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Old November 21, 2012, 06:57   #1
ByronF
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M16: What Powder Caused Jams?

Guys,

What powder did the Army (mis)use in the early days of the M16 that supposedly burned dirty leading to jammed weapons? I like that IMR 4895 has load data for all three rifle cartridges that I load, but if it's going to lead to jams I'll come up with another plan for the 5.56.


Thanks,
Byron
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Old November 21, 2012, 07:28   #2
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Not sure exactly what it was other than "ball shaped" so that rules out IMR 4895 as the culprit. Not even really sure if that matters with anything approaching basic preventive maintenance which apparently the early ones weren't getting either.
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Old November 21, 2012, 07:52   #3
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I read back in the 70's somewhere that it was Winchester ball powder along was no issued cleaning kits.
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Old November 21, 2012, 08:32   #4
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I am not sure powder choice is much of an issue with a chrome lined chamber.

If I had to guess I would say it was a combo of things.

Lack of maintenance. Then add a wet humid enviroment without a chromed lined chamber. Burnt and unburnt powder gumming things up with little or no lube and the small bite of the AR extractor.

But that's just my guess.

Edited to add: How many of us shoot Win 748 in our AR's. It's a ball powder.
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Old November 21, 2012, 08:58   #5
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I did research on this last year for a grad class and my findings regarding the M16 jammings were that it was kind-of a perfect storm. For reasons that others had pointed out in above posts- production powder not being up to Gene Stoner's original specs (IIRC the original loads were mfg by Remington and some of the "bad" powder was mfg'd by Winchester), the lack of a chrome-lined bore/chamber prior in early examples, lack of cleaning kits in the field, and lack of communication and insufficient testing prior to GI-issue (LOTs of politics involved here). "The M16 Controversies" by Thomas McNaugher is IMO one of the best resources on this subject in addition to The Black Rifle series by Collector Grade Publications.
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Old November 21, 2012, 09:46   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ByronF View Post
Guys,

What powder did the Army (mis)use in the early days of the M16 that supposedly burned dirty leading to jammed weapons? I like that IMR 4895 has load data for all three rifle cartridges that I load, but if it's going to lead to jams I'll come up with another plan for the 5.56.


Thanks,
Byron


Olin WC 846 powder, ball propellant made of nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin.
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Old November 21, 2012, 11:02   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NEWFNL1A1 View Post
I read back in the 70's somewhere that it was Winchester ball powder
Yes it was ball powder. It's usually cooler burning and has less flash, but due to th cooler temps leaves carbon buildup
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Old November 21, 2012, 13:32   #8
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My understanding is the original lots of Military 5.56x45 ammunition used a Remington IMR type powder with a nominal cycle rate of approximatly 650 to 700 rounds per minute.

Olin chemical won the competitive bid for the initial large contracts of issue ammunition. Unfortunately Olin did not manufacture IMR type powders and were forced to use their own in house ball powder. To achieve the velocity required in their contract Olins' ball powder caused the cycle rate to increase to over 800 rounds per minute. This became an issue when, in combat conditions and fired fully automatic (spray & pray), the rifles became so overheated they would begin to cook off rounds.

The army then required Olin to lower the cylic rate without compromising the velocity. This was a tricky situation the Olin engineers solved by the addition of substance to the ball powder. This additive was not as potent as the ball powder and its addition contributed a great deal of the foreign substance that was to be found responsible for fouling the chamber necks of the new rifles.

Combine this with the absence of any cleaning equipment, supplies and training and the caliber of some of the draftees in service at the time and you have a near disaster in the works.

The resulting investigations and techinal research produced the chromed chambers and neccessary cleaning gear along with some serious encouragement from officers and NCO's to, for the most part, eliminate the problem.
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Old November 21, 2012, 15:38   #9
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As a victim of the jamming I can tell you it had nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing to do with the powder, casing or projectile.

The flaw in the M16 is inherent to its design. Misfiring or jamming in a gas impingement system is going to happen if it is not cleaned out at every opportunity.

Keep it clean and it works. Let it get dirty and your screwed!

Personally it is a shit design for continuous combat engagements.

I'd take an op rod gun of any make and almost any caliber any day; M1, M14 come to mind.

If those aren't available then shoot them with your M16 and pick up their AK for sustained combat.
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Old November 21, 2012, 16:44   #10
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It's my understanding that Winchester used excessive amounts of calcium carbonate in the ball powders which gummed up the works and caused many of the jamming problems. Once they reduced the calcium carbonate content, chromed chambers and got cleaning kits to the troops, the M16 ran fine.
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Old November 21, 2012, 19:45   #11
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There were several problems with the powders used, calcium carbonate being one of them.


http://www.thegunzone.com/556prop.html
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Old November 21, 2012, 19:56   #12
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Old November 21, 2012, 22:30   #13
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Cleaning/CLP and chrome was more of the answer than powder.
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Old November 22, 2012, 01:24   #14
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Want to load for the AR15? IMR4895 is fine and will cause you no problems.

Want to know the history of the "propellant issue?" Get this book.
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Old November 22, 2012, 01:34   #15
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Best to stick with ball powders like BLC(2), TAC, 748 etc.
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Old November 22, 2012, 01:44   #16
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Don't forget,,many were issued M16s without training.
Was issued a M16A2,,the day of rifle qual.
Only time that shot below 220,,twas my 3rd year in the USMC
No body told me not to flp the "longe range" apature up.
Unlike the M16A1,,the large aperture on the M16A2 is for night/low light use.
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Old November 22, 2012, 01:53   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by E5c03 View Post
Don't forget,,many were issued M16s without training.
Was issued a M16A2,,the day of rifle qual.
Only time that shot below 220,,twas my 3rd year in the USMC
No body told me not to flp the "longe range" apature up.
Unlike the M16A1,,the large aperture on the M16A2 is for night/low light use.
No joke, that sucker is huge..........hotdog down a hallway......alot like my L1A1 aperture.
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Old November 22, 2012, 09:55   #18
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Originally Posted by PA Garand Boy View Post
Want to load for the AR15? IMR4895 is fine and will cause you no problems.

Want to know the history of the "propellant issue?" Get this book.
I've loaded and fired thousands of rounds with IMR4895 and had no problems whatever.
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Old November 22, 2012, 10:07   #19
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Glad to hear that 4895 will work. Thanks, guys.
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Old November 25, 2012, 21:40   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by E5c03 View Post
No body told me not to flp the "longe range" apature up.
Unlike the M16A1,,the large aperture on the M16A2 is for night/low light use.
The rear aperture in terms of function is the same for A1 as it is for the A2. The A2 short range aperture is larger then the A1, but they serve the same purpose.

The jamming issues of the early M16's are well known. As others have said it was a perfect storm of a lack of training, lack of cleaning equipment, and a non chromed chamber.

There was more than a little bit of personal ego and arrogance on Stoner's part in the development of the M16 rifle. Stoner's DGI system was designed to run on IMR, which is a much cleaner burning powder than what the military uses. What isn't well known is Stoner knew the Army was going to test his design with ball power ammo, and he was given the chance to tweak his design. Stoner decided he wasn't going to change a thing. The DOD declined to require a chromed chamber because they didn't want to drive up the cost of the rifle.

We all know the rest of the story. By 1967 the problem had been solved and the rifle became as reliable as it is today. The internet is another story. As we all know the AR system still jams if you look at it funny and it has to be kept hospital clean 24\7 in order to function.
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