Wednesday, February 23, 2022

No, the First M16 Maintenance Manual Was Not a Comic Book

No, The First M16 Maintenance Manual Was Not A Comic Book. 

Copyright 2022 by Michael H. Maggelet

  Despite claims appearing on several websites ("The Original M16 Manual Was a Vietnam War Comic Book"), the first maintenance manual for the M-16 was not a comic book.    The Colt Model 01 (Model 601) was tested during Project Agile in Vietnam in 1962, and gave excellent performance with South Vietnamese Special Forces, ARVN Ranger units, and US advisors.  Several reports stated that the .223 Remington round produced horrendous wounds on Viet Cong troops, later disproven. These forces also tested the Energa rifle grenade with the Model 601 with excellent results. 
 These troops gave excellent marks to the select fire AR-15 for its handling, with Colt noting the troops kept the rifles clean. Such was not the case in later years, with many older, worn out early M16 rifles without chrome plating in the chamber or barrel still in theater. It should be noted that the military issue Colt AR-15/M16 was a select fire weapon, while the commercial Colt AR-15 SP1 Sporter (Model 6000 and subsequent versions) was a civilian legal single shot rifle with parts in the fire control group and a lower receiver that were not interchangeable with the full automatic version. It was first offered for commercial sale in 1964 for $189.50 (about $1690.76 in 2021 dollars). 
  Regardless, General Curtis LeMay finally succeeded in ordering 19,000 AR-15 rifles in 1962, which were supplied to U.S. Air Force units worldwide to replace worn out M-1 and M-2 Carbines (the USAF was still using WWII era small arms). Navy SEAL teams also obtained around 100 rifles when they were first formed in 1962. 

  Early USAF maintenance manuals included Technical Order 11W3-5-5-1 dated February 1960, and Air Force Manual 50-12 dated August 1963.

  The procurement of the M16 was finalized on 4 November 1963 when SECDEF signed Contract 508 for 104,000 XM-16E1's with the forward assist (for the Army), and 19,000 M16's (for the USAF). 
The maintenance manual was produced for all the services by at least 15 June 1964 under Army TM 9-1005-249-14, USAF TO 11W3-5-5-1, and NAVWEP O.P. 3333.  

  In our armory in West Germany during the late '80's, we had a good quantity of Model 601's (with black painted furniture), in addition to 602's and 604's. 

             Screenshot of TM 9-1005-249-14 dated 15 June 1964 (source- website). 

  The maintenance manual for the XM-16E1 was US Army Technical Manual 23-9, dated  January 1965, and the "M16A1" nomenclature was officially adopted by 28 February 1967 as noted in Army correspondance (it is referred to as the M16 in previous ordnance correspondance).   In August 1967, a playing card sized "maintenance card" GTA 21-1-3 was issued. 
  It wasn't until June 1968 that the "comic book" style Army pamphlet 750-30 was issued. We had the Air Force technical manual for the M16 in our armory, along with several copies of Army pamphlet 750-30.

  For a detailed history on the development of the M16 rifle, I'd recommend "The Black Rifle- M16 Retrospective" by R. Blake Stevens and Edward Clinton Ezell, along with tons of historical documentation on the "Small Arms Review" website and the "" forum.  

Timeline of Maintenance Manual issuance-
February 1960- USAF TO 11W3-5-5-1.
August 1963- AFM 50-12.
15 June 1964- XM16E1 and M16 maintenance manual under Army TM 9-1005-249-14, USAF TO 11W3-5-5-1, and NAVWEP O.P. 3333.
January 1965- TM 23-9. 
August 1967- Maintenance card GTA 21-1-3 issued. 
February 1968- Change 1 to FM 23-9. 
June 1968- Army pamphlet 750-30 "comic book" issued. 
Additional reading-

"The Black Rifle- M16 Retrospective" by R. Blake Stevens and Edward Clinton Ezell. Collector Grade Publications, 1992. May be out of print. forum archives. 

Interview with Eugene Stoner by Edward Clinton Ezell on the development of the M16 rifle-

The Coconut Rifle


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