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Vietnam M16 thread

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by mshootnit, Oct 11, 2010.

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  1. mshootnit

    mshootnit Member

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    I want to know, early in Vietnam when the first M16's hit the field there were reported problems which were addressed. How much of the problems were actually directly attributable to the fact that the early rifles were not chrome lined, and how much of the problems were due to other factors? I want to hear from the vets and/or serious students of the issue if possible. Don't respond with information you are regurgitating from some other thread or website unless it is referenced. Second: are the early Colt SP1 rifles chromed? To the vets if you want to respond: please feel free to describe your experience with the rifle and thanks for your service to our country. Thanks!
     
  2. husker

    husker Member

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    they were shipped with out cleaning rods or cleaning kits.
     
  3. RainDownmyBlues

    RainDownmyBlues Member

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    This, and they switched powders when they fielded them. It didn't have squat to do with chrome lined bores. It was the switching to a cheaper powder, that wasn't tested with the rifle, and the belief that the rifle was self cleaning.
     
  4. JNewell

    JNewell Member

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    Buy a copy of The Black Rifle. It's full of period documents and other materials. It's a valuable read and likely must-purchase for anyone serious about understanding the AR-15/M16 platform, which at this point is one of the (maybe the) longest-serving general-issue, front line service weapons in the history of the Republic.
     
  5. Quentin

    Quentin Member

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    I understand that the early problems were due to a combination of factors: poor magazines, lack of chrome lining, improper cleaning and maintenance and most of all - the use of old ball powder by the military even though Colt/ArmaLite warned that that would cause fouling of the direct impingment gas system. Chrome lining in and of itself wouldn't have been that much of a factor if the proper powder had been used and maintenance performed.

    I was in Vietnam later (in 1968) and did not have any major problems with my M16 so was pleased with it but then I was a stickler for keeping it clean and learning its function - without anyone telling me to do that. But I believe by that time most of the problems above were being worked out and less of an issue. I can't remember if I had the old non-chrome lined M16 or the M16A1 which was chrome lined. Mine was scuffed up and had been around the block though so I bet it was older and probably an M16. Anyway it worked.
     
  6. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    The Black Rifle is a good read, most of its material seems to come from “The Great Rifle Controversy” by Edward Clinton Ezell.

    Weapon system acquisition is an intensely political process. The replacement of the M14 with the M16 was absolutely due to the money that Colt Industries was able to bring to the table. Colt was able to create misinformation campaigns against the M14, bogus promotional claims for the M16, money to the pockets of Congressmen and impressions of post employment opportunities to senior Military Officials. Eisenhower coined the phase “Military Industrial Complex” and it works the same now as it did then.

    Springfield Armory was shut down because Industry did not want competition from a Government entity. And so it has been for the last 60 years, the Government does not design anything inhouse, everything is contracted out.

    The M16 did not go through a normal development and test cycle. The M14 at least was tested against and had to prove that it was equal to the FN. The M16 was sold as a fully developed weapon system to the whiz kids at OSD. It was not. It had been developed on a shoe string budget.

    There were lots of issues. For example, parts were not interchangeable. Magazines were not interchangeable between rifles and M16 magazines though much improved from early production, are still a problem today. Because the system was sold as “self cleaning”, there was no reason to issue Soldiers cleaning kits or have maintenance training.

    The powder issue is an example of what happens with undeveloped weapon systems. Stoner used one particular stick powder and it worked. He did not have the time or money to perform industry surveys or test alternate powders. It turned out that the powder specifications were tighter than period production processes could hold. The manufacturer, Remington, hand selected powder lots from all the powder lots they made. After the M16 was adapted, the Army told Remington to qualify their powder, that is guarantee that all powder lots produced would meet specifications. Remington, in so many words, told the Army to pee up a rope, and stopped being a powder supplier. The Army then had to use what was available. Their 308 ball powder did not meet pressure specs and the weapons malfunctioned.

    From a user’s viewpoint of the Charlie Foxtrot that was visited on them, go to http://www.jouster.com/jouster_tales.html Click on “Sea Stories”, “The Saga of the M16”, read part one and part two.

    The failure of the M16 adoption is easily understood and there is a large group of people who are interested in small arms. But each and every military system adopted is a product of the same military industrial complex, and each and every system has to go through its own set of issues where Soldiers/Sailors/Marines are killed or hurt, or the weapon system does not function in the real world, all due to the Military mismanagement and Industry profiteering. It is just that these problems rarely make it in the public domain.
     
  7. AR-15 Rep

    AR-15 Rep Member

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    Many of the Vets I have talked to have had problems with the early M-16's and alot had to do with the type of powder used. The corrosive ( cheaper ) powder led to many rifles failing to extract and the lack of cleaning kits made the problems worse. Some vets even used nails instead of firing pins. The type of powder being corrosive, caused pitting in the chamber. Over a period of time, the pitting would grow to a point that brass case would stick and cause jams. They used the nails because some of the firing pins wouln't strike the primer hard enough or the lack of cleaning kept the pin from striking the primer. Those are just a few of the stories I have heard from vets that used the M-16's at the time.
     
  8. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    Now that's a War Story right there!!!

    I can assure you that didn't happen.

    I served in the U.S. Army from 1964 to 1970 during the whole progression from the M1 Garand, to the M14, to the M16.

    The powder in 5.56 ammo was not corrosive.
    Either the original IMR 4475 stick type the gun was designed around, or the later WC846 ball powder substitute.
    There has been no corrosive GI ammo made since the early 1950's, well before the 7.62 NATO or 5.56 NATO were invented.

    The whole problem was, it never stopped raining in Vietnam, the rifles were constantly wet, never got cleaned properly, and the chambers rusted before they chrome-lined the barrels on the M16A1's.

    All the new powder substitute did was increase the cyclic rate on full-auto fire, which in turn broke parts and wore out guns prematurely.

    No cleaning equipment to start with, as well as the wide-spread belief that the M16 would clean itself resulted in rusty chambers, and extraction problems on the very first AR-15's and later M16.
    All that was sorted out by the time the M16A1 came into service in the late 60's.

    I'm here to tell you the M16A1 I was issued ran 100% flawlessly the whole time I had it.
    But I did have brains enough to clean it and oil it.

    BTW: The powder substitute was not done to save money.
    It was done because IMR did not have the production capacity to make enough of it for the escalating Vietnam war, and Winchester-Olin did.

    rc
     
  9. taliv

    taliv Moderator

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    i was scratching my head on the nail-as-firing-pin story too. i can't remember ever seeing a nail that looks like it would be long and thin enough, and the hammer would strike the side of the nail instead of the end, since the retaining pin would not keep the nail where it's supposed to be. it would slam backwards all the way to the buffer.

    and even if you looked past all that... how would a nail cause it to hit harder? the FP springs control that.
     
  10. SharpsDressedMan

    SharpsDressedMan member

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    Don't know about the powder being "corrosive", but the early powder used did foul more than subsequent powders. Most of the things mentioned above were true, and combined with soldiers not cleaning as often as they COULD (put together dirty propellant, small bores, tight actions, heavy fouling due to high round count between cleanings, and throw in a lot of water/humidity), and one more thing that a vet friend of mine added to the list...LSA. LSA was a synthetic based lubricant that apparently didn't mix well with water. A combination of gunk, powder residue, dirt, and this poor "blend" of water and an oil that didn't react well wet, and you get a rifle that doesn't want to function. I was in the service during VN, but was stateside. I did notice that not cleaning the rifle after firing it resulted in jams THE NEXT DAY, even in a dry, otherwise clean environment. I could only imagine the result if a GI got sloppy in 'Nam and blew off cleaning/oiling between gunfights. I know sometimes they didn't have time, or the knowledge that doing so would be SO important. Now we know that the M16 family needs a little attention to being clean, and the more the better. If I had ANY time in combat, day to day, to clean/check my rifle, I'd damn sure do it, even without the sergeant on my butt to do so.
     
  11. Gottahaveone

    Gottahaveone Member

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    Perhaps this is a misunderstanding of using nails to clean the bolt rather than using the firing pin (as I was taught way back when) because the nail would do a better job. It's all I can come up with, anybody who has any idea at all about the construction/operation of this platform has to know that trying to use a nail in place of the firing pin is....ludicrous.
     
  12. Byron

    Byron Member

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    I went to Nam mid Oct 68.I was a grunt with D Co,3/8th Inf,4th Inf Div. We had LSA oil and used sparingly.Our 16's did not have a storage compartment for cleaning and those were carried in our ruck sacks. I recall opening a case of ammo and it was marked "Dupont Powder" and did not understand the significance at the time. The 3 prong flash suppressors were changed to the birdcage but we kept a couple with the 3 prong for opening cases of C-Rations. RC, I belive you too were with the 4th Inf and more so at Camp Enari. We never saw it and operated in the Central Highlands. We had long dry seasons. We kept our rifles clean and anyone in combat should.The 16 was a fine rifle as was the lethality of the M-193 round. March 5,69 we were in the battle of 947. I put over 800 rounds through my 16 on semi and the rifle never failed. Byron
    http://www.ivydragoons.org/Files/Hill 947 Story_htm.html
     
  13. briansmithwins

    briansmithwins Member

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    That's not how I would put it. I'd say something more along the lines of :

    In the 12 years since the end of WWII the height of Springfield’s development was a product improved Garand with a 20 round box mag firing a shortened version of the .30-06 cartridge optimized for volley fire at 2000 yards.

    The 'wonder weapon' that was supposed to replace the M1 carbine, M1 Garand, M3 subgun, and BAR turned out to be a expensive turkey that was only fit for the infanrty rifle role.

    Too heavy, too big, too late, the M14 was killed by cheap assault rifles firing intermediate cartridges. Since the M14 (which had the shortest service life since what, the Krag?) was pulled from 1st line service there have been zero adoptions of full size, full power rifles by the world's militaries.* BSW

    *Except by lower Bungholvia or some other place most map makers couldn't find on a map.
     
  14. taliv

    taliv Moderator

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    thanks for the link Byron
     
  15. d2wing

    d2wing Member

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    Nails? Just where in Nam was a hardware store? Just kidding, we could have found some
    at base camp. But then we only know what we were told and that wasn't much. I never thought of using a nail. It wasn't issued. I did not know until I was home a few years that
    the M16 wasn't as wonderful as the Army told us.
     
  16. Curator

    Curator Member

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    I was drafted upon graduation from college in late April,1966. I trained with the M14 at Ft. Dix, N.J. then on to AIT at Ft. Polk, LA where we were introduced the the M16. I wasn't particularly impressed but the guns did work and were much lighter to carry. I arrived in Viet Nam assigned to Army 1st Division in October of '66 and was issued a M14. We carried these until Jnauary of 67 when we were issued M16s and our trusty M14s were taken away. At first the M16s seemed like the ones we shot in AIT but not too long after they began to jam upon extraction. The rims were being torn off the fired cases.

    I had had some firearms training before entering the Army. I had an M1 rifle and reloaded cartridges for it to shoot in club competitions. I also knew how to clean a semi-automatic rifle. My gun was properly cleaned and lubed. The problem was the new ammo we were given. Old stocks (there wasn't much of that) shot fine. New ammo had the rim torn off. Army brass brass blamed us GIs for not cleaning properly (BS!) We all had 3-piece rods rubber-banded to the barrels of our M16s so we could knock stuck cases out of the chamber. We were told to oil the cases (yeah-right), Clean the ammo (it was new!) Clean the chamber (OK it's clean)

    I even talked to a Colt Rep who was looking into the problem in May of 67. He was convinced that we slob GIs were badly trained in firearms maintenance and would not even consider what I suggested: too slow a powder burn rate causing too high pressure as the action was attempting to extract. Soft rims was another posibility, but no one was listening.

    I wrappped my M16 around a tree and got issued an M79 grenade launcher and a Acme novelty made WW2 1911 GI .45, two guns that actually worked. M16s jammed often enough to undermine any confidence we foot soldiers had in our rifles. The only good side to this story was it was much easier to get guys to carry the M60 machine gun and ammo since everyone realized we needed firepower we could depend on. My squad carried two, and somtimes when the were available, three.
     
  17. Sky

    Sky Member

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    I would like to get in this discussion but I flew for the First Cav. I could have carried anything with me but after going through several selections to include a Tommy gun I ended up carrying the M79 with a few rounds and either a 1911 or a small 38. I never thought I liked or trusted the m16 even then; on all our lift birds we had two M-60s and on our Night Hawk birds we carried the .50 and 7.62 mini. I cannot remember any of our pilots carrying an M16 but I could be wrong.
     
  18. Sky

    Sky Member

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    P.S think it was size/weight as much as trust due to our limited space?
     
  19. JNewell

    JNewell Member

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    Nails for firing pins? Give it a try and report back, please.

    Corrosive powder? Nope, sorry.

    Stories? Tall tales.

     
  20. mshootnit

    mshootnit Member

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    Curator,
    So, keeping it clean like that...did you ever see a rusty bore or chamber?
     
  21. Curator

    Curator Member

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    I was a infantry squad leader so I checked on my mens' rifles regularly. The Army did not give too much emphasis on cleaning except for inspection. I was more concerned with survival so took an interest in our squad's equipment. I never saw any chamber or bore rust. Dirty, yes, particularly after a slog through 3 kilometers of rice paddies or 10K on a dusty laterite road. In '67 our rifles did get used regularly but often to little effect.

    We used shaving brushes and tooth brushes to keep the action reasonably clean and our issued 3-piece cleaning rod and cloth patches for the bore. One other thing I noticed to my surprise was little to no copper fouling in the bores, even on the M60 that got pretty hot. I have since learned that military powder of the time had a special additive to reduce or eliminate copper fouling. I'm pretty sure none of the M16s we were issued had a chrome bore or chamber in 1967. I occasionaly wonder if the experiments with powder lead to the rim-tearing problem.
     
  22. husker

    husker Member

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    This has been a great read
     
  23. Vlad357

    Vlad357 Member

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    I was issued one, an M16A1, in the early 70's and it too ran flawlessly. In my unit constant cleaning was pushed (maybe by experienced old hands). Somehow that green cleaning kit found its way home with me and still goes in the field with me today, with different patches and brushes.
     
  24. Rugby8

    Rugby8 Member

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    Yut
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2010
  25. rocky branch

    rocky branch Member

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    Did two tours-68-70.
    VN is bone dry about hlf the time-wet and dry seasons.

    GIs hear and pass around stories and tales like kids, sometimes.

    We actually knew very little about powder, chrome bores, etc.All that came later.

    Cleaning was important-I had a jointed rod I kept taped to my CAR.

    Cleaning mags was important-they got full of crud, especially in water, and that got on the cases as well. Serious dust the rest of the time.

    The design certainly has persisted, even in the face of so much derision.

    Sometimes rumours outgrow themselves.

    I will say I had a FTF n a very bad situation.
    Lucky for me the other guy was bent on getting away.
     
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