The Stoner 63 was a 5.56x45mm modular weapon system designed by Eugene Stoner, designer of the AR-15 rifle. It was produced by Cadillac Gage, now known as Textron. Eugene Stoner conceived the idea of a system built around a common receiver that could be configured as a bottom-loading magazine-fed assault rifle, a top-loading magazine-fed light machine gun, or a top-loading belt-fed machine gun depending on what additional parts were fitted, and fitted with either a carbine barrel or full-length rifle barrel.
The first prototype of Stoner's design was the Stoner M69W, designed in 1962, chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO. It was named such because its designation is an ambigram, which appears the same when read upside down, symbolizing Stoner's concept of an invertible receiver that can support the bottom-loaded magazine feed and the top-loaded belt feed configurations. Stoner modified the M69W design slightly and created the Stoner 62, still chambered in 7.62mm. The caliber was changed to 5.56mm in the Stoner 63, first produced in 1963.
The possible configurations for the Stoner 63 system, as described by the sales brochure, are the following:
- Fixed Machine Gun: Basic component group with belt feed, grip replaced with solenoid and trigger linkage, no iron sights, no buttstock, no carry handle, and machine gun barrel. Feeds from belt boxes, firing from open bolt.
- Light Machine Gun, Belt Fed: Basic component group with belt feed, iron sights, machine gun barrel, carry handle, machine gun forearm, bipod, and buttstock. Feeds from belt boxes, firing from open bolt.
- Light Machine Gun, Magazine-Fed (sometimes called "Automatic Rifle" configuration): Basic component group with top-feeding magazine feed adapter, offset iron sights, machine gun barrel, carry handle, machine gun forearm, bipod, and buttstock. Feeds from rifle magazines, firing from open bolt.
- Medium Machine Gun: Basic component group with belt feed, iron sights, machine gun barrel, carry handle, and tripod with cradle adaptor. Feeds from belt boxes, firing from open bolt.
- Assault Rifle: Basic component group with bottom-feeding magazine feed adapter, rifle-type iron sights, rifle barrel, rifle forearm, and buttstock. Feeds from rifle magazines, firing from closed bolt.
- Carbine: Same as assault rifle, but with folding buttstock and carbine barrel.
Two additional configurations were used or tested by the US Military:
- Commando: Derived from the LMG configuration, with a shortened carbine-length but machine gun heavy profile barrel that had no carrying handle and featured grooves on it. Later models of the Commando version fed from the right and ejected to the left; the original machine gun variations of the Stoner 63 awkwardly fed from the left and ejected to the left, which sometimes resulted in malfunctions. It also had a bottom-mounted charging handle derived from the 63A rifle charging handle; the right side-mounted charging handle was blocked by the right-side feeding ammo belts, so these weapons featured an extended 63A charging handle, and a large slot was cut into the handguard so that the charging handle can be pulled.
- Survival Rifle: Similar to the assault rifle configuration, but has a cut-down pistol grip, folding stock, simplified sights, no handguard, shortened barrel and receiver, and a top-mounted cocking handle. One prototype was made.
Some "Dutch Pattern" Stoner 63s were also modified with MP40-like underfolding and later side-folding stocks.
The Stoner 63 was fielded during the Vietnam War by the United States Marine Corps (who tested the assault rifle and magazine-fed LMG versions in 1967) and the Navy SEALs (who used the belt-fed machine gun and Commando derivative). Feedback from the field testing led to the improved Stoner 63A model, made in 1966. The rifle configurations of the 63A model had an improved charging handle mounted to the top of the receiver, replacing the original side mounted charging handle (the machine gun configurations used the same charging handle). The Army conducted further testing of the machine gun variant with Green Beret units in 1970-71, but rejected the system as overcomplicated and too maintenance-intensive.
The weapons all had testing designations: the standard assault rifle was the XM22 with the 63A version XM22E1 and E2 (the only difference being a different rate of twist in the rifling: E1 variants were 1:12 while E2 variants were 1:9, the latter never produced in quantity), the carbine XM23 with the same E1 and E2 sub-variants for the 63A, the LMG configuration XM207 with the same E1 and E2 variants, and the Commando given the Navy designation "Gun, Machine, 5.56 millimeter, Mk 23 Mod 0."
In spite of its interesting concept, the system failed to find a buyer: by 1971 all production had ceased, though the Navy SEALs continued to use their modified "Commando" variant of the 63A machine gun until the adoption of the M249 SAW in the late 80s. This was in spite of the gas operating system having functional issues with the carbine barrel which were never fully resolved: specifically, while tapping the gas so close to the muzzle was not a problem for the standard action, the stiffer belt-fed mechanism often failed to cycle properly due to the pressure dropping off before the piston had completed its stroke.
The Stoner 63 and variants can be seen in the following films, television series, video games, and anime used by the following actors:
(1963 - 1971)
- Type: Assault Rifle; Light Machine Gun
- Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO
- AR: 10.2 lbs (4.6 kg)
- Carbine: 7.9 lbs (3.6 kg)
- Belt-fed: 11.7 lbs (5.3 kg)
- Commando: 10.5 lbs (4.8 kg)
- Full-length variants: 40.3 in (102.2 cm)
- Carbines: 36.7 in (93.2 cm) stock extended / 26.6 in (67.6 cm) stock folded
- Commando: 36 in (91.3 cm)
- Barrel length:
- Rifle: 20 in (50.8 cm)
- Carbine: 15.7 in (39.9 cm)
- Feed System:
- Magazine-fed: 20 or 30-round detachable box magazines
- Belt-fed: 100 or 150-round rectangular plastic belt box. The early left-feeding models hooked them to the side. The right-feeding Commando models added a bracket that allowed the 100-round boxes to be hung on the bottom and feed from the right.
- Left-feeding 150-round belt drum. 250-round drum tested but never manufactured.
- Fire Modes:
- Rifle: Semi-Auto/Full-Auto
- Machine gun: Full-Auto only
|Show Title||Actor||Character||Note / Episode||Air Date|
|Quantum Leap||Scott Bakula||Sam Beckett||LMG configuration||1989-1993|
|Game Title||Appears as||Mods||Notation||Release Date|
|Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater||M63||Commando configuration||2004|
|Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker||M63A1||Commando configuration||2010|
|Battlefield: Bad Company 2: Vietnam||XM22||Mirrored Commando configuration; Medic kit only||2010|
|Call of Duty: Black Ops||Stoner63||Optional extended magazine, red dot sight/reflex sight/ACOG scope/thermal scope, camouflage||63A Assault rifle configuration||2010|
|Killing Floor 2||Stoner 63A LMG||Commando configuration||2017|