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Small Arms Data by Wire (SADW): March 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.

1. WEAPONS, EQUIPMENT, FUTURE SYSTEMS, TRAINING & RELATED NEWS

LEI OFFERS SUPPRESSORS FOR SPORTING RIFLES: Law Enforcement International (LEI) in the UK cut its teeth on making laser aiming pointers, suppressors and suppressed weapons for military & law enforcement users. Now it’s offering its muzzle suppressors on the sporting market. Eight basic sizes are available, comprising standard (32.5cm long) and compact (25cm) models in each of four calibre ranges; the .223 suppressor is suitable for .17 to .223 calibres, the .30 model for .243 to .308, the 9mm variant for 8-9.3mm and the .45 suppressor for .375 to .458 calibres. The compact .223 model is also suitable for .22 rimfire and air rifles. Weights are approx 730g for standard and 570g for the compact suppressors. All models incorporate stainless baffles with a claimed life of over 10,000 rounds.

LEI is selling these suppressors under the title of ‘sound moderators’, which is the traditional term used in the UK. Their main benefit when used with standard-velocity (ie supersonic) ammunition is in suppressing muzzle blast, flash and recoil, as well as helping preserve the eardrums of firers and observers. .22 rimfire ‘sound moderators’, mostly from Parker-Hale, have been used in Britain for many years, but now UK police forces are gradually waking up to the fact that muzzle suppressors also make good sense on centrefire hunting weapons. And, unlike in the USA, the UK imposes no additional restrictions on their purchase (though police must enter them on firearm certificates). You’ll also need to have the rifle muzzle threaded, of course.

While there will always be some police agencies who persist in looking askance at any such innovations, the fact remains that quite a lot of suppressed weapons are now appearing on UK ranges, so the message is getting around. There can also be other bonuses - some users of suppressors actually report improved accuracy, though there may be a change of zero.

LEI Ltd, UK Tel (020) 8903-8305, Fax (020) 8903-8302, E-mail: lei@lei.co.uk

SMART GUNS NOW A CLINTON ‘BIG ISSUE’: Whatever the fate of Colt’s Smart Gun, AP noted in early Jan 2000 that Bill Clinton was to press Congress for a $10m National Institute of Justice FY 2001 budget allocation for further development of weapons of this type, a substantial increase on the $4m he earlier failed to secure in 1999. The agency said Clinton appeared to want to make Smart Guns an issue in the coming presidential election, though one could also read this as a sign that he doesn’t expect any great movement on more conventional ‘meat & potatoes’ gun control. Whilst this new fascination with Smart Guns is fully consistent with the ‘modern’ trend to throw technology at any & every problem, regardless of relevance, Clinton may nevertheless still be over-estimating the potential of firearm issues as a vote-winner for the Democrats.

The bottom line is that - while the gun control camp remains highly vocal - there seems to be no real appetite amongst voters for any truly draconian changes which would seriously limit the ability of the Ordinary Joe to own an effective weapon for home defence or hunting. We are sure Smart Guns are being used as a ploy to try to kid voters there is a new and magical non-prohibitionist alternative to limiting supply, and that there is a sanitary, all-electronic solution to firearm accidents in the home.

But, as we all know, this is illusory, since all Smart technologies so far seen - quite apart from restricting availability by price, would also tend to impose limitations on lawful use in the domestic environment for which most pistols are purchased. And - like the military - no home-owner is yet ready to gamble his survival on the reliability of a three-dollar button battery. Would you?

CHINESE 5.8MM BULLPUPS POPPING UP EVERYWHERE: we noted that Dec 99 press photos of the arrival of the PLA in Macau showed all troops carrying the new AUG-inspired 5.8mm Type 95 bullpup rifles first seen when China ‘recaptured’ Hong Kong in 1997. At that time - bearing in mind the press attention devoted to Hong Kong’s new PLA garrison - there was no doubt the subtext was to wow us with the Chinese army’s technical prowess, and the same is probably true in respect of the Macau handover. However, sources tell us that, during the 1999 celebrations in Peking of the 50th anniversary of the Revolution, substantial formations of troops were also seen there carrying the new bullpups.

This tends to suggest China does indeed plan, as earlier claimed, to move towards general replacement of its 7.62x39mm weapons, though - if so - we can expect this to be a lengthy & expensive process, and we’re still not quite sure why they’re doing it. During the prolonged period when China & Russia weren’t on talking terms, the Chinese went off down their own R&D path, developing a wide range of indigenous small arms designs, of which the 5.8mm family is just one. Ironically, now the leadership in Moscow, convinced that everyone else is gunning for Mother Russia, has patched things up with Peking, hoping to bolster its position in relation to Washington, suggesting that we can expect Sino/Russian technical co-operation to resume in the future.

NEW VEKTOR SMALL ARMS BOSS: we’re advised that the new Managing Director of Denel’s Vektor small arms division in South Africa is Leon Joffe (replacing Brian Tucker), Tel(+27)12-620-2616, Fax(+27)12-664-1905, E-mail: leonj@vektor.co.za.

EXPLOSIVE FUN & GAMES IN WW2: casting your mind back to Arms Tech’s incendiary paste (see previous issues), which can be also provided in toothpaste tubes, we noted from Daily Telegraph & other reports on British Special Operations Executive sabotage devices in WW2 that incendiary shaving brushes and soap were developed, both containing sodium which would combust when it came into contact with water.

Other novel ideas from the SOE’s Station IX gadget factory in Welwyn Garden City included exploding bicycle pumps, high-explosive dog turds and horse droppings (to burst the tyres of enemy trucks), chianti wine-bottle bombs, exploding coal, itchy powder, incendiary fruit & vegetables and ‘suntan’ cream designed to damage glass optics. Another significant invention was the acid-actuated time-pencil detonator, and the SOE section in Barnet even came up with explosive-filled dead boiler-room rats, which they hoped the enemy would toss on a fire. Many of these gizmos have only recently been revealed following the declassification of British WW2 government papers.

By the way, the prefix ‘wel’ was used for a number of devices (as in the ‘welmine’) to indicate they were developed at Welwyn, so you can deduce for yourself why the SOE’s integrally-suppressed .32 pistol, reportedly still in use today by British special forces, is known as the Welrod.

40MM HIGH-VELOCITY AMMUNITION WITH MECHANICAL SD FUZING: Chartered Industries (CIS) in Singapore is advertising a new 40mm S413 HEDP-SD grenade cartridge for automatic grenade-launchers like the Mk19 or Singapore’s own CIS 40 AGL. It is fairly unusual in incorporating a mechanical self-destruct fuze, something which has been sorely lacking in most previous 40mm HV designs (but not the 30mm Russian AGS-17). CIS claims the S413 meets US and NATO standards.

The actual mechanism of the S413 is not described, but in common with other self-destruct concepts it is presumably timed to explode the grenade after a pause simulating the flight time to at least the maximum range. Based on US 40mm HV performance, we deduce this will be at least 17 seconds.

Self-destruct fuzing caters for those soft impacts which might otherwise result in ‘blinds’ requiring EOD attention. It is much preferable for range safety & cleanup during training, and of course when operating in urban areas where unexploded grenades would risk harming uninvolved civilians.

Chartered Industries products are marketed by Unicorn International, e-mail: uintl@cyberway.com.sg

NO FRENCH HEAVY COUNTER-SNIPER DOCTRINE, DESPITE BOSNIA SUCCESSES: TTU Europe said in Nov 99 that, despite having received a general issue of the .50 Hecate 2 rifle, the French army had yet to establish any consistent doctrine for the use of .50 calibre rifles in the countersniper role.

However, it was not always so. In 1993/94, when based in Sarajevo, and acting on the initiative of a lieutenant, one of the French regiments there (the 21st Marines) formed a special anti-sniping unit comprising one 20mm VAB cannon, six 7.62mm FR-F2 sniper teams and two teams with the .50 McMillan. Though, prior to demanding the issue of the .50 McMillans, French forces had suffered 17 wounded from Serbian sniper fire, the new counter-sniping structure incorporating the 20mm and .50 weapons eventually reduced the threat. Operations were assisted by Mira cameras and Cilas sniper detection equipment. Reportedly, large-scale operations in urban areas, as were conducted in Bosnia, are no longer considered a priority by the French military - which suggests to us it may be harder in future to rope in French assistance in the event of a re-run of anything similar to the Bosnian capers.

OZ COMPETITOR FOR .50 TRIALS: Jane’s IDR gave details of the bolt-action .50 ATAS rifle from Precision Rifle Systems which is the home-grown competitor for the Australian heavy sniper/anti-materiel rifle requirement. It has a magazine capacity of six rounds and weighs a hefty 15.3kg (33.7 pounds) empty (or 13.5 kg with aluminium stock). Unusually, it also has a rear-locking bolt mechanism, which is claimed to do less damage to match cartridges. Apparently it can be set up for right or left-handers, and can also be adapted to side-feed. The sample shown had a steel ‘stock’ (stainless steel components are offered as an option) with skeletonized butt, adjustable cheekpiece and buttpad, a bipod, scope dovetails and a substantial muzzle brake. Rifling is the standard 15” twist, in an 80cm (31.5”) tube.

Reportedly the wooden stock components are simply plugged into the steel support structure, so one might say there is something of a ‘chassis’ system about this rifle, though the concept actually bears a closer resemblance to that of an unusual Namibian suppressed sniper rifle we tested some years ago.

A smaller-calibre Australian weapon of not dissimilar design to the .50 rifle was also shown, from which we deduce the company also offers sniper weapons in 7.62mm NATO.

SEATTLE PAINTBALL MYSTERY SOLVED: in a previous issue we noted that the Seattle Police had been spotted with conventional paintball guns during the riots which accompanied the World Trade Organisation summit meeting. However, no details were readily available. We are indebted therefore to a reader who raised the matter directly with the Seattle Police and was told that the guns were used with standard paintballs for marking, plus other balls filled with pepper dust or water. The idea behind the pepper was that rioters already sprayed with CS gas would rub their eyes, whereupon the pepper dust on their hands would make things worse.

US MANPOWER/CASH SAVINGS SINCE ‘THE WALL’ CAME DOWN: AP ran some statistics for the US military before & after the Berlin Wall came down a decade ago; these make quite interesting reading:-
a. Total active-duty forces: then 2.1m, now below 1.4m, of which:-

- US Army: then 760k, now 480k - US Navy: then 580k, now 373k - USMC: then 194k, now 172k - US Air Force: then 575k, now 360k

b. Defence budget: then approx $300Bn, now $270Bn, of which:

- US Army: then $80Bn, now $65bn - US Navy/USMC: then $100Bn, now $82Bn - USAF: then $100Bn, now $78Bn

(nb: total budgets also include costs for other defence agencies)

IRANIAN GUN EXCHANGE SCHEME: Reuters Tehran reported in Nov 99 that the authorities in Iran were trying to recover military assault rifles from nomadic peoples in the Iranian provinces, as part of national gun control efforts, but this is not a firearms ban - the government is actually providing hunting rifles in exchange. To date about 30,000 weapons have reportedly been exchanged. We assume the motives behind the scheme are not entirely altruistic, since the nomads presumably represent less of a threat to the established order if they have bolt-action guns rather than Kalashnikovs, M16s or G3s.

FBI’s WACO GUNS TO BE EXAMINED: the FBI, AP said in mid-Nov 99, is to hand over for testing ‘hundreds’ of firearms it carried at the Waco siege, so that investigators can finally establish whether any of them were actually fired there, which the Bureau denies. The testing is at the request of special counsel John Danforth, who was appointed by the US Justice Department to look into new accusations arising from the Waco sago. Presumably forensic staff hope to match or rule out empty cases or bullets found at the scene - Danforth is set to receive ‘a dozen’ recovered cartridge cases for examination.

REAL IRA GETTING KIT FROM SERBS?: in Nov 99 the Sunday People in the UK claimed that the Serbs were arming the republican breakaway group the Real IRA with ‘tons’ of free weapons & explosives; the paper added that Slobodan Milosevic had recently OK’d the supply of even more arms. Reportedly the paper was told by officials that Real IRA weapons captured in Eire had been traced to the Balkans. Republican sources confirmed Serbia was the donor, and that the Real IRA had gone over there in 1997 to set up the deal, though the flow of weapons only started after NATO attacked the Serbs in Kosovo.

WHITE HOUSE - WE KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU, FORGET CONGRESS: when you’ve read the following extract (released on 15 Dec 99) from a recent White House press briefing on gun control, you might well feel - as we have done for some years - that the time has come to review the need for the President to have any ‘executive powers’ at all. We say this since he seems quite prepared to use them to override the will of Congress in pursuit of his own interpretation of what ‘the American public’ wants:

‘PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART (extract)

Q: Joe, can you talk at all about what the President is prepared to do next year to improve gun safety?

MR. LOCKHART: I think that we believe that Congress has frustrated the American public on the issue of gun safety, that we have more than enough evidence, that we need to take steps. So we’re going to move aggressively to work with Congress on issues that we’ve put before them, but we’re not going to rely on Congress. We’re going to find other avenues.

We’re exploring using both our executive authority invested in the President that we have discussed potential litigation against the gun industry, and I think it’s our overall sense that this is something the American public is demanding. And we’re doing a lot of work now to be ready next year to come out and move aggressively to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to make our streets safe, make our schools safe, and fight the problem we have with gun safety in this country.

Q: What type of actions can be taken by executive authority?

MR. LOCKHART: It’s something that we’re looking at now. I think as you know, we’ve had a series of meetings over the last few weeks here at the White House and we’re looking at things we can do, and I think you’ll hear more about this next year.’

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