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Small Arms Data by Wire (SADW): July 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.

RUSSIAN ROCKET LAUNCHER FOUND IN ULSTER: a Mar 2000 report in the Daily Telegraph said that a Russian RGB disposable anti-armour rocket launcher was discovered hidden in a hedge near a British army barracks in Dungannon (Ulster). It was the first time this type of weapon had been recovered by security forces in Northern Ireland.

COBB COUNTY GUNNING FOR G36: possibly confirming our irreverent theories on ‘sex & fashion’ in police equipping, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in mid-Mar 2000 that Cobb County Police Dept in Georgia planned to obtain 35 Heckler & Koch 5.56mm G36 rifles for its SWAT team, free of charge, by trading in 27 other semi-auto and selective-fire weapons from its existing armoury.

1972 - TROOPS IN ULSTER MAY HAVE USED .22 RIFLES: one particularly interesting fact has emerged from the current British enquiry into the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings in Ulster, where 14 Catholics on a civil rights march were shot dead by members of the Parachute Regiment. According to reports in the Guardian & elsewhere, the Major General in command of British troops in Londonderry had written in a secret memorandum that it might be necessary, after appropriate warnings, to shoot the ringleaders of riots, since baton rounds and CS gas did not deter them. However, he was apparently concerned about the likely effects of troops firing their 7.62mm NATO SLRs (British-made FN FALs) at civilians, in particular the possibility of bullets over-penetrating and killing uninvolved bystanders. So he is said to have authorised the conversion of a number of SLRs to fire .22 rimfire ammunition, which was considered a ‘less lethal’ option.

The General’s memo is said to have noted, however: “If this course is implemented, as I believe it may have to be, we would have to accept the possibility that .22 rounds may be lethal. In other words, we would be reverting to the methods of internal security found successful on many occasions overseas, but would merely be trying to minimise the lethal effects by using the .22 round. I am convinced that our duty to restore law and order requires us to consider this step.”

Reportedly 30 of these rimfire rifles were sent to Londonderry for riot training, and lawyers for the Bloody Sunday victims believe it’s possible one of the dead, a 17-year-old named Kevin McElhinney, was actually killed by a .22 bullet. The fatal entry wound in McElhenny’s case was apparently only 3mm in diameter, as opposed to 6-8mm for all the others, which were assumed to be caused by 7.62mm projectiles. The Guardian said the bullet ‘entered his left buttock and sliced through his bladder, colon and severed an artery’, killing him almost at once. Not exactly ‘less lethal’.

However, the destruction of all but three of the original 29 rifles alleged to have been carried on the day (see previous issues), of which only 21 were reportedly fired, makes it hard to reach any firm conclusions about who actually fired what, or at whom. As the Guardian noted, the three remaining SLRs might not even have been amongst those which were used. Some relatives of victims believe the recent destruction of two of the rifles which are, it’s claimed, known to have fired fatal shots, despite orders that they were to be kept, is evidence of a deliberate attempt by the authorities to suppress relevant evidence.

We can’t put an exact date to it, but we recall that, sometime after 1984, we saw a rather insensitive flyer in the UK for suppressed .22 sniper rifles suggesting that these weapons could be used to quietly ‘take out’ selected individuals, for example (as we remember it) at football matches! One theory as to how the army gunfire was sparked off has it that a British artilleryman (they should really stick to big guns) accidentally shot himself in the foot, and the ejected cartridge hit a sergeant who thought he’d been shot, so fire was ‘returned’. Stranger military misunderstandings have occurred throughout history, some with even greater consequences. The first fatal shots of the American War of Independence were fired because militiamen mistakenly believed British troops were burning Concord. In so doing, the USA was effectively born. Tada!

AUSSIE .50 TRIALS TO RESUME: a JDW report in late Apr 2000 said that the Australian army trials of .50 anti-materiel rifles were to resume, focussed on a new shortlist of three weapons - the Robar RC50F, Accuracy International AW-50 and Barrett M82A1. Seventy-three rifles are required by early next year. It is the second round of .50 selections and trials for this Australian requirement; the first were inconclusive. Now we note the local contender no longer appears to be in the running. However, the fact that two bolt guns and a semi-auto are to be evaluated this time suggest the army has still not yet entirely figured out what it really needs.

Separately, JDW added that, within the same timescale, the Australian army had also ordered Qty 3,047 M203 Product Improved 40mm underbarrel grenade launchers from RM Equipment Inc in the USA for use with its locally-made Steyr AUGs. The M203 PI that’s been selected differs from the original AAI/Colt design in being a quick-detach system adaptable to a large number of 5.56mm and 7.62mm weapons. It will also chamber a wider range of special-purpose ammunition. As a result it has become a very popular option around the world.

MYSTERY MAGAZINE ON ABU SAYYAF M16: one of the Islamic separatist types from the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines, which is currently holding for ransom a group of tourists & others it abducted from a resort in Malaysian Borneo, was recently shown, in a photo run by The Times, with a most unusual magazine on his M203-equipped M16 rifle. The magazine is a true ‘banana clip’ resembling that from a Kalashnikov, but even more highly curved. It appears to have a camo pattern on it and looks as if it is made from plastic. Any ideas? It’s just the thing to set off the owner’s Playboy bunny T-shirt, by the way. However, fun-lovers Abu Sayyaf definitely ain’t - a little while back they were threatening to behead their hostages unless they got the Philippines negotiators they were insisting on, which is just a tad over the top.

GLOCK POLICE DEATH IN SYDNEY: police chiefs in Sydney (Australia) have re-emphasised safety rules for handling Glock pistols after one of their officers fatally shot a colleague in Jan 2000 with one of these weapons, apparently while unloading it inside a city police station. The Sydney Sunday Telegraph said that Glocks now have to be unloaded in specially-designated rooms in the stations, with the muzzle inserted in a control device backed by two phone books. Officers must not be accompanied when clearing their weapons.

SCHMIDT & BENDER US MARKET: we were told at the 2000 SHOT Show that Schmidt & Bender’s American marketing operation sells around 1,000 S&B scopes a year in the USA, though the firm’s German headquarters would apparently like this to be nearer 1,200. And, perhaps not surprisingly, US buyers really don’t like the simple post reticles preferred in Germany and elsewhere in Europe (& by us!); more familiar alternatives like Duplex have to be provided for S&B scopes sold in America. Daft really, when one considers what a clean sight picture the post reticle delivers, particularly in poor light; it’s also a better bet for older eyes, which can have real trouble with Duplex and crosshair reticles.


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