The 5.56 X 45mm “Timeline” – 1977

A Chronology of Development by Daniel E. Watters



Testing at Aberdeen confirms that the XM777 and XM778 are indeed “superior” in performance to the issue M193 and M196.

The US provides 3,153 M16A1 and 72 M203 to Indonesia as part of a military assistance package.

The US provides 2,020 M16A1 to Thailand as part of a military assistance package.

The US makes a FMS of 20,000 M16A1 to Israel.

Austria adopts the 5.56mm Steyr AUG bullpup rifle as the Sturmgewehr 77 (StG 77).

Phase II of the British IW/LSW‘s initial development stage has begun with the construction of a third series of improved prototypes. These models now have flip-up, back-up iron sights fitted, the magazine release has been moved from the left side of the receiver to the rear of the magazine well, and a lever switch has replaced the push-through safety button. Left-hand models are also available for the IW and the LSW. The right hand models are named the XL64 IW and the XL65 LSW. The southpaw models are designated the XL68 IW and the XL69 LSW.

The Swiss drop further experiments with the 5.56x48mm Eiger in favor of a new 6.35mm cartridge. This is later increased in size to create the 6.45x48mm.

Remington engineering assistant Jim Stekl begins competing in benchrest matches with the experimental .22 BR. It uses a modified .308 Winchester case shortened roughly to the same length as the .22 PPC.

The US provides 500 M203 to the Philippines as part of a military assistance package.

The US makes a FMS of 500 M203 to Burma.

Early 1977:
At the Biathlon World Championships in Norway, the Russian Biathlon team uses a 5.6x45mm cartridge. It is roughly a lengthened version of the 5.6x39mm Running Deer cartridge (or possibly, a 7.62x45mm Czech case necked down). Collectors claim to have found cases with headstamps dating back to 1968.

ARMCOM is split into the US Army Armament Materiel Readiness Command (ARRCOM) at Rock Island and the US Army Armament Research and Development Command (ARRADCOM) at Picatinny. The R&D missions of the Rodman Laboratory at Rock Island and the fire control laboratory at Frankford are transfered to Picatinny. Arsenal is dropped from Picatinny’s name.

Robert Snodgrass and Michael Tyler, on behalf of the US Army, receive US Patent #4,004,496 titled “M16A1 Burst Control.”

Paul Tellie receives US Patent #4,002,101 titled “Firearms.”

The US Embassy receives a request from the Indonesian Department of Defense and Security the availability of $30 million in FMS credits for a M16A1 co-production facility. Indonesia desires to convert the Indonesian Army Military Industries (PINDAD) small arms factory. Colt and Lockheed have both submitted proposals.

Ford Aerospace outbids Maremont, and is awarded the XM248 contract.

Rodman Laboratory publishes “Bore Erosion and Accuracy of M16A1 Rifle.” An analysis was conducted on the performance of M16A1 rifles made by three manufacturers with the use of two kinds of ammunition and three rates of fire. Data include extreme spread and bore erosion gage measurements, each as a function of the number of rounds fired. Consistency is lacking in the experimental data, even though identical tests were performed. Probably, random vibrations of the gun barrel or other unknown phenomena may be the reason for inconsistency of spread data. Inconsistency in the penetration of erosion gages may be due to fouling deposits on the bore surface and to lack of properly designed tools for unique measurements. Large variations occur in the useful life of the barrels due to variations in manufacturing, ammunition, and firing rate. The typical rate of erosion is about one-thousandth of an inch per thousand rounds of fire. Gauge Number 6 may be used to measure barrel erosion and ultimately to indicate when to discard the barrel. Erosion increases and the useful life of the weapon decreases with an increase in rate of fire. The useful life of the weapon may be approximated as inversely proportional to the two-third power of the firing rate.

Secretary of the Army Clifford L. Alexander, Jr. approves the decision to close Frankford Arsenal.

The USMC drops testing of a prototype M16 HBAR developed by Maxwell Atchisson. It was intended to serve as an interim SAW.

Paul Tellie receives US Patent #4,012,844 titled “Sighting Devices for Firearms.”

Singapore requests a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) for co-production of the M203. This is to be a joint venture with Thailand. Initial estimates for production are 2,000 for Singapore and 6,000 for Thailand. This is revised to 2,000-2,500 and 5,000-6,000 per year. The US Defense Attaché Office (USDAO) in Singapore, the Chief of JUSMAG-THAI, and the US Embassy in Thailand endorse the proposal.

The NATO trial candidates (ammunition and weapons) begin technical testing.

On behalf of the AMSAA, the Vertex Corporation publishes “Study of the Small Arms Incapacitation Prediction System.”

Frankford Arsenal publishes the report “Laser Annealing of 5.56mm and 20mm Cartridge Cases.” The feasibility of using a CO2 laser to perform production rate mouth annealing operations on 5.56mm and 20mm cartridge cases as part of the small caliber ammunition modernization program (SCAMP) is examined. Experimental results with a 1 KW CO2 laser confirm that the 5.56mm cartridge case can be mouth annealed in approximately .100 seconds, as predicted analytically. These times, however, are longer than that desired for SCAMP production rates and as a result, larger lasers are required. Although the laser annealing process does have some special attributes, unless they can be fully utilized and are required, replacement of present annealing techniques with the laser does not appear to be economically practical at the present time.

FN‘s Maurice Bourlet files an US patent application for the Minimi’s loaded feed tray indicator and another for its auxiliary magazine feed system.

George L. Reynolds, on behalf of the US Army, receives US Patent #4,019,424 titled “Cartridge Soft Feed Mechanism with Magazine Interrupter.”

The US Army awards $2,726,000, $533,000, and $23,000 contracts to Colt related to the M16. The Army also awards a $499,000 contract to Colt for FMS.

MAS delivers the A7 prototype of the FAMAS.

HK‘s Tilo Möller receives US Patent #4,024,792 titled “Automatic Shoulder Arm.”

The US Army awards a $863,000 contract to Colt related to the M203.

The Office of the DDR&E requests a review of the SAW program. While briefing DDR&E personnel, the new SAW project officer, MAJ Robert D. Whittington III, requests additional funding: $1,945,000 for FY 1978 and $875,000 for FY 1979. This will permit completion of the advanced development phase and allow for head-to-head trials of the FN Minimi and XM248.

Aberdeen publishes the report “Product Improvement Test of Cartridge, 5.56-MM Ball, XM777.”

Sydney Hance files an US patent application for the cosmetic design of the XL64 IW.

HK‘s Dieter Ketterer files an US patent application for the G11’s magazine and magazine chargers.

The US Army awards a $41,000 contract to Colt related to the M16.

The US Army awards a $330,000 contract modification to Colt related to the M203.

Testing concludes of the FAMAS A7.

The US Army awards a $924,000 contract to Colt related to the M16.

While briefing Deputy Chief of Staff for Research, Development, and Acquisition (DCSRADA) LTG Howard H. Cooksey, MAJ Whittington outlines plans for an engineering development phase for the SAW program. LTG Cooksey does not approve the plan. Instead, the advanced development stage is to be continued through the end of FY 1979. A design maturity phase can begin only after NATO approves its new cartridge. This phase should be an eighteen-month effort with an eye toward fielding the SAW at the beginning of FY 1982. In addition, the program should include a new M16 HBAR variant, requested by the ODCSOPS.

The US Army awards a $314,000 contract modification to Colt related to the M203.

The French Army General Staff adopts the FAMAS A7 as the FAMAS F1. An order is placed for 236,000 rifles. These will be delivered without the three round burst mechanism as it has not yet been perfected.

Frankford Arsenal is closed at the end of the month.

The US Army awards a $626,000 contract and a $427,000 contract modification to Colt related to the M16 for FMS.

Aberdeen publishes the M1report “Product Improvement Test of CMR-170 Propellant for Cartridge, 5.56-MM, Tracer, M196.”

The US Army awards $55,000, $38,000, and $48,000 contract modifications to Colt related to the M203.

MAS continues study of the three round burst mechanism for the FAMAS.

President Carter personally assures the Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew that the sale of the M203 TDP will be approved.

DARCOM and DCSRADA LTG Cooksey scrape up enough funds to sustain the SAW program through FY 1978.

The Singaporean request for the M203 TDP is formally approved by President Carter.

The USMC provides an additional $200,000 in funds for the development of the new M16 HBARSAW.

Lake City begins production of cartridge cases using SCAMP machines. SCAMP machines are also provided to Taiwan.

The Defense Security Assistance Agency (DSAA) receives Colt’s request for an export license for the establishment of a M16 manufacturing facility in Indonesia. By the end of the year, the DSAA has not received the contract information needed to draw up a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for approval of Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Congress.

(Next: 5.56mm 1978)

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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