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Small Arms Data by Wire (SADW): July 2002

By Nick Steadman

Issue No 58- March 2002
An Electronic Publication from:
NICK STEADMAN FEATURES
Tel : 01273-773362,
International +44-1273-773362
Fax: 01273-822078,
International +44-1273-822078
SADW@compuserve.com

LEUPOLD MARK 4 CQ/T OPTICAL SIGHT: chief among Leupold’s 2002 introductions http://www.leupold.com is the Mk 4 CQ/T 1-3x14mm optical sight, designed for use with tactical long guns such as the M16 (both flat-top and carrying-handle variants). It features a ring reticle with a centred dot and variable power from 1x to 3x. It can be illuminated in red or used ‘as is’, but there are ten brightness settings when the reticle illumination is employed.

At unity power the centre dot subtends 9 minutes of angle, and three minutes at 3x magnification. The ring subtends 18” at 25 yards or six feet at 100 yards (3x magnification), so can be used for range estimation, but we consider these figures for the ring element are way too high.

The sight, which Leupold says was developed in co-operation with military and police agencies around the world, will mount to Picatinny rails, and - for those with a yen for the Christmas Tree look, there are additional left, right and top Milspec mounting rails incorporated into its housing, It is 8.75” long and weighs 17.5 ounces without battery or mount.

Eye relief (optimised for the M16 series) is in the range 2.0” to 2.8”, depending on magnification, and the windage & elevation drums offer half-minute click adjustments. Eyepiece focus can also be adjusted. The CQ/T is claimed to be submersible to a depth of 66 feet. Other features include low-intensity reticle settings for use with night vision devices. Battery life from one AA cell at maximum illumination is seven hours. No price was stated.

This is an interesting new product, but we fear Leupold has missed an opportunity with its reticle design. A ring which subtends six feet at 100 yards means it is almost irrelevant - only the centre dot is really of any value, making this scope (when all’s said and done) just another ‘dot sight’. A much better choice might have been something more along the lines of the smaller, thicker AUG ring reticle, with (if you like) a dot centred in it.

We say ‘if you like’, since the mere presence a dot within the AUG ring (police AUGs are supplied with a central dot or crosshairs) virtually compels the brain to take a more precise aim, wasting valuable time, whereas for normal infantry purposes aiming and delivery of effective fire has been shown to be faster with the AUG ring alone - in fact, military field tests have shown it’s second to nothing but iron sights for rapid engagement.

On the other hand, if the CQ/T is to be used in the police role, where greater precision may be needed, the dot might be the better option.

Be that as it may, from personal experience we can vouch that the self-centring principle of the AUG scope used with the standard plain ring reticle provides sufficient accuracy to hit man-sized targets every time at ranges to beyond 300 metres, even in a blizzard with very poor visibility, and regardless of barrel length. Just don’t breathe on the eyepiece though!

PETER LABBETT IS NO MORE, BUT HIS WORK LIVES ON: we’re sorry to have to report that British small arms ammunition expert Peter Labbett (73), author of all those very useful, meticulously researched and beautifully illustrated ammunition guides most recently advertised in SADW, died suddenly on 18 February 2002 after giving a presentation at the Imperial War Museum.

Peter was a long-time subscriber to SADW and we have conveyed our sympathies to his son Paul, who wishes readers to know that Peter’s books & pamphlets are still available - see the listing at:

http://www.users.waitrose.com/~paullabbett/

All these publications are available from Michael Labbett (m.labbett@virgin.net) except in the USA and Canada, where they are only available from Vic Engel (vicengel@chilitech.net). Prices available on application.

Paul Labbett says his father’s lifelong interest in small arms & ammunition stemmed from being on the wrong end of them as a child besieged in Malta during WW2.

MOD PATTERN ROOM UPDATE: on 22 Feb 2002 the UK Defence Procurement Agency was one party to a ceremony held at the Royal Armouries in Leeds to mark the transfer there of the UK MOD Pattern Room collection of 14,000 fully-functional military firearms. Legally it transpires that the collection has been ‘gifted’, with Parliamentary approval, to the Armouries, which are part-privately funded, but in practice it is simpler to understand this as a ‘hosting’ arrangement, with the Pattern Room an embedded MOD unit.

Most of the MOD staff formerly at the Nottingham Pattern Room location have transferred to Leeds, along with the Pattern Room library of weapons documentation, and the arrangements which have applied in the past for private viewings by weapon experts and other professionals will continue. It’s also hoped to eventually display under glass even some of the modern weapons from the MOD collection, and the joint Armouries/Pattern Room inventory will hopefully become a new ‘national firearms collection’.

Local police are content with the security arrangements at Leeds, and the Royal Armouries also have their own security staff to look after the transferred weapons. However, there are a couple of hitches which mean that things will not be back to normal for some time.

Currently there is no room for all the Pattern Room guns, and only a portion have so far gone to Leeds. The rest are back in military depots awaiting the construction of a substantial new building at the Leeds location to house them. This is pencilled in for completion in 2005, when the ‘gifting’ process will be completed.

The Pattern Room collection was begun in 1850, but can trace its origins back to the Modelling Room at the Tower of London, which was also home to the Royal Armouries. It moved from the Tower in the early 19th century. As most readers know, it moved again from the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) at Enfield to Nottingham when Royal Ordnance, under intensive cost pressure on the SA80 contract, closed RSAF and transferred its small arms production to Nottingham, which is now itself about to close.

At that point, the UK will have no national military small arms plant at all. Currently Heckler & Koch, a Royal Ordnance subsidiary, is being relied upon exclusively by the UK MOD for SA80 upgrading, but H&K is also up for sale. When it eventually comes to replacing SA80, the MOD will either have to buy a foreign weapon off the shelf or a brand new small arms supplier will have to be specially established in the UK, as Diemaco was in Canada to provide that country’s new 5.56mm weapons family.

Even if a good portion of the Pattern Room collection eventually goes on display, we’re unconvinced that this will greatly increase the number of visitors Leeds receives. The original wheeze of establishing a new Royal Armouries base in Leeds was to relieve pressure on the Tower of London, where only a small part of the historic weaponry could be shown.

However, Leeds is well off the beaten track for foreign tourists, an expensive train ride north from London and has - unsurprisingly - attracted only about a quarter of the numbers originally forecast.

The government probably thought it was doing regional tourism a big favour, but with hindsight it would have been a much better idea to build a new Armouries facility somewhere in the London area. That way it would have caught a lot of overseas visitors whose itineraries are centred on the capital

(nb: we were apparently in error in reporting (see previous issues) that the previous custodian of the collection at Nottingham, though now retired, had been retained as a consultant to scope out new acquisitions-Nick)

(Dan’s Note: I have a major article coming up on the closing of the MOD Pattern Room at Nottingham. The Pattern Room has been invaluable to the small arms community, and in a trickle down effect, to all users of small arms who benefit from the research done there. The SAR Expeditionary Forces have already visited the Royal Armories at Leeds, and will bring that information to the readers as soon as we can)

CIA & KGB GEAR NOW ON SHOW AT REAGAN LIBRARY: ‘For the first time, the public is getting a large scale view of the CIA’s and KGB’s real-life James Bond gadgets, from a replica of the Russians’ deadly poison-dart umbrella to some of the Amercians’ most ingeniously concealed cameras. The US exhibit includes dozens of items borrowed from a CIA collection in Langley, Virginia, many of them never before shown to the public. They can now be seen at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.’ (AP, 18 Feb 02).

Exhibits cover the period from as far back as the War of Independence. The exhibition runs till 14 Jul 2002. No contact data was given, but try: http://www.reagan.utexas.edu

NEPAL TO TAKE G36 RIFLE - MAYBE: according to JDW (20 Feb 02) the Nepalese army plans to buy around 65,000 Heckler & Koch 5.56mm G36 rifles for its 45,000 troops (another 10,000 men are planned), with the first 5,000 weapons scheduled for delivery in Feb 2002, the rest over 10 years, mostly at the front end of that period. The Nepalese rifles will reportedly have 1.5x optical sights.

Weapons to be replaced are AK47s, FN FALs, 7.62mm Galils and some older kit. However, it is not clear, JDW said, whether the sale can actually proceed under German export laws, since Nepal is in the middle of a war of attrition with Maoist rebels. A literal interpretation of the weapons-of-war law would appear to preclude it.

NO BELTED AMMO DEPLOYED WITH MINIMI FOR AFGHANISTAN: ‘British paratroops sent to Afghanistan were left without ammunition for their most powerful weapon thanks to a bureaucratic cock-up. The soldiers were deprived of the firepower from their machine guns for at least three days. The soldiers from 2 Para, who were sent as the lead elements in the International Security Assistance Force, had to patrol the streets of Kabul with sidearms. The paras are furious that the bungle left them without the use of their Minimi machine guns.’ (Sunday Express, London, 24 Feb 02)

The Paras had apparently opted to take 5.56mm Minimis to Afghanistan rather than the 7.62mm MAG-58, which was reportedly considered too ‘aggressive’, but the belted ammo - which is little used by UK forces - didn’t arrive with them. The comment about sidearms is a little pessimistic though, since patrols still had their SA80s. But the question we really should be asking is how come the wildly-hyped SA80A2 ‘improved’ Light Support Weapon has been sidelined by the Minimi?

We guess you already know the answer to that one - it’s a better weapon for the intended job, and doesn’t come with any of the confidence baggage still trailing in SA80’s wake.

Though we would not wish to use any 5.56mm machine gun for very long in the classic sustained-fire role, due to the rapid barrel wear with this calibre, the Minimi is a very good choice for the ‘machine rifle’ task, and has been used this way a lot by US forces in recent years, with above-average numbers of men in infantry patrols carrying these guns on past overseas missions.vThe British policy which is now evolving, apparently established as a result of experience in Kosovo, seems to be “give the Minimi to those who might be called upon to do some real soldiering and everyone else can have the LSW.” They are reportedly being issued on the exact same scale as the LSW, ie one per infantry fire team (two per squad).

As increasing evidence of this trend we note that the 1st Bn Royal Anglian Regiment, which is relieving 2 Para in Kabul this month has also acquired Minimis, which troops were zeroing at their Pirbright (Surrey) camp on 7 March. They are the first British line infantry to have this weapon, which hitherto had been issued only to special forces and the Paras, particularly their pathfinder platoon.

While the official reason for issuing Minimi is to compensate for the shortcomings of the magazine-fed LSW in providing ‘suppressive fire’, this is not a very convincing justification. Magazine-fed LMGs have been used for the past 60 years or more, and were never considered lacking in that department before.

More VCs have been won by British & Commonwealth troops armed with heavy, slow-firing .303” Bren Guns (with 28-round magazines) than with probably any other weapon. Rapid fire in three to five-round bursts is quite adequate for the job (anything more is ‘sustained fire’, a role for which the Falklands War demonstrated that even the 7.62mm MAG 58 is not sturdy enough).

The absence of an interchangeable barrel on the SA80 LSW is an obvious downside, but though the Minimi (like the Bren gun) is issued with a second barrel, the empirical evidence suggests that Minimi barrels are rarely changed in practice, so the ‘spare’ simply becomes an added burden for the gunner.

The irony, of course, is that a Minimi without belted ammo rapidly becomes a magazine-fed weapon just like SA80, but is usually less reliable, since using magazines tends to make the weapon over-function (the reciprocating parts cycle back and forward faster than rounds can be fed), causing feedway jams.

So, at the bottom line, all the lyrical hype about SA80A2 boils down to is - well, not a helluva lot. The shift to the Minimi for any serious work frankly says it all. Unfortunately, no-one at the UK MOD has ever had the moral fibre to admit SA80 was a lousy investment and kill the darned thing off for once and for all.

Instead, what we’ve seen over the years is gradual ‘customer creep’, as first the SAS then others opted for better alternatives, then the 7.62mm L7A1 GPMG was ‘rediscovered’ as a squad LMG in place of the grossly unreliable A1 version of LSW, and now there’s the Minimi - and an official MOD requirement to purchase a further quantity of belt-fed 5.56mm guns for operational infantry (see other news). Nuff said?

Royal Ordnance does make 5.56mm belted ammo to special order, but since Minimi ammunition is also packed in special 200-round plastic boxes to hang on the guns, we wonder whether the present stocks might not in fact be coming from abroad. Maybe we need to enquire.

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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