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Old February 3, 1999, 01:10 AM   #1
Join Date: October 10, 1998
Location: Kalispell, MT. USA
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Did the M16's used in Vietnam have the forward assist or was it added after the war? You'll have to excuse my ham handed typo in the subject line.

[This message has been edited by swehrman (edited 02-03-99).]
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Old February 3, 1999, 08:22 AM   #2
Michael Carlin
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The M16A1 that I trained with in Feb 71 had forward assist!

Ni ellegimit carborundum esse!

Yours In Marksmanship


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Old February 3, 1999, 06:49 PM   #3
Walt Welch
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My recollection is that the early M16's did not have a bolt forward assist. It was added at the request of the US Army. This was the time when they were experiencing jams from inadequate maintainance, and the excessively dirty powder, which had too much flash supressant coating on it. Walt
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Old February 3, 1999, 08:04 PM   #4
Jeff White
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The Army first began demanding a "bolt closure device" in the summer of 1963. Both Springfield Armory (the Govt Arsenal) and Colt submitted designs.The Air Force still refused to accept rifles with a forward assist. So the M16 no forward assist was procured for the Air Force and the M16E1 was procured for the Army.

The Air Force did not get weapons with forward assists until they started buying A2's for the Security Police and Combat Controllers a few years ago.

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Old February 4, 1999, 10:46 AM   #5
4V50 Gary
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Walt is right about the FA. The US Army insisted on having it and they got it. Blake Stevens and Ezell's book on the M16, "The Black Rifle" is excellant reading and I recommend it highly.
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Old May 5, 1999, 09:32 PM   #6
Ed Brunner
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The FA appeared in RVN in about 1964-65. I was there in 1967-68 and had an XM16E1 which had the FA.About the time I was there they changed the ammo for a cleaner powder which allowed the bolt to stay clean enough to lock and unlock. This probably reduced the need for the FA.

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Old May 5, 1999, 11:04 PM   #7
4V50 Gary
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I'd like to muse that if the Fed Govt were to ban the Forward Assist (as it really isn't needed, especially on a target gun where it's probably not best to close a chamber on a cartridge which doesn't fit right the first time), we'd probably want it on our guns as bad as we want flash suppressors and bayonet lugs.
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Old May 6, 1999, 12:13 AM   #8
Art Eatman
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I think we've gone through this before. I'm dredging from memory of an SOF article some 5 or so years back.

What we now know as the M-16 was designed for ammo loaded with IMR powder. Olin Corp. lobbied the Pentagon for an ammo contract. They used ball powder. This raised the cyclic rate from around 900 or so, up to around 1,100. Ball powder also burned dirtier than IMR.

Factor in Walt's comment about maintenance--particularly in VietNam's climate, and you had a recipe for disaster: More heat from the higher cyclic-rate, powder residue, and moisture...

We know there was a problem. Dead GIs were found, shot while trying to use a cleaning rod to clear a jammed weapon.

The quick-fix (so to speak) solution was the forward-assist.

Now, I won't argue with those who claim that the tolerances and fit of an M16 are just too tight to be all that reliable in sloppy, battlefield environmentsl, particularly after prolonged firefights. Wasn't there, didn't do that.
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Old May 7, 1999, 11:00 AM   #9
James K
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Good morning Art,

I admit that I always called the forward assist a jam maker, since it forced a defective round or excess crud into the chamber. But I am puzzled by your remark that it was put on when dead GIs were found who had been trying to clear their weapons with cleaning rods. The sticking case problem was caused by lack of maintenance and by a high cyclic rate created by use of ball powder, but I am not sure I see how the FA would help that problem.

Ball powder also caused a blockage of the gas tube, but again, the FA would not have helped that problem. The FA was intended as an emergency measure when the bolt would not close normally and the soldier felt that closing and firing the weapon would help. The army made the comparison with the M1 and M14, but forgot that those rifles have good primary extraction, which the M16 does not.

(I could spend all day listing the design deficiencies of the Ar-15/M16! The later AR-18, which I thought was also by Stoner, but which I now believe was designed by a fellow named Miller, was better but too late.)

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Old May 27, 1999, 03:29 PM   #10
Art Eatman
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Jim: Like I said, I wasn't in Nam. And, I'm relying on memory from a lengthy SOF article, wherein was the conclusion that the change in powder contributed to the need for the forward assist. I mentioned the bit about the cleaning rods to indicate that numerous problems did indeed exist, although that may not have been part of the rationale for forward assists.

Just another variety of the problems of politics and guns...

Regards, Art

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