The M950P is a heavy-barrel assault rifle developed from and as a compliment to the M16A5P. This was done as part of the switch to an M16-based common weapon platform which could be used for a standard-issue rifle as well as a marksman rifle and squad automatic weapon.
The M950P is used as the United States military’s primary squad automatic weapon, with two per infantry squad. Heavier machine guns like the M45 and M56 Smartguns are deployed in Special Forces units and the heavy weapons platoon of each infantry company, not in regular infantry squads.
|Weapon Designation:||Rifle, 5.6mm, Pulse-Fired, M950P|
|Type:||Heavy-Barrel Assault Rifle|
|Place of Origin:||United States|
|Manufacturer:||Colt Arms Manufacturing|
|Weight:||7.5 lb (3.35 kg)|
|Length:||39.5 in (1,003 mm) (fixed stock/collapsible stock open)|
35.5 in (901 mm) (collapsible stock closed)
|Barrel Length:||20 in (508 mm)|
|Action:||Gas-operated direct impingement, electronically ignited cartridges|
|Rate of Fire:||700 rounds/min cyclic|
|Muzzle Velocity:||3,407 ft/s (1,038 m/s) with M5-662 round|
|Muzzle Energy:||1,598 ft/lbs (2,167 Joules) with M5-662 round|
|Effective Range:||700 m (765 yd)|
|Feed System:||100-round detachable saddle drum magazine|
|Sights:||Colt 3.5x scope, back-up iron sights|
Immediately after the M16A5P was accepted as the United States military’s standard rifle, work began on a heavy-barrel version for use as a squad automatic weapon. The M950P was designed, tested, and accepted within one year, its development running both parallel and simultaneously to the M656P, a marksman version of the M16A5P.
The M950P is a modified M16A5P, with three key differences: an integrated scope mount, a heavier barrel, and a new handguard with a built-in vertical foregrip. Although it is capable of using the M16A5P’s 30-round box magazines, it is intended for use with 100-round saddle drum magazines.
The barrel is identical to the M16A5P’s barrel except for the thicker 0.8 inch diameter behind the front sight post. The thicker profile gives the barrel more mass and better heat dispersion, making the rifle more suited for sustained automatic fire.
The M950P uses a different upper receiver similar to the M656P’s, but the integrated scope mount is meant for the Colt 3.5x scope. Unlike the M656P, the M950P retains the raised front sight block, with the scope mounted high enough so that the sight block does not obstruct it. The rear back-up iron sight is a flip-up type that lies flat under the scope when in the down position, so that the scope must be removed in order for the iron sights to be used.
The M950P is equipped with a highly unusual handguard design. Although it appears to be a standard A2-style handguard with an integrated vertical foregrip, it has a very unique feature: it can be entirely sealed to allow it to be filled with water for more effective cooling.
To accommodate this, the bottom half of the guard has no vent holes, and the vent holes on the top half of the guard can either be left open or closed by a single piece of polymer that rides in a pair of slots just under the vent holes, with corresponding holes drilled in it. To close the vent holes, a small switch towards the front end of the handguard is pushed to the left out of its locking notch, pushed forward to slide the polymer shield over the holes, and then pushed to the right into the forward locking notch to lock the shield in the closed position. The joints between the two halves as well as the ends are completely sealed off with rubber gaskets.
The water-cooling feature is not necessary for proper functioning of the weapon, and it can be used in air-cooled mode as long as the vent holes are left open. If water-cooling is desired, the handguard must merely be filled with water and the vent holes closed. Operators are advised to fill the handguard until it overflows to make sure that there is no air space and no possibility of the water inside making undesired sloshing sounds while moving. Although it is intended for use with water, some troops have been known to use automotive coolant instead, which works even more effectively.
Although it is possible for one of the seals to separate slightly under extremely rough handling and allow some or all of the cooling fluid to leak out, the worst that will happen is the loss of the fluid. No damage to the rifle’s functionality will occur and most often, the problem can be fixed by simply disassembling and reassembling the handguard to reform the seal.
The M950P is capable of using all of the accessories meant for the M16A5P, and in addition is issued with a M3A1 clamp-on bipod. This simple bipod is a lightened, strengthened version of the M3 bipod used in the Vietnam War, and is mounted by squeezing the legs together and opening the jaws until they slip over the barrel. When not in use, the bipod is stored in a pouch, which holds it in the closed position. The M3A1 is also used on the M656P marksman rifle.