I have a vague recollection from my ROTC days. There were some guys that wanted to be SEALs. Only one, that I know of, actually got to BUDS training. And he was a bit of an ass. Don't know what happened to him after. He could of washed out or he could be, right now, under Osama bin Laden's bed waiting for the guy to fall asleep, and then...
Anyway, these fellows 20 years ago were studying any material about SEALs that they could get their hands on. They came to the same conclusion that the literature and everyone else did. The “M-16 sucked!” More importantly, the secretive SEALs used a BETTER rifle… A rifle that HAD to be better because the SEALs used it. (you see where this is going?) Why the rest of the US military didn’t use this weapon was a mystery to us, but the DoD can be stupid, we all figured. The thing is, the weapon designer for this wonder weapon was the same guy that designed the M-16. Eugene Stoner.
And now, since time has passed and Al Gore invented this wonderful intarwebz thingy and research is easy and something triggered a dusty memory in my head and I need blog fodder…
The ultimate, coolest, yet mysterious, fighting rifle (according to us college idiots ca 1988) The Stoner 63.
Now let me sum up what the internet thinks of it today, and what I’ve learned past the 20 year old notion of “it’s just COOL!”
It works like the SAW is supposed to. As a mag fed or belt fed light machine gun. But it’s ALSO modular, so you can switch to a carbine version or whatnot. It’s .223. When it came out I don’t know of any other belt fed .223 guns there were extant, so that was a good thing for the time, and I can understand why small SEAL teams would want a to do a lot of shooting.
It looks to be piston operated, instead of direct gas. No spring in the buttstock, so you can make it a folder back there for mucho compactness.
It fires from an open bolt. That can't be ideal for long range accuracy, and there is no single-shots possible, unless you are very good with the trigger. But for automatic fire... yeah you may want that open bolt.
For the time it was kinda novel. So that's good. I guess, in a parallel universe, where this gun is adapted instead of the M16, we wouldn't be complaining about the lack of gas piston today. But we'd still be complaining about .223, the open bolt, and who knows what the Stoner 63 weakness in mass use would have proven to be.
It's weight is comparable to a M16 when used like an M16 and to a M249 when used like a M249 (or M240).
Ok, that all makes sense. So far.
Looks like drawbacks were: 1) the Army Ordinance folks had it in for Stoner, just like they did for the AR, and gimped the development process. 2) the system sounds kinda maintenance intensive, from what I can read about it. Certainly compared to the M16. 3) the open-bolt thing.
And the design was overcome (made superfluous) by events, with the adoption of the SAW and the relative modularity of the M16 now. A short production run of Stoners just eventually got replaced by newer guns that did the same things as the older rifles wore out.
So they were kinda good, and were kinda cool. Not hugely revolutionary then, and not even too unique, today. It looks normal. But no, it is not a magic wand of bad-guy-killing some may have assumed in their useful exuberances.
Hey, T-Bolt! What the difference between open bolt and closed bolt. I'll tell you! But in another upcoming post.
UPDATE. OOOOooo! Look at that picture. The short fluted carbine barrel is on the rifle, but beneath it was the easily swappable heavy barrel and rifle barrel, to give you a comparison.
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