M14 Forum banner

1 - 20 of 31 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,086 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Contrary to popular misconception the AR/M16/M4 design is wholly owned by Colt's Manufacturing, all technical data package (TDP, or drawings), and associated intellectual property belongs to Colt's. The Department of Defense does not own anything about the design and cannot legally distribute copies of the drawings, except in relation to contracts, and there are many restrictions even when done within a contract. The M16 TDP is licensed to the Army for use in service support, spare part procurement, and second source procurement under strictly defined limitations.*

Yet, AR parts are ubiquitous. Dozens of manufacturing plants in the US and abroad make AR parts with such similarity that they are interchangeable. For those of you that have actually been involved in attempting to reverse engineer a part so that they are interchangeable with the originals it is extremely difficult. In addition, the idea that multiple reverse engineering efforts by separate concerns would yield parts that are not only 100% interchangeable with the original but with each other as well is impossible.

Obviously, someone stole the drawing and disseminated them. In fact, it does not take much effort on the Google box to hunt down all the drawings. But, who was the thief, and when was it stolen?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,086 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
The Theft.

In early 1996, NSWC-Crane requested a copy of the TDP from the Army's Rock Island Arsenal in order to support acquisition of some M4 SOPMOD accessories. Then in August 1996, NSWC-Crane improperly provided the entire TDP to twenty-one (21) vendors, one of which was Colt. Colt immediately notified the Army that the terms of the 1967 Licensing Agreement had been breached and, due to the Army's (and Navy's) failure to adequately to protect the proprietary data a material breach of the 1967 Licensing Agreement. Thus, the licensing agreement would be terminated, and the DOD could no longer use the TDP in the second-source procurement of the M16/M4 or their parts. Colt also threatened a lawsuit, estimating damages from $43.5 – 70 million.

In response, the Army claimed that the license could only be terminated if they had not made a best faith effort to correct the situation. Immediately after Colt notified the Government of the breech, NSWC-Crane attempted to recover all copies of the TDP. Further, they sent out non-disclosure agreements (NDA) to the other 20 vendors for signing. All of the vendors except FN Manufacturing complied. FN Manufacturing officials had took issue with one of the terms of the NDA, refusing to state whether they had safeguarded the TDP while it was in their possession. Instead of signing the provided NDA, they provided a letter asserting that they had not improperly used the data.

But, had FN really not "improperly" used the data? And, what about the other twenty vendors, had a few scanned copies been overlooked when all the TDP was returned to NSWC-Crane?

Most of 1997 was spent negotiating a settlement between the Army and Colt to keep this from going to court. There was no question that the Army (and Navy) had failed to properly safeguard Colt's intellectual property and now the question was how much was it going to cost. The eventual settlement was the original 1967 Licensing Agreement would remain as it was, however, the M4/M4A1 specific parts would be kept separate, and not available for licensing for ten years. This meant all M4 and M4 specific spare parts would be sole-source from Colt until 2009.**

In May 1998, the Army announced the first M4/M4A1 contract with Colt under the terms of the 1997 settlement, an $8,296,925 contract for 15,925 Carbines. No sooner that the announcement hit the Federal Register, FN delivered an unsolicited offer to produce M4s, for a lower cost. When the Army rejected FN's offer without consideration, FN sued.

The Government eventually won the lawsuit when it was decided that since the M4 was a proprietary design, a sole source procurement was within their rights. The question never answered (and skillfully avoided being asked by FN's lawyers) was how FN planned to manufacture M4 carbines without Colt's proprietary data.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,086 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
The Thief?

Unfortunately, I have yet to obtain a complete list of the twenty-one contractors that initially bid on NSWC-Crane's Accessory solicitation, all I have are the two big ones - Colt and FN, there are many candidates for the remaining nineteen. It could have been any one, or all of them that retained a Xerox of the drawings. Also, since we know the Government entities with access to the TDP were somewhat lax in safeguarding Colt's property, it could have been any number of people at Rock Island or NSWC-Crane.*** We'll never know.

The Result.

By the time the Federal Assault Weapons Ban sundowned in 2004, the genie was out of the bottle, and never going back in. Numerous manufactures, both small and large had acquired, by hook or crook, enough drawings to pretty much destroy any hope Colt had for exclusivity in the market, and the AR design became, de facto, an open source design. Probably one of the better things for the US gun owning community, and oddly enough probably not that bad for Colt. With the enormous interest in the AR design in the shooting public, there was a larger interest to own "the original". A brief glance at Colt's AR production figures shows that from 1998 to 2013 alone they made/sold almost as many civilian AR-15s as they did the entire period from 1963 to 1994.

But, just so you know, all you people out there with a drawing or three, even though they carry in the title block Rock Island or ARDEC, the drawing is intellectual property of Colt's Manufacturing, of Hartford, Connecticut, just read the "Notice: Restricted As To Use And Disclosure" block on every drawing.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

* Some designs are outright owned by the Government, either because the original designer sold or gave the right to the Government, or the Government did all of the design work itself or paid for the design work. Examples of designs owned by the Government: The M1 and M14 as these were designed and developed by Government employees; the M60, this was designed by Inland under contract to Springfield Armory. Examples of designs owned by private firms: Beretta M9, and FN's M240 and M249. John Browning's many designs used by the US Military over the years were all sold to the Government for a nominal price, often quoted as a dollar each.

** This would hurt the Government more as time when on, as not only did more M4s get purchased as it began superseded the M16 as the primary individual weapon, but more and more small parts from the M4 were retro-fitted to the M16 series.

*** A certain former US Army Ordnance Officer did get out of the Army and soon afterwards started making AR-15 clones . . . Hmmmm. And, certain manufacturers started production of AR-type rifles in relatively high volume in 1998-99. (Estimating AR-15 Production, 1964-2017)
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
4,713 Posts
I'd like to add some info to this. One of the former members on here and arfcom who was a really good researcher found this info regarding the Colt model 601 (the ones with green furniture and the "duckbill" flash hider).
Colt wanted to be the only supplier for these rifles. They supplied the rifles as a "package". The package included the sling (similar to the M1 web sling) but it does not have the adjusting "belt" type buckle,(per a chat with Bill Ricca years ago he had a copy of the contract for these slings and they were a "Mom/Pop" canvas shop in either Mass. or Maine, I forget) , the waffle mags, the bayonet with the green handle, the "lightweight" cleaning rod (never found out if it's aluminum or titanium), the energa grenade sight ,,the cleaning rod and sight were wrapped together, pic available if wanted from willp's web site now owned by me, packaged together). Forget off hand if any other specific items were included.
There were changes to the 601 requested by the gov't which brought on the model 602. Black furniture, and the "improved" 3 prong flash hider , the buffer, the "large head" fire pin.
In 1967-68 OR 68-69, contracts to build the M16A1 were given to H&R and GM. Possible leak from there?????
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,086 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
I'd like to add some info to this. One of the former members on here and arfcom who was a really good researcher found this info regarding the Colt model 601 (the ones with green furniture and the "duckbill" flash hider).
Colt wanted to be the only supplier for these rifles. They supplied the rifles as a "package". The package included the sling (similar to the M1 web sling) but it does not have the adjusting "belt" type buckle,(per a chat with Bill Ricca years ago he had a copy of the contract for these slings and they were a "Mom/Pop" canvas shop in either Mass. or Maine, I forget) , the waffle mags, the bayonet with the green handle, the "lightweight" cleaning rod (never found out if it's aluminum or titanium), the energa grenade sight ,,the cleaning rod and sight were wrapped together, pic available if wanted from willp's web site now owned by me, packaged together). Forget off hand if any other specific items were included.
There were changes to the 601 requested by the gov't which brought on the model 602. Black furniture, and the "improved" 3 prong flash hider , the buffer, the "large head" fire pin.
In 1967-68 OR 68-69, contracts to build the M16A1 were given to H&R and GM. Possible leak from there?????
In 1963-65, nothing was made from titanium, unless it really had to be. Aircraft manufacturers had to justify the amount used. Not to mention the price was astronomical.

GM and H&R wound up their production in the very early 1970s and seem to limit themselves to military contracts. You don't see civilian market spare AR parts (interchangeable quality that weren't USGI) until the middle to late AWB period. Undoubtedly, the AWB's "you can't have one" dictate sparked a demand that may have influence the need for cheaper quality parts from places other than Colt or used USGI surplus.

The other thing is the parts are relatively easy to make, at least compared to something like an M1/M14. They are cut from bar stock in operations that are were well suited to the (then growing) affordable CNC production centers.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,024 Posts
There is a basic premise for the popularity of various types of firearms. Just as bolt action rifles became popular after WWI and semi auto rifles after WWII, military training and wartime use exposed millions of Americans to the benefits of modern rifles. Since the M14 and M16 was not available to civilians the M1A and AR15 became the suitable substitutes. Who knows what the next generation will be. Will we be using those death ray guns from Star Trek?
 

·
Registered
79 IHC Scout II, 74 VW Bug class 11 look a like
Joined
·
6,946 Posts
I think its because they are like Lego's! most kids/adults grew up with them, they are fun to play with, they can also be made into just about any configuration you can think off.

eQ
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,753 Posts
Thanks for that interesting history that I was not aware of.

I also think that programmable CNC machines have became much more common and affordable over the past 20 to 25 years which allowed a lot more manufactures to make cost effective, high-volume batches of aluminum AR-15 uppers and lowers. The concept of demand for an “80 percent” lower 20 years ago would have been useless to almost everybody given lack of machinery to complete such a project at an affordable price - but today it’s common practice.

In contrast, properly machining complex carbon steel M1A receivers and heat-treated forged parts like M1A bolts is still a very expensive proposition.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
81 Posts
I would have added that ammo is cheaper and “it’s what the military uses”, but that was a neat historical perspective!
 
  • Like
Reactions: Joeman335

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,898 Posts
Very interesting, I wasn't aware of the vast majority of that info.... I had always wondered why the boom era started.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Joeman335

·
Premium Member
Honorary Forum Lifer
Joined
·
17,530 Posts
Another side story in the popularity, later on in the 2000s after the awb when the bullet button was invented, effectively circumventing the law it let the popularity explode in ban states like California. We are 17%+ of the retail market. With ARs legal again they started flying off the shelves and other companies took notice then started making them.

Plus it helps since whenever it started that a handful of companies make the receivers, and what about all the small parts? a lot of manufacturers from this era, late 2000s forward were merely assemblers with their name on someone else's receiver, right?

What's crazy is a shop I know where they were building ARs they got most of their small parts from China and they were good as far as fit and finish. Now parts are truly everywhere.
m14brian
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
42 Posts
In the 80's, I worked at US Repeating Arms (Winchester affiliate) in Hingham, MA. In years prior (late 60's and the 70's), they machined the M16 (not AR15) lowers for Colt there from rough castings that were received by the thousands in bins. (Also machined the Winchester pump shotgun receivers and mod 70 bolt action receivers and barrels). According to MA law, they couldn't machine AND assemble in same facility.

We had to clean out the transfer mill (kind of like an automated machining assy line) lubrication sump at one point. You wouldn't believe how many fully finished / tumbled, unmarked M16 lowers were found in the thousands of pounds of aluminum chips in the bottom of the sump. They all got crushed and scrapped.

If I only knew back then......
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
435 Posts
I'll answer the original question. The Modern Sporting rifle became popular because of

1) Ergonomics- It can be adjusted to fit anyone from a small child to a massive football player/ or wrestler

2) It can be had in last count 50 plus calibers to cover a wide range of needs or desires

3) Reconfigurable; It is possible to go plinking in the morning with the kids in a small light configuration come home pop a couple pins and go out competitive long range shooting in the afternoon.

4) Anything goes budget; you can go from a few hundred dollars to several thousand depending on your pocket
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
296 Posts
1. Through military service, M16 was the very first firearms experience of any kind for many, many people over the last 50 or so years. The "modern sporting rifle" is completely normal to them. How many people under 30 today would have any idea how to use a rotary phone, or a typewriter?

2. As Stalin famously said, "Quantity has a quality all its own." When something works well at an affordable price point and gains a certain level of popularity, the popularity will snowball as aftermarket goodies arrive and more popularity ensues, which breeds more mods and accessories, and so on and so on. We've seen this in the firearms world with the 1911 and the 10/22, just to name two, and in the car world with the Ford flathead V8, the small-block Chevy, the VW Beetle, and the 5.0 Mustang, to name a few. I'm sure there are examples in other realms, too.

When I went looking for my first "assault rifle" around 1985 or '86, the AR was at the bottom of my list. I'd done six years with them as a USAF small arms instructor, so they had no exotic allure for me; I thought they had no "soul." The Galil and HK93 and Valmet 76 were at the top of my list, with the FNC as a dark horse candidate. But the Galil was heavy and didn't seem to have the accuracy I was looking for, and I couldn't find a Valmet to even handle or examine (or an FNC). The HK93 fit me perfectly and actually seemed to whisper "Buy me!" in my ear, and then I asked about extra magazines and was quoted an absolutely eye-watering price. Didn't want any of THAT. The AR goodies boom hadn't quite taken off yet, but I knew you could hardly walk through a gun show without having to kick cheap surplus M16 mags out of your way. I ended up with a nice one-owner Colt SP-1 (with the original Colt 3X scope, no less!) at a reasonable (not cheap) price, and I'm glad I did. And I still have it.
 
1 - 20 of 31 Posts
Top