| In 1957, Eugene M. Stoner, a skilled civilian engineer, was commissioned
by the United States Army to develop a shoulder fired weapon that weighed
no more than seven pounds, and that was to be capable of automatic as well
as semi-automatic firing. In less than a year, he delivered a prototype
of the weapon to the Army at Fort Benning, Georgia where it was given a
thorough testing. The Army found the rifle, which was named the AR-15,
to be equal to its own M-14 in firing at distances of up to five hundred
yards. The AR-15 was found to be superior to the M-14 in respect to weight,
ease of automatic firing without climbing, and in the weight of its ammunition,
which allowed a soldier to carry more rounds without weight increase. After
months of testing, the United States Continental Army Command Board recommended
that the AR-15 rifle be adopted to replace the M-1 rifle, of World War
II fame, as the Army's standard basic infantry weapon.
The recommendation was not adopted, and it was not until 1962 that
1,000 of the rifles were sent to Vietnam for months of testing in the hands
of United States Advisors and Vietnamese soldiers. This was accomplished
over the objections of the Department of the Army by the direct intervention
of Robert McNamara, the secretary of Defense. These tests in Vietnam proved
to be the publicity needed to persuade the Air Force and the Navy to ask
for initial purchases of the weapon, in order to equip their personnel
serving in Vietnam. Following the Air Force and Navy requests, Army General
Paul Harkins was so impressed with the test results that he placed an order,
in the summer of 1962, requesting 20,000 of the rifles for use by United
States and Vietnamese troops.
The Army Staff resisted the change and was reluctant to adopt the AR-15
in lieu of the more conventional M-14 rifle. Again, Secretary of Defense
MacNamara, who was also impressed by the test results showing the Ar-15
to be superior to the M-14, intervened and forced the services into a compromise.
This compromise resulted in the Army placing an order in 1963 for 85,000
AR-15 rifles to be used by its troops in Vietnam, while keeping the M-14
rifle as the standard weapon for its other troops stationed in the United
States and in Europe.
From its first introduction into Vietnam in 1962 until 1966 the rifle,
now termed the M-16, enjoyed a reputation of an extremely lethal and dependable
weapon among the soldiers using it in combat. In 1966 a jamming malfunction
with the M-16 rifle began to become commonplace. This malfunction consisted
of the failure of the rifle to extract a fired cartridge shell. The extractor
would grip the rim of an expended cartridge and instead of pulling the
cartridge from the chamber of the barrel on the rearward movement of the
bolt, the extractor would pull a portion of the rim from the cartridge
as the bolt moved to the rear, leaving the cartridge in the chamber of
the barrel. This then required the soldier to take a cleaning rod and insert
it into the muzzle end of the barrel and force the fired cartridge from
the chamber, thus clearing the weapon so that it could be fired again.
[Fighting a modern war with a muzzle loader; Oh happy, happy, joy, joy.]
Confidence among combat troops soon reached such a low level that 1/5th
Mech. combat troops began arming themselves with whatever other weapons
were available. These included rifles, pistols, shotguns, sub-machineguns
and whatever else could be scrounged.
Why did a weapon that enjoyed a reputation of reliability in combat
suddenly begin to malfunction? Almost as perplexing is the question of
why in late 1967, the rifle again began to live up to its old reputation
of reliability and the malfunctions ceased.
In May of 1967, after numerous complaints had been received by members
of the United States Congress regarding the malfunctioning of the
M-16 rifle in Vietnam, a special subcommittee of the Congressional Armed
Forces Committee, began to investigate the allegations.
In Vietnam, when the malfunction started to make its appearance and
the combat soldier started asking why, he was told that it was his fault
because he was not keeping his weapon clean. A further complication at
the time was that there were two types of ammunition available. The IMR
and the Ball Propellent became mixed as the Ball Propellent was being introduced
and the IMR was being used up. Then it was said that the weapon needed
a new buffer and that would cure the problem. With the new buffer the malfunction
continued, and again the soldier was told it was his fault because he was
not properly cleaning his rifle. The Army tried to blame him and the rifle.
As it turns out, the blame for the malfunction rested with neither the
soldier nor the M-16 rifle. It rested with the manufacture of 5.56 mm.
ammunition with ball propellant, because it was cheaper than using IMR
extruded propellant, and there was a huge surplus of old artillery powder
from which ball propellant was manufactured.
Following is part of the text of the hearings held by the Congressional
Armed Forces Special Subcommittee.
Lawrence F. Hadzima
Hearings before the Special Subcommittee on the M-16 Rifle Program
Committee On Armed Services
House of Representatives
May 15, 16, 31, June 21, July 25,26,27,
August 8, 9, and 22, 1967
(Because of the length of the text of the hearings I am editing them
so that parts not pertaining to the jamming of the M-16 rifle are excluded.
Highlighting and underlining are mine.)
Washington, D.C., Monday, May 15, 1967
The subcommittee met at 10:15 a.m., in room 2216, Rayburn Building,
Washington, D.C., Hon. Richard H. Ichord, Chairman of the subcommittee
presiding. Other members are Hon. Speedy Long, of Louisiana, and the Hon.
William Bray, of Indiana. The Chair inserted into the record the letter
establishing and outlining the jurisdiction of this subcommittee.
Washington, D.C., May 3, 1967 Dear Mr. Ichord: Pursuant to
Committee Resolution 4, and after consultation with the Hon.
William H. Bates, I hereby
appoint you as Chairman of a special subcommittee to make inquiry
development, production, distribution and sale of M-16 rifles.
The subcommittee should make thorough inquiry
into the history of the M-16 rifle
and its present rate of production.
The subcommittee should also look into foreign sales of this
and be ready to advise the Committee as to whether the present sole-
source is commensurate with sound national security. If it is determined
that another source is desirable, the subcommittee should also
be ready to
comment on the cross licensing arrangements that would be necessary.
In this investigation, the subcommittee should determine rate of
production, number of rifles now supplied to our troops, the
number to be supplied, the
adequacy of the rifle itself, and any proposals for a
The Hon. Speedy Long and the Hon. William Bray will serve with you on
subcommittee. Mr Earl Morgan, of the Committee staff, is assigned
to work with you
and your subcommittee on this inquiry.
L. Mendel Rivers, Chairman.
Hearings were then held with Dr. Robert A. Brooks, Assistant Secretary
of the Army (Installations and Logistics); Maj. Gen. Henry A. Miley and
Lt. Col. John D. White.
The matters discussed were mainly the development and initial procurement
of the M-16 rifle by the Army and Air Force. Of interest is testimony starting
on page 4442:
Mr. Ichord: Let me ask you this: What
kind of training do you give the individual soldier in this rifle?
Dr. Brooks: There is a program of instruction,
both of course in the firing and the maintenance of the rifle. I have an
officer with me who is very experienced in this, and I would like to ask
him if he could comment on that question.
Colonel White: Mr. Chairman, in the
conversion of a battalion with all M-14 rifles, the old family rifles,
to the M-16, we had a rather extensive step-by-step training program in
the firing, care, maintenance, assembly, disassembly, of the M-16 rifle,
which all troops were equipped with. ...
We found the weapon very easy to train troops in maintenance of it
and its firing.
Mr. Ichord: Thank you very much Colonel.
The reason why I asked that question is because of the television report
that was made shortly after this committee was appointed, and I am speaking
of the NBC Brinkley-Huntley show, where one commentator from Vietnam stated
that several men were seen throwing the M-16 away, and there was a statement
on the part of one sergeant to the effect that two of his men were killed
their guns jammed.
Now I know this report has gone back to General Walt and personally
I have a great deal of confidence in General Walt. I know he was in on
the testing and evaluation of the rifle, and he has stated that at least
95 percent of the Marines are highly in favor of the M-16 rifle. ................
But one of the young men did state that when the rifle first arrived that
they had, I believe, a 25 percent incident of jamming, when the rifle first
arrived in South Vietnam. He attributed the jamming to the failure of
the military to provide them with proper cleaning equipment. He kept
talking about not having a bore brush, that would get into the chamber
mechanism in order to adequately clean the rifle.
I was wondering if instruction was offered at the time the rifle was
Dr. Brooks: Colonel White, I believe,
has been speaking to the experience with the units that converted to the
rifle prior to going to Vietnam; isn't that correct Colonel White?
Colonel White: That is correct, sir.
Dr. Brooks: There were also a certain
number of units, Mr Chairman, as I pointed out, that went to Vietnam originally
equipped with the M-14. General Westmoreland's request in effect was to
exchange those M-14's in our infantry maneuver battalions for the M-16's.
Those rifles were exchanged in country. They were sent to Vietnam, and
the troops exchanged their M-14's for M-16's there.
As far as the adequacy of support in terms of parts, cleaning equipment,
and so forth, we had no indication that there was any lack of actual quantities
in-theater. There may have been a distribution problem when the actual
unit got its rifle. There was a team sent when we got these reports,
as we did in the fall of last year when the units were first issued the
rifle, to cover this matter of proper training and maintenance and operation
of the rifle in the field. That appeared to solve the issue, because
since then we have had no such reports through Army channels, at any rate,
of any problems with jamming or malfunctioning of the rifle. This
was a problem that occurred just when the exchange was taking place in-country.
The text continues on the subject of training and supplying the M-16
to support troops and the sale of the weapon to foreign countries.
Then starting on page 4451:
Mr. Ichord: I think I will have at this
time counsel read into the record some of the interviews which we had with
35 or 40 returnees from South Vietnam at Fort Benning, Friday, giving their
experiences with the M-16 weapon.
Mr. Morgan: Mr. Chairman, the first
one is from an officer who was commander of the 5th Battalion, 7th. Cavalry.
He served in Vietnam from August 1966 to January 1967, and he stated that
he did experience, in his unit, a couple of failures to extract the
spent round. .... It was his opinion that this is the best weapon available
for Vietnam. He had no complaints, and personally had encountered no problems
with the M-16 rifle. .....
Another officer, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry, 101st Airborne, from
October 1965 to October 1966 his unit saw continuous action in the field,
.... Any malfunctions were normally caused by dirty ammunition or a bent
magazine. This causes the gun to fail to extract the spent round or fail
to feed the round into the chamber.
.... Another Captain with the 25th Infantry Division experienced no
problems in his year in Vietnam. He thought that the M-16 was an outstanding
weapon. The problem of malfunctions are caused by failure to keep the
Another staff Sergeant with the 1st Battalion of 503rd Infantry served
in Vietnam from May 1965 to February 1966, says that he preferred the M-16
in spite of extraction problems. ...
One captain cited a problem of jamming which was caused by keeping
the cartridge in the chamber overnight, or while on extended mission.
In summary, Mr. Chairman, of the main problems or malfunctions discovered
in our interviews, the greatest single malfunction was the failure to extract.
This was caused by any number of things; 1, a dirty round; 2, the cartridge
expands from being left in the chamber; or 3, the extractor doesn't get
enough of the rim of the cartridge. .....
Mr. Ichord: I have additional questions,
Dr. Brooks. Who makes the ammunition for the M-16?
Dr. Brooks: There are a number of producers
of the ammunition, ..... The following is a list of the current producers
of 5.56 ammunition:
Remington Arms Company - Bridgeport, Connecticut
Olin Mathieson Chemical Corp. - East Alton, Illinois
Olin Mathieson Chemical Corp. - New Haven, Connecticut
Federal Cartridge Corp. - Minneapolis, Minnesota
Lake City Army Ammunition Plant - East Independence, Missouri
Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant - New Breghton, Minnesota
The text continues with discussion of the sale of weapons and ammunition
to foreign countries and the status of the SAWS program. (Small Arms Weapons
Study) and also the fact that Colt was the only manufacturer being used
at the time for the M-16.
Also discussed is the lubricant "Dri-Slide."
Washington, D.C., Wednesday, June 21, 1967
The subcommittee met at 9:30 a.m. in executive session, Hon. Richard
H. Ichord presiding.
Mr. Ichord: Won't you come forward Mr.
Stoner, and have a seat there, and we will proceed informally.
Mr. Stoner: All right.
Mr. Ichord: Have you ever appeared
before a congressional committee before - or is this your first time?
Mr. Stoner: Not formally, no.
Mr. Ichord: Yes. Well, we are proceeding
a little bit differently than we usually do. Usually we require the witness
to submit a written statement.
I think this morning, Mr. Stoner, to kick the matter off we would like
for you to just informally give us your version of the development of the
M-16 and what part you played in it. And you may proceed as you wish.
Mr. Stoner: You want the historical
end of it?
Mr. Ichord: Yes.
Mr. Stoner: (Stoner then gives a background
of development of the M-16 starting in 1957.)
Then starting on page 4546:
Mr. Ichord: Are you acquainted with
the new buffer that has those ball bearings?
Mr. Stoner: No, sir. I have only heard
Mr. Bray: Were you satisfied with the
buffer when it was originally designed?
Mr. Stoner: Yes. The only change that
was made to the buffer - and it was in this test here - was the fact that
we put less bearing area on it to keep it from accumulating sand. In other
words, we put longitudinal guides on it, rather than have a circumferential
bearing all the way around the buffer in the tube to run it. We cleared
it so the sand could go through easier, and that was the only thing we
Mr. Bray: There are only a few things
that can cause malfunction, when you get down to the brass tacks. It is
one that has been worrying us a great deal; the extractor pulls the
rim off the cartridge. Wasn't that the way it was?
Mr. Ichord: Or cuts through it.
Mr. Bray: Or cuts through it.
Now, could that be faulty ammunition, or could it be improper
measurements in the chamber, or a bad coefficient of expansion in the metal?
I would like to hear some discussion as to that, because that is a problem
that has been plaguing them.
Mr Stoner: Well, while I was working
on the program the only occurrence that I saw of that particular thing
, a failure to extract was when they were in adverse conditions test, when
there was a lot of sand or mud in the chamber, and the weapon was fired.
This happened very rarely.
As I said before, sand in the chamber tends to lock the cartridge in,
due to firing - the cartridge case expands, the brass isn't very hard,
it embeds the sand grains into the brass, and it also pushes out and more
or less locks it into the chamber walls. This causes a case to be literally
locked into the gun system at the moment of extraction.
This occurred in a few instances in very adverse conditions, but this
would be in our standard Army sand or mud test, and it happened on a lot
of their weapons. It wasn't just on the M-15 - I mean the AR-15, or the
M-16 as it is known now.
Mr. Ichord: How far could you increase
the chamber tolerance to take care of that?
Mr. Stoner: That doesn't do any good,
because the cartridge case has about 50,000 pounds pressure on it, and
it will expand the cartridge out to whatever the chamber might be. It doesn't
really do too much good there.
The other thing that can cause this are rough
chambers, in other words, where there are toolmarks cut into the chamber
the time of manufacturing, and I doubt whether you would ever get a
weapon like that through acceptance test, because it shows up worse when
the gun is new, because these toolmarks in the chamber are sharper at that
moment and then tend to smooth up in time.
So this would cause a gun that would be very apparent to anyone testing
the weapon or accepting it at the time ---
Mr. Ichord: As a matter of interest,
I might tell you that we ran across one boy who said he had used an emery
board in the chamber, and after that his weapon didn't have extraction
problems. Of course, he may have been getting the dirt out of it.
Mr. Stoner: Well, this is true. There
are some other things that enter into this.
For instance, chamber roughness conditions, the cycling rate of
the weapon, has an awful lot to do with extraction problems.
Mr. Ichord: Then he could have solved
Mr. Stoner: What?
Mr. Ichord: Then he really could have
solved his problem by smoothing it out, then?
Mr. Stoner: Well, probably, but he
could also aggravate it if he put the marks in the wrong direction.
Like I said, the cyclic rate, if it is excessive, will tend to open
a weapon too soon when there is still considerable pressure in the chamber.
This means ---
Mr. Bray: What would that do, if you
tried to open it with pressure too quick?
Mr. Stoner: Well the cartridge tends
to stick - under high residual, pressure in the barrel, and of course with
this too soon action you also have a higher bolt velocity. In other words,
your bolt is trying to open at higher speeds, so you have an aggravated
condition where the cartridge is tending to stick in there a little
longer or a little harder, and you are also giving it a harder jerk by
driving the bolt faster.
Mr. Bray: Then a faster rate of fire
could cause that situation?
Mr. Stoner: That is probably
one of the worse conditions you can get, by increasing the cyclic rate.
Mr. Bray: If you have too high a rate
of fire for this rifle - Mr. Ichord: You are aware of the fact that
this buffer slows this cyclic rate down about 100 rounds a minute.
Mr. Stoner: Only the closing cycle,
and it has nothing to do with the opening cycle.
Mr. Ichord: Oh.
Mr. Stoner: And the opening cycle - I would
think if this buffer is the type I can envision they put in there, it would
actually - it gives you longer buffer time, probably.
In other words, at the end of the cycle, at the stroke when it hits
the back of the gun and gives you a slower return time - but I don't know
- the only way you can normally change the cyclic rate on opening is by
the gas port size in this weapon, or change the bolt carrier to give more
delay in the opening cam, or add weight to the recoiling parts, that rotates
the bolt, or the ammunition change. In other words, if you change any of
those things, you can change the cyclic rate.
Mr. Ichord: At the time the M-16 underwent
the test at Fort Benning, were they using extruded propellant?
Mr. Stoner: Yes, sir.
Mr. Ichord: Or ball propellant?
Mr. Stoner: The gun was designed only to
fire IMR type powder, which is an extruded propellant, which was made at
the time by Du Pont.
Mr. Ichord: You seem to be leading
into the opinion that the type of powder we are using may have or may be
the cause of some of the trouble.
Mr. Bray: Using ball powder, anyhow.
Mr. Stoner: Well, the ball powder -
I am acquainted with that. I was asked about it some years ago by some
people in the government, my opinion on what was going to happen when
they used it. I will go back a little bit.
When the Army got serious about this and they wanted to standardize
the ammunition and get up a technical data package on the ammunition, at
the time, through all the tests, and at the beginning of the Air Force
adoption of the weapon, the ammunition was a commercial buy from Remington.
We didn't have a regular tech data package. But when the Army got into
it, then they set up a board to make up a tech data package in the ammunition.
made some changes in the ammunition, and I was asked to look at the ammunition
technical data package after it was made, which I did. I told them,
or this party, that in my opinion it would be very, very risky ---
Mr. Ichord: Was that ball?
Mr. Stoner: This was ball propellant,
and also - they did two things.
Mr. Ichord: You recommended against
Mr. Stoner: The reason I did was they
were getting into this thing heavily and the fact that we had years of
firing, both in Vietnam and this country, using the IMR propellant, which
the weapon was designed to fire in the first place.
Mr. Ichord: IMR is the ---
Mr. Stoner: That is the extruded propellant.
It is called improved military rifle powder, IMR.
The reason for staying away from the ball was the fact that we had
better results through some of the testing that we did with IMR. And those
were cleaner burning characteristics, and there seems to be less smoke,
dirt and so forth that come out of the IMR propellants.
The other thing was that early in this program, just prior to the Fort
Benning test, Winchester asked for and got a contract the same as Armalite,
to submit some rifles to fire a .22 caliber bullet, and they were actually
tested after we got through at Benning. Their first test rounds of ammunition
had ball propellant in it, but they gave up on it. I asked Winchester why
they gave up on it, and the only answer I got was that they had troubles
with that particular ball propellant and they didn't want to go into the
time it would take maybe to develop some powder specifically for this rifle.
So I think they ended up using IMR.
One of the problems they had was that in a very hot rifle the chamber
pressures went excessive, so they had to back off. So all the Winchester
ammunition that was used on the Benning test in 1959, to my knowledge,
was loaded with the Du Pont powder or the Remington powder.
Mr. Bray: Would that additional heat
contribute to causing a shell to stick in the chamber?
Mr. Stoner: This could - well, what
they run into is the temperature went up. Now, this was back a long time
ago. This is another batch, or another type of ball propellant. They told
me that their chamber pressures when they first fire it in a hot gun -in
other words, after you fired the gun 100 or 200 times - were getting up
to the cook-off temperatures - in other words, where it would be liable
to go off spontaneously. These pressures were going up to and exceeding
the proof pressures, which is around 60-some-odd, 58,000 pounds per square
inch, and they were, of course, very leery of it, because it is getting
up into a rather dangerous condition.
So they decided rather than try to develop a ball propellant at that
time for this test, they just did it the easy way, took the easy way out,
and took the IMR propellants.
Mr. Bray: That is what you used, IMR?
Mr. Stoner: That is what we used. Like
I said, we had better luck with it. The biggest problem ---
Mr. Ichord: Let me at this time inject,
Mr. Stoner: Yes, sir.
Mr. Ichord: Have you been called
by the Army or the military into this problem in Vietnam? Have you
gone to Vietnam and looked into this problem?
Mr. Stoner: No; I have not. I haven't been
asked. In fact, for the last two years or so, most of this information
that you are talking about, about a buffer, I can only speculate what that
buffer is doing.
Mr. Ichord: In the opinion of our experts,
the buffer is really not getting at the basis of your problem, or of the
problem. As you understand it, you would agree with that conclusion?
Mr. Stoner: Well, if you are talking
about extraction problems, the buffer would have nothing to do with it.
only thing is, the buffer, as I understand it, was to cut down the cyclic
rate, and the cyclic rate was causing a lot of their problems.
In the development of the 63 weapons system - I am bringing this in
only as a little sideline - the weapons that were submitted for the SAWS
test which started a year ago - small arms weapons systems, or whatever
it is called; I think you are aware of that - we started out in the 63
system using the old ammunition which had the original primer and the IMR
propellants. When the Army said, "No, we are going to use our ammunition,"
cyclic rate of our weapons as it stood went up at least 200 rounds per
The reason for this is very simple. It is the fact that the time pressure
curve on the ball propellant is a more elongated curve. So what happens:
At the point where the gas is tapped out through the barrel to operate
the mechanism, the pressure is considerably higher on the ball propellant
than it is on the IMR propellant.
Mr. Ichord: Then the new buffer would
just be compensating for the ball propellant?
Mr. Stoner: Right; for the cyclic rate.
It would help compensate on the cyclic rate overall. But now, if you
don't change anything else, your opening cycle, in other words, the amount
of time it takes to open the weapon, will remain constant. In other words,
the first part of the cycle where the bolt opens, which is critical on
the extraction of the weapon.
Mr. Long: Referring to the magazine
problem, would the magazine be too high on the front side?
Mr. Stoner: Well, in the magazine itself
there are many things that could happen. It could be a dirty magazine.
It could be one that the feed lips have been bent, that is the part up
above that guides the round while it is being stripped out of the magazine,
or faulty springs.
One thing I have seen there on television that could aggravate this
is this trick that supposedly came out of the Korean War, of taping two
Mr. Long: They do a lot of that.
Mr. Stoner: This is dynamite to
any weapon. In fact, it is very poor practice, and the fact that a
man will drop to the ground and fire, and he jams that magazine
down that has been taped on upside down into the dirt, and he can either
fill it full of dirt or bend it, and then when he switches around, he is
in for trouble.
This is something that ought to be discouraged by anybody in the
field, because it is really tough on magazines.
Mr Morgan: Mr. Chairman, could I ask
a question on the cyclic rates?
Mr. Ichord: Go ahead.
Mr. Morgan: And the effect of the cyclic
rate on certain key parts of the weapon, such as the extractor spring.
Would a high cyclic rate have an adverse effect on the extractor spring?
Mr. Stoner: Yes, it probably would,
and probably the hardest part hit would be the extractor itself.
Mr. Morgan: How would it affect the
extractor and how would it affect the spring?
Mr. Stoner: Well, the fact that the
faster a weapon goes, the faster the extractor would work, snapping over
the round of ammunition. The spring really shouldn't be too much different
on the cyclic rate, I don't believe. But the extractor itself would be
getting a lot harder jerk every time it pulled the cartridge case out.`
Starting on Page 4558
Mr. Morgan: On the ammunition, Mr. Chairman,
I have just two more questions.
Are you familiar with the reasons stated by the Army for the changeover
from the IMR to the ball powder? Do you have any first hand knowledge or
second hand knowledge of that?
Mr. Stoner: Well, the only - I have
a little first hand knowledge because I was approached after this ammunition
inspection was made by a person, I think it is the Secretary of Defense's
Office, in looking at the technical data package.
Mr. Ichord: When was this?
Mr. Stoner: This was at the time, I
forget how long it was, but it is at least a couple of years ago.
He asked me my opinion on it, and I asked him why they were holding out
for the ball propellant and they said, well this was more or less, as I
could gather, a policy within the Army. They wanted to have everything
ball propellant that they could in small arms.
Mr. Morgan: Because of the cost savings
Mr. Stoner: Well, I think this was
one of their reasons, and the fact that it burned a little cooler and so
Like I said before, I didn't advise it because we had already had over
1,000 weapons in Vietnam that had gone through I thought, very well. These
were the weapons that were sent over by ARPA, you know, prior to the adoption.
I'm not sure of these times, but in that area of time.
Mr. Morgan: 1962?
Mr. Stoner: These were using the older
cartridges which I didn't hear any complaints on in that particular test,
and these were used by the Vietnamese troops who knew very little about
any kind of a weapon. And based on that, and all the tests we had for years
- in other words, this went on from, like I say, the first test was in
1958. There were quite a few years of testing all over the world. All of
our experience was with the other cartridge, with the other propellant,
and I didn't quite see changing horses in the middle of the stream without
an awful lot of testing before we did it. And I advised this person of
that, and also let it be known to other people, but it didn't seem to do
much good. They went ahead anyway.
Mr. Morgan: Do you care to identify
the individual in the Department of Defense, or the office in the Department
of Defense, that asked for your advise on this?
Mr. Stoner: Yes, this was Mr. Frank
Vee - I think it is V-E-E- and I think he was in the comptroller's office.
He had to do with procurement, anyway, on ammunition. And he asked me
my opinion after the fact. In other words, this was rather an odd meeting.
He asked me to meet him and I did, and I looked at the technical data package
and he said, what is your opinion, and I said, I would advise against it,
because - for the reason I just stated.
I asked, so what is going to happen, and he said, well, they already
decided this is the way they are going to go, meaning the committee.
I said, so why are you asking me now, and he said, "I would have felt
better if you had approved of the package."
And I said, well, we both now don't feel so good. That was it.
Mr. Morgan: Did anyone ever mention
to you that the Army might have a large surplus of World War II,
or Korean powder that might be reworked for salvage purposes and they might
be able to use the extremely large amount large amount of nitro-cellulose
that was available, that could convert to the ball powder?
Mr. Stoner: No, that wasn't mentioned.
But I do know this is one of the advantages of this particular propellant,
is you can salvage other propellants and make ball powder out of it. But
this wasn't mentioned, no.
Washington, D.C., Tuesday, July 25, 1967
After opening remarks by the Chairman, several letters from servicemen
or their relatives were entered into the record relating to malfunctions
of the M-16 rifle in combat, in Vietnam, specifically failure to extract
a spent cartridge.
First witness was a Mr. Kanemitsu 'Koni' Ito.
Mr Ito: Mr. Chairman, I have been -
my experience has been 21 years, of course, with the military. At that
time I had been the test officer for approximately 12 years, mostly testing
in the Arctic, at the Arctic Testing Center.
I have been with the then AR-15, when it was introduced by Mr. Gene
Stoner of Fairchild, first tested in the Arctic in 1956.
At that time all the deficiencies which we noted and corrections that
had to be made for Arctic use were incorporated into this rifle.
I have been with this rifle ever since.
Mr. Ichord: That was 1958, sir?
Mr. Ito: No, sir, 1956. And I
have been with Colt since 1963, sir - 1964, I beg your pardon.
I have been to Vietnam three separate trips. The first trip was with
Lt. Col. Herbert Underwood. My two subsequent trips have been with Maj.
During the first trip over to Vietnam, I was shocked. I had never seen
equipment with such poor maintenance.
The first trip I went was in October to November, 1966. The second
trip was January to February 1967, and the third from March to April, 1967.
Mr. Ichord: Now, Mr. Ito, with your
recitation of the effect of ball propellant powder, used in the ammunition,
did you at any time when you were involved in the test make any recommendations
to anyone against the use of ball propellant in the M-16?
Mr. Ito: Most all test centers, I did,
in talking with the project officer and personnel of the test centers,
recommend that ball propellant be changed, and IMR be reinstated.
Mr. Ichord: You talked, also, to various
Mr. Ito: Yes, these were mostly all
military personnel, sir.
Mr. Ichord: Some of these military
people joined with you in your recommendations, or agreed with you, is
Mr. Ito: I have found no one so far
Mr. Ichord: Then it is pretty well
established as a matter of fact that the ball propellant does speed up
the cyclic rate of the gun, and it is a dirtier burning powder.
Mr Ito: what changes were made in the
M-16 to compensate for the increased extraction rate?
Mr. Ito: One of the big changes was
the new action spring guide assembly, sir, now called the buffer.
Mr. Ichord: You did have reported to
you several extraction problems?
Mr. Ito: Yes, sir.
Mr. Ichord: Did you not, Mr. Ito?
Mr. Ito: I also saw some, sir.
Mr. Ichord: Did you make any finding
that inadequate extracting springs contributed to this failure to extract?
Mr. Ito: On my first and second
trips, I attributed most all of the extraction failure to pitted and bad
Mr. Ichord: Of course, environmental
conditions in South Vietnam are quite adverse. What additional problems
can we expect in the maintenance of the weapon in South Vietnam? What can
be done to minimize any of those problems that think we might expect?
Mr. Ito: I believe sir, that both
Colt and Weapons Command are doing everything in their power to minimize
the cause, or the causes of malfunctions. One is the lubrication. Secondly,
is the chrome chamber. And third, it is the buffer.
Mr. Ichord: The next witness is Colonel
Colonel Yount will you please come forward?
Col. Harold W. Yount is a former project manager
for rifles. You have been in the weapons command. I thought you were a
project manager for the M-16 rifle. What is your current status?
Colonel Yount: Casual en route on my
way to Korea at the present time, sir.
Mr. Ichord: I see. When did you assume
your duties as project manager for the M-16 rifle, Colonel?
Colonel Yount: March of 1963 until June
Mr. Ichord: March of 1963 until June
of 1967. Where were you stationed during that time?
Colonel Yount: At Rock Island Arsenal,
Ill., the entire period.
Mr. Ichord: Would you briefly explain
to the committee the extent and nature of your duties? .......
Colonel Yount: I was designated as
the project manager of the AR-15 rifle back in March of 1963, and I reported
to the Commanding General of the Army Material Command through the Commanding
General of the Weapons Command, I was delegated full line authority by
the Commanding General of the Army Material Command.
In that I was responsible for the definition, the development,
and the acquisition of the entire system. This includes, as applicable,
the research, development, procurement, production, distribution, logistical
support, personnel training, operational testing, and development.
I was responsible for the overall management of my entire procurement
program. And at the present time, or at the time of my leaving the project
manager's office, I was responsible not only for the M-16 rifle but
also other rifle systems - as well as the accessories, various components,
ammunition peculiar to the rifle systems classified type standard A.
I was also responsible for coordinating other customer procurements
as required, such as for the Marine Corps, the Air Force, and the Navy;
including international codevelopment, coproduction, and logistical support
I was expected to develop and maintain a close coordination and working
relations with the users of the systems and with the Department of the
Army staff agencies, and staff elements representing the users.
I was responsible, also, to direct, coordinate and take appropriate
action to obtain services and equipment subsystems from appropriate AMC
subordinate commands, other military departments, other government agencies,
overseas installations, foreign governments, and industry.
This concludes my summary of the responsibilities extracted from my
charter as project manager.
Mr. Ichord: Now, at the time you
assumed your duties as project manager, in 1963, what type of powder was
being used in the 5.56 ammunition at that time in the rifle?
Colonel Yount: IMR-4475.
Mr. Ichord: Some of the rifles
were in Vietnam at the time, were they not, 1962, and
Colonel Yount: These were not under
my control, however, I understand there were some in a special test.
Mr. Ichord: Were being used by Special
Colonel Yount: That is correct.
Mr. Ichord: Is it your understanding
that the reports on the use of the rifle coming back from South Vietnam
were very good?
Colonel Yount: Excellent; yes, sir.
Mr. Ichord: Well, lets get back to the
ball propellant. You said at that time they were using IMR.
Colonel Yount: 4475.
Mr. Ichord: That is the same as an
Colonel Yount: That is an extruded
Mr. Ichord: How many types of IMR powder
do they have?
Colonel Yount: At the time?
Mr. Ichord: Yes.
Colonel Yount: For use in 556 ammunition?
Mr. Ichord: Correct.
Colonel Yount: There had been some
use of IMR-4198, but 4475 was being used most of the time, almost exclusively.
Mr. Ichord: Of course as a weapons
expert, you do realize it makes a lot of difference in the functioning
and the cyclic rate of the weapon, depending upon which powder you use,
is that correct?
Colonel Yount: That is correct, sir.
Mr. Ichord: Were you advised of any
proposed change from IMR-4475 to ball propellant? and if so, when?
Colonel Yount: As I recall, in the
latter part of 1963, or early 1964, we received a request from the Air
Force to purchase some ammunition for them. On this request they
specified exclusively ball propellant. This ball propellant was not
authorized at the time in our technical data package, and we had to make
an exception for this procurement.
Mr. Ichord: They specified?
Colonel Yount: They specified ball
Mr. Ichord: Ball propellant.
Colonel Yount: The U.S. Air Force would
not accept anything else, except ammunition loaded with ball propellant.
Mr. Ichord: Now, in your position as
project manager for the M-16, were you charged with the responsibility
of purchasing ammunition, too?
Colonel Yount: I was, sir.
Mr. Ichord: For the Air Force, also?
Colonel Yount: Yes, sir.
Mr. Ichord: What did you do when you
received that information?
Colonel Yount: This was coordinated
through our four services' technical coordinating committee, and we
agreed to go ahead and buy this for the Air Force, and subsequently
have it thoroughly tested, and make a determination if we were going
to standardize it as part of our technical data package for the ammunition.
Mr. Ichord: Did you have some reservations
about buying it and using it in 5.56 ammunition?
Colonel Yount: Reservations only to
the effect, sir, we didn't have the test experience data and not because
we had any reservations it would be unsatisfactory. ........
Mr. Ichord: You did know that it would
speed up the cyclic rate?
Colonel Yount: We did not. There
had never been any indication prior to the M-16 rifle, that this would
result in an increase in cyclic rate in a weapon.
Mr. Ichord: Where was Mr. Stoner at
this time, the inventor of the weapon? Were you in contact with him?
Colonel Yount: Yes, indeed, right from
the beginning of the program.
Mr. Ichord: Did you talk to him
about the conversion and the use of ball propellant ammunition, in the
Colonel Yount: No, not until
after it had actually been put into operation.
Mr. Ichord: Are you telling this committee
that you do not feel that the ball propellant has had any adverse effect
upon the operation of the M-16 rifle?
Colonel Yount: I am telling the
committee that I had no evidence it has had any adverse effect.
Mr. Ichord: You have had no evidence,
after being project manager from March of 1963 to June of 1967, that the
use of ball propellant ammunition is a part of your problem?
Colonel Yount: It was a part of the
problem as far as cyclic rate is concerned.
Mr. Ichord: You said you had never
talked to Mr. Stoner, the inventor of the rifle.
What would you say if I told you that, if you had checked with him,
he would have been greatly opposed to the change from IMR to ball propellants?
Would you think that would be a serious mistake, the inventor of the rifle,
one who obviously knows more about the rifle than anyone else?
Colonel Yount: This would depend upon
his reasons, sir, for not wanting the ball propellant in the weapon.
Mr. Ichord: What if I told you I ascertained
from Mr. Stoner, and he said ball propellant burns dirty, it leaves more
debris, it speeds up the cyclic rate of the weapon, and would increase
Colonel Yount: I would agree with him.
I want to qualify the statement there that this increase in malfunctions
would be primarily due, with all the evidence that we had, due to an
increase in cyclic rate; we have satisfied this requirement with the new
buffer. Therefore ---
Mr. Ichord: You think you have satisfied
the requirement with a new buffer, anyway; is that correct?
Colonel Yount: That is correct. We
have no test evidence that would indicate otherwise, sir.
Mr. Long: You don't think, the, Colonel,
the tests that are going on in Vietnam, are any evidence?
Colonel Yount: Oh, it definitely is
evidence; this is true. However, the type of controls there are much less
than the type we could maintain here in the United States.
Mr. Ichord: Now, Colonel, you do have a considerable
number of guns in Vietnam with the new buffer, do you not?
Colonel Yount: Yes, sir.
Mr. Ichord: Have you had any reports
of malfunctions, failures to extract when the new buffer has been used?
Colonel Yount: Not if the chamber has
been kept in proper serviceable condition; no.
Mr. Ichord: How many times did you go
to Vietnam as project manager of the M-16?
Colonel Yount: One time in November
Mr. Ichord: First of all, what was
the occasion for your going to South Vietnam in November 1966?
Colonel Yount: I had already dispatched
a team to Vietnam as a result of their request to assist ---
Mr. Ichord: Why did they request you
to go to South Vietnam?
Colonel Yount: They said they were
having an undue rash of malfunctions, and I volunteered at that time
to send a team of experts over there to help them ascertain the problems,
and put the weapons back into condition, if they would simply request that
I do so. ...............
Mr. Ichord: You were head of the team?
Colonel Yount: No, sir. Colonel Underwood
of my office was the head of the team.
Mr. Ichord: That was in ---
Colonel Yount: He went over in October of
Mr. Ichord: I see. Then you came later?
Colonel Yount: Right. He called me
on the telephone and told me that he would advise me to come over here
and see this for myself, because when he came home he didn't think he would
be able to convince me of the conditions, of the various things that
we would have to do in order to correct the situation.
Colonel Yount: So I did see a number
of weapons over in Vietnam. I talked with the various commanders, there,
including General Westmoreland, and was trying to get a feel on what was
happening over there. And it appeared at that time that the majority of
the trouble appeared to be at least a lack of proper maintenance and
cleaning. However, there were some product improvements that might
be made that would assist the soldiers in the field so that it would
not be so difficult to maintain.
Mr. Ichord: What units did you visit?
Colonel Yount: It was Field Force II Headquarters,
I believe Field Force II Headquarters, the commander of the 25th Division.
The commanding general of the aviation brigade; the 1st. Cav Division.
The 1st Infantry Division. And General Walt with the Marine Corps.
Mr. Ichord: Now, what recommendations
did you make?
Colonel Yount: We had a considerable
number of investigations initiated. One, looking into the finish of
the weapon. Two, looking into the chrome plating of the chambers. I
started immediately on the repair parts situation, to emphasize advance
shipments in getting ready for the big push - we knew there was a big push
going to come as a result of the maintenance emphasis in Vietnam -
cleaning materials, cleaning rods, bayonets and all the repair parts.
We immediately ascertained their stock status, to get the jump on the demands
before they came in.
Mr. Ichord: You found a shortage of
cleaning materials, did you not, while you were there?
Colonel Yount: While I was there, yes,
Mr. Ichord: Go ahead with any statement
you wish to make.
Colonel Yount: That more or less covers
the major recommendations, sir.
Mr. Ichord: You didn't make any recommendations
- perhaps I don't understand you - you didn't make any recommendations
as to the change in the buffer at that time?
Colonel Yount: Not at that time, no,
sir. You see we had already picked up as a result of the SAWS program,
something that had caused an increased amount of malfunctions and we were
trying to determine the cause of the problem, which resulted in the
change in the buffer. It was not a result of the trip to Vietnam at
Mr. Ichord: What is the most prevalent
malfunction that you will get because of the higher cyclic rate?
Colonel Yount: The higher cyclic rate
results in a failure to feed, would be one, and, of course, this failure
of the bolt to stay to the rear after firing the last round is another.
Mr. Ichord: How about failure to
Colonel Yount: I know of no significant
relationship between the two.
Mr. Ichord: No significant relationship
between the higher cyclic rate and the failure to extract?
Colonel Yount: That is correct.
Mr. Ichord: Mr. Long, I think you had
Mr. Long: At this point I would like
to ask this: After the change was made from IMR propellant to the ball
propellant, did you have a conversation with Mr. Stoner in regard to the
change in the propellant? You indicated earlier that you didn't prior to
the change, but after the change.
Colonel Yount: After the change I had
discussed the ammunition with Mr. Stoner, but it was in regard to the applications
in the Stoner, rather than in the rifle, in his machinegun, and other Stoner
weapons, rather than in the M-16.
Mr. Long: You didn't discuss it with
him, with regard to the M-16?
Colonel Yount: I probably did there also,
I don't recall the conversation.
Mr. Long: You don't recall the reaction
Colonel Yount: I do not.
Mr. Ichord: Is there any knowledge
of anyone in your command, or anyone in the Army talking to Mr. Stoner
about the conversion to ball propellant before the conversion was made?
Colonel Yount: Not to my knowledge, sir.
Mr. Long: Would you state that the M-16 was
designed to use the IMR propellant, rather than the ball propellant?
Colonel Yount: I would say this: When the
weapon was designed, Mr. Stoner went to Remington Arms, and asked them
to manufacture ammunition for him. They utilized the propellant which was
designed to be used in the 7.62; namely, the IMR-4475, and that was used
in his weapon at the time.
I do not believe there is a complete correlation that the weapon
was specifically designed to be utilized with that particular propellant.
Mr. Long: You don't think, then, possibly
he might have had in mind, or Remington might have had in mind, the fact
of the cyclic rate?
Colonel Yount: The cyclic rate, yes.
Mr. Long: When they used the IMR propellant?
Colonel Yount: No, sir.
Mr. Long: Did the Army stock ball propellant
solely on the basis of the Air Force test?
Colonel Yount: No, sir; we conducted extensive tests on our own,
after we had ammunition loaded with ball propellant, and then finally
did approve it as an alternate propellant that could be used by the
contractor in any procurement.
Mr. Bray: Then in the change of powder
for the M-16, if you made any material changes in powder, you would also
need to consider the size of the gas ports, wouldn't you?
Colonel Yount: Yes, sir. We did.
Mr. Bray: There is no doubt in your mind,
there, that for the same size port that you get a higher cyclic rate of
fire, for example, everything else being equal, with the ball than you
did the IMR?
Colonel Yount: That is tru
Mr. Long: Now the modification for the new
buffer, et cetera, could you go back to the IMR?
Colonel Yount: Not at all. It has no relationship,
Mr. Long: You couldn't go back to it at all,
even if you had it?
Colonel Yount: You are talking about going
back to the old 4475?
Mr. Long: That which was originally used
in the M-16.
Colonel Yount: That is correct. We have no
reason ever to go back to that old IMR-4475, sir.
Mr. Long: Could you go back?
Colonel Yount: Could we, and meet the velocity-pressure
Mr. Long: With the new buffer?
Colonel Yount: No, sir. The buffer has no
bearing on the velocity-pressure relationship, sir.
Mr. Long: You couldn't use it now if you
had it, since you put in the new buffer?
Colonel Yount: That is not the point, sir.
Mr. Ichord: If the gentleman will yield,
let me ask you a clarifying question there.
I believe you didn't understand the question put to you by Mr. Long.
You slowed down the cyclic rate by approximately 100 with the buffer. We
have established in the record that IMR is not as fast as ball propellant.
Would you not say if you put in IMR, would you not slow it down approximately
another 100, or how does that work?
Colonel Yount: That would depend on the type
of IMR you are using. We have IMR propellants being utilized today, the
latest propellant, the 8208 ---
Mr. Ichord: Do you have that in use now in Vietnam?
The committee has been advised there is no IMR propellant in Vietnam; somewhere
along the line I think we have that in the record that only ball propellant
is being used in Vietnam.
Colonel Yount: I believe, sir, there has been
ammunition loaded with 8208M propellant, sent to Vietnam and I can verify
that with a gentleman in the audience, if I may.
Mr. Ichord: 5.56 ammunition?
Colonel Yount: 5.56 ammunition.
Mr. Ichord: I would like for you to verify
it. It contradicts what information we have.
Colonel Yount: Mr. Spaulding, has the 8208
been shipped to Vietnam?
Mr. Spaulding: I believe the answer is the
ammunition has been in production about 6 months. The exact status in the
supply chain is difficult to establish on individual lots, but we would
presume in view of the shipping rate it has reached the theater.
Colonel Yount: Over 200 million rounds
have been produced to date.
Mr. Bray: That is in this 5.56 ammunition?
Colonel Yount: Yes, sir.
Mr. Bray: I thought you said IMR wasn't as
good? I withdraw that.
What did you say? I thought you spoke very highly of ball propellant.
You did, didn't you?
Colonel Yount: It meets our specifications
better than any propellant we have at the present time.
Mr. Bray: Then if that is true, why did
you send the 200 million IMR over there?
Colonel Yount: It is also meeting the specifications,
Mr. Bray: I must be confused. I must have
misunderstood you. Will this IMR lower or increase the cyclic rate over
Colonel Yount: It will probably lower
the cyclic rate somewhere between 30 and 100 rounds per minute, sir.
General Miley: I wonder if I could help out
a little bit here?
Mr. Bray: I hope somebody does.
General Miley: The older version of IMR and
the new version of IMR are the difficulty. I am not an expert, but I have
been doing a monthly report for the Chief of Staff. Let me explain as I
understand it. We would like to help you here. The old IMR could not
be produced by Du Pont in the quantities required and meet the pressure-velocity
requirements of our specification on powder. Consequently, the Army shifted
to ball powder which could consistently and in large quantity meet the
Mr. Bray: All right; fine. What is the difference
between it? It has nitrocellulose; is that correct?
General Miley: Sir, you have lost me there
Mr. Bray: I want somebody that knows more about
this than I do. I do know a little.
General Miley: We will get a powder expert
up here. Let me finish. Then I will get out of here.
Then Du Pont continued to persist in the development of IMR powder
and finally has produced not a new kind of powder, but a different IMR
powder with different characteristics which by and large with few exceptions
meets the specification. So the Army buys the ammunition
for the 5.56 rifle and specifies the ballistic characteristics of the powder.
They don't care what kind of powder it is, as long as it meets the ballistics
Mr. Bray: There is a little more than ballistics;
isn't there something like carbon?
General Miley: Yes, sir.
Mr. Ichord: What I don't understand is, we
established ball propellant increases the cyclic rate and the fact that
it increases the cyclic rate does give you a problem. We have established
the fact that ball propellant burns dirtier, but still you say it is a
fine powder because it meets your specs. That is certainly coming down
from the top.
You need good powder.
General Miley: Yes, sir. But the only
powder in time of war that consistently met our requirement, the specification
was the ball powder. And as I say, Du Pont continued to perfect, to experiment
with their IMR powders, and finally came up with an IMR powder that also
meets the specification. So now we have two powders that would,
with some exceptions, meet the specification for the 5.56 bullet,
the 5.56 round.
Mr. Long: Now, all the buffers haven't been
changed in all the weapons in Vietnam, have they?
Colonel Yount: They have not, not all of
Mr. Bray: General, IMR is a little more expensive
than ball propellant, isn't it?
Colonel Yount: Originally the IMR was a little
more expensive because of the method of manufacture of the ball propellant
being one that you could utilize and reconstitute scrapped propellant.
Mr. Bray: That is something I asked earlier.
you had a lot of older powder that was heavy in nitrocellulose, didn't
Colonel Yount: The theory here is, sir ---
Mr. Bray: Did you have it?
Colonel Yount: Yes, sir.
Mr. Bray: OK; fine. Then you could use that
cheaper. It was cheaper because there was a surplus that was of no value
unless it was changed, isn't that true?
Colonel Yount: This is true, yes, sir.
Mr. Bray: Isn't that really the reason
you stopped the IMR and went to this new ball propellant, because you -
I am not saying "you" personally - but that you could use the nitrocellulose
that they had in surplus? That is the reason they went to the ball propellant?
Colonel Yount: I would like to ask Mr. Spaulding
of the Munitions Command who is an expert in propellants to answer that
question if he may.
Mr. Ichord: What is the name, sir?
Mr. Spaulding: Scott W. Spaulding. I am a
munitions engineer at the Headquarters of the U.S. Army Munitions Command.
Mr. Ichord: Proceed.
Mr. Spaulding: I will try to answer the question
in this way: Large stocks of excess cannon propellants, which have been
used in the manufacture of ball propellants for many years, since the end
of the Second World War, have gone into ball propellants for use in the
caliber .30 carbine ammunition, the caliber .30 ammunition for the M-1
rifle and the Browning machineguns, into the 7.62 millimeter ammunition
for the M-14 rifle, the M-60 machinegun and the M-73. Large quantities
have gone into the 20 - millimeter ammunition for use in the Air Force
20-millimeter cannon, the Vulcan.
The requirements in total which the addition of 5.56 propellants
added on top of the other cartridges I have named would have been - I can't
give you the precise figures, but it would have been relatively small,
looked at over the number of years.
Mr. Bray: You did go into it, though, didn't
Mr. Spaulding: It goes into all ball propellants,
Mr. Bray: But did not go into the IMR?
Mr. Spaulding: Du Pont has never been able
to use these stocks of obsolete propellant in the manufacture of IMR propellant.
Olin has been successful in using them, so they have gone into ball
Mr. Bray: And that is much cheaper, because
they have, you said, an obsolete stockpile of that. So
you do save money.
I am not a Scotchman, I am not against saving money, but you do save
money by using that, don't you?
Mr. Spaulding: Yes, sir.
Mr. Bray: That is all.
Mr. Ichord: I want to get back to this buffer
Colonel Yount: Yes, sir, Mr. Chairman. The
buffer actually fulfills several purposes. If I may, I have Mr. William
C. Davis here with me, the Chief of my Technical Division. I would like
for him to respond to this, if he may.
Mr. Ichord: Yes.
Mr. Davis: I am Davis, from Colonel Yount's technical
staff, sir. I think you could summarize the buffer requirements
in terms of four things; (1) it does slow the cyclic rate down as Colonel
Yount has mentioned.
Second, it controls carrier rebound.
Third, it avoids the failure of the ring springs.
Fourth, it cushions the rear impact to prevent the premature engagement
of the bolt catch.
Mr. Ichord: Will this buffer be more apt
to slow your cyclic rate down on a forward motion, more so than the backward
Mr. Davis: No, sir. The percentage of reduction
would be about the same in the recoil, or rearward motion as in the counter
recoil, or forward motion.
In terms of absolute time, the effect is less on the recoil because
the recoil is at a more rapid rate. In other words, the recoil
part of the cycle requires less total time.
Mr. Ichord: You could have slowed down the cyclic
rate by reducing the size of the gas port. Did you consider this as a possible
Mr. Davis: Yes, sir; that was considered, and it
would slow the cyclic rate. However, in general it is more advantageous
to reduce the rate by increasing the weight of the parts, than to subtract
energy from the system.
Two basic ways to reduce the cyclic rate, subtract operating
energy from the cycle which may reduce reliability in adverse conditions;
or to increase the weight of the parts.
Mr. Ichord: Colonel, if you will keep
your seat there, sir, you encountered considerable extraction problems,
a lot of extraction problems were reported to you when you were in
South Vietnam, were there not?
Colonel Yount: That is correct, sir.
Mr. Ichord: I would like to ask you, sir,
how is this buffer going to help alleviate any of your extraction problems?
Colonel Yount: I don't think the change
in the buffer will have an appreciable effect on the extraction problem,
sir. I think there are two categories of malfunction, one associated
with the condition of the chamber, the other associated with the cyclic
The remedies are different, of course. THE EXTRACTION PROBLEM HAS
TO BE ATTACKED FROM THE STANDPOINT OF THE CHAMBER. The cyclic rate
problems have to be attacked in some other way.
Mr. Ichord: I don't know who I should ask
this: HAVE YOU ATTACKED THE EXTRACTION PROBLEM, COLONEL?
Colonel Yount: We have asked Colt TO LOOK INTO THE FEASIBILITY
of chrome plating the chamber.
Mr. Ichord: Explain to the committee why
chrome plating the chamber will help improve it?
Colonel Yount: The M-14 rifle does have a
chrome plated chamber, as well as a bore, and in this particular rifle
[M-16] it has a chrome-molyvanadium barrel, the best machinegun type barrel
steel there is. It does not have a plated chamber or bore.
Initially in the program we did not feel that chrome plating was necessary
because of the good steel that was in his particular barrel. It was considered
as gold-plating, actually, at the time.
However, since that time we feel that the corrosion resistance
of chromium plating within this chamber is a thing that is necessary to
help us lick this extraction problem, inasmuch as a chrome plated chamber
will not corrode, such as a plain chrome-moly-vanadium chamber would do.
The contract modification has been made with the Colt Co. and the initial
production of barrels with chrome plated chambers is scheduled for the
month of August. However, the strike may have an effect on this.
Mr. Ichord: Do we have any test rifles with
chrome chambers in them out in South Vietnam at the present time?
Colonel Yount: There are a few; yes, sir.
Mr. Ichord: Were they there before you left
your duties as project manager?
Colonel Yount: They were; yes, sir. We received
no written reports on them. However, we did receive reports back that all
of those that were examined, they could find nothing wrong with the chambers,
and they were standing up excellently. And we have also conducted some
tests. The Air Force also has conducted tests on chrome plated chambers.
Mr. Ichord: It would assist in the extraction
problem, would it not, by using the gas that is remaining in the barrel?
Wouldn't that help you use some of the gas?
Mr. Davis: I think it would probably not
give us any appreciable help in our extraction problem, WHICH ARISES
FROM CORRODED OR RUSTY CHAMBERS. The cartridge remains tightly stuck
in many of these cases long after the gas pressure has subsided.
Mr. Ichord: Mr. Davis, that is why we are
so much concerned about this dirty burning ammunition, ball propellant,
with ball propellant powder.
Mr. Ichord: You are sure that the chrome
plating is the way to get the extraction problem solved?
Mr. Davis: Yes, sir. I think it is the most advantageous
course we have devised so far, .......
Mr. Ichord: Now the conversion was made from
IMR to ball propellant about 1963 - or do we have that date in our records?
We do, don't we, counsel?
Mr. Morgan: We are not sure, Mr. Chairman. It was testified either
1963 or 1964.
Do you know, Colonel Yount?
Colonel Yount: 1964, sir.
Mr. Bray: Colonel, when did they make the
decision to go back to IMR, this new IMR that you mentioned, which I was
not aware of, because we did not find any in the theater when we were there.
Do you know what the time decision is on that?
Colonel Yount: We have tried to keep two
different types of propellants authorized at all times for competitive
purposes, whether it be IMR or ball propellant. We have had
a series of propellants over the period of years trying to keep competition
alive. The actual time, it was in February 1965, was it not, when we
went back out - I believe it was in February 1965 when we went back out,
then, to the field, when we found out this CR8136 was no longer satisfactory.
We then asked the propellant industry, Hercules, Olin Mathieson,
and Du Pont, to recommend to us their best approach to A NEW PROPELLANT
FOR THE M-16 SYSTEM.
Out of this came Hercules submitting their HPC-11, and Olin Mathieson
had said they could not improve upon their WC-846.
Mr. Bray: That was the original IMR?
Colonel Yount: That was the original ball
for 5.56 ammunition.
Mr. Bray: The original ball?
Colonel Yount: That is correct. Du Pont then
submitted the 8208-M. In this test of course, we used the Wc-846 as a control.
It was not submitted as a new propellant. And the 8208-M did pass our ballistic
test and was authorized in the technical data package as an alternate
propellant, and has been put into use since that time.
The record shows here that we have produced almost 200 million rounds
to date, WHICH HAVE BEEN LOADED WITH THIS NEW IMR PROPELLANT.
Mr. Bray: I hope it gets over to Vietnam;
it probably is by now.
Mr. Long: Right there at that point, now
- but that is designed for the new buffer; is it not?
Colonel Yount: No, sir. It was not designed
for any new buffer. It was simply a propellant submitted by the propellant
industry for use in the weapon. They did not know anything about the buffer.
Mr. Long: Would it have any effect whether
it was used in the old buffer or the new buffer?
Colonel Yount: Yes; it would. The cyclic
rate would be different.
Mr. Long: Would it have an adverse effect
if placed in a weapon in Vietnam with the old buffer?
Colonel Yount: I don't feel that it would.
Mr. Long: You don't think it would cause
any more malfunctioning?
Colonel Yount: No; I don't.
Mr. Long: It would affect the cyclic rate,
as Mr Davis pointed out.
Colonel Yount: It will reduce the cyclic
rate about 30 to 100 rounds a minute when compared with the ball propellant,
and it has been thoroughly tested with both buffers.
Mr. Long: It has been tested with both buffers?
Colonel Yount: With both buffers; yes, sir.
Mr. Ichord: You definitely are going to have
a slower cyclic rate, aren't you, Colonel?
Colonel Yount: Yes, sir.
Mr. Long: Will you have an erratic situation.
Colonel Yount: You will have an erratic situation,
it will not be perceptible to the firer.
Mr. Long: The marine can pick up a box, put
them in the magazine, and not have any worries, have complete confidence
that the gun will refire?
Colonel Yount: THE PROBLEM IS THE USE OF THAT
PROPELLANT COUPLED WITH THE OLD BUFFER, WHERE HE MAY GET EXCESSIVE CYCLIC
RATES AND GET MALFUNCTIONS AS A RESULT OF THE HIGHER CYCLIC RATES.
(COMMITTEE TOOK A SHORT RECESS)
Mr. Ichord: The committee will come to order.
Gentlemen, I am very happy that we have established that we now
have IMR at least on its way to Vietnam, and, Mr. Counsel, I want you to
direct an inquiry to the proper people, and lets see where that IMR is
in South Vietnam.
Here has been our problem, Colonel, as a committee: The M-16 was tested
and developed with IMR powder used in the 5.56 ammunition. It tested very
well. It showed up very well.
Then, as you stated in October 1966, a cry went up from Vietnam
that they were having problems, very severe problems, with the rifle.
You sent your weapons team over there headed up by Colonel Underwood.
The situation was so bad, to paraphrase you, that he wanted you to come
over and take a look at what he saw, so you would understand the recommendations
that he made. That was in October of 1966.
Then, when did the committee start getting the complaints, Mr. Counsel
- in April or May ?
Mr. Morgan: In April and May. .
Mr. Ichord: In April we started getting complaints
about excessive malfunctioning, and this time from the Marines, not from
the Army, but from the Marines.
We have evidence and are advised by our experts to the effect that
THIS BALL PROPELLANT, which you apparently speak so highly of, does have
an adverse effect upon the operation of the M-16 rifle. It speeded up the
cyclic rate. It is dirtier burning.
We found out that we only had ball propellant ammunition and naturally
we would be concerned about the conversion, and particularly so when we
are also advised THAT THE ARMY WAS CAUTIONED AGAINST MAKING THIS CHANGE
FROM IMR TO BALL PROPELLANT BECAUSE IT WOULD HAVE AN ADVERSE EFFECT ON
THE M-16 RIFLE.
Naturally, we would be quite concerned.
APPARENTLY YOU AREN'T SO CONCERNED. I don't understand your explanation.
I just haven't been able to understand you - but perhaps you haven't offered
the information in words that I can understand.
Would you care to say something?
Mr. Long: Could I ask a question right there,
Mr. Ichord: Yes.
Mr. Long: I have just one question. Mr. Davis,
or Colonel Yount, the cyclic rate - doesn't the cyclic rate have any bearing
whatsoever on the extraction?
Mr. Davis: No, sir. I should say there is
significant relationship between cyclic rate and failures to extract.
They are separate problems.
Mr. Long: How about double feeding?
Mr. Davis: Malfeeds of one kind and another
are related to cyclic rate, often related to cyclic rate; yes, sir.
Mr. Long: Absolutely no correlation between
the failure to extract and a high cyclic rate?
Mr. Davis: That is correct, sir.
Mr. Long: Once again, just for the record,
why the buffer change, other than that pointed out by the colonel earlier?
I believe the colonel gave two reasons. One was to slow down the cyclic
rate, and the other was to have an increased buffer. Is that right, Colonel?
Colonel Yount: That is correct. It does more
Mr. Long: Why do you want to slow down the
Colonel Yount: BECAUSE WE KNEW WHEN YOU FIRE
THE WEAPON IN EXCESS OF APPROXIMATELY 850 ROUNDS A MINUTE THAT WE DO RUN
Mr. Long: What are those malfunctions?
Colonel Yount: Usually the type that are
failure to feed properly, as Mr. Davis just mentioned, and also the failure
of the bolt to remain to the rear on the last round.
Mr. Long: Go ahead, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ichord: Let me ask this question of Mr.
Davis. This is a question that I have put to one of our experts. Then the
new buffer would just be compensating for the increased cyclic rate caused
by the ball propellant powder?
Reply: "Right; for the cyclic rate. It would help compensate on the
cyclic rate overall. But now if you don't change anything else your opening
cycle - in other words, the amount of time it takes to open the weapon
- will remain constant. In other words, the first part of the cycle, where
the bolt opens which is critical on the extraction of the weapon."
That sounds very logical to me, Mr. Davis, that the opening cycle is
critical in extracting the cartridge from the chamber.
Mr. Davis: Yes, sir. I agree that the initial
part of the recoil cycle may be critical to failures to extract.
Is this question to address the relationship?
Mr. Ichord: Yes.
Mr. Davis: If the problem is timing with
the weapon, that is, if it is opening too soon while the gas pressure is
still too high and for this reason and this reason only the cartridge fails
to extract, then this has a significant effect.
However, if the cartridge case sticks in the chamber because the chamber
PITTED OR CORRODED, remember that it continues to stick, even after
the rim has been sheared through and you have to take a cleaning rod to
knock it out.
A matter of a fraction of a millisecond delay one way or another will
not materially assist failures to extract which come from RUSTY
OR CORRODED CHAMBERS.
In the particular instance of the M-16 rifle our analysis of the cause
of failures to extract is such that I think we would not gain very much
in that particular remedy by reducing the cyclic rate.
Mr. Ichord: Of course now the ball propellant
does give you increased debris which will clog up the chamber and make
the cartridge difficult to extract, will it not?
Mr. Davis: WELL, OUR TESTS HAVE NOT REALLY
CONFIRMED THAT THIS IS TRUE. WE HAVE HAD A HIGHER MALFUNCTION RATE IN EXPERIMENTS
WITH BALL PROPELLANT, USUALLY, PERHAPS ALWAYS ASSOCIATED WITH THE HIGHER
CYCLIC RATE. But the increased amount of visible fouling from ball
propellant, I must say we cannot correlate with any increase in the gun
Mr. Ichord: Apparently we have some disagreement among experts. The
only thing this committee wants, the only thing the full committee wants,
the only thing this Congress wants, and the only thing the American people
want is some way that we can correct these excessive malfunctions. They
cannot be tolerated, period. I don't care what you do to the gun.
AND I CANNOT BUY SOME OF THESE REPORTS THAT I HAVE SEEN THAT IT
IS ENTIRELY THE FAULT OF THE MEN OUT THERE IN THE FIELD NOT CLEANING THEIR
You can't be wet nursing a weapon. You can't be turning around cleaning
that weapon when a Vietcong comes towards you. And I know a man - when
his life depends on it - is not going to fail to clean his rifle. He
should have gotten sufficient training to be able to clean his weapon.
The difficulties are not caused by insufficient cleaning and maintenance
of the weapon, alone.
skip to page 4638:
Mr. Long: Mr. Davis, I am getting back to
the failure to extract. Do you believe chroming the chamber will solve
Mr. Davis: Yes, sir. I think that will be
a very effective remedy.
Mr. Long: Do you think it is within our national
interest to solve this problem of failure to extract?
Mr. Davis: Yes, sir.
Mr. Long: Where are you going to get these
Mr. Davis: From Colt, according to our
Mr. Long: Colt is on strike. You can't
get any there.
Mr Davis: Yes, sir. I am afraid I am not
qualified to comment on that.
Mr. Morgan: Mr. Davis, when was it first recommended
that you chrome plate the chamber?
Mr. Davis: I don't have that date from memory,
sir, but I may have it in notes.
Sir, my notes indicate that in November - October-November of 1966
reports from the WECOM maintenance team were indicating a lack of maintenance
in the chamber area which required some remedy if we could provide
it from the technical standpoint.
In December of 1966 Colt did some in-house evaluation of chrome plated
chambers. I suppose that you could use the date November 1966 as the first
suggestion that the chrome-plated chamber should be pursued.
Mr. Morgan: When was it proposed as an RTA?
Mr. Davis: I don't have that point in my
Mr. Morgan: The information that I have is
that it was submitted by Colt on April 17, 1967. When was it approved?
Mr. Davis: The contract modification was
made on May 26, 1967, sir.
Mr. Morgan: The testimony has been today
that the chrome-plated chambers are not scheduled to be in the production
rifles until some time in August, late August. Is that correct? Provided
they go back to work by then.
Mr. Davis: Yes, sir.
skip to page 4641
Mr. Ichord: Colonel Yount, you stated earlier
in response to a question of mine that you did not know, or I think you
said "We did not know that ball propellant -" I am back to ball propellant
again - "would cause a speedup in the M-16 cyclic rate at the time the
conversion was made."
When did you first ascertain, or when did it first come to your knowledge
that the ball propellant would have that effect?
Colonel Yount: I do know in the qualification
at the time the propellants were qualified this increase in cyclic rate
not appear as part of the test reports. For that reason we did
not know it caused - in fact, it did not cause, according to the test reports,
an increase in this cyclic rate. When I actually became completely aware
of it I cannot pin down at the present time.
Mr. Ichord: Now, who is responsible for the
operation of the Frankford Arsenal?
BMunitions Command, sir.
Mr. Ichord: I am bringing to your attention
a report, a test report of the Frankford Arsenal dated May 15, 1964.
This is the thing that concerns me in this whole investigation - sometimes
the left hand does not know what the right hand id doing.
THIS REPORT ADVISED THAT A NEW EXTRUDED POWDER CALLED CR-8136 AND
WC-846 - THAT IS BALL TYPE - WENT OUT, ON PAGE 13, THAT THERE WAS NO SOUND
PORT PRESSURE CRITERIA FOR THE AR-15, THE M-16 RIFLE; THAT THE SLOWER
BURNING PROPELLANTS, CR-8136 AND WC-846, WOULD RESULT IN A SLIGHTLY
HIGHER PORT PRESSURE LEVEL THAN THAT OF IMR-4485.
THAT WAS MAY 15, 1964.
Did you have access to those reports as project manager,
or do they tell you what is going on at Frankford Arsenal?
Yes, sir; I had access to these reports.
Mr. Ichord: I have another report, February
1966, Mr. Counsel. What report is this? Is it the information that I have,
dated February 1966, but it does not identify the report.
Mr. Morgan: That is another Frankford Arsenal
report, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ichord: I am sure that it is, because
most of this information is connected with the Frankford Arsenal.
Now, you stated, Colonel, as I understand you, that this ball propellant
is fine. This is February 5, 1966. This is what the report says:
TEST OF THE 5.56 MILLIMETER CARTRIDGES IT WAS CONCLUDED THAT THE BALL PROPELLANT
GAVE HIGHER CYCLIC RATE, A GREATER AMOUNT OF MALFUNCTION RATE, GREATER
FOULING, MORE VARIATION IN VELOCITY DUE TO VARIATIONS IN HANDLING THAN
DID THE CR-8136 EXTRUDED POWDER.
That is a comparative study.
What about this new extruded powder that went to Vietnam? What is it?
Is it the old IMR-4475, or is it CR-8136?
Colonel Yount: Neither one, sir. They have
both gone by the board. It is a new 8208-M.
Mr. Ichord: 8208-M. Was that report brought
to your attention, and if so, when?
Colonel Yount: I am sure that it was, because
I receive copies of all the memorandum reports from Frankford shortly after
they are written, sir.
Mr. Ichord: Did you take an action, or
did anyone in the Army take any action regarding ball propellant as a result
of this report? Is this perhaps why we now have the IMR going to Vietnam?
Colonel Yount: Not because of that particular
report; no, sir.
Mr. Ichord: I have other information here.
Springfield Armory report on the test of the new buffer for M-16 rifles,
processed April 6 to May 13, 1966, WHICH CONCLUDED THAT THE RIFLE PERFORMANCE
USING PROPOSED BUFFER AND BALL PROPELLANT IS NOT AS GOOD AS THE PAST PERFORMANCE
OF THE M-16 RIFLES USING STANDARD BUFFER AND IMR-8136 PROPELLANTS.
Again, this is why I question whether the buffer is really going to
get at the problem.
I am not satisfied with your statement that this ball propellant is
so good. The only thing I got out of your statement was that it came out
in the specs and it meets the specs, someone up
above says "Lets meet the specs." That is what you do.
Wednesday, July 26, 1967
Mr. Vee: The WC-846 was made by only one company,
Olin Mathieson, at their East Alton plant. I am talking about the propellant,
not the ammunition.
Mr. Ichord: When the committee was in South
Vietnam we picked up about five cartons of ammunition - about how many
to the case?
Colonel Crossman: Twenty in a cardboard carton.
Mr. Ichord: Twenty in a cardboard carton,
from five different manufacturers, of 5.56 millimeter ammunition.
I did not observe at the time, nor have I seen the containers and the
cartridges since. Does that have on it what kind of propellant, or is there
Mr. Vee: You will have a lot number.
General Miley: a lot number will identify
Mr. Vee: By history you can go back and
check, but the individual won't know.
Mr. Ichord: Have you finished your recitation
of the history, sir?
Mr. Vee: On December 17, 1966, the
Army addressed a memorandum to the Secretary of Defense which was entitled
"The Army Rifle Program," in which they made certain statements, certain
objectives, that they wanted to undertake in their rifle program.
In their letter they stated that as a result of the SAWS study and
the analysis of that study by the Army staff, there might be a possibility
of some minor changes being made in the rifle, or the rifle system, as
they called it. This is the first item.
Then they identified it. It says:
THERE IS A POSSIBILITY OF THE USE OF A DIFFERENT POWDER GRAIN.
This is the first official notice by the service to Sec-Def about
the question of a powder grain or propellant.
Mr. Bray: Then do you have an opinion
as to whether the ball powder is a proper powder to use with the M-16 rifle?
Mr. Macdonald: My only comment is if the
IMR powder worked and it was all tested under the IMR powder, and nobody
ever complained about the IMR powder, what is the sense of going to some
Mr. Bray: You have heard adverse reports
as to the use of these ball propellants?
Mr. Macdonald: Only what I read in the newspapers.
Mr. Bray: In your experience with the IMR
powder, would you say that the functioning of the M-16 rifle was good?
Mr. Macdonald: It was perfect. I can't think
of anything, any malfunction, nothing, never.
Mr. Bray: Would extra carbonization, and
marked increase in the cyclic rate of fire, cause malfunctions in this
Mr. Macdonald: Yes, sir.
Mr. Bray: That is all.
page 4933 - 4934
Mr. Ichord: I hope to be able to conclude
these hearings with this meeting. However, the chairman and the committee
do want to review the record that we have, and we may have - we will reserve,
of course, the right to convene possibly next week, and particularly I
want to review the record in regard to the conversion from IMR to ball
(The following information was received for the record)
Combat Consumption of Ball and IMR Propellants in SVN
A question of major concern to the Special House Subcommittee investigating
the M-16 rifle is the extent to which the use of 5.56 mm ammunition loaded
with ball powder propellant has contributed directly to the excessive malfunctions
of the rifle reported from combat areas in SVN.
Excessive malfunctions of the rifle began to be reported by Army troops
in OCTOBER 1966 AND CONTINUED APPROXIMATELY THROUGH DECEMBER 1966. Since
then reports of excessive malfunctions from Army sources have been relatively
The M-16 rifle was introduced into SVN with the first Army troops to
deploy (the 173d Airborne Brigade) in March 1965. Thereafter there was
a steady build-up of combat units equipped with the M-16 until in September
1966 there were approximately 45,000 troops equipped with the rifle in
SVN. During this entire period there were no known reports of excessive
During the same period (March 1965 - September 1966) 99 million
rounds of 5.56mm ammunition were consumed in combat in SVN. At least 89
million rounds of this total were loaded with ball propellant (WC 846).
Only 10 million rounds loaded with IMR (CR 8136) were ever sent to SVN.
These were produced prior to December 1964, and it is assumed that they
were all consumed prior to September 1966 since supply procedures dictate
a first received - first issued policy as regards stockage and issue.
Since 89 million rounds of 5.56mm ammunition loaded with ball propellant
were shot in combat in SVN WITHOUT PRODUCING ANY KNOWN REPORTS OF EXCESSIVEMALFUNCTIONS,
it must be concluded that such reports when they did appear in October
1966 could not have resulted from the inherent characteristicsof ball powder
as a propellant.
IT IS MUCH MORE PROBABLE THAT THE EXCESSIVE MALFUNCTION REPORTS
ARISE FROM THE TEMPORARY DIFFICULTIES IN CARE AND CLEANING OF THE RIFLE
experienced when substantial numbers of troops previously equipped with
the M-14 rifle were converted at that time to the M-16. This was confirmed
by direct observation of the field assistance teams in SVN during
the period October - December 1966.
Subsequent follow-up visits to SVN by Department of the Army field
assistance teams, the last being in April - May 1967, report marked
reduction in malfunctioning as a result of strict adherence to published
mandatory individual care and cleaning practices.
Tuesday, August 22, 1967. The subcommittee met at 10 o'clock a.m.
Dr. Jackson: Thank you.
As you said, Mr. Ichord, I am director of research and development
for the explosives department of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company.
I am responsible for the administration of exploratory research, product
and process development, and technical assistance to the sales and manufacturing
functions of the explosives department. In carrying out this responsibility
I direct the activities of five laboratories, one of which includes a ballistic
section devoted to the development and testing of smokeless powder
for both sporting and military ammunition.
I have a good working knowledge of gun propellant
problems because I was chief ballistic engineer of Du Pont's propellant
laboratory during World War II at a time when all of its efforts were devoted
to military problems.
In prefacing my remarks on the history of the development of propellant
for the 5.56 mm. cartridge for the M-16 gun system, it should be understood
that the Du Pont Co. was never directly involved in the design or manufacture
of guns and ammunition. Our sole role in this area has been to develop
and produce propellants.
It is pertinent to report that the powder being supplied by the Du
Pont Co. for this round, a Du Pont IMR powder, is the same, except for
minor modifications, as the propellants Du Pont has supplied for military
small arms loading since the early 1920's and was the type used in practically
all of the United States and most of the British rifle and machinegun ammunition
from caliber .30 through 20 mm in World War II. Approximately a billion
pounds of this powder was produced in Government-owned, contractor-operated
plants during that war.
In this service the ammunition loaded with Du Pont IMR powder has been
subjected to every conceivable field situation. The propellant has proven
to be very effective and reliable.
As to the 5.56 mm. ammunition development, it is my understanding that
the Remington Arms Co., working with the developers of the AR-15 gun system,
started with a sporting cartridge, the 223, which translates in the metric
system to a 5.56 mm. caliber. There are eight or ten grades of IMR powder
which cover the range of ballistic requirements of most small arms cartridges,
and Remington, in 1962, selected IMR 4475 from its stock of such
powders as the one giving the desired ballistics in the new round. IMR
4475 is a grade of rifle powder first introduced by the Du Pont Co. in
and is a single base, dinitrotoluene (DNT) coated powder, granulated 0.046
- 0.015 x 1/22. The granulation code describes a single perforated cylindrical
grain, the first number representing the diameter of the die in inches,
the second the size of the pin which makes the center perforation, and
the third the number of cuts per inch. For commercial loading IMR 4475
was purchased by Remington on the basis of ballistic tests made at our
plant. Each new lot is tested in comparison with a standard lot to satisfy
ourselves and the user that it is truly representative of its type.
IMR 4475 was loaded to a pressure specification of 52,000 p.s.i. which
is considered to be acceptable for commercial cartridges of this type.
It was a tight fit, however. That is, to get enough powder in the case
to make the specification velocity (3,250 f/s), it had to be so fast burning
that the pressures were pushing the limit all the time. Nevertheless, some
19 million rounds were loaded with IMR 4475 with good reports as to their
When the Army adopted the 5.56 mm. as an ordnance item, 52,000 p.s.i.
was set as the top limit of maximum average pressure for the ammunition.
This meant that they wanted a powder that would give the service velocity
with about 50,000 p.s.i. or less in the ammunition, so they set a 50,000
p.s.i. top on the powdermaker.
Mr. Ichord: Is that chamber pressure, that
50,000 you were referring to?
Dr. Jackson: Chamber pressure.
We were running 49,500 - plus on the occasion - just too close to the
top for comfort, with a full case, about 25.5 grains.
When the ammunition loaders tried Olin Ball, WC-846, they had more
leeway because the ball powder has a higher apparent density, permitting
more powder in the case. Ball powder could be slowed down until it took
a charge of 28 grains to give service velocity and still stay within pressure
specifications comfortably. Based on our limited experience firing reference
ammunition loaded with WC-846, the slower powder gives somewhat more residue
and more noticeable flash, which is what one would expect.
We had been in this situation before, i.e., a tight pressure specification
and limited case volume. One answer was to change coating. We switched
from DNT, that is the dinitrotoluene, to Centralite and modified the granulation
of the powder to get the best fit. The outcome of this was CR 8136, a 0.041
- .010x1/32 granulation.
Mr. Ichord: Let me interrupt to be sure I
understand what you are talking about.
Is this coating to which you refer, DNT - you switched from that to
Centralite - is it the coating that controls the rate of burning in the
Dr. Jackson: The coating controls the initial
rate of burning in the powder, because it is an exterior treatment which
influences only a fraction of the thickness of the powder.
Mr. Ichord: What do you mean by the "initial
rate of burning?"
Dr. Jackson: When the powder burns, it burns
essentially on the surface, from the surface in, like logs in a fireplace.
In order to slow down the initial rate of gas production to keep the maximum
pressure in the barrel, in the chamber, below the desired limit, the burning
rate of the outer layers of propellant is deterred in all rifle powders
by some material or other.
Mr. Ichord: And the initial rate of burning
is the thing that has the greatest effect upon the chamber pressure?
Dr. Jackson: It has the greatest effect on
the chamber pressure at a given velocity. You can modify the amount and
character of the coating and influence the velocity - pressure relationship.
Mr. Ichord: What is the relationship between
the chamber pressure and the velocity with which the bullet leaves the
gun? There is a direct relationship, is there not?
Dr. Jackson: It is a variable relationship,
depending on the characteristic of the powder. And devising the proper
powder granulation, composition and coating to obtain a preferred velocity
- pressure relationship is the problem of the ballistician.
Mr. Ichord: Anyway, you slowed down the initial
rate of burning by the change from DNT to Centralite, and this, you say,
permitted you to more easily stay within the chamber pressure specifications?
Dr. Jackson: That is correct.
CR-8136 was given a thorough testing by the Army and qualified for
loading in 5.56 ammunition on April 29, 1964. The pressure-velocity relationship
was more favorable on the average for CR-8136 than for IMR-4475 so there
was less difficulty in meeting the 50,000 pounds per square inch maximum,
but the Centralite coating is inherently harder to ignite, so the variations
from round to round were greater. There is a 58,000 pounds per square inch
limit on P maximum plus three times the standard deviation for ammunition
acceptance. That is a requirement placed upon the ammunition supplier that
he must meet.
Mr. Ichord: 58,00 maximum, but an average
Dr. Jackson: Average of 52,000, but the maximum
pressure observed in any lot of ammunition plus three time the standard
deviation in pressure as observed in firing a series of rounds must not
exceed 58,000 pounds per square inch, and this is the difficulty that loading
people got into with CR-8136. All of the lots produced (approximately 300,000
pounds) were loaded by Remington at Bridgeport, but there were complaints
about P maximum plus three times standard deviation exceeding 58,000 pounds
per square inch, so obviously we had not yet obtained a completely satisfactory
solution to this problem.
The current answer to the 5.56 millimeter loading problem came as a
result of a research program carried out under contract with Picatinny
Arsenal to find a propellant with greater ballistic stability over a wide
temperature range (contract DA-36-034-ORD-3742A, completed May 30, 1965.)
Many variations of the extruded single-base powders were tried. Incidentally,
that contract was limited to extruded single-base type, and a modification
of IMR was found bearing a new coating material which not only has improved
temperature stability but a better velocity-pressure relationship as well.
The work under the contract was done mainly with 7.62 millimeter
ammunition and the powder resulting was designated IMR 8138-M. Although
this powder would be ballistically satisfactory in the 5.56 millimeter
round, the grain configuration prevented uniform machine loading.
When this formulation, involving the new coating material and procedure,
was applied to the 5.56 millimeter problem the result was IMR 8208-M with
a granulation .041 - .010x1/32, the same CR-8136. The gravimetric density
was higher, the velocity-pressure relationship was more favorable, and
the charge was still about 25.5 grains. The maximum average pressures were
well under the specification of 50,000 and the variations were such that
there was little trouble with the P maximum plus three times standard deviation
meeting the 58,000 pounds per square inch limit. IMR-8208 was submitted
to the Army for qualification tests and after passing all phases of the
trials, was reported to be accepted in May 1966 for loading in 5.56
millimeter ball and tracer ammunition. The qualification tests consisted
of chamber and port pressure, velocity and tracer ignition tests at +70,
-65, +125, +160, and -80 degrees F.; action time and climatic storage tests;
smoke, flash, fouling, cyclic rate, and barrel erosion tests.
To appraise you of production experience we have shipped 42 lots of
powder representing 1.3 million pounds. this production covers the period
1966 through July 1967. The material has been loaded in ball and tracer
cartridges at Lake City and Twin Cities Army ammunition plants. Reports
from Lake City concerning the quality of the ammunition containing this
powder have been uniformly satisfactory.
As the procurement agencies are aware, only limited quantities of IMR
8208-M can be supplied from the Carney's Point Works of Du Pont, which
is our only powder making facility. We are currently supplying to the limit
of the plant capacity on this item. At the request of the government,
Du Pont has instructed personnel in the coating procedure required for
IMR 8138-M and 8208-M at the Radford Army ammunition plant.
Mr. Ichord: Now for the record I would like
to say that we have three types of propellant, for rifle ammunition in
the United States, that have been used for the past 25 years, three basic
The first is IMR, which is the propellant Du Pont has been making,
single base extruded. This gets its energy, in the main, from nitrocellulose.
Then we have HPC, which is a double base extruded, that is, shaped
like IMR but depends on the nitroglycerin as well as nitrocellulose.
Then we have the ball, a double base spherical grain, energized both
by nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin.
Is it possible to convert surplus or scrapped powder into extruded
Dr. Jackson: It is not, sir.
Mr. Ichord: But that is not true in the case
of ball propellant, is it possible to make ball propellant out of surplus
Dr. Jackson: By the nature of the process;
Mr. Ichord: Is it your further understanding
that scrap powder, surplus powder, is now being worked into ball propellant?
Dr. Jackson: That is my understanding.
Mr. Ichord: Do you know who is doing this?
Dr. Jackson: The process was developed by
Olin, and I believe it is done by Olin, perhaps also at the Army Ordnance
Mr. Ichord: I believe the record will show
this scrap powder is provided to the propellant producer as Government-furnished
Mr. Ichord: I would ask you this question,
Dr. Jackson: For ballistic acceptance which is more reliable, a reference
powder or a reference ammunition?
Dr. Jackson: For ballistic acceptance a reference
powder is more reliable.
Mr. Ichord: Why?
Dr. Jackson: Because comparison of the lot under
test is being made directly with the same type material that is being acquired
and is not - there is no opportunity for confusing differences in metal
components and their influence on ballistics, which always has the opportunity
to creep in when reference ammunition is used as a powder acceptance tool.
Mr. Ichord: What does the government now
Dr. Jackson: Reference ammunition, at
Mr. Ichord: All the experts have advised
this committee that ball propellant causes increased fouling, and also
a speedup in the cyclic rate, at least of the M-16 weapon. What is the
character or nature of the ball propellant which results in increased fouling?
Dr. Jackson: If it does in fact do so - as
I say, we have had only direct observation in the firing of reference ammunition
which contained ball propellant, and observed slightly more deposits in
Mr. Ichord: You have observed that?
Dr. Jackson: We have observed this. We would
ascribe this to the fact it is characteristic of a slower powder in any
given weapon. If you have two powders, a slow and a fast one, the slower
burning powder which burns further down the barrel is more likely to leave
residue in the barrel in the bolt area.
Mr. Ichord: In order to establish our hypothesis,
at this point I want to read into the record the result of tests of the
Field experiment conducted at Fort Ord, California: Section V, Material
2. Major causes in malfunctions in 5.56mm weapons.
Major causes of most malfunctions in the 5.56 mm. weapons are attributed
to an interaction of ammunition (and belt link) deficiencies:
1. Weapon fouling, judged to be caused primarily by qualities of the
propellant used in the standard ball 5.56 mm. cartridge.
2. Cycling of weapons in excess of design rates, judged to be caused
by combinations of:
(a) Pressure characteristics of the propellant used in the standard
ball 5.56 mm. cartridge.
(b) Factory calibration of M-16E1 rifles for a propellant with different
pressure characteristics than that in the standard ball 5.56 mm. cartridge.
(c) Mismatch in internal ballistic (pressure) characteristics between
the standard 5.56 mm. ball and tracer cartridges.
Fouling in the 5.56 mm. weapons occurred throughout the experiment.
Dirty chambers resulting from rapid carbon buildup caused most of the failures
to extract and some of the failures to chamber. Fouling remained
a problem throughout the experiment, although cleaning and inspection of
weapons were considered more stringent than would be possible during combat.
Inquiry to AMC determined that the propellant adopted for the standard
5.56 mm. ball cartridge is different from the original propellant used
during the development and service testing of the M-16E1 rifle and during
the development of the Stoner weapons. A USACDCEC test of samples from
the lot of standard ammunition used in the experiment showed more fouling
than an AMC provided sample containing the original propellant. This supplemental
fouling test was conducted using ammunition lots WCC-6098 and RA-5074.
This limited test firing of 12,620 rounds indicated a malfunction rate
of 5.6 per 1,000 rounds for the cartridge loaded with ball propellant as
opposed to 0.91 for IMR propellant loaded cartridges.
(b) Excessive cyclic rate
Excessive cyclic rates were noted early in the experiment. In addition,
surging (uneven firing) was noted when ball and tracer were fired together.
There was also an increasing incidence of malfunctions attributed to ammunition
cycling the weapons beyond their design rates. The cyclic rates were higher
than the design cyclic rates, particularly with the M-16E1 rifle and Stoner
machinegun. It is concluded that this excessive cyclic rate caused,
complicated, and multiplied such malfunctions as failure of the bolt to
remain to the rear after the last round was fired from the magazine, FAILURES
TO EJECT, and magazine feeding problems.
A concurrent propellant investigation by Frankford Arsenal showed that
the propellant currently used in the 5.56 mm. ball cartridge cycles
weapons faster than the original propellant.
Inquiry to AMC determined that, to meet a government acceptance
requirement, M16E1 rifles are calibrated at the factory for the gas
port pressure of the original propellant rather than that of the propellant
currently used in standard ball 5.56 mm. cartridges. Interaction of the
higher gas port pressure of the current propellant and the sizing of the
gas port for a propellant with a lower gas port pressure is considered
the reason for the excessive cyclic rate in the M16E1 rifle.
Mr. Ichord: When was the result of this study
first brought to your attention, Colonel?
Colonel Yount: November or early December
Mr. Ichord: When was this experiment performed?
Colonel Yount: As I recall, between October
and November 1965.
Mr. Ichord: I am sure Dr. Jackson has other
business. I will explore this with you later, Colonel Yount.
You were producing IMR-4475 up until what date, doctor, for military
Dr. Jackson: I think it was 1964. I can't
remember exactly when in 1964.
IMR-4475 as far as I know was never submitted to the qualification test
for the 5.56, that the CR powders and 8208 powders were submitted to. It
was a powder purchased by the ammunition loader on commercial specification
and submitted by him to the military as meeting the ammunition specification
of the military. The powder was on a commercial purchase.
Mr. Ichord: I know the Army purchased a great
many rounds of IMR.
Dr. Jackson: But the powder has not been
submitted to the qualification test required if the powder is to be purchased
by the military as such.
Mr. Ichord: You said you had difficulty meeting
pressure limits in the specification. Was that because of producing it
in larger quantities, or what was the reason for that?
Dr. Jackson: No, the powder was never designed
to meet the pressure specification that was imposed on it by the Army specification.
It would not have made any difference whether we were producing it in large
or small quantity, we couldn't meet that pressure specification on a continuing
Mr. Ichord: After you failed to meet the
specification, you changed to 8136?
Dr. Jackson: Right.
Mr. Ichord: Remington loaded 8136 for quite
a period of time, did it not?
Dr. Jackson: Several months; approximately
one-third of a million pounds of powder.
Mr. Ichord: Why did Remington stop loading
Dr. Jackson: Because they were having trouble
with the specification on the ammunition that required that maximum pressure
plus three times standard deviation in pressure must not exceed 58,000
pounds per square inch, and about every four or five lots they would slip
out on that one, and finally said, "We can't do it."
The problem was, there we had less margin in pressure than was comfortable
for the ammunition companies, plus a somewhat greater variation in pressure
during a series of pressure tests, such as that the standard deviations,
when multiplied by 3 and added to the maximum pressure, exceeded the 58,000
pound limit. You couldn't tell this from a powder test, but once the ammunition
was loaded in a regular ammunition plant loading the variations piled up
and the standard deviation exceeded the permissible limit.
Mr. Ichord: Again, as in the case of IMR-4475,
it wasn't a case of inability to mass produce it?
Dr. Jackson: No. We were having very little
difficulty in getting reproducible lots. But we had made an improvement,
but just hadn't gone far enough to get out of the pressure trouble.
Mr. Ichord: Colonel Yount, will you please
come forward and be seated, sir?
Continuing with the reference to the SAWS study, dated May 1966, you
say this SAWS study was made in about October 1965?
Colonel Yount: To the best of my recollection.
Mr. Ichord: And the results of the study
were made available to you in December 1965?
Colonel Yount: November or December. It was
not the completed test report, but simple oral results of the test.
Mr. Ichord: Is that oral or written?
Colonel Yount: Oral.
Mr. Ichord: Did somebody connected with the
SAWS study call you, come to see you, or what happened?
Colonel Yount: We kept in touch with the various
locations of the SAWS study, I don't know just who informed me. But
we knew of the problem.
Mr. Ichord: Through what means? How were
you kept informed?
Colonel Yount: Liaison to the test sites,
and telephone calls from the test sites.
Mr. Morgan: Did you not have a liaison or
tech representative at each of the centers conducting the tests?
Colonel Yount: For the maintenance problems,
Mr. Ichord: I suppose you were quite concerned
when you heard this?
Colonel Yount: I certainly was.
Mr. Ichord: What did you do?
Colonel Yount: We wanted a more controlled
test, to confirm that the actual malfunctions were caused by the ball propellant,
so we had some of the suspected lot of the propellant sent to Frankford
Arsenal and had a special confirmatory test conducted by Frankford Arsenal
in December 1965. That test confirmed the results of the SAWS test, that
additional malfunctions were truly associated with the higher cyclic rate.
Mr. Ichord: When was that?
Colonel Yount: DECEMBER 1965. THE RESULTS OF
THE TEST WERE PUBLISHED IN EARLY JANUARY, I BELIEVE, 1966, AND THIS CONFIRMED
THE CORRELATION OF HIGH CYCLING RATE WITH THE MALFUNCTION RATE.
Mr. Ichord: YOU HAD NOT YET HAD TESTS FROM VIETNAM, I MEAN REPORTS
FROM VIETNAM, AS TO EXCESSIVE MALFUNCTIONING?
Colonel Yount: That is correct.
Mr. Ichord: When did it first come to your
attention, Dr. Payne, that ball powder was causing excessive fouling, higher
cyclic rates, and thus increased malfunctions and parts breakage?
Dr. Payne: The fall of 1965; during the SAWS
Mr. Ichord: What action did you take upon
learning of this study?
Dr. Payne: I recorded the reports I gathered
on the trip, in the form of a memorandum, transmitted this to my official
point of contact in the Office, Chief of Staff, which at the same time
was the Systems Analysis Division of the Office of the Director of Coordination
Mr. Ichord: Who was that?
Dr. Payne: The Division Chief was Colonel
Newman. My Memorandum was addressed to Lt. Col. William Jank.
Mr. Ichord: What was the date?
Dr. Payne: Early November 1965.
Dr. Payne: Yes, sir. I discussed the report,
after I wrote it, with an officer who was about to visit Vietnam. I told
him the nature of the problems being found in the SAWS, and asked that
he check with people he met there as to whether any similar problems were
occurring in Vietnam.
Mr. Ichord: Who was that officer?
Dr. Payne: Colonel Blanchard. He was then
executive officer for the Secretary of the Army.
Mr. Ichord: What action was taken as a result
of your report?
Dr. Payne: For this, sir, I have only verbal
reports back. After some period, Colonel Jank informed me that the same
information that was available in my memorandum about fouling and malfunctions
had already been reported to AMC by the Combat Developments Command, that
certain confirmatory tests were then underway.
Mr. Ichord: Was that the extent of your followup?
Dr. Payne: Colonel Blanchard returned
from Vietnam and reported he had talked to seven or eight battalion commanders;
none of them were experiencing any similar troubles.
Mr. Ichord: WHEN DID YOU GET THE REPORTS
THEY WERE EXPERIENCING TROUBLES?
Dr. Payne: IN VIETNAM?
Mr. Ichord: YES.
Dr. Payne: NEARLY A YEAR LATER.
Mr. Ichord: THAT WAS IN OCTOBER 1966, I PRESUME?
Dr. Payne: IN MY CASE, I THINK IT WAS PROBABLY
Mr. Ichord: Did you make any recommendations
at the time you did hear from South Vietnam that they were having trouble?
Dr. Payne: No, sir. By that time, we were
involved in the review of the SAWS report itself, on the basis of which
recommendations were made for an extensive investigation.
I thought the people in the Office, Chief of Staff, doing it at that
time knew everything that I knew, we agreed on the points of fact and the
problems and what needed to be done. I took no action other than to review
what they had done.
Mr. Morgan: In view of your conclusions or
views on the malfunctions caused by the ball propellant during the SAWS
test, did you take any action when you learned of the excessive amount
of malfunctions being experienced in Vietnam?
Dr. Payne: Yes, sir. I tried my best to
find out whether they were from the same cause.
Mr. Morgan: Do you think they are partly from
the same cause?
Dr. Payne: It is possible they are partly
from the same cause, but not predominantly.
Mr. Morgan: Has an effort been made to take
samplings of the ammunition in Vietnam for purpose of testing to see if
there is any relationship?
Dr. Payne: No, sir - not to my knowledge.
The tests that we conducted in this country are conducted with essentially
Mr. Morgan: General Anderson, do you have
anything you want to add to the testimony given on the problem of ammunition
in relationship to the malfunctions of the M-16?
General Anderson: No, Mr. Counsel. I might
in a way summarize what I think our position is.
At the time we moved into the ball propellant for the 5.56 we had
no reason to believe we would have any difficulties from it, because
we had found that by controlling the port pressure in other weapons, both
U.S. and foreign designs, that this produced acceptable results.
We conducted tests, not as extensive perhaps as we might have liked,
but the tests we conducted at that time gave us no indication that our
supposition, that it was a low risk matter, was anything to worry about.
These original tests showed no malfunctions, as you recall.
However, as we went down the road we found that indeed there
were malfunctions associated with the cyclic rate. This was discovered,
I think, first in the initial SAWS report Dr. Payne mentioned, and
that we knew about in the fall of 1965.
Once we discovered it and confirmed it with the Frankford Arsenal tests
where we first correlated malfunctions as related to high cyclic
rate, we set about correcting this. This, of course, took the form of the
new buffer. The new buffer was under development for other reasons,
and it was fortunate we could put this in with it. Our tests
thus far with the new buffer, with both ball and the latest IMR, show
very acceptable results in lowering the cyclic rate.
Now, the malfunctions that occurred in Vietnam in the period culminating
in the October - September-October investigations by the Army, undoubtedly
were PARTIALLY ATTRIBUTABLE TO THE BALL POWDER INCREASED CYCLIC RATE.
Mr. Ichord: How about the fouling?
General Anderson: Let me come back to that
in just a moment, Mr. Chairman.
However, WE HAVE CONCLUDED, BASED ON THE INFORMATION THAT WE HAVE,
THAT THE CARE AND MAINTENANCE AND PRESERVATION PROBLEMS SO OVER-SHADOWED
THE MALFUNCTIONS THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN CAUSED BY THE USE OF BALL POWDER,
THE PRIMARY PROBLEM IN VIETNAM WITH RESPECT TO THE MALFUNCTIONS WAS RELATED
PRIMARILY TO THE CARE AND CLEANING PROBLEM. AND THIS INDIVIDUAL MAINTENANCE
so overshadowed the malfunctions that undoubtedly would have occurred
because of the high rate of fire, this was the causative factor.
Now, once we got upon this, with the teams that went over there in
October, and the actions that the Vietnamese Army Headquarters took, we
have had a rather dramatic dropoff in the malfunction rate. Our latest
report on that in writing was in. I think, April 1967 when a report from
Vietnam noted that the malfunction rate was way down AND COMPLETELY
Now, to get back to your question on fouling. We are still conducting
tests on the relationship of fouling to malfunctions. I would like to stand
corrected here, if my interpretation is not right. THUS FAR WE HAVE NOT
BEEN ABLE TO RELATE INCREASE IN MALFUNCTIONS TO INCREASE IN FOULING.
Mr. Ichord: What about cyclic rate?
General Anderson: Yes, sir.
Mr. Ichord: You have been able to relate
General Anderson: YES,SIR; WITHOUT QUESTION.
Mr. Ichord: Cleaning is not going to affect
the cyclic rate. In adopting the new buffer you have slowed down the cyclic
rate by the new buffer?
General Anderson: Yes. But we have
definitely correlated the higher cyclic rate to a greater incidence of
malfunctions. However, we have not been able in tests conducted thus far
to establish a direct relationship of the increased fouling to additional
malfunctions. Is this correct?
Mr. Davis: That is correct.
Mr. Ichord: You mean you are, then, disagreeing
with the SAWS study here?
General Anderson: No, sir. I am agreeing
with the SAWS study.
Mr. Ichord: I thought the SAWS study did
say that fouling contributed to the malfunctioning.
General Anderson: The high cyclic rate. I
think the SAWS study may have.
Mr. Ichord: (reading)
Major causes of most malfunctions in the 5.56 millimeter weapons are
attributed to an interaction of ammunition and belt link deficiencies:
(1) Weapon function, judged to be caused primarily in the quality
of propellant used in the standard ball propellant 5.56 millimeter
(4) a. Fouling:
Fouling in the 5.56 mm weapons occurred throughout the experiment.
Dirty chambers resulting from rapid carbon buildup CAUSED MOST OF THE
FAILURES TO EXTRACT. Fouling remained a problem throughout the experiment,
although cleaning and inspection of weapons were considered more stringent
than would be possible during combat.
Perhaps I read that wrong.
General Anderson: I cannot say whether they
were correctly relating the fouling and the malfunction. The high rate
we have correlated, yes. But we are still conducting tests on the fouling
to see if it does induce additional malfunctioning.
Mr. Ichord: Well, General Anderson, this
is the thing that has concerned me greatly, and I think we have been
discussing the crux of the whole M-16 problem and the M-16 controversy
in our discussion of IMR and ball propellant ammunition. I think this is
pretty well summed up by the Army in this supplement to a July 27, 1967,
statement. I read from the statement:
From the vantage point of retrospect, it has sometimes been suggested
that the peculiar behavior of ball propellant in the M-16 system should
have been predicted. There was, in fact, no evidence in 1963 that the cyclic
rate of the M-16 would be greatly affected by the choice of propellant,
PROVIDED THAT PORT PRESSURES WERE CONTROLLED as they had been in the M14
and other 7.62 millimeter systems which accommodate both ball and extruded
propellants. Furthermore, there was no evidence at the time to indicate
that an increase of 10 percent to 15 percent in cyclic rate of fire would
cause a serious increase in frequency of malfunctions.
Had the Army anticipated these developments, it is most likely that
the course chosen in January, 1964, would have been the same. A
decision to reduce the velocity requirement, and continue loading IMR 4475
propellant would probably have been made instead, and the development of
alternate propellants could have been pursued more deliberately.
General Anderson: Yes.
Mr. Ichord: The fact that these things arose as such does not concern
me. The thing that does concern me has developed in these hearings, General
This committee was established for the purpose of reviewing the development,
the acquisition, and the functioning of the M-16 rifle and to make a report
to the full committee. We did not know of this crux which you have summarized
here until we went to Vietnam. And I don't know - I don't think there was
anything in the record - was there, in regard to the effect of propellants?
We are asking the Army to give us the facts on this matter, the full
facts, so that we can make a report. And I doubt very much that if the
committee did not receive a tip in Vietnam to look into this ammunition
we would ever have explored it and have developed the whole record.
THINK THE RECORD WITHOUT DOUBT SUSTAINS THE FACT THAT THE CRUX OF THE PROBLEM
- YOU HAD OTHER PROBLEMS, SURELY - STARTED WITH THIS CONVERSION TO BALL
PROPELLANT. That is the thing that concerns me more than a mistake
or mistakes which may have been made. Mistakes don't concern me, as
such. I make too many of them to be concerned.
General Anderson: Mr. Chairman, I don't know quite how else to respond.
There is nothing that I know of that we have withheld from the committee.
There is nothing on this subject that I know of that throws any additional
light on the controversial switch, so to speak, to ball powder. I know
of nothing else that I can add to what has been said already and put in
It is true, had we known at the time - but as I said, our experience
and limited tests gave us no reason to question the change. In retrospect,
I believe we would definitely have considered a drop in the muzzle velocity
of perhaps 50 feet per second in order to accommodate the high pressure,
or uncomfortable closeness to this limiting pressure, had we known we
would run into all this other trouble. We have freely admitted that
in the record.
Mr. Ichord: Yes.
Mr. Morgan: Do you contemplate making any
changes to the ball propellant to clean it up or have less adverse effect
on the rifle?
General Anderson: Well, yes.
Mr. Morgan, we have under study a rather sophisticated study to get
all the aspects of propellants, coatings, grain size, what have you, hopefully
to come up with a conglomerate specification that would have all the good
things of a rifle propellant and eliminate all the bad things, without
tying ourselves to a proprietary product of one or another manufacturer.
This is being done at Frankford, isn't it, this propellant study?
Mr. Davis: Yes, sir; and BRL.
General Anderson: And BRL. So, you ask are
we contemplating a change. Well, in a long-range way we are studying
these various things.
On ball powder itself, as it now exists, I don't know whether any
particular study is going on on this.
Mr. Davis: No, sir. OUR RECORDS FROM THE
MOST EXTENSIVE DATA WE HAVE AT THE PRESENT TIME INDICATE SO LONG AS THE
CYCLIC RATE IS CONTROLLED WITHIN AN ADEQUATE RANGE THE PERFORMANCE OF THE
BALL PROPELLANT IS NOT LESS RELIABLE THAN PERFORMANCE FROM ANY IMR.
General Anderson: On the other hand, Mr.
Chairman, I don't think increased fouling helps matters any.
Mr. Ichord: I hoped you would say that.
General Anderson: Yes.
Mr. Ichord: Then we seem to get down to the
question - perhaps I am being a little derogatory - how much can we wet
nurse a rifle by extensive cleaning under combat conditions?
General Anderson: Well, you have to clean
the rifle no matter what kind of powder. Whether it would be more difficult
to clean it with the ball powder, or with the IMR, I am not sure at all.
Mr. Ichord: One of the generals, the one who returned from Vietnam,
has stated - of course, we have statements all over the lot on it. Some
say it is no more difficult to clean than any other weapon, and I think
we have statements by high authority that more care and maintenance has
to be directed to it --
General Anderson: There is more visible residue
on the ball powder than on the other.
Mr. Ichord: Yes. I THINK THOSE STATEMENTS
THAT THE M-16 REQUIRES MORE CARE AND MAINTENANCE SHOULD BE DIRECTED TO
THE BALL PROPELLANT RATHER THAN TO THE RIFLE ITSELF.
General Anderson: We would like to cut down
the so-called dirty rifle with either. But with ball powder leaving more
visible residue, there is some speculation as to whether it takes longer
to clean it. I am not sure of that at all. I don't know.
Mr. Ichord: I am going to ask if anybody
else wants to add anything to the record today. I am not going to adjourn
the subcommittee sine die. I had hoped to be able to do so. But I want
to give you the chance to clarify the record, straighten up any inconsistency
that might result, before I adjourn today.
Mr. Morgan: Mr. Chairman, could we ask the
Army to give us information on the distribution of the 8208 IMR ammunition
that has been sent to Vietnam? Have they established a ratio for distributing
the IMR versus the ball propellant to the users in Vietnam?
General Anderson: No.
Mr. Morgan: Is there any priority for distribution
of the IMR over the ball propellant, or is it first in, first out?
General Anderson: You are right; generally
it is first in, first out. As we said earlier to Mr. Bray, there is
no identification on the boxes as to which is ball and which is IMR.
We do not do that. By the lot numbers we know. We do know which ones they
are. But we do not as a normal practice transmit that to the field, have
not been. So they do not know which one is which.
You said any kind of program distribution. There is no programmed distribution
of ball versus IMR in Vietnam.
Mr. Morgan: Can we determine what amount
of that shipped since April  has been distributed to the troops
and what amount is in the warehouses at the various supply depots?
General Anderson: Mr. Morgan, we can try. My estimate is that it would
be very difficult to do that. We will try to find out.
(The following information was received for the record)
The Army is unable to state how much of the IMR 8208 propellant ammunition
shipped to SEA since April 1967 has been issued to troops and how much
is in depot.
Rifle ammunition is loaded and packed by the commercial contractor
and identified by Lot Number. the package displays the Lot Number as do
shipping documents but there is no way to identify the propellant used
to fill the cartridges in a particular Lot. Consequently, the issuing depot
has no knowledge of the propellant used in the ammunition that has been
issued or that remains on hand.
Mr. Morgan: General Anderson, or Colonel Yount,
in the Tech Coordinating Committee meeting of March 2 this year it was
indicated that 16 chrome-plated chambers, or 16 barrels with chrome plated
chambers, were shipped to Vietnam for evaluation, under the control of
the Army concept team in Vietnam. A report from this team was scheduled
for April 1967. Was such report received?
Colonel Yount: It was not. We do not expect
one. We have been in contact with the Army concept team. They have had
other projects of greater priority. They distributed the barrels to
the field. Major Podurgal personally contacted two or three people who
had these weapons with these barrels on them. They were happy with them.
As far as controlled tests on these barrels, it is of little value.
Mr. Ichord: General Anderson, back to your
statement that the Army has not conclusively determined that excessive
malfunctions have been attributable to fouling, and also the position of
the Army that it had no way of knowing that the ball propellant would produce
the effects it did. Would it be fair to say you did not, however, have
a proper basis of comparison, in that the M-14, where you had your experience
with ball propellant, had not only a chrome chamber but also a chrome plated
The recommended change - and I want to ask what has been going on in
regard to the chrome plating of the chamber. You think, perhaps, the chrome
plating will compensate for the increased fouling?
General Anderson: Yes, sir.
Mr. Ichord: At least it makes it a little
easier to clean, it is a little harder, and it would work to eliminate
General Anderson: That is right. It is less
likely to erode, it is easier to clean. The coefficient of friction, for
example, between chrome and brass is less, so it would extract easier under
any conditions, in that case. Yes. That is being done, as you know.
Mr. Ichord: How do we stand now that Colt
has gone back to work?
Colonel Yount: The first 5,000 production
weapons with the chrome-plated chamber are scheduled to be received in
the month of September.
Mr. Ichord: They backed up? They had an earlier
schedule on that, of August, didn't they? And the strike delayed that a
Colonel Yount: The strike delayed it. During
September we expect to get 4,000 replacement barrels that will have the
chrome-plated chamber. Each month thereafter the total production of weapons,
as well as repair barrels, will have the chrome-plated chamber.
Mr. Ichord: Have you concluded, Mr. Counsel?
Mr. Morgan: Yes, sir.
Mr. Ichord: Colonel, how about those monthly
reports you made on M-16 reliability to the Army Chief of Staff? Do you
have those with you today?
Colonel Yount: No, sir. Which ones, sir,
the most recent ones, or the initial ones, sir?
Mr. Ichord: I think perhaps we need to review
that, particularly since October 1966. That is your monthly reports on
reliability and product improvement. You don't have those with you?
Colonel Yount: No, sir.
Mr. Ichord: Can you make those available
to the committee?
Colonel Yount: Again, sir, I am not sure
which reports you are referring to.
Mr. Ichord: Don't you make a monthly report
to the Army Chief of Staff or the Deputy Chief?
Colonel Yount: At the present time?
Mr. Ichord: Well --
Colonel Yount: Or initially? When we started
the program I had a set of reports going to the Department of Army. Then,
as a result of the SAWS, I submitted reports which went into DCSLOG which
eventually are received by the Chief of Staff. I am not sure which reports
you are referring to, sir?
Mr. Ichord: How about giving us all of them,
to make sure we have them? How about giving us all your monthly reports?
Colonel Yount: Yes, sir.
(The information requested is in the files of the committee.)
Mr. Ichord: There being no further questions,
the committee will adjourn subject to the call of the Chair.
(Whereupon, at 4:50 p.m. the subcommittee adjourned.)
CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF HEARINGS
Monday, May 15, 1967
Tuesday, May 16, 1967
Wednesday, May 31, 1967
Wednesday, June 21, 1967
Tuesday, July 25, 1967
Wednesday, July 26, 1967
Thursday, July 27, 1967
Tuesday, August 8, 1967
Wednesday, August 9, 1967
Tuesday, August 22, 1967
List of witnesses on next page.
PRINCIPAL WITNESSES WHO APPEARED IN PERSON OR SUBMITTED
Anderson, Maj. Gen. Roland B., U.S. Army ______________4476,
4477, 4483, 4817-4820, 4976, 4992-4994, 4998-5002, 5018.
Berger, Hon. Samuel D., Deputy Assistant Secretary for
East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Dept. of State______4515
Biernacki, Lieutenant, U.S. Army ______________________4601
Bowdey, Comdr. Floyd D., U.S. Navy ____________________4932
Brooks, Dr. Robert A., Assistant Secretary of the Army
(Installations and Logistics) __4433, 4644, 4715, 4803
Dusard, Maj. Gen. Leo F., Jr., U.S. Air Force _________4861
Gayle, Brig. Gen. Gorden D., U.S. Marine Corps ________4893
Ignatius, Hon. Paul R., Assistant Secretary of Defense
(Installations and Logistics)_____________________4813
Ito, Kanemitsu "Koni", Colt Manufacturing Co. ___4585, 4643
Jackson, Dr. Wendell F., E.I. du Pont de Nemours Co.___4935
Kantany, Christo W., Defense Contract Admin. Service___4673
Lynde, Maj. Gen. Nelson M., Jr., U.S. Army (ret.)______4558
Macdonald, Robert W., Cooper-Macdonald, Inc.___________4785
Murphy, James R., Defense Contract Admin. Services_____4684
Payne, Dr. William B., Chief of Operations Research
Office, Under Secretary of the Army ______________4974
Penney, Maj. Gen. Howard, U.S. Army ___________________4601
Stoner, Eugene M., Consultant to Weapons Ordnance
Development Center, TRW Co., _______________4540, 4567
Van Ryzin, Maj. Gen. William J., U.S. Marine Corps_____4496
Vee, Frank J., Installations and Logistics, Office
of Secretary of Defense __________________________4653
Witt, Hon. Hugh E., Deputy for Supply and Maintenance
Assistant Secretary of the Air Force______________4485
Yount, Col. Harold W., U.S. Army __________4611, 4656, 4696
Zais, Maj. Gen. Melvin, U.S. Army _____________________4879