Danish Madsen LMG AR-15

Danish Madsen LMG AR-15

U.S. Assault Rifle SPIW XM144

Type Select-Fire Rifle/ Grenade Launcher
Barrel Length 60.96cm
Magazine Capacity 60 cartridges
Caliber Experimental XM144 .233 Flechette
Country of Origin USA

The Special Purpose Individual Weapon (SPIW) project of the 1960s created (depending on who you talk to) either the ultimate battle field weapon or the most expensive boondoggle in recent military history.

Following World War II, reports indicated that 50000 rounds of rifle ammunition were expended for every one enemy casualty during that conflict. Subsequent studies suggested that a projectile smaller than the .30-caliber round—and perhaps even tiny, multiple projectiles—would be more effective in combat. Further, the studies indicated that 90% of all effective hits occurred at less than 300 yards. One report’s findings suggested that the best way to compensate for one average soldier’s aiming deficiencies was to develop a new type of weapon firing projectiles in a burst or simultaneous salvo.

At this point, the services split on development of an appropriate weapon. While the excellent Armalite AR10 design fell victim to Pentagon politics, the U.S. Armed Forces leaders investigated the devices firing multiple projectiles from .223 and 7.62mm NATO cartridges and even a shotgun shell packed with thirty-two tiny arrow-like flechettes. Four primary rivals vied for the winning design: Springfield Armory; Winchester; Harrington & Richardson; and Aircraft Armaments, Inc.

Although the rules were changed from month to month, what the Pentagon finally asked for was “a point target shoulder-fired rifle and a detachable launcher for the area fire grenade.” With 60 rounds of flechette ammo, the grenades, and a bipod, the weapon was to weight no more than 10 pounds as in the AR-15 forward assist .

The Springfield Armory prototype was one of the earlier attempts. In 1969, after more than $20 million had been spent on the project, the General accounting office shut the SPIW project down.

The SPIW suffered from trying to be all things to all people and not performing one function efficiently. More important, it was still under development long after the U.S. had adopted the M16 rifle as its regulation combat rifle. Finally, someone in authority had to say, “Enough is enough.”

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