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Small Arms Data by Wire (SADW): June 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.

NEW WEAPONS & EQUIPMENT

MAKE EVERY ONE COUNT

Readers outside the UK might be interested to know what target shooters at Bisley have to pay for ammunition. The new Royal Ordnance 155gr 7.62mm NATO target round coming in this year will be sold by the British NRA at a basic price of £42 ($69 approx) per 100, falling slightly by stages to £39 per 100 for quantities of 20,000 & above.

The NRA says the new round will be available from end-May 98; this will allow sufficient time for testing, running down existing stocks of RG 144gr Green Spot target ammunition and updating targets with new V-bull markings before the 155gr cartridge is adopted.

.357 GLOCK 32 FEATURES

Our contacts at the SLSA training facility in West Virginia have just acquired a Glock 32 (Compact) pistol in .357 SIG calibre. They report that the metal guide rails in the polymer frame have been beefed up, and are 4-5mm longer than in the equivalent Glock .40 model.

The barrel is a bit thicker than the 9mm and the chamber provides more support to the case head. The G32 has the new finger-grooved frontstrap and accessory rail, as indicated by FG/R on the box.

BENELLI ‘PLASTIC SHOTGUN’

Our German sources report that Benelli showed a new shotgun at IWA 98 with a steel-reinforced plastic receiver, to be ready by Jul 98. It’s a wonder more designers have not gone down this road - any system where the lockup is independent of the receiver technically allows it.

INK SPRAY - THAT’LL DO IT!

From an item in the UK Advertising Standard Authority’s Monthly Report it appears that a firm called Defender UK is selling a personal protection device marketed as the Defender Criminal Identifier. This is an ink spray designed to mark the face of an assailant, staining it for up to seven days, ‘enabling authorities to track and identify the attacker’. It is claimed that it ‘Could give victims those vital seconds to escape’. It has reportedly been appraised by the Home Office Forensic Science Service, who have deemed it not to be an ‘offensive weapon’ within the meaning of the law. However, we can’t help thinking that unless its use was preceded by a firm kick in the testicles, it might well only serve to enrage the prospective stainee.
(Defender UK, 200 Moor Lane,
Crosby, L23 2UH)

HYDROGEN/NITROGEN MINE DETECTOR

Intersec magazine in the UK noted that a Ukrainian scientist had demonstrated a new mine detection technology in Nevada, based on the detection of hydrogen & nitrogen.

NIKONOV RIFLE NOW IN 7.62x39MM TOO

The Russian Abakan programme clearly continues apace. Our sources in Russia tell us that the Nikonov Design Bureau, which earlier came up with the 5.45mm AN-94 rifle, notable for its ‘blowback shifted pulse’ (BBSP) mechanism (firing the first two rounds of each burst at 1,800 rpm, the rest at 600-650 rpm), has applied the same principles to developing an additional assault rifle in 7.62x39mm calibre.

In theory, the AN-94, which is best described as Russia’s answer to the US Advanced Combat Rifle, is slated as the Russian domestic replacement for the AK-74, though whether this aim will ever finally be achievable remains to be seen. Or indeed whether there is any pressing need for a supersession at all.

The purpose of the high-rate burst system is to improve hit probability, along the lines of the fast three-shot burst mechanism of the caseless 4.7mm G11 rifle. In both cases at the high rate all the rounds in the two or three-shot bursts are fired during one rearward cycle of the reciprocating parts. However, there is probably rather less justification for such refinements to infantry rifles at this time, given the likely internal security/peacekeeping role for such weapons in the foreseeable future.

As of Jan 97, we were told that only 2,500 AN-94s had yet been built. The fact that Nikonov has now developed a 7.62x39mm version suggests the Russians have the export market firmly in mind.

WALTHER P99 IN .40 CALIBRE

As anticipated, Walther in Germany is introducing a .40 version of its futuristic-looking, polymer-framed P99 pistol. Visier magazine got hold of what it describes as the sole example - it has a 12-shot magazine and weighs 726g empty. Best results (for grouping & zero) in Visier’s tests were obtained with Israeli Samson (IMI) .40 ammunition loaded with 180gr flat-nose FMJs.

CAMO COVER FOR AUG STOCK

A photo in Asia Pacific Defense Review of Australian & US troops operating together on Exercise Tandem Thrust 97 showed one Australian with a camouflaged cloth cover for the stock of his 5.56mm AUG-F1 rifle, neatly matching his battledress. It even had an ejection cutout, so was clearly intended to be used while firing.

None of the other Australians photographed appeared to have the same cover, so it’s entirely possible it might have been a private initiative; however, if a camo finish is required, why not simply apply it directly to the polymer stock?

SAUER ADOPTING ECR

At the end of Jan 98, Cation in the USA was building an electrochemical rifling (ECR) machine for JP Sauer & Sohn in Germany. The equipment will also be used for electrochemical machining of the feed ramp and chamber mouth radius on SIG/Sauer pistol barrels. We have seen one such barrel, and the advantages are obvious; the electrolytic approach produces much smoother contours than mechanical machining.

STEYR SCOUT RIFLE - POSTSCRIPT

In our earlier review of the Steyr-Mannlicher Scout Rifle (prototype #6) we noted that it would not reliably ignite the US M118 7.62mm NATO Match ammunition with which it was tried. Our US contacts now tell us that the firing pin spring on this sample had been ‘adjusted’ at the initial US gun writer gathering held to launch the Scout at the Raton NRA ranges in New Mexico. This appears to have been in response to a request by one of those present that the bolt lift should be eased, and it would seem that it remained in this state after Raton.

On this basis it is quite possible that prototype #6 is not typical in the ignition reliability department; however we’re sure Steyr in Austria is now doing whatever is necessary to ensure that production Scouts will cater for as wide a range of ammunition & primer brands as possible.

CROSSFIRE UPDATE

As we said in our SHOT Show 98 report, the innovative Crossfire pump-action combination gun has now pretty well been finalised in the USA. The earlier ball-bearing lock has given way to a camming lug system and short guide rails replace conventional guide rods in the pump mechanism.

Initial calibres will be .223/12g (2.75” chambering); combinations such as .308/12g and .308/20g are slated to follow.

Saco Defense in Maine will be manufacturing Crossfire, and first production weapons are due in late Summer 98. Evaluation guns will be available any time now - M&R Machine & Tool has assisted Crossfire with these. Retail price will be $1,895.

Stock finishes are currently camo, black or ‘wood-look’ plastic. The gun weighs 8.6 pounds empty and has a capacity of four rounds of 12g ammunition, fed from a neat tubular magazine in the buttstock. The rifle element is supplied with a five-shot AR15 magazine but will obviously accept any M16 model.

No detailed accuracy testing had yet been carried out by the end of Jan 98, but Crossfire expects to achieve 1” grouping at 100 yards from the .223 barrel, which - by the way - has a 9” rifling twist, so should handle M193 and SS109/M855 military ammunition equally well. An interchangeable Invector Choke system is fitted to the shotgun barrel. Later, rifled 12g barrels may possibly be offered.

AGUILA .222 SSS CARTRIDGE UPDATE & OTHER NEW MEXICAN LINES

Following our earlier item on the Aguila .222 SSS subsonic .22 rimfire cartridge from Industrias Tecnos in Mexico, we have since met the manufacturer, who confirms this project was a Mexican Police requirement - and that there was some foreign interest at the Milipol 97 security show in Paris.

Readers will recall the .222 SSS utilises a .22 Short cartridge case with a very long 60gr round-nose solid lead bullet to bring overall cartridge length back up to that of the .22 Long Rifle.

Muzzle velocity is 960fps, and muzzle energy 123 foot pounds. Pressures are within SAAMI limits. Industrias Tecnos says the bullet will penetrate 24” of ballistic gelatine at 200 metres, and that the cartridge reliably functions self-loading rifles & pistols. It was developed for sniping applications, and the subsonic velocity makes it a natural for suppressed weapons.

Other new lines from Industrias Tecnos include Aguila .45 ACP High Power ammunition, loaded with a 115gr hollow-pointed ‘light but hard’ alloy projectile with a pre-weakened ogive. This round has two particular characteristics.

First, it is a good performer against hard targets, defeating 0.75” ballistic polycarbonate sheet plus 12” of gelatine. But, fired directly into ballistic gelatine, it breaks up into as many as four sharp fragments, again typically penetrating no more than 12”, but producing multiple wound tracks. Muzzle velocity is 1,450 fps and energy 546 foot pounds. Once more, operating pressures meet SAAMI criteria.

Lastly, the company is offering a ‘hypervelocity’ .22 Super Maximum rimfire cartridge with 30g lead HP bullet and an MV of 1,750 fps. It is claimed to have the highest velocity of any .22LR-compatible rimfire round.

NOSLER SABOT BULLETS

A few months ago Nosler introduced a new saboted projectile for .50 calibre rifled muzzle-loaders, comprising a plastic discarding sabot around a 250gr .44 Nosler Partition-HG big-game hunting pistol bullet. Typical velocities approach 2,000fps, and bullets should be ideally be fired in twists of 1:36” or faster, though they will stabilise in as low as 1:48”. The Partition-HG design with dual core and central partition should give 75%+ weight retention.

For 1998 Nosler has added two new saboted muzzle-loading bullets with 300gr .44 or 250gr .45 JHP pistol bullets (both for .50 rifles) and a .54 version using the same .45 bullet as the .50 projectile. The line has also been named SHOTS (Standard Hunting Or Target Sabot).

Also new is a 260gr Partition-HG bullet controlled-expansion load in .454 Casull. Other 1998 introductions include a lightweight 100gr 6.5mm (.264”) Partition bullet, and another in 9.3mm (286gr).

A joint venture deal has also been struck with Winchester to launch a Combined Technology range of Supreme Hunting Bullets in Ballistic Silvertip, Fail Safe and Partition Gold varieties in many calibres and weights. All have special surface coatings to reduce friction & fouling, and the Ballistic Silvertips have plastic spitzer tip inserts, like Nosler’s existing Ballistic Tip range.

THE ANSWER TO AW/THUNDERTRAP COMBO PROBLEM WITH .308 SUBSONICS?

In an earlier issue we described the very disappointing results achieved using 200gr Lapua subsonic .308 ammunition in a ‘CFI Special’ custom Accuracy International AW rifle fitted with a 20” barrel and an AWC Thundertrap suppressor.

Surprisingly, though the 12” rifling twist was probably only just stabilising the bullets, without the suppressor all but one round hit a plate 9” square at about 120 yards. But with the ‘can’ fitted, the grouping circle was around five feet. We hawked this problem around, and the concensus which emerged is that a marginally stable/marginally unstable long boat-tail bullet (in this case, incidentally, a rebated or ‘stepped’ boat-tail) would tend to yaw rather more than usual after leaving the muzzle, and this would probably result in the projectile contacting the inside of the suppressor, thus destroying accuracy.

This view is largely supported by an evaluation of the Thundertrap recently published in the Small Arms Review which points to the minimal dimensions of the suppressor bore and also mentions ‘wobbling’ boat-tailed bullets. That said, we did try to inspect the interior of the Thundertrap for evidence of impact, but could not find any obvious traces.

Clearly, 200 gr subsonics, particularly with boat-tail bullets, are not really suitable for use with standard rifling twists and definitely not if the weapons are suppressed. Some of you may be tempted to say this is all pretty obvious stuff; however it was the extreme difference between suppressed and unsuppressed performance that seized us, and demanded a more detailed explanation. We think we now have it.

On the other hand, we also found we could not remotely group with standard-velocity PMC military ball either when the Thundertrap suppressor was fitted, yet could hit the target when it was removed.

Though the chamber of the rifle is admittedly throated for the 168gr Sierra MatchKing, we would not expect ball ammunition to produce such poor results, which does tend to suggest the bore of the suppressor is too tight.

ACCURACY .50 RIFLE DETAILS

Accuracy International (AI) has finally released details of its .50 Browning ‘AW50 Improved’ rifle, which is now reaching the end of its development cycle. There is no forecast as yet for series production - or pricing, but we understand the price tag may actually be lower than we might normally anticipate from this manufacturer.

The AW50 is, as we expected, essentially a scaled-up version of the company’s 7.62mm Model AW, with a reinforced nylon thumbhole stock, though the buttstock can be folded behind the trigger guard.

It also has a folding butt spike and adjustable buttplate/cheekpiece unit buffered by a shock-absorber in the butt. We’re told the designer has fired over 70 shots in a session using this system and still came up smiling, so we guess the buffering works.

The weapon is 56” long overall (46” folded), and weighs 33 pounds complete with its steel Parker-Hale bipod, making it rather heavy for its class, and based on the lightweight components already incorporated into the design we’re not sure where AI could find much by way of additional weight savings.

Its stainless 27” (fluted, we believe) barrel with 1:15” twist is shrouded by a titanium sleeve which acts as an expansion chamber when the optional muzzle suppressor (also titanium) is fitted; this adds only 15” to weapon length.

The barrel is capped off by a three chamber muzzle brake made from light alloy, venting at 90 degrees to the sides. This is removed when fitting the suppressor. Optical sights are mounted on a Picatinny rail and emergency iron sights are also supplied. Gas ports on the bolt and either side of the breech ring are normally closed by red blow-out plugs.

Like other AI rifles, the AW50 has an aluminium alloy chassis. The bolt has the company’s usual six locking lugs and a turning angle of 60 degrees. A two-position safety locks the firing pin and trigger. Magazine capacity is five rounds, and overall weapon finish is green, as for the stock. Hard & soft cases are available.

The suppressed version of the 7.62mm NATO AW rifle is now being offered as the AWS, though AI points out it would normally be provided in the form of a cased accessory kit for the black AWP police weapon. And the AW Super Magnum in .338 Lapua Mag now becomes the AWM.

The company’s ‘covert’ AW is an AWS with side-folding stock packed in a Delsey suitcase, so that SWAT or special forces types on duty can disguise themselves as everyday businessmen arriving for a dirty weekend. Just don’t put it through airport screening!

For reasons we don’t fully understand, AI will not officially release details of barrel length or rifling twist for the AWS/Covert rifles, but our US sources confirm the figures are 12.5” and 1:8” respectively.

An optional side-folding stock is now available for all variants of the AW (standard on the AW50 and AW Covert), likewise an adjustable cheekpiece. However butt spikes can only be supplied with new AW-series rifles and cannot be retrofitted.

Interestingly, the plain vanilla Model AW is now listed in 5.56mm as well as 7.62mm NATO, but we gather a shorter action may actually be produced for the smaller calibre; it would also be suitable for short match rounds such as 6mm Rem BR.

AI further plans to offer its customised Bundeswehr G22 contract rifle (an AWM in .300 Win Mag with Hensoldt optics) as a ‘special’ on the US commercial market, as the AWM-F, after German army deliveries are completed.

We understand however that only ten weapons are planned; presumably they will be marketed as high-priced ‘collectibles’, though we believe there is a much wider potential market if the price is right. It is thought AI plans offer to collectors limited numbers of over-runs off its future government contracts too.

The AWM-F has a fluted barrel, a butt plate and cheekpiece (which can be adjusted without tools), a butt spike and an additional bracket, attached to the front of the stock, for mounting a night vision scope. We note the multi-ported muzzle brake/flash hider is also a refinement of earlier AI designs.

In fact, this is a new brake AI has developed for fitting to its rifles when the company’s muzzle suppressors will also be used; it has a threaded portion at the front which is normally covered by a thread protector ring. If the suppressor is not ordered or planned to be used, the older AI single-chamber brake is supplied.

Based on AI’s product evolution so far, we would expect to see some of the extra Bundeswehr features find their way into the catalogue as standard options in due course.

INDUSTRY & FOREIGN NEWS

BANGLADESHI REBELS WITH CHINESE AKs

An AFP photo in Feb 98 showed a tribal rebel leader surrendering his Chinese-made Kalashnikov (Type 56) to the Bangladeshi prime minister Hasina Wajed. Those NORINCO guns get everywhere.

URBAN WARRIORS, COMING TO A CITY NEAR YOU

Citing a Scripps Howard News item, New Gun Week reported that the US Marine Corps was seeking to obtain agreement from a number of cities on both coasts of America to allow the Corps to conduct realistic training on their streets as part of the USMC’s Urban Warrior programme.

The report said that civilians might even be asked to take part in the exercises. Cities mentioned so far were Jacksonville (Florida), Norfolk (Virginia) and Charleston (West Virginia), which conveniently all have military links.

However, we foresee PR problems with this programme - given the lingering public concerns in America about the long-term potential for US troops to be used in a domestic policing role (still legally barred by the posse comitatus provisions, but nevertheless feared) we predict there will be many who will read into this rather more than may actually be intended.

As a matter of interest, Swedish troops already train in cities, and there are very occasional major British forces exercises in the vicinity of main UK airports, billed as practice for dealing with terrorist incidents.

Unfortunately, as urban terrorism becomes a more prevalent problem, and techniques are developed to cope with it, the expertise which is accumulated will inevitably raise questions as to whether the same skills could also be used for other, less well-intentioned purposes.

The extent to which this may improve or undermine public confidence in a nation’s armed forces depends to a large degree on public perceptions of the strength of democracy and the trustworthiness of the government of the day when the chips are down.

BIG ASSUMPTION; BIGGER BANG

A Reuters item in The Times said that a high school boy aged 18 in Tourcoing, France, dared another kid to place the muzzle of a pistol against his head and pull the trigger. Big mistake - safety off! Major brain damage was the (perhaps unsurprising) result.

ISRAEL & BURMA

Asia Pacific Defense Review noted that Elbit in Israel and Aero Vodochody were offering Burma upgraded Czech L-39 aircraft, while Elbit was also in discussions about upgrading three squadrons of Burmese F-7M Chengdu fighters. So, what else is the unlovely SLORC regime in Rangoon getting from Israel? Should we be looking out for Galils?

WALTHER BUYING INTERARMS INC

Quoting foreign & US sources, Firearms Business said that Walther in Germany was negotiating to acquire its long-time US distributor Interarms Inc in a deal estimated to be worth up to $14m. Neither company would comment.

Interarms has lost a number of distributorships in the US over recent years, due to reshuffling by foreign manufacturers, the latest being Rossi of Brazil, which has now struck a deal with Taurus, already represented in North America.

We assume the Interarms acquisition is another move by Walther’s owners Umarex, who promised to revitalise the Ulm-based gunmaker. Since Interarms already has unimportable Walther pistols made under license in the USA, the marriage has logic in its favour.

The same source said that investors were also seeking to buy Arcadia Machine & Tool (AMT) in California, best known for the .44 Automag pistol.

RIGHT-WING ARMS CACHES

A Wall Street Journal Europe short said that machine guns, rifles and 8,000+ rounds of ammunition had been seized in raids directed at an unnamed extremist in Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany. It was taken as evidence of possible impending conflict between extremist groups.

EURO-ARMS CODE Mk2

A Financial Times report said that a revised draft of the UK’s much-publicised Europe-wide arms exports code of conduct was being submitted to EU officials at the end of March 98 and was thought still to permit sales for the protection of security forces, regardless of the human rights records of recipient countries.

Earlier efforts to reach pan-European agreement on new rules were unsuccessful; presumably the UK is pressing for the matter to be wrapped up at the Jun 98 EU summit so it can chalk up a ‘success’ for its presidency of the EU, which ends that month. We can already hear the sighs of relief from other European governments.

OLD WP NATIONS FOR A LANDMINE BAN

An AFP report run by The Asian Age said that 19 of the old Warsaw Pact affiliated states had indicated they were prepared to ban landmines, which represented a change of heart for some of them.

ACCURATE ARMS EXPANDS

Shooting Industry noted that the propellant suppliers Accurate Arms in the USA had acquired Woerner Engineering, which produces a range of military items such as pressure cartridges, electric initiators, explosive bolts and training & simulation devices.

BOSNIA FANCIES ITS CHANCES

Jane’s Defence Weekly (JDW) said that the revitalised defence industry in Bosnia-Herzegovina was trying to go international, and has already been exhibiting at foreign defense shows. JDW listed customers so far as Croatia, Turkey & Azerbaijan.

Bosnian companies with an involvement in small arms include Unis Igman (in Konjic) (ammunition from 5.56mm to 20mm) and Unis Pobjeda (Gorazde) (primers & other ammunition components).

We note that before the Yugoslavian breakup, Gorazde also used to make (at least) blank ammunition in .22RF and other calibres. But where are they making the Bosnian rifles & pistols? Leader Trading in Germany is reportedly now importing Igman ammunition.

FREE ALBANIAN GUNS FOR KOSOVO

A Times report said that Albanians were offering their ethnic brothers in the Kosovo enclave free guns and ammunition stolen from Albanian military armouries during the 1997 disturbances there and smuggled over the Serbian border. But Serb ‘skinheads’ were reportedly seen, apparently also on their way to take advantage of the special gun deals.

STEYR-DAIMLER-PUCH SALE DELAYED

A Financial Times (FT) report in mid-March 98 said that - at the last minute - Bank Austria’s Creditanstalt subsidiary had been unable to complete the $274m sale of its 67% share in Steyr-Daimler-Puch (SDP) to the automotive group Magna International in Canada, due to a better offer, but since then there have been a number of further bids.

Magna is reportedly still thought to be the prospective purchaser most likely to succeed, but another bidder has since asked for a 12-week delay. The FT says the SDP sale includes a 50% Creditanstalt stake in a Steyr/Chrysler joint venture.

Based on past comments from Steyr-Mannlicher, the SDP sale glitch should not affect the small arms activities, though since the divestment is apparently the result of a government policy that Austrian state banks should get out of industrial participation, presumably this question will eventually rear its head again.

MP5 - NO RATE REGULATOR

The story has been going round for a little while that Heckler & Koch might be developing a cyclic rate regulator for the MP5 SMG series. However, Royal Ordnance has now officially stated that this is not the case.

MOD PATTERN ROOM - IT’S A MONEY THING

Our sources, which are impeccable, confirm that the threat to the continuing location of the UK MOD Pattern Room within the Royal Ordnance Nottingham/H&K(UK) compound is essentially due to the ministry being unprepared to pay what RO considers to be a ‘fair rent’ for the premises.

The MOD has been in dispute with Royal Ordnance for more than a year, and RO appears determined to get its money.

This, we’re told, has no bearing on the future of RO Nottingham as such - this is more a question of how many 120mm mortars & 105mm Light Guns Nottingham can sell, but it is of course germane to whether the Pattern Room can remain at its present location.

ROBAR RIFLES FOR MALAYSIA

The Malaysian Navy has now approved the purchase of .50 calibre Robar RC50-F folding-stock bolt-action rifles, and the same weapons are now also sought by the Malaysian army. Robar’s involvement follows an abortive earlier attempt by the Malaysians to purchase .50 weapons from another US supplier.

Robar also reports a lot of interest - including foreign - in the company’s .308 calibre folding or fixed-stock QR2-F/QR2 sniper rifles, both bolt-action weapons based on the Remington M700 or Ruger M77 actions and fitted with M14 magazines. This line will be vigorously marketed in 1998.

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