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The Department of Energy 9mm M16 Submachine Gun

By Frank Iannamico

The AR-15 rifle was originally conceived by the Armalite Division of the Fairchild Aircraft Corporation by Eugene Stoner, Robert Fremont and James Sullivan. The AR-15 followed an earlier Armalite rifle, the AR-10 chambered for the 7.62x51 cartridge. Both the AR-10 and AR-15 were unique for military rifles of the day, using a lot of aluminum and plastic in their construction. The AR-15 was chambered for a high-velocity .22 caliber round. The AR-15’s space-age appearance, materials, and small caliber made it unappealing to most military establishments, who resisted change. Armalite, discouraged by the lack of sales, decided to sell the rights to the AR-15 design to Colt’s Patent Firearms during 1959. Colt salesman began a worldwide campaign to aggressively market the weapon. In 1961, a substantial number of the AR-15 rifles were requested by U.S. Air Force to replace their aging M1 carbines, but the request was denied. During 1962, a small number of AR-15 rifles were shipped to Vietnam to arm U.S. Special Forces advisors operating there. Reports from the field praised the AR-15’s performance. In 1963 Secretary Robert McNamara ordered M14 production to be terminated and approved an order for a substantial number of AR-15 rifles for the U.S. Army and the Air Force. The AR-15 was adopted as the Rifle, Caliber 5.56mm M16.

The AR-15/M16 rifle was adopted to replace the 7.62 M14 which was proving ill suited for the type of combat then being encountered in Vietnam. The M16 had several advantages over the M14, it was lighter, far more manageable in full-auto operation and the basic ammunition load was nearly double for the same weight. However, the early M16 rifles proved to be quite problematic, the weapon was subject to jamming and malfunctioning during encounters with the enemy, often resulting in the loss of American lives. The problems were found to be a combination of things: lack of proper cleaning, a change in the cartridge propellant, and barrels lacking chromium lining, which were rapidly corroding in the humid climate. Addressing the problems resulted in...

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