Small Arms Data by Wire (SADW): August 2000

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.

UK DEFENCE SECRETARY ON SA80 MODIFICATION OR REPLACEMENT: the following are extracts of a recent letter (paragraphs re-set, our underscoring) sent by the UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, to the moderator of the Cybershooters mailing list:

‘We commissioned the Design Authority for the weapon to assess its reliability and to design potential modifications. These modifications have been the subject of extensive trials carried out in Alaska and Kuwait to replicate the extreme conditions in which UK forces might be called on to operate.

The trials demonstrated that we can achieve significant improvements in the reliability of the SA80. The proposed modification package represents a whole system approach to improving the reliability while maintaining the weapon system’s overall effectiveness. They include modifications to the gas plug, a redesigned bolt, a new magazine, a modified firing pin, stiffer recoil and piston rod springs, a replacement hammer, a redesigned extraction and ejection system, a redesigned cocking handle and, for the Light Support Weapon, a replacement barrel.

We are currently assessing the wider implications of the trials report and a number of key issues are being considered. One of these is the cost of modifying the existing weapon and whether it is more cost effective to procure a new weapon such as the C7 or G36 rifles.’

Note the large number of modified components which would be required if the SA80 (particularly the LSW version) was retained and upgraded - it’d be virtually a new weapon. We can’t believe this option would be remotely ‘cost-effective’, and we’d be simply amazed if at least a partial replacement was not now ordered.

ARMSCOR (PHILIPPINES) NEWS: for 2000, Armscor in the Philippines is offering a new ‘heavily-customised’ .45 ACP M1911 pistol variant for IPSC competition. It has also increased its production volume on ammunition, which in the past was mostly taken up by domestic demand, and now aims to meet US requirements from its Las Vegas location. Armscor is also getting more into IPSC and home defence ammunition. Amongst its military ammunition lines, Armscor produces petal-crimp blanks in both 5.56mm and 9x19mm. The 9mm loading is the full length of a ball cartridge, the 5.56mm blank rather shorter than the full-length pointed versions favoured by the UK forces. Armscor also offers .22 rimfire (Short & LR), .22 WMR, .30 US Carbine, 9x19mm, .32 Auto, .380 Auto, .38 Super, .38 Spl, .357 Mag, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, 5.56mm M193, 20g BB and 12g (No 4 to No 8 shot plus 00 Buckshot). All the centrefire metallic loadings are FMJ (ball) except .357, which is available in JHP and JSP versions. E-mail: armscor@info.com.ph

.20 COIL GUN CONCEPT: in an issue of National Defense at the end of 1999, Larry Schamber, an engineer at Allinson Transmission, a division of General Motors in Indianapolis, wrote that he had developed a computer concept for an electro-magnetic coil gun firing a 23.14gr stainless steel projectile at up to 6,673 fps, delivering an ME of 3,030 Joules. The bullet is 0.2” in diameter and 1” long, and is intended to be fired in a 6” barrel. He added that the only recoil forces result directly from the bullet’s functioning. Though he considers making this into a viable hand-held weapon would be difficult, he nevertheless believes it is feasible.

EOD EQUIPMENT REQUIRED BY UK MOD: the UK MOD is seeking expressions of interest by 31 Aug 2000 in contracts to produce unspecified EOD equipment (quantity ‘a few hundreds’), which it says will be ‘manufactured from plastics and will incorporate explosives’ (go figure!). It will be a ‘build to print’ deal. UK MOD Contact Tel (0117) 913-1628, Fax 1940.

SUSAT - NEW APPLICATIONS: the 4x SUSAT scope issued for front-line SA80s in the UK forces has apparently found a new niche. A photo run by Navy News showed Royal Marines from 42 Commando RM practising with their tripod-mounted .50 M2HB machine guns aboard HMS Ocean off the coast of Sierra Leone.

Mounted on top of these guns, several inches above the boreline, were SUSATs. We noticed in particular that the gunners’ eye was right up against the eyecup of the scope, which has a very short (about 1”) eye relief, designed as it is for light-recoiling 5.56mm weapons. However, we would not particularly want to use a heavy-recoiling .50 with a scope of this design. The scope base was also right against the firer’s nose and the large range drum beneath it was against his chin. The M2 guns shown were clearly fitted with the short barrels as inherited from the (pre-laser rangefinder) Chieftain tank ranging gun role. Others guns of this type have also been noted with the Parachute Brigade. We understand the maximum all-out range is considerably reduced with these short tubes, by as much as a couple of thousand yards.

Though at typical engagement ranges this is probably of no great concern, it would be relevant for more distant fire with AP ammunition, which (unlike 40mm grenades) depends for its effects on maintaining a decent downrange velocity. Interestingly though, we found a couple of years ago in the USA that the popular but pricey .50 MP (APHEI) bullets would still punch neat holes in quarter-inch mild steel targets at 200 yards when fired only at subsonic velocity. In the same circumstances mild steel-cored .50 ball bullets were defeated - they simply burst their GM jackets and the cores were compressed to about half their original length.

HOPPES No 9 LAWSUIT: a 34-year-old man in the USA is suing Brunswick Corporation and Kmart, the Dominion Post reported, for an unspecified sum, claiming he’s suffered permanent damage to his lungs and respiratory system from inhaling Hoppes No 9 Nitro Powder Solvent, a product owned by Brunswick that most readers have probably used at some time in the past. Reportedly the plaintiff says he suffered shortness of breath, chest pains & dizziness after cleaning a gun back in 1998 with Hoppes No 9, requiring extensive treatment, and has developed asthma and diabetes. It’s also claimed the solvent’s packaging carried inadequate warnings.

MORE US SMART GUN DEVELOPMENT AWARDS: in mid-May 2000, CNN reported that Smith & Wesson and FN Manufacturing Inc were each awarded a $300,000 R&D grant by the US Justice Department for development of Smart Gun prototypes and related personalisation technologies such as fingerprint recognition.

WALTHER ‘SMART GUN’: German sources confirm that Walther in Germany has been developing ‘Smart Gun’ concepts for some five years now, and prototypes already exist, though the company is reportedly awaiting some firm evidence of demand before proceeding further. Such demand seems unlikely to materialise in Germany or the rest of Europe any time soon, at least insofar as official agencies are concerned, the USA being so far the only country to get a bee in its bonnet about user recognition for firearms - now primarily as a means to subject firearms to consumer product controls.

UK SPECIAL FORCES SMALL ARMS CONTRACT GOES TO CANADA: the UK MOD has awarded a contract (value unstated) to the Canadian Commercial Corporation in Ottawa for a fixed quantity of new 5.56mm small arms systems (NSAS), in lieu of SA80, for British special forces and some other users. Optical sights and bayonets are also required. Decoding this deal, the supplier is clearly Diemaco Inc of Ontario, and we’d guess the quantity for SAS and SBS is probably no more than 1,000-1,500 weapons, but maybe extra if the (unspecified) ‘other users’ extend much beyond the Para Pathfinder Platoon. Given the optical sight, we imagine the primary weapon is a variant of the flat-top C7A1 (M16A2) or a Diemaco equivalent of the M4A1 SOPMOD Carbine, in both cases probably with Modular Weapon System enhancements for adding extra accessories to the weapon without having to remove the optics. Why all the guessing? Simply because the MOD usually provides absolutely no details on special forces orders like this, despite the fact the taxpayer is footing the bill. However, we know there is wider interest in the British army in an M4A1 lookalike, and special forces tend to like the extra flexibility of the MWS approach.

It crossed our minds that this order might also be cover for a bigger Diemaco buy - maybe even to include the 20,000-odd rifles the MOD is said to be considering to completely replace the SA80 with rapid reaction forces - but maybe that would be too devious even for Whitehall. We shall see. SAS (who do not use SA80) and Pathfinders already have M16A2 variants in service, but presumably cane their equipment considerably more than line infantry. We imagine the new buy is to introduce an element of uniformity across the whole special forces spectrum.

STERLING SMG PARTS: Internet sources suggest that PAWS Inc in the USA, which launched the ZX6 (9mm) and ZX8 (.45) Sterling-based semi-auto carbines in 1989, is still able to supply parts for owners of Sterling SMGs. Last address we have (dated 1994) is:-

8175 River Road NE
Salem, OR 97308 USA

Readers will recall that Royal Ordnance acquired Sterling Engineering, then essentially killed it off. It was thought at the time that this was possibly to prevent Sterling’s then latest 5.56mm assault rifle becoming a rival to the Anglo-German HK 50, lovechild of the Royal Ordnance/Heckler & Koch marriage, which later evolved into the Bundeswehr’s H&K G36 rifle. We recall that, after the Sterling production plant had been disposed of, Royal Ordnance was (ironically) compelled to ask PAWS at one point for possible assistance with SMG parts to keep its past Sterling customers supplied with spares. That said, we’re not convinced about the concept of a Sterling clone in .45 ACP. We used a PAWS .45 once in Texas and found it mighty hard to control by comparison with the 9x19mm version, which is a pussycat.

UK ANNOUNCES NEW 9x19MM REQUIREMENT: surprisingly, the UK MOD has announced a general call for expressions of interest in a new five-year contract for 9x19mm NATO ball ammunition, covering a total of 17.5 million rounds. The deadline is 30 Jun 2000, UK Contact Tel (0117) 913-1551. Only one loading is sought, suitable for use both in UK pistols and SMGs, and which must comply with British & NATO specifications. We can assume the UK forces weapons involved are the Browning Hi-Power, SIG P226/228 and the MP5, MP5K and MP5SD SMGs, possibly even the odd 9mm Sterling too. The last five-year British contract was awarded to IMI in Israel; let’s hope this time round the MOD can at least find a NATO or EU supplier to meet its needs. Ideally Royal Ordnance should get it, otherwise what price its new ten-year ‘partnering’ arrangement with the MOD?

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V3N11 (August 2000)
and was posted online on January 30, 2015


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