Small Arms Data by Wire (SADW): July 2001
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. Each issue is full of insight and information for those with an interest in Small Arms, as well as his observations on world travel.
NTW RIFLES SOLD TO INDIA: South African sources tell us that Mechem sold 100 of its 20x82mm NTW-20 anti-materiel rifles (the Tony Neophytou design) to India, complete with 14.5mm conversion kits, but that there were reportedly some problems with the bolts when firing 14.5mm ammunition, requiring rectification back in South Africa. All is apparently now well. Due to further defence industry reorganisation, the NTW meanwhile became the responsibility of Denel, whose LIW division also hopes to sell its well-known 155mm G6 artillery systems to India.
MCBROS JANUARY 2001 PHOENIX VISIT REPORT: when we visited McBros again in Phoenix after the 2001 SHOT Show we found the company had been extremely busy since Jan 2000 finalising its new Tubb 2000 target rifle, developed in co-operation with leading match shooter David Tubb, which was shortly to go on sale. This weapon (see previous issues), which is a bolt-action design inspired by the Knight’s Armament SR-25, and uses that rifle’s ten or 20-round magazines, is - as far as we can figure - the first really ‘high-tech’ target centrefire to emerge so far in the USA. It’s the kind of thing one’s more used to seeing from German .22 match rifle designers.
Whilst there are, we’re told, probably only about 200 serious top-league High-Power rifle competitors in the US, it’s expected that the biggest market for the Tubb 2000 will possibly be American gun enthusiasts who like the ‘techie’ look and advanced features.
However, law enforcement and the military will probably also be a fertile market; SOCOM (we assume Navy SEALs) already want several for testing, in a special configuration which includes the Knight Rail Interface System (RIS), shortened barrels (with maybe 1:14” twist) and muzzle suppressors, capable of being taken down (just remove the barrel) and carried in compact containers. The basic rifle is a 12-pound, pistol grip design with stainless receiver, tubular slotted handguard, free-floating 25” stainless Schneider match barrel, conventional turnbolt, Anschutz adjustable two-stage match trigger, pistol grip and skeletonised, fully-adjustable buttstock. A bipod can be attached to the handguard, and iron sights or scopes are mounted on a Picatinny rail. Barrels are readily removable using an action wrench, and customers can, if desired, simply buy a basic rifle plus alternative barrels in different calibres to obtain a complete family system.
Aluminium parts, which include not only the handguard but the magazine housing, trigger guard and buttstock assembly, can also be supplied anodized in a choice of colours: black, red, green, blue, turquoise, violet or bronze. Target shooters, especially the youngsters, tend to like this kind of thing. Personally, we can tolerate any colour on a firearm, provided it’s black. There’s even a cant indicator available for those who insist on tilting their weapons to shoot, and the sight mount itself can also be offset at five or ten degrees from the vertical, though when we learnt to handle our first .303”, back in the late 1950s, that would have earnt you a sharp cuss and an even sharper rap over the knuckles from the nearest NCO.
Likewise we’re leary of all those cute Estonian, Clodsockian or Slobbovian cocked-leg prone positions which are so popular nowadays. We guess we’re just backdated, which explains why we’ve never been remotely considered for the Olympic team!
Both competition and tactical versions of the Tubb 2000 are offered, the former with a single-round magazine cutoff to comply with NRA High-Power Rifle rules. A left-hander’s version is to follow. Recommended retail price (according to calibre) runs from $2,650 (.308 tactical version) to $2,950 (competition models). Spare barrels (complete with wrench) are $475.
Apart from .308, calibre options include .243, .260 Rem, 6mmX (a shortened .243) and 7mm-08; last year McBros also mentioned 6.5mm/.284, 7mm International and 6.5mm/.308.
There’s also interest in the Tubb rifle chambered for Winchester’s new .300 WSM short magnum cartridge, and McBros is now developing a version of the same weapon in .338 Lapua Magnum; this will require a new receiver and magazine. The US military had previously expressed interest in the relatively recent McBros bolt-action .338 Lapua Magnum weapons, but the basic military preference is still for detachable magazines, as provided on the Tubb rifle. Ammunition supply for the .338 is continuously improving; Black Hills is now making this calibre in the US, using 300gr Sierra Match bullets, and Federal is thought to be looking at offering its own .338 Lapua Mag loading in its Gold Medal line.
McBros also advised that Lapua itself is now offering four types of .338 - both tracer & (we believe) blank, in addition to the ball & AP loadings we tested in Finland some while ago.
Just like Robar, McBros has also seen demand for its .50 weapons increase substantially since Jan 2000, with production of .50 receivers more than doubled to around 500. And the company has sold a lot of .50 actions and barrels to the US navy for production of their own M88 rifles - the same US Navy-style .50 stock with detachable butt was also sold to UK special forces. However, this .50 workload, plus the Tubb developments, has meant that nothing more has yet been done with the interesting McBros .50/20mm Fat Mac system (Oops! Last year we see we called it the Big Mac!), based on a cut-down 20mm Vulcan cartridge necked down to .50.
The titanium rifle actions we saw earlier at McBros have not been very heavily promoted in the intervening year, but have nevertheless become a steady business.
7.62mm Minigun parts production for Dillon has also increased considerably in the past year, and if the rumoured DoD Minigun replacement programme were to proceed, this could be a very substantial bonus to both Dillon and McBros. We again spoke both to designer Ralf Dieckmann and Rock McMillan about the .50 semi-auto rifle Dieckmann has been developing for McBros over the past few years. At the time, some 75% of the production drawings had been completed, with the rest due by Spring this year, and it was hoped to build the production guns later in 2001.
The new trigger mechanism adopted last year has been successfully tested, and the prototype is said to shoot inside a minute at 1,000 yards, but it is still on the hefty side at 35 pounds; the target is to get this down to around 28 pounds. One lingering concern at McBros is a perceived need to find a muzzle brake design which will permit .50 SLAP ammunition to be fired without disruption of sabot separation at the muzzle. Clearly such a beast must exist, since SLAP has been used with other .50 rifles, though another possibility is that McBros could simply poach the buttstock buffering system it’s already used in the Tubb rifle, which features an elastomer cylinder in place of a buffer spring, and dispense with a muzzle brake altogether.
On the other hand, we hear very little about the military use of .50 SLAP; all the reports we’ve seen suggest that .50 MP is almost always preferred, because of the visual impact signature, absent when SLAP (which has only a small .30 calibre tungsten penetrator and no explosive charge) is fired. Pricewise, the goal for the .50 semi-automatic is around $5,000.
We should also mention that McBros is now located in an entirely new, modern facility north of Deer Valley Airport, on the extreme northern edge of Phoenix. A walk around the plant revealed (in addition to the EDM machines McBros uses to make its rifle receivers) virtually 100% CNC equipment. The quality of fit and finish obtainable with all this automated equipment is mighty impressive. We examined some barrels with what - at first glance - appeared to be integral multi-ported muzzle brakes, wondering how on earth they’d managed such a trick. However, despite absolutely no evidence of a join, the brakes actually turned out to be screwed on. The only other time we’ve ever seen fitting work like that was years ago on the old Mauser 66 assembly line in Oberndorf. http://www.mcmfamily.com, e-mail: email@example.com
SHOULDER-STOCKED ‘SMITH & WESSON’: Kettners in Germany are advertising a Smith & Wesson CO2 ‘revolver rifle’ comprising a pellet-firing Model 586 revolver clone equipped with a shoulder-stock, which appears to have an adjustable buttpad and cheekpiece. We wonder if they also do this accessory for the real thing? Just the trick for those of us reluctantly shuffling beyond our Jesse James heyday.
IWA 2001 HEADS-UP: our sources on the floor at the IWA firearms expo in Nuremberg this year report that among the highlights were a clip-on shoulder stock for Glock pistols, new penetrator shotgun slugs from FIER in France, a Blaser-like Zastava straight-pull rifle, a TWM Smart Gun based on the Walther P99 pistol, a Kepplinger .338 Lapua Mag sniper rifle from Austria and a new semi-caseless ammunition concept from Voere, another Austrian exhibitor. The Glock shoulder stock reportedly hails from Wilhelm Bubits, who also developed a similar stock for Steyr’s new M-series pistols (which he designed), complete with internal compartments for two spare magazines in the butt. No tools are required for fitting. Our sources suggest the Glock 18 machine-pistol might logically be an early candidate for Bubits’ new stock, and we wholeheartedly agree! (Dan’s Note: Denny’s Guns is the US Distributor of this new Glock Stock. Contact at (816) 221-9117 ext 11)
Voere’s semi-caseless cartridges reportedly utilise a brass stub case and conventional primer for improved obturation, like the short cases seen on combustible 120mm tank gun charges.
However, we really don’t know why Voere is bothering, since semi-caseless systems permit none of the design advantages possible from dispensing with the case entirely, and they still require one to retain conventional feed and extraction mechanisms. There’s some saving in metal cost for the cartridge cases, but not a lot.
Voere’s earlier all-caseless .223 sporting rifles, though stylish, do not appear to have gone very far beyond the curiosity market, and we’re not convinced the future of a semi-caseless solution is any more rosy.
Remington’s pricey electronic sporters with their electrically-primed (but otherwise conventional) cartridges are about the biggest leap of faith the market might reasonably accept just now, and even this is still a major gamble. Unless new types of ammunition are available just about everywhere, they’re unlikely to catch on. Though Remington is now to supply electric primers for reloaders, the same reasoning applies, and anyway, not all hunters reload - and match shooters may not be allowed to.
LARGE-CALIBRE RIFLE SPOTTED WITH MACEDONIAN FORCES: a photo run by the Financial Times on 23 Mar 01 showed two alleged members of the Macedonian ‘police special forces’ in Tetovo, one taking aim with a large-calibre scoped rifle of a type we can’t recall seeing before. It looks like a .50, but could equally be an east-bloc 12.7mm. Styling is modern, with a magazine of probably five rounds and a bipod suspended centrally from the top of the relatively short handguard. The muzzle brake is a flat, ‘hammerhead’ design. It’s almost certainly a bolt-action weapon, but the bolt handle was not visible due to the angle of the photograph. It’s reminiscent of the PGM Hecate II, but definitely isn’t that French rifle. Another photo in the same timescale showed ‘Macedonian’ troops in Fritz-style helmets, but since these were identical to those seen earlier on Serb troops (see other news) we suspect the captioning was incorrect. Furthermore, the helmets worn by the Macedonian police with the large-calibre rifle were quite different. Big rifles are popping up everywhere nowadays - the other night we spotted footage of Russian troops in WW2 (at Stalingrad, we recall) rapid-firing with a 14.5mm PTRS semi-auto rifle, which must have been quite an experience for the shooter, if not the recipient, undoubtedly qualifying his shoulder as a potential Hero of the Soviet Union.
WORLD OF BERETTA AT THE NRA: if you want to see some classic guns from the 475-year history of Beretta, get on up to the NRA of America’s National Firearms Museum in Virginia, where 100 or so key weapons and other items from Beretta’s factory collection are now on display till the end of the year in a special new exhibit. There’s no admission charge. (National Rifle Association, 11250 Waples Mill Rd, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA, http://www.nra.org/)
HODGDON 2001 RELOADING MANUAL IS ONLINE: save yourself the cost of a stamp and view Hodgdon Powder Co’s 2001 Basic Reloaders Manual on the Web at http://www.hodgdon.com/. The 74-page manual (paper copies free on request) includes new data for the .338 Remington Ultra, .338-378 Weatherby, .450 Marlin, .376 Steyr (thank goodness!) plus reloading tables for Longshot and Titegroup powders.
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