By Robert Bruce
This cut from the 1943 Base Shop Data Book produced by RIA shows the three styles of buffer systems that could be encountered. Sheet 6 showing the Fixed model of the M1919A4 and also shows the horizontal back plate buffer tube designed for the M1919A5 which uses only the 8 discs. Although the BSD shows all three types of buffers and the springs and stops were still being listed in the January 1944 SNL, the 22 disc all disc buffer system was nearly universal by the end of WWII TB ORD 366 (August 1947) Overhaul and rebuild Standards for Small Arms Material specified that only the all disc system could be used in the rebuild process. (RIA Museum, Jodie Creen Wesemann)
Astute observers of the too often maddening nature of U.S. government small arms procurement know that it’s a roll of the dice at best when responding to solicitations. Little companies in particular have about a snowball’s chance in hell of surviving the bureaucratic ordeal to win a contract. And even the biggest can tell numerous tales of woe from millions lost in pursuing the legendary pot of gold at the end of the run-around rainbow.
But Skip Patel is quite obviously undeterred by the long-shot odds. Inspired by a wish list solicitation on behalf of the folks at ‘snake-eater central,’ Patel jumped in with gusto, instinctive engineering expertise, decades of experience with boldly innovative gun designs, a suitably equipped R&D facility, and apparently enough capital to at least start the ball rolling.
On September 7, 2012 in Virginia Beach, VA, we met this compact, fast-talking bundle of energy and bulldog determination at a hush-hush demo of his new Paratus 16 rifle, a 7.62 NATO caliber semi-auto, characterized by hide-in-a-briefcase size when broken down and no-tools-needed reassembly in less than a minute. Hence its Latin name Paratus, which translates for us as “ready.”
The event was coordinated and conducted by TST Tactical Defense Solutions, Inc., a prominent supplier to U.S. military special operations and anti-terrorism forces and just named as exclusive agent for the rifle’s military, government and LE sales in the U.S. and to overseas allies.
Location was the C2 Shooting Center complex, Ken Mote’s multipurpose facility secluded in the rolling farmland not too far south of the mega-military cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach. It’s “open to the public” at posted times, but also known for regularly accommodating lots of groups of lean, tight-lipped men in tactical gear, 5.11 togs, or various patterns of regulation U.S. military battledress.
We’re told that SAR got the only media invitation and we returned the favor by scrupulously avoiding taking identifiable photos of the attendees unless specifically OK‘d. But the rules don’t prohibit the observation that the Virginia Beach/Norfolk/Chesapeake area is pretty heavily populated by U.S. Navy Special Operations, Security, Anti-Terrorism, and similar units of other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Let it be said that some folks from this closely-knit community were known to be among the dozen invitees that Sept. 7th morning at C2 for some “clandestine breakdown rifle” orientation and live fire…
TST’s Joe Varbero and Jerry Hurd had assembled an experienced and professional demo team including a pair of industry partners; John Fawcett from precision barrel maker Lothar Walther Precision Tools, and Dan Crim from the Warrior Systems-Insight branch of electro-optics giant L3. Along with Patel, these two were on hand to assist Varbero and Hurd in demonstrating the versatility and tactical effectiveness of the Paratus Rifle with various combinations of barrel length, suppressors, lasers, and day and night sights.
Meet Patel and his Paratus
While TST’s demo team was walking small groups of attendees in turn through a quick orientation behind each of three Paratus configurations, our first order of business was to collar Skip Patel for an impromptu interview.
It’s useful to note here that Patel was founder and president of Cobb Manufacturing, the driving force behind such notables as the SCAR-contender Multi Caliber Rifle (MCR) and the big-bore FA50(t).
Patel apparently came through quite well when Cobb was purchased by Bushmaster in 2007. And, while his buyout contract’s three year “no competition” clause has been in effect, he’s been well positioned and eagerly involved in specialty small arms development.
SAR: What started you working on the Paratus?
Patel: Just the one line listing on FEDBIZOPS (NECO N0016412SNB15 dated 4 Oct 2011) for a ‘clandestine breakdown sniper system’ rifle. This was Joint and Special Operations Program’s two year vision solicitation or request for information from industry. A whole list of things, not just guns. There was ammo, other supplies, electronic gizmos, explosive devices. It was like a wish list, saying to industry you have two years to develop this, what we’re looking for in the crystal ball. Thinking about buying or thinking about going to.
I‘ve got a big library and when I looked there‘s no design out there, no company that makes a no-tools breakdown semi-auto that can go in a very small box.
We thought they’re going to want a folding stock, semi-auto gun – not a bolt gun because they already exist, several companies already make them. If bolt’s what they wanted they would have listed a requirement.
Based on the overall picture of the military, everything’s going modular, so I’m thinking let’s do a removable barrel AR type design. Keep it in 7.62 for more punch, give it a folding stock. We even found a folding grip if needed for even more compact size.
I asked the attorneys; can we file patents on this? They researched it all and said you can do a quick-change barrel with an internal recoil system and Stoner’s direct gas system.
It’s a very compact package due to the quick change barrel, internal recoil system, redesigning the whole bolt carrier group, and charging handle on the side. The patents are not on the whole gun, just on the takedown system and recoil system, that’s it.
SAR: Tell us about the evolution of the rifle.
Patel: We went into several variations of design. We originally started out without the cam lock and push pin you see now. It was two screws, one would squeeze and a shoulder screw that would retain it. But we wanted to make mounting the quad forearm and barrel tool-less. The more we got into it we realized we gotta quickly assemble and shoot it then disassemble it with no tools needed.
We kept parts commonality. Geissle two stage trigger – industry standard now. Magpul furniture; grips, flip-up sights, folding buttstock. Made in USA and known in the industry for both military and commercial. P-mags used in the M110. Layout and function like M4 carbine. We tried to make the lubricity factor part of the new manufacturing process -- aluminum and steel in the same coating (nickel-boron) – compared to Mil-Spec anodized.
At this point it’s not designed to be a half MOA M24 or M110 SASS replacement, a 900 meter rifle. It’s designed to be taken into whatever environment, clandestine or other when your mission is more diplomatic security, executive security, government whatever. You’re carrying this attaché case, laptop case, backpack, instead of a long Pelican 1750. But inside you don’t have just a Glock or a little Uzi. You’re carrying a 7.62 rifle with magazines.
(Author notes: In follow-up questions, Patel revealed that they were working with barrel maker Lothar Walther Precision Tools on tightening the rifle’s accuracy and to meet or exceed other factors listed in the Army’s Sources Sought solicitation (W15QN-12-X-F026, posted 30 Jul 2012), for the CSASS, a M110-type Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper system.)
SAR: So, Ni-Bor, 7.62, modularity, standard AR-10 magazines, folding stock. What other aspects are designed in anticipation of what the Army or Special Operations Command might eventually specify?
Patel: We’ve got flexibility with a whole range of cartridges they might ask for. A different barrel and some modifications to the bolt head and magazine well.
SAR: How has the Paratus held up in testing?
Patel: We’re many months into the project; test firing ten thousand rounds of all types of ammo including surplus Portuguese and South African. Even though the owner’s manual says don’t use it, somebody’s gonna. You’ve gotta make sure it works from top of the line Gold Medal Match to junk surplus somebody’s gonna pick up at a gun show and go bang bang with it.
SAR: What changes or improvements were made along the way?
Patel: As far as the stock assembly, we started out with an M4 stock with a folding hinge added. It wasn’t holding up. We talked with MAGPUL about their ACR stock, manufactured with a hinge. We designed the lower receiver to fit the off-the-shelf ACR stock. That all of a sudden gave the rifle a whole new feel; shooting, folding, pack ability into packs, hard cases, attaché cases. Also, there’s a new sling attachment, machined into the receiver.
SAR: Tell us about the challenges to function and reliability that come with swapping barrels from very short to very long.
Patel: The M4s have trouble because you’ve got a sixteen or fourteen and a half inch military barrel with a short carbine length gas tube. You’ve got all this steel sitting there and you’re looking at 250 inches a second bolt velocity speed coming back. You have extraction problems, double feed problems. If you have a 14.5 inch barrel with a mid length gas tube, you’re slowing the bolt speed down to 200. And if you go to the full length M16 with a 20 inch barrel and rifle length gas, all of a sudden you’re slowing it to 160 inches per second bolt velocity. You can see why the Marine Corps likes a full length, full sized gun, They don’t have the problems, the complaints you read about with the M4 and the shorter AR versions.
It’s all based on the dwell time and the bolt velocity speeds. With high speed cameras and calculations you can figure out how to have a 14.5 in. barrel military full auto version but instead of it being a carbine length gas, if it were to switch over to a mid length gas system a lot of your cycling, extraction and double feed issues would go away. The centrifugal forces of the bolt when it’s rotating and unlocking, the extractor – because it’s doing it so fast – it’s coming off the rim of the case. If you slow that centrifugal force down with a mid length gas then it’s going to stay in contact with the rim and extract more reliably.
So Paratus barrels – depending on length – have different size gas ports in the barrel and different gas tube length. 12 and 16 inch use a mid-length gas tube. 18 and 20 inch use a rifle-length tube.
For compatibility with suppressors, our barrels are fitted with the three-position Noveske Switchblock and the quick detach or other muzzle coupler.
SAR: You‘re probably not the only one working on a clandestine rifle and particularly a response to the CSASS solicitation.
Patel: DRD is a small company where I try to apply what I‘ve learned in the real world. I don‘t have a lot of bureaucracy in my place. If I decide I want to do something I don‘t have to go to a board or a bunch of vice presidents to decide what to do. I can just go ‘OK, let‘s try this out. Other companies may take a year or two but I can make it happen fast.
SAR: For example?
Patel: We’ve completed work on a drop in upper receiver with our quick mount barrel system like the .308, but it’s chambered in 5.56 and fits existing AR-type lowers. It will allow a standard M4 carbine with a telescoping stock to fit in the same small hard case as the Paratus with a 16-inch barrel.
SAR: You’ve got the flexibility but that doesn’t mean you haven’t taken a big chance. There’s a lot of money at stake in ‘chasing the unicorn’ of government procurement.
Patel: It isn’t really a ‘unicorn.’ We’re not claiming to be anything 21st century space age, Star Trek stuff. This is a new application of mechanical devices coming together to give more flexibility to the operator in the field who doesn‘t need to carry a vise and a wrench. Yeah I took a lot of personal money to get this developed. If you talk to some of the billionaires they’ll tell you they have to take risk. Nothing ventured nothing gained. I started Cobb manufacturing, my previous company, with nothing and in five years it was bought out by Freedom Group, one of the biggest conglomerates. They bought my patents and my designs and they hired me for three years as a VP for Research and Development. I’ve kind of been in my own shop, cubbyhole working on this.
SAR: Didn’t that have to be part of the business arrangement when they bought you out – no competition?
Patel: I have a three year ‘non-compete’ which is ongoing. The only requirement on that is first and last right of refusal. As soon as I was finished with the design and diagrams we sent them to Remington’s engineers and management. They looked at it; they had their 45 days of inspection. They said ‘thank you but we don’t want to pay you anything for it. You can go and do it yourself.’
SAR: Is that what you wanted?
Patel: Either way. My whole concept was to come up with something new, get it to function first, then do some endurance tests. To me, whether they paid me for the patents and I sold it to Remington-Bushmaster, and I go back to doing something else. Or I take this to market on my own.
The bottom line is I have to recoup my R&D money somehow to turn around to continue staying in business. Whether I do it by selling a patent or by selling guns. But it is taking a chance.
SAR: Worst case scenario is the military either doesn’t fund it or they go ahead but buy somebody else’s rifle. You must have put it ‘on the scale’ and said I‘m pretty sure we can sell some of these $5,600 rifles to law enforcement from local to national.
Patel: Commercial is the biggest market, believe it or not. For this year’s production, I have orders for half of it sitting on my desk. From distributors for their commercial sales to civilians, personal buyers. We made it ‘Title 1’ with a sixteen inch barrel. Everybody looks at the box (in the short shipping box with barrel removed) and says ‘that’s gotta be NFA.’ But it’s not. That gives the civilian market a whole new set of wings to fly with. Any dealer can stock it because it’s got a 16-inch barrel. Now, if anybody wants to buy a can (suppressor) or the 12-inch barrel version, they can go through the process of completing the forms.
SAR: You think you can recoup your investment through civilian sales?
Patel: Yeah, especially since we’re coming out with the quick change barrel upper in 5.56. It’s gonna be a no-brainer because there’s millions of ARs out there.
TST Tactical Defense Solutions
When Patel was called back to demo duty, we turned our attention to our host for the event, Joe Varbero, Program Manager for TST.
SAR: Your background?
Varbero: Coast Guard law enforcement back in the early 1990s. Transition to Virginia Beach Police Department including SWAT for several years, contract work for Department of Homeland Security, vulnerability assessments for nuclear facilities, working with some DoD assets doing a lot of crew served weapons training. I moved to TST as Special Projects Contractor in 2010, then Program Manager full time since November 2011.
SAR: Can you bring us up to speed on how this came about?
Varbero: We’ve worked with other established weapons makers for crew served weapon sales, foreign government sales, composite armor and transparent armor, vehicles, weapons, ships, small patrol craft.
The rollout for TST as rep for Paratus has been in the last few weeks. We’ve been working with Skip when the concept was coming out and he was refining and putting the finished product together, around January-February of this year (2012) and looking to move our relationship as his military and international sales distributor.
SAR: Primary reasons for this?
Varbero: It goes to working with folks who are like us. DRD Tactical and TST have had a long standing relationship both professional and personal, particularly Jerry Hurd and Skip. Our business model is to work with those who are like minded towards business, integrity and product integrity.
SAR: What’s TST’s greatest strength?
Varbero: The ability to integrate; armor solutions for vehicle weapon systems, or bringing the operator and the gear they need together. To outfit the war fighter with things that are going to work, not necessarily things that are the latest fad. We’re a conduit; we put the right folks together with the right products. We look to bring the war fighter, the equipment and the tools that they need based on our experience in looking at what is going to be the best fit for the operation and the operators.
SAR: What do you want to accomplish in today‘s event?
Varbero: The purpose of our Industry Day is to bring our industry partners together with their clientele. A lot of folks working in the Special Operations community and other government agencies. To show them that a ‘small clandestine rifle’ of the future is here now. We know based on some of the requirements of the Federal Government that they are looking for – not a weapon system to replace the M110 – but to augment some of the larger sniper systems and designated marksman systems with a smaller package that can be discreetly concealed and used for a specific mission and purpose.
This is our way to being able to roll the Paratus out as the military-government-international distributor. To the close-knit community of folks we work with on a day to day basis as well as the clients that not only our industry partners reach but also our direct clientele as well.
We also want our industry partners to get their hands on the rifle and experience the weapon system so in their circles they can take back the first hand experience of the gun that’s getting a lot of chatter on the internet. To answer any questions they might have, to debunk any of the myths or rumors that may exist from idle chatter.
It’s not designed to replace any of the larger, more specialized rifles. Instead, it gives the ability to roll out discreetly and quickly deploy. Break down and back in their kit gear and then move away smartly. Upside is compact size, ability to change to a barrel length that suits situation. Operators will match optics to barrels.
SAR: Any sales to report right now?
Varbero: Not at this point. In a lot of ways this is the first opportunity that the gun’s going to be made public to the members of that community, to see it, to make an informed decision on how it‘s going to fit into their kit and to see about any procurement. We made a presentation yesterday (6 Sept.) to Virginia Beach police for specialized applications. An example is motorcycle officers on patrol who don’t carry M4s but are likely to be first on scene when a high stress incident happens. Give them a long gun capability that fits securely and discreetly in saddlebags. We discussed with VBPD the desirability of scaling it down to 5.56mm.
SAR: There’s the Army‘s CSASS request for information.
Varbero: We responded and TST is now officially on the ‘Interested Vendors’ List. But we’re still waiting for them to publish a Request for Proposal.
SAR: C2 is a nice location for today‘s demo but there are lots of other commercial ranges in the area. Why did you choose this one?
Varbero: The owners have been personal friends for years. This remote location allows control of people coming in, exclusive use for the demo, discreet access for attendees, good and versatile facility, close to the kind of folks we want to reach in the community (Navy SPECWAR and others).
Lothar Walther Barrels
Barrels for the Paratus come from Lothar Walther Precision Tools, the U.S. operation for the famed German maker of precision barrels for champion shooters worldwide. Since LWPT’s John Fawcett was on hand, we asked him to explain the company’s critical role in supporting Patel’s work over the last several years at Cobb and now DRD.
Although a chemical engineer by trade, Fawcett is also a committed gun buff and shooter who describes his years with LW as a “go between,” understanding customer needs and working with management to meet the requirements.
SAR: LW’s factory in Germany has a well deserved reputation for excellence in producing specialized barrels. How does their U.S. branch figure into the Paratus story?
Fawcett: Due to import restrictions, Lothar Walther barrel blanks from Germany are being brought in and finished in Cumming, Georgia. These range from .177 caliber air rifle barrels to .50 BMG. We produced the barrels for the Paratus and can make variations for clients to match their specific applications. We can change caliber by changing the barrel with the flick of a wrist.
SAR: Why did Skip choose LW?
Fawcett: Cobb Manufacturing was in the same local area and Skip had read about some of LW’s applications. He talked to the owner, W.D. Woodall, who sent him to me. While I was technically one of the administrators, I did most of the instruction and demonstrations.
Originally, Cobb had a bolt action concept called the BA 50 with our barrel application that was easily changed, but that wasn’t well known. The .50 market was wide open at that time and everyone wanted something to play with at long range. We changed the twist rate and barrel length to meet some special applications.
Skip then came out with a .30-06 version of the AR-10 for the hundredth anniversary of that famous cartridge. At that point he had several other applications that he was able to change the magazine well to vary what you needed. You could buy a .30-06 and change the entire application and an upper to .308 or whatever else you needed to. He has a pretty open mind and never says ‘no.’ And if I told you most of this was done on the back of an envelope or a napkin at dinner you’ll know what I mean.
SAR: What advantage does LW have over similar barrel makers?
Fawcett: First, the very specialized German steel. Our fine grained ‘chrome-moly’ for accuracy and our stainless gives longer barrel life. We have a lot of standard applications, but also capability to go into your facility and figure out what you need and make some suggestions just on a personal nature. Then, being able to turn everything in-house to fit the application you need. Literally, you can ask what you want and receive.
I’m working on some applications that will go out to a mile with different calibers – as required and specified by the end user. Like 6.5 with a huge ballistic coefficient or – in close environment – a very large caliber projectile with a frangible nature that will put the maximum amount of energy on the target without over penetration.
From chamber to muzzle, if you have a specific application we can match the proper caliber and twist rate to the bullet. Remember, some of these bullets are much longer than normal which requires a different twist rate and a different thread pattern inside.
Our Trigger Time
The nature of the demonstration did not lend itself to much more than a brief familiarization firing by SAR’s correspondent. And even if it did, he admits his marksmanship skills have fallen off sharply over the decades since Army Advanced Individual Training as a Light Weapons Infantryman doing quite well in qualification with the M14.
That said, he reports the Paratus as handling well, shooting comfortably, and operationally friendly to those well-schooled in the M16 family of weapons. Just remember that the charging handle is on the side…
TST produced a short but highly informative video of the demo we attended. Particularly the part where TST’s Jerry Hurd expertly takes the Paratus from briefcase breakdown components to bullet-pumping in less than 30 seconds. Check it out at http://tstdefense.com/products/weapons-and-mounts.
Individuals should contact a Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer in your local area. FFL dealers can order from RSR Group or Clyde Armory.
RSR Group Gov/LE Sales Manager: John Sanchez, 972-602-3131 ext. 469, firstname.lastname@example.org
For Short Barrel Rifle (NFA, Class 3) and 16-inch rifle purchase please contact Clyde Armory Internet/Dealer Sales: Sam (706) 549-1842 Ext. 212 / Matt (706) 549-1842 Ext. 209
Military & International Sales please contact TST Tactical Defense Solutions Inc., www.tstdefense.com For Law Enforcement sales please contact any of their distributors.
Lothar Walther Precision Tools, Inc.
The barrel blanks they use come from their parent company Lothar Walther, manufactured at their state of the art facilities in Germany. They are made with steel that is specifically engineered to be used in the button rifling process, initiated by LW in 1925.
Their Normal Steel, what every one calls “Chrome-Moly,” is a special alloy that is very fine grained. It will perform in all situations and will generate phenomenal accuracy. The Stainless Steel is of a very special type that will give longer barrel life and can be used in all contours. It far exceeds the capabilities of 416R.
Barrels are manufactured in calibers that range from .17 caliber to 600 caliber. Most are stocked in both normal steel and our stainless steel. Custom calibers and configurations are a specialty. Contact them for additional information.
Lothar Walther Precision Tools, Inc. 3425 Hutchinson Rd., Cumming, GA 30040. Phone (770) 889-9998. Web: www.lothar-walther.com/.
TST Tactical Defense Solutions
Turner Strategic Technologies TDS is a U.S. based company specializing in armor solutions and critical infrastructure protection. TDS has extensive experience in working with U.S. and foreign Governments, major defense contractors, shipbuilders and select private entities. Their products Include:
- Armor Solutions for Maritime, Vehicle and Aviation
- Protective and Blast Resistant Coatings
- Weapons, Mounts and Ammunition
- Night Vision and Thermal Devices
- Tactical Equipment and Outfitting
Their expansive knowledge base provides a unique blend of operational know-how and government compliance to deliver effective and timely results. They possess in-depth insight to various U.S. and International compliance programs, including International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) provisions, International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) export measures, and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) protocols.
TDS is a fully compliant U.S. Department of State registered Broker, Manufacturer, and Exporter, as well as, a Federal Firearms License (FFL) holder.
TST Tactical Defense Solutions, Inc., 3465 Chandler Creek Rd. Suite 102, Virginia Beach, VA 23453. Phone (757) 416-7610, Web: www.tstdefense.com.
Paratus 16 Technical Specifications
Paratus – Latin for Ready – is a quick break down semiautomatic rifle chambered in .308 / 7.62 x 51mm. It can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. Paratus is a new Patents Pending design offering features like an adjustable and folding Magpul stock, a quick change barrel, and it fits in a small hard case (16”x10”x6”), back pack, or briefcase.
Caliber: .308 / 7.62 x 51mm NATO Standard
Operation: Stoner system direct gas operated, semi-automatic
Locking: Stoner type multi lug rotating bolt in carrier
Special note: Compact receiver has a modified bolt carrier with recoil spring and guide rod, eliminating the AR type buffer spring and tube, allowing a folding stock
Weight: 9.2 lbs (w/std 16 in. bbl)
Barrel: No tools needed to quickly detach or re-mount the Lothar Walther barrel. Standard 16”
with 1 in 10 twist, Optional 12, 18 and 20 in. barrels
Suppressor capable: Special order barrels equipped with Noveske Switchblock
Magazine capacity: 20 rounds, standard AR-10 type
Buttstock/grips: Magpul adjustable folding stock and grips
Selector: AR-15 type, SAFE and SEMI
Trigger: Geissele 2-Stage
Optic mounting rail: Mil-Std 1913
Finish: Nickel Boron or Mil-Spec anodized black
Sights: Magpul MBUS
Manufacturer: DRD Tactical LLC, PO Box 88, Dallas, Georgia 30132 USA Tel: (678) 398-9059
Export notice: This product and/or its components is subject to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations(ITAR, 22 CFR Parts 120-130) and export is strictly prohibited without authorization or a license issued by the U.S. Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls. Violations of these export laws are subject to severe penalties.
The C2 Shooting Center
Featuring 13 ranges with shooting positions from 7 to 300 yards, plus instruction, concealed carry training, and pro shop, the C2 Shooting Center is Southeastern Virginia’s premier recreational and small arms tactical shooting facility.
The C2 Shooting Center consists of both public and private facilities where participants can enjoy recreational shooting at their leisure as well as attending private or group instruction from one of their NRA and/or professional instructors in the discipline of their choice.
The C2 Center has provided range facilities for several elements of the U.S. Navy special operations community, boat teams, EOD, MCAST, the recently created Naval Ground Forces training program, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Marshall Service and several of the local law enforcement and university police agencies, each of which protect our freedoms and way of life.
C2 Shooting Center, Inc. 6025 Marvin Road, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23457. Phone: (757) 426-9953. Web: www.thec2center.com
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