The 5.56 X 45mm “Timeline” – 1976

A Chronology of Development by Daniel E. Watters



ARMCOM publishes the report “System Assessment for the 5.56mm M16A1 and Grenade Launcher M203.”

The HEL publishes “Squad Automatic Weapon System (SAWS) Human Engineering Evaluation.”

The 5.56 XM287 Ball and XM288 Tracer are redesignated XM779 and XM780 respectively.

Lake City receives its first SCAMP machines.

The US State Department again declines permission to South Korea to export M16A1 rifles to Morocco.

Elisco Tool Company of Manila begins manufacture of the Model 613P and 653P. In the years preceding this, the Philippine government has purchased nearly 45,000 Model 613 directly from Colt.

The US provides 1,148 M16A1 and 66 M203 to Indonesia as part of a military assistance package.

The US provides 2,262 M16A1 to Thailand as part of a military assistance package.

The US makes a FMS of ~1,000 M16A1 to Zaire.

Chile purchases ~5,000 M16A1 from Colt.

Ghana purchases ~2,000 M16A1 from Colt.

Nicaragua purchases ~6,000 M16A1 from Colt.

The Human Engineering Labs (HEL) at Aberdeen develops a four-shot, semi auto grenade launcher for the prototype 30mm grenade. These are then mounted to different test rifles.

The US provides 229 M203 to the Philippines as part of a military assistance package. A separate FMS of 1,500 M203 is also made.

FN introduces its replacement for the CAL: the FNC. The Swedish military enters the FNC in its 5.56mm rifle trials. Competitors include the Colt M16A1, the FFV 890C (a modified IMI Galil SAR), the HK 33, and the SIG SG540.

HK shelves the HK 36 project in favor of the G11.

Beretta introduces the AR70/78 LMG. Unlike many HBAR rifle designs, the AR70/78 possesses a quick-change barrel.

CETME introduces prototypes of its new 5.56mm Model L rifle and Model LC carbine.

AAI introduces its 4.32x45mm Serial Bullet Rifle (SBR) prototype.

Taiwan introduces the domestically produced Type 65 rifle, a variant of the M16. Prior to this, ~47,000 M16A1 had been purchased from Colt.

The US Army Chemical Systems Laboratory considers the analysis “Provisional Tumbling Fléchette Criteria.”

AMC is redesignated the US Army Development and Readiness Command (DARCOM).

The US Army awards a $541,000 contract to Colt related to the M16. The Army also awards a $126,000 contract modification related to the 1967 Licensing Agreement and an additional $60,000 contract modification for overhaul and maintenance.

ARMCOM‘s Systems Analysis Directorate publishes the report “Analysis of Proposed Solutions to the 5.56mm Blank Cartridge (M200) Malfunction Rate.” The objective of the study was to compare alternative solutions to correct the 5.56mm Blank Cartridge (M200) malfunction rate. Several alternatives were evaluated to determine the expected time and cost to correct the problem. These alternatives included: redesign the 5.56mm Blank Cartridge using brass, steel, and aluminum; increase the length of the present M200 blank cartridge; modify the 20-round magazine; or use the 30-round magazine. Redesigning and/or increasing the length of the M200 Blank Cartridge are the most expensive alternatives in terms of cost and time. The modified 20-round magazine is likely to solve the stubbing problem, but the introduction of another item into the inventory has met with user opposition. Based on limited test data, the 30-round magazine has demonstrated an acceptable stubbing rate (3 percent). This is the low cost alternative because the 20-round magazine is currently being phased out and replaced by the 30-round magazine. It is recommended that a confirmation test should be performed by the user to verify the low stubbing rate of the M200 Blank Cartridge used with the 30-round magazine.

Paul Tellie receives US Patent #3,930,316 titled “Sighting Means of a Firearm.”

Jean-Claude Marie Minaire receives US Patent #3,930,433 titled “Automatic Firearms with Bolt Assisted by an Additional Mass.”

The US Army Electronics Command publishes the report “Thermal Imaging Rifle Sight Development Program.” The Army Armament Command funded the Night Vision Laboratory for the development and test of a Thermal Imaging Rifle Sight having a semi-automatic aiming function. Threshold, search, and firing tests of the 3 micrometers to 5 micrometers system mounted to a M16 rifle were conducted. Test data showed average threshold recognition ranges of 811 meters for man targets and 960 meters for large, vehicular targets. Firing tests at 300 meters using man-size targets produced 32 percent hits with the standard system lens compared to 67 percent hits with a telephoto lens. The semi-automatic aiming function requires further refinement in order to obtain meaningful test data.

The US Army deallocates $305,000 in a contract modification to H&R related to the M16.

After Army brass makes it clear that they and their NATO allies are not likely to adopt a third infantry cartridge, the US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) chooses the FN Minimi and the Rodman XM235 for future development, in conjunction with the new 5.56mm XM777 Ball and XM778 Tracer. The US XM777 is similar in construction to what we now know as the FN SS109; however, the XM777 projectile is shorter and lighter making it suitable for 1-in-12″ twist weapons. The XM778 tracer is capable of a visible trace out to 750 meters.

Frankford Arsenal publishes “Study of the Temperature Effects on the Ballistic Performance of 5.56 mm Ammunition.”

Rock Island Arsenal publishes “Evaluation of Lubricating Composites for the M16A1 Rifle.” A follow-up test is carried out with five composite-lubricated rifles and one MIL-L46000A lubricated rifle as a control. The composite inserts, though slightly different in shape, were placed in the same areas as for the original test. The test on the five composite-lubricated rifles had an average of six malfunctions versus one in the original test. Three of the rifles were terminated before 10,000 rounds because of the fracture of the inserts. Nevertheless, there tests have demonstrated the feasibility of the use of the self-lubricating inserts. However, care must be exercised to insure that the inserts fit properly and are backed up with sufficient high-strength material.

Frankford Arsenal publishes “Firing Shock Measurements on the M16 Rifle/M203 Grenade Launcher System.” Shock measurements were obtained on a mock-up of a proposed Mini-Laser Rangefinder when attached to a M16 Rifle fitted with a M203 Grenade Launcher. Firing data was obtained using both 40mm and 5.56mm ammunition.

Paul Tellie receives US Patent #3,938,273 titled “Firearm Having Two Pivoted Props,” US Patent #3,938,422 titled “Automatic Firearms Having a Bolt Assisted by an Additional Mass,” and US Patent #3,939,589 titled “Firearms with Forestock.”

The US Army awards a $13,000 contract to Colt related to the M16.

Aberdeen’s BRL publishes the report “Computer Study and Experimental Verification of a Short Gas Tube and Floating Piston Gas System for the XM19.” Arriving far too late to matter, the BRL suggests that a gas-operated action would have been preferable to AAI’s long use of a primer-actuated action.

The US Army awards a $35,000 contract modification to Colt related to the 1967 Licensing Agreement.

Frankford Arsenal publishes the report “Interdraw Annealing on the SCAMP Case Submodule.” A decision risk analysis was performed to determine the optimal number of cup draws and interdraw anneals required during manufacture of 5.56mm brass cartridge cases on modernized, high speed production equipment. The recommended approach to satisfying the current 5.56mm TDP consists of a two draw process without an interdraw anneal. However, should a grain structure requirement be imposed on the existing TDP, then the optimal configuration would be two draws with an interdraw anneal. These recommendations are limited to 5.56mm brass cases only and can not be extended to other calibers or case materials without reviewing and revising the input data.

Waterbury Farrell publishes the report “Case, Cartridge, 5.56mm Sub-Module.” Waterbury Farrell designed and furnished eight PC115 presses as well as ancillary equipment for the complete manufacture of the 5.56mm brass cartridge case from the standard three draw cup to a finished pierced case ready for priming. The PC115 is a 15 station, variable speed, inline press of commercial design which was modified and supplemented for this submodule. The entire line was designed for a gross output of 1440 pieces per minute and has the capacity to produce cartridge cases up to .30 caliber and 7.62mm. The submodule is completely automated so that the operator need not handle the draw piece from the cup to the finished case. The developed design features a series – parallel system for greater flexibility, electronic automatic sensing and warning devices, and preset tool modules for ease and speed in replacing tools.

Calspan Corp. publishes the report “Caseless Ammunition Heat Transfer. Volume III.” Heat transfer studies were performed for small and medium caliber caseless ammunition to evaluate the thermal performance of existing fixtures and ammunition, devise and evaluate mathematical techniques by which the thermal behavior of future weapons may be predicted and problem areas identified prior to weapon design, and obtain information which can lead to improvement in future weapons and ammunition. The study continues previous work on 5.56mm and 27mm caseless ammunition. Some measurements of the heating of an M16 rifle firing cased 5.56mm ammunition are initially reported as a basis of comparison of caseless ammunition. The primary emphasis of the 5.56mm testing is directed toward High Ignition Temperature Propellant (HITP) rounds. Firing tests and laboratory cook-off tests were conducted with HITP and analysis was conducted to evaluate the potential of caseless ammunition during burst firing schedules. A mathematical model was developed which provides an adequate tool by which the thermal effects of rapid fire may be predicted based upon single-shot testing.

Argentina’s Fabrica Militar de Arms Portalies “Domingo Matheu” (FMAP-DM) begins development of a 5.56x45mm rifle. Enrique Chichizola leads the project team.

CETME‘s Dr. Günther Voss receives US Patent #3,949,677 titled “Small Caliber Projectile with an Asymmetrical Point.”

Paul Tellie receives US Patent #3,952,440 titled “Firearms Having Two Orifices for Ejection of the Empty Shells.”

Abe Flatau, Donald N. Olson, and Miles C. Miller receive US Patent #3,951,070 titled “Non-Hazardous Ring Airfoil Projectile of Non-Lethal Material.”

George L. Reynolds, on behalf of the US Army, files a patent application for the feed system of the HEL 30mm semi-auto grenade launcher attachment.

Robert Snodgrass and Michael Tyler, on behalf of the US Army, file a patent application for a recyclable burst mechanism for the M16A1.

DARCOM publishes “The Effect of Varying Certain Parameters on the Performance of the S.C.A.M.P. Produced 5.56 mm Projectile.” This study investigates the effect of changing the boattail and the nose radius on the performance of the current 5.56 mm bullet. The results showed that elimination of the boattail had a detrimental effect on the performance while a change in the nose radius had no change on the performance of the 5.56 mm bullet.

The US Army awards a $3,081,000 contract modification to Colt related to the M16. The Army also awards a $14,000 contract for inspection gauges and precision layout tools.

DARCOM and TRADOC recommend changes to the SAW Materiel Needs Document: 1) Indicate the re-emphasis to 5.56mm from the earlier 6mm; and 2) Reduce the tracer requirement to “up to 800 meters” from “over 800 meters.”

During the Conference of National Armament Directors, ten NATO countries, along with France, sign the “Memorandum of Understanding Relating to the Testing and Evaluation of Small Arms Ammunition and weapons for the Post-1980 Period.” This leads to the creation of the Small Arms Test Control Commission and paves the way for the eventual adoption of a second standard NATO cartridge.

RSAF Enfield publicly unveils its new 4.85mm Infantry Small Arms System.

Sterling begins production of the AR-18 rifle.

The US Army awards a $27,000 contract modification to Colt related to the M203.

The US Army awards a $29,000 contract modification to Colt for overhaul and maintenance.

The British Army’s Infantry Trial and Development Unit (ITDU) begins trials to determine the ideal reticule configuration for the SUSAT. The early model used an inverted post like the earlier SUIT. Later models use a standard post/pointer with a clear midsection.

Colt’s Stanley Silsby and Henry Tatro receive US Patent #3,977,296 titled “Hydraulic Buffer Assembly for Automatic or Semiautomatic Firearm.”

Frankford Arsenal publishes the report “Development of a Structurally Sound 5.56 MM Bullet with a GMCS Jacket.”

FN‘s Maurice Bourlet receives US Patent #3,974,739 titled “Belt Ammunition Box for Portable Weapons.”

Aberdeen’s HEL publishes the report “Experiment for the Selections of Reflex-Collimating Sight Components.” An evaluation and selection of certain optical components of the reflex-collimating sight for the Improved M16 was conducted.

Abe Flatau, Donald N. Olson, and Miles C. Miller receive US Patent #3,982,489 titled “Kinetic Energy Ring Projectile.”

Frankford Arsenal publishes the report “Feasibility Study of 5.56 MM Folded Ammunition/Weapon System.” Testing was conducted with M16A1 and FN FAL modified for a 5.56mm folded cartridge loaded with the FABRL bullet.

The BRL issues the report “Calculation of Criteria for Fléchette Deformation in a Tissue Simulant.”

The US Army awards a $206,000 contract modification to Colt related to the M16.

The US Army approves the changes to the SAW Materiel Need Document. DARCOM requests a bid to redesign the Rodman XM235 from 6x45mm to 5.56mm, incorporate improvements, and produce 18 prototypes. The redesigned model is renamed the XM248.

The military specification for M193 Ball, MIL-C-9963E, is revised to MIL-C-9963F.

The military specification for M197 Tracer, MIL-C-60111B, is revised to MIL-C-60111C.

On behalf of the US Army, Robert F. Magardo, Leonard R. Ambrosini, and Raymond S. Isenson file another patent application for their version of the Dual Cycle Rifle. Their design uses an asymmetrical three-chamber cylinder, and can reportedly achieve three-round burst rates of up to 4,900 rounds per minute.

HK‘s Tilo Möller and Dieter Ketterer file an US patent application for the design of the G11.

MAS delivers 23 A6 prototypes of the FAMAS for evaluation.

HK submits its latest G11 prototype to NATO‘s Small Arms Test Control Commission.

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

On behalf of the US Army, Hugh D. MacDonald, Jr. and Peter Tietz receive US Patent #3,988,990 titled “Projectile.”

For the first time, female trainees and student officers in the US Army have to qualify on the M16A1 rifle before they can graduate from basic training.

Funding for the SAW project is eliminated for Fiscal Years 1978 and 79.

NATO‘s AC/225 Panel III publishes “Evaluation Procedures for Future NATO Weapon Systems: Individual Weapons; Support Weapons; Area Fire Weapons.”

On behalf of the US Army, Curtis D. Johnson, Lonnie D. Antwiler, Larry C. McFarland, Arthur R. Meyer, Fred J. Skahill, Doyle L. White, Keith L. Witwer, and Richard L. Wulff receive US Patent #3,999,461 titled “Modular Lightweight Squad Automatic Weapon System.”

HK‘s Günter Kästner, Dieter Ketterer, Tilo Möller, and Ernst Wössner receive US Patent #3,997,994 titled “Shoulder Arm with Swivel Breech Member.”

Paul Tellie receives US Patent #3,999,318 titled “Firearms Involving Two Ejection Outlets for Empty Cases.”

(Next: 5.56mm 1977)

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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