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Small Arms Data by Wire (SADW): June 2002

By Nick Steadman

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.

NEW-BUILD ‘ENFIELD NO 4’ ACTION RIFLES FROM AUSTRALIA: AIA Corporation in Brisbane (Australia) is making milled new-build Enfield No 4-pattern commercial rifle receivers able to accept a range of calibres (7.62mm NATO, 5.56mm and 7.62x39mm) and magazines, including (as appropriate) M14, M16 and Kalashnikov types, all modified (for the US market only) to hold no more than ten rounds. Calibre changes are effected by replacing the bolt-head, which (unlike the military bolt) has a recessed face & integral ejector. There are some other design differences in the commercial receiver; for example there is an AK-style magazine release and scopes will be easier to mount, since receivers are ready-tapped to accept an optional Picatinny rail. The AIA actions have been incorporated into a range of new-build No 4-based rifles which may ultimately range from No 5 Jungle Carbines to L42A1 sniper rifle lookalikes. No multi-calibre kits will be offered, however.

Barrels are attached using a locking ring system similar to that employed by Savage, and both bores and chambers are chrome-lined. Stocks, which are made in SE Asia, come in premium teak as standard, with walnut a special-order option. Iron sights comprise a twin-aperture (100 & 300 metre) rearsight and fully-adjustable front post within a new type of sight protector.

Likely Australian prices as at August 2001, when we first became aware of the project on a visit to Brisbane but were asked to sit on it for a while, ranged from around A$800 for a carbine, presumably more for other versions (we have no idea what the 2002 US prices will be). Back then fifty pre-production rifles were just about due for testing; 7.62x39mm prototypes were spot ted back in early Nov 2001.

At the 2002 SHOT Show, five models and all the three calibres mentioned above were being promoted, with a variety of stockwork styles, including No 5, No 8, No 4 and sporter configurations, and barrel lengths from 16.1” (short carbine) to 25.2” (the No 4 lookalike), some with flash hiders.

There is still a great deal of affection for the No 4 Enfield in the UK and the English-speaking Commonwealth countries, so we imagine this project could attract quite a lot of interest. We’re sure there will also be quite a few collectors in the US who will be falling over themselves to get one, though only the military-look clones will attract the real purists.

Australian contact tel (+61)7-3366-5172, fax 7661, e-mail: Point of Contact: Mr Evan Ham, AIA MD. US agent is Tristar Sporting Arms Ltd, Tel (816) 421-1400, Fax 421-4182.

FURTHER FNMI M240B MACHINE GUN ORDER: ‘FN Manufacturing Inc., of Columbia, S.C., was awarded a delivery order amount of $19,365,000 as part of a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery-indefinite-quantity contract for 2,582 M240B Machine Guns. Work will be performed in Columbia, S.C., and is expected to be completed by Feb. 28, 2004. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Bids were solicited on the World-Wide Web on March 8, 2001, and two bids were received. The Tank and Automotive Command, Rock Island, Ill., is the contracting activity (DAAE20-01-D-0065)’ (US DoD contracts, 5 Feb 02).

The M240B is the latest bipod-mounted American-built version of the US army’s M240 (FN MAG-58), with a new heat-shielded handguard covering the barrel between the carrying handle and just shy of the gas block, making it a bit more like the late-model M60 (which it replaces), plus an optical sight rail on the feed cover. It’s claimed to have a ‘mean rounds between failure’ rate of 26,000 rounds.......but not, we assume, in continuous fire!

FRENCH EXPERIENCE A CLUE TO GULF SYNDROME?: ‘French forces who served in the Gulf war were not given the vaccines and anti-biological warfare measures administered to UK and US veterans and are free from the illnesses that beset their allies, the US Congress has been told.....The French were issued with protective suits and not given the cocktail of drugs that British and US servicemen took. Only 140 of the 25,000 French Gulf veterans have reported illnesses related to Gulf war service, compared with more than 5,000 of the 52,000 British troops deployed, and 137,862 of the 697,000 US service personnel. The French also made no use of organophosphorous pesticides.....and used bottled water, unlike US and UK forces.’ (Guardian, UK, 12 Feb 02)

SEMTEX NATIONALISED: Time magazine (4 Feb 02) noted that Explosia, the aptly-named Czech firm that makes Semtex (the terrorists’ favourite plastic, responsible, inter alia, for the Lockerbie blast) and other explosives, was to be taken into state ownership in mid-2002 by the Czech government, which considers it needs to control production of these strategic materials (see footnote below).

Explosia’s owners Aliachem are apparently quite happy with the idea, and they should be - the sale price is said to be one Czech crown (three US cents), plus a whopping $19.4 million to restructure Explosia’s debt. Some deal, huh? By the way, some readers may know Explosia better by its previous monniker of Synthesia. Czech reloading propellants from Synthesia have in the past been sold on the US sporting market, for example by Scot Powders.

(footnote: a Telegraph (UK) story on 8 Feb 2002 said a leaked Czech intelligence report claimed that Czech troops & counter-terrorist police had been stealing Semtex and detonators from army depots for sale to gangsters, and that at least 260 pounds of the stuff was missing, though possibly much more)

KABUL FIREARMS BLITZ: ‘Afghan police Tuesday launched a wide security sweep of the capital, seizing illegal weapons and ordering drivers to remove tinted film from vehicle windows. Authorities set up road blocks throughout Kabul, searching vehicles for guns and other weapons and bringing traffic to a standstill in some parts. A statement broadcast by Afghan Radio said all firearm owners had to declare their weapons and get permission to carry them.’ (Reuters, Kabul, via New York Times, 29 Jan 02).

Ermm.....this is really goin’ to work. Anyway, what’s an ‘illegal weapon’, in the Afghan context? Probably an unloaded one. Anyway, no Afghan male worth his salt is ever going to ask anyone for permission to go armed. Mr Karzai needs to get out more.

1689 - LEST WE FORGET: by way of reminder, the following selected clauses are taken from the statement of principles known as the 1689 English Bill of Rights, which has never been repealed:-

- That the subjects which are protestants, may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions, and as allowed by law.

- That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed; nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

- That jurors ought to be duly impanelled and returned, and jurors which pass upon men in trials of high treason ought to be freeholders.

- That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction, are illegal and void.

US POSSE COMITATUS ACT (1878): ‘Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.’

This law is a general prohibition which prevents all the US regular armed forces (except reservists and (in peacetime) the US Coast Guard) participating in domestic law enforcement within US boundaries.

It does not affect the National Guard when operating under the control of state governors (eg for disaster relief), but it does apply to Guardsmen if they’re under federal control - which raises some interesting questions about the use of the National Guard in anything but a decorative role at US airports, eg who are they actually working for?


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