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Small Arms Data by Wire (SADW): December 1998

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 SCOUT - FACTORY MODIFICATIONS

Following our various reports on poor ignition reliability of the Steyr Scout rifle with certain types of 7.62mm NATO ball ammunition, Steyr-Mannlicher has notified us that it is modifying the striker assembly, which will now provide four different locations for the circlip which locks the spring tensioning adjustment nut in place.

This will have the effect of increasing the striker impact force, theoretically obviating the need for additional home-made spacers and hopefully solving the problem. Col Jeff Cooper has been rather dismissive of this particular glitch, blaming ‘inferior’ ammunition from suspect countries, though in fairness we must point out that most of the ignition trouble was with US military Lake City M118 Match. However, Steyr says it has been unable to replicate the extraction failures we referred to in earlier issues. The owner of the rifle involved now says he thinks he might possibly have been the author of his own downfall in over-enthusiastically stripping the extractor; however he is nonetheless now carrying a spare extractor and spring.

Separately, it has since emerged that the short .375 cartridge being developed for the Scout by Hirtenberg in Austria (see earlier issues) is the ‘376 JCS’, apparently intended to lob a 260gr bullet at 2,500fps. Some increase in rifle weight will result. We’re not sure the wildcat approach will generate huge sales, since the ammunition will most likely remain single-source.

The American Rifleman also said that GSI was forecasting two types of Realtree camouflage for Scout rifle stocks next year. If so, just don’t put one of these down in the forest while digging your toilet pit at dusk, or you may not find it again in a hurry. You’ll remember Colt tried this tack before with one of its revolvers. Steyr’s official comments on Scout calibres other than .308 state that 7mm-08 is in production but any additional calibres are still ‘only under investigation’. The company says a few black stocks are being made for rifles with suppressor-compatible barrels and other camouflage patterns ‘for market research services’. While Jeff Cooper hints at interchangeable bolt handles to come, Steyr says it has not done anything on this so far, and its aim at present is to continue to promote the Cooper Package in its original form.

WINCHESTER DEVELOPMENTS

Olin’s Winchester ammunition division has been pretty busy on the military & police front.

Its reduced-range 5.56mm jacketed frangible ammunition, incorporating a 45gr jacketed version of the Delta Defense frangible bullet (made from a copper/nylon & tungsten mix) is loaded with the Winchester non-toxic primer, using dinol as the basic priming mix, with tetrazine as a sensitiser, boron as a fuel and potassium nitate as an oxidiser.

The bullet’s brass jacket, which extends most of the way to its tip, is a measure to ensure reliable functioning and match its ballistics more closely to the M855/SS109 round. Accuracy at 100 yds is actually better than with the standard NATO loading. Winchester’s equivalent pistol- calibre training ammunition, all non-toxic primed and offered in 9mm, .38 Spl, .40 &W and .45 Auto, has unjacketed Delta frangible bullets.

In Winchester’s parallel SuperClean NT range of ammunition, the bullets are all jacketed, but with a malleable tin core. They are not frangible and act much like lead-cored bullets on impact, though without producing the associated contamination. Non-toxic priming is standard. Available calibres are 5.56mm (55gr), 9mm, .38 Spl, .375 Mag, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. Maximum training range with 5.56mm is about 200 yards.

One of the lesser-known Winchester products is fully-encapsulated, lead-cored pistol ammunition with non-toxic priming, along German lines - in fact, the 9mm version is already understood to be selling to police in Germany in competition with local products. There are 115gr, 124gr and 147gr 9mm loadings, .38 Spl standard (130gr) & +P (158gr), .40 loads in 165gr and 180gr plus a 230gr .45 ACP.

Winchester has also developed a ‘lead-free penetrator’ version of the 5.56mm M855/SS109 bullet, simply by substituting a solid copper core for the lead in the standard NATO bullet design. This reduces bullet weight to 55grs and increases the velocity by 100 fps, but evidently doesn’t diminish the bullet’s ability to defeat hard targets such as the standard NATO plate, which it penetrates out to 650m. It also matches the trajectory of the M855 out to around 750m. As before, non-toxic priming is standard.

Lastly, Winchester has designed a hollow-tipped, solid brass Match-grade bullet which is ballistically matched to the Raufoss .50 Multipurpose (MP) round (or its US Mk211 equivalent) and can therefore be used for more economical .50 sniper training. This is a necessary move, since the MP ammunition is about $8 a pop, and the operational APHEI bullets cannot be fired on some restricted military ranges. Again, non-toxic primers can be incorporated if required. The .50 bullet is a driving-band design with long bearing surface, increasing bore stability, and the long internal tip cavity is reckoned to improve accuracy by a third over solid nose bullets. Rifling engraving tests demonstrate that the brass material is rather softer than the jacket of the M33 ball round, so barrel wear may also be lower.

Actually, this new .50 Match round represents something of a breakthrough - we remember talking to Olin staff many times over the years and repeatedly asking when they were going to make something like this, but we were always given to understand the market was too small. Now that the military are interested, things have evidently changed.

NEW AUSTRALIAN F1 HAND GRENADE

The Australian Army says that its new F1 offensive hand grenade is planned to be issued to first line units and training establishments early next year, replacing the old US-pattern M26 HE/Frag grenade. The F1, produced by Australian Defence Industries (ADI) and in development over the past decade, is much the same weight as the M26 and contains an offensive payload of 4,000 steel ball bearings, which are more efficient than irregular fragments. It is designed to penetrate flak jackets to a radius of six metres and will injure out to 15 metres, yet is safe at 30 metres for troops wearing normal combat clothing. Anecdotal evidence from the US & UK suggests the M26 was never a particularly efficient design, and could fragment into too few pieces. Because of its bean-can shape the F1 is less likely than the M26 to roll after hitting the ground and can be expected to come to a halt within about three metres of impact.

We recall that when ADI first announced its grenade programme, it was talking about a dual purpose hand/rifle grenade. Australian sources confirm the F-1 is indeed a modular design which permits the addition of a finned tail tube converting it for use as a rifle grenade. Reportedly it was also designed to accept a range of booby trap fuzes, though this is apparently no longer PC, officially-speaking.

AUSTRALIAN SNIPER BUYS

Army magazine in Australia has published details of the British Accuracy International Model AW sniper rifle as purchased for the Australian army. Apparently it’s a modified AW-F; we understand it differs from the standard Model AW in the following respects:

- Picatinny scope rail
- Butt spike
- Multi-adjustable buttplate assembly
- Cheekpiece
- Quick detach scope mount
- Folding stock

The scope will be a variable-power Schmidt & Bender 3-12x50mm, and at least some of the rifles will apparently be supplied with muzzle suppressors, presumably for special forces. Barrels will be made in Australia, where the rifle will be designated SR98. Night sights will shortly be provided as part of the army’s Project Ninox, and the army is buying Lapua match ammunition for the SR98 in preference to local military supplies, which were found to be substantially less accurate. A spotting scope & laser rangefinder are also on the way.

We understand from our Australian sources that issues will be completed by the end of 1998. Army Magazine said the army’s old Parker-Hale sniper weapons were being superseded because of a ‘lack of user confidence’. The selection criteria required competing weapons to be capable of accurately engaging targets out to 800 metres. Troops found the AW to be very robust and accurate even after arduous stalking.

Currently, new ghillie (Oz - yowie) suits for snipers are also being trialled, including one comprising an Australian camo suit festooned with 1” strips of similarly patterned material, which has evidently been cut with pinking shears to give a zigzag edge. A neat solution, we’re told.

The army has also reported that trials of .50 long-range rifles will resume there early in 1999; meanwhile (as predicted earlier) the planned .50 users have been requested to refine their requirements, which we interpret as a reality check. The aim is to introduce a .50 rifle in the middle of next year. These weapons will reportedly be employed as battalion-level assets.

BARRETT NEW DEVELOPMENTS

Barrett Firearms has confirmed press reports elsewhere that it is conducting feasibility studies and trade-off analyses on the question of adapting the .50 Barrett M82A1 semi-automatic rifle to fire the smart 20mm and 25m HE ammunition which has respectively been developed for the US army’s Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW) and Objective Crew-Served Weapon (OCSW).

It is not possible to quote a timescale for either of these projects at this point, since work is closely tied to continuing development of the ammunition itself.

National Defense said that the 25mm project would necessitate a larger Barrett receiver and, to fully utilise the smart fuzing capabilities of the ammunition, both the 20mm and 25mm approaches would need to incorporate some sophisticated fire control equipment - presumably the same type of modules presently used on the OICW & OCSW prototypes.

(Readers will recall that the NTW 20/14.5mm anti-materiel rifle designed by Tony Neophytou in South Africa can already be supplied with a conversion kit to fire the 40mm High-Velocity grenade cartridge used with the Mk19 automatic grenade launcher.)

In addition, Barrett confirms it has worked up a variant of the M82A1 suitable for use as an in-bore sub-calibre training rifle in tank guns, infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) cannon and 2.75” rocket launchers. This has also attracted interest as a primary weapon for arming light aircraft. Barrett envisages a 20-round box magazine or a 300-round linear linkless feed system.

PARKER-HALE/BREMMER ARMS NEW PROJECTS

The deal with DTL in the USA for Bremmer Arms of Birmingham to manufacture the 9mm IDW (formerly Bushman) SMG in the UK was finally wrapped up in mid-Sep 98, and Bremmer should receive the prototypes by early Oct 98.

Bremmer of course already owns Parker-Hale Ltd in Birmingham and has moved swiftly to redesign and value-engineer the popular but previously very expensive Parker-Hale bipod which has become the choice of many sniper rifle suppliers. The new steel bipod has self-leveling feet on ball joints, and legs which can be detached for cleaning. As before it will be mounted using a spigot attachment secured in the accessory rail or at the forward end of the handguard. Best of all, it should be available at £90-£99, a huge cost saving on its predecessor.

Before Christmas 98 we should also see a rebirth of the 5.56mm bolt-action rifle which Parker Hale originally developed as a contender for the UK MOD Cadet Rifle contest eventually won by the curious manually-operated version of SA80. As first built, the Parker-Hale rifle was fed from a ten-round, single-column magazine, but Bremmer has now re-engineered it to accept M16 magazines. Suppliers for the synthetic stocks are currently being explored, and Bremmer’s own hammer-forged barrels from the Parker-Hale facility will be used. Optimum rifling twist is still being discussed. The plan is to produce this weapon in a variety of configurations, including target, sniper and ‘practical rifle’ versions. We tested the Cadet Rifle in Birmingham some years ago and found it a very sturdy design.

Also on the way back is the Parker-Hale series of sporting rifles first heralded a year or so ago. In addition, Bremmer currently has a sizeable stock of unturned rifled barrel blanks of various types already in stock, and plans to develop the barrel production side as a separate sales line. And the Parker-Hale range of cleaning kit will also continue.

Finally, Bremmer has now completely redesigned the pump-forward service shotgun it inherited when it acquired Birmingham Gunmakers Ltd, also in Birmingham, and pre-production models should be ready by Christmas.

We understand the Parker-Hale brand name will be used for most of the new products except for the 9mm IDW, the new shotgun, the .22LR AR15s and .30-06 Springfields, which will all remain under the Bremmer Arms banner.

KNIGHT’S TUBB SR-25 MATCH RIFLE

One Reed Knight item we evidently missed at this year’s SHOT Show is the David Tubb Competition Match Rifle, a $5,995 (retail) variant of the Stoner SR-25 named after Tubb, a national match shooter, and offered in .308 and .260 Remington calibres. It differs from the standard ‘flat top’ rifles in being canted 10 degrees and has a 26” match barrel, an extended vertical match trigger, enlarged trigger guard, lightweight high-speed hammer, ambidextrous bolt stop, a hand stop, a skeletonised buttstock with rotating cheekpiece & buttpad and an extended ventilated handguard with mirage stopper. The cocking handle is on the side of the bolt carrier instead of at the rear of the receiver. Scope mounts, scopes and competition aperture iron sights are extra.

TWO BARRELS WITH CZ-700 RIFLE

National Defense reported that the 7.62mm NATO/.308 CZ-700 bolt-action sniper rifle, a 13.6 pound weapon from Ceska Zbrojovka in the Czech Republic, comes with two interchangeable barrels, one of them suppressed, allowing users to employ 200gr subsonic ammunition. This is clearly a neat move, which gets around the need for additional discrete suppressed weapons with tighter rifling twists, which are usually quite pricey.

SWEDEN’S NEW SNIPER ROUND

Some readers will recall that for years now the Swedish MOD’s FMV (Army Materiel Command) has been seeking a new sniper cartridge to use in the British 7.62mm NATO Accuracy International Model AW rifle adopted as the Swedish army’s new PSG90 sniper weapon. The ammunition programme began with a study in 1989 focused on establishing the chief criteria to ensure first-round hits, despite errors in range, crosswind and lead calculation. Its conclusion was that a short time of flight was the key factor, which could be obtained with high initial velocity and low downrange drag.

Full-scale development started in 1993, and not surprisingly studies centred on a sabot-discarding sub-calibre bullet. Competitors included Lano & Bofors from Sweden, Lapua from Finland and Olin/Winchester from the USA. In Feb 98, Winchester - with a modified 7.62mm SLAP cartridge - won the first Swedish contract for 1m rounds, for delivery starting next year.

Selected round is designated locally as ‘7.62mm sk ptr 10 prick’ (the last a rather unfortunate abbreviation of Prickskytte or sniper). Velocity is 1,340m/s (7.62mm ball is 850m/s), and weight of the 4.8mm calibre tungsten carbide projectile is 3.4g. Breech pressure is 385 MPa (360 MPa for ball) and the price US$2 a round, as opposed to 50c for ball. Seated below the tungsten projectile, inside the plastic sabot, is an aluminium ‘area multiplier’, a metal disc customarily used in SLAP ammunition to assist with sabot separation. We note also that the Swedish literature describes the propellant as ‘compacted ball powder’, so we assume Olin’s velocity-enhancing compaction technology has been used.

With the new round, time of flight at 1,000 metres is reduced by 34% and trajectory height (it’s only about 2.5m) by 58%. Wind drift is down 32% and muzzle velocity up by 58%. 100m penetration (rated as 50% penetration) of a NATO armour test plate (hardness 400 Brinell) at 90 degrees (zero degrees NATO) is 30mm, as opposed to about 17mm for Bofors 7.62mm AP.

According to FMV figures, the new sniper round increases hit probability by a factor of two to four at ranges from 400 to 1,000 metres. As might be expected, the tungsten projectile does not break up in soft target simulants, and is claimed to be fully stable, with no tendency to yaw. What’s not said in FMV material is that the idea of a hard, solid bullet also allows the Swedes to avoid any criticism of the projectile’s terminal ballistics from a humanitarian viewpoint, a significant political aspect in that country. Of course, it would also do serious damage to hard targets at close range, though the holes would be pretty small.

Though we’re not sure who’s actually planning to invade Sweden just now, the official message of FMV is ‘Don’t mess with the Swedes, ‘cause we’ve got the world’s best sniper system and will quickly turn you into a casualty.’ You’ve been warned.

5.7MM P-90 BALLISTICS IMPROVED

It appears that we, along with other pundits, have been caught napping by ballistic improvements to the 5.7x28mm ammunition for the FN P-90, consequent upon the redesign of this round a few years ago to meet revised NATO penetration criteria, which include defeat of Russian-style titanium plates interspersed with soft body armour fabric.

Volume 3, No 3, of Wound Ballistics Review, the journal of the International Wound Ballistics Association (IWBA), carries a report by Col Marty Fackler (US Army, retd) of tests carried out on the improved P-90 ammunition at an RCMP Wound Ballistics Seminar in Canada during Sep 97. That publication has been highly critical of the P-90 concept in the past.

The original P-90 bullet with plastic core was noted for its propensity to divert wildly at right angles from the line of fire shortly after entering tissue simulant, but Fackler found that in test firings of the new bullet at ten feet into 10% gelatine the projectile consistently started to yaw about 6cm into the target, rotated 180 degrees and subsequently penetrated to a total of 25-28cm - and in a relatively straight line.

The improved bullet is 3mm shorter than the original, at 2.1 cm, it weighs 31grs and has an aluminium core with an internal steel penetrator tip like the 5.56mm M855. Fackler notes however that in truncating the new projectile the maximum diameter of the permanent wound track is also fractionally reduced. He also observes that the new bullet does not deform in tissue simulant and that for all but the central 10cm of the wound track, the hole made in the target is only about 5.6mm.

And he further notes that, at the bottom line, the P-90 projectile has just 60% the momentum of the commercial .22 Hornet, with around 52% of its energy. A closer analogue, Fackler says, would be the 1922fps .22 rimfire Remington Viper round, with momentum within 5% of that achieved by the P-90.

He also suggests that one reason why the P-90 has not apparently caught on with police, as FN clearly hoped it would when its military take-off was slow, was the serious risk of body armour defeat (for which the bullet was of course specifically designed) in ‘own gun’ shootings on the street.

2. INDUSTRY & FOREIGN NEWS

GERMANY HELPED ARM THE KLA?

A story in The European suggested that the German intelligence services had a hand in training & arming the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in a move the paper says had ‘the aim of cementing German influence in the Balkan area and tackling the refugee problem’. According to The European’s sources, KLA training and ex-Stasi communications equipment was provided by the German Militarabschirmdienst (MAD) counterintelligence agency and the Bundeswehr’s KSK special forces, together with ex-GDR weapons.

The matter has (not surprisingly) created serious friction between the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) (the German security service) and the CIA, who feared a backlash from the Serbs.

We believe it also raises substantial questions relating to Germany’s much-vaunted 1961 War Weapons Control Act (Kriegswaffenkontrollgesetz), which forbids the export of military weapons to any parties engaged in conflict. This Act is the reason why production to meet various overseas contracts for Heckler & Koch weapons has been delegated by H&K over the years to Royal Ordnance in the UK.

No doubt there will be some nifty footwork exercised over the precise definition of ‘conflict’ in the Albanian context but - on the face of it - if the KLA story is true the BND and MAD would appear to have breached German domestic law, never mind any EU or UN prohibitions. Observers outside Germany may now also be legitimately asking themselves whether it was really such a good thing for the Bundeswehr to be finally authorised to conduct operations outside German borders in support of UN resolutions, if the intelligence services are able to use them abroad for covert sectarian purposes.

Nor were we very happy to note The European’s comment that the KLA equipping was said to be funded via an Albanian foundation called ‘The Fatherland’s Call’, with offices (inter alia) in Germany, Sweden & Switzerland. It all sounds a bit WW2 for our liking.

BIG THAI AMMO BUYER

The Bangkok Post said that a special forces colonel in the Thai army was found to have 700,000 rounds of ammunition at his home. He reportedly said it was purchased for a secret mission, but the army denied this. The Post said he actually appeared to be running his own ammo business, which is perfectly legal.

MEMORIAL SHOOT

A Times story said that, in accordance with his last wishes, former British gamekeeper Tony Goldsworthy’s ashes were fired from the guns of 40 of his fellow members of the Bath Muzzle & Historic Breechloaders’ Association at a special event on their shooting range. His other dying wish was that one of his friends should shoot a crow - not his favourite bird - with his ashes.

PHILIPPINES POLICE WITH P-90

One of our sources who was recently in the Philippines reports that members of the Special Action Group of the Philippines National Police patrolling Manila airport are armed with 5.7mm FN P-90 SMGs. He understands they have 20 of these weapons.

AUTO-ORDNANCE FOR SALE

In mid-Sep 98 Firearms Business (FB) in the USA said that the Gun Parts Corp was offering its Auto-Ordnance Corp New York subsidiary for sale, saying it wanted to concentrate on its core business & new ventures. Auto-Ordnance makes Thompson carbines (aka Tommy Guns) and M1911A1 type pistols. No asking price was mentioned.

GUN BUYBACK IN EL SALVADOR

In August the Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy announced another of his government’s projects aimed (in his words) at curbing small arms proliferation, a $130,000 contribution from the Peacebuilding Fund for a ‘Goods for Guns’ buy-back program in El Salvador.

This project, originally organised by several Salvadorian business people with the assistance of the Rotary Club, is intended to persuade former combatants to exchange weapons for coupons redeemable against consumer goods. Canada also made a contribution to this programme in 1996/97.

KAZANLAK HOPES FOR AK SALES

An International Herald Tribune report in Aug 98 came to readers from Kazanlak in Bulgaria, home to the Arsenal arms plant (formerly Kazanlak Arsenal), which the Tribune said makes everything from CNC machines to tank guns, in 200 production halls. It has 10,400 employees.

Apparently Arsenal is setting great store on selling Kalashnikov (AK74) rifles in 5.56x45mm calibre and breaking into Western markets, but would not be drawn on whether Bulgarian forces were going to adopt these weapons themselves - or who any other customers for them might actually be. Of course, all the former Warsaw Pact countries can also offer Kalashnikovs, including various AK74 derivatives chambered for 5.56mm NATO; in fact the last thing the market needs just now is another prospective Kalashnikov exporter. There really isn’t any money in it. (nb: though previously we’ve also seen the spelling ‘Kazanlac’, we’re informed ‘Kazanlak’ is in fact the correct way)

SECRET SERVICE UZI SMGs

In the USA we recently examined one of the famous Secret Service attache-case 9mm Uzi SMG systems which we assume the service’s current requirement for new subguns will now supersede. The gun itself is secured in the attaché case by two powerful magnets, and there are three spare magazines in the foam-lined case. Where you might normally stick your initials by the handle on the edge of the case there is a handy arrow to indicate which way the muzzle of the gun is pointing.

Apparently the suggested modus operandi is to pop the catch, let the lid of the case drop down and simply pull the SMG away from the magnetic catches. The only problem we see with this is the spare magazines, which will at that point still be firmly embedded in the foam, so you’d better bank on one magazine doing the trick!

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V2N3 (December 1998)
and was posted online on October 7, 2016

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