Tag Archives: Firearm

More Vulcans

The Pentagon on Wednesday announced a 10-year contract to General Dynamics-Ordnance & Tactical Systems for new M61A1 Vulcan 20mm guns.

The firm-fixed-price award, for $88,275,000, was granted to Gen Dyn by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, based at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. Classified as an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity requirements contract, it will cover the purchase of new M61A1s in support of the F-16 fighter aircraft. Of this amount, some $7.8 million in funds set aside for Foreign Military Sales were obligated. Notably, 25 overseas allies fly the aircraft along with Venezuela, which probably doesn’t rate FMS dollars anymore.

Battlefield Vegas’ 20mm Vulcan nicknamed ‘The Hand of God’ at the Big Sandy Shoot October 2018. (Photo: Ben Philippi / Guns.com)

More on the Vulcan contract, and Gen Dyn’s work on the Next Generation Squad Weapon for the Army, in my column at Guns.com.

Blue Devils with SCARs

The famed “blue devils” of the French Army’s 13e Bataillon de Chasseurs Alpins (13e BCA) date back to before the Crimean War, when they were initially raised as the plain old 13e Bataillon Chasseurs à Pied (13e BCP), fighting as such in Algeria, the Italian unification wars, and the Franco-German War.

Transitioning into crack mountain infantry in 1888, they guarded key Alpine passes in peacetime, then in the Great War fought in the Vosges, the Somme, in the Italian Alps against the Austrians, and generally everywhere they were needed, earning seven unit Croix de Guerre by 1918.

“Les Diables Bleus” WWI Chasseurs Alpins by Georges Bertin Scott, circa 1915

The blue devils received their name due to their dark blue uniforms and large berets, retained to this day in their service and dress uniforms. Hard fighters, their motto is “Jamais être pris vivant,” (Never to be Taken Alive)

Interbellum, they remained on the move for the Occupation of Germany with vacations in sunny Tunisia to fight insurgents for the glory of the Republic.

Chasseurs alpins during the Occupation of the Ruhr in Buer (now Gelsenkirchen), 1923. Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-09896

In WWII, following honors in the battle for Narvik against German mountain troops trying to hold on to Norway, they returned home to be dissolved by the Vichy government leaving most of its members to shrug and quietly join the maquis resistance. Reforming their battalion in August 1944, they fought for and captured the Grand Roc Noir (11,752 ft) from the Germans before descending into the Aosta Valley in Italy by the end of the war.

French Chasseurs Alpins showing off a captured MG42 in the Alpine mountains, January 1945.

Since then, they fought in Algeria, prepared for mountain combat in the Cold War, and, since that thawed, have been very busy in recent years with deployments to Bosnia, Lebanon, Chad, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Djibouti.

Why all this about the 13th BCA?

Well, they were chosen to be the first unit of the French Army to receive the FN SCAR H PR series precision rifle in 7.62 NATO, for use by their designated marksmen and snipers out to 800m.

The guns will replace the old MAS-derived GIAT FR F2 bolt gun that has been the French standard sniper rifle since the 1980s.

In several ways, the fusil à répétition modèle F2 is really just an updated MAS-36 in 7.62 NATO

More in my column at Guns.com.

Cracking the Army’s Budget Book on SmallArms

The Army’s recently announced budget request for the fiscal year 2022 includes at least $114 million for new rifles, handguns, and the next generation of small arms. 

While the overall FY2022 Defense Department Budget is $112 billion, most of the non-operational dollars are for high-level R&D and big-ticket items like the F-35 fighter. The Army’s budget book for weapons and tracked combat vehicles meanwhile has a low nine-figure ask when it comes to individual small arms. 

The bulk ($97 million) is to go to the Next Generation Squad Weapons, with much of the balance to acquire new Barrett-made Precision Sniper Rifles, and a few crumbs for M4s, M17s, and the like.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Could the Army Ditch Brass for Plastic?

The hybrid polymer-cased cartridge, developed by Texas-based True Velocity as part of the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon program, is compatible with legacy firearms as well.

The 6.8mm TVCM composite case design, coupled with the Army’s 6.8mm (.277-caliber) common cartridge projectile, was originally developed and optimized for use in the NGSW-Rifle and NGSW-Automatic Rifle submissions submitted to that military program by General Dynamics-OTS. It performs better ballistically than 7.62 NATO and weighs 30 percent less.

However, using what True Velocity characterizes as a “switch barrel” capability, they have demonstrated it can work with much of the Army’s currently fielded small arms including the M240B belt-fed machine gun, the M110 semi-automatic sniper system, and the M134 minigun.

Which could mean that, even if NGSW tanks, there could be a revolutionary advance in the ammo used by U.S. troops in the near future.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Sig: Next-Gen Weapons Delivered to the Army

Sig Sauer this week announced it has completed the delivery of the company’s Next Generation Squad Weapons system to the U.S. Army.

The company is one of three contractors who in 2019 got the nod from the Pentagon to continue with the NGSW program. The sweeping initiative aims to replace the Army’s 5.56mm NATO small arms – the M4 Carbine and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. Sig’s program consists of an in-house-designed lightweight high-performance 6.8x51mm (.277-caliber) hybrid ammunition, NGSW-AR lightweight machine guns, NGSW-R rifles (based on the MCX carbine), and next-gen suppressors.

They certainly look the part and, if selected, would give Sig the small arms hattrick as their P320s have been adopted as the DOD’s standard handgun to replace everything from the USAF’s lingering K-frame 38s to the Marine’s M45 CQB railguns and everything in between. At that point, the only man-portable system used by the Army not made by Sig would be the M240 and M2, which FN still has a lock on.

More in my column at Guns.com.

NGSW? Don’t Hold Your Breath

The current NGSW field 

The U.S. Army is full-speed ahead on an initiative to select a new series of innovative 6.8mm-caliber Next Generation Squad Weapons to phase out its 5.56mm platforms for combat troops. However, it would seem the Department of the Army is hedging their bets with traditional systems just in case things don’t work out like planned such as in past ambitious programs for futuristic small arms.

In April, FN won a 5-year $119 million contract for new M4/M4A1 Carbines from the company’s South Carolina factory– where 500 of the shorty 5.56s roll out every, single, day.

And this week, Big Army likewise issued a $78 million award to FN for more M249s, the squad-level U.S-made variant of the FN Minimi light machine gun that has been standard since 1982.

Just google the Individual Carbine (IC), Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW), or the Advanced Combat Rifle (ACR) programs to see why keeping the legacy infantry arms in production until things work out is a good idea.

The army advanced combat rifle ACR prototypes.

That sweet .223 AK, 1989 edition

While today the .223/5.56 NATO-caliber AK is a staple product on the U.S. commercial market– and indeed, companies like Kalashnikov in Russia are making them for export elsewhere– back in the 1980s, they were downright unheard of, only floating around in a few high-dollar Valmet M71/S and Hunter models.

Then, China Sports, Inc.– located in Ontario, California of all places– introduced a couple of new Norincos to the market in late 1988, notably chambered in calibers other than the traditional AK 7.62x39mm. This included the 5.45x39mm Type 88 and the Type 84S AKS in .223 Remington.

This. You could pick these up, new in the box with two mags, a bayonet, and accessories, for $275 in 1989.

The thing is, they were only imported for one year.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Ever thought about a SCAR in 6.5 Creedmoor?

Last year, FN apparently trialed a version of their MK 20 SSR (sniper support rifle) in 6.5 Creedmoor as USSOCOM was flirting with the idea of fielding the new– and increasingly popular– round for future use. Not to let research go to waste, the company just announced they will start selling the commercial variant of the SSR, the FN SCAR 20S, in 6.5CM.

Boom.

More in my column at Guns.com. 

More info on the new French Glocks, SCARs

Last week, the French military purchasing agency announced they are picking up 75,000 new Glocks to replace older MAS G1 (Beretta 92) and MAC 50 (Sig P-210ish) pistols. The new handguns will be two-toned (black over Coyote) Gen 5 G17s with Marksman barrels, suppressor-height night sights, ambi slide levers, a lanyard ring (G19X, is that you?) and forward slide serrations.

Voilà

The new French PSA G17

Additionally, to replace the 1980s-era FR F2 bolt-action rifle, the French will be issuing the SCAR-H PR, essentially a SCAR-17 with a heavy barrel. It will be issued with an FN-made QD suppressor, a cleaning kit, four 20-round magazines, and two 10-round magazines.

More details, including videos, in my column at Guns.com. 

Le Glock Mle 2020

French trench raiders during the First World War, winter 1917 Bezange Forest, Lorraine, note the Ruby pistol.

The French military has flirted with modern semi-auto pistols for longer than most. During the Great War, thousands of Spanish-made Ruby and Star pistols augmented the country’s rather lackluster Modèle 1892 revolvers.

This cleared the way for the later FN 1922-inspired MAB Model D pistol and Charles Petter’s famous Mle. 1935, the latter design one that went on to morph into the Swiss SIG P210, arguably one of the best handguns of the 20th Century.

After WWII, the MAC Mle 1950, itself very P210-ish, was adopted and, coupled with the PAMAS G1, a domestically-made clone of the Beretta 92F, is still in service today.

The French MAC 50 PA modèle 1950 pistol

Now, 115 years after the Ruby was first ordered, the French defense ministry has placed an order for 75,000~ new Glocks.

The Glocks, reportedly a two-tone Gen 5 G17 MOS with a threaded barrel, suppressor-height night sight, and optics plate, will be delivered through 2022.

Besides the Austrian polymer pistols, the French are also going FN when it comes to a rifle to replace their venerable FR F2 (itself a souped-up MAS1936).

Sniper overwatch by a 3e RPIMa marksman with a French FR-F2, Rwanda, 1993. These rifles will be upgraded to SCAR H PRs in the coming years. 

More in my column at Guns.com.

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