The 5.56 X 45mm “Timeline” – 1999

A Chronology of Development by Daniel E. Watters



After more than a decade of wrangling, USMC Force Recon, Fleet Antiterrorism Security Teams (FAST), and Military Police Special Response Teams finally receive their long awaited M4A1 Carbines, dubbed the Close Quarter Battle Weapon (CQBW).

The M4 and M5 RAS, the M16A4 rifle, and the M995 AP cartridge are all approved for full materiel release.

HK begins work on the compact G36C in hopes of winning a GSG-9 contract.

CIS introduces the bullpup SAR-21. Despite the earlier SAR-80, SR-88, and SR-88A, the SAR-21 becomes the first rifle to officially replace the aging M16S in the armed services of Singapore.

The Canadian military initiates a PDW requirement to replace the Inglis No. 2 Mk. 1* pistol (WW2-era license-production FN GP35) and the Diemaco C8 carbine. Projected quantities have ranged up to 10,000 units. Over the years, the CF PDW candidates have included 5.56x45mm entries such as the Military Manufacturing (M2) Corp. M16X and M16C (4″ and 6″ barrels respectively), and the Diemaco CQB (a Colt Commando variant) and PDW (an even shorter Commando variant). The specialty caliber PDWs such as the FN P90 and HK MP7 have also been considered.

Australian F89 (Minimi) top covers are switched from a proprietary rail design to MIL-STD-1913 rails.

The “M95, Munition, Rifle, Non-Lethal, 5.56mm” is type-classified. The muzzle-mounted M95 contains fifteen rubber-coated, steel spheres that are launched with a M195 blank cartridge.

The US military purchases nearly 30,000 ELCAN M145 MGO.

The first M16A4 are issued.

ACALA awards Colt a $6,371,568 contract option for the production of 16,464 M16A4 rifles. An additional option is awarded for 15,121 M16A4.

ACALA awards a $2,632,500 contract option to Colt for M16A1 Rifle Modification Kits.

Congress is notified of the government’s intent to transfer a number of small arms to Panama including M16 rifles.

ACALA awards a $4,019,900 contract option to FNMI for M249. This is for FMS.

NSWC-Dahlgren issues a sole-source solicitation to Winchester for the production of frangible 5.56mm ammunition. (This is later cancelled.)

ACALA awards a $56,215 contract to Colt related to the M16.

ACALA awards a $3,287,510 contract modification to Colt for M4 carbines.

NSWC-Crane, on behalf of USSOCOM, issues a solicitation for the 5.56mm belt-fed LMG. Procurement will run between 425 to 2,000 units.

TACOMARDEC issues a solicitation for 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 lead-free projectile cores for use in 5.56mm M855 Ball projectiles. These cores, utilizing either Tungsten/Tin or Tungsten/Nylon material, will be used for standard M855 projectile production processes at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant.

NSWC-Crane, on behalf of WARCOM, issues a solicitation for 5.56mm frangible ammunition.

NSWC-Dahlgren, on behalf of the USMC, issues a solicitation for 592,340 rounds of frangible 5.56mm ammunition. The ammunition will be used with the M4A1 CQBW.

Armalite’s Mark Westrom files another patent application for an improved M16 bolt.

FNMI’s Kevin R. Langevin and Gary A. Sniezak receive US Patent #D405,148 titled “Rifle buttstock.”

ACALA issues a sole-source solicitation to Colt for 300 M4 and 9,000 M4A1 Carbines.

ACALA awards $3,105,648 and deallocates $2,376,617 in contract modifications to FNMI for the M16A2. The first is for FMS.

Colt receives a trio of additional orders for 4,641, 1,328, and 15 M16A4.

ACALA awards a $1,796,067 contract option to Colt for M16A4.

The USMC tasks NSWC-Crane to catalog, conduct safety certification testing, and obtain WSESRB release of 5.56mm Winchester Ranger frangible ammunition.

ARDEC issues a sources-sought announcement for COTS/NDI non-lethal 40mm crowd dispersal cartridges for use with the M203. The cartridges must have the following characteristics: 1) Shall demonstrate a .90 probability of hitting 4 of 5 standing E-type silhouette targets standing shoulder to shoulder at a range of 30 meters (threshold), 20 meters (objective). A minimum of 75 percent of the total number of submunitions shall hit the target containing the five silhouettes; 2) Effective non-lethal incapacitation out to a minimum range of 15 meters and maximum range of 30 meters (threshold) and a minimum range of 10 meters and maximum range of 50 meters (objective); 3) Shall be non-explosive and non-fragmenting upon target impact; and 4) Possess no black powder propellant.

The ARL publishes “Ballistic Evaluation of the Under-Barrel Tactical Paint Ball System.” This report contains test data for the Under-Barrel Tactical Paint Ball System (UTPBS). Developed by a contractor on behalf of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, the UTPBS device attaches under the barrel of either the M16 rifle or M4 carbine, similar to an M203. It consists of a trigger group and a central launch tube, which is surrounded by five rotating magazine tubes. A compressed gas bottle is located coaxial to the launch tube and supplies high-pressure gas for operation of the device. Five different types of projectiles were evaluated with the launcher. These were based upon a spherical paint ball with a hard plastic shell and various fills that contained bismuth powder and a combination of paint or water. The system was fired for target impact dispersion, launch dynamics, aerodynamics, and clay penetration. The ability of the weapon to target and hit a triple silhouette at 100 m was almost zero. The cause of this inaccuracy was tracked to the shifting of the bismuth powder inside the projectile, which creates mass asymmetry.

ACALA issues a sole-source solicitation to FNMI for 6,000 M249 top covers equipped with an optic rail.

ACALA awards a $1,822,500 contract modification to Colt for M16A1 Rifle Modification Kits.

Picatinny awards a $5,000 contract to KAC for 50 BUIS for the M16A4 and M4.

ARDEC also awards a $4,342 contract to Guns, Gear, and Gadgets (GG&G) for 50 BUIS for the M16A4 and M4.

ACALA awards a $2,472,420 contract to FNMI for M249 top covers with integrated rails.

TACOMARDEC hosts the Soldier Lethality Modeling & Simulation Conference. Included are modeling efforts related to OICW effectiveness and lethality.

HK‘s Manfred Guhring files a US Patent application for the two round burst mechanism of the G36.

NSWC-Crane announces its intent to purchase 645 nine inch barrels for the M203.

ACALA issues a sources sought notice for vendors who can provide 55,262 to 122,500 M16A4 rifles over a five-year contract period.

The SOPMOD Program Management Office (PMO) receives a directive from the commander in chief of USSOCOM (USCINCSOC) and Program Executive Office – Special Programs (PEO-SP) to study and improve the basic M4A1 Carbine platform.

ACALA awards $6,500,700 and $29,862 contract modifications to Colt for M4 carbines. The first is for FMS.

Congress is notified of the government’s intent to sell 1,945 M16A2, 349 M249, and 245 M203 to Argentina as Excess Defense Articles for the price of $60,295, $46,417, and $7,350, respectively.

Congress is notified of the government’s intent to transfer 2,000 M16A1 and 2,600 M576 40mm Multiple Projectile rounds to Senegal at no cost as Excess Defense Articles.

Picatinny awards a $1,245 contract to Tactical and Rescue Equipment, LLC for weapon flashlight mounts for the M16A4 and M4.

ACALA awards a $187,036 contract to Colt related to the M16.

ARDEC issues a sole-source solicitation to Fastac Design & Development, Inc. for Program Management of Small Arms Weapon Programs. Working for the Individual Weapons Product Director, the contractor will support the planning, execution, and monitoring of specific small arms weapons programs; namely, M4 Carbine, M16 Rifle, and M203 Grenade Launcher. In addition, the contractor will be responsible for monitoring activities in related programs (i.e. M249 Machine Gun and the fire control activities as related to the 40mm grenade launcher). The contractor will be required to analyze the cost, performance, and schedule aspects of assignments, and be prepared with recommendations for courses of action. The basic award is for a six month duration. There will be three additional options, each for a period of six months apiece.

The OICW Virtual Simulator is completed and sent to Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Armalite’s Mark Westrom receives US Patent #5,911,173 titled “Breech Bolt Assembly for a Firearm.”

The US Army Research Unit for the Behavioral and Social Sciences publishes “Assessment of Training on Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) for the Land Warrior (LW) Weapon Subsystem.” This contained early results gathered from the 82nd Airborne Division’s earlier training with the M68 CCO, the AN/PAQ-4C IAL, the AN/PEQ-2A ITPIAL, and the AN/PAS-13 TWS.

TACOM adds an Engineering Change Proposal to Colt’s M4/M4A1 production. 15,925 Improved Buttstocks, worth $47,775, are to be included in current production lots. This would appear to be the design developed by Picatinny project engineer Lily Ko.

FNMI‘s Kevin Langevin and Gary A. Sniezak receive US Patent #5,907,918 titled “Rifle Buttstock.”

HK‘s Manfred Guhring and Helmut Danner receive US Patent #5,913,261 titled “Trigger Arrangement.”

ARDEC issues a solicitation for 50,000 to 550,000 40mm M1006 Non-Lethal cartridges.

ACALA awards a $27,000 contract to Colt for 30 RO801 (commercial M203). These are for FMS to Lebanon.

The US Court of Federal Claims hears testimony from Edward L. Stolarun, the senior attorney in the Intellectual Property Law Section of the AMC‘s Office of Command Counsel. Stolarun explains the Army’s decision to approve the “M4 Addendum.” Stolarun states that although the Government had breached the 1967 Licensing Agreement by failing adequately to protect Colt’s proprietary data against improper disclosure, there was little likelihood that Colt could make good on its threat to terminate the agreement. Based on this assessment, the potential loss of M16 TDP rights was not a factor that influenced the Government’s decision to recognize Colt’s sole rights to the M4 TDP. In addition, Stolarun claims that Colt’s claim to sole ownership of the M4 TDP rights is traceable to technology that preexisted the parties’ 1967 Licensing Agreement and was not licensed to the Government under that agreement. Finally, Stolarun concludes that Colt’s participation in post-1967 Government-funded development efforts involving the M4 carbine did not eliminate Colt’s rights to the unique elements of M4 component design and manufacture that originated with Colt. Stolarun argues that Colt’s earlier efforts to include the M4 under the 1967 Licensing Agreement was not meant to grant license rights to the M4 TDP to the Government, but instead, was an attempt to invoke the disclosure restrictions of the Licensing Agreement.

ACALA awards a $52,400 contract modification to Colt for M4 carbines.

The SOPMOD PMO begins fielding of M4A1 Extraction Parts Set #1 (EPS-1) to Navy and Air Force units.

The PM-Small Arms issues a sources sought announcement for the execution of the Program Definition and Risk Reduction (PD&RR) Phase of OICW development.

Congress is notified of the government’s intent to make a FMS to Egypt, which includes among other items 12 M16A2.

NSWC-Crane completes evaluation of five vendors’ bid samples of 5.56mm frangible ammunition. None of the samples meet all the performance requirements. While the samples display acceptable function & casualty, lethality, accuracy, and ballistic match, there are issues of overpenetration on hard targets, primer sensitivity, and waterproofing. As a result, the solicitation’s specifications are modified.

HK‘s Manfred Guhring receives US Patent #5,920,028 titled “Self-Loading Rifle with a Rotatable Breech Block Head.”

AFSOC requests an increase in the SOPMOD kit Basis of Issue Plan (BOIP).

TACOM awards KAC a $5,827,916.80 delivery order for the production of 8,000 M5 RAS, 12,000 M4 RAS, and 4,320 M203 Quick Release Brackets.

The US Court of Federal Claims rules that the Government had the right to recognize that the M4 TDP belonged to Colt outside of the 1967 License, and in settling its dispute with Colt, the Government had properly entered into the “M4 Addendum.” Therefore, the “M4 Addendum” did not violate the CICA, and was fully valid and enforceable. Based on the this, FNMI‘s action for injunctive relief is denied, and its complaint dismissed. FNMI does not appeal.

Congress is notified of the government’s intent to allow the direct commercial sale to Greece of hardware kits and components to manufacture and assemble 117,000 M16A2 rifles, M4 carbines, and 7,000 M203 grenade launchers. The sale is worth in excess of $50 million.

PEO-SP orders the SOPMOD PMO to plan unrestricted evolutionary block upgrades for the SOPMOD kit.

NSWDG issues a solicitation for 25 MWS Rail Sling Mount Adapter Assemblies with Standard OD Swivel, 50 MWS Rail Sling Mount Adapter Assemblies with Push-Button Swivel, 25 PAQ-4 IR Aiming Light Mounts, 30 M4 (FF) RAS Handguard Nuts, 60 M4 (FF) RAS Barrel Nut Pins, 30 M4 (FF) RAS Barrel Nut Assemblies, 30 M4 (FF) RAS Gas Block Assemblies, and 30 M4 (FF) Medium-long Carbine RAS, and M4 (FF) Long RAS.

The US Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command – Soldier Systems Center (SBCCOM-SSC), on behalf of the USMC, issues a combined synopsis and solicitation for a Combat Assault Sling (CAS) for use with the M16A2 Rifle. Approximately 30,000 to 40,000 slings are expected to be ordered.

C-More’s Ira M. Kay files a patent application for the design of the LSS.

Todd Griffin, on behalf of R/M Equipment, receives US Patent #5,930,935 titled “Method and Apparatus for Attaching a Supplemental Device to an Unaltered Host Firearm.”

Colt’s Laurance Robbins receives US Patent #5,945,626 titled “Gas Operated Firearm with Clamp On Gas Block.”

TACOMARDEC, in conjunction with PM-Small Arms, announces its intent to issue a sole-source contract to ATK to conduct the OICW‘s PD&RR effort.

TACOM issues a solicitation for 13,757 M16A1 Modification Kits. The kits will be used to upgrade existing M16A1 to the current M16A2 standard. The solicitation is limited to Colt, FNMI, and Saco. Later in the month, FNMI is awarded a $2,737,643 contract for the requested number of kits.

TACOM issues a solicitation to convert the technical drawings of the M16A2/M16A4 Rifles and the M4 Carbine. The conversion will be from a raster image 2-D line drawing format to a 3-D solid model format with associated parametric 2-D drawings and related engineering services. This conversion is to be done using Pro/ENGINEER parametric 3-D solid modeling Computer Aided Design software, version 20. Interested offerors will need their own above-mentioned Pro/ENGINEER software program and their own workstations. The Government will not provide computer software or workstations. This effort will consist of joint in-house Government work and contracted work. At a minimum, it is anticipated that weekly meetings with the successful contractor will be required. Therefore, this procurement action is restricted to those companies within a 30-mile radius of Rock Island Arsenal.

Congress is notified of the government’s intent to transfer 30,000 M16A1 to the Philippines at no cost as Excess Defense Articles.

Due to a decrease in monthly production of M249 from 450 to 250, the price is raised $309 for 2,137 M249 on order. ACALA increases contract funding by $660,330.

Congress is notified of the government’s intent to transfer 550,000 rounds of M196 Tracer to Tunisia at no cost as Excess Defense Articles.

HK publicly unveils its new 4.6x30mm PDW (later designated the MP7).

TACOMARDEC issues a solicitation for a modified, non-developmental Enhanced Fire Control (MEFC) device/system for the M203. The MEFC will replace the current leaf and quadrant sights, and provide increased first round hit performance over the current sights on point and area targets.

TACOMARDEC announces its intent to award a sole source contract to Rafael Armament Development Authority, Propulsion & Explosive Directorate for the manufacture and delivery of up to 1,900 RLEM, 1,000 Training Rounds and 10,000 impulse cartridges. There are also potential options for total quantities of 6,000 RLEMs, 3,720 training rounds, and 1,500 stand-off rods.

TECOM is transferred from AMC to the Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC).

TACOM awards FNMI a $357,603 contract option for the manufacture of 1,797 M16A1 Modification Kits.

A field test of the production “green” tungsten-core M855 is conducted at Camp Edwards. Range training had previously been discontinued there two years earlier due to environmental concerns.

The military specification for M193 Ball, MIL-C-9963F, is amended for a fifth time.

The military specification for M197 Tracer, MIL-C-60111C, is amended for a sixth time.

The military specification for M855 Ball, MIL-C-63989C(AR), is amended for a third time.

The military specification for M856 Tracer, MIL-C-63990C(AR), is amended for a fourth time.

The military specification for 5.56mm Heavy Bullet Reference cartridges, MIL-C-70460A(AR), is amended for second time.

The SOPMOD kit’s ORD is amended for the fifth time, adding requirements for the Enhanced Combat Optic Sight, Carbine (ECOS-C), the Mini Night Vision Sight (MNVS), the Special Purpose Receiver (SPR), the Universal Pocketscope Mount (UPM), and new soft and hard cases. The SOPMOD‘s Basis of Issue Plan (BOIP) is increased from 1961 kits to 2972. (One kit supports four weapons.)

TACOM awards a $2,481.60 delivery order to KAC for 10 M4 RAS.

MARCORSYSCOM, on behalf of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL), issues a solicitation for 20 to 120 Trijicon 1.5X24mm Compact ACOG Sights.

ACALA issues a solicitation for 55,262 to 122,500 M16A4 rifles over a five-year contract period.

The US Navy receives product samples for the SEALs new LMG program. The only competitors are FNMI‘s M249 SPW and KAC‘s Stoner 96, an updated version of the ARES Stoner 86. Testing continues through April.

Aberdeen’s Research, Development & Acquisition (RD&A) Office issues a sources sought announcement for a compact semi-automatic weapon capable of target engagements out to 300 meters. The weapon must weigh no more than six pounds, and be no longer than 28 inches with the buttstock extended while shorter than 20 inches with the stock folded or collapsed.

SBCCOM-SSC modifies its earlier solicitation for a Combat Assault Sling (CAS). The desired width is changed from 1 inch to 1.25 inches. In addition, the prospective order is now expected to run between 10,000 and 100,000 slings.

SBCCOM-SSC, on behalf of the USMC, also issues a requirement for an improved bayonet. The USMC Improved Bayonet will be used primarily to engage in hand to hand combat with the intent of killing, maiming, or disabling the enemy through a thrusting blow while affixed to the M16A2, or when used separately as a knife. Secondary uses of the bayonet will be slashing, cutting, prying (windows, crates, etc), cutting wire (chain link, barbed, and concertina), and sawing (plastic, wood, and light metal).

The US Army Research Unit for the Behavioral and Social Sciences publishes “Training Lessons Learned on Sights and Devices in the Land Warrior (LW) Weapon Subsystem.” The training was observed for the before-mentioned pair of platoons from the 82nd Airborne Division. The first platoon served as a baseline, while the second was equipped with Land Warrior equipment. The training adequately prepared the Land Warrior soldiers to qualify on the M4 carbine with the CCO and the AN/PAS-13. However, qualification standards were extremely difficult to achieve with the AN/PAQ-4C and the AN/PEQ-2A on the M4, due to environmental conditions typical of Army ranges, not to lack of firer expertise. (Definitive conclusions could not be made for the effectiveness of these devices in use with the M249 or M240B due to ammunition restrictions and a limited number of trained gunners.) In addition, a standardized technique for boresighting all of the devices was developed. The AN/PAQ-4C and the AN/PEQ-2A data was later used by the USAIS and the 29th Infantry Regiment to develop Army-wide standards for night qualifications with these devices used in conjunction with night-vision goggles.

Richard Swan begins development of the Selective Integrated Rail (SIR) System forearm.

TACOM awards Colt a $135,716 contract option for 259 M4A1 with improved buttstocks. These are intended for delivery to the US Navy.

A production contract is awarded for M249 feed covers equipped with a MIL-STD-1913 rail (AKA: Picatinny Rail).

TACOMARDEC issues a solicitation for engineering and manufacturing support in the R&D of heavy metal ammunition for small arms. This is to include items made from depleted uranium (DU), tungsten, molybdenum, tantalum, copper and related alloys.

NSWC-Crane, on behalf of WARCOM, reissues solicitation for 5.56mm frangible ammunition. The requirement for lead-free primers is dropped. Emphasis is placed on accuracy, lethality and no backstop penetration of AR500 steel plate.

NSWC-Crane announces plans for a SOPMOD Industry Conference. It is tentatively scheduled to be held in March 2000 at Fort Benning, GA. Any free world industry, academia, and government weapons research and development activities are welcome to attend. Topics of interest are as follows:

  1. New Capabilities – Innovative, new, or unique concepts, technologies, and products that improve or accessorize small arms capabilities in general;
  2. M4A1/M16A1 Weapon Related – Ambidextrous controls (magazine release, safety), enhanced ergonomics (improved charging handle), improved parts, materials, coatings/plating (reduced wear, friction, and corrosion and increased reliability), enhanced reload capability (extra magazine stowage), flip/lock-up front and rear sights, enhanced accuracy barrels, free floating barrel (to include modified M203 mounting capability allowing free float of M4A1 barrel), bipod, improved trigger, accuracy components (special length accuracy barrels, special calibers, improved reliability/accuracy);
  3. Fire Control and Night Vision/Electro-Optics Related – Integration of sighting capabilities (integration of white light, visible laser, IR laser, IR illumination), optics enhancements, a unified day optic (single unit with reflex/unity power and magnified engagement as well as a back-up/rain sight, variable power optics (enhanced reticules), range display or compensation capability (allow data feed from gun mounted Laser Range Finder), clip-on Thermal and Image Intensifier units (attach to/or in front of Optics with possible stand alone capabilities), Day/Night/NV 400m M203 sighting capability, and simple laser boresighters;
  4. General Improvements – Desired streamlined components reducing snagging, increased power and visibility of lasers/illuminators, increased speed and accuracy of target acquisitions near to far, simple zeroing capabilities and improved durability/zero retention, advanced materials/coatings incorporation for light weight, self-lubrication and reduced erosion/corrosion, ergonomic/simple controls, improved signature suppression technologies, improved weapon controllability;
  5. Carbine/Rifle Related Improvements (Government Configuration Control) – Monolithic or Rigid Upper Receiver Units (possible quick change barrel/improved action design retaining ability to use standard M4A1/M16A1 lower group), replaceable modular lower forward section (sections would retain zero and incorporate tailored fire control or a newly designed 40mm Grenade Launcher). Carbine parts sets or kits that allow firing of the carbine from water without delay of draining the weapon;
  6. Improved Munitions – Increased accuracy, penetration, target effect, reliability, and other high performance 5.56mm NATO caliber and 40mm Grenade Launcher ammunition;
  7. Barrel Cooling technologies or products that may cool small arms gun barrels to avoid cook-off and barrel burst; and
  8. Alternative attachable sub-weapons and accessories – Any and all modular subsystems which may be attached to the MIL-STD-1913 mounting rail or elsewhere on the M4A1/M16A1.

NSWC-Crane issues a solicitation for 100 to 30,000 each SOPMOD Universal Pocketscope Mounts. This system will be composed of a single universal mount base element that attaches to the MIL-STD-1913 rail. This system will also have three different Mount Adapters, which allow for attachment of three different devices to the Mount Base Element.

TACOM awards a $8,487.70 delivery order to KAC for 20 M5 RAS and 10 M4 RAS.

Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune issues a solicitation for 950 M4/M16 Simunition conversion kit magazines.

The British MOD receives the final Design Reliability Report concerning the performance of HK‘s modified L85A1/L86A1.

Denmark signs contracts with Diemaco worth $20 million for an additional 26,000 rifles, carbines, and equipment.

TACOM issues a solicitation for M203A1 modification kits. Over a five year period, the contract will require from 3,850 to 17,500 kits.

(Next: 5.56mm 2000)

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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