The 5.56 X 45mm “Timeline” – 1997

A Chronology of Development by Daniel E. Watters



The USAF begins to convert older M16 rifles to a M16A2-type configuration using modification kits.

The final “M4 Carbine Production Engineering Report” is released.

Aimpoint receives a US Army contract for 100,000 CompML red-dot sights, later to be designated the M68.

FN is awarded a contract to provide M5 collapsible buttstocks for the M249.

The L85A1 and L86A1 are withdrawn from NATO‘s Nominated Weapon List.

British researchers begin work on the experimental L85A1 Electronic Individual Weapon (EIW) program. Certain mechanical parts (hammer, sear, firing pin, etc.) are replaced with an electronic fire control system to modify cyclic rate and burst length. Even the ammunition uses electrically ignited primers. Live-fire testing centers around cyclic rates of 300, 450, and 700 rounds per minute. The 300rpm rate provides the most benefits, increasing hits by 19 percent and decreasing full-auto groups by 30 percent.

Turkey adopts the HK 33. The rifles will be produced domestically by MKE.

Vektor introduces the CR-21, an inspired bullpup conversion of their standard R4 rifle. (Vektor is the successor to LEW.)

ACALA awards Colt a $527,252 contract for M4A1 Carbine production.

ACALA awards a $162,552 contract modification to Colt for M4 carbines.

The US Army publishes “Operator’s and Unit Maintenance Manual, Sight, Thermal, AN/PAS-13(V)2 and AN/PAS-13(V)3.”

Aurelius Mooney, Edward Schmitter, and Richard Baker receive US Patent #5,590,484 titled “Universal Mount for Rifle.”

The Government acknowledges that Colt might be entitled to damages because of the unauthorized release, but disputes that the licensing agreement had been materially breached. Relying on Article XX of the licensing agreement, the Government asserts that a breach would arise, and termination would be appropriate, only in the event that the Government failed to use its best efforts to remedy the violation. Because it had presumably corrected its error by recovering all copies of the TDP from the US Navy, and by securing non-disclosure statements from 19 of the 20 contractors (FNMI merely provided a letter attesting that it had not improperly used the data), the Government maintains that it had met its obligation under the licensing agreement. Therefore, the 1967 Licensing Agreement should remain intact.

ACALA awards Colt a $932,069 contract for M4A1 Carbine production.

The military specifications for the M4 carbine, M16A2, and M16A2E3 rifle are each inactivated.

NSWC-Crane issues a solicitation for 50 to 20,000 Backup Iron Sights (BUIS) for issue with the SOPMOD kit.

NSWC-Crane issues a solicitation for COTS/NDI Night Sights (3X-4X) and Pocket Scopes (1x with add on 3-4x magnifier) for issue with the SOPMOD kit. Requirements are that the sight/scope be securely mountable to the upper receiver group of the M4A1 Carbine (MIL-STD-1913 Rail), provide passive aiming capability to 200 meters (further with IR illumination), be durable and waterproof to 66 feet. The intention of mounting the pocket scope to the carbine is for use in combination with a reflex type sight. It would be mounted behind the reflex sight (with and without magnifier installed). The pocket scope should also have head mounting capability as well as a versatile helmet mount. The Night Scope is intended as a stand alone item to replace the 4x ACOG Day Scope for night use. It will have a reticule and adjustments for elevation and windage . Desired Night Vision characteristics include minimum 60 line pair per millimeter resolution and manually adjustable gain control. Power source should be AA batteries (preferably only one).

The first M68 CCO are issued.

British armorers receive improved washers for retrofit to the SUSAT‘s windage screws. The new washers are less likely to rust.

The military specification for the M16 and M16A1, MIL-R-45587A(4), is inactivated.

ACALA awards a $35,055 and $63,264 contract modifications to FNMI for M249.

The US Army Research Laboratory publishes “Venting Propellant Gases to Obtain Nonlethal Projectile Velocity.” The reduction of muzzle velocity by variable venting of a gun barrel was investigated as a means to create a selectable lethal/non-lethal weapon system. Simulation was performed with an interior ballistics code (IBRGA) that was modified to model venting of the barrel. Simulation of an M16A2 rifle showed that venting might reduce the muzzle velocity to non-lethal values if venting could commence earlier than is possible with the present M855 round. To obtain data for comparison, M16 barrels were vented by drilling pluggable holes in the barrel at given intervals. Venting propellant gas from the M16 barrels yielded data that agreed with simulation results for the lower venting areas but exhibited less agreement for high area venting. Thus, the authors conclude that 5.56x45mm weapons are not suitable platforms for the selectable lethality modification. A .50 caliber conversion of the M16 platform is suggested as being more suitable for the modification and will form the basis for future research.

Center Industries receives a contract for 140,000 thirty round magazines.

Gene Stoner dies.

ACALA issues a sole-source solicitation to Colt for 2,031 M4A1 Carbines.

ACALA awards Capco, Inc. a $5,094,384 contract option for the manufacture of 24,144 M16A1 Modification Kits. 65 bids were solicited, and five bids were received.

TACOMARDEC announces a sole-source solicitation to AAI and ATK in support of OICW development. A Phase IV will be held after the down-select from the current Phase III program. Phase IV will consist of the final prototype system design development, integration, validation, and fabrication. The successful contractor will perform prototype design refinement and validation, laser steering integration and validation, and fabricate and deliver ten complete OICW systems with associated manuals, spare parts, and ammunition.

The M995 cartridge LFT&E is completed.

The military specifications for XM777 Ball and XM778 Tracer are canceled.

HK‘s Manfred Guhring files an US patent application for the bolt and bolt carrier design of the G36 and another patent application for the G36’s ambidextrous cocking handle.

HK‘s Manfred Guhring and Helmut Weldle file an US patent application for the gas operating system of the G36.

ACALA awards Colt a $1,058,151 contract for M4A1 Carbine production.

ACALA also issues a sole-source solicitation to Colt for 80 M4 Carbines.

Congress is notified of the government’s intent to transfer a large number of weapons and ammunition to Bosnia-Herzegovina at no cost. This includes 46,100 M16A1, 17,000,000 rounds of 5.56mm Ball, and 2,000,000 rounds of 5.56mm blank ammo.

NSWC-Crane reissues their solicitation for 50 to 20,000 Backup Iron Sights (BUIS) for issue with the SOPMOD kit.

The DOD‘s Inspector General files an audit report on the issue of the M4A1 TDP release. It concludes that both the release of the data to the US Navy, and the Navy’s distribution to contractors, were improper. The Inspector General recommends that procedures be implemented to better safeguard Colt’s proprietary data.

ACALA awards Colt a $41,680 contract for M4 Carbine production.

ACALA issues a sole-source solicitation to Colt for 200 M203/M4 Compatibility Kits.

The USAIC develops an operational requirement for the M4 Modular Weapon System (MWS) calling for an accessory attachment shotgun. The USAIC later drops the item, instead choosing to support the Joint Service Combat Shotgun requirement.

TECOM publishes “System Evaluation Report (SER) of the Close Combat Optic.”

HK‘s Manfred Guhring and Helmut Danner file an US patent application for the trigger mechanism of the G36.

The M16A2E4 (AKA: M16A4), the XM4 and XM5 Rail Adapter Systems (KAC‘s RAS for the M4 and M16), “Sight, Reflex with Mount, M68,” “XM145 Telescope” (a variant of the ELCAN C79), and M203A1 grenade launcher are all type-classified. The XM145, later renamed the M145 MGO (Machine Gun Optic), is intended for use on the M249 and M240B. The M203A1 is designed for use on the M4 carbine.

In a letter to the US Army, Colt estimates damages between 43.5 and 70 million dollars from the improper release of M4A1 TDP.

Congress is notified of the government’s intent to make a FMS to Thailand for 37,500 M16A2, 4,700 M4, 2,600 M203, bayonets, and spare parts. The sale is worth ~$40 million.

Congress is notified of the government’s intent to transfer 200 M16A1 to Lithuania at no cost as Excess Defense Articles.

The military specification for the M857 Dummy Cartridge, MIL-C-70468A(AR), is inactivated.

JSSAP hosts a Future Small Arms Conclave to discuss improvements to the OFSA.

The Chinese 5.8x42mm weapons family is publicly unveiled with the handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese control. The bullpup rifle system carried by the Chinese troops is dubbed the Type 95. Export variants chambered for 5.56x45mm are dubbed the Type 97.

KAC‘s Doug Olson files a patent application for an improved RAS.

TEXCOM publishes “Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, AN/PAS-13 Thermal Weapon Sight (TWS).”

NSWC-Crane announces its intent to procure from 5,100 to 30,000 Insight Technology Inc. (ITI) Model # ITP002 Infrared Target Pointer/Illuminator/Aiming Lasers for use with the M16A2, M4, M60, and M2.

ARDEC‘s May 1996 solicitation for the XM145 Telescope is increased to up to 36,000 units.

ACALA awards $2,118,609 and $345,205 contract modifications to FNMI for M16A2. The second is for FMS.

ACALA issues a sole-source solicitation to Colt for 268 M4 Carbines.

The JSSAMP is updated yet again. The Objective Personal Weapon (OPW) is now described as a selective fire lightweight system (less than 3 pounds) capable of “immediate incapacitation” against personnel wearing body armor within 50 meters, and an effective range of 200 meters.

The US Navy approves a Materiel Needs Statement from the SEALs for a new 5.56mm LMG. The goals include a weight under 13lbs, SOPMOD kit compatibility, and high corrosion resistance.

Congress is notified of the government’s intent to make a FMS to Kuwait for M16A2 and M4. The sale is worth in excess of $1 million.

The military specifications for the M4A1 carbine and M231 FPW are each inactivated.

The US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine publishes the technical report “The Effect of Gender, Rifle Stock Length, and Rifle Weight on Military Marksmanship and Arm-Hand Steadiness.” Thirteen female and fifteen male soldiers were recruited to take part in the study. Performance on the Noptel marksmanship simulator showed no gender differences in marksmanship with the M16A2 rifle and the M4 carbine. However, reducing the stock length from 10.3″ to 7.0″ significantly improved marksmanship scores for both male and female soldiers. Weapon weight was also a critical factor. Shot groups were tighter with the lighter M4 versus the heavier M16A2. Similar findings were found with arm-hand steadiness: shorter and lighter weapon configurations allowed a steadier hold regardless of gender. However, no live-fire testing was completed as a part of the study.

Steyr introduces the A2 variant of the AUG. Instead of requiring two separate receivers, one with the integrated carry handle/optic and a second with a sight rail, the AUG A2 features a single receiver that can be equipped in either configuration, interchangeably.

The Indian Ministry of Defence awards a Rs500 million ($13.88 million) contract to IMI for 50 million rounds of 5.56mm ammunition for the INSAS. Up to this point, the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has repeatedly delayed importing equipment to manufacture the INSAS’ proprietary 5.56mm cartridge. While the INSAS was specifically designed around the latter, it can accept standard 5.56x45mm cartridges.

TACOMARDEC, in support of PM-Small Arms, conducts a market survey to identify potential sources of a compact, lightweight accessory shotgun for attachment to the M16A2 Rifle and M4 Carbine. They desire a 12 gauge shotgun capable of handling all 2.75 and 3 inch loadings, either manually-operated or semi-auto, weighing between 3 and 3.5 pounds, and possessing a four to six round magazine capacity.

ACALA issues a sole-source solicitation notice for the procurement of 257,742 magazines from Okay Industries.

The ARL publishes the report “Development of a 40-mm Nonlethal Cartridge.” The report details the research and development that went into creating the XM1006 non-lethal sponge grenade.

JSSAP hosts a second Future Small Arms Conclave to discuss requirements for the “Army After Next.” This involves so-called “Blue Sky” speculation for armaments for the year 2020 and beyond.

Colt and the US Army hold settlement negotiations regarding the M4A1 TDP release.

ACALA awards Colt a $139,628 contract for M4 Carbine production.

Colt’s Laurance Robbins files a patent application for an improved gas block/front sight housing.

ACALA awards a $87,875 contract modification to FNMI for M249.

NSWC-Crane awards KAC a $2,165,900 contract for Back-Up Iron Sights (BUIS) for the M4A1.

ACALA issues a sole-source solicitation to Colt for 24,000 M4 and M4A1 Carbines spread over a four-year period. Later in the month, ACALA awards Colt a contract worth up to ~$12.5 million for 24,000 M4 and M4A1 Carbines. The initial order is worth $3,126,000.

ACALA also issues a sole-source solicitation to Colt for 3,143 M16A4 Flat Top Upper Receiver and Barrel Assemblies.

ACALA issues a solicitation for 59,370 M16A1 Modification Kits over a three-year period. The kits will be used to upgrade existing M16A1 to the current M16A2 standard.

Olin’s Henry J. Halverson and Anthony F. Valdez file a patent application for a lead-free M855 projectile.

Michael Harris and Colt’s James Taylor file another patent application for the MARS design.

FN‘s Rene Predazzer receives US Patent #5,675,924 titled “Ejection Device for Firearm.”

FNMI‘s Christophe Degoix, Gary A. Sniezak, and Kevin Langevin receive US Patent #5,676,241 titled “Holder for Plural Ammunition Magazines.”

Congress is notified of the government’s intent to transfer M16 and 5.56mm ammunition to Israel at no cost as Excess Defense Articles.

The Belgian region of Walloon purchases FN from GIAT.

Colt and the US Army reach a final agreement, referred to as the “M4 Addendum.” The “M4 Addendum” is comprised of two parts: the first characterizing the Army’s rights for the M4 TDP, and the second clarifying of the status of the M16 licensing agreement. With regard to the M16 rights, the Addendum reaffirms the status quo set forth in the 1967 Licensing Agreement. This means that the terms of the 1967 license essentially will remain in place with Colt neither pursuing its multi-million dollar damage claim, nor maintaining its position that the license was terminated in light of the alleged breach. As to the M4 data rights, the Addendum grants the Government a non-exclusive, non-transferable, limited rights license for the M4 TDP that precludes the Government from using the M4’s TDP in competitive procurements until July 1, 2009. Afterwards, a 5 percent royalty will be due on any second-sourced rifles until December 31, 2050.

ACALA awards a $1,129,347 contract modification to FNMI for M249.

HK‘s Rudolf Brandl and Heinz Matt file an US patent application for the design of the Phase II OICW.

AAI’s Paul Shipley, Frederick S. Brown, Sr., Christopher J. Yaniger, Mark Mayo, George R. Christ, and David O. Cleveland file a patent application for the cosmetic design of AAI’s OICW submission.

ARDEC issues a sources-sought notice for COTS/NDI non-lethal 40x46mm crowd control cartridges. The cartridges must have the following characteristics:

  1. Compatible with the M203 grenade launcher with no changes to the standard operating procedures associated with loading, firing, and unloading the cartridge;
  2. Compatible with standard rifle and/or grenade launcher sights;
  3. Shall demonstrate an 80 percent probability of hitting an 8 foot high by 15 foot wide rectangular target array at 15 meters required (30 meters desired) with a minimum of 15 submunitions or 75 percent of the total submunitions;
  4. Area of target coverage shall be a minimum of 20 square feet at 15 meters (60 square feet minimum at 30 meters desired);
  5. No black powder propellant;
  6. No residue from firing deposited in barrel to the detriment of subsequent weapon firing/function;
  7. Effective non-lethal incapacitation from a minimum engagement range of 10 meters to a maximum engagement range of 15 meters required (30 meters maximum engagement range desired);
  8. Operational in climatic conditions from 0 to 125 degrees Fahrenheit;
  9. Capable of storage in climatic conditions of -46 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit;
  10. Shall be non-explosive and non-fragmenting upon target impact; and
  11. Have a functional reliability greater than 95 percent at temperatures between 0 and 125 degrees Fahrenheit.

ARDEC issues a draft RFP for Backup Iron Sights (BUIS) for use with the M16A4 and M4.

TACOMARDEC announces its intent to solicit and negotiate with Colt on a sole source basis for the manufacture and delivery of 300 M4 Carbine Improved Buttstock Assemblies.

FNMI‘s Kevin Langevin and Gary A. Sniezak file a patent application for a M16 buttstock that possesses two separate sling slots for carriage of the rifle at different positions.

(Next: 5.56mm 1998)

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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