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Posted: 11/23/2008 7:56:11 PM EST
In May 1967, John Garand was interviewed about the problems the M16 was having in Vietnam. He noted that the M1 had also had problems in early combat. Production quotas had been ramped up so quickly that Springfield was forced to use parts that would have otherwise been rejected. He was quoted as saying "I questioned this and was told that it was better to have a gun jammed once in awhile than to have no gun at all. The answer shocked me."

Dewatters, I would be very interested to know the source of the Garand interview. That sounds like a very interesting read indeed.

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Posted: 11/23/2008 8:29:22 PM EST
[Last Edit: 11/23/2008 8:44:38 PM EST by Ekie]
These threads are always more interesting with your participation dewatters.

As you pointed out, lack of chrome in the bore and chamber was a problem in the Pacific, and soon after chrome was required. It is much cheaper to chrome then to replace a rusted barrel later on.

At the same time, I understand this thread to be about having to pound stuck cases out of an XM16E1 barrel with a rod, not something I have ever to have heard to have a problem with the M1 Garand in the Pacific. If this was an issue with the M1 I would like to hear about it specifically.

Originally Posted By Morg308

I personally think a lot of it was the out of spec chambers.



A good argument can be made along these lines, especially considering Frankford Arsenal’ testing in November of 1967 showing the majority of chambers to be out of spec.

Originally Posted By Morg308

Culver speaks of weapons issued in '65 IIRC.


Culver’s negative experience was in 1967.

Originally Posted By Morg308

Basically, I don't think the weapon was quite ready for use on the two-way range when it was issued. I also agree the Army brass wanted it to fail.


The AR-15, M16, XM16E1 has all done well on two-way ranges for years prior to the trouble.
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Posted: 11/23/2008 9:09:28 PM EST
[Last Edit: 11/23/2008 9:10:24 PM EST by Ekie]
Originally Posted By BattleRife:

Exactly why the jamming problems occurred has been a topic of debate for decades. The official report by Sen. Ichord has little credibility to most people, so that leaves us scrambling for real answers that nobody has.



It is refreshing that we can dive into this topic while getting past the Ball powder controversy.

Originally Posted By BattleRife:
TBR notes that the severe problems with both the 603 and 604 (principally the 603, since they were used in combat a LOT more) began after Westmoreland promised that every combat soldier in Vietnam would have the M16. This meant two things:

- Colt would have to greatly up their production. Colt had produced about a quarter million AR-15s from 1959 to 1964, Now they would be expected to make 300,000 per year.

- A lot of rank and file soldiers who had very little familiarity with the M16 would be carrying it into combat.

Prior to 1966, the AR-15 was made fairly slowly and carefully, and was used by well-trained professional soliders such as airborne troops and special forces. By all acounts, these rifles worked very well and the troops were happy with them. It is worth noting that the majority of the ammo they were shooting was loaded with Olin WC-846 ball powder.



Good observation, although I see three big events that directly preceded the malfunctions. That was ramped production of BOTH rifle and ammo, and as you point out that the XM16E1 was no longer restricted in US Army use to ABN, Air Cav, SF, and the like.

Colt production chugged along at about 8,000 units per month till 1966 when production went up to 25,000 units a month by December of that year. At the time Colt’s requested numerous changes and waivers to ease the work load.

As mentioned ammo production also increased. To meet demand both Lake City and Twin Cities came on line producing 5.56 in 1966.

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Posted: 11/23/2008 9:33:26 PM EST
Poor quality control on the rapidly expanded production line is my prime suspect. Ball powder, while introducing a few issues (IMR burned more cleanly), has been used flawlessly since the issues were resolved, so I don't think it was a major contributor. The lack of cleaning kits is debunked (at least in part) by the cleaning rods taped to rifles (they obviously had cleaning rods). To top this off is the real combat experience prior to the jamming issues. The weapon had been in the field for several years before jamming suddenly appeared. To me it comes down to out of spec rifles (primarily the chambers) from being rushed while pushing to meet the demands of an expanding force in combat.
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Posted: 11/24/2008 10:35:20 AM EST
Originally Posted By Andouille:
Originally Posted By dewatters:
In May 1967, John Garand was interviewed about the problems the M16 was having in Vietnam. He noted that the M1 had also had problems in early combat. Production quotas had been ramped up so quickly that Springfield was forced to use parts that would have otherwise been rejected. He was quoted as saying "I questioned this and was told that it was better to have a gun jammed once in awhile than to have no gun at all. The answer shocked me."


Dewatters, I would be very interested to know the source of the Garand interview. That sounds like a very interesting read indeed.


Springfield Daily News, 22 May 1967

GARAND SAYS FAMOUS M-1 ALSO HAD JAMMING PROBLEMS
The inventor of the Army's famous M-1 rifle says it developed some jamming problems in the initial years of its use.

According to United Press International, John C. Garand, 79, whose rifle was the standard weapon from 1937 to 1957, said today that early production was rushed because of a great need, and occasionally discarded parts had to be used, causing the jamming.

"I questioned this and was told that it was better to have a gun jammed once in awhile than to have no gun at all. The answer shocked me."

Eventually Cleared Up -

But, according to the inventor, the problems ceased once the rush was over and production returned to a normal rate.

Recent reports from Vietnam told of complaints of jamming with the Army's new M-16 rifle. Military officials have generally defended the weapon. The rifle is not made at the Springfield Armory, but by a private manufacturer.

Although he is not familiar with the operation of the M-16, Mr. Garand said there are two possible factors that could cause the gun to jam: The blow-back action and general terrain conditions in Vietnam.

The 'blow-back' refers to the backward motion of exploding gases pushing toward the mechanism. This could force spent powders and other accumulated material from the rifle barrel into the firing mechanism, Mr. Garand noted.

Terrain Conditions -

He also feels that the general muck and slime in some places and large amounts of dust in others, is harmful to the gun's mechanisms.

"I can't condemn the M-16 because it is filling the bill in Vietnam. There might be some arguments to support the jamming complaints, but there might also be excuses if the manufacturers rushed. I don't know what the whole story is."

The main features of the M-16 are plastic fittings and use of a .22 caliber round, both of which make the weapon considerable lighter, and more efficient for jungle fighting.
Mr. Garand said that originally some considerations were given to making the M-1 a .22 caliber rifle, rather than .30 caliber, but "I was never very much in favor of a peashooter."

He does think, however, there are good reasons for the use of the smaller caliber in Vietnam. "Conditions over there demand a lot of firing at unseen targets. At short range, the .22 caliber is very effective," he said.

Began At Armory -

Mr. Garand came to this country at the age of 12 from his birthplace in St. Remi, Quebec, Canada. He first settled in Connecticut and, without having finished grade school, began working at the Springfield Armory in 1919.

He retired from the Armory in 1953 and now lives about two miles form the installation. Despite his lack of higher education, Mr. Garand holds an honorary doctorate of mechanical engineering degree, which he got form Lehigh University in 1949.


Please forgive any errors in transcription. I'm pulling this from another transcribed copy that has some misspellings.
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Posted: 11/24/2008 10:55:55 AM EST
[Last Edit: 11/24/2008 11:09:47 AM EST by dewatters]
Originally Posted By Ekie:
These threads are always more interesting with your participation dewatters.

As you pointed out, lack of chrome in the bore and chamber was a problem in the Pacific, and soon after chrome was required. It is much cheaper to chrome then to replace a rusted barrel later on.

At the same time, I understand this thread to be about having to pound stuck cases out of an XM16E1 barrel with a rod, not something I have ever to have heard to have a problem with the M1 Garand in the Pacific. If this was an issue with the M1 I would like to hear about it specifically.


I don't have any examples on hand, but then it is unlikely that word would have leaked out at the time given the heavy censorship of soldiers' letters back home. Dunlap's manuscript was seized and classified for over a year even though he had finished it after the war had ended.

Of course, Frankford probably had a better handle on brass hardness specs for .30-06 back then given its long use in automatic weapons like the M1917, M1918, and M1919. The charging handle of the M1 is a lot more convenient to beat/kick open.

The M1 also had early problems with the bolt and op rod seizing during and after heavy rains once the lubricant was washed away. The popular press like Phil Sharpe dismissed this at myth after the war, but we now know of all of the experiments with different heat treating, altered cam paths, roller cams, and alternative lubricants. The ideal solution, the roller cam, was pushed aside because they were afraid of slowing down production to introduce it. Instead, they settled on the issue of Lubriplate grease.
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Posted: 11/24/2008 11:24:31 AM EST
[Last Edit: 11/24/2008 11:49:59 AM EST by Stahlgewehr762]
I suspect this problem is multi-faceted. It helps to visualize the problem in context, both of the environment and the weapon/ammunition.

You have a rifle with a non-chromed chamber, fire "dirty" ammo which leaves a hydroscopic residue of burned gunpowder in the chamber, add lots of automatic fire to heat then cool the barrel, causing condensation to form in the barrel and chamber, leave a round in that dirty/moist chamber to "trap" the moisture in place, then finally don't clean the rifle for a lengthy time (for whatever reason) in the damp jungle. This naturally leads to a severely rusted chamber, causing "stuck" cases. ASSuming that the affected rifles didn't jam when new, there must have been something in the environment that changed them for the worse. That "change" would've been the rust in the chamber.

Chroming the chamber was a significant improvement which could, and did, derail the systematic train-wreck leading to a malfunctioning rifle.

EDIT to add: If the rifles already had "too tight" chambers due to a manufacturing or specification issue, then adding some rust to that tight chamber could've only made functioning issues worse. It could certainly be enough of a factor to make a "new" rifle work and a "used" one jam.
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Posted: 11/24/2008 12:03:30 PM EST
Originally Posted By Stahlgewehr762:
You have a rifle with a non-chromed chamber, fire "dirty" ammo which leaves a hydroscopic residue of burned gunpowder in the chamber, add lots of automatic fire to heat then cool the barrel, causing condensation to form in the barrel and chamber, leave a round in that dirty/moist chamber to "trap" the moisture in place, then finally don't clean the rifle for a lengthy time (for whatever reason) in the damp jungle. This naturally leads to a severely rusted chamber, causing "stuck" cases. ASSuming that the affected rifles didn't jam when new, there must have been something in the environment that changed them for the worse. That "change" would've been the rust in the chamber.

How about foreign debris and other things. Add a quickly changing on the ground scenario where people are stuffing magazines into all available pouches to carry more ammo, because of the nature of the operations (usually not sustained away from supply points, water and food are shirked for more ammo). Now add this the dust, mud, water, grit, grime, and anything else, rotting gear, inappropriate gear (or gear that simply won't seal out these environmental factors for long), and who knows what else you're introducing to the ammo and therefore the chamber, every time you load up a fresh magazine. Furthermore, realize that the ammo, which might be dirty, out of spec, or whatever, has to get through this environment to you before its even loaded into said magazines, and that said magazines are likely experiencing their own issues because of the aforementioned environmental issues. If we're talking about rusting rifles, then rusting mags no doubt existed as well, and this seems even more potentially dangerous to me in terms of transfer of particulate matter and improper feeding and extracting.

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Posted: 11/24/2008 2:51:56 PM EST
Originally Posted By Thatguy96:
Originally Posted By Stahlgewehr762:
You have a rifle with a non-chromed chamber, fire "dirty" ammo which leaves a hydroscopic residue of burned gunpowder in the chamber, add lots of automatic fire to heat then cool the barrel, causing condensation to form in the barrel and chamber, leave a round in that dirty/moist chamber to "trap" the moisture in place, then finally don't clean the rifle for a lengthy time (for whatever reason) in the damp jungle. This naturally leads to a severely rusted chamber, causing "stuck" cases. ASSuming that the affected rifles didn't jam when new, there must have been something in the environment that changed them for the worse. That "change" would've been the rust in the chamber.

How about foreign debris and other things. Add a quickly changing on the ground scenario where people are stuffing magazines into all available pouches to carry more ammo, because of the nature of the operations (usually not sustained away from supply points, water and food are shirked for more ammo). Now add this the dust, mud, water, grit, grime, and anything else, rotting gear, inappropriate gear (or gear that simply won't seal out these environmental factors for long), and who knows what else you're introducing to the ammo and therefore the chamber, every time you load up a fresh magazine. Furthermore, realize that the ammo, which might be dirty, out of spec, or whatever, has to get through this environment to you before its even loaded into said magazines, and that said magazines are likely experiencing their own issues because of the aforementioned environmental issues. If we're talking about rusting rifles, then rusting mags no doubt existed as well, and this seems even more potentially dangerous to me in terms of transfer of particulate matter and improper feeding and extracting.



Those are all factors that can, and do, affect combat rifles of all types and to varying degrees. They are also factors which are unavoidable in a combat zone, and which prevailed even after the adoption of the Product Improved M-16A1. For several reasons though, the M-16A1 did not experience the issue of "stuck" cases as commonly as the earlier XM-16E1. I would suspect that this is in great part due to the fact that the M-16A1 had its chamber (and bore) chrome plated, while the XM-16E1 did not. I am not implying that the rusty chambers were the sole problem, nor the chrome plating the sole solution, but the chrome plating did have a significant impact on the reliability of the rifle in humid climates.

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Posted: 11/24/2008 2:53:38 PM EST
Then you have the guys who insist on taping their magazines together. If I remember correctly, Rep. Bray mentioned that when the Ichord Subcommittee visited Vietnam, he saw up to six magazines taped together. Going prone into sand or muck, combined with the unsupported feed lips on the 20rd mags, can't bode well for the ultimate reliability of the system. They were also some enthusiastic souls who insisted on lubricating their ammunition and magazines, picking up even more debris. Lubed ammo wouldn't help matters with regard to chamber pressure and bolt thrust either. The resulting increase in pressure/bolt thrust can be equivalent to firing a proof load. Even wet ammo (from rain or fording a stream) can ramp up pressure/bolt thrust.

Of course, aluminum magazines wouldn't rust; they would exfoliate. The experimental steel magazines were withdrawn after their failure in the 1963 USMC tests. Anyone know if they also saw use in the late 1962 Army testing? It would explain some of the AR-15's problems beyond the interference of certain test center staff. Springfield Armory supposedly developed an improved steel magazine design in 1963, but it never went anywhere after they submitted it.
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Posted: 11/24/2008 3:36:58 PM EST
[Last Edit: 11/24/2008 3:37:30 PM EST by F4ENUT]
I have to say I had more problems with GE M61A1's than I had with M16's the year I was in country.
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Posted: 11/24/2008 8:05:15 PM EST
Here's my experience with M16's in country. Late '66 we had our M14's exchanged for XM16E1's. We were given no formal training or cleaning kits. We were told to go out on the perimeter and fire our weapons to famillarize ourselves with there operation.
Me along with a few other guys in my squad had owned guns at home and knew we had to keep them clean. We got all the guys up to speed on that. We used brass brazing rods for cleaning rods. I never saw a chamber brush to I bought my own SP1 after I got home. When we could we would break the weapons down and clean them in gas with some motor oil mixed in.
In Jan. or Feb. of '67 We swapped out our buffers for new ones with a heavier spring and buffer. I assume the original ones were edgewaters.They told us this was to slow down the rate of fire on auto, which it did.
I must say even with the lack of training and no cleaning kits I saw very few cases of our rifles not functioning. Maybe the earlier M16A1's had problems but our XM's did not.
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Posted: 11/24/2008 8:53:55 PM EST
Originally Posted By fakahatchee:
Here's my experience with M16's in country. Late '66 we had our M14's exchanged for XM16E1's. We were given no formal training or cleaning kits. We were told to go out on the perimeter and fire our weapons to famillarize ourselves with there operation.
Me along with a few other guys in my squad had owned guns at home and knew we had to keep them clean. We got all the guys up to speed on that. We used brass brazing rods for cleaning rods. I never saw a chamber brush to I bought my own SP1 after I got home. When we could we would break the weapons down and clean them in gas with some motor oil mixed in.
In Jan. or Feb. of '67 We swapped out our buffers for new ones with a heavier spring and buffer. I assume the original ones were edgewaters.They told us this was to slow down the rate of fire on auto, which it did.
I must say even with the lack of training and no cleaning kits I saw very few cases of our rifles not functioning. Maybe the earlier M16A1's had problems but our XM's did not.


Army or USMC? Who did you serve with and what part of the country? Thank you for your service.
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Posted: 11/24/2008 9:14:19 PM EST
I was with the First Cav Div. in the Central Highlands. Base camp was LZ English near Bong Son.
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Posted: 6/10/2009 6:00:07 PM EST
bump to keep out of the archives...
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Posted: 6/10/2009 10:58:20 PM EST
Having been in the Army at the time, I noticed that ALL of the military equipment was inferior because of compromise. My M16 would ony fire a few rounds between jams. Use of any lube was forbidden - it had to stay clean and dry. We used M151 swing-axle flip-over 1/4 tons and M38 Jeeps side-by-side. The Jeep was superior in every way. Our duece & 1/2s ate transfer cases and front axles. The 5-tons blew the head gasket rings right out the side of the block of the multifuel engine. Any of you guys remember the "Tornado" OHC engine in the 5/4 pickup? What a disaster. The air-cooled V12 s in our M48s leaked more oil than they burned. We learned never to walk alongside as the oil spray from the cooling fans doused everything. The Detroit 6V53 in the Sheridans and 113s was impossible to access. We had an M4A3 Sherman yard goat with a 30-cylinder Chrysler A57 gas engine. Enough about that. We build "retro" rifles in homage to the soldiers that bet their lives on them. I hope that our guys have better stuff today. Bless-'em. Phil 63H40 70-74
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Posted: 6/10/2009 11:41:45 PM EST
Run with scissors!!!!
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Posted: 6/11/2009 2:16:05 AM EST
Originally Posted By anjong-ni:
Having been in the Army at the time, I noticed that ALL of the military equipment was inferior because of compromise. My M16 would ony fire a few rounds between jams. Use of any lube was forbidden - it had to stay clean and dry. We used M151 swing-axle flip-over 1/4 tons and M38 Jeeps side-by-side. The Jeep was superior in every way. Our duece & 1/2s ate transfer cases and front axles. The 5-tons blew the head gasket rings right out the side of the block of the multifuel engine. Any of you guys remember the "Tornado" OHC engine in the 5/4 pickup? What a disaster. The air-cooled V12 s in our M48s leaked more oil than they burned. We learned never to walk alongside as the oil spray from the cooling fans doused everything. The Detroit 6V53 in the Sheridans and 113s was impossible to access. We had an M4A3 Sherman yard goat with a 30-cylinder Chrysler A57 gas engine. Enough about that. We build "retro" rifles in homage to the soldiers that bet their lives on them. I hope that our guys have better stuff today. Bless-'em. Phil 63H40 70-74


Thank you Phil, for your service, and for putting things into proper perspective.
It thrills me to see the "un-authorized modifications" of my days ('87-'94) and much more being standard issue today!
That must be what the framers of this great nation had in mind. Someone somewhere must have came to the conclusion that,"Hey, this is a really good piece of gear! Let's buy several thousand of them, and issue them to the troops!"
That beats the shit out of McNamara's whiz kids making across the board decisions from a desk with no input from the troops or the inventor of the weapon itself.
"Barrel time", the bullet passing the gas port before the pressure drops to a reasonable level. (Yes, the great ammo controversy). Add "tolerance stacking", and you can come up with:
1- this rifle rips the rim off the case and leaves the case stuck in the chamber.
2- this rifle runs like a raped ape.
3- this rifle with it's chrome chamber actually "squirts" the case out of the chamber, cycles way too fast, and beats itself to death.
Oh, and BTW, I would never have thought of this on my own. The major's detailed report put these thoughts in my head!
Beel 63W10-20 '87-'94

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Posted: 6/11/2009 6:44:05 AM EST
Since I have neither the time nor the patience to read thru everybody's "my daddy (uncle, cousin, whatever" srories, some of what I'm posting below may have already been covered, but for anyone who is interested in more tham first person rumors, here's what happened w/the early M16s.

1) The change from the original batch of extruded powder to Ball powder had two undesirable effects. First, it changed the pressure cycle, using the Edgewater buffer, such that that operating (cyclic) rate of the piece was significantly speeded up. This was not a good idea for functional reliability, or durability.

The second problem came about because the powder used was recycled WW2 made stuff. Calcium Carbonate is used to leach out impurities when ball powder is produced. In the stuff that was being used from WW2, the Calcium Carbonate had been left in the powder. It had no effect on burn rate, and all it in there was to make the operating rod faces of the M1, and the chamber of the M14s a bitch to clean (I was in the M1/M14 Army.)

But when this stuff got distributed inside the gas tube of an M16; sooner or later it would clog the thing up––––which is where those now unnecessary overlength pipe cleaners came from.

Finally, the unchromed chambers of the first issue M16s would rust and pit in certain parts of the RVN––-places where a lot of our guys were humping it. That, combined w/the early BS stories that you didn't need to clean the M16, and a lack of cleaning equipment in the first days, all contributed to the malfunctions that haunted our guys.

And Marines were not the only people who lost men because of Robert McNamara's isistance that the '16 be immediately adopted w/o further testing. Plenty of my brother soldiers also paid the priice for that decision.
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Posted: 6/11/2009 8:59:55 AM EST
Insert sounds of cheering and clapping in response to Shamayim's message here __________________ . You Numba One, G.I.!
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Posted: 6/11/2009 10:19:36 AM EST
Originally Posted By shamayim:
And Marines were not the only people who lost men because of Robert McNamara's isistance that the '16 be immediately adopted w/o further testing. Plenty of my brother soldiers also paid the priice for that decision.

I still question this widely held view of completely laying of blame at McNamara's door. Of course it would be unreasonable to say he wasn't culpable in the matter, but there were a lot of factors. Firstly, the Army had tested the AR-15 as early as 1958, and the AIB declared it then to be immature, but a suitable replacement as the standard infantry rifle should all the kinks be worked out. What happened next between the AIB and the AR-15 more or less saw that when they were finally overridden on account of the trashing the M14 was getting in the reports, selective reading on the part of civilian and military authorities, to include McNamara (but not just him), saw only that it had already been deemed acceptable, not that there were perhaps still bugs in the system. The system then go put through the military procurement system, in which the powder decision was made, compounding the issues already known. Many of those issues were unclear, because the extent of the rigging of tests by Springfield Armory and the AIB meant that even legitimate faults were taken with a grain of salt by proponents of the system.

All of this is made even more complex by the fact that McNamara as late as 1963 was still hoping the SPIW would be ready by 1965. He was looking for ways to get it field tested in Vietnam, and was denying requests left and right by MACV for AR-15s. The AR-15/M16 was never intended to be more than an interim weapon. If McNamara can be faulted its for continuing to support the SPIW even after it became clear the thing was doomed. As a result, the M16s, which were intended to serve as a replacement for the derided M14 only in front line areas, and were expected to themselves be in service for less than a decade before being replaced by the uber-SPIW, which would revolutionize everything, etc etc.
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Posted: 6/11/2009 2:03:46 PM EST
Originally Posted By shamayim:
1) The change from the original batch of extruded powder to Ball powder had two undesirable effects. First, it changed the pressure cycle, using the Edgewater buffer, such that that operating (cyclic) rate of the piece was significantly speeded up. This was not a good idea for functional reliability, or durability.

The second problem came about because the powder used was recycled WW2 made stuff. Calcium Carbonate is used to leach out impurities when ball powder is produced. In the stuff that was being used from WW2, the Calcium Carbonate had been left in the powder. It had no effect on burn rate, and all it in there was to make the operating rod faces of the M1, and the chamber of the M14s a bitch to clean (I was in the M1/M14 Army.)


Several points here:

1. The Edgewater buffer would have been problematic no matter the powder used. The rings tended to seize up when wet, whether from water or oil, eliminating their buffering value.
2. The unchromed chamber would have also given problems due to corrosion no matter the powder used.
3. The name "Improved Military Rifle" is just a brand name. It merely signifies the change from DuPont's earlier "Military Rifle"-brand extruded powders which used straight nitrocellulose to IMR's deterrent coated nitrocellulose. IMR as a brand is actually older than Olin's Ball Powder types. The specific type used, IMR 4475, was actually introduced back in the 1930s. To somehow suggest that DuPont was not a full-fledged, card-carrying member of the Military/Industrial Complex and had any less of a cozy relationship than Olin is patently ridiculous.
4. Keeping the original IMR 4475 would have undoubtedly given problems due to pressure excursions once Remington could no longer cherry pick acceptable powder lots. The rounds were already dropping primers in testing, imagine the fun once you hit a warmer climate. DuPont's follow-on candidate, CR 8136, was also twitchy with regard to lot-to-lot pressure specs.
5. The commercial case specs adopted for the original M193 TDP would have still been a problem in combination with the chamber corrosion and pressure excursions of the two DuPont powders.
6. Speaking of the DuPont powders, remember that contrary to popular conspiracy theory, the Army was not standardizing solely on Olin Ball Powder. DuPont's CR 8136 was approved for use in 5.56mm at the same time as WC846. DuPont's third adopted submission, IMR 8208, was conceived from a recently-completed Army research contract for a more temperature stable extruded powder for use in 7.62mm NATO. While the latter powder performed well in 5.56mm, the grain size was not conducive to trouble-free insertion into the smaller case, so it was reworked until it did. If the Army had wanted to go solely to Ball Powder, it seems strange that they would have approved two additional extruded-types for 5.56mm after dropping IMR 4475, and sponsored additional research for yet another extruded type for 7.62mm.
7. The Calcium Carbonate was added during the manufacture of Ball Powder to neutralize remaining acids from either the nitration process of virgin nitrocellulose or acid leached from the nitrocellulose in surplus powders. This also helped to slow the decay of Ball Powder in comparison to other powder types like IMR. Ironically, Olin discovered in the '50s that the recycling of surplus powder containing deterrents like IMR actually created dirtier burning powder than those which had been recycled from a surplus powder made from straight nitrocellulose.
8. In retrospect, it is unclear how much surplus powder was actually being recycled to manufacture new Ball Powder. In the early '60s, there was a controversy over Olin overcharging the military for ammunition containing Ball Powder. It seems that their pricing had been based upon the sole use of virgin nitrocellulose. Instead, it had been found that Olin had used both recycled and virgin nitrocellulose to manufacture the Ball Powder used for the contract.


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Posted: 6/11/2009 9:09:51 PM EST
This is a fascinating thread. Seems like the AR platform just wasn't well suited to the environment it found itself in, SEA jungle. I read that the "M4" just failed a test, sand I believe. It bothers me that the present Pentagon assumes that all future wars will be fought in open deserts, or Middle Eastern cities. Remember, when Stoner conceived the AR, it looked like we'd be fighting the Russians in Berlin! Hell, the next war may be in Antarctica.
Like my Dad says about the Battle of the Bulge in Dec '44, we didn't want to "massacre" the Germans, we just wanted them to get lost so we could occupy their territory. Fill the air with lead so the enemy will leave - that's where the AR succeeds....
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Posted: 6/12/2009 3:13:16 PM EST
I'm new here, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt. I had 2 cousins in Nam (Marine infranty, Army door gunner) and several friends, neighbors and coworkers in the military in Nam and every other "hot spot" in the world. They all argree the M-16 in all its incarnations is a darn good weapon. Is it the right tool in the right place? Sometimes no. Did it have teething problems? Does everything intvented perform perfectly right out of the gate? NO! The bottom line is these people beleived in and depended on the M-16. It is my personal favorite rifle and I've shot many rifles in the last 30 or so years.
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Posted: 6/12/2009 4:26:34 PM EST
Originally Posted By BattleRife:
I like the Dick Culver write-up. I have seen it before, and while he clearly has some issues remembering timelines, I think he has reported things as he remembers them.

Exactly why the jamming problems occurred has been a topic of debate for decades. The official report by Sen. Ichord has little credibility to most people, so that leaves us scrambling for real answers that nobody has.

I have formulated my own theory based principally on stuff written in The Black Rifle, Culver's comments, and info posted on this board by RKI's such as Ekie and Capt. Richardson.

TBR notes that the severe problems with both the 603 and 604 (principally the 603, since they were used in combat a LOT more) began after Westmoreland promised that every combat soldier in Vietnam would have the M16. This meant two things:

- Colt would have to greatly up their production. Colt had produced about a quarter million AR-15s from 1959 to 1964, Now they would be expected to make 300,000 per year.


- A lot of rank and file soldiers who had very little familiarity with the M16 would be carrying it into combat.

Prior to 1966, the AR-15 was made fairly slowly and carefully, and was used by well-trained professional soliders such as airborne troops and special forces. By all acounts, these rifles worked very well and the troops were happy with them. It is worth noting that the majority of the ammo they were shooting was loaded with Olin WC-846 ball powder.

Starting in early 1966 the AR-15 was made at a much higher rate and used as often as not by draftees and some very average grunts. Quite often, the first time they ever saw an AR-15 was the moment they were handed one to take on patrol. Problems arose almost immediately.

Was some of the problem operator usage and maintenance related? Certainly, it had to be. The quality of the operators was taking a big hit at this point.

But, based on Culver's write-up and some notes in TBR, I think the quality of the rifles coming from Colt was the bigger problem. It was very interesting that some of Culver's people found they could make a bad gun good by honing the chamber. Especially when you look at TBR pg 293, where there is a table showing that of 150 M16A1 rifles surveyed in the fall of 1967, the vast majority had out-of-spec chambers, with 77% being out of spec in the rearmost diameter. They do not say how many were undersized or oversized, but a chamber that has an in-spec front dimension and an undersized rear dimension is going to have reduced taper, and taper is one of the most important factors in reliable extraction. Admittedly, the chambers were chromed by this point in time, so it is hard to say what dimensions earlier chambers would have had based on this, but it shows that Colt did not watch such things closely.

That is my arguement. Sloppy quality control at Colt was the principal cause of the problems. It did not help that the rifle was also suddenly being issued to some of the most disinterested and uninformed soldiers the US Army has likely ever produced. Ball powder was used successfully prior to 1966 and has been used successfully ever since, so it was definitely not the problem.










from what I have read/studied the ball powder was the main issue. not becasue it was ball. but because of the flas suppressant addded to the powder to cut flash and to reduce cyclic rate. the formula reacted to the humidity and sweat etc etc to make a hard carbon lining. the percentage of the formula was changed and this stopped the ammo problem. The ammo was the main casue in my opinion, why else was the spe re wrttien from a slower rate, to a faster RPM to account for the ball powder, the gun was meant to use extruded powder originally

FWIW my dad was in Nam in 67-68 with a 602 and he cleaned his twice by dipping in solvent wiping it off and oiling it. He says he fired over 10K rounds with never a failure. but he did dry his ammo every night
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Posted: 6/12/2009 5:11:21 PM EST
The rifle was sold as "the rifle that never required cleaning". Some officers took this literally! Combine this with the way the gas system is designed and 110* heat with 100% humidity and you are going to get failures... I carried my M16A2 through the desert and never put a drop of oil on it. I removed sand with a shaving brush.and lubed the bolt with graphite, kept a muzzle cap on at all times and never had a stoppage!

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Posted: 6/12/2009 5:45:14 PM EST

Originally Posted By 101ABN327:
The rifle was sold as "the rifle that never required cleaning". Some officers took this literally! Combine this with the way the gas system is designed and 110* heat with 100% humidity and you are going to get failures... I carried my M16A2 through the desert and never put a drop of oil on it. I removed sand with a shaving brush.and lubed the bolt with graphite, kept a muzzle cap on at all times and never had a stoppage!

101

Yeah, I always thought it was the Army or McNamara's whiz kids who came up with this myth, but it turns out that Colt (and maybe ArmaLite?) was responsible for it:

Science and Mechanics, March 1962

"No Cleaning Needed...The whole gun is non-corrosive, even under a salt water spray, and the lubricants are permanently fused into the metal. It'll never need oil, and dirt can't stick to any of the moving parts." (Colt salesman Bill Murphy)


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Posted: 6/12/2009 8:23:12 PM EST
Oh yeah! That's not a SECDEF spin that is a contractor spin! Anyway, after they worked the bugs out of it, it ended up being the killing machine DoD was looking for. It has lasted longer than the M-1.

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Posted: 6/13/2009 1:59:39 AM EST
I remember reading an article written by one of the original makers who worked under Gene Stoner at Armalite. I know that some of the things he mentioned was that they didn't chrome line the bore and chamber, but the Army really f-d it up by using the wrong powder, powder that actually created terrible fouling. Interstingly enough, it seems the soldiers who took care of their rifles actually didn't seem to have much complaints.
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Posted: 6/13/2009 3:34:55 AM EST
YEA I seem to recall that the first 601's went VERY early VN war to SF guys that keep thier weapons cleaned. I do not think that there was much heard from the early advisors about problems with them.

The rifle worked as described, able to carry alot more ammo in a lighter rifle!

There is another forum about the ar15 that alot of VN vets weigh in on the subject from all services and years in country. All but one in MANY posts liked the rifle which surprised me.
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Posted: 6/13/2009 3:57:22 AM EST

Originally Posted By ali059:
YEA I seem to recall that the first 601's went VERY early VN war to SF guys that keep thier weapons cleaned. I do not think that there was much heard from the early advisors about problems with them.

The rifle worked as described, able to carry alot more ammo in a lighter rifle!

There is another forum about the ar15 that alot of VN vets weigh in on the subject from all services and years in country. All but one in MANY posts liked the rifle which surprised me.

Link?
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Posted: 6/13/2009 9:49:55 AM EST
FWIW ...

My father was assigned to the 11th Air Assault, Ft. Benning, Ga in 1965. Reflagged 1st Cavalry Div. (Airmoble) and deployed to the Republic of Vietnam in Aug. 1965 with B-2/7 Cav.

I've been told since I can remember, "we trained with M-14's ... and on the ship going over ... we were issued M16's (XM16E1's) ... the only training we got - was to fire a few mags into the ocean to familiarize with it ... no training ... no manuals ... nothing ... "

He has always hated it (not to mention the cussing that it was a plastic POS) - but I think a lot that trained on M14's had that bias (not discounting the documented early problems with that statement).

This has always a topic of disagreement with us, because flash forward to July 1981 and I find myself in a "distant land" called Ft. Hood, TX assigned to what??? B-2/7 Cav, 1st Cavalry Div. (cool, huh? .) .. and I loved my M16A1 and later on my A2's.

The surprising thing was that after I built a 20" gov't profile A2 - he liked it ... said it "was heavier, not the cheap POS I had to carry ..."

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Posted: 6/13/2009 12:58:34 PM EST
Originally Posted By Josh3239:
I remember reading an article written by one of the original makers who worked under Gene Stoner at Armalite. I know that some of the things he mentioned was that they didn't chrome line the bore and chamber, but the Army really f-d it up by using the wrong powder, powder that actually created terrible fouling. Interstingly enough, it seems the soldiers who took care of their rifles actually didn't seem to have much complaints.


The problem with blaming everything on WC846 is that 89 million 5.56mm rounds loaded with it had already been used by US troops in Vietnam between the first buildup in 1965 and the start of complaints in Fall 1966. This contrasts to only 10 million rounds of IMR-loaded 5.56mm used during the same period.

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Posted: 9/10/2009 7:28:08 PM EST
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Posted: 6/17/2010 2:13:25 PM EST
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Posted: 6/17/2010 9:57:22 PM EST
[Last Edit: 6/17/2010 10:00:19 PM EST by tirod]
Thanks for the bumps and locking this out of archives. This is a very informative thread on a number of levels. It addresses a significant issue in the early fielding of the M16 and also points out that the problem only existed for a short time. What has remained is the urban myth which is applied to all the iterations of the M16 ever since. Much of the myth of the " jammomatic M16" is continuously repeated from generation to generation, and 40 years later, many still assert the problems suffered then still exist in much the same degree. That view seems to held in inverse proportion to the amount of actual military service. What has happened is that with an all volunteer army, the number of actual veterans has declined from 1 in 10 to 1 in 100 - which seems to create a public opinion based on ignorance laced with misinformation.

To be a true student of firearms, or at least the truth, discussions and studies of what actually happened are important. It's no surprise the more recent posts point out the effort of marketing to overemphasize the corrosion resistant nature of the M16. That very well could have been a serious appreciation of it's materials. Most previous firearms didn't just rust in the barrel and chamber - they rusted ALL OVER, as most of the parts were carbon steel. It was very much in the mind of the experienced shooter that firearms rusted inside and out, as most of the ones they had seen for their entire lives were all in various stages of decomposition. As many carried a simple pocketknife for everyday chores, they were reminded of steel's inherent failure to remain shiny every time they pulled it out to use.

If the concept of a radically rust free fiirearm was over sold, it would certainly contribute to the unintended consequence of not cleaning them. As said, in contrast, experienced users did, and cleaning rods were kept convenient. The untrained draftee? Take their root attitude to heart first - they didn't ask to be there, and damned if they were going to go along with it. Basic training wasn't a sales pitch to adopt the Army way, it was the imposition of rules never explained and obedience gained by explicit threat. It generated the concept of "Make me!" Cleaning a weapon wasn't for their benefit, it was an onerous chore in pickiness imposed by veiled brutality.

After all, the subject group was barely 18-21 years old, and for many, the first time away from home. Take those same young men and turn their lives upside down being in a foreign land, at war, and not having the practiced habits of experienced troops, you will always have a recipe for disaster.
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Posted: 6/18/2010 9:54:21 AM EST
Originally Posted By tirod:
. What has happened is that with an all volunteer army, the number of actual veterans has declined from 1 in 10 to 1 in 100 - which seems to create a public opinion based on ignorance laced with misinformation.


Interesting. Could you elaborate on that statement some more? My early morning brain just can't get wrapped around it. Are your ratios comparing the number of veterans to the civil population?
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Posted: 6/18/2010 10:43:28 AM EST
I think that most research points the blame to Colt for the problems. Colt got sloppy in their production methods in 1966 when they incresed production. They did not adequatly complete the chambers on many rifles and this let the chambers to being too tight and some even had terrible imperfections that led to failure when attempting to chamber or eject cartridges.

Remember, before 1966-67 there were very few instances of failure of the rifles. These rifles were not rushed into production and had better fitted chambers and these were not chrome linded.

In my opinion, the media and congress attempted to protect Colt's reputation, so they blamed the failures on the failure to chrome line the chamber and failure to issue cleaning kits.

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Posted: 6/18/2010 11:30:16 AM EST
FWIW, my 1966 vintage XM16E1 upper runs both steel and brass-cased ammo with no failures. Let's not forget that the Edgewater buffer was also part of the problem, too light, thus raising the cyclic rate. Combined with the increased pressure from bad powder, no cleaning kits and little or no training on the new weapon, coupled with likely out of spec chambers, it was a recipe for disaster. Non-chrome chambers and humidity were a problem in the Pacific theater during WWII as well, so I'm not counting out case obturation either.
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Posted: 6/18/2010 11:54:34 AM EST
[Last Edit: 6/18/2010 11:57:50 AM EST by GSW03]
During the Colt's Armorers course they told us an additional problem was the flash suppressant added to the ammo (calcium carbonate) which clogged the gas tube and when water or humidity it turned basicly into concrete plugging the gas tube. Also the non-chrome lined chambers would corrode and the fired casing would expand into the recess' the corrosion had created causing drag on the case and then the extractor would tear the rim off causing the jam.
Also one reason the original barrels were non-chrome lined because the McNamara whiz kids thought the money saved by skipping the chrome lining made for greater "effiency". Too bad folks had to die because McNamara was so into effiency.
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Posted: 6/18/2010 7:23:59 PM EST
Originally Posted By GSW03:
During the Colt's Armorers course they told us an additional problem was the flash suppressant added to the ammo (calcium carbonate) which clogged the gas tube and when water or humidity it turned basicly into concrete plugging the gas tube. Also the non-chrome lined chambers would corrode and the fired casing would expand into the recess' the corrosion had created causing drag on the case and then the extractor would tear the rim off causing the jam.
Also one reason the original barrels were non-chrome lined because the McNamara whiz kids thought the money saved by skipping the chrome lining made for greater "effiency". Too bad folks had to die because McNamara was so into effiency.


So Colt fed you the official line instead of volunteering that it was their own screw-ups that caused the problem? Big surprise.

McNamara was interested in efficient production because efficiency got more rifles made and into soldiers hands, and everyone agreed that was a good thing. It would have been treasonous of him to NOT support efficient production of the rifle that everyone wanted to see in widespread use as soon as possible.
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Posted: 6/18/2010 7:46:07 PM EST
[Last Edit: 6/18/2010 7:47:45 PM EST by Thatguy96]
Originally Posted By GSW03:
Also one reason the original barrels were non-chrome lined because the McNamara whiz kids thought the money saved by skipping the chrome lining made for greater "effiency". Too bad folks had to die because McNamara was so into effiency.

While McNamara definitely believed some of the additional features were non-essential and his office (which included more than just him) vetoed the chrome lined bore and chambers, he also suggested that Stoner and Colt be consulted before any further changes were made in the early phases of modifying the rifle for US service in the early 1960s. Had Colt or Stoner thought this was a serious issue and made a fuss about it, it no doubt would have been added. The same can be said of the forward assist, which was added simply because the US Army wanted it. Stoner's design was even rejected in favor of a more complex design.

Furthermore, remember that at the point these discussions were going on, the weapon was still seen as only an interim weapon until the introduction of the SPIW in 1965. Its issue was seriously limited and repeated requests by MACV for AR-15s for the ARVN and for their own use were consistently blocked between 1962 and 1964. No doubt in McNarama's mind, without a little pushing the AR-15 was never going to get into the field and that any issues would be made irrelevant once the SPIW became available.

The 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate) deploys in March 1965, the first regular unit to deploy to Vietnam fully equipped with the XM16E1. It takes until December 1965 for Colt to even begin testing of the chrome plated chamber, suggesting that they had made no plans for its inclusion. Between March 1965 and Fall 1965 are when the reports of issues with the weapon start coming in. The ARPA report from the early 1960s concerning the limited test by the ARVN and paramilitaries in South Vietnam is glowing. Their experience was so positive that MACV persisted in requesting the weapon for the ARVN until they are finally approved in 1967. There are no major complaints about the system from special forces units engaged in Vietnam, nor from action in the Dominican Republic during Operation Power Pack.

I think more people than just McNamara felt initially and given the existing experiences that the chrome chamber was an unnecessary addition.
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Posted: 6/18/2010 7:46:50 PM EST
Gentlemen, how would THIS figure into the mix historically?

We can kinda do the lack of cleaning gear and Wolf ammo in one fell swoop, as it were....
Just askin', dontchaknow.....

http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2010/06/09/a-clean-wouldnt-hurt/
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Posted: 6/18/2010 9:05:57 PM EST
http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2010/06/09/a-clean-wouldnt-hurt/
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Posted: 7/10/2011 1:23:42 AM EST
Originally Posted By dewatters:
5.56mm Timeline


Thanks.
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Posted: 3/25/2016 11:01:43 PM EST
Everyone should read this thread
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Posted: 3/25/2016 11:24:21 PM EST
[Last Edit: 3/25/2016 11:32:12 PM EST by Gamma762]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By EagleArmsHBAR:
In reading it so far, it appears that the main issue was the chambers were too tight in Colt rifles.
View Quote

I'm convinced this was the root of the vast majority of problems.

Worn out chamber reamers.

Changing the powder and all that were minor contributors.
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Posted: 3/26/2016 10:49:11 AM EST
[Last Edit: 3/26/2016 10:49:56 AM EST by BROvet04]
Lack of training and maintenance. Lack of cleaning kits and especially the chamber brush
Non chrome lined chambers in the especially hot and humid environment of SE Asia caused the chamber to corrode. This would cause the brass to weld itself to the chamber ripping off the rim during extraction. Lack of leadership making sure troops were properly maintaining weapons. Cheap magazines that the feed lips bent easily. In that environment cleaning and lubricating weapons would be a constant requirement. Magazines have always been a weakness of the M16. I can't count how many times I have been issued brand new mags that were out of spec.
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Posted: 3/26/2016 1:12:16 PM EST
if you actually READ the WORDs in "The Black Rifle" you will understand the mind set(s) and problems invented at home, far from S.E. Asia.

from arbitrarily picking (then changing) distances for penetration tests, chamber pressures, cyclic rates, the list is endless.

there wasn't even a std. (mil-spec?) for the hardness of the brass, just...whatever.

it was a brand new game in every way it could be, and Big Green doesn't like change.

sabotaged, undermined, derided at every level it's a not so minor miracle it even made it into production, let alone still going strong a half century later.

"The Black Rifle" goes deeply into the causes of failures and nowhere does it point a finger at Colt's for tight/bad chambers.

but, who knows? (i don't) maybe the fix was in.
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Posted: 3/26/2016 1:25:36 PM EST
I suppose it is possible to convey more ignorance with less words, but I doubt I will ever see it in my lifetime.--Bohr Adam

If LAV promotes using the slide lock/release to chamber a round after a mag change, then he should be ignored.-MP0117
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