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Small Arms Data by Wire (SADW): November 1999

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, TRAINING & RELATED NEWS

OCSW VERSUS THE SACO 40MM STRIKER: a (presumably partisan) letter in Armed Forces Journal International (AFJI) from the Objective Crew-Served Weapon (OCSW) Program Manager at Primex Technologies queried the value of the new lightweight Saco Defense 40mm Striker automatic grenade launcher over the existing Mk19 launcher. It said that whilst it was an achievement to get the weight of the Striker down to 38.6 pounds - as opposed to 75.6 pounds for the Mk19 - when (in each case) one added back the tripod, sighting equipment, cradle & 48 rounds of ammunition the figures rose to 153 pounds for Striker, by comparison with 201 pounds for the Mk19.

On this basis, it asked how even the Striker could properly be called a crew-served weapon, since it couldn’t realistically be carried by only two men (but since when has ‘crew’ meant only two soldiers?). And it added that another 235 pounds of sandbags would be needed to bed the Striker down for firing.

By comparison, it said the OCSW weighed just 64 pounds complete with mount, tripod and 60 rounds (the bare gun is 32 pounds), it requires no sandbags for stability and its 25mm airburst ammunition offers ‘overwhelming lethality’ by comparison with 40mm grenades, with 50% of the flight time, allowing rapid target switching.

We guess we know what Primex is saying, but the point on ammunition is a little unfair, since Saco plans to incorporate the sophisticated Bofors ‘3P’ programmable airburst fuzing in the 40mm grenades for the Striker. Indeed, this is probably its biggest advantage. 40mm ammunition may well be slow to arrive, but some impressive burst patterns can nevertheless be achieved with the 3P fuze, and this approach is hugely more effective than today’s ‘dumb’ 40mm HV grenades which have neither airburst nor even self-destruct fuzing.

The question is more likely will the military - any military - want to shell out for the much more expensive ammunition on which both the Striker and OCSW concepts depend. For all its obvious shortcomings, the Mk19 launcher, though a pretty blunt instrument, was considered one of the most effective and valuable weapons in Desert Storm, and more 40mm ammunition was fired in that contretemps than 7.62mm NATO.

BUFFERED MOUNT FOR UK BIG FIFTIES: the UK Defence Procurement Agency journal ‘Preview’ noted that the .50 L1A2 (M2HB) machine gun in limited service with British forces had been upgraded with a buffered softmount for the Kosovo deployment of airborne forces. This would allow it to be fitted with optical day or night sights that might otherwise be damaged by firing stresses.

UK POLICE BUYING SIG CARBINES: following our earlier notes about British police forces buying the 5.56mm polymer-receiver H&K G36 rifle, we’re advised that twelve UK forces (about a quarter of the total) have now purchased the short-barrelled 5.56mm SIG SG551 SWAT or SG552 Commando carbines, with more still evaluating these variants. This is pretty good going when one appreciates the extent to which British police have been wedded to the 9mm H&K MP5 semi-auto carbine for so many years.

The SIG SWAT model (14.3” barrel) is now available with a mounting spigot beneath the handguard for attachment of the new, value-engineered version of the Parker-Hale bipod. Flashlights or laser aiming pointers can also be attached to a mounting plate on the right side of the handguard.

Both models have side-folding buttstocks and accept the stackable SIG translucent magazines in 20-30 round sizes, though - because side-stacking magazines can interfere with folding the stock - users may find a single 30-round version more versatile. Five-shot magazines also exist.

Any kind of optical sights can be fitted to either model, and an optional detachable cheekpiece compensates for the higher sighting plane. 10” or 7” rifling twist (SG552: 7” only) is offered, to cater for the whole range of 5.56mm ammunition (the special Swiss military 5.56mm (aka 5.6mm Swiss) loading is designed for use with a 10” twist).

Notional muzzle energy (nb: ammunition-dependant) with the SWAT carbine is 1,460J (1,076 foot pounds), which by our calculations equates to an MV of 2,800 fps with a 62gr NATO bullet (or 2,975 fps with the 55gr M193). If so, this combination displays remarkably little velocity loss over a full-length barrel, which should achieve around 3,050fps with the NATO/SS109 bullet (or about 3,200 with the M193).

The stubby Commando (with 8.9” barrel) has a three-prong flash hider not seen on earlier SIG rifles; 5.56mm weapons of these dimensions require a novel approach to flash suppression, as anyone who’s ever fired the subgun-sized HK53 without its muzzle attachment will know......a two-metre jet of flame is typical on a dull day. Our personal preference would usually be for a longer barrel.

CROSSBOWS WITH PERU SF: The Asian Age ran an AFP photo at the end of Jul 99 showing Peruvian Navy special forces on parade during Peru’s independence celebrations. We spotted 7.62mm Galils (apparently with unusually long magazines), 9mm Uzis (presumably from FN, the original source) and - interestingly - a crossbow, brand unknown. We’d love to know what type of projectiles the increasing number of special forces crossbow aficionados are firing from these weapons.

HIGH-TECH PEASHOOTERS - STRANGE BUT TRUE: a ruckus has broken out in the peashooting community over the use of laser aiming pointers, the Sunday Telegraph reported. Standard foot-long peashooters, as still used by many competitors at the World Peashooting Championships, last held in Witcham (UK) in Jul 99, are outgunned by laser-equipped models with front & rear pistol grips in the annual village contest, which takes place at a range of four yards, firing at sticky targets made of putty.

Apparently it started with rudimentary iron sights, and things went progressively high-tech from there on in. Peashooters with laser sights won both last year’s championships and this year’s event, though basic models are still said to be best in windy conditions. However, the ammunition has not changed - Mk 1 dried peas are still the order of the day.

But lest British readers laugh too loud, this is probably what the Home Office has in mind as a suitable pastime for you after they finally take the rifles away, though doubtless the lasers would have to go, on ‘Save the Children’ grounds.

HOME-MADE ASSAULT RIFLES IN INDIA: a photo, from the Asian Age, of National Liberation Front of Tripura ‘militants’ about to surrender to Indian forces in Udaipur, showed a number of obviously home-made rifles. External appearance approximates that of the AK47, but workmanship looks very crude. Even the curved, smooth-walled magazines have clearly been locally produced. Whether these weapon are capable of semi-automatic or even selective fire is unknown. We assume they are chambered for the widely-available 7.62x39mm cartridge.

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