Industry News: February 2001
By Robert Hausman
The U.S. Supreme Court, without comment, on October 2, 2000, refused to hear an appeal by two gun manufacturers that said Congress exceeded its power to regulate interstate commerce when it outlawed certain firearms in 1994.
At issue was the 1994 federal crime law which prohibits manufacture and sale of guns it defines as “assault weapons,” and includes a list of specified firearms and “copies or duplicates of the firearms in an caliber.”
Navegar, Inc., and Penn Arms, Inc., challenged the federal ban in 1995. Florida-based Navegar, doing business as Intratec, manufactured the TEC-DC9 and TEC-22 pistols which are among the specifically banned arms. Pennsylvania-based Penn Arms made the Striker-12, a 12-gauge revolving cylinder shotgun which is treated as an “assault weapon” under the 1994 law.
A federal trial judge and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the ban. In its ruling in 1998, the appeals court called the law a permissible “regulation of activities having a substantial effect on interstate commerce.”
In other news, a rumor circulating to the effect that a group of New England- based businessman recently approached Springfield, MA-based Smith & Wesson with an offer to buy the company, was denied by S&W spokesman, Ken Jorgensen. “No such offer, to my knowledge, has been made,” Jorgensen said.
Should a purchaser buy the company, the new owner would be subject to complying with all of the terms in the S&W Agreement with the federal government, Jorgensen added. While there has been some speculation the Agreement is causing some distributors to consider dropping the S&W line, the gunmaker’s relations with all of its present distributors are still in place, Jorgensen added.
Heckler & Koch has recently upgraded its product line with the introduction of the USC .45 ACP chambered carbine. It operates on the blowback system and makes extensive use of reinforced polymer in its construction. Fitted with a sixteen- inch cold hammer forged target barrel, it feeds from a ten round polymer magazine and has a skeleton style buttstock with rubber cheek rest and recoil pad. Other features include hard points on the top and front of the receiver for attachment of optional Picatinny rails, an adjustable rear sight and an ambidextrous safety lever.
Using the standard-setting innovation for which it is renowned, Heckler & Koch has introduced a folding knife with a blade made of the new X-15 steel, hailed for its anti-corrosion and rust-resistant properties. Developed by leading French manufacturer Aubert and Duval, this highly specialized steel was previously used only in the manufacture of medical and surgical instruments.
Designed by H&K and manufactured in Solingen, Germany, by Boker, the knife’s blade is partially serrated for ease in cutting rope and webbing. The polymer handle has non-slip stippling and checkering along with a pocket clip and an inset H&K logo.
Heckler & Koch, founded in Oberndorf, Germany, in 1950, near the site of the former German royal weapons factory, gained national prominence in 1959 when the Bundeswehr (Federal Armed Forces) established H&K’s G3 assault rifle as standard issue for all German forces. In 1966, H&K gained international prominence with the design and manufacture of the MP5 submachine gun. The company is also the exclusive North American importer of Fabbrica Brecsiani Armi (FABARM) shotguns, made in Brescia, Italy.
Alpec-Team, Inc. of Livermore CA, has released the first chamberable laser bore sighter for pistols. This advanced concept allows pistols to be sighted or aligned quickly and accurately, without the need for firing. By inserting the bore sighter into the chamber and closing the bolt, the device automatically activates and emits a beam down the full length of the barrel and onto the target. The caliber specific bore sighter units are available in 9mm, .44 Rem. Mag., .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and .357/.38 Special.
A new tactical rifle is available from Magnum Research of Minneapolis, MN, chambered for .223 Remington, .22-250, .308 Winchester and .300 Win. Magnum. Designed by master gunsmith John Roundsley, it is said to be an off-the-shelf rifle that equals the quality of a custom sniper rifle. It has a 26-inch match-grade, accurized UNIDIRECTIONAL carbon fiber Magnum Lite barrel, installed to a tuned Remington 700 action mated to a custom H-S Precision tactical stock. Options such as match triggers and muzzle brakes are available. Users can expect accuracy of one-half inch MOA or better, according to the manufacturer.
Winchester Ammunition is introducing three new metric caliber loads in a value-priced white box ammo line. Developed for training and target practice, these loads should prove popular with high volume shooters. Two of the loads are handgun cartridges, and the third is a rifle cartridge. All use a full metal jacket bullet in reloadable brass cases.
The handgun rounds are a 9x18 Makarov with 95-grain bullet and a 7.62x25 Tokarev with 85-grain bullet. The 9x18 Makarov has a muzzle velocity of 1,017 fps, while the 7.62x25 Tokarev has a muzzle velocity of 1,647 fps. Both loads come packed 50 rounds to the box. The new rifle caliber is the 7.62x54R. This load features a 180-grain, full metal jacket bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2,579 fps, packed 20 rounds to the box. In the latest round of the suit by Kevin Pugh of Fulton Arms, Inc., against O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc., alleging trademark and patent infringement and other grounds regarding a user-recognition firearms safety system the two firms were working on, Mossberg’s counsel has moved to have the action dismissed on grounds of being without merit. Advanced Ordnance Corp., a Mossberg subsidiary, has reportedly developed its own gun safety system called “IGUN,” which it says does not incorporate Pugh’s patented technology.
On the military side, the U.S. Army and Marines recently conducted the last formal experiment under the Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration, designed to identify technologies that will give infantry squads and platoons an advantage in future urban combat situations. Although military experts believe urban areas will increasingly become the battlefields of tomorrow, it is a combat arena which U.S. forces traditionally have feared to tread.
The exercises, held at Fort Benning, GA, found that the newest technologies don’t always give the best advantage. Two kinds of lightweight, easily transportable ladders were indispensable in getting past the opposing force’s defenses and onto the upper floors of structures. The use of grappling hooks was deemed worthless, as the 60 pounds of equipment the soldiers were carrying on their backs made grappling impossible.
Other types of equipment found useful during the MOUT exercises were night vision gear, reconnaissance robots, hand-held radios, and the Israeli-built Rifle Launched Entry Munition which can be fired from the M-16 rifle and used to knock down doors or blow holes in walls. Items which are found to be useful, might be procured for use by the U.S. Army and Marines.
Separately, the U.S. Marines are evaluating several types of equipment, including a thermal imaging device that can be mounted on an M-16 rifle or M-4 carbine and used for day or night targeting through fog, smoke and mist. Weighing about 3 pounds, the device has a nine degree field-of-view and can detect a person at 1,000 meters or a vehicle at 1,500 meters. Also being looked at is a green-beam laser designator for marking targets in cities or under water.
Under pressure from the U.S. State Department, the Australian government is expected to institute stiffer penalties for the illegal re-export and transfer of arms. The U.S. is also pressuring Australia to adopt a company registration system for all arms exporters. Australia and the U.S. are negotiating an agreement to simplify and speed arms exports between the two countries.
Worldwide arms sales to developing countries have dipped to their lowest level-$13.2 billion- since 1991, according to recent figures. Saudi Arabia ranked first among arms customers in 1998 with $2.7 billion in purchases. The United Arab Emirates was second at $2.5 billion, and Malaysia was third with $2.1 billion.
Representatives from 18 countries recently met in Oslo, Norway, to discuss the small arms trade. Although the U.S. and the U.K. participated in the discussions, leading arms suppliers, including France, Russia and China did not attend. While much of the discussions concerned illicit arms trafficking, greater emphasis was given to controlling the legal trade. The meeting was described by one participant as a “dress rehearsal” before the United Nations 2001 conference on small arms to begin shortly.
The Commonwealth Heads of Government recently acknowledged the “destabilizing accumulation and proliferation of small arms, ammunition, and light weapons,” during a meeting in South Africa. Speaking at a symbolic destruction of weapons on the eve of the meeting, Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy said, “People can’t develop if they’re afraid...one of the reasons for fear has been the tidal wave of small arms that have swept around the world.”
Litton TASC, Inc., Reading, MA, has won a five-year, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract to support the Munitions Test Division at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The total potential value of the contract is $75 million. The Munitions Test Division is responsible for testing and evaluating smart weapon systems, such as the U.S. Army’s Brilliant Anti-Tank and Wide Area Munition programs.
The U.S. Army, Europe, 7th Army Training Center has purchased 13 indirect fire and small arms simulators in a $1,980,000 contract from Firearms Training Systems, Inc. (FATS). Options bring the total contract value to $2,500,000.
A $2.8 million first year production contract for the Joint Services Combat Shotgun has been awarded by the U.S. Army Armaments, Research, Development and Engineering Center to Heckler & Koch, Inc. and its teaming partner and subcontractor, Benelli Armi, S.p.A.
Designated as the M1014 Combat Shotgun, it is a 12 gauge, semi-auto using a new auto-regulating, gas-operating system with rotating bolt and dual locking lugs. Procurement is for all armed services, including the U.S. Coast Guard and Special Operations Command.
The New Jersey State Police have picked the new Smith & Wesson Model 99 in 9mm, as their new sidearm. Some 3,200 handguns will be purchased at a cost of $1.3 million. The S&W 99 will replace the H&K P7M8 handgun used since 1983.
The Sacramento, CA, Police Department is issuing the new ADVANCED TASER M26, making it one of the largest agencies to have the unit in general use. The handgun-shaped device fires two dart-tipped wires up to 21-feet delivering a powerful, but usually less-than-lethal electric shock.
In an effort to cut down on the fraudulent use of altered Federal Firearms Licenses, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms has launched “FFL eZ Check,” an on-line FFL authentication service. The new tool allows licensees to verify the status of those whom they intend to do business with.
While current regulations still require licensees to obtain a signed-in-ink copy of an FFL before guns can be shipped, the advent of computer imaging and scanning technologies have made it increasingly easy to create fake copies of Federal Firearms Licenses.
FFL eZ Check is accessed via the Internet at www.atf.treas.gov. One then enters the first three and last five digits of the license number. If it is valid, the license number, expiration date, licensee name and address will appear. If not, a “problem report” link appears. ATF is proposing making the license authentication process mandatory.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will be conducting a trial run of a secure e-mail system for performing NICS checks of gun buyers early in 2001. The system will allow retailers to contact NICS directly, instead of going through the call center staffed by live operators. Intended primarily as a cost-cutting move, if deemed workable, the agency may eventually phase out the live operators employed by a contractor.
The FBI says the new system will result in only about 9% of inquiries going into “delayed” status, instead of the present 28-30%. The FBI also feels the “name check” method currently employed is flawed, and would like to see the law changed to allow for mandatory fingerprint checks of potential gun buyers. This reportedly would result in no delays. But, it would also “scare off” gun buyers and be the basis of a national gun registration system.
Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, may be reconsidering gun sales in response to pressure from anti-gun activists. The chain announced its new store on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in Tampa, FL, won’t display or stock firearms. The retailer is tracking the opinions of callers to its customer service relations department.
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