The Importance of Side-arms During an Intense Fight Against Afghan Riots on 05/02/10
By Maj. Walter Haland, (Ret.)

At 14:00 local time, Norwegians were attacked by a numerically superior group of insurgents who opened fire with both small arms and grenades. The rebels behind the attack on the Norwegian soldiers in Afghanistan knew that the soldiers were on their way into the river valley in Ghowrmach district. There is no doubt that they were prepared for the Norwegians coming, but whether it was because they had seen them drive into the valley or whether they had been informed in advance, is difficult to predict for sure. The Norwegian force contained less than 20 men. It consisted of a diverse group, consisting of a so-called MOT layer (Military Observation Team), which was reinforced by several other specialists. It had been a long time since the Norwegians had experienced such a strong opposition. This was a powerful ambush. The Norwegian soldiers quickly asked for medical evacuation assistance from the camp in Maymaneh and air support.

A forward air controller (FAC) was with the Norwegian group and he was responsible for calling in close air support. It did not work this time. Twice there were fighter planes over the area, but it was not found advisable to use air force in the valley for close support as the attackers were too close to the Norwegian soldiers. The Norwegians were forced to retire while they returned fire. The battle took place in such close distance that the Norwegian soldiers had to use their side-arms, the Glock 17 pistol, in the fierce fighting.

They were able to secure the area and respond to the fire until they got reinforcements. A so-called "task unit," consisting of 50-100 Norwegian soldiers with the heaviest equipment was sent out to ensure that those who were under fire could withdraw. When the reinforcements reached the area at 20:00 in the evening, the original group had already managed to repel the rebels and the recent fighting had ended.

A total of eight Norwegians were injured in the ambush. Several were hit by the enemy’s assault rifles, and others we injured by anti-tank rockets that were fired at the soldiers. The two most seriously injured Norwegians had both types of wounds. Rapid evacuation was needed and when the helicopter landed, there were still firefights. The perilous landing no doubt saved the lives of two badly wounded Norwegian soldiers. The personnel in the Norwegian ambulance helicopter and the medical expertise of the camp Maymaneh probably saved the lives of the soldiers that had very critical injuries. The most critical wounded one was later operated again at the German military hospital in Mazar-e Sharif and the condition was then described as stable.

The attack could have been criminal gangs – the Norwegian military leadership was not sure about who was behind the attack, and chose therefore to mention the enemy collectively as "rebels.” There were several criminals in the area that smuggled drugs from Afghanistan and took weapons back. The criminal gangs were troublesome requiring a "tax" from residents and the situation was becoming more and more challenging. The Norwegians had several more skirmishes than in the past; the reason was that the Norwegians searched out areas along with the Afghan army where they previously had no control.

Glock Generation 4 – G17 Pistol

Viking Arms Ltd. has been awarded the contract to supply the UK MoD with a new general service pistol and holster system. The contract is to supply the latest Glock, Generation 4, G17, 9mm pistol along with a Radar holster system and retentive lanyard.

The Glock Gen4 G17 pistol designated L131-A1, will replace the current general service pistol, the Browning L9A1 and also the SIG Sauer 226, currently in service in theatre in Afghanistan, in early 2013. The Glock G17, Gen4 is the latest generation of the venerated G17 pistol and through the exacting and rigorous trials demanded by the UK MoD has proved itself to be a world class sidearm.

The Gen4, just like any other Glock pistol, has the same time tested “Safe Action” system with a durable exterior finish, cold hammer forged barrel, combined with durability, reliability and light weight and all the features that make Glock firearms famous. The new Gen4 has several new features designed to satisfy the most demanding customers, including the British Army and its elite forces.

It is based on a MBS (Multiple Back Strap) frame with reduced short frame trigger mechanism housing. The multiple back strap system allows the user to change the circumference of the grip to fit their individual hand size. The grip can be altered to suit all hand sizes by the simple fitting of back straps (medium or large). The pistol comes standard as a small frame then by clipping either a medium or large back strap and securing by a single pin the grip size can be altered by up to 4mm.

The grip angle of the Glock “Safe Action” pistol is not altered by the back strap modifications. This ensures that the operator does not shoot high or low when modifying the back strap or when shooting with a different Glock pistol. The shortest trigger reach option available with the new frame, without back straps is 2mm/0.08 in. less than the standard Gen3 frame. Mounting the medium back strap adds an additional 2mm/0.08 in. bringing it back to the original size of the Gen3 frame. Adding the large back strap, increases the Gen4 frame by 4 mm/0.16 in., which will accommodate even the largest of hands. This feature not only caters for operator use, but allows Police and Military authorities to cater for the differences in their operators individual hand sizes and could mitigate any possible future litigation associated with the user and size of weapon.

Another modification is the magazine catch that is reversible to accommodate left handed operators and has been enlarged for ease of operation. This, and Glock’s new Rough Texture Frame (Gen4RTF) surface, which is designed to enhance grip traction without being too aggressive, makes this pistol a benchmark for all other manufactures to aspire too.

According to the trials team, the pistols are most effective at a range of between 10 and 25 metres. The Glock 17 is lighter, more accurate and its magazines can carry more cartridges than the Browning it replaces.

The 9mm Browning L9A1 is the general issue pistol for self-defence that is to be replaced by the Glock 17 Gen 4. The Browning is a self-loading pistol using the standard NATO 9mm round, has been in service since 1954, and has proven to be a reliable, accurate and robust weapon.

The old Browning’s external safety catch could also mean a longer delay before pulling the trigger. The new weapon has a magazine capacity of 17 rounds, compared to 13 rounds for the Browning, though the 9mm ammunition remains the same.

“In the event of your main weapon failing, with the new Glock you can draw and shoot the enemy within two seconds,” says Warrant Officer Class 1 Mark Anderson, from the Royal Marines, who was part of the team testing it. He has served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Northern Ireland and Sierra Leone. “That inspires confidence, and with the short-barrel pistol, it's easier to acquire your target, and makes it a lot safer to conduct your job. You need to know that wherever you are, whatever you're doing, if your main weapon fails, you have that secondary system.”

Climate Tested

The Glock has three built-in safety catches, and the pistol can be kept fully loaded with a round in the chamber - even when it is in the holster. The Glock 17 Generation 4 pistol, manufactured in Austria (with some manufacturing plants in the USA as well), was tested for approximately 18 months, with the team firing thousands of rounds in climates ranging from -40C to deserts at over 50C. They tested the pistol in several environments, from the Arctic in Norway, to the deserts in America, including sand drag tests, special mud tests, and in the freezing rain. It has been widely used in armies and police forces around the world for many years, and proved both reliable and easy to use in the MoD tests.

Troops on operations in Afghanistan will still use their SA80 rifles or other heavier weapons as their main weapon, with the new Glock to be carried as a side-arm for personal protection. With insider attacks in Afghanistan still a threat to western forces, personal protection remains essential. Military commanders say that the old Browning pistols saved troops’ lives in the past, and that the new Glock standard issue pistol will do the same.

Tactical Holster

Viking Arms will supply the new RDC holster alongside the Glock pistols in early 2013, manufactured in a high resistant polyform and supplied in Coyote Brown; the holster will offer a system to include drop leg and MOLLE platforms along with a lanyard and magazine pouches. Radar 1957, an Italian holster manufacturer, is to manufacture the new holster.

Camouflage Paint for Weapons

Viking Arms Ltd, have been nominated to supply the UK MoD with camouflage paint. The paint is manufactured by Norwegian company NFM and is an EEC IR resistant paint in Coyote Brown. The paint bound for front line troops in Afghanistan is to camouflage existing weapons systems in theatre. The paint is manufactured in order to meet military standards for Near Infra-Red reflectance needs for use on weapons, vehicles, textiles and tools. Available in cans of 400 ml for personal equipment or in 5 l for vehicle applications, it is offered with a separate paint remover. The camouflage paint is:
  • easy applicable and removable
  • ultra scratch resistant
  • visual and NIR spectrum
  • for metal and plastic surfaces.

British Procurement

When the British Army is to procure 23,000 new pistols, they do a thorough examination of actual candidates. Five finalists were included in the short-list and brought to the final Arctic test in the area of Porsanger in northernmost Norway.

“We started with eleven types, but a few were excluded along the way. Now we had five Pistols in the final test, and in April (2012), the final option is checked,” said Petty Officer Mark Murray from Test and Development Department of the British infantry. He had been leading the gun testing in extreme heat in Arizona, in the jungles of Brunei, in a climate chamber in the UK and the final test in cold Porsanger. “We will only do physical tests and use no instrumentation. Here in Porsanger, soldiers from Royal Marines fired 14,000 rounds in the field. Protection glasses and bullet proof vests were used for extra protection if something unexpected should happen,” said Murray. He was careful not to highlight any of the candidates as his favorite. He admitted that there had been one and another click during the test, and that all data is in the 180 pages thick report he would soon deliver. Then there would be a group to decide what kind of gun to replace the Browning pistol for the next 20 years. The Browning pistol had its origin from the First World War, but the British model used is from the mid sixties. All five candidates use standard 9mm ammunition, but the pistol weight ranged from ~600 grams (Glock) to ~950 grams (SIG). This is partly because several producers used plastic in the production. “We Brits use pistols far more than just for self-defense; most soldiers have double arming (pistol and two-handed weapons). The gun is an important weapon up to a target distance 25 feet away. Also, the tactical holster is an important part of the test, especially now in the cold. The pistol must sit well in the holster without being tight and the holster must not be too rigid. We also carried along gun types with double action,” explained Murray.

Firing range A2 in Porsanger gave good conditions for Arctic testing. When it gets cold, the powder takes a little longer to burn up. This may mean that the gunner risks getting some slaggy remnants on his face - simply because the powder is still burning after the bullet is out of the short barrel. Extreme heat can still be more problematic: “When it is very cold, it is possible to supply the gun with some heat. But you have little chance to cool down an overheated gun in tropical surroundings. In the U.S. we were up to 51 degrees C (123.8 Fo),” he said.

Smith & Wesson M&P

The Smith & Wesson M&P (Military and Police) is a polymer-framed, short recoil operated, locked breech semiautomatic pistol introduced in the summer of 2005 by the American company Smith & Wesson. It uses a Browning-type locking system. While targeted at law enforcement agencies, the M&P is also available on the commercial market. (Smith & Wesson)

Glock 17 Gen4

The multiple back strap system allows the user to change the circumference of the grip to fit their individual hand size.

The Glock 17 has been procured, replacing the Brownings and SIGs as the British Army's new standard issue sidearm. Approximately 5,000 are being procured and are due in service during 2013/14.

The Glock pistol, sometimes referred to by the manufacturer as Glock "Safe Action" Pistol, is a series of semiautomatic pistols designed and Glock introduced ferritic nitrocarburizing (a range of case hardening processes that diffuse nitrogen and carbon into ferrous metals at sub-critical temperatures) into the firearms industry as an anti-corrosion surface treatment for metal gun parts. Despite initial resistance from the market to accept a "plastic gun" due to durability and reliability concerns, and fears that the pistol would be "invisible" to metal detectors in airports, Glock pistols have become the company's most profitable line of products, commanding 65% of the market share of handguns for United States law enforcement agencies as well as supplying numerous national armed forces and security agencies worldwide. Earlier generation magazines can be used in 4th generation pistols, but only when the release button is mounted on the left side of the grip, meaning released by right hand thumb when the right hand is the firing hand. 4th generation magazines can also be used in previous generation models. The most notable change is the grip with the addition of a changeable back strap package, which allows for 3 different customizable lengths between the front and back straps.

Beretta Px4 Storm

The Beretta Px4 Storm is a semiautomatic pistol manufactured by Beretta of Italy and intended for personal defense and law enforcement use. Light-weight polymer construction with steel inserts, a modular trigger group, fully enclosing slide, Picatinny rail, and changeable back strap options for the grip are a radical departure from previous Beretta designs. The Px4 Storm lines have been conceived to compliment the power, ease of handling, performance and reliability of the pistol matched with an original and sought-after design. Manufactured in many calibers, the new Px4 Storm adopts the locked-breech locking system with a rotating barrel, which has been revised and considerably improved by Beretta. The overall dimensions are significantly reduced, considering its major firepower. Modular structure, ergonomics and interchangeability of parts place the Px4 Storm among the leading pistols for personal defense as well as law-enforcement use.

The extensive use of reinforced fibreglass technopolymer has allowed the development of a light and technically advanced firearm with a modern line that is extremely attractive and ergonomic. The technopolymer is also completely resistant to corrosion and guarantees color consistency for year to come. The rounded surfaces of the pistol are truly snag-free and facilitate the insertion and the extraction of the pistol from the holster. Additionally, the trigger guard is rounded to ensure, when firing with two hands, the correct position of the supporting hand. In front of the trigger guard, underneath the barrel, a Picatinny rail (Mil-Std 1913) is located. Integral to the frame it allows the mounting of laser devices, flashlights, or other types of accessories.

Heckler & Koch P30

The Heckler & Koch P30 is a polymer framed semiautomatic handgun. The P30 represents an evolutionary advancement of the technology involved in the Heckler & Koch P2000 and Heckler & Koch USP Compact pistols. Early prototypes of the P30 were referred to as the P3000. The pistol is available in 9×19mm Parabellum and .40 S&W chamberings. The P30 is positioned by the manufacturer as an ideal law enforcement pistol and has been chosen by several law enforcement organizations as their service sidearm. Besides its renowned reliability, the P30 is especially notable for the completely new design of its grip ergonomics. The easily exchangeable grip shells (right/left) are the only ones of their kind in the world. In combination with the exchangeable back strap, the pistol provides maximum adaptability to any hand size – for both men and women. The standardized Mil-Std 1913 Picatinny rail at the front of the P30 frame provides maximum flexibility with regard to equipment with additional tactical accessories.

SIG Sauer P226

Variants of the P226 SIG Sauer were procured as a replacement for the Browning in certain units, and as a UOR (Urgent Operational Requirement) for use in Afghanistan. The L105A1 is the original P226, the L105A2 is the railed version and the L106A1 has an improved protective finish. SIG P226 is a full size service weapon manufactured by Swiss Arms and is chambered for 9x19mm Parabellum. SIG Sauer P226 and the variants are in use in several police and military units worldwide. P226 was developed XM9 Service Pistol-election that was held by the U.S. Army in 1984 on behalf of the U.S. armed forces. The purpose of the contest was to find a successor to the M1911A1. Of the guns that were submitted by manufacturers, only the Beretta 92F and SIG P226 came through the test without being rejected. According to reports, Beretta was chosen because of better durability in reliability testing, and a lower package price. Though the P226 cost less per pistol than the 92F, with magazines and spare parts the total package ended up costing more. Navy SEALs later chose to set aside the decision and chose the P226 as their service weapons.

In use by the U.S. Navy SEALs, Federal agents, and numerous law enforcement agencies including the Texas Rangers, Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Michigan State Police to name a few; the P226 has continually proven itself. The exceptional ergonomics and balance make this high capacity full-size pistol easy to handle. Available in either 9mm, .40S&W or .357SIG, its longer barrel yields better ballistic performance and accuracy. Additional features include a reversible magazine release and easy conversion from .357SIG to .40S&W with SIG Sauer factory replacement barrels.

GLOCK 17 – a popular pistol in America

In 2009, the National Rifle Association’s magazine American Rifleman would name the GLOCK 17 as the third most significant handgun of all time. With GLOCK pistols now being carried by 65% of law enforcement agencies across the United States, numerous feature articles about GLOCK pistols have been written with a great deal of information of this popular gun in America. The original classic 9x19 is the gun that started the “GLOCK Revolution,” the hottest 9x19 handgun on the international military/police market today. It is also the one that has withstood more and greater torture tests than any other. The classic GLOCK sets the international standard of reliability, the new standard of firepower to size and weight.

This article first appeared in SmallArmsReview.com on October 11, 2013


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