Small Arms Data by Wire (SADW): March 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.


For those who think their Glock pistol is already quite enough fun, think on. Internationales Waffen-Magazin (IWM) in Switzerland carried a report on a new ‘Doppelglock’ machine pistol developed by one Hans-Peter Siggs, a gunmaker and developer in Jestetten, southern Germany. Imagine two compensated 9mm full-auto Glock 17L pistols with high-capacity Glock 18 magazines, the two weapons joined sideways at 180 degrees frame to frame by a bracket system which permits the slides to move freely, and with a red dot sight mounted between the two slides at 90 degrees to the guns.

Anyone who recalls the 9mm Champ machine pistol will get the picture. The Doppelglock is carried in a chest harness, held horizontally and aimed normally. Total rate of fire is 2,600 rpm. The IWM tester described the recoil as like that of a fire hose. Functioning was reportedly very good. Clearly, given the usual firing characteristics of the Glock 18, which climbs quite excitingly and (due to the length of the trigger pull) is hard to limit just to short bursts, bolting two full-auto Glocks together such that the jump of each muzzle is neutralised by the other is a very neat idea.

In fact, the Doppelglock stems from other work by Sigg to tame the Glock in full-auto, using a second handgrip (which appears designed possibly to accept a second magazine) on a selective-fire G17L at about 150 degrees to the grip frame. This concept reportedly allows Sigg’s ‘Glock 18C’ to group a 32-round magazine of ammo into a full-auto pattern the size of a football at ranges between five and 10 metres. Sights are located on a bar along the right side of the modified pistol, attached to the frame.

Sigg’s Glocks reportedly also incorporate modifications to the barrel locking system and the interface between the muzzle and compensator slots. A new fire selector has also been patented. There are clear messages here about the potential design of future machine pistols, a class of weapon generally notorious for its inability to deliver the goods beyond bedpost distance, except in the hands of the most experienced (and practiced!) users. We also hope to bring you news of the Champ in its latest manifestation quite soon.


A bullpupped Kalashnikov-pattern AKB rifle, in what appears to be 7.62x39mm calibre, has been developed in Bulgaria. We have seen a photo, but further details & technical specs are still being sought at this time.


A Reuters report run by The Guardian said Aslan Abashidze, boss of the Adjaria autonomous region in Georgia, claimed there had been an attempt to assassinate him using a ‘camera’ emitting electromagnetic rays, shortly after which he had a heart attack. Abashidze said it was the 14th time assassins had tried to kill him.


It had been planned to build a £40m North of England branch of the Imperial War Museum beside the Lowry Centre in Manchester, but the Times said the Heritage Lottery Fund, which allocates profits from the UK National Lottery to appropriate heritage schemes, had declined to provide the £22m it had been asked to find towards the project. Manchester has apparently already had £36m from the Fund for other cultural projects. The Imperial War Museum is appealing the decision.


In the US recently we heard some rather worrying things about 416-R stainless steel when used to make .50 BMG rifle barrels. Apparently these tubes are apt to give way at proof. This is evidently a long-standing problem, well-known to the US Navy small arms people, and was relayed to us quite openly by a very well-known .50 riflemaker who had himself experienced such a barrel failure. It presumably explains why stainless military barrels are not so popular in this calibre. We’re now aware some British .50 barrels have been made using this steel, so we endeavoured to secure more information.

The message to date is that there have apparently been no problems with the British tubes, and one UK riflemaker claims that no-one he has since spoken with in the US military claimed to know anything about a problem with 416-R. However, the original point was made to us in good faith by a very reliable source with first-hand experience of the matter, and we are duty bound to report it.


A recent photo of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan run by the Guardian showed a fixed-stock 5.45mm AK-74 variant with a 40-round magazine & a flash hider resembling that on the M60 GPMG. We’ve established from colleagues that this is most likely a Romanian export weapon, Model 010301, made by Ratmil. These do not have the groove in the buttstock characteristic of other AK-74s, nor the typical Romanian forward handgrip. Similar distinctive flash hiders are found on Romanian 7.62x39mm export AKs. Apparently the Romanian AKs are now the cheapest bar none, even those from NORINCO.


The Times said that former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos considered the US should just go ahead and kill Saddam Hussein for the greater good, but ex-President Bush and General Norman Schwarzkopf apparently don’t think it’s a great idea. Hussein is very well-protected, runs a tight ship, and arbitrarily killing him could easily damage relations with allied nations.

There’s also the little problem of the Reagan-era Executive Order which banned assassination by US agencies, something formerly considered all part of the day’s work at the CIA - though they failed miserably with Fidel Castro, despite a highly creative box of tricks. As for Saddam conveniently pining away and dying of natural causes, forget it. Just remember - the devil looks after his own! For all it’s huffing & puffing, the West (the US included) doesn’t really have the stomach - or indeed the resources - to mount a Desert Storm Mk2 operation, or anything remotely resembling it.

So - for the time being - Iraq will continue to play silly devils, while cooking up Lord knows what in its weapon labs. And if it comes to air raids, Hussein will ensure enough civilians get in the way to milk it for every last drop of international sympathy. Unfortunately, unless he’s daft enough to take on the Israelis, who (under present management) would quite conceivably nuke him, Saddam’s going to get away with it.


Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that the AFCEA Technet 97 military electronics exhibition in Brussels was raided by Belgian Customs & Economic Ministry staff, who confiscated equipment on the pretext of investigating whether it breached Belgian arms legislation. The raid was apparently sparked off by court proceedings by the Peace Action Forum, who alleged breaches of arms sales restrictions, and came after the show was compelled to close before time after an earlier ‘inspection’ by officials.

Well, merde alors! This is really going to endear Brussels to military show organisers, isn’t it? If folks there get hot under the collar about a bunch of black boxes, we guess it’s definitely not the place for anything more gutsy. It was Belgium, remember, that wouldn’t help out the UK with ammunition for Desert Storm. Folks are perfectly entitled to demonstrate against arms shows if they feel like it, but when it comes to serious interference on this scale, it is surely getting into the realms of restraint of trade, on which Brussels itself (the EU, in this case) has stern things to say.


In the process of the British government compiling a National Asset Register (aka Domesday Book 2), a 550-page document detailing property held by all departments, The Guardian says the UK MOD’s data reveals there are three rifles for every soldier in the British army. Before some wag suggests this is probably only an insurance policy against SA80 breakages, we’re sure that - if the figures are correct - a large factor must be force level cuts since 1985 when the 5.56mm systems were introduced.

In addition, there will be substantial war reserves, and we’re not even sure if the 3:1 calculation takes into account the other services & forces - RM, RN, RAF, Territorial Army and MOD Police, all of whom also have SA80. But even if the real figure is (say) nearer 2:1, it does point the finger at another global small arms problem - equipment surpluses thrown up by post-Cold War downsizing. Not only do many importing countries no longer need to buy any more rifles (since they can live off fat in the system), but those who decide to dump their surpluses on the world market create headaches for suppliers of new-build weapons.

Take South Africa, for example, which is trying to dispose of more than 450,000 surplus rifles just now, comprising some 200,000 7.62mm NATO R1s (FALs) and over 250,000 5.56mm R4s (Galil derivatives). We’re told the South African Police R1s are still packed in their original FN factory oiled wrapping, and all the R1s are in either new or exceptionally good used condition. The R4s are used, but in good condition - a bargain at $175 a pop - yet the SA government evidently believes it’s cheaper to sell rather than refurbish them. South African troops & police have already been supplied with new R4s from the country’s stockpiles, described as ‘ample’. If the surpluses cannot be found a new home, it is expected they will be melted down.


The UK MOD has a requirement, for a new Medium Support Weapon to replace the 7.62mm NATO GPMG. Ideas being studied range from a new, more durable machine gun right up to 40mm grenade launchers, through .50 HMGs and 20-30mm cannon. The MOD has determined that the MAG 58 (UK - L7A1) GPMG is not robust enough for intensive sustained fire of the sort which was required during the Falklands/Malvinas conflict. However, it seems most likely to us that no single option on the MOD’s list for consideration could provide a sensible solution in every likely scenario, and at the end of the day we suspect two or more different weapons will be required.

At present, the 40mm Mk19 Mod 3 launcher is attracting close attention from the MOD. A few launchers have been in UK Special Forces service since the last Gulf War, and have evidently impressed procurement staff.


A brief item in The Times cited an upsurge in deliveries of weapons to ethnic Albanian fighters who’d like to annex the Kosovo region of Serbia. The report mentioned a consignment of machine pistols apparently due to arrive, courtesy of Albanian residents of Germany & Switzerland.


According to Army Magazine, one of the items cut from the Sep 97 US defence budget when President Clinton exercised his new powers to delete individual line items was a $7.9m MOUT (urban) training facility at the army’s Fort Bragg special forces base in North Carolina.


One of our roving eyes at this years US Army Association show spotted a new Special Purpose Weapon (SPW) variant of the 5.56mm M249 Minimi, reportedly designed for US special forces. We’re told it weighs just 12.6 pounds, with a lighter 16” barrel. Interestingly, it is not provided with any magazine feed option or gas regulator, and has been equipped with Picatinny accessory rails around the barrel in lieu of the handguard, in the style of the Stoner 86 LMG. It also comes with a secondary vertical handgrip and bipod, both detachable.


Following our Dec 97 story about Mauser’s future small arms study contract from the Bundeswehr, things got even more curious. We queried with Royal Ordnance a National Defence story that (rather oddly) implied there was a caseless ammunition option for the 5.56mm G36. We’d assumed the writer meant (as we also understood) that the G11 caseless project was - to one extent or another - still alive, and that the G36 being issued to rapid reaction forces could therefore possibly be regarded in some German circles as an interim option.

But now it has emerged that the entire Bundeswehr is apparently to be re-equipped with the G36 rifle and MG36 LSW in the period 1999-2005. This is stated by Heckler & Koch in Oberndorf in a reply to Royal Ordnance, and they should know.Though it is acknowledged that some elements of the German MOD R&D community still remain interested in caseless technology, issuing new 5.56mm weapons to the German forces across the board means there is absolutely no early prospect of any resuscitation of the G11 or anything along similar lines.

Indeed, with national small arms replacement programmes typically occurring only once every 25-30 years, by the time a successor to the G36/MG36 is logically sought, even the caseless G11 could be looking extremely long in the tooth, and might well have been obsoleted by other technologies. This also tends to place an even bigger question mark over the value of the Bundeswehr commissioning any long-term future small arms studies, from Mauser or anyone else, in the foreseeable future. The die, as they say, is already cast, and it is simply far too early to be worrying about the rifle after next.

It cannot have escaped readers either that, with quite a few other countries, some in NATO, also only now on the brink of adopting 5.56mm systems, that the US future small arms programme is likewise - speaking entirely objectively - a waste of money. Unless of course the US plans to do what it did with the M16, introducing an entirely new system in a new calibre with complete disregard for what the rest of NATO was doing - or rather not doing - at the time. Let’s not forget that 5.56mm was not actually accepted as a NATO calibre until the early 1980s, with the advent of the Belgian SS109 ammunition - and eventually the M16A2 rifle. The M16A1 by comparison was an entirely non-NATO venture.

In today’s terms, with no single threat to unify NATO - and some would say no other role for the Alliance either - this may matter much less, but, even so, the US Small Arms Master Plan has nevertheless still been adopted by NATO as its own objective, even if there is now no realistic chance of it ever bearing fruit.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V1N6 (March 1998)
and was posted online on August 4, 2017


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