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Small Arms Data by Wire (SADW): November 2002

By Nick Steadman

Issue No 62- July 2002
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ISRAELI SNIPER-DETECTION PROGRAMME: Defense News (15-21 Jul 02) reported that the Israeli army is conducting operational trials in the West Bank of several sniper locating systems developed for the Israeli MOD under the so-called Believer programme. A Rafael prototype is apparently the favoured option, but production funding has yet to be approved. The cost could be around $2m apiece. Rafael’s system, which is vehicle-mounted, is based on thermal detection and reportedly takes under a third of a second to trace the origin of a shot, when - if desired - fire can then be returned automatically. Alternatively, locational data can simply be passed to field units. The thermal tracking technology employed is said to be very similar to that developed a decade ago by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the USA and demonstrated at that time to the Israelis, though most US sniper detection efforts since then have focussed on acoustics, which are apparently inferior for use in urban areas. It’s been suggested that Israel should perhaps be encouraged to pair up with the USMC on a joint programme to integrate both technologies.

PHILIPPINES MINIMI BUY: the Philippines armed forces have signed a contract for Qty 436 5.56mm FN Minimi LMGs worth $2.3 million, as part of the first major new infantry weapon re-equipment buy in the Philippines for 40 years - since the Vietnam War, in fact, when the US provided M16A1s and M60 GPMGs. This is the first tranche of an eventual multi-year requirement for 4,000 Minimis, and includes three years’ spares plus the necessary tools & gauges to equip a repair workshop to service the new weapons. The Minimis will go to the army and marines, and deliveries should start by the end of next January.

Malaya newspaper (6 Jul 02) said that the Minimis, which will be filling the Squad Automatic role, are intended to ‘enhance the base of fire capability during combat operations at the level of the smallest tactical units’. The Republic of the Philippines is reportedly the 47th nation to adopt this popular weapon. The Minimi deal with FN also includes a counter-trade provision for the Philippines Government Arsenal at Bataan (which already makes M193 ammunition) to manufacture 5.56mm SS109 ammunition locally for use in the new LMGs, though it’s not expected that this will come on line for several years.

CALCUTTA GUN TRADE ‘FACES EXTINCTION’: despite the recent launch of the Indian Ordnance Factories’ .22 rimfire personal protection revolver, The Asian Age reported on 8 Jul 02 that retail firearms & ammunition outlets in Calcutta, features of the city for at least 150 years, are facing extinction, forced out since the 1980s by increasingly stringent gun laws, sales tax and ‘the disappearance of the aristocracy’. What few shops remain - just six - are said to ‘on the verge of closure’.

West Bengal sales taxes on firearms are 20% and excise duty is another 32%, so a weapon leaving the ordnance factory at only Rupees 25,000 ends up on the gunstore shelf at Rupees 40,000. Business in Calcutta has reportedly dropped by as much as two-thirds over the past 20 years, though taxes in other Indian states are said to be lower, so things there are presumably not quite as bad.

NEW SOUTH WALES POLICE GO FOR TASERS: ‘An elite NSW police unit has been issued with.....Taser stun guns. The force started trialling two 50,000-volt guns three months ago, and they have been handed to the State Protection Group’s tactical operations unit. The unit used one of the Tasers on a man who resisted arrest in May.’ (The Australian 23 Jun 02)

MAUSER SCOUT RIFLE: if you have an ancient Mauser M98 bolt-action rifle in the cupboard and would like it to look just like a Steyr Scout, surf on over to Advanced Technology Inc, where you will find just the thing, complete with integral scope rail. It looks very swish. We asked Advanced Technology whether they also provided the stocks for Steyr-Mannlicher, but they say they have no connection with the Austrian company. Certain types of original Mauser bolt handle may require a replacement, which ATI can also supply.

HELP GUNSITE GET RID OF ITS SURPLUS STOCK: the Gunsite Smithy in Paulden (Arizona) is having a yard sale of excess stock of weapons, parts & accessories. Surf on over to to see what’s on offer.

.223 SIERRAS AGAINST AFGHANS?: you’ll remember we carried in an earlier issue some notes allegedly originating from someone in a US (Marine, we believe) infantry unit in Afghanistan who was scathing about the ‘stopping power’ of the 62gr US M855 5.56mm cartridge, particularly fired in the M4 carbine, and said troops were switching to the 77gr Sierra MatchKing Black Hills load when this could be obtained, since it penetrated cover rather better (the M855 was said to be defeated even by light barriers), though it was not much better on enemy troops. With the M855 it was claimed multiple solid hits were required to bring someone down.

The same source (yet to be authenticated) also complained that the Beretta M9 pistols were ‘breaking’ in Afghan conditions, and that the issue 9mm ball load was ineffective even at close range, as a result of which some troops were being reissued with M1911s, though ammunition & spare magazines for the .45 pistols were hard to find.

Discussion of these complaints on the MILINET web forum elicited a number of suggestions, including adoption of the Sierra .223 GameKing instead of the ‘open tip’ MatchKing, and reverting to the original, barely stable Colt 1:14 twist for the M4 barrel, in order to maximise wound effects. The US could, of course, issue the expensive Carl Gustaf 5.56mm AP round if it chose to, but while this would defeat cover more easily, it would not be much of a man-stopper.

As to pistols, somebody even suggested picking up some extra M1911s from the Darra Adam Khel backstreet gunsmiths. But someone else claimed that the 123gr 9mm ball round was a 70% ‘one-shot stopper’, by comparison with 62% for the 230gr .45 FMJ, while another questioned whether the complaints about poor M855 stopping power from the M4 carbine might not be something to do with deteriorating standards of marksmanship, which strikes as a highly pertinent observation. Yet another suggested the 7.62mm AR-10 would be a better bet all round.....if you could find any, chum!

However, we liked the comment that enemy targets are only 150-pound mammals, and if Fish & Game Departments throughout the US won’t allow .223 rifles to be used on white-tail deer, which are of similar weight, why are weapons of this calibre issued for killing people? It’s a thought we’ve often had here, since the .223 is also outlawed for deer stalking in England & Wales.

Yet one thing worries us about the various references to 5.56mm ammunition. It’s illegal under international law to deliberately design small arms which are excessively lethal or inflict gratuitous injury beyond what is strictly necessary to incapacitate, and any official move to destabilise M4 bullets by reversion to a slower rifling twist would certainly fail. On a cold day in a 14” twist the projectiles would in fact be unstable, which is why 1:12” was eventually adopted for the 55gr M193 bullet.

Furthermore, has DJAG cleared the Sierra MatchKing in 5.56mm (the 7.62mm Sierra is already permitted for sniping) for combat use? Mind you, provided you get close enough, there is a simple way to improve 5.56mm killing power - just use a 12” twist M16A1 with M855 or SS109 ammunition, and check out those atrocious 6-9” yaw-enhanced groups at 100 metres.

It seems the 5.56mm versus 7.62mm argument is unlikely to go away anytime soon, and it’s inevitably been exacerbated by the steady reversion to the bigger calibre for the machine gun role. Issue of a lighter 5.56mm rifle, with two or three times the amount of ammunition troops used to carry, was intended to substantially increase the soldier’s effectiveness, but now troops are claiming they need several rounds of 5.56mm to do the job of one well-placed 7.62mm bullet.

It’s actually quite an old refrain (it also cropped up in the Falklands, for example), and so common when anybody shoots someone for real that there must be something to it. Nor is it any longer a matter of old sweats rueing the day someone came and took away their trusty FAL or M14 - young troops who’ve never used a 7.62x51mm assault rifle are also saying 5.56x45mm doesn’t cut it as a battle round.

So if it’s true, and they’re not just a bunch of lousy shots, maybe we need to stop and reassess infantry calibres yet again, before we descend to the ridiculous realms of the totally ineffective but nice & light 2.2x20mm - 5,000fps MV, near-zero recoil, 10,000 rounds per man and a barrel life of 8.6 minutes.

Ironically, the answer is probably staring us all in the face - 7.62x39mm, a cartridge which has undoubtedly put more folks below ground since 1947 than any other assault rifle loading.

SADW is a monthly electronic publication from Nick Steadman Features. Nick, intrepid world traveling reporter for much of the arms industry, files this 40,000 to 50,000 word report once a month to his loyal subscribers. Those lucky ones pay a mere $50 (US) £32.50 (UK) per year for the privilege of getting the hot tips and insights from one of the industry’s insiders. Nick’s unique perspective is globally based, as is his wit. Here is a small sampling of a few of the July 2002 SADW articles. You can contact Nick at the email above, and make arrangements with him to obtain the full service sent directly to your email address. In order to receive SADW your e-mail system must be capable of receiving attached files, and the e-mail software system or settings do not reject files as large as 400kb. Each issue is full of insight and information for those with an interest in Small Arms, as well as his observations on world travel.


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