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Small Arms Data by Wire (SADW): January 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. NEW WEAPONS & EQUIPMENT

STEYR ANNOUNCES NEW PISTOLS: at the Feb 99 SHOT Show in Atlanta, Steyr-Mannlicher will debut a pair of new semi-auto pistols, the .40 Steyr M40 and the 9mm Steyr M9, which are forecast for first deliveries in Jul 99. Only outline details have so far been released; however Steyr says the pistols will be compact-sized, with synthetic frames, ‘innovative’ sights, a loaded chamber indicator and a new trigger mechanism designated ‘Reset Action’. Significantly, the company says they will also have an ‘integrated deactivation lock’.

In recent decades, Steyr has been unlucky with pistols. The big, gas-braked 9mm GB-80 lost out to the Glock in Austrian army trials and did not survive very long in the marketplace. After that Steyr said it would only bring out another handgun if it was something really innovative.

Well, they did. It was the 9mm TMP machine pistol, though unfortunately TMP sales were intended to be underpinned in the USA by the semi-auto SPP version, which was soon after caught by US restrictions on the importation of ‘assault pistols’. So far the TMP itself has attracted only a limited military & security market.

Clearly Steyr has had its thinking cap on for a while - the open reference to a ‘deactivation lock’ suggests the company has been sniffing the air again in the USA, where political pressure is growing for handguns with integral child-safety features. The acid test will be whether prospective purchasers here & now in the USA are ready to accept what some may see as an imposition on their freedom to keep weapons instantly ready for use. And of course the price, which must be competitive, since purchasers may not be ready yet to pay a premium for additional safety features they may psychologically resent.

FN IN RELAUNCH MODE WITH NEW PRODUCTS & POLICE SALES PUSH: FN recently held a press gathering at its FNMI subsidiary in the USA, to which we were noticeably not invited. The company reportedly pushed out the boat, big-time. However, our physical absence does not prevent us reporting some of the highlights. FN is forming a new law enforcement division, via which it plans to pursue the police market in a more vigorous fashion by dint of both a new organisation and new products.

This first of these is its polymer-framed ‘Forty-Nine’ pistol which has a stainless slide & barrel and a DAO trigger which a colleague reports is the best he has yet encountered. At around eight pounds pull, he says the trigger mechanism is smooth and ‘very slick’. Initial calibre is .40 S&W, with 9mm to follow in 1999. It will also be sold on the commercial market. Grip angle apparently resembles that of the Glock and the pistol is said to point very well. Its modular trigger mechanism is patented, like other aspects of the design.

As far as the US police market is concerned, Glock remains the weapon to beat, but the Austrians have already made such huge inroads into US law enforcement that one wonders if a sizeable police market still exists at this time, alongside all the SIGs, Berettas, Rugers, Colts, S&Ws, USPs and so forth (now to include Steyr), for yet another new brand.

In fact, we imagine that if the Forty-Nine pistol is to succeed, it will chiefly have to carve itself a niche on the US commercial market, with police sales a bonus. This appears to have been the case with most other well-known brands, Glock maybe excepted.

As to the FN law enforcement re-launch per se, the company has always had a European police sales outlet in the form of Browning SA, and presumably all the new arrangements actually amount to is an extension of this system to the USA, where hitherto Browning USA appears to have focused chiefly on private purchasers.

NEW RM GHILLIE SUITS TRIALLED: a Sunday Telegraph story said that the Royal Marines were trialling a new ‘chameleon suit’ which could replace the current ghillie suits used by snipers. Currently troops make their own, and Karrimor, manufacturers of the chameleon suit, say the ghillie suits are very heavy when wet.

The Karrimor product is described as a ‘thick foliage of realistic-looking polyester ‘leaves’’, each one attached to a fine mesh. It provides head to toe coverage. The ‘leaves’ will move independently in a breeze, adding to the camouflage effect. A face mask, gloves and overboots complete the kit, which is available in standard camo (with seasonal variations), jungle and snow designs. An undersuit of activated charcoal cloth is provided to wear beneath the chameleon suit, in order to mask human body odour.

STEYR SCOUT ‘TACTICAL’ MODEL: IWM in Switzerland reported that Brugger & Thomet over there was offering a special Tactical version of the Steyr Scout rifle, with a black stock, a longer and rather heavier barrel and the ability to attach a muzzle suppressor.

The barrel is 51cm (20”) long, as opposed to 48.3cm (19”) on the standard weapon, and has a tighter 1:10” twist (standard twist is 1:12”) to allow for the use of subsonic ammunition. Apparently some Swiss cantons don’t allow hunting rifles with barrels shorter than 50cm. Weapon weight is 100g (3.5 ozs) greater than for the basic Scout. The threaded muzzle (16.5mm diameter) of the Tactical rifle is protected by a screw-on thread guard. Brugger & Thomet supplies suitable suppressors at SFrs 790, where still legal. These points apart, the rifles are essentially the same, and fitted with identical 2.5x Leupold long-eye relief scopes.

IWM’s testers shot below 27mm at 100m - and under 85mm at 300m, with both rifles, using 168gr Swiss SM commercial ammunition from Thun, and could not determine any obvious difference between performance from the two barrel lengths. MV differences were minimal, only about 25fps.

SM 200gr subsonic ammunition in the suppressed Tactical model grouped to 32mm at 100m. All groups were five shots. The Tactical rifle is priced at SFrs 3,590 with case (standard model is SFrs 3,450) and SFrs 200 less without. (Brugger & Thomet AG, http://www.brugger-thomet.com/, e-mail: bruto@ibm.net)

UK 155GR 7.62MM NATO TARGET ROUND: we finally received from Royal Ordnance Radway Green (RG) the technical data on the new ‘Bisley 155gr Target Ammunition’ Radway is producing. It replaces the selected batches of Radway ‘Green Spot’ sniper ammunition previously used by UK target shooters.

Velocity at 24m from the muzzle is 845m/s and energy 3210 Joules. Chamber pressure is 4,000 Bar max and gas port pressure (only of interest for self-loading weapons) is 550 Bar min. Action time is 4 milliseconds max and bullet pull 265 Newtons min. Operating temperature range is -54 degs C to +52 degs C, and the waterproofing of cartridges will withstand 50 Kpa vacuum in 50mm of water for 30 seconds. Primer sensitivity (drop test with a 112g steel ball) is 356mm for all fire and 76mm for no fire. Propellant is double-base cut tubular and primers may be either Berdan or Boxer, non-corrosive.

Listed hit probability is 94% at 550 metres for a target 25x25cm, though Radway points out that this is the minimum acceptance criterion, and in practice significantly better proof results are obtained. The factory also shows considerably better accuracy with the 155gr round than with Green Spot.

Despite the specification changes, the 155gr cartridge still complies with NATO STANAG 2310 and accordingly headstamps still include the NATO homologation symbol (a cross within a circle, meant to represent a four-leafed clover). All the UK MOD needs to do now is get this ammunition out to snipers! (Radway Green Business Director, E-mail; Sam.hughes@bae.co.uk)

USMC SHOWS DMR: the US Marine Corps has finally revealed a specimen of its Designated Marksman’s Rifle (DMR), which we anticipate will also be issued to the No 2 men in USMC Scout/Sniper teams, Marine security police and to free up M40A1 sniper rifles currently held by other Marine units.

As anticipated, though the Corps trialled several commercial weapons, including the semi-automatic H&K MSG-90 and Stoner SR-25, it has, in the end, opted for an in-house Quantico solution, using a scoped 7.62mm NATO M14 rifle in a McMillan composite M14E2-style pistol grip stock, complete with wraparound ambidextrous cheekrest and a Harris bipod.

The DMR requirement actually started out as something very simple - a flat-topped, scoped Colt M16A2 HBAR with which the USMC planned to equip ‘known good shots’ in the infantry squad in order to take better advantage of their marksmanship skills. But the issue soon became clouded by a second requirement, for a Sniper Support Weapon to issue to the No 2 man in each Scout/Sniper team.

The philosophy on that was that the No 2 ought really to have a weapon in the same calibre as - and with similar range capabilities to - the M40A1 bolt-action carried by the No 1, rather than just an M16A2.

Eventually the two requirements simply merged. A reversion to 7.62mm NATO is in keeping with known USMC reservations about 5.56mm in certain operational roles, and a semi-automatic 7.62mm rifle in the Scout/Sniper team allows the possibility of rapid long-range fire to cover a withdrawal if the sniper is spotted. As readers will know, the Corps prides itself on its ability to accurately engage targets at rather longer ranges than the army - in fact the 800 metre rearsight on the M16A2 was adopted solely at the USMC’s insistence. Note also the US military’s rejection of the 5.56mm Minimi Squad Automatic Weapon in the sustained fire machine gun (MMG) role, in favour of the 7.62mm NATO FN MAG 58.

COUNTERPOISE SYSTEM & OTHER M16 ENHANCEMENTS: in the SADW Aug 98 issue we ran the following item:

‘GWINN ‘COUNTERPOISE’ SYSTEM: Mack Gwinn, boss of the MWG Company in Miami (Florida), has released details of his new counterpoise system for the 5.56mm M16 rifle and M4 carbine. It is intended to reduce the peak recoil in semi-automatic fire by 50% and to deliver recoil in burstfire as a mild, steady push, resulting in greater controllability.

The counterpoise kit includes a replacement buffer and recoil spring, plus a rebound weight which is installed in the rear tube of the bolt carrier.

Gwinn says the kit increases the force of the recoil spring, the effective weight of the bolt group and the offsetting impetus of the gas system to the point where the gas system transfers half of the recoil impulse into the bolt group weight which then slowly (throughout the entire cycle) returns that missing impulse into the weapon body through the force of the recoil spring.’

In fact, designer Jim Sullivan in Arizona now tells us that both he and Mack Gwinn are actually equal partners and joint inventors of the Counterpoise system. Sullivan describes the system as follows:

‘Counterpoise is a kit that with one small change to the gun just drops into the M4 carbine or M16 rifle and thereafter cuts the semiauto recoil spike in half and fragments full auto recoil into mini spikes that spread throughout the cycle and blur into a low force steady push.

It is as controllable on full auto as the Constant Recoil system I developed with the Ultimax but it’s a new and different invention which allows closed bolt firing for semiauto accuracy. In contrast Constant Recoil requires open bolt firing which cripples semiauto accuracy with open bolt lurch.

Furthermore, Counterpoise requires less weight, force and cycle distance so it works in the relatively short stroke of the M16 without redesigning the gun. The kit even eliminates extraction failures, the most common malfunction in the M4.

The same Sullivan/Gwinn team is also developing a stronger and faster-radiating barrel and gas tube combo for the M4/M16 weapon family with the encouragement of US special forces, who insist that any gun issued to them be able to rapid fire all the ammunition they can carry.

Sullivan says that thick wall barrels fail by ‘plastic ballooning’ when too hot, but thin wall barrels (which generally include assault rifle barrels) fail by splitting, with the bullet and barrel shards endangering the shooter and anyone nearby.

Assault rifles compound this problem with their reduced power ammunition which is half the size and weight so the man can carry twice as much, yet each shot generates as much barrel heat as the full power ammo it replaces.

MORE ON SUPPRESSORS & SUBSONICS: Sound Tech in the USA wired us with further comments of the question of maintaining subsonic bullet stability when fired from suppressed weapons. The gist of its comments is as follows:

Sound Tech says tumbling can be caused by at least four factors, the largest of which is if an asymmetrical blast baffle is used. Gas overtaking the bullet at the muzzle is deflected off the first asymmetrical surface it hits, striking the bullet as it enters or leaves the first (blast) baffle in a suppressor, causing the projectile to yaw excessively.

The bullet then begins to tumble inside the suppressor, striking other baffles in the process, and that’s the end of any semblance of accuracy.

The fix Sound Tech applied was to use only symmetrical blast baffles, which cured the problem but unfortunately degraded sound performance of the suppressor. The company also made the holes in the baffles much larger than necessary.

As a result, Sound Tech’s suppressors tend to be larger than many others to maintain equal or greater suppression, but it claims it doesn’t have tumbling or accuracy problems.

It says it believes its suppressors may well be used in harsh conditions, so it builds in large tolerances to prevent accuracy problems. It is possible to have tight baffle apertures, but Sound Tech won’t do it for fear of other problems. In some cases, it uses two symmetrical blast baffles, one in front of the other, just to make sure that accuracy problems don’t develop.

It has tested Engel’s .308, 220 grain subsonic bullets on one of its suppressed rifles with a 1:12” twist, and achieved excellent accuracy. It then tested the same bullets in other rifles it had suppressed, with similar results.

Sound Tech says the most stable bullets are those with round noses, as a spire point tends to “hunt” in flight. This is due not only to aerodynamics, but also to weight distribution. The more weight towards the front, the greater the stability. Tumbling on contact is an effective concept, but achieved only at the cost of accuracy and inherent stability.

Work is currently being conducted in the US on bullets which expand more effectively and more uniformly. The Black Hills .308 LP (limited penetration) round is said to be in great demand at present.

CARL GUSTAF 5.56MM EXPORT FAMILY: a couple of years ago, when Carl Gustaf in Sweden was still chasing the Norwegian 5.56mm re-equipment contract (now deferred until 2005 or later), it developed as a candidate weapon an upgraded CGA5 variant of its local AK5 licensed version of the FN FNC.

Since then we note that Carl Gustaf has expanded this export venture to include a short C2 carbine and even a Light Support Weapon (LSW), now making the CGA5 the basis of a family system.

Main differences are the addition of a scope rail on which detachable optical or iron sights can be mounted, and there is also provision for attachment of laser aiming pointers and other sighting aids at either side of a specially modified handguard. The optical sight shown rather reminds us of that on the German G36 and has an integral M16-style carrying handle with an aperture formed in the front to prevent obscuration of the vision field. This approach also permits a lower sighting plane than on M16s with fixed carrying handles.

An M203 or similar grenade launcher can also be added beneath the handguard, and the skeletonised buttstock can be adjusted to provide the best cheek weld with either iron or optical sights. There also appear to be compensating slots in the flashhider to control muzzle jump. The C2 carbine is intended for non-infantry users, while the LSW variant has a heavier barrel and will accept a drum magazine, allowing more regular use of burst fire.

ARMS MORAVIA 9mm PISTOL: Arms Moravia Ltd of the Czech Republic this year showed details of a 9x19 mm PS97 pistol. This is an SA/DA weapon externally resembling the CZ75. It has a 15-round magazine, plastic grips and is offered in blued or nickel finishes. Empty weight is 1120g and barrel length 11.4cm. Length overall is 21cm. Accessories (supplied with the gun, we understand) include a spare magazine & wooden grips. (Arms Moravia: Tel (+42) 69-611-7325, Fax (+42) 69-611-2202, E-mail: arms.cz@ova.pvtnet.cz)

MULTI-CALIBRE SA CANNON: Vektor in South Africa has a new GAMA (Gun Automatic Multi-Ammunition) cannon which can fire .50 Browning, 12.7 & 14.5mm Russian, 20x82mm Mauser, 20x102mm Vulcan, 20x114mm or 20x119mm cartridges using a 60-second conversion system. It can also handle both mechanically and electrically-primed ammunition. Various configurations are possible to suit ground tripods, aircraft pods, vehicles and naval mountings. Gun weight in the various calibres ranges from 47 to 53kg and cyclic rate from 500-850 rpm.

NEW AUSTEYR MOUNT OPTIONS: our sources down under report that Australian Defence Industries (ADI) has shown a short F-88C AUG carbine with four mounting rails butting up against the gas block at 90 degrees to each other around the barrel, intended to facilitate attachment of shotguns, grenade launchers, lights & laser pointers, along the lines of the Knight’s Armament RIS or US army MWS.

And the F-88SA1 variant of the full-sized AUG as currently being factory upgraded for the army by ADI has additional accessory mounting slots either side of the Picatinny-compatible scope adaptor rail. Australia has selected the Canadian 4x ELCAN scope as its Enhanced Optics for the AUG with Picatinny rail.

The Australian government’s DSTO research establishment has reportedly also developed yet another AUG adapter for the 40mm M203 PI grenade launcher. Trials of 40mm launchers were slated for Oct 98.

We’re advised that the basic Australian service rifle nomenclature is as follows (though there are a few inconsistencies twixt ADI & army designations):-

a. F-88 - AUG rifle with a 508mm barrel & integral optics.
b. F-88S - AUG rifle with ‘special’ receiver & Steyr proprietary mount
c. F-88C - AUG carbine with 407mm barrel
d. F-88T - .22LR training rifle - not yet selected
e. F-88SA1 - rebuilt F-88S AUG with Picatinny rail adaptor

(nb: It’s assumed the last batch (2000-odd) of F-88Cs with Picatinny mounts will be designated F-88CA1)

NEW IRISH COMBAT KIT: after many years of plain olive green combat trousers & jackets which look very much like the pre-camouflage British kit, the Irish army is adopting a multi-layered uniform system along current British lines, and in DPM camouflage, to replace present working & combat dress. And if we could still lay hands on the relevant papers we could probably tell you more!

INLAND TECHNOLOGY WEAPON CLEANING EQUIPMENT: in Georgia recently Inland Technology Inc of Tacoma (Washington) was demonstrating its IT-48WC weapons cleaning & partswasher system, which it says is being fielded throughout the US forces for cleaning of all weapons from small arms to field artillery.

The system, which looks like a large metal sink, uses the EdgeTek filtration system which will filter down to a tenth of a micron and can extend the use of Inland’s Breakthrough ‘environmentally compliant’ cleaning solvent for several years.

Inland says the IT-48WC drastically reduces cleaning time, to about 8-20 minutes per weapon, and after cleaning weapons need only to be wiped down, lubricated and reassembled. User figures cite 5-7 minutes for cleaning an M16A2 rifle (Contact: Tel(253)383-1177, 1-800-552-3100, E-mail: inland@inlandtech.com)

DENEL/VEKTOR 5.56mm CR-21 RIFLE: this new design, whose title is short for ‘Combat Rifle for the 21st Century’, was recently written up by International Defense Review (IDR), but it has been around for some while. It is essentially a South African 5.56mm R4 rifle reconfigured and re-housed in a synthetic black polymer bullpup stock.

It is strongly inspired by the Steyr AUG, right down to the outsized ‘trigger guard’ - and possibly also by a similar bullpup IMI came up with in Israel a couple of years ago - and it shows all the design hallmarks of the same outside team that came up with the Vektor CP-1 pistol.

The dramatically rounded, flowing lines certainly suggest the same hands at work, though sources say it’s nevertheless awkward to strip. When we tested the CP-1 pistol, we found it looked much better than it worked, so slick styling must always be kept in perspective.

A source who has handled the CR-21 says the ergonomics are good, likewise the surface finish of the polymer stock, though some of the joints could evidently be improved.

Apparently the stock is very strong, as an impromptu drop test verified, but our source was not too enamoured of the crossbolt safety and had some initial reservations about the location of the twin fire selectors, one each side of the rear of the stock. If the 5.56mm SA80 is anything to go by, this may prove a bind.

A non-magnifying reflex optical sight (also drop-proofed) is installed on the CR-21. It appears to have started out as a Trijicon design, but has been further refined by Denel, who are now manufacturing it. An improved version was also due.

The sight reticle is an orange triangle, visible in all conditions which allow a target to be seen. It is apparently unaffected by high ambient light levels.

We’re told the SA forces experimented with magnifying optics but determined (as we would have expected) that these were all slower to use than unity-power sights. As far as we’re aware, there is no plan or provision to swap day for night sights on the CR-21 in dark conditions.

IDR suggested there are both right and left-ejecting versions of the rifle, but since the CR-21 is merely a ‘re-wrapped’ R4, that would be difficult.

Our sources say however that a case deflector has been fitted for use by left-handers (or for right-handers shooting round right-hand cover), bouncing the cases 30 degrees forward; this is said to work very well and, if so, gives the CR-21 a distinct edge over the SA80 and AUG.

IDR gives the loaded weight of the CR-21 as 3.8kg and length overall 76cm with a 46.5cm barrel (1:229mm/9” twist). Magazines are reportedly polymer, of 20 & 35-rounds capacity, and the full-auto cyclic rate is 600-750rpm.

According to our South African sources, The CR-21 began life as what the army mysteriously called the User Requirement System (URS).

It apparently results from an international trawl by army experts of defence shows and manufacturers, plus, we understand, a two-week sojourn in the UK MOD Pattern Room. The army may also have taken advice from amongst the small arms technical writer community.

Subsequently, we’re told the army went to Armscor, who responded to the effect that there were no funds for this sort of development, but subsequently Denel was somehow persuaded to proceed with it.

The CR-21 has clearly been developed with a view to general adoption in South Africa, despite the fact that - in the wider order of things - a new personal weapon would not appear to be a pressing priority for the SA Defence Forces right now.

We know that another designer with a significantly more creative bullpup design was also trying to secure funding in South Africa, but sense that the CR-21 has now pushed out any opposition, probably for good.

It’s understood the South African Infantry School at Oudshoorn, together with the Army Intelligence Unit, was issued with CR-21s well over a year ago, and that they have resulted in a dramatic improvement in shooting standards - presumably due to the reflex sights.

We should like to know, however, whether these improvements relate primarily to formal range firing (where optically-sighted weapons almost invariably score better) or across the whole spectrum of scenarios anticipated in combat.

Additionally, some 300 CR-21s are said to have been supplied to Latin America, including 100 to Ecuador, all apparently for evaluation. Jane’s Defence Weekly also mentioned that a police version, about 10cm shorter, had been trialled.

Isn’t it interesting how so many designers, confronted today with the creation of a ‘new’ bullpup, come up with something like the AUG, which has already been in Austrian service for 20+ years? It’s a definite feather in Steyr-Mannlicher’s cap.

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