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Small Arms Data by Wire (SADW): June 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.


STOP PRESS!! - SA80 LSW TO BE SCRAPPED: a late-breaking story in the Mail on Sunday just as we were going to press said that, following a recent meeting of the House of Commons Defence Committee, the UK MOD’s Equipment Capability Team had finally decided the 5.56mm SA80 Light Support Weapon must go. It’s reportedly planned to invite tenders for a replacement from UK & foreign manufacturers; the decision was apparently made after it became evident that troops were simply not using the LSW because of its many shortcomings. The paper quoted a ‘senior Defence Ministry source’ as saying:

“Despite all attempts at improvement and modification it simply cannot be made to meet the necessary standards. It is also true to say that it is not really as powerful as it needs to be and it simply cannot lay down enough firepower to do its job effectively.”
Now we know why the Ministry has refused to release reliability data for the unmodified LSW (see separate story ‘SA 80 reliability - MOD fudges the issue again’ -this is available to SADW subscribers, not printed here in SAR). It’s obviously just too darned embarrassing!


ALTERNATIVES TO SA80 FOR UK FORCES: we commented in the previous issue of SADW that it would be a shocking waste of public money for the UK MOD to modify the entire 5.56mm SA80 weapon inventory, as it’s announced it may, in order to rectify the various reliability problems with this system which have been highlighted in the past few years. The estimate of cost is said to be ‘tens of millions’ of pounds.

We also mentioned that Royal Ordnance (or rather ‘H&K UK’) at Nottingham was understood to be poring over M16 drawings, which tended to suggest that alternatives to SA80 were at least being considered.

In fact, we have since been told that the UK is exploring the purchase of 20,000 Canadian Diemaco equivalents of the 5.56mm Colt M4A1 Carbine, in flat-top configuration with the Modular Weapon System enhancements enabling users to clip up to four different accessories around the handguards of their weapons.


McBROS PHOENIX VISIT REPORT - JAN 2000: at the end of Jan 2000 we revisited McMillan Brothers Rifle Co (McBros) in Phoenix (Arizona). The company’s .50/20mm Big Mac project, using a shortened 20mm Vulcan case necked down to accept a .50 Browning bullet, is still active, though there has been little time to do much more work on the rifle. However, McBros is having some more .50/20mm ammunition produced for development testing - this time using a separate neck and shoulder component to assemble the new wildcat case, since it is difficult to successfully form the Big Mac cartridge directly from 20mm Vulcan brass.

The company’s new .338 Lapua Magnum rifles are coming along nicely - McBros has sold several for hunting and target work, though so far there has been no law enforcement or military take-up. Black Hills is now to make the .338 ammunition using Sierra bullets, which solves the problem of securing a readily-available ammo supply. Titanium McBros actions are in production, and the company continues to make improved 7.62mm NATO Minigun components for Dillon; new feeder/delinkers are in production and a new clutch is being worked on. Last time we visited McBros its new high-tech target rifle, developed in co-operation with top match shooter David Tubbs, was still in CAD. The weapon now exists and has been tested; McBros says it shoots & functions well. Production rifles will be following shortly.

Prototypes so far have been in .308/7.62x51mm calibre, but competition models will be chambered for 6.5/.284, and there will be further options in 7mm International and 6.5/.308. This is a bolt-action design with fully-adjustable stock, using Knight/Stoner SR-25 magazines - in fact the whole weapon is strongly reminiscent of the SR-25, one of the guns which originally inspired it. The McBros/Tubbs rifle should be available by mid-Summer and will cost in the region of $2,500 retail, plus optics. McBros says there is interest in having this design chambered for .338 Lapua Magnum too, though there are no immediate plans along these lines.

On the .50 Browning side, increased customer demand has meant McBros having to double its .50 output, and it has also sold some of these big rifles to the Canadian army for peacekeeping duties. Furthermore, the gas-operated McBros .50 semi-automatic, designed by Ralf Dieckmann, is nearing final completion. Dieckmann has solved his earlier functioning problems, which were eventually attributed to bolt bounce. After a sear was broken due to mis-adjustmemt of the ejector, Dieckmann designed a new, fixed ejector, and new trigger mechanisms are now being produced by a sub-contractor in Tucson. The .50 prototype has already been range-tested at the NRA’s Raton complex in New Mexico, using commercial AA ammunition, and shot very well, reportedly better than 1 MOA at 1,000 yards, before the breakage mentioned above. Dieckmann believes the rifle should now be ready for production by Summer 2000.

On the .50 legislative front, no vote has yet been taken on the Blagojevich proposals to restrict these weapons, but the Fifty Caliber Shooters’ Association (FCSA) has since formed the .50 Caliber Shooters’ Policy Institute to raise the $100,000 it needs to fight its campaign to preserve .50 shooting. It has also hired a PR company and a Capitol Hill consultant. The NRA has assured the FCSA that it will staunchly defend the interests of .50 shooters. Simply accepting legislative moves to make .50 rifles Class III (NFA) weapons and paying the $200 transfer taxes is no solution, since some states do not permit such things to be owned at all. But some new restrictions already apply, for example no more .50 AP and API ammunition is being sold on the civilian market, though this is not strictly a problem to serious .50 target shooters, since they only use custom match bullets or factory-made target ammunition.


CIENER .22 KIT FOR GLOCKS: Florida .22 rimfire conversion kit wizard Jon Ciener has new $249 kits for Glock pistols, comprising a .22 barrel, a new slide, return spring, guide rod and ten-shot magazine, all in a fitted plastic case. The 17/22 kit fits Glock models 17, 22, 24, 31, 34 & 35; the 19/23 kit is for the Glock 19, 23, 25 & 32 pistols. Spare .22 magazines are $35 each. Contact Jonathan Arthur Ciener, Tel (407) 868-2200, Fax 2201.

Other Ciener rimfire kits cater for the AR15/M16 series, Mini-14/AC556 rifles, plus M1911A1, Beretta M92/96 & Taurus PT92/99 pistols.


SOFT VESTS CLAIMED TO DEFEAT STEEL-CORED AMMUNITION: Intersec magazine reported that Kevlar-producer Du Pont has come up with new soft ballistic vests claimed to resist steel-cored ammunition, though no calibre was stated - we assume pistol/SMG calibres only. Solely fabric is used. This is apparently possible due to development of what Du Pont calls its New Fibre Technology (NFT), developed at its European facility.


IMPRESSIVE SNIPING FEAT: a Reuters story in Mar 2000 said that an Albanian sniper killed a man in the recreation room of a high-security prison in the capital city Tirana. More interesting was the fact the fatal shot was fired from a balcony about 500 metres away, and through a window.


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