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Small Arms Data by Wire (SADW): February 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.

SA80 UPGRADE TO BE DONE IN GERMANY, PERIOD: a Financial Mail on Sunday report in early Nov 2000 confirmed that, despite an MOD-requested review by BAe Systems of the decision to place the 5.56mm SA80 upgrade contract with Heckler & Koch in Oberndorf, as opposed to the Royal Ordnance/H&K (UK) small arms facility at Nottingham, there would be no change in the arrangements already agreed The award of this £83m deal to Oberndorf leaves little prospect of Nottingham being saved - in fact BAe has already announced it is scheduled to close by the end of 2001. However, staff unions have suggested the reason behind the choice of Oberndorf - which BAe wants to sell, together with all the rest of its small arms activities - was to make it a more juicy prospect for potential buyers. Some 200,000 SA80 weapons are planned to be upgraded.

MOUSE-BALL AMMUNITION LAUNCHERS: two types of IMI launcher appear to be in common use among Israeli forces for firing the controversial rubber-coated steel ball (aka mouse ball) ammunition used for riot control over there. One is a large diameter canister placed on the muzzle, dispensing a multiple-ball payload, the other (which is more often seen) is a narrow-diameter tube which (if TV footage is any guide) appears to be loaded manually with one ball at a time, with a blank used for launching. The version the US forces want to procure as part of their new ‘non-lethal’ armoury is the multi-ball canister device, somewhat ironic since - in the lethality stakes - multiple projectiles are always dicier, as there’s little control over their dispersion once they leave the launcher.

NZ TROOPS COMPLAIN ABOUT AUG QUIRKS: a report from the New Zealand Press Association in early Oct 2000 said that several of the 5.56mm AUG rifles (which are made in Australia) carried by New Zealand troops in East Timor had ‘jammed’ during a fatal ambush over there. Apparently the rifles failed to recycle and had to be manually recocked after the attached M203 grenade launchers were fired. This fault is allegedly known to the NZ army, according to troops calling themselves ‘Concerned Soldiers of East Timor’. They’re also said to dislike the M203 fit on the AUG, claiming it’s too cumbersome, though frankly this also applies to the 40mm launcher when installed on conventionally-configured rifles, making them extremely muzzle-heavy, which is why we favour a dedicated multi-shot launcher rather than a dual-purpose weapon. Technically-speaking, on an AUG the M203 actually ought to help counteract the typical butt-heavy characteristics of all 5.56mm bullpups.

50 PEACEKEEPER CARTRIDGE FROM SSK INDUSTRIES: the irrepressible JD Jones (‘JD’), proprietor of SSK Industries in Ohio, has introduced the 50 Peacekeeper cartridge, a military/police spinoff from his earlier work on .50 Whisper wildcats of various lengths firing .50 BMG bullets from .460 Weatherby, .50 Action Express and other cases (see previous issues). From a 23” barrel, JD says the Peacekeeper will deliver 88% of the velocity of the .50 Browning cartridge, but using only half the powder, and can form the basis of an extremely accurate 13 to 14-pound long-range rifle system. The new cartridge can utilise any projectile suitable for the .50 Browning round or any .50 (.510 diameter) softpoint bullet intended for a .50 calibre hunting cartridge.

With peak-efficiency muzzle brakes and other measures, felt recoil is said to be substantially less than that of many 30-pound .50 Browning rifles. The new Ed Brown single shot bolt action is one of JD’s preferred hosts for the Peacekeeper round, coupled with any of a wide variety of stocks. Other recommended actions include the Ruger M-77 Magnum or any Weatherby action originally chambered for the .378 or .460 cartridges. JD confirms that the Peacekeeper case is essentially just another full-length .460 Weatherby Magnum blown out to .50, but having first started out using a .510 Wells chamber reamer, he has since developed his own chamber configuration.

Using a 650gr military API bullet at 2,400 fps from a 23” barrel JD says the Peacekeeper will shoot to the limits of the projectile. He uses a different barrel twist (no, he ain’t saying!) from the .50 BMG standard and says that when firing the 750gr Hornady AMAC bullet you can depend on 0.75 minutes of angle.

From a practical standpoint, JD says, the Peacekeeper will do anything the .50 Browning can do with the same bullet. Using the 750gr Hornady projectile the MV drops to about 2,250 fps, and it is, JD says, comfortable to shoot, and about the same as the .415 Remington in a sporter.

JD has already demonstrated the Peacekeeper to the NDIA and at the US army’s Ft Bragg special forces base, where as many as 50 troops tried it and were reportedly very impressed. It can be fired offhand, JD says, by any reasonably strong operator, and muzzle brakes work well with the short barrels.

Preferred powders so far appear to be 4895, Reloder 15 and AA2520, however JD warns that loads listed in other companies’ manuals for similar cartridges can produce vastly excessive pressures in rifles chambered for the Peacekeeper - so be sure to consult SSK on loading. JD also suggests the Ruger No 1 action should be avoided with this cartridge.

JD has also been experimenting with some specialised bullets for the Peacekeeper, some of which, he says, have even out-penetrated the .50 SLAP round in mild steel. Those interested in special military & police .50-calibre applications should contact SSK with their requirements.

Formed .50 Peacekeeper cartridge cases, bullets, reloading dies and loaded ammunition are all available from: SSK Industries, 590 Woodvue Lane, Wintersville OH 43953, USA. (740-264-0176).

COVERT WEAPONS RECOVERED IN NETHERLANDS:The Times & others reported in late Oct 2000 that police in Holland had recovered a quantity of unusual covert weapons from addresses in Amsterdam and surrounding towns; they had mostly originated from Yugoslavia. They included 8 four-shot .22-calibre handguns disguised as cellphones, with a firing button on the keypad for each cartridge. In addition there were 29 single-shot key ring guns said to resemble black Zippos, which at first hearing sound rather like the Bulgarian Osa gas pistols (see previous issues), though the Osa has two barrels.

Police arrested two Yugoslavs, two Croats and a Turk in connection with the weapon haul, but apparently had no firm clues as to whom the eventual recipients were intended to be. In addition to 28 of the key-ring guns, the Times said officers recovered 26 pounds of explosives, a machine gun, two handguns, 20 hand grenades and 2,000 rounds of ammunition from one address, along with 19 pounds of heroin, forged Dutch currency and blank IDs.

Absent any more precise details of the key-ring guns, we can’t comment on their likely practicality, though the cellphone weapons certainly sound viable and would present a major security threat if they ever appeared on the market in any volume. Think, for example, of the millions of phones passed through airport checks every day, and the numbers also carried by kids. Hirtherto, the most alarming aviation security threat to emerge on the special weapons front was the gun camera, a thousand of which were said to have been ordered some years ago by Libya - and to be the reason for El Al’s yen for minutely inspecting all their passengers’ photographic kit.

THERMOLD MAGAZINES IN COLOMBIA: an AFP photo run by The Observer in the UK showed a heavily-armed drug enforcement policeman on patrol in the Colombian coca fields carrying an M203-equipped M16A2 with what appeared to be a plastic Thermold 30-round magazine and a top-carry sling. Both he and another cop in the background appeared to be carrying M72 rocket launchers across their backs. And both were also wearing US-style Fritz kevlar helmets. Whatever others may be saying, the locals obviously believe there’s a full-scale war on out there; why else would they need the 40mm grenade-launchers and M72s? We can also conclude from this pictorial evidence that the US is almost entirely equipping the Colombians nowadays.


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