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Industry News: January 2000

By Robert M. Hausman

H&K Launches New High-Tech Rifle

German gunmaker Heckler & Koch, a firm particularly hard-hit by the federal import bans of recent years, as well as various federal and local laws designed to restrict access to semi-auto rifles under the guise of controlling so-called “assault weapons,” has nonetheless developed a highly innovative new semi-auto rifle.

Called the SL8-1, it is a high-performance .223 caliber product constructed almost entirely of a tough, carbon fiber-reinforced polymer material. Departing from the roller-locked bolt system design traditionally used in HK long guns, the new SL8-1 utilizes a short stroke, piston actuated gas operating system.

“HK has been absent from the commercial rifle market for several years,” commented Boin Stafford, the company’s president. “The SL8-1 delivers a distinctive product that is exceptionally clean-shooting.”

Designed and engineered to deliver the highest standard of shooting performance, the ergonomic and clean lines of the rifle are functional and modern, imparting the look and feel of a 21st century firearm. Several modular systems are available, including extended and short Picatinny rails with open sights, a 1.5x scope with an integral carry handle and a dual optical system that will combine a 3X scope with an electronic red dot sight. Additional accessories include a HK Universal Tactical Light, cleaning kit and carry sling.

Other features include a cold hammer-forged heavy barrel for precision accuracy, fully-adjustable open sights, removable cheek-piece, ambidextrous safety/selector lever and a detachable 10-round magazine. Rifling is 6X right hand twist with one turn in seven inches. Overall length is just under 39-inches, barrel length is just under 21-inches and sight radius is just shy of 20-inches. Width is 2.36-inches, height is 9.84-inches and weight is 8.6-pounds.

HK is now making available its UMP45 submachine gun in .45 ACP chambering. Designed for law enforcement and military organizations desiring ammunition compatibility between their submachine gun and sidearms as well as carbines, the UMP45 has a 25-round magazine and has an effective accuracy range to 100 yards or more. Its small size (less than 18-inches with the buttstock folded) and 4-1/2 pound unloaded weight, make it a good choice for use in and around vehicles and for use by small statured officers who find use of a full-size rifle or shotgun difficult.

The HK UMP45 is designed to fire all types of .45 ACP ammo-including subsonic and supersonic loads, as well as ball, hollow point and enhanced velocity +P offerings. It can also fire nontoxic and frangible training rounds without modification. Ambidextrous operating controls and sling attachment points are similarly configured to other HK rifles and submachine guns. A bolt hold-open feature comes into play when the last round is fired and there are hard points molded into the polymer receiver to allow attachment of optional mounting rails and accessories, such as sights, tactical lights and a vertical foregrip.

Adjustable iron sights with a dual flip-up rear aperture are provided, as is a tactical carry sling and a detachable vertical handstop. Optional tritium sights are available. The UMP45 can be operated in the semi-auto, two round burst, or full-auto modes. The polymer magazine has a transparent ammunition viewing strip allowing the user to see the ammo remaining inside. The folding buttstock has a rubber cheek piece and buttpad which reduces the length of the arm by nearly 10-inches when folded.

Having just recently awarded an $8.5 million contract for development of a prototype, high-tech combat rifle to Alliant Techsystems, Inc., the U.S. Army and Marines are already seeking a lighter version. Alliant was chosen to continue development of the Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW) , one of five major subsystems in the Army’s futuristic Land Warrior program. Efforts will continue the reduce the arm’s weight to less than 14 pounds and to incorporate a device to track moving targets.

The engineering, manufacturing and development phase is expected to begin in the year 2000, and the arm should be fielded in 2006. The Army and Marines have budgeted $43 million for the arm and plan to buy about 20,000 examples.

Alliant’s OICW project manager, Michael Moore, said the company hopes the new rifle will be as successful and lucrative as the M16, which is used in some 52 countries. “If you look at the life cycle of the M16, we think the OICW is going to be around for a long, long time,” Moore commented. “Over the years, we think it will be improved, modified and rebuilt. If the M16 is used as a model, we think it might be successful in foreign sales as well.”

The OICW system contains a rifle, video camera, electronic fire control with laser rangefinder, and a dual ammunition capability allowing the firing of either 5.56mm ammo or 20mm high-explosive, air-burst munitions. In addition to replacing the M16, the OICW is planned to phase out the M203 grenade launcher. The revolutionary system will allow soldiers to virtually shoot around obstacles. Using its laser rangefinder to determine an obstacle’s distance, the OICW can fire an air-burst round, hurtling shrapnel behind the obstacle. With its 1,000-meter range, it is claimed to be more effective at twice the range of the M16.

The OICW project involves collaborative efforts from several firms. The team includes: Contraves Brasher Systems, Inc. of Pittsburgh, PA; Heckler & Koch GmbH of Germany; HK, Inc. of Sterling, VA; and Dynamit Nobel AG of Germany.

Firearms Training Systems, Inc. (FATS) says it has been selected by the Danish police to provide small arms simulators for the training of their forces, awarding a contract valued at $500,000 with options for additional system and component orders. The company also has been selected to provide small arms simulators to support the Kenya Army training program with an initial contract valued at over $600,000 and opportunity to expand the program.

“Both of these contracts represent new market penetrations for FATS,” said Peter Marino, the company’s president and chief executive officer. “These awards also demonstrate the continued success in open competition of our new digital systems for police and military training programs throughout the world.”

Other News

The industry’s regulator, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) advises those licensees who are permitted to maintain required records on a computer to ensure their systems are Y2K compliant. to avoid any potential loss of data. The agency suggests the following actions be taken:
•-Review the computer system to ensure it is Y2K compliant by contacting the manufacturer of the hardware and software used.
•-If it is felt the computer system is compliant, perform tests to ensure this while documenting the steps taken to ensure compliance.
•-Develop a contingency plan should the system fail, such as the creation of a backup system. For those granted variances to use computer recordkeeping systems, the variance may require the licensee to print out in document form those records stored on a computer system on a periodic basis. The agency recommends a hard copy printout of such records be made shortly before and prior to December 31, 1999.

A licensee’s responsibility to maintain proper records continues regardless of any potential Y2K problems.

As one of its first official efforts, the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) newly created National Association of Shooting Ranges (NASR) division has produced a handbook to help shooting ranges develop community relations programs designed to help head off potential problems. The Guide to Community Relations for Shooting Ranges spells out the “nuts and bolts” of making a community relations program work.

“This program can have a powerful positive impact on almost every aspect of a shooting range’s prosperity,” explains Rick Patterson, director of NSSF’s facility development division. “Implementing this program can help a range recruit new customers or members, protect the range from ‘nuisance’ lawsuits, make friends in the media and send a positive image of the shooting sports to thousands of non-shooters. It can make the difference between survival and closure.”

Established earlier this year, NSSF’s National Association of Shooting Ranges was formed to promote the development of state-of-the-art shooting facilities and entertainment centers as well as to assist all target shooting facilities by providing leadership information and promoting communications and partnerships between ranges, industry and community. In addition to firearms, sales of camp stoves are now on the rise as consumers prepare for a possible worst case Y2K scenario. SportsTrend Info, a trade publication, notes people are buying camp stoves over concerns that Y2K problems may arise with utility companies.

“People are looking at outdoor preparedness in a different way this year, and we’re benefitting with increased stove sales,” said Bill Ortiz, shooting sports and accessories buyer for Turner’s Outdoorsman, a major retailer headquartered in Chino, CA.


The new Hoppe’s Gun Cleaning Pads should be welcomed enthusiastically in shooters’ homes as they’ll protect both furniture and firearms from spills and scratches. They are made of soft acrylic material that absorbs up to eight times their weight in fluids. The pads are in hunter green, offering good contrast when working with small parts. They are available in two formats: 12”x12” square for pistols and 12”x36” for long guns.

Michaels of Oregon has added a double Butt Stock Magazine Pouch for popular 9mm and .40 caliber carbines to its extensive SIDEKICK PROFESSIONAL product line. It allows shooters to carry two extra magazines in the specially-designed pouch which is constructed with an elastic sleeve that stretches over the butt stock. A nylon web strap passes under the recoil pad or butt plate to anchor the sleeve in place.

Michaels of Oregon has also added a new gloss finish to its SIDEKICK PROFESSIONAL MIRAGE nylon duty gear. The new finish is designed to provide the formal appearance preferred by many state patrols and police departments, yet deliver long-term durability and high performance in both street and dress situations. A full selection of duty gear, including holsters, belts and accessories is available in the new finish. A compact, but high-capacity range bag constructed of black 600-denier woven material is available as well from Michaels of Oregon. The bag’s bottom has two hard polymer “feet” to raise the bag off wet surfaces, while the floor is cushioned with closed cell foam padding and reinforced with a removable hard plastic bulkhead to prevent punctures. The bag’s internal storage space is comprised of four zippered compartments.

Sierra Bullets has released the new INFINITY Suite computer software exterior ballistic program containing multiple trajectory charts and graphics. The Point Blank Range feature allows users to calculate zero, allow for uphill and downhill shooting scenarios and to determine maximum range. The bullet library section includes major bullet manufacturers as well as ammunition company data. Also included are Sierra’s 4th edition Rifle and Handgun Manuals.

Lowrance Electronics has released one of the most comprehensive hand-held mapping Global Positioning Systems available-the GlobalMap 100. It contains a built-in background map of the world with enhanced detail of lakes, rivers, streams and highways in North America, including Northern Mexico, the Southern Bahamas, Hawaii and Canada. Featuring a memory capacity of up to 1,750 total position points, the unit can store up to 750 waypoints, 1,000 graphic event markers and offers 28 different icon symbols to choose from, to allow on-screen customization.

Para-Ordnance is now offering their custom-featured Limited Series pistols in bright stainless steel finish, in addition to matte black. The models involved are the P10, P12, P13, P14 and the P16. All Limited Series pistols, except for the 10 plus 1 round capacity P10, come with an original, pre-ban high-capacity magazine as standard equipment.

Hunting has resumed on New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range after the facility was closed to hunting about a year ago following an accident involving an airman who was killed by unexploded ordnance. The range was reopened after an Army safety inspection.


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