six out of 10 XM16E1 rifles will exceed the 650-850rpm cyclic rate requirements when tested with ammunition loaded with WC846. In contrast, only one of 10 rifles exceed 850rpm when using ammunition loaded with IMR 4475. Colt’s representative, Mr. Hutchins, informs the TCC of this development, and notes that rifles for the initial delivery of 300 had to be handpicked to find those which could pass the cyclic rate testing. Since this practice could not continue for larger delivery lots, Colt asks the TCC that the maximum cyclic rate limit for the XM16E1 be raised to 900rpm. (The USAF has already done so for their M16 rifles, as they had already accepted production lots of ammo loaded with WC846.) No increase in allowable malfunctions during acceptance testing is requested by Colt, as the increase in cyclic rate was not recognized as a source of rifle malfunctions. In the meantime, Colt will experiment with different spring rates to help maintain a cyclic rate of 650-850rpm.

The TCC‘s USAF representative William Aumen presents USAF endurance testing data from FY 1963 procurement. The first 27 rifles tested displayed a malfunction rate of 1 per 3,000 rounds. The last 13 rifles tested displayed a malfunction rate of 1 per 6,500 rounds.

The TCC creates a subcommittee to study various proposed changes in the ammunition TDP. The subcommittee recommends an engineering change to the TDP to include standards for ammunition fouling during the pre-acceptance testing of ammunition. They note that certain lots of ammunition created enough fouling to result in malfunctions in as little as 500 to 600 rounds fired.

The first 300 M16-marked rifles are delivered to the USAF.

Frankford Arsenal issues the report “A Casualty Probability Analysis of Small Arms Weapons Systems of Various Calibers.”

The CRDL publishes “Wound Ballistic Assessment of the M14, AR-15, and Soviet AK-47 Rifles.”

The military specification for the XM199 Dummy Cartridge, MIL-D-46399(MU), is published.

The US Army grants permission for Colt to use 325 bolts lacking a drain hole.

ARPA orders sixty Stoner 63 rifles along with 20 complete systems for USMC testing. USMC Commandant General Wallace M. Greene later becomes a proponent of the system.

Aberdeen’s D&PS publishes “Military Potential Test of Stoner 63 Weapons System.”

All four vendors deliver their requested ten SPIW prototypes on time for Phase I evaluations by Aberdeen’s D&PS. AAI continues to use its 5.6x53mm XM110 cartridge, Springfield and Winchester use a new 5.6x44mm XM144 cartridge, and H&R incorporates the XM144’s saboted projectiles into its own proprietary cartridge design.

The H&R design is immediately rejected as too heavy, not to mention unsafe. H&R already has a bad reputation for its M1 and M14 rifles, not to mention its poor conversion of the FN FAL for earlier US Army trials, and the new SPIW does nothing to dispel this reputation. H&R‘s SPIW uses David Dardick’s revolving “open chamber” concept. Each 5.6x57mm cartridge, cutely named a “tround,” is a triangular piece of plastic holding three separate sabots and fléchette with a single powder charge. Upon pulling the trigger, all three projectiles are fired at once. On the downside, each of the individual projectiles requires its own barrel, adding unnecessary weight; the weapon tops 23.9 pounds loaded. More significantly, the open chamber means that only the plastic case is available to contain the pressures of firing. Initial test shots prove that the plastic cases are not up to this task, with the walls splitting and bulging upon ignition. The testers are underwhelmed at the prospect of less than a millimeter of plastic keeping the weapon from blowing up in their face.

Colt’s Karl R. Lewis begins design work on a 40mm grenade launcher for the M16.

LTC Yount’s office releases a staff study indicating that the change to the Sierra bullet would require a change in rifling twist to 1 in 10″. This change would then require replacing all existing barrels in rifles and spares stocks, along with replacing all existing stocks of M193 ammunition. In view of the pending qualification of alternative propellants, LTC Yount cancels further testing of the Sierra bullet by the BRL.

The TCC grants a monthly waiver of the cyclic rate maximum to 900rpm. In an internal company report, “Chamber and Gas Port Pressures,” Colt’s Foster Sturtevant notes an increase in pressure at the gas port when using WC846 versus IMR 4475. However, Sturtevant claims that the higher gas port pressures are “in no way harmful to the AR-15” and may even lead to more positive functioning of the rifle.

Aberdeen’s D&PS publishes the report “Product Improvement Test of Modified AR-15 Rifles.” This report describes the tests of five AR-15 rifles which incorporated the following modifications: the charging handle grip enlarged, the bolt closure-device plunger-head area increased, and three firing pins with inertia retarding devices. The weapons with modified parts were subjected to adverse conditions and endurance tests. Data recorded during testing indicate the charging handle and bolt closure device functioned satisfactorily; however, minor design and fabrication changes are recommended to increase the serviceability of the parts. A firing pin inertia retarding device appears to be unnecessary.

The USAF rejects an initial production sample of M193 ammunition from Olin-Winchester because it fails to meet their 500yd penetration requirements (0.135″ of mild steel). The USAF is urged to reduce the plate penetration requirement to 450 yards. The ammunition is shipped to Frankford Arsenal for final pre-production lot testing. Frankford is verbally told by the Ogden Air Materiel Area (OAMA) that the USAF will not approve a performance deviation.

Remington advises Frankford Arsenal that it does not have enough IMR 4475 propellant to complete the original 500,000 round contract and that it will be short 19,000 rounds.

Aberdeen’s D&PS publishes “Engineer Design Test of Alternate Propellants for Use in the 5.56mm Ball Cartridge, M193.”

Frankford Arsenal notifies Olin, Remington, and Federal that both CR 8136 and WC846 will be approved as permissible alternates to IMR 4475 in the loading of 5.56mm M193 ball ammunition.

Frankford Arsenal submits the memo “Tests of Samples from First Million Production of 5.56mm M193 Ammunition.” Since future production would be loaded with CR 8136 or WC846 propellant rather than IMR 4475, the testing of the samples lots of 25,000 rounds already delivered from each manufacturer will be limited to a simulated acceptance test. This will be similar to those for normal production lots of ammunition, except that the function and casualty tests will be omitted.

Army Chief of Staff General Wheeler directs that the Army Staff examine the alternatives for rifle procurement and distribution to insure maximum readiness of US troops. For the study, it is to be assumed that no more M14 rifles will be procured in peacetime.

Colt applies for and is granted permission to use 4,100 bolts lacking a drain hole and 106 barrels with a 0.010″ oversized chamfer on the muzzle.

The HEL publishes “Human Factors Evaluation of the Stoner 63 Assault Rifle.”

Firing trials of the three remaining SPIW candidates begins at Fort Benning. Winchester’s “soft recoil” SPIW rifle design is deemed too complicated. The barrel reciprocates within the stock housing (in a fashion similar to the more recent HK G11 and AN94), but the receiver length is too short to allow a three round burst to be completed prior to the action bottoming out within the receiver. In contrast, Winchester’s blow-forward grenade launcher is very popular due to its relatively compact dimensions. A single trigger in conjunction with a special selector button controls both the rifle and grenade launcher function. Given the rifle’s unreliability in adverse condition trials, Winchester later drops the rifle project. However, they will continue to develop the grenade launcher under contract to Springfield Armory.

Springfield Armory’s SPIW is a bullpup design with a unique tandem magazine arrangement. A pair of 30 round magazine bodies are arranged back to back in a single assembly. The mechanism allows the rounds of the rear magazine to be held in reserve until the forward magazine runs dry. A tab in the forward magazine’s follower then raises the rear magazine high enough to allow its rounds to feed. The designer, Richard Colby, could not get a conventional 60 round box magazine to feed reliably given the weapon’s high cyclic rate. (AAI and Winchester used drum magazines, while H&R used a tape belt.) In any case, a conventional box design would have been excessively tall, causing problems during use in prone firing positions. The Springfield SPIW passes the length restrictions, but it exceeds the weight requirement by roughly four pounds. This is in part due to their massive magazine-fed grenade launcher design.

The AAI entry is a very slick package given how crude their previous APHHW prototypes were. Their 1961 weight predictions are found to be optimistic (by about 10 pounds), but their predicted cyclic rate is met and exceeded at 2,400 rpm. However, their grenade launcher module is not semi-automatic. Instead, AAI has settled on a less bulky lever-action mechanism.

It is painfully clear that none of the weapons are very reliable. The Springfield SPIW has a Mean Rounds Between Stoppage (MRBS) of 21.3. AAI’s entry manages a MRBS of 23.5, and Winchester’s SPIW brings in the rear with a MRBS of 10.8. The grenade launchers are even worse. The best MRBS is posted by the Springfield design at 12.9. AAI’s launcher runs 4.66 MRBS, and Winchester once again pulls up the rear with a MRBS of 2.1.

The CRDL issues the report “Wound Ballistics of the 18.4 Grain Bimetallic Fléchette.”

Picatinny Arsenal publishes “Terminal Effects of Flechettes.”

LTG Besson is promoted to General. He is the first US Army officer to achieve that rank as head of a logistical organization in peacetime.

LTC Yount attempts to have a five to seven minute briefing developed regarding the tactical use of the XM16E1 for the New Materiel Introductory Team’s presentation. CONARC and the CDC each deny responsibility for developing related training materiel. The PMSO brings the AMC‘s Training Division into play to try to resolve the issue.

At Frankford Arsenal, William C. Davis and Charles E. Schindler release “Tenth Memo Report on AR-15 Rifle-Ammunition System: Investigation of Alternate Propellants For Use in 5.56mm M193 Ball Ammunition.” CR 8136 and WC846 are recommended for use. However, they also note that these powders exhibit slightly higher pressure levels at the AR-15’s gas port than did IMR 4475. This said, no sound gas port pressure criteria have yet been established for the AR-15. HPC-10 is declined due to excessive pressures at extremely low (Arctic) temperatures and previous issues of bore erosion with tubular grain propellants. Before the report is even released, the two recommended powders are approved for use in M193 production. The suggested “None Fire/All Fire” primer tolerance of 12 to 48 inch-ounces is also included in the technical data package, despite Colt’s transition to a lighter firing pin.

Production of M193 ammunition with IMR 4475 ends at Remington after 1 million rounds have been loaded. At the end of the month, Colt receives their last batch of IMR 4475 loaded ammunition for use in rifle acceptance testing.

The US Army begins issue of XM16E1 rifles.

In the DCSLOG report “Study of Rifle Readiness,” the authors state that will be “no more procurement of XM16E1 (AR-15) rifles after the FY 1964 buy of 85,000.” It recommends that there be no additional releases of M1 rifles for the Military Assistance Program, the M1 rifles be overhauled for possible use by US troops, and the testing of M1 conversions to 7.62mm NATO be expedited.

The USAIB issues the report “Product Improvement Test of XM16E1 Rifles and Associated Items.”

Colt President Paul A. Benke presents a specially furnished XM16E1 to Army Chief of Staff General Wheeler. At the presentation, Colt unveils their “CAR-15 5.56mm Military Weapons System”. The projected CAR-15 family includes a pair of AR-15 HBAR light machineguns (the magazine-fed M1 and the belt-fed M2), a 15″ barreled carbine, a 10″ barreled SMG, and a stripped down “survival rifle” for aircrews. The earliest prototypes of the CAR-15 SMG and carbine use cut-down M16 triangular forearms and buttstocks. As an added feature, the chopped buttstock of the SMG has a latch recessed in the buttplate, which allows the buttstock to be extended or retracted. These models retain the early AR-15 Model 01’s open flashhiders. Colt also introduces the belt-fed “Light Machine Gun 5.56mm CMG-1.” However, the CGL-4 40mm grenade launcher, designed Robert E. Roy and Karl R. Lewis, attracts the most favorable attention, particularly from General Wheeler. This official interest starts the ball rolling again for an add-on grenade launcher for the XM16E1.

On behalf of the US Army, Charles F. Packard files a patent application for the design of a combination charging handle/bolt closure device for the XM16E1.

Colt submits two RTA requesting permission to revise drawings for 58 parts to improve the component parts and to eliminate certain malfunctions.

The Marine Corps Landing Force Development Center publishes “Requirement for a Close Support Weapon at the Rifle Company Level.”

Aberdeen files a report concerning its testing of the Stoner 63.

In support of Frankford Arsenal, Springfield performs limited ammunition tests of XM110 cartridges with increased body diameter cases.

General William C. Westmoreland replaces General Harkins as the commander of MACV.

The report, “Study of Rifle Readiness,” is forwarded to General Wheeler by DCSLOG LTG Colglazier.

AMC General Counsel Kendall Barnes sends a letter to Colt attempting to reopen negotiations on licensing rights for the M16. Barnes hopes that licensing rights can be added in a modification to the existing contract.

Frankford Arsenal releases the “Eleventh Memo Report on AR-15 Rifle-Ammunition System.” This involves an investigation of gas port pressure limits.

The US Army awards an additional $2,240 to Colt for 20 M16. This is in response to a US Coast Guard MIPR. The Army also awards $1,651.72 for six additional repair part line items.

The first documented incidents of case head separations and rim pull-through are recorded.

Remington’s preproduction ammunition sample is qualified.

Federal Cartridge fails to submit their pre-production sample for approval, and as a result will default on delivery of 200,000 M193 cartridges. LTC Yount examines the possibility of terminating the contract or obtaining fines for late delivery. While the Director of Materiel Readiness studies the impact of the shortage, Yount attempts to fill the production gap with deliveries from the other manufacturers. Olin picks up the slack with accelerated production.

Development of blank cartridges and blank firing adapters is stopped due to lack of R&D funds.

Arthur Miller files a patent application for the gas system and operating rod for the AR-18.

Winchester officially introduces the .225 Winchester. Intended as a replacement for the .220 Swift, the cartridge is roughly an improved .219 Zipper with a rim sized to fit a .30’06 bolt face.

On behalf of the US Army, Frederick Reed receives US Patent #3,136,213 titled “Two-stage Tandem Type Feeding Mechanism for Firearms.”

Army Chief of Staff General Wheeler is appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Harold K. Johnson becomes the new Chief of Staff of the Army.

Under Secretary of the Army Paul R. Ignatius writes General Johnson that he and Secretary Ailes would like to review the Army’s rifle program with particular emphasis on two questions:

  1. If it becomes necessary in the near term to place new orders, would we resume M14 production, increase M16 production, or some combination of the two?
  2. What is the status of current planning for the SPIW? To what extent are we considering other weapons such as the M16 with its available attachments or the Stoner system, in lieu of the SPIW?

General Johnson approves the ACSFOR and DCSLOG recommendations for rifle procurement, provided that improved oral rationale and appropriate viewgraph slides are presented to support the position taken. The Army position should be based upon:

  1. Applicable concepts of the CDC‘s Army Requirements for Direct Fire Weapons Systems (ARDFIRE) study;
  2. Weapon and ammunition system lethality;
  3. Basic input data to the January 1963 DCSOPS study “Rifle Evaluation: A Comparative Evaluation of the U.S. Army Rifle M14, the Armalite AR-15, and the Soviet Rifle AK-47″; and
  4. An explanation of the purpose and functional role of the rifle as an Army weapon.

General Besson sends a letter to General Johnson titled “DCSLOG Study of Rifle Readiness.” Besson states that the XM16E1 realizes at least 50 percent of the improvement that the SPIW generates over the M14. The cost of the XM16E1 system (including ammunition) will be a little less than the M14 for equivalent production rates. However, the SPIW System will cost at least 25 percent more than the M14. Moreover, the XM16E1 can be made available in production quantities four years sooner than SPIW.

Colt’s Foster Sturtevant files a patent application for the forward-assist mechanism.

The buffer assembly is shortened by 3/32″.

The OCRD releases a fact sheet titled “Delay in Type Classification of Special Purpose Individual Weapon.” The predicted date for type-classification is pushed back from 1965 to 1967, with deliveries to troops even further delayed to the early 1970s.

Mass production of fléchette cartridges is simulated. Construction of the fléchette itself is noted to be very labor intensive.

Richard Colby receives US Patent #3,140,554 titled “Double Tandem-Arranged Magazine Feeding Device.”

The OCRD files a report concerning Stoner 63 testing.

MG Lynde (Ret.) is hired as an executive consultant by Colt Industries.

Remington delivers M193 cartridges loaded with DuPont CR 8136. Testing at Colt results in lower cyclic rates. The monthly acceptance waiver on maximum cyclic rate is rescinded.

General Johnson approves the revised ACSFOR/DCSLOG presentation on the Army rifle program.

General Besson informs the Chief of Research and Development LTG William W. Dick, Jr. that in his view the type classification date for the SPIW will slip from December 1965 to January 1967. He bases his opinion upon the most recent performance of the test prototypes, which had indicated a high malfunction rate and an unacceptably high noise level. Moreover, the need for a workable muzzle brake had yet to be met.

In a letter intended to refute General Besson’s arguments of a month earlier, DCSLOG LTG Lawrence J. Lincoln, Jr. writes:

“For the past several years we have fought off any solution which would commit the Army to another interim weapon which could hinder the development of a greatly improved individual weapon in the 1965-70 time frame. If a caliber .223 weapon is to be selected as the successor to the 7.62mm M14, it should be the best caliber .223 weapon available and one which fills the quantum improvement qualification. This could possibly be the AR-18, the Stoner 63 or some other design. Such a decision cannot be made until the future of the SPIW is clear.”

Army Secretary Ailes is briefed by DCSLOG LTG Lincoln and ACSFOR LTG Harrell concerning the Army’s rifle plans. The Army Staff recommends:

  1. If procurement of rifles is authorized in the immediate future the Army should resume production of M14 rather than M16 production or a combination of M14 and M16 production. Additional M14 procurement will allow the Army to further reduce the logistical problems associated with multiple caliber ammunition requirements for small arms.

    “At this point in time, prior to the availability of a quantum improvement in individual weaponry, the Army Staff believes the M14 rifle to be the-best weapon acceptable for general use.
    “The M14 is the only U.S. rifle which fires the 7.62mm NATO standard ammunition. Unless there is a quantum improvement in individual weaponry, it is desirable from a logistical point of view that all units planning for deployment to Europe be equipped with basic weapons firing NATO standard ammunition.”

  2. There are not enough M14 to equip and support the entire active Army. All units not having special mission requirements for weapons should be equipped with M14 rifles.
  3. The current procurement of 85,000 M16 rifles satisfies the entire requirement for this type of light-weight, small caliber weapon. The light weight is considered to be of overriding importance for airborne, air assault, and special forces units which are being equipped with these rifles. M14 should not be replaced with M16 in any other type of unit.
  4. The Remington caliber .223 round common to all of the 5.56mm systems is considered inferior to the 7.62mm NATO standard round in all respects except that of weight.
  5. The SPIW should be the standard individual weapon to replace the current rifles provided that the forthcoming evaluation of the program results in approval of a SPIW weapon.

They project type-classification of the SPIW in December 1965. In the meantime, the Army is continuing to examine several small caliber rifles as possible replacements for the current standard M14. These include other Colt CAR-15 developments, the Stoner 63 family, and the AR-18.

In response, Secretary Ailes directs the Army to prepare a study of the resumption of procurement of M14 rifles for presentation to McNamara. General Johnson passes this job on to DCSLOG LTG Lincoln in a memo titled “The Army Rifle Program.” General Johnson states that a case should be made for resumption of limited production using one production facility citing the advantages to be gained in terms of readiness and cost. They should also note that this option renews availability of M1 rifles for the Military Assistance Program (MAP).

The same day General Johnson is informed of the slippage of the SPIW type-classification date in a memo from LTG Dick titled “Cancellation of NATO SPIW Demonstration.”

The USMC complains directly to General Johnson that their requests for procurement of the Stoner 63 are being ignored. At some point, the opinion is expressed that there is “an effort by some Army individuals to submerge the program.”

Aberdeen’s BRL publishes the report “Kinematic Evaluation of the Special Purpose Individual Weapon Prototypes.” Three prototype weapons from each of the four contractors were delivered to BRL for kinematic analysis and evaluation. An extensive series of tests were conducted to furnish data for selecting the prototype which would be most advantageous to develop for the SPIW system.

The BRL also publishes “Summary of Test Data and Effectiveness Evaluation of SPIW.”

CDC publishes “Analysis of Operational and Organizational Concepts for Special Purpose Individual Weapon (SPIW).”

The HEL publishes “Auditory and Acoustical Evaluation of SPIW.”

The HEL also publishes “Human Factors Evaluation of Three SPIW Prototype Weapons.”

WECOM HQ requests Springfield to design, develop, and fabricate single-shot grenade launchers for the SPIW as a backup to the multi-round launchers. Delivery is requested to be no later than February 1965. Springfield conceives two types: a side pivot type and a center pivot type. Under an existing design support contract, Springfield uses an outside facility to design and draft the side pivot type launcher. The fabrication is performed in-house at Springfield. For the center pivot type launcher, Springfield places a new contract for the design, development, and fabrication of the launcher. Ultimately, the side pivot type launcher is not ready in time for testing. However, four center pivot type launchers are delivered to Fort Benning for evaluation.

The 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg submits their first monthly field report on the XM16E1. Five of the rifles were defective as delivered from the factory. One rifle would not accept a magazine due to mismachining of the upper receiver. In another rifle, a carrier key screw was missing; its hole was not even threaded. The gas tube was bent in another, causing it to batter the carrier key. Two had the minor issue of being shipped with a M16 carrier, which is not notched for the XM16E1 bolt assist. They also report shortages in basic issue items, like magazines, slings, bipods, and cleaning materiel, which were to be shipped with the rifles. It is noted that the bolt carrier group will rust when exposed to moisture, and they recommend that the Technical Manual be revised to instruct a light coat of oil for the entire bolt and bolt carrier. Four firing pin retaining pins have broken . They also recommend that the fragile M11 cleaning rod be replaced as 49 rods have already broken at the joints during use. They also request issue of blank ammunition and blank firing attachments.

ACSFOR LTG Harrell submits a fact sheet to General Johnson with a description of the Stoner 63 weapon system and its current status, noting the limitations of the system cited by WECOM. These limitations are insufficient barrel life, weak belt pull, stock breakage while launching grenades, insufficient operating energy under adverse conditions, and unreliable tracer functioning in the machine gun.

Frankford Arsenal receives program authority to acquire 20 million 5.56mm M193 cartridges for the Army for FY 1965.

Anticipating problems with the commercial case hardness specifications, Frankford Arsenal also begins a study of 5.56mm case hardness.

The USAIB publishes the report “Service Test of Cartridge, Tracer, 5.56MM, XM196.”

Colt’s Foster Sturtevant files a patent application for a four-position selector switch mechanism for the CAR-15 family (Safe-Semi-Burst-Auto).

Colt’s Karl Lewis and Robert Roy file a patent application for the design of the CGL-4.

The BRL publishes “The Aerodynamic Characteristics of a S.P.I.W. Projectile.”

Colt representatives verbally outline four different proposals for obtaining the M16 TDP and manufacturing rights:

  1. Establishes a price of $5,400,000 plus a 5 percent royalty. A $10 credit is offered for each rifle ordered. This includes rifles that have already been delivered. Credit will also be given for spare parts purchases. The TDP will include the M16, XM16E1, and two-round burst control, but not blank ammunition, grenade launchers, or grenades. The TDP will only be delivered after full payment is made;
  2. Provides immediate delivery of the TDP upon cash payment of $3,600,000, plus a 7.5 percent royalty;
  3. Requests the order of 400,000 rifles plus a 5 percent royalty; and
  4. Requests the order of 200,000 rifles, a cash payment of $2,500,000, a guarantee of 50 percent of all future procurement plus a 4 percent royalty.

Colt also offers a separate proposal for licensing the grenade launcher.

LTC Yount’s title is changed to “Project Manager, Rifles” (PMR). With this, he is now responsible for the SPIW program along with the M16.

In the 17th contract modification of contract “508”, the option clause is invoked to procure 33,500 M16 rifles for the USAF, 240 for the US Navy, and 82 for the Coast Guard. In addition, 25 repair part items are added to the contract. The changes are worth $4,305,749.62.

Aberdeen’s D&PS releases “Final Report of Comparison Test of Rifle, 5.56mm M16.” The purpose of this test was to determine if production-line samples of M16 rifles would comply with performance specifications; to detect any design, manufacturing, or inspection deficiencies; and to determine the accuracy and the ability of the rifle to function when subjected to automatic-fire roles and under various adverse conditions. While only based on a sample of five rifles, it notes that malfunctions tend to occur after 1,000rds are fired with cleaning and lubrication. It also suggests that special brushes be issued for cleaning the chamber, lug recesses, and the inside of the bolt carrier.

From Colt Industries, MG Lynde (Ret.) sends a letter to the Boston Army Procurement District requesting four classified reports, including “Comparative Effectiveness Evaluation of the AR-15, M14.”

The US Army awards $16,415.02 to Colt for changes in the bolt carrier assembly.

Colt’s Robert Roy files a patent application for a collapsible buttstock.

Frankford Arsenal completes a study on the measurement of 5.56mm case hardness. No action to establish metallurgical controls over production is taken. The TCC sees no apparent need for such controls in view of the absence of cartridge case ruptures with 5.56mm ammunition manufactured to current specification. Although some ruptures have already occurred, they have been attributed to other factors such as water in the bore.

The military specification for M197 High Pressure Test, MIL-C-46936(MU), is revised to MIL-C-46936A(MU).

The AMC publishes the report “Development of Special-Purpose Individual Weapon (SPIW) System.”

McNamara announces the plan to phase out 95 military installations, including Springfield Armory. The closure of Springfield is justified by a projected annual savings of $4.6 million. Private industry is believed to be able to provide the military’s small arms at lower costs.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Vance receives a memo from the Department of the Army titled “Army Small Arms Weapons Program.”

The US Army signs the contract modification for the additional 33,822 M16 ordered the month before.

DCSLOG LTG Lincoln presents “Study of Procurement of M14 Rifles” to General Johnson. The study emphasizes that by the end of FY 1966, the combined assets of M14 and M1 rifles will be insufficient to meet requirements, and by the end of FY 1970, a deficit of 85,813 weapons will exist. The report also states: “Pending receipt of the follow-on weapon, the Army staff prefers the M14 rifle over the M16.” LTG Lincoln recommends that 100,000 M14 rifles be procured in the FY 1966 budget.

USMC briefers tell Deputy Secretary Vance that “the Army has a closed mind on the Stoner system and has been dragging its feet.” The Deputy DDR&E relays to General Johnson that concurrence to this opinion is rapidly growing hold in the DOD. Following this exchange, General Johnson orders that directives be prepared to the Army Staff, CONARC, CDC, and AMC to include the following: 1) tighten the doctrinal bases for the rifle and machine gun; 2) establish the QM, and follow it by the military characteristics needed; and 3) concurrently conduct a thorough test of the Stoner weapons family in order to get the data needed in advance to measure against the military characteristics, which will be determined later.

In a memo to the Army’s Vice Chief of Staff titled “Army Opposition to Outside Proposals,” LTG Dick acknowledges that the “not invented here” (NIH) problem is a real one and is recognized as such by the Army Staff. However, it is his opinion, despite allegation and inference to the contrary, that NIH is not the real reason behind either the Army’s position or actions with regard to the Stoner and AR-15 rifle systems. It is rather that in these cases the Army has real doubt about the wisdom of developing and buying the proposed items or system for one or more of the following reasons: 1) no valid requirement exists; 2) the design capabilities of the proposed design system are dubious; 3) test results have been unsatisfactory; and 4) the items or system are not compatible with Army doctrine and other existing systems.

The AMC requests that TECOM prepare plans for engineering and service tests of the Stoner 63 system. A TECOM directive is issued and planning begins.

The day before the USMC is to brief Secretary Ailes on the Stoner 63 family, General Johnson writes Ailes:

“I believe that it would be useful for me to bring you up to date on what has transpired and also to make my views known prior to the time that you hear the (USMC Stoner) presentation. The Vice Chief of Staff had met with appropriate members of the staff to discuss the Army rifle program generally and specifically how we intend to cope with what was beginning to shape up as an all out effort by the Marine Corps to sell the Stoner system…. You will remember that after you were briefed on the Army rifle program on 18 August, you asked the staff to study the overall rifle situation in order to determine whether a limited procurement of the M14 rifles in FY 66 could be justified. DCSLOG has completed its study, and I cannot recommend that we buy in 1966. As a matter of fact it now looks as though our assets vs. requirements picture remains good through FY 1967.

“In summary, I believe that we can and should completely re-evaluate our small arms weapons program, starting with a review of doctrine. Our posture is such that we can afford to take this action over the next year or two with a minimal risk. Only by such a deliberate and thorough approach will I be confident that our small arms weapons program reaching into the 70’s will be on firm footing. I am hopeful that the Marine Corps will subscribe to this approach, will monitor our efforts as they habitually do, and will not attempt to precipitate an early decision which could prejudice the future combat effectiveness of both the Army and the Marine Corps. General Greene has given me oral assurance that he does not intend to pursue a course that diverges from that of the Army at this point.”

The next day, in the memo CSM 64-484, General Johnson formally directs the Army Staff to initiate a review and evaluation of the Army Small Arms Weapon Systems (SAWS), to include studies of doctrinal employment and desired characteristics, test and evaluation of existing weapon systems, and analytical evaluation of weapons under development or feasible within the time frame, 1965-1980. The object is to develop the necessary analytical background upon which to base a program for replacement of existing stocks of small arms as the inventory drops below requirements, or replacement of the inventory with weapon families of demonstrated superiority over all other families, based upon cost effectiveness considerations. The memo further states that the review must not be limited by present commitments, agreements, or doctrinal dogma, but must be of sufficient breadth and comprehensiveness to serve as a basis for the re-establishment of an Army position on small arms families. “It must be based on a dispassionate analysis of those factors which can be quantified, coupled with unbiased judgment applied to those factors which cannot be quantified.” Staff responsibility is assigned to ACSFOR LTG Harrell.

DCSLOG LTG Lincoln’s recommendation to procure 100,000 M14 rifles in the FY 1966 budget is officially withdrawn.

Federal continues to default on deliveries due to their continued inability to qualify a preproduction sample. The Chicago Army Procurement District sends a letter to Federal Cartridge requesting a fourth pre-production sample lot. By the end of the month, Federal is behind schedule by 9,837,000 rounds. LTC Yount refuses to give up on Federal Cartridge as he believes it is in the best interest of the government to have three manufacturers of M193 to provide for emergency requirements and assure competitive pricing. Remington also has a bad month and is behind 2,929,000 rounds.

The USAIB publishes “Final Report of Military Potential Test of Rifle, 5.56mm, AR-18.”

The Marine Corps Operations Analysis Group publishes “Analysis of Firing Data of the Marine Rifle Squad Armed with Stoner 63 Weapons.”

Results of the SPIW Phase I evaluation are complete. While the candidates are not considered to be mature enough for Phase II full-scale engineering development, certain trends are noted. The Springfield SPIW is judged to be the most reliable and accurate. AAI’s SPIW is the lightest, simplest, and considered to be most durable. However, none of the systems are considered to be particularly reliable or durable, and testers complained of the candidates’ weight, rapid over-heating, and their excessive muzzle blast and flash. Finally, the cartridges themselves are still too fragile, the pressures are too high, the tactical penetration and accuracy are inadequate, and the experimental fléchette tracer cartridge cannot provide a decent visual trace.

In a briefing to General Besson, WECOM reports on the current status of the SPIW program. Eight problems are discussed:

  1. Three-Shot Semiautomatic Grenade Launcher: No satisfactorily functioning prototype is available, and it is doubtful that such a launcher can be developed without exceeding the then maximum weight requirement for the SPIW system. The considerable bulk of any three-shot launcher also presents difficulties.
  2. Sabot Hazard: Limited tests of the ammunition indicates that sabot fragments are slightly hazardous as far as 20 feet from the muzzle. The technical characteristics require that the fragments be nonhazardous beyond 15 feet from the muzzle.
  3. XM110 Type Cartridge: This piston-primer cartridge is suffering from a number of deficiencies: high cost, low level of performance reliability, questionable safety, long-term storage failures, and interior ballistics problems.
  4. Sabot Manufacturing Costs: The sabot is the most expensive and difficult to manufacture of all the components of the point-target ammunition.
  5. Noise: All of the SPIW weapons (and the M16 with muzzle brake compensator) produce peak sound pressures far in excess of 159 decibels. Sound pressures are high enough to produce permanent damage to the hearing of as many as 20 percent of the personnel equipped with these weapons.
  6. Flash: Only the Springfield Armory variant exhibits acceptable flash suppression.
  7. Sabot Stripper: The maximum demonstrated life of the device is reported as 2,000 rounds.
  8. Tracer: The stated user requirements are reported to be beyond the then present state-of-the-art within the design parameters of the current fléchette.

Five possible approaches are discussed to continued development leading to type classification of SPIW. The current program is a 14-month accelerated development effort, with type classification scheduled for the end of the third quarter of FY 1966 (March 1966). However, this is described as an “extremely high risk alternative” and the plan least likely to result in an entirely satisfactory weapon at the time of type classification. Following this approach would necessitate continuing the development of only the AAI version, as there would be insufficient time to exploit the advantages of the Springfield design.

The alternative courses of action call for either 20, 26, 35, or 50 month development efforts. Type classification under these alternatives would be scheduled for the first quarter of FY 1967, the third quarter of FY 1967, the second quarter of FY 1968, and the third quarter of FY 1969, respectively. WECOM recommends the 35-month development effort as the course of action which will: 1) assure satisfactory completion of the engineering and service tests; 2) provide for type classification a system with the highest reliability and fewer manufacturing start-up problems; 3) have no unsolved technical problems with the piston-primer type cartridge; and 4) provide a tracer cartridge at the time of the engineering and service tests that would meet the WECOM-proposed relaxed characteristics. General Besson accepts the WECOM recommendation.

The CRDL publishes “Kinetic P/K Studies of a Sharp-Nose Beehive Configuration Versus a Blunt-Nose Sting-Ray Configuration.”

ACSFOR LTG Harrell issues memo CSM 64-555 with a detailed directive for the SAWS study. It states:

“Wherever current doctrine of the tactical employment of small arms would seem to rule out consideration of a particular small arms weapon system, it will be carefully re-examined and if necessary new doctrine applicable to the particular system developed.

“The comparison of small arms weapon systems must be based on both technical and tactical considerations which exploit fully the special characteristics peculiar to each system. It is conceivable that new and improved doctrine for the employment of small arms will have as much influence on the choice of a small arms weapon system as the technical characteristics of the weapons themselves.”

The target date for completion of the SAWS study is July 1, 1966 with a final decision regarding procurement expected by July 31, 1966.

The US Army’s CDC begins work on the SAWS program.

After loading ~50 million rounds of 5.56mm ammunition, Remington and DuPont withdraw CR 8136 from use due to the inability to maintain pressure limits from lot to lot. Remington asks for permission to finish their production run using WC846, and submits a pre-production sample of M193 loaded with WC846 later in the month. XM16E1 acceptance testing at Colt continues with remaining stocks of CR 8136-loaded ammunition.

Frankford Arsenal publishes “Deliveries of 5.56mm Ball Ammunition.”

Gene Stoner files a patent application for the design of the Stoner 63’s clamp-on bipod.

(Next: 5.56mm 1965)

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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