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Small Arms Data by Wire (SADW): April 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.

FUTURE OF THE UK MOD PATTERN ROOM: latest reports, emanating from well-placed sources, regarding the future of the Nottingham-based UK MOD Pattern Room, suggest that government ministers are currently considering options for dissolving and relocating the collection. The sole need to act at all results from a long-standing dispute between Royal Ordnance (RO) and the MOD over RO’s rental charges for the Enfield Building in which the Pattern Room is located, though we are amazed things have ever been allowed to get to this point; the ministry should simply pay up and quit penny-pinching.

As we hear it, the official preferred solution would be to transfer the modern weapons to the Army’s School of Infantry at Warminster, the ‘historic’ weapons to the Royal Armouries at Leeds (itself under threat) and those items of particular scientific interest to the Science Museum in London. If this happens, the Pattern Room would close in Mar 2001. Some sources still suggest a fourth option (which we would most favour), that of transferring the collection en bloc to the Royal Military College of Science (RMCS) at Shrivenham, which already holds a much smaller number of interesting small arms for instructional purposes, is still a possibility. That said, we were recently told that pundits in the Home Office are already unhappy about the College holding any ‘prohibited’ Section 5 weapons.

Maybe it should be reminded that Shrivenham, which admittedly has an agreement with the civilian Cranfield University to run its academic activities, is still a military unit, and can thus keep whatever it likes. Last time we looked, it was still the MOD, and not the Home Office, that was responsible for national defence. Undeniably, any break-up of the Pattern Room will be regarded as a highly retrograde step by the entire small arms community, and we can expect that access to any of the weapons for study purposes will probably be far more difficult if they are dispersed from Nottingham.

The Pattern Room was given the opportunity to respond to these reports but has not yet done so. Closure of the Pattern Room is something we feel many readers might well want to protest about to the MOD - if so, the address for correspondence is:

Rt Hon Geoff Hoon Esq, MP
Secretary of State for Defence
Ministry of Defence Main Building
Whitehall
London SW1A 2HB
United Kingdom

Be polite but firm. Type all envelopes, and mark them, ‘Personal for’, so as to give them a better chance of actually being opened by the man himself.

UK MOD ANNOUNCES POSSIBLE PDW PURCHASE: as predicted in earlier issues, the UK MOD has now announced a possible requirement for around 15,000 Personal Defence Weapons (PDW) and appropriate ammunition, the first batches to enter service in 2003, with the rest in 2005-2005. No calibre details are specified, chiefly because no-one yet has any fixed idea of what these might be, but the Ministry is calling for weapons which can defeat the CRISAT-specified ‘protected human target’ at 150 metres. PDWs should also be under 50cm long and weigh a maximum of 3kg loaded.

The MOD will be assessing potential designs in Jul 2000 and will invite shortlisted potential suppliers to tender early in 2001 for comprehensive trials. Expressions of interest are sought by 31 Mar 2000, with details of candidate weapons, ammunition calibre and ability to meet the CRISAT target criteria.

UK contact: Tel (0117) 913-3670, Fax 913-1900, e-mail dcccb1@dpa.mod.uk.

It’s important to realise that the UK MOD has already been playing with the idea of a PDW for a number of years, and has only now come up with anything approaching a firm requirement. And anyone who has followed earlier procurements of this type will know that it may well take a considerable time for the ministry to make up its mind what it really wants, particularly if it involves adoption of an entirely new cartridge. So, the planned deployment date of 2003 could still be very optimistic.

Currently the front-runners for consideration from the home side still appear to be the .224 BOZ system from Civil Defence Supply, the 9x19mm IDW (Bushman) from Parker Hale (licensed from DTL in the USA) and Heckler & Koch’s 4.6x30mm PDW jointly developed with Royal Ordnance.

Though we understand the MOD to have been unimpressed by its hard target performance, we certainly cannot overlook the chances of the 5.7x28mm FN P-90 either, since it already meets the specified CRISAT human target requirement, and there is also a NATO STANAG covering this calibre. Other possibles could include MTE’s new .224VA PDW from Switzerland firing the Czech-designed 5.56x23mm round, also known as the .224 VOB. The MOD is understood to have already tested the BOZ and 9mm IDW, as well as the P-90. Other aspirants may well emerge from the woodwork once they hear of the MOD’s plan.

Of the known contenders, only the 9x19mm weapon from Parker-Hale is technically ready for production, but - on the face of it - would be highly unlikely to meet the CRISAT requirement (to defeat a man protected by 20 layers of Kevlar reinforced with 1.6mm of titanium alloy) without special ammunition. On the other hand, we consider the 150 metre range bracket specified by the MOD is wildly excessive in relation to the likely role of a PDW, which is, when all’s said and done, merely a pistol substitute. Troops expecting to routinely engage the enemy at 150 metres should be using rifles.

PDWs are only needed for 25-50 metres at best, and at these short ranges 9mm AP (or maybe even the latest version of the Swedish 9mm HP?) should do the job. Sticking with 9x19mm would also mean commonality with the Browning pistol and avoid Royal Ordnance Radway Green having to tool up for a new calibre. However, in view of its stated PDW performance requirements, our ten-cent suggestion is that the ministry should take another hard look at the ‘old but bold’ 5.56mm HK53, which is the same size as the popular 9mm MP5 but chambered for a more effective round than any of the new offerings officially designated as PDWs.

MAUSER M2 ROTARY-LOCKING PISTOL: in Dec 99 New Gun Week in the USA reported the arrival of the M2 pistol family, a new handgun line from Mauser’s small arms division, now owned by Sigarms. New pistols under the Mauser banner are a distinct rarity; in recent years Mauser has simply re-badged other brands like FEG. The M2 design is reportedly striker-fired and incorporates a rotating barrel lockup. Versions will be offered in .40, .357 SIG and .45 ACP calibres.

Safety features are said to include a novel safety catch on the rear of the slide, a loaded chamber indicator and a magazine disconnect, a generally unwelcome addition we guess we could now see returning with a vengeance to placate the safety fanatics. Magazine releases are ambidextrous, night sights are an option and weight of the .45, which is 7” long, is around 26 ounces. Magazines hold eight rounds of .45 or ten rounds in the other calibres. Frame material was not specified. http://www.sigarms.com/

The M2 was not at the Jan 2000 SHOT Show and, as an aside, we can’t help thinking now is perhaps not the ideal time to be introducing any entirely new handgun designs aimed primarily at the US market. Despite the pre-Y2k gun sales splurge, the industry still faces some major hurdles which must first be overcome before its future size & shape can be confidently predicted. Without the US outlet, of course, some European handgun makers would already be in dire straits.

40MM CASED TELESCOPED AMMUNITION IN THE NEWS AGAIN: Janes IDR reported that a 40mm CT2000 cannon firing cased, telescoped ammunition (CTA), with a linkless 124-round feed system, was being trialled in the USA mounted on a Bradley IFV. The developer of the system is the French-based Royal Ordnance/GIAT Industries joint venture CTA International (CTAI), with United Defense covering the vehicle side and - for ammunition handling (in place of Alliant Techsystems) - Western Design.

CTAI is hoping the US military will select the CT2000 to replace the Bradley’s 25mm Bushmaster cannon; trials are also taking place in the UK using stabilised mounts designed to allow firing of the CT2000 on the move. IDR said CTAI is also talking with Alliant with a view to co-operating on development of that company’s fuzing for the OICW’s 20mm HE projectiles, hoping to spin it off to 40mm telescoped ammunition. Let’s hope they discover the cause of last year’s OICW ‘bore premature’ first.

Much has already been written about prospects for cased telescoped ammunition, a concept which has been around since the 1950s with no adoption anywhere to date. Its chief selling point is packaging, since cylindrical cartridges (often called ‘beer cans’) with their projectiles concealed within are much less bulky to store and theoretically easier to handle within a gun mechanism, typically using rotating-breech, push-through feed systems whereby the next round to be fired pushes out the previous fired case while the breech is rotated 90 degrees away from the bore. However, design experts critical of CTA claim that the extra propellant which can be loaded around the projectile, inside the ‘beer can’, merely increases pressures without adding much to velocity, and say that - as evidence of this - if these voids are filled out with inert material, pressure falls. And pressure is clearly an issue if one is contemplating the use of unusual materials, such as plastics, for cartridge cases.

Overall, CTA is something of a compromise between caseless or liquid propellant systems and the conventional bottlenecked, cased ammunition still in general use today. In order to shift potential users away from what they already know & love, CTA’s advantages would have to be overwhelming, but we’re by no means sure this point has yet been reached.

REAL IRA STOCKING UP IN ASIA, YUGOSLAVIA: according to the Sunday Times, the Real IRA republican breakaway group, now calling itself Oglaigh na hEireann, has established new sources of illicit arms supply in the Far East, France and the rump of Yugoslavia. It is thought to be stockpiling for new campaigns in the UK. Police have reportedly tracked republican arms shoppers around the world who are believed to have obtained detonators, explosives and AK-pattern small arms on their travels. The Times noted that, in another Irish find, following the recent discovery of an underground republican firing range and weapons cache in Eire (see previous issues), a Russian RPG-18 anti-armour weapon was discovered, a first, together with Semtex and pre-assembled bombs.

JAPAN DESTROYING MINE STOCKS: a JDW short in Jan 2000 said that Japan was embarking on the destruction of its 1m anti-personnel mines held in military stockpiles. Companies reportedly involved in the disposal are Asahi Chemical, NOF Corporation & Nippon Koki Co Ltd.

GREAT WESTERN GUN SHOW MOVING TO VEGAS: having been given the cold-shoulder by Los Angeles County, the Great Western Gun Show, staged four times each year, is moving from Pomona to the Las Vegas Convention Center in Nevada, the LA Times reported. This will reportedly cost the Pomona Fairplex about $600,000 a year (some 33% of its annual income), with a possible further $8 million annual economic impact on the Pomona area. We suggest aggrieved Pomona residents take this up with LA County - gesture politics also have a price tag.


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