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Small Arms Data by Wire (SADW): February 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.

Issue No 54 - November 2001
An Electronic Publication from:
Tel : 01273-773362,
International +44-1273-773362
Fax: 01273-822078,
International +44-1273-822078

UK PRESS HAIL 22 SAS ‘WUNDERWAFFEN’: British newspapers went bonkers in October about the new ‘ultimate weapon’ carried by SAS troopers, but readers will be disappointed to learn that all they’d seen were the Regiment’s Diemaco C-series rifles with optical sights, laser aiming pointers and 40mm M203 grenade launchers, which have replaced their older M16s. However, the price quoted per system was indeed quite exciting - £5,500, which - if correct - strikes us as pretty darned expensive.

McBROS HAS NEW US NAVY .50 EVALUATION CONTRACT: the McBros .50 semi-automatic rifle (designed by Ralf Dieckmann), an initial run of about five of which is now to be produced, has also attracted the eye of the US Navy procurement boys at Crane, who are to receive a sample for evaluation early in 2002. The design is much as per our earlier coverage in SADW, but for the Navy gun McBros will be switching to stainless steel for many of the components and making every effort to reduce the weight.

The Navy is believed to be looking for as compact and light a design as possible, and while the McBros rifle could technically, its claimed, be bullpupped without any major changes to the operating mechanism, this would inevitably delay things, so the weapon the Navy is to test will, in the first instance, be conventionally configured.

BERETTA VERTEC PISTOL: the following is the 27 Oct 2001 press release issued by Beretta USA Inc on its Vertec pistol launch:

‘The Vertec (which was called the “Evolution” internally during development) began at a Beretta Law Enforcement division meeting late in 2000. At that time, an unofficial committee was formed to produce the specifications for a new version of the Beretta 90-series pistol which would address the evolving needs of American law enforcement and military personnel. The group determined that certain features of the now famous Beretta Elite-series pistols, along with innovative new changes to the existing design, would best meet those needs without a significant change in manufacturing cost (and thus price).

The group identified two specific areas which needed to be addressed as priorities:

Trigger reach. With the increasing number of small-handed police officers, military personnel, and private firearms enthusiasts, the long trigger reach on the Beretta pistol was seen as a hindrance. In response, Beretta’s Production department created a prototype pistol with a completely straight (“vertical”) backstrap. With the addition of a short-reach trigger and innovative grip, this prototype pistol was tested by people of all hand sizes. Experienced Beretta shooters such as Ernest Langdon and Todd Louis Green tested the modified backstrap to guarantee that the natural pointing characteristics of the pistol would not be affected adversely.

Accessory rail. A common request of both law enforcement and military operators, the Beretta Vertec uses a newly engineered frame design complete with integral accessory rails. These allow the user to attach a wide variety of popular white-, IR-, and laser-light modules to the gun. Rather than create a new proprietary mounting system, the Beretta Vertec uses the same rail dimensions as the popular “Glock” handguns and is therefore compatible with the same flashlight and laser attachments from such companies as SureFire and Insight Technology.

In addition to these two major modifications, the Beretta Vertec also offers these features:

Removable front sight. Using the standard 90-series slide, Beretta USA has redesigned the front sight area to allow a drift-adjustable, removable front sight. This will allow end users to replace the factory configuration sight with any number of tritium “night sights” and other specialty devices.

Flush-fitting stainless barrel. Decreasing the overall length of the pistol and providing a cleaner look, the Vertec follows the tradition of the Elite-series pistols by using a 4.7” flush-fitting stainless steel barrel. Standard Vertec pistols will come with a black (Bruniton coated) stainless barrel, while Inox versions of the pistol will of course be produced without the black coating.

Beveled magazine well. First seen on the Beretta Elite, this feature will now be standard for all Vertec pistols. The beveled magazine well allows operators to perform faster, smoother reloads under stress.

No lanyard loop. The standard Vertec pistol will not have a lanyard loop. However, special limited runs of the pistol may be produced with lanyard loops to accommodate specific mission profiles of military and law enforcement units.

Dual-textured thin polymer grips. Designed by a team of experienced pistol shooters, the innovative new grip panels on the Beretta Vertec have two different style gripping surfaces. Checkered at maximum friction points and pebbled exactly in those places where you need some freedom of movement, this revolutionary design improves both controllability and comfort.

The 92FS and 96F versions of the Vertec are expected to be available within 30-60 days (as well as ‘D’ and ‘G’ configuration pistols for law enforcement and military customers). Inox versions will follow in 2002. Pricing has not been set as of yet, but is not expected to be considerably greater than current 92FS and 96F base model pistols.’

BARRETT .50 DEVELOPMENTS: Barrett says that last year the USMC turned in all its .50 M82A1A semi-automatic rifles, which date back to Desert Storm, in exchange for the Barrett M82A3, which is an update of the M82A1A with high, full-length Picatinny scope rail, a redesigned buttstock affording a better grip to the left hand, spiked bipod feet, a detachable muzzle brake and a butt-spike, which is useful for keeping the weapon roughly aligned between engagements, while allowing the user to do other things such as topping up his magazines.

The A3 rifle is several pounds heavier, mainly due to the long rail, but the Marines are evidently quite happy with this, since it allows them a wider range of sighting options.

Readers will also remember that the US army has still to finalise its main .50 rifle procurement, which - we recall - was planned to be on a scale of one per 7.62mm M24 SWS. This XM107 project initially focussed on Barrett’s M95M, a militarised version of the company’s bolt-action M95 bullpup, but after experimenting with this model for some time, the army decided that - while they liked the modest weight and handiness of the bullpup, as well as its accuracy, it did not offer the repeat-shot capability the military needed - in particular the recoil meant the shooter would not be able to stay on target while manipulating the bolt.

Feedback from specialist army units had shown that, due to battlefield variables and the long ranges involved, first round hits might often not be possible, and they needed the ability to make quick adjustments to the aim and to get second or third shots off as quickly as possible. Furthermore, they wanted to take advantage of the dynamic terminal effects of .50 ammunition by using a weapon which could rapidly place multiple rounds on target. A semi-automatic was thus the only real choice.

With all these points in mind, the army has now decided, instead of the M95M, to take the Barrett M82A1M self-loader, which has a long Picatinny scope rail like the USMC’s M82A3, but not as high, plus the other modifications adopted by the Marines (see above), but is a good deal lighter. The army procurement is proceeding, and after adoption Barrett will remain ready to respond to any additional product improvement requests, which could include further weight reduction, though one has to say there are limits to how far one can take this with a cartridge as powerful as the .50 Browning.

However, as we’ve said before in these pages, though the big .50 rifles may seem rather heavy to cart around all day by comparison with the pipsqueak M16A2, in fact they’re no heavier than a typical 7.62mm GPMG with basic ammunition load, which is considered a one-man carry in every army of the world, including the US.

It could be that troops today are simply getting weedier - the Israelis already ditched the MAG-58 for foot patrols in favour of the 5.56mm Negev, though if you stick to our personal rule of thumb, the more pain involved in humping the thing, the more grief you’ll most likely be able to inflict on the target when you finally pull that trigger. There’s no such thing as a free lunch - you can pepper that strongpoint all day with 5.56mm and merely frighten the pigeons, but go up a calibre or two and you’ll really start to see the chips fly.


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