The 5.56 Timeline is Dead! Long live the 5.56 Timeline!

Use the links on the left of the page to navigate through the many html pages of the Timeline, organized by year.

One of the key resources for anyone interested in the long process of development of the small-caliber, high-velocity concept, leading up to the American adoption of the 5.56mm M16 and M16A1 rifles in 1963, and ultimately to every major army’s basic issue rifle today, has been Daniel E. Watters’s “5.56 Timeline,” developed over a lifetime of research and published until recently on Dean Speir’s site, The Gun Zone.

Five years ago, mentioning a resurce Daniel had turned us on to, we wrote, “For an overview of M16 development with lots of good links, you can’t really beat his page at The Gun Zone,” (adding a link that is now pining for the fjords).  A year later, we mentioned it again.

By 2015, we were calling Daniel’s 5.56 Timeline “indispensable” and it truly was, so it was pretty shocking when The Gun Zone closed down, and it went off the net… for a while.

Daniel explains it as follows:

This article was originally published at The Gun Zone — The Gunperson’s Authoritative Internet Information Resource. My friend and mentor Dean Speir has graciously hosted my articles at TGZ for nearly 16 years. These articles would likely have never appeared online without his constant encouragement and assistance.

With TGZ’s closure in early 2017, Dean encouraged me to find a new home for my scholarship so it wouldn’t be lost in the dustbin of the Internet. Loose Rounds has welcomed me with open arms. In the future, I intend to expand my legacy TGZ articles and add new contributions here at Loose Rounds.

While we regret the demise of TGZ, we’re thankful that this priceless Timeline was saved.

It’s now a permanent Page at Loose Rounds.

One thing that would make this Timeline really come alive is adapting it to an actual graphical timeline. Just thinking out loud, the 5.56 Timeline would make a great application for Scott ‘s internet startup, WhenHub.

24 thoughts on “The 5.56 Timeline is Dead! Long live the 5.56 Timeline!

  1. Steve M.

    Daniel, Shawn and Hognose,

    I had no idea the concept had started so early on. Thank you for keeping this resource alive so others may continue to learn.

    “Pining for the fjords,” good stuff. “The bird is no more! The bird has ceased to be!” Fantastic stuff, that Monty Python.

    1. Looserounds.com

      I am honored and proud as a puppy with two peckers that Dan came to me. I would have eating a plate of glass sooner than turn him down.
      Something else to note is we have made Dan a full part of the website with his own admin controls and absolutely free hand to do whatever he wants on the website. I am really excited to see what he does in the future.
      Like I told Daniel, as long as I am alive or as long as looserounds exists, he will have a home for his work where he has completely 100 control and ownership of his work and what he wants to do with it.

  2. Sommerbiwak

    The Gun Zone is dead? :-(

    the other articles on tgz were informative, too. Well there is always archive.org.

    Good for D.E. Waters to have found a new home for his articles. :-)

    I would love to learn more about SCHV history in other countries. All (brits, germans, russians…) have been toying around with the concept between the wars. And the french even before the great war iirc.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I wrote a thing four or five years ago about the fact that, since flintlock smoothbore days and standardization of weapons, the long term trend has been for smaller caliber, lighter projectiles at ever-higher velocities, shooting ever flatter, in a package that weighs eight to ten pounds (say <5 kG) to be sensible to carry. You could even extend it further back to arrow, atlatl, spear and rock but that makes the progress curve look exponential.

      Where does it end? Directed-energy weapons with a "projectile" of zero mass and infinite (well, light-speed) velocity?

      1. Ken

        They do interesting things with very small caliber rifles over at Saubier dot com. Mostly .17-.22 caliber but I remember some threads about .10 caliber experiments.

      2. Kirk

        I think we’re at a plateau phase, akin to the period when the Brown Bess dominated. New technology needs to develop, become practical, and prove itself sufficiently significant before major changes come.

        It isn’t at all unlikely that we will see the M16 family on-issue for as long as the Brown Bess managed, either.

        1. Cap'n Mike

          1700-1815 was a good run for the Long and Short Land Pattern Musket.
          A while back I went looking for the Etymology of the Term “Brown Bess”.
          Like so much, its origin is lost to history, but there is some conjecture that Bess was some common soldiers Mother, Wife or Sweetheart, or perhaps a member of the worlds oldest profession.
          Having done a bit of common soldering, I know where my bet is.

        2. Ken

          I can see caseless cartridges becoming an intermediate advancement. Kind of like the percussion cap was between flint locks and metallic cartridges.

          1. Kirk

            I don’t see caseless ever succeeding, to be honest. By the time we solve the materials issues we need to, in order to make caseless work, we will probably be doing directed energy or linear acceleration already.

            Cased telescopic? Maybe, if they can manage to raise the cost/benefit ratio sufficiently to justify it. Otherwise, expect continued use of cartridges as we know them.

          2. Hognose Post author

            It’s hard to get around the wonderful obturation properties of a drawn brass case. Nations that use steel or other materials (Russia, WWII Germany) do it for cost reasons and their engineers (the Russians at least) know what they’re trading off.

        3. RT

          Kirk,

          I’m going to have to respectfully yet strenuously disagree with you on your plateau theory…

          There’s a pretty disturbingly large amount of evidence out there for people who are really willing to look that we’re instead kinda stuck in a multi decade deep stagnation rather than at or even NEAR an actual plateau.

          For the sake of brevity I’ll just toss out a few quick items that support this alternative thesis.

          1. Even cased telescoped ammunition as a concept has been around and theoretically possible to implement for at least 25 years had we been willing to spend the money it would’ve required to get it across the finish line back then…

          The CT ammunition concept was initially the brainchild of gene stoner during the Ares days, and not only the ammunition concept, but a gun design which would look suspiciously familiar if compared side by side with the LSAT LMG were actually dropped from the ACR competition after phase 1 I believe it was because Gene and the Ares crew needed more time money and etc than were available to them especially on the short and not very well funded phase 1 monetary awards to competitors.

          However this line of investigation on it’s ought to be more than sufficient to start considering stagnation and not plateau.

          2. A dtic.mil PDF I found from last year by an engineer for NAVSPECWAR was 60+ pages of presentation by ONE engineer showing nothing but old or abandoned concepts, designs, and approaches which are as much as a CENTURY old which constitute examples of “low hanging fruit” from the past which small $ amounts and modern computing resources could cheaply, quickly, and with very low manpower requirements that could easily be reworked and used to upgrade or even move beyond current weapons, ammunition, and etc capabilities netting individually modest but still significant improvements over the current weapons in use today which wouldn’t even add up to a typical rounding error dollar amount from an F35 development contract yet could cumulatively basically push small arms technology forward at least a double digit percentage in every category across the board even assuming a very pessimistic failure rate % of the projects in his presentation all of which would be done and in production within at most 3 years…

          All for basically the cost of 2.25 f35 engines…

          Speaking as someone who is very much able to identify even a whiff of weapons grade bullshit at distances up to a mile away in the areas his presentation covered…

          Not only was this guy not bullshitting but he was likely deliberately downplaying the true possibility and percentages by up to 50% as a hedge against any over promising he may have unwittingly done!

          This guy presented a very much worthwhile roadmap of small $ amount short term projects which could easily be rolled out to our front line units in 3-4 years at worst which would cumulatively and across the board beat our current issue small arms mix in range, cost, lethality, recoil, and every other category by 15-40%…

          All from taking a second look at also rans etc from the small arms world none of which were newer than 30 years old with several actually being 60-100 years old…

          You may not 100% agree with my assessment but even the most pessimistic guys we know couldn’t give his presentation a look and see any less than a solid 5% across the board jump from current weapons … All for stupidly little cash outlay and with ridiculously quick payoff rates…

          If this isn’t an indicator that we’re stagnant not plateaued… Nothing would be.

          1. TBoone

            RT, that sounds like a very interesting article. I had no success trying to locate it on the dtic.mil site.

            Any chance of a link? Or author name, useful search criteria? Thanks!

      3. Scott

        Unless the next advancement starts to disintermediate men from handling the weapons. Rethinking what robots, drones, AI, can and should do with weapons and eliminating these nasty, fragile, organic material bearers of weapons might be next?

        Perhaps the day arrives where a long arm is about as useful to a soldier as a side arm is now?

        I dunno…

        1. Kirk

          It will be around as long as you can sneak up behind the bastards operating the drones, and bash in their heads. They may not be the primary arm, but they will still be in use…

          1. Scott

            I suppose so. As long as it is organic life forms still operating the drones.

            Otherwise, you (or AI autonomous drone operating (you hope) on your behalf) might need an EMP weapon?

  3. Cap'n Mike

    Great news that Daniel’s work has been preserved.
    Thanks to Shawn for the new home.
    I read that entire time-line a while back, fascinating stuff.
    Whenever I see Daniel post a comment somewhere on the web, I figure I’m probably going to learn something.

    1. Hognose Post author

      When he comments here, he’s almost always correcting something I screwed up. The rest of the time he’s adding context or a link or source to expand the story. He’s one of the commenters I learn a lot from.

  4. Keith

    I think that the long term, baring material and propellant advances, will be AK platform for low end and AR platform for the middle and turn bolt Mauser or something like that for the high end. Except for stamped metal and then polymer furniture it’s all been refinement since what, 1910 or so?

  5. Pathfinder

    I am glad the resource was saved. I have used it numerous times and have referred people their for the information.

    Thanks guys.

  6. 6pounder

    Caseless is almost certainly old news. I remember handling the G11 quite a few years ago. Great concept but it just didn’t pan out.

    1. RT

      Honestly… It was a terrible concept from day one and will always be so until …

      Shit.. Well really it’s getting way closer to possible now but… Heh …ummm

      Ok so I just hate that they’ve went about it a stupid way from the jump…. And because Gene Stoner GOOD

      HK…. BAD!!! LOL

  7. Daniel E. Watters

    Thank you for the kind words.

    As Dean has told me on several occasions, the 5.56mm Timeline has kind of become my life’s work. Hopefully, I’ll finally get a chance to plow through my backlog of research. My notes from the Ichord Hearings transcripts and the Project Manager Rifles’ Weekly Significant Action Reports for 1963, 1964, 1965, and 1968 have been waiting for HTML coding and insertion for several years.

    1. RT

      Your timeline really is awesome work, and your tireless efforts to make sure we don’t lose the information is even more awesome

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