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Eugene Stoner was born on November 22, 1922 in Gosport, Indiana. He is usually mentioned alongside John Moses Browning and John Garand as among the most successful firearm developers. Stoner died at the age of 74 on April 24, 1997.
Stoner is best known for his AR-15 rifle that has been in use since it was adopted in the 1960s. The rifle was revolutionary when it went into service in the jungles of Vietnam, but there was vast controversy between the brass and the infantry. Some of the grizzled veterans of Korea had grown comfortable with their M14s and now it was being traded in for a weapon using revolutionary materials, along with a non-traditional layout. It also fired an even smaller round than their big 7.62mm or .30 Cal bullet. The gun was plastic, fiber glass and aircraft grade aluminum with a smaller 5.56 x 45 mm NATO round.
The AR series rifles (including, but not limited to the AR-10 and the AR-180) had been in the trial stages with the U.S. military for several years before the United States became largely involved in the war. While the trials were being held, and Eugene Stoner was receiving flak for having submitted a firearm with such a radical design and caliber, several European companies, including Artillerie Inrichtingen approached him with an offer to produce the earlier AR-10. Soon after, a number of Army Rangers were deployed to Vietnam in an advisory capacity. Having been sent on special assignment, the Rangers were allowed to acquire their own weapons. The ones they chose happened to be the AR-15, and they were well suited to jungle fighting.The original M16s got their first big test in the jungles of Vietnam, and it was in a bad way the second it got out of the crate. The Brass had told the men in the field that the rifles were self-cleaning (mistake number 1) and as such, were not issued with cleaning kits (mistake number 2). The third and final mistake that tipped the reliability of the M16 over the deep end was that the Brass had ordered ammunition with ball powder that was of a very dirty burning composition, and loaded to a higher pressure. The original AR15 was designed around the .223/5.56x45 cartridge that used tubular powder. All three of these factors gave the M16 the horrible reputation that they were branded with for the next decade.
M16 vs. AK-47Edit
On top of having low faith in the M16, failing to fire in combat, Stoner was even pissed. "The Army didn't furnish any training manuals, they didn't have a bore brush or a cleaning rod for these weapons and they issued 85,000 of em."
The military was already trying to fix the problems people were having with the weapons. After Colt had said roughly, 'Its so sophisticated it won't need cleaning', the troops were in the belief that they didn't need to clean the weapon. Eventually the brass issued cleaning kits, but the men already had another scary opposition - the legendary AK-47 fielded by the North Vietnamese.
There are even some reports that some soldiers picked up AKs for their M16 as a replacement, risking friendly fire (and reprimand), because of its unreliability.
Stoner and KalashnikovEdit
The two weapon makers seemed friendly toward each other, before his death in 1997, Stoner had an interview with Kalashnikov on their two rifles.