Springfield Armory Museum - Collection Record
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|Title:||GUN, MACHINE - STONER MACHINE GUN 63 FIXED .223 SN# 00024|
|Date of Manufacture:||C 1966|
|Catalog Number:||SPAR 2970|
|Measurements:||OL: 77.2CM 30 7/16" BL: 50.8CM 20" 10.4 lbs.|
STONER MACHINE GUN 63 FIXED .223 SN# 00024
Manufactured by Cadillac Gage Co., Costa Mesa, Ca. - Lightest (10.4 lbs.) and smallest fixed machine gun in the world today, the Stoner 63 fixed machine gun can be mounted in almost any type of vehicle, either singly or multiple. Since it has extremely light recoil and counter-recoil loads during firing, and very light sustained firing loads, it can be mounted in light structures such as helicopters, but its ruggedness also allows it to be effectively used in tank turrets or pods for ground support aircraft. Even though lightweight, the belt-feed group on this and all other Stone 63 machine guns provides more than sufficient power to pull 125 rounds of belted ammunition vertically. Designed to be fired from an open bolt for greater sustained fire, the fixed machine gun can be fired by hand, or, with pistol grip and trigger guard removed, remotely-actuated through a trigger linkage by a solenoid, pneumatic system, cable, etc. It has an effective range of more than 1000 meters with a firing rate from 650 up to 850 rounds per minute. Weapon has an overall length of 30 7/16" and a barrel length of 20". Where vehicle loaded weight is limited, this weapon has a further advantage in that, by using the 5.65mm (.223 caliber) round, more than twice the number of rounds can be carried as compared with the NATO 7.62mm round weight. And, in space limited vehicles, 1.68 times the number of rounds can be carried in the same space when using the 5.64mm (.223 caliber) round instead of the 7.62mm. Select-fire. Belt-fed from 150-round pre-packed bandoleer attached to weapon or from an ammunition supply by means of flexible or rigid chuting: attach points on weapon for feed chutes and link ejection chutes. Equipped with solenoid and sub-mount. Nomenclature: XM207.
Receiver: S in Circle. (Trademark). STONER 63 .223 CAL. 000204/MFG. BY CADILLAC GAGE
COMPANY/ COSTA MESA, CAL. U.S.A. PAT. PEND.
Weapon transferred to the Museum on 15 February 1966. At that time weapon was appraised at $4,953.00.
Holyoke Transcript Telegram, April 20, 1966 - U.S. TROOPS EVALUATING LIGHT MACHINE GUN IN V. NAM; INITIAL TESTS ON WEAPON MADE AT SPRINGFIELD ARMORY, by Jonathan Klarfeld. Springfield, Mass. (UPI) - A laboratory test that began on a quiet street in Springfield is continuing today in the deadly jungles of Viet Nam.
The first evaluations of a machine gun only half as heavy as most now in use were made at Springfield Armory Test Branch. The evaluations are continuing now and the new evaluators are U.S. Marines fighting in Viet Nam.
The new weapon departs sharply from previous machine gun concepts. The belt-fed weapon can be fired from almost any position and can be fitted with a bayonet for combat at close quarters. The machine gun uses such light ammunition that troops can carry about three times more rounds than usual.
The gun is part of the Stoner 63 small weapons family. The Stoner system allows six different weapons to be fashioned from a basic unit through use of interchangeable parts.
The Marines are testing eight of the Stoner belt-fed machine guns in Vietnam. The other five variations are not yet undergoing combat evaluation. They include a light magazine-fed machine gun, a medium tripod mounted machine gun, a fixed machine gun for vehicles, a carbine and an assault rifle.
The Stoner System evaluation is part of a wide-scale small arms survey being carried on by the military with the idea of developing a standard weapon for use by the Army and Marine Corps troops. The system uses the 5.56 millimeter bullet, as does the M16 rifle.
The M16, which is being used increasingly by U.S., South Vietnamese and South Korean troops, also underwent its initial evaluation tests at the Springfield Armory Test Branch.
'The Armory,' a spokesman says, 'is the agency of the Department of the Army which has been assigned a mission responsibility for research, development and production engineering of small arms weapons and systems.
'Under this assignment,' he said, 'The Springfield ArmoryCommittees in the Springfield area continued to fight the Defense Department's order to close the Armory by April 1968. They use the evaluation program as a basic example of this need for the armory's continued operation, saying private industry may come up with ideas but it is vital to have government facilities to subject these ideas to rugged tests and standards."
Notes: "The perfected Model 63A Stoner carbine (XM23), rifle (XM22E1) and light machine gun (XM207) were tested enthusiastically by the US Marine Corps. However, only the XM207E1 was ever classified as limited standard - for issue to Marine SEALS as the Mk 23 Mod. 0." - John Walther
"Stoner became convinced that the .223 (5.56mm) caliber that he had first fielded with the AR-15 weapon was the upcoming wave of the future. The cartridge was beginning to be noticed in military circles and some U.S. Services, notably the Air Force and U.S. Advisor groups in Vietnam. Remington had now added the new round to their official product line, identifying it as the .223 Remington. There was one large hole in the arms family represented by the AR-15 rifle, there was no belt-fed machine gun available for the round anywhere. Stoner looked to change this situation and downsized the Stoner 62 weapon system to accept the new round.
By February 1963, the first firing model of the new weapons system had been produced. Now known as the Stoner 63, the new design was of a family of six different weapons, all based on the same receiver and operating system. Using the basic receiver and a kit of parts assemblies, the Stoner 63 could be set up as a closed-bolt firing carbine with a folding stock and short barrel or a full-sized rifle with a fixed stock and long barrel.
Inverting the receiver and changing parts set up a magazine-fed, open-bolt light machine gun, referred to as the Automatic Rifle configuration in late Marine Corps testing. The mag-fed LMG used a top-loaded magazine, much like the British Bren gun, that fed down into the receiver. The sights of the mag-fed LMG were offset to the left so that the operator could aim the weapon past the magazine. The tactical advantages of such a system were that the entire squad could supply ammunition to the gun, already packaged in magazines, from their rifles. Also a very low profile could be maintained by the gunner firing the LMG from the prone position.
Changing the barrel, rear sight assembly, and magazine adapter to a different heavy barrel and adding a belt-feed mechanism top cover, which incorporated a rear sight as part of the assembly, now made the Stoner 63 a belt-fed light machine gun. A plastic box, for which design Stoner received another patent, could be hung from the side of the belt-feed tray. This assembly made the Stoner the only light machine gun at the time chambered for the .223 caliber round and it could also be carried and operated comfortably by one man.
At 11.9 pounds empty with wooden furniture and its bipod and sling attached, the Stoner 63 light machine gun weighed only a few pounds more than the then-standard U.S. infantry rifle, the M14, while offering a much higher volume of fire. The standard M14, issued with the loaded 20-round magazines (120 rounds total), weighed in at 18.93 pounds. The Stoner 63 LMG weighed only 17.83 pounds with 150 rounds attached in a plastic box, a one-pound weight savings while giving the gunner an additional 30 rounds of ammunition.
There is an almost 2:1 difference in weight between the 5.56mm round and the 7.62mm NATO round. An 8-round link belt (M13 links) of 7.62mm NATO have the same weight as a 17-round link belt of 5.56mm. In addition, the smaller round allows for a much smaller and lighter weapon. This was amply demonstrated by Stoner in the new Stoner 63.
Removing the bipod and shoulder stock and attaching a tripod cradle adapter set the Stoner 63 LMG up as a medium machine gun. Ammunition could be fed For its last form, the Stoner 63 could have its stock, forestock, and pistol grip ( if desired) removed and an electric solenoid attached to the trigger and secured to the rear of the receiver. This made the Stoner 63 an electrically triggered fixed machine gun that could be assembled into a pod with an ammunition supply or attached to the outside of a vehicle and fired remotely at the touch of a switch.
The Stoner 63 was unique in the firearms world at the time of its introduction and caused more than a little interest in some military circles. By March 4, 1963, less than a month after the first firing model of the Stoner 63 was completed, an order was received for 25 of the weapons in various configurations. The order, SS-125, was issued form the Office of the Secretary of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (OSD/ARPA). The ARPA people already had a great respect for Stoner due to his revolutionary AR-15 design, which they were pushing forward through the military system. The new Stoner 63 looked like an even more promising design with its multiple applications inherent in the system.
By April 1963, Stoner was showing his new weapon to his previous service. At the El Toro Marine Corps Air Base in California, the first Stoner 63 was demonstrated for Brigadier General Walt of the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps were interested in the weapon as a complete system. The Corps felt a family of weapons with a common basis would give them the same training and tactical advantages that Stoner had considered when he had first come up with the concept of the convertible weapon.
But orders for the new Stoner 63 weapons system were very light during 1963. ARPA had ordered 25 various versions of the Stoner 63 for their tests, and that was the biggest order of the year. In early October 63, the U.S. Air Force ordered two Stoner 63 fixed machine guns with pods holding the weapons and ammunition for trials. Later that same month, two Stoner 63 machine guns were ordered for testing at Aberdeen Proving Grounds. It wasn't until 1964 that the Stoner 63 was ordered specifically for testing and trials by one of the service branches.
On March 30, 1964, Cadillac Gage received order SS-22 for 60 rifles and 20 complete systems from ARPA. The large order was for weapons to be tested by the U.S. Marine Corps. The Marines had been suitably impressed with the Stoner 63 system and ARPA had agreed with their request to field test the new weapon.
Marine enthusiasm for the Stoner was well received and they took in some of the earliest weapons made. Stoner 63s, serial number 00004 and 00005, are still maintained in the Marine Corps Museum's small-arms collection. Springfield Armory also ordered two fixed Stoner 63s during the spring of 1964 for test purposes.
In May, the Aberdeen Proving Grounds report on the Stoner was made to the Army. In July, the Office of the Chief of Research and Development made his report on the Stoner to ARPA. Neither of these reports listed the weapon in glowing terms. This situation is hardly surprising given that the Army had just recently been forced to accept a number of AR-15 rifles.
But the leadership at Cadillac Gage still thought future of the Stoner 63 looked promising. The manufacture of the weapon centered around sheet metal stamping, forming, and precision welding. The California Cadillac Gage facilities were inadequate to the task of mass producing the new weapon but the company also had a manufacturing facility in Detroit where the mechanical support for such manufacture was easily available. Detroit was the ceIn September 1964, after some 234 Stoner 63s had been produced and serial numbered, Cadillac Gage moved the production of weapon to their facilities in Michigan. The Arms Development and Engineering staff, Eugene Stoner among them, moved to the newly set-up Weapon Manufacturing Facilities in Roseville, Michigan, just north of Detroit. At this time, the wooden stock and pistol grips on the Stoner 63 were changed. Grips and stocks were now made of polycarbonate plastic, though the forestock for the machine gun configuration remained black-painted wood.
General Wallace Green, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, had been impresssed with the idea of the Stoner family of weapons. This may have come about in no small part due to Cadillac Gage hiring a newly retired Marine Colonel who, during the end part of his military career, spoke to General Green convincingly on the advantages such a system offered to the Corps. Colt, at the time, was offering why they called a family of weapons based on the AR-15. But the Colt weapon system, the CAR-15, was made up of specific firearms which could not be interchanged easily. This did not meet some of the advantages of the Stoner 63.
The situation did start to look very good for the future of the Stoner 63 system in 1965. On April 23, 1965, the Army Weapons Command put in an order for 861 Stoner weapons in various configuration for testing as part of the new Small Arms Weapons System (SAWS) program. Within just a few days of this purchase order being issued, the Marine Corps Landing Force Development center (MCLFDC) test report was delivered to Marine Corps Headquarters.
The MCLFDC report recommended the Stoner 63 for further, more advanced, field testing. This report helped fuel the enthusiasm for the Stoner 63 among the Corp Command and Marine Corps Commandant General Wallace Greene in particular. The situation was not well received by the Army Weapons Command who strongly disliked the new AR-15 rifle over the M14 rifle. For the Army, it was now looking like the Marine Corps was going to push for another completely different .223 caliber weapon that also could compete with the still new M60 machine gun.
On December 20, 1965, the Marine Corps put in an order for 1,080 Stoner rifles as well as the parts necessary to assemble other configurations of the weapon. Extensive testing of the Stoner system by the Marine Corps did indicate some weaknesses in the system that needed correction. In the first several months of 1966, these weaknesses were identified and brought to the attention of Cadillac Gage.
While the modification problem was being addressed, the Marine Corps continued their testing of the Stoner 63 system. Results from the field were varied, but in general, the weapon system was well liked by many of the men employed in testing it. Substantial tactical and logistical advantages were found in using the system by the elevation groups. Testers include one rifle company, a platoon of the division reconnaissance battalion, and a platoon of the force reconnaissance company.
One almost immediate change to the fielding of the Stoner weapons system during elevations was the dropping of the automatic rifle configuration. It was found during Marine testing that every time the automatic rifle was loaded, any sand, dirt, or foreign material in the magazine was poured directly into the receiver. With the open bolt of the automatic rifle configuration, this material jammed the action causing an unacceptable number of stoppages.
The remainder of the Stoner 63 weapons system was evaluated by the Marine Corps during March, April and May 1967. A comparison testing of the new M16E1 was conducted by the same test groups during June and July of that year. Test results were tabulated and the report made at the end of August that same year.
Testing showed the Stoner rifle had the advantages of weight, accuracy, improved ammunition, and compatibility with other The Stoner light and medium machine gun configuration also received high recommendations by the majority of Marine testers. The Stoner light machine gun was considered a suitable replacement for the automatic rifle configuration in the Marine rifle squad. The LMG and MMG were found to be highly reliable when compared to any other machine gun in the Marine testing environment.
And the Marine testing was extensive. Boot camp trainees were issued with the Stoner and completed their training cycle with it, int he process scoring higher during weapons qualifications than any comparable Marine unit. Stoners were taken into limited combat in Vietnam, where the design was proven to accurate and reliable in the jungle environment.
The results of the first major Marine Corps evaluation of the Stoner 63 weapons system were very positive. In the words of the evaluation committee: '3. The basic conclusion of the evaluation are that the Stoner family of weapons provides substantial tactical and logistics advantages. There are some relatively minor modifications required prior to acceptance but none of these appears to create any problem. The system received a high degree of acceptance from personnel involved.
4. The Stoner Weapons System is strongly recommended for adoption.'" - Dockery
"STONER'S SUPER 63 - The Viet Cong (VC) called them blue devils with green faces; their middle names were almost always Stoner; they were evolved from U.S. Navy Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs). They're the U.S. Navy Sea, Air, Land commandos (SEALs).
In Vietnam they capitalized on the element of surprise, superb intelligence assets and fire superiority to raid VC strongholds, stage ambushes, capture prisoners and supplies and generally create havoc in Charlie's rear areas. Most often, they gained superiority of fire with their Stoner 63(A) machine guns.
Although few in number and unfortunately never viewed as anything more than a local tactical asset, three SEALs won the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War. Naval special warfare units suffered only 48 KIA while inflicting several thousand confirmed kills on the VC. The only group to ever employ the Stoner (63A) in significant quantities, the SEALs created a mystique about the fascinating weapon system far out of proportion to the small number manufactured.
An ex-Marine, Eugene M. Stoner is arguably our nation's most prolific and imaginative modern military small arms designer. While associated with Armalite as chief engineer, Stoner was responsible for the design of the AR15/M16, the caliber 7.62x51mm NATO AR-10 battle rifle (small quantities of which were sold to Nicaragua, Sudan, Burma and Portugal, the AR-5 caliber .22 Hornet bolt-action rifle adopted by the U.S. Air Force as the MA-1 survival rifle was the blow-back-operated AR-7 'Explorer' takedown rifle. Stoner's prototype projects included a bolt-action sniper rifle (AR-1), a semi-automatic (AR-3) and a 12 gauge shotgun with an aluminum bore and receiver (AR-9).
After leaving Armalite, Stoner developed what was at that time a revolutionary concept for a weapons system to be built around certain basic components that would transform into a rifle, carbine or various machine gun configurations by fitting different barrels, feed mechanisms, trigger systems and other parts to the basic assembly.
Through his acquaintance with Howard Carson, who was in charge of the West Coast plant of Cadillac Gage in Costa Mesa, California (where Armalite was located), he convinced the company's president Russell Baker that theA Stoner Is Born - The first working prototype was completed in 1962. Called the Stoner M69W (for no other reason that when turned upside down it reads the same - obviously ot symbolize the receiver's inversion to assemble different configurations, it was chambered for the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge. A second prototype was fabricated and named the Stoner-63. Only these two specimens were produced before it was decided to focus instead on the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge, as it appeared the smaller round would soon predominate the small arms arena.
At that time the name was again changed to Stoner 63. No more than 200 guns were produced at the Costa Mesa facility when manufacturer was transferred to the Cadillac Gage (a subsidiary of the Ex-Cello-O Corporation) plant in Warren, Michigan. By 1967, NWM (Nederlandsche Wapen-Eu Munitiefabriek) de Kruithoorn N.V. of 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, was licensed to produce the Stoner 63 system with rights to sell the weapon in all countries of the world outside of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, NWM never fabricated more than a few prototypes. By the end of the decade the Stoner's 63's all too brief production like had all but ended.
The complete Stoner 63 system was demonstrated to the U.S. Marines at Quantico in August and September of 1963. They were impressed and favorably inclined toward the rifle and light machine gun configurations. What happened next was an example of inter-service military politics and deceit at its very worst.
The Army Material Command, upon whom the Marine Corps depended for logistical support, offered to perform the trials on the Stoner system at their test facilities. As they were with Stoner's AR-10, U.S. Army Ordnance personnel were predisposed against the Stoner 63 from day one. In any event, toward the end of the Stoner 63 trials, they were already bound and determined to adopt the bullpup configuration Rodman Laboratory, Rock Island Arsenal, Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) chambered for the 6mm XM732 cartridge developed at Frankford Arsenal.
By an incredibly strange coincidence the Stoner 63 trials were scheduled to be held at Rodman Laboratory. Equally suspicious was the fact that one of the Stoner 63 test project managers was involved in the 6mm Rodman Laboratory bullpup program up to his ears. The Marines were informed that any small arms system, including of course the Stoner 63, should be able to function reliably with ammunition exhibiting an extremely wide range of port pressures. This was, of course, untrue, unrealistic and blatantly unfair and thus the Stoner 63's Mean Rounds Between Stoppages (MRBS) and Mean Rounds Between Failures (MRBF) - critical criteria in the test and evaluation of any military small arms system - were 'demonstrated' to be unacceptable.
The tracer ammunition used to sabotage the Stoner 63 trials was of such low port pressure that it would not even function reliably in the M16. Stoner was eventually invited to submit the Stoner 63 chambered for the 6mm XM732 cartridge. He wisely advised Cadillac Gage to decline.
Six Guns In One - The Stoner 63 system was composed of six weapons, all constructed from the basic receiver group: 1) fixed machine gun, 2) light machine gun (LMG), belt-fed, 3) automatic rifle (AR), magazine-fed, 4) medium machine gun (MMG), 5) assault rifle and 6) carbine.
The belt-fed fixed machine gun was the lightest (10.4 lbs) and smallest (30.4 inches in overall length) weapon of its type ever produced. Intended to be mounted in either vehicles or helicopters, either singly or in tandem, it could be fired by hand or, with the trigger group removed, remotely-actuated through a trigger-linkage by a solenoid, cable or pneumatic system. The weight of both the gun and its ammunition are not overriding consideratThe MMG was little more than the left-hand, belt-fed light machine gun mounted on a tripod with the buttstock removed. A cradle adapter was fabricated to attach the gun to the U.S. M2/122 tripod (originally designed for the M1919A4 .30 caliber Browning machine gun). The body of the adapter was machined from aluminum, then black anodized. A standard M2 pintle and T&E mechanism were attached. A steel pin on the front of the adapter fits into a hole drilled into the underside of the U-shaped barrel bracket attached to the gun's gas cylinder. Steel, spring-loaded hooks and latches, screwed and pinned to the rear end of the adapter, were fixed to steel pins welded to the receiver sides. These adapters are quite rare and there is no evidence the Stoner was ever employed as an MMG - undoubtedly for the same reasons that precluded its use as a fixed gun. With the tripod and cradle adapter, the total weight in this configuration is 29 lbs
The magazine-fed automatic rifle, often referred to as the 'Bren' configuration weighs only 10.2 lbs. Because it is top-fed, both the front and rear sight offset to the left. As a consequence, in addition to the magazine-well with rear sight that replaces the belt feed mechanism, a special barrel is required. There was little interest in this configuration either - a pity as magazine-fed LMGs, battle-proven as in the case of the Bren, provide a substantial number of advantages over belt guns in certain tactical roles.
The belt-fed LMG is the Stoner 63 configuration most often associated with the U.S. Navy SEALs. Weighing only 11.9 lbs., empty (compared to 15.5 lbs for the M249 SAW), with an overall length of 40.25 inches, it could be fired from the prone position with a bipod, offhand or from the hip. The latter position was employed all too frequently by the SEALs who would send long bursts downrange with poor hit probability.
As all of the above configurations are fed ammunition for the top, it is required that the basic receiver group be oriented with the gas cylinder to the bottom so that the reciprocating parts do not interfere with the feed mechanism. They all fire from the open-bolt position and in full-auto mode only (the selector lever is inoperative in these configurations).
Both the assault rifle and carbine fire from the closed-bolt position and are bottom-fed. Thus the receiver group must be inverted with the gas cylinder above the barrel. They are both selective-fire weapons. The rifle, used to some extent by the SEALs in Vietnam, weighs 7.9 lbs. empty, with an overall length identical to the LMG. To convert the assault rifle to a carbine it is only required to replace the 20-inch rifle barrel with the 15.7-inch carbine barrel and change the rigid buttstock for a folding type. This drops the weight to 7.7 lbs. and reduces the overall length to 26.75 inches with the stock folded.
Early factory literature shows the Stoner 63 with all wood furniture. Black and white spacers provide a somewhat sporting appearance. However, the wooden pistol grips and buttstocks were quickly replaced by black polycarbonate components. The handguard remained wood, but was painted black.
Rush To Vietnam - By the time the Stoner 63 was rushed into the Vietnam War by the SEALs, it was barely beyond the prototype stage. Battlefield experience and tests by the Marines, Army and Air Force indicated a number of modifications were required. Shortly after serial number 2,000 was produced, substantial alterations were introduced and the name was changed to Stoner 63A.
Improvements included a one-piece buttstock pad, a 17-4 PH stainless steel gas cylinder, polycarbonate forearm with sling swivel, increased barrel life (from 8,000 to 30,000 rounds) through additional hardening processes, a sling attaching ring at the front end of the carrying handle rod to permit carry at the 'ready' posit varying quantities).
There were also a number of major alterations. The 'SAFE' position was removed from the selector switch and safety mechanism of the M1 Garand/M-14 type installed in a slot in the front of the trigger guard. As the new trigger guard was welded to the trigger housing and could not be removed, a winter trigger attachment was eventually designed. The selector lever's 'SEMI' and 'AUTO' positions were place in 180 degree juxtaposition to preclude confusion under stress.
A carbon-relief groove was cut inside the gas cylinder to permit firing over longer periods of time without maintenance. A three-position gas regulator was added to the machine gun barrel's gas block. A spring-loaded ejection-port dust cover was added.
To understand the importance of these changes and the brilliance of the overall design, a detailed examination of the Stoner's 63A's salient features is required. The basic component group consists of the receiver, gas cylinder, bolt and piston group, recoil-spring group and trigger housing.
The receiver body is a long rectangular steel pressing with support structures, the gas cylinder and other appearances (i.e., trigger housing and feed mechanism retaining brackets an barrel latching mechanism) welded in place. The rear portion holds the piston extension and bolt group. The front portion holds the piston and barrel and is ventilated to reduce weight and improve heat dispersion. The ejection port is on the right side when the receiver is inverted for the rifle and carbine and on the left side in the machine gun configurations. The 'Endurion' finish appears to be some type of black baked enamel over phosphate.
The open-bolt-firing trigger mechanism is quite simple. There are four so-called trigger pins. The front pin retains either a flapper-type magazine catch/lease (used 150-round drum-type belt carrier), a full dust cover (used with the top-fed AR or belt-fed system) or a half size dust cover (used with the right-hand-feed bottom box carrier). The next two pins hold the timer and hammer, both of which components are deleted in the open-bolt guns. The fourth pin is the trigger's axis shaft. The spring-loaded sear pivots on the selector lever's axis shaft. The selector lever's position is of no consequence when firing from the open bolt. The sliding safety blocks all trigger movement when pushed to the rear. The rear of the trigger housing severs as the receiver's end cap and holds the buttstock. The black polycarbonate pistol grip has a small checkered area on each side and is flared at the bottom to prevent the operator's hand from sliding downward. There is a storage compartment in the grip, sealed by a hinged cover with a spring-loaded hatch.
The hooked, steel retracting handle is normally mounted along the right side of the receiver. Non-reciprocating, it has 24 lightning holes and when pulled rearward engages a projection on the piston to draw the piston/bolt group back to the cocked position. After retraction of the operating group it should be pushed fully forward so fa flat-spring latch riveted to the front end can engage a slotted plate welded to the front of the receiver. It is somewhat difficult to operate when the right-hand feed mechanism with bottom box carrier is installed, so a special slotted forearm with a bottom cocking handle wa devised. SEALs in Vietnam often added an extended handle to this apparFive-Barrel System - Five different barrels are associated with the Stoner 63A system. In addition to the rifle, carbine and AR barrel (with offset front sight), there are two types of machine gun barrels - a standard heavy barrel and a short 'commando' tube. The standard machine gun and AR heavy barrels are 20 inches in length (bolt face to muzzle). And another 1.67 inches for the flash hider.
The fluted, so-called 'commando' barrel with a length of 15.7 inches was sometimes employed by the SEALs. However, the gas port is almost at the muzzle and since port pressures drops to zero as soon as the bullet leaves the barrel very little energy reserve is retained. Even though the port diameter was increased, this merely resulted in faster initial acceleration of the piston and operation was never totally reliable. (Note: This problem was also encountered by FN when they developed the first short-barreled 'para' FAL. They were eventually forced to lengthen the barrel.)
All Stoner 63(A) barrels are of the quick-change type. The front of the barrel rests on a U-shaped barrel bracket attached to the gas cylinder. A spring-loaded (with two nested coil springs) barrel latch on the receiver drives a steel pin into a hole in the barrel socket to hold the barrel firmly in place. When the bolt is retracted, the barrel can be removed by pressing down on the latch and pulling the barrel forward.
The front sight assemblies of these barrels, as well as the bayonet lug, are mounted to the gas block and feature a round post with protective ears, adjustable for windage and elevation zero. The bird-cage flash hider has six oval ports. There are carrying handles on the AR and standard machine gun barrels that can be snapped into any one of the three positions. The black-painted wooden handles are attached to a steel rod by a roll pin. The entire assembly can be removed form the barrel, if desired.
There are three spilt-ring valves on the gas plugs of these barrels. While they appear similar to those on the M16's bolt, they are not interchangeable. Furthermore, they are static and serve only to seal the gas cylinder, while those on the M16 are dynamic (i.e., they reciprocate with the bolt) and are thus much more subject to wear and damage.
The rifle, carbine and AR barrels have no gas regulator as they are magazine-fed and do not require the energy reserve levels of belt-fed mechanisms. The standard machine gun barrel has a three-position regulator. It can be adjusted by inserting the nose of a bullet into the hole over the regulator's lock detent and pushing down on the detent. Then rotate to the desired setting. The slowest rate of fire is obtained when the narrowest indicator notch is set over the detent. The cyclic rate is suppose to vary from 700 to 1,000 rpm depending upon the gas regulator setting, port pressure of the ammunition, ambient temperature, lubrication, degree of fouling and a few other variables. When set to the lowest setting, SOF's test specimen fired at about 715 rpm. The middle gas regulator position increased the rate of fire to approximately 830 rpm. When the maximum amount of gas was thrown into the system, the cyclic rate increased to only 865 rpm. Generally, the regulator should be left at the middle setting as this provides reliable performance at a reasonable rate of fire that will not induce excessive wear.
Most Stoner 63(A) barrels have six grooves with a right-hand twist of one turn in 12 inches to stabilize the 55-grain M193 ball projectile commonly used during this time frame. However, after NWM obtained the license to produce the Stoner 63A weapons, experiments were conducted with heavier bullets and some NWM-manufactured barrels will be encountered marked '200MM,' which indicates a twist of one turn in 8 inches.
Ball, armor-piercing and tracer ammunition was manufactured for these tests by Industriewerke Karlsruhe (IWK), Germany - the post-1945 title of Deutsche Waffen und Munitionswerke (DWM). The ball ammunition is headstamped 'NWM 67 5.56.' The brass, Berdan-primed case has three flasDuring this same time frame, Cadillac Gage distributed ammunition with heavy bullets to the law enforcement agencies (principally in the Michigan area) who had purchased Stoner 63As, in one configuration or another. This ammunition appears to have come from two sources SOme is headstamped 'IVI 69' (Industries Valcartier Incorporated, Quebec City, Canada - 1969) and features a 68-grain boattail bullet with lead core, copper alloy jacket and crimping cannelure. The Boxer-primed, brass case contains 26.5 grains, nominal, of a spherical ball powder. Federal also supplied small lots (headstamped 'FC 66') with a similar bullet. Some of the Federal lots have 'Colt' stamped on the box, apparently indicating use for the Colt machine gun. Very little else is known about this ammunition.
Apertures & Ammo Boxes - Stoner (63A) LMGs were initially equipped with a left-hand feed mechanism, followed later by a right-hand feed mechanism, which is almost the former's mirror image except for an additional stop pawl on the side of the feed tray. (Note: Early Stoner 63 bolt carriers will not operate the right-hand feed mechanism.)
Rear sights are mounted on the top covers of the belt-fed LMGs. These folding-leaf, peep aperture (0.06 inches in diameter) sights are elevation-scale graduated in100-meter increments from 200 to 1,100 meters. Both windage and elevation can be adjusted in 1/4-mil increments. When the sight is folded down, a 200-meter battle-sight aperture with a diameter of 0.09 inches is exposed. Rifle and carbine rear sights - with large ventilated protective ears - are simply flip-type apertures with settings for 0-300 meters and 300-500 meters. They can be adjusted for windage or elevation or elevation in one-minute of angle increments.
Early ammunition boxes for the Stoner 63 held 150 linked rounds. Made of ribbed plastic, they have a tab that permits them to be attached to the side of the left-hand feed tray. The very first specimens were olive drab in color and indicate manufacture in Costa Mesa, California. They were followed by black boxes of the same capacity manufactured by Cadillac Gage in Warren, Michigan. Stoner 63A ammunition boxes were also mesopotamian in Warren of black plastic, but hold only 100 linked rounds as the gun was unbalanced when the larger box was attached. They can either be attached to the left-hand feed tray or held in a bottom box carrier when the right-hand feed mechanism is employed.
Several drum-type belt carriers were designed for the left-hand feed mechanism. Most common was a 150-round anodized aluminum container. The left-hand feed mechanism with this 150-round drum-type belt carrier attached predominated in use over the right-hand feed with bottom box carrier (the Stoner 63A was called the Mk 23 Mod 0 by the Navy when in this latter configuration) in Vietnam by a ratio of almost 10 to one. A 250-round drum-type belt carrier was developed at China Lake, California. Only a small quantity were manufactured as they were too heavy and bulky. RPD belt carriers were also sometimes jury-rigged to the Stoner by enterprising SEALs.
Stoner links are marked 'S-63 BRW' and are scaled-down versions of the U.S. M13 push-through link for the M60 GPMG. M27 links, designed for the M249 SAW (FN Minimi), are similar, but will not perform with complete reliability in the Stoner 63(A) as their angle of pitch is slightly different.
Early Stoner 63(A) 30-round magazines featured steel bodies with black oxide steel followers and weigh 8 ounces. Later magazines of this type had chromAs they were mostly hip-shooting blasters, U.S. Navy SEALs rarely employed the Stoner bipod. Non-locking Stoner 63 bipods cannot be correctly attached to the Stoner 63A's gas tube as it is of larger wall diameter than the earlier model. Stoner 63A bipods can be locked in either the open or closed positions. Fabricated from stamped sheet-metal with numerous distinctive lightening holes, the Stoner 63A bipod can be adjusted in command height from 9 3/4 to 14 inches, albeit not easily. It does not pivot and the gun must be lifted to engage flanking targets.
The Well-Dressed Stoner - Stoner 63(A) accessories are as varied as the system itself. Either series produced or in prototype form only, in addition to those accouterments already mentioned, there was a blank-firing attachment (BFA), winter trigger, asbestos-lined spare barrel bag, complete cleaning kit, 40mm grenade launcher, various types of slings and a bewildering array of magazines and belt box web pouches. SEALs frequently carried Stoner belts either in M14 magazine pouches or across the chest 'Pancho Villa' style, between two layers of T-shirts.
Three different bayonets can be attached to the Stoner 63(A). Most mundane is the standard U.S. M7 for the M16 series. In 1970, Eickhorn of Solingen, West Germany, together with NWM, developed a bayonet for the Stoner 63A system with wire cutting capability. The clipped-point Bowie blade, complete with sawtooth fetish, uses the same wire-cutter concept employed on the ComBloc AKM bayonet. It can be identified by the figure of a squirrel over the NWM logo stamped on the blade, a ribbed, black plastic grip and a black plastic scabbard with a gray leather leg thong. Most esoteric of all is a Stoner 63A bayonet manufactured in very small quantity by SIG. It is of typically Swiss design with a black plastic scabbard and olive drab web front. Its highly polished blade will attract every sniper within a 1,000-meter radius and is endemic of a nation devoid of all battlefield experience since 1815.
Stoner Reborn - One final version of the Stoner system remains to be mentioned. In 1966 Great American Arms Co. Inc. (now known as Navy Arms, Inc.) in Ridgefield, New Jersey, advertised a semiautomatic-only version to be known as the Stoner 66. The retail price was $199.50. While this was just $10 more than the semiauto-only Colt AR-15, the project was dropped after Cadillac Gage purportedly assembled no more than a handful.
SOF's test and evaluation of our Stoner 63A test specimens was entirely satisfactory. Several thousand rounds were fired using South Korean PMC M193-type ball ammunition (headstamped '80.05 5.56 PS'). There was one dead primer and one empty case spin-back into the receiver when using the 150-round drum-type belt carrier. There were no other stoppages. Group dispersion of tripod-mounted bursts were exceptionally small. Accuracy and hit probability were both high when the bipod was employed. When fired off-hand, accuracy was acceptable, if the burst were held to two to three shots.
No more than approximately 3,600 Stoner 63(A)s were ever produced. Compare this to 50 million Kalashnikovs, 9 million M16s or even the only 7,500 German WWII FG42s manufactured you start to have some perspective of the amazing mystique developed around a weapon system that never actually reached major series production. Stoner 63(A)s remained in SEAL inventory until about 1983. Thousands were torched by the U.S. government. With the exceptions of maybe two or three specimens, the few in collectors' hands in the country are restricted-transfer Class 3 dealers' samples, most manufactured by Cadillac Gage, exported to NWM in Holland and then imported back to the United States.
Better than M249? - Prior to 19 May 1986, deadline, C. Reed Knight, Jr. - well known for his sound suppressors and designer of the recently introduced and quite revolutionary Colt All American/MStreet, S.W., Vero Beach, Fl. 32968).
Clever is certainly an appropriate adjective for the Stoner 63A - in some areas perhaps too clever. While it successfully prevents an 11.9 pound belt-fed machine gun from hammering itself to death, the unique buffer system in the bolt carrier is not tamper-proof. And, while factory literature asserted that 81.3% of the interchangeable components were common to two or more configurations, the number of bits and pieces required to change from a rifle or carbine to a machine gun or to go from right-hand feed to left-hand feed would cause any supply sergeant to swoon. Furthermore, its complexity requires meticulous maintenance, probably more than the average grunt is capable of mastering.
Yet, in the hands of an experienced operator, it's a superb lightweight and reliable instrument. While comparisons with the M249 SAW are unfair, as they are separated in development time by almost a quarter-century, the Stoner 63A is more than 3 1/2 pounds lighter, every bit as reliable and quite a bit more accurate. Had the rifle version ever entered mass production, with supplemental manufacture of the machine gun, as anticipated, it would have inevitably been simplified and refined. If forced to choose, I would personally select the Stoner 63A LMG with left-hand feed and the 150-round drum-type belt carrier over the M249 SAW, if for no other reason that is lighter weigh - although I feel the M249 will eventually serve with distinction and provides greater simplicity.
During the 1980s Eugene Stoner marched forward to design the Ares caliber 5.56x45mm SAW. Using features and components from a number of different weapons, the so-called Stoner 86's modular design emphasizes simplicity and reliability. Weighing only 10.85 pounds, empty, it is adaptable to both belt and magazine feeds. Unfortunately, the parent company recently divested itself of Ares and the project has been all but terminated. Once again, one of America's most brilliant small arms designers finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, a victim of the duplicity of others." Peter G. Kokalis, SOLDIER OF FORTUNE, July, 1991.
"As a result of the tactical situation in Viet Nam the U.S. Armed Forces have adopted rifles in 5.56mm caliber (cal. .22). The Standard 5.56mm light rifle is almost in the sub-machine gun class, and it is capable of either full or semi-automatic fire. The 5.56mm light rifle is almost in the sub-machine gun class, and it is capable of either full or semi-automatic fire. The 5.56mm weapons in current use were developed by private industry who spent their own money on the project. The acceptance of these privately developed arms encouraged several manufacturers to invest money in the development of improved 5.56mm arms, and some of these projects have evolved into complete families of very closely related 5.56mm weapons. These families are called 'weapons systems,' and they present some very interesting possibilities.
A typical example of one of these families is the 5.56mm Stoner 63 integrated weapons system developed by Mr. Eugene M. Stoner and Cadillac Gauge Co. Although the Stoner 63 weapons system has been tested by the Armed Forces, it has not been adopted. The Stoner 63 weapons system consists of 6 weapons: a e such a system very easy to mass produce. Also training is much simpler. The Stoner 63 weapons system shows much very good and careful thought, and its basic idea is worth careful consideration.
Unfortunately, neither the Stoner 63 nor any other weapons system stands much of the chance of being adopted as long as it is made in the 5.56mm caliber because, even if the weapons systems is absolute perfection, the caliber is definitely not. Arms in 5.56mm are very useful in the close quarters jungle fighting in Viet Nam, but they must be backed up with machine guns which fire the more powerful 7.62mm NATO ammunition. The trouble with the 5.56mm is that it has an effective range of less than 450 yards; the effective range of 7.62mm ammunition is about 1,000 yards. If it became necessary to employ the 5.56mm caliber weapons in open country like plains or deserts where the tactical firing ranges would seldom be less than 500 yards, the 5.56mm caliber arms would be completely unacceptable. There are also a number of almost insurmountable difficulties in making practical 5.56 ammunition types such as armor piercing rounds that will be effective.
However, an integrated weapons system along the lines of the Stoner 63 but in a larger, more effective caliber would certainly have extremely interesting military possibilities. The basic nature of contemporary mobile warfare make it imperative for an army to be able to fight anyplace and any time, and the weapons that it uses must be flexible enough to allow this. The U.S. Armed Forces can not be aggressors, and they never have the luxury of choosing the place they fight. An integrated weapons systems in a universally effective caliber would answer the flexible armament requirement.
The question of the proper caliber for such a system is very difficult to answer. The British might have been on the right track when they tried to get NATO to adopt their .280 (7mm) cartridge in the late 1940's. There were some ballistic problems with the British .280, but these could have easily been corrected. A 7mm caliber with the proper ballistics could be a very good answer to the question of universal ammunition because it could have the range and ammunition weight characteristics suitable for all occasions. The ideal 7mm cartridge does not exist, but it would not be difficult to design it. a system like the Stoner 63 in 7mm could easily be made." - Konrad F. Schreier, Jr.
"Eugene Stoner was responsible for a number of revolutionary weapons in the latter half of the 20th Century, the most famous being the Armalite rifle, which saw world-wide service as the M16. He also, however, designed numerous other weapons, including light machine guns. The Stoner 63 was manufactured by Cadillac-Gage and a later design was prepared for production by ARES. This latter weapon has subsequently been updated to produce the weapon now known as the Stoner 5.56mm LMG. The Stoner LMG is remarkably light, the bare weapon weighing 10.4lbs (4.7kg), while it weighs only 16.1 lb. (7.3kg) loaded with a 200 round-belt, which is fed from a 200-round box attached to the left side of the weapon. There are two barrels; one is 21.7in (551mm) long, but the other is much shorter, 15.6 (397mm), and with this barrel and the detachable butt stock removed overall length is 26in (660mm). The forward grip can be positioned either vertically downwards or arer's requirements. Iron sights are standard but there is a mounting on top of the receiver for optical or night sights." - Miller
"The Stoner was a particular piece that we suggested a lot of modifications for. After our return to the States, a lot of our suggestions were adopted in a new version of the Stoner. I really loved the weapon. Not much heavier than a large rifle, say a fully loaded M14, but the Stoner carried lots of bullets. But the weapon was sensitive, it needed a lot of care and maintenance, and there were some bugs still to be worked out.
On one op, I had caught this guy just dead to rights, we're talking black pajamas and all, a bad gook without question. I was carrying a 150-round belt drum attached. With the VC in my sights, I pulled the trigger and click!
The plastic foregrip, up underneath the barrel where it attached to the metal, had cracked from all the usage we had given the weapon. With the plastic cracked the way it was, the bolt couldn't go all the way forward and the weapon wouldn't fire. My target got away that day. But things were all right. We wrote a nice letter to Cadillac Gage saying, 'Hey, you've got to fix this because this sucks. There's no lead coming out of the son of a bitch.' But in spite of that, I loved the Stoner." - Mike Boynton
"We also had the Stoner weapon, which was .223 caliber and had a much higher rate of fire than the M60 and was a much lighter weapon. The ammunition load was much more effective at long range. But we weren't concerned with long range anyway. The Stoner was just great for our close-in type of operations." - Larry Bailey
"The Stoner was a light machine gun firing linked 5.56 ammo, the same caliber as the M16. The ammo is about half the weight of an equal amount of M60 (7.62mm) ammo, and the weapon itself is much lighter. Again it was officially a crew-served weapon used as an individual weapon by the SEALs. The design was good, although we did have a couple of embarrassing moments with the Stoner barrel disconnecting from the receiver when you needed it most." - Rick Wooland
"Not all of the SEAL's unique equipment worked out as well as the SDV's (SEAL/Swimmer Delivery Vehicles). Even some weapons that were favorites of the SEALs had their share of problems. The Stoner light machine gun required a lot of care and close attention to its maintenance, something the SEALs could do very well. But as a new weapon system, the Stoner still had some bugs in the design that required modifications for improvement. One problem of the Stoner for the SEALs was that of ammunition. Though the Stoner fired the same caliber as the M16, and that was plentiful in Vietnam, the weapon used its unique metallic link to form ammunition belts. Though cartridges could be found, links were often is such short supply that gunners were told to pick up (police) expended links whenever possible. Evenings would be spent cleaning links and relinking fresh ammunition belts for the Stoners." - Bill Fawcett
Dockery, Kevin. WEAPONS OF THE NAVY SEALS. Berkely Books. N.Y., N.Y. 2004
Fawcett, Bill. Ed. HUNTERS & SHOOTERS: AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE U.S. NAVY SEALS IN VIETNAM. Avon Books. N.Y., N.Y. 1995.
Miller, David, Ed. THE ILLUSTRATED BOOK OF GUNS. Salamander Books Limited. London, England. 2000.
Schreier, Jr., Konrad. F. GUIDE TO UNITED STATES MACHINE GUNS. Normount Technical Publications. Wickenburg, Az. 1975.
STONER 63: THE ONE COMPLETE SMALL ARMS WEAPONS SYSTEM. Cadillac Gage Co. Detroit, Mi. 1963
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