USAF airman with GAU-5/A compact assault rifle in 1992.
Source: US Air Force (Tech. Sgt. Marvin Lynchard) - © Public domain
The Colt Commando is an early Cold War era compact assault rifle of US origin. In the mid 1960's Colt had developed the short barrel M16 SMG as part of its family of rifles centered around the M16A1. The Commando is a further development of the M16 SMG in order to make it simpler to produce and more reliable. The Commando is best known under the XM177 and GAU-5 designations used by the US Army and US Air Force respectively.
The Colt Commando is a very short variant of the M16A1 assault rifle. The dimensions and shorter effective range make more akin to a sub machine gun than an assault rifle. The Commando features a two position retractable stock. The Commando retains the direct impingement action and rotating bolt as used in the M16A1. The Commando is gas operated with a gas tube leading from near the end of the barrel down to a piston attached to the top of the bolt. The large flash hider also acts as a sound moderator.
The Commando fires the 5.56x45mm M193 round from 20 and 30 round magazines. The fire selector allows for semi-automatic and full automatic fire at a cyclic rate up to 950 rpm. The maximum effective range is over 200 m.
The Colt Commando was adopted in quite small numbers by the US Army and US Air Force for specialist use. It is famous for being used by Special Forces and Navy SEALs during the Vietnam war. Small numbers were exported to US allies in Asia and South America.
US Navy SEALs with Colt Commando compact assault rifle in 1985.
Source: US Navy - © Public domain
The first models of the Colt Commando featured a 10 inch barrel. The Commando differs from the earlier M16 SMG in having a simple two position retractable stock that wraps around the buffer tube at the rear of the receiver. It also features a round handguard instead of the triangular shape used on the M16A1.
In 1967, a year after the introduction of the first Colt Commando models, an updated model with 11.5 inch barrel was introduced. This was done to improve the reliability and the ability to mount the XM148 under barrel grenade launcher was introduced.
The Colt Commando is part of the M16A1 family of rifles. These short barrel carbines uses the same operating mechanism and M193 series of 5.56mm ammunition.
The CAR-15 bridges the gap between the Colt Commando and the M16A1. The CAR-15 has a longer 14.5 inch barrel than the Commando, but features the same retractable stock in order to reduce its dimensions.
The M4 Commando is a more modern iteration of the Colt Commando. It is based on the M16A2 platform and fires 5.56mm NATO ammunition.
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