Category Archives: Foreign and Enemy Weapons

German Invader With Russian Defender’s Rifle?

Where this grainy photo appeared in Daily Mail recently, in support of a story on grave-robbery in the East,  the caption was: Arms: The items being gathered by collectors often include rifles similar to these being carried by these German troops running on the Eastern Front in 1941. But have a look at this picture.

Germans -- Eastern Front -- 1941

The picture is a familiar one, it’s one editors seem to always go to for an Operation Barbarossa shot. But look at the rifle in the hands of the lead soldier! It’s a Russian rifle, specifically, a Tokarev SVT-40 (below) or possibly an SVT-38. An SVT-40 is shown below. The SVT-38 has the cleaning rod on the right side of the stock instead of under the barrel, and has a slightly shorter metal hand guard.

SVT-40 tokarev

So… is this a Barbarossa pic, and the German has merely helped himself to a Russian bangstick? Or are these guys, perhaps, Finns? The Finnish Army used both German-style helmets (which was their standard) and Russian rifle, including Tokarevs, which they captured in massive quantities in the Winter War. Indeed, most non-import-marked Tokarev rifles you find in the USA come from about 5,800 pre-’68 imports from Finland, and bear the “SA” cartouche of the Finnish Army.

kennblaetter_fremden_geraetsThen again, every army in the world uses foreign and enemy weapons if necessary. The Nazis, always short of arms for their oversized army, systematized the use of foreign weapons, and actually issued many foreign weapons, from pistols to tanks, and issued them German logistics numbers and printed German-language manuals. The SVT-40 was known to the Wehrmacht as the Gewehr 259 (r.) with the “r” standing for russich, Russian; the SVT-38 was called the G. 258 (r). But these designations were not assigned until December, 1942, according to the official document, the Kennblätter fremden Geräts.

Either way, it’s an interesting picture, possibly staged (In combat photography, how often is the photographer out in front of the infantry?) and possibly not.

Germans Issue Pocket Card for G36 Immediate Action

The Bundeswehr has responded to the ongoing clamor over problems with the G36 rifle by attempting to restore troop confidence in the weapon. One way they’re doing this is providing a graphical training aid, a Pocket Card for the G36 that describes lessons learned and immediate action for common problems with the weapon.

End of Life: Always controversial, the G36 is scheduled to be replaced by a new rifle, to be selected in a process that will probably be just as spectacularly controversial.

End of Life: Always controversial, the G36 is scheduled to be replaced by a new rifle, to be selected in a process that will probably be just as spectacularly controversial.

It’s available to German soldiers, sailors and airmen as a download on the German Armed Forces’ intranet. The BW news release is here (hat tip Thomas Wiegold, who outs himself in his post as a fellow fan of the late Douglas Adams) and our translation of the BW release follows:

In view of the demonstrated deficiencies, measures have been developed with a goal of minimizing any impairment of the G36.  These measures have been gathered together in a pocket card by the combat experienced experts of the “Infantry Team.”  It’s to be understood as an extension of the current technical and shooting manuals, and is ready to be downloaded in the intranet of the Bundeswehr.

The pocket card was published by the Infantry Team, under the leadership of Brigadier General Gert-Johannes Hagemann, commander of the Infantry Training Center. He, and his team of soldiers, have been assigned by the General Inspector of the Bundeswehr to advise in all questions of the utilization of the rifle G 36 in combat. In addition to advising soldiers with on-going site-visits, they will also visit units in combat and ongoing deployments..

In April 2015, an independent and thorough examination of the rifle G 36 revealed two problems: “increased dispersion by firing-induced heating of the weaopn,” and “displacement of point of impact due to external heating or changing climate conditions.”

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has decided to acquire a new assault rifle. Its introduction could begin in 2019, depending on market availability. As an interim solution, 600 assault rifles of G27P type and 600 MG4 light machine guns have also been purchased, and will be issued by the end of 2016. With this mix of weapons, the troops have significantly more flexibility in their ongoing and future missions.

The pocket card graphical training aid is something that other NATO armies, especially the Americans, have long used, and that the Bundeswehr has issued for several purposes, such as rules of engagement or, on Luftwaffe bases, fire-fighting procedures,

Unofficial G36 pocket cards have been developed and shared by German troopies before. For example, this one by and for reservists includes the basic manual of arms, specifications, and how to use the G36’s optic’s reticle. This one has similar information organized differently.

We’re hoping to get a copy of the official BW card. Wiegold has seen it and includes some of the text on it in his post; if a copy of the card doesn’t come our way, we’ll translate Thomas’s excerpts in some future post.


It is now our understanding that the card is marked VS-NfD. This stands for Verschlußsache — Nur für Dienstgebrauch which translates roughly as Restricted — Official Use Only and appears from official regulations to require special handling, to wit:

Items classified VS-NUR FÜR DEN DIENSTGEBRAUCH (VS-NfD – RESTRICTED) shall only be made accessible to such persons as must, in connection with the execution or negotiation of the given contract, have access to such information (“need-to-know” principle).

Items that are classified VS-NFD (RESTRICTED) may be disclosed only to government agencies, intergovernmental organisations or contractors which are involved in a programme / project / contract and must have access to the classified information in connection with such programme / project or contract.

Accordingly, our informal request for a copy is withdrawn. We don’t want to get any of our German readers in trouble with the law. According to that document, the card may be declassified at one year of age.

Inside the T-14 Armata

People have been wondering exactly how the crew is laid out and works together in the new Russian T-14 Armata tank. Here is an answer, as what appears to be a pick-up crew (test crew? journalists?) sets up and fires the Armata’s main armament. Some comments after the brief video.

They’re going to have to go a lot faster than this in combat, but see comments on the crew above the video. A well-drilled crew, comfortable with live-firing the tank, should slam through this. These guys are leisurely, relaxed. “Ogon?” (Fire). (pause) “Ogon!” (pause). FOOM. Those pauses go away with practice.

The high level of automation in the Armata is evident here. It’s a well-thought out tank, and with the whole crew in the same can, crew coordination is simplified. In the flight-training world, there’s a general consensus that it’s easier and more effective to teach in a side-by-side environment. Curtis LeMay himself threw a wobbler when Boeing prepared a jet for him (the XB-52) with a tandem crew as in the previous jet (B-47), and he made Boeing change it for the production jets. Putting the TC, gunner and driver side-by-side has the same benefits in a tank that it does in a jet bomber.

We’re a little concerned about the idea of touch screens in a combat vehicle. Again in aviation, we’ve discovered that two things are problems with touch-screens in aircraft. In turbulent conditions, it can be hard to hit the button you want. And worse, it’s possible to hit a button you don’t want. Now, this is not an insuperable problem. The avionics makers have worked out some solutions and/or work-arounds, including backup manual knobs, user-controllable delays on keys (i.e. you have to hold it for a half-second to activate it), and even environmentally adaptive delays (the delay increases if the accelerometers in the Air Data and Altitude/Heading Reference System see accelerations characteristic of turbulence). So if they can solve it for an airplane moving at hundreds of kilometers an hour through three-dimensionally through a moving, changing medium, the Russians can solve it for a tank juddering over the ground at a max of dozens of K and taking the occasional hit.

The touch screens of the Armata look like COTS computers running application, not a bespoke interface. This has both pros and cons, something the Russian engineers certainly understand.

Tanks normally operate best opened up and lose considerable situational awareness when combat forces them to button up. NATO tankers in particular like to fight their tanks from open cupola. But the Armata seems designed to give its TC best situational awareness when he’s reclining in his couch, not head up out of the turret. This is in keeping with Russian/Soviet tank doctrine that expects tanks to operate on a battlefield swept not only by small arms, tank, and mortar and indirect fire, but also by billowing clouds of chemical and biological weapons. In that environment, the TC in an climate-controlled compartment with the rest of his crew is miles ahead of the guy who might be out of his turret, but sweating in a MOPP4 suit and squinting through a gas mask, or in any US tank where NBC protection is an afterthought.

Finally, this is a tank that exists in platoon or maybe company strength. It’s still a test article. It could evolve in other directions. The Russians are not going to send these to their sheep-dipped units in eastern Ukraine, let alone their “USA is nutless, so we might as well” expeditionary force in Syria. When they do sell them to allies that might use them in combat — probably, Iran, and probably, soon, because they want foreign sales to subsidize Russian Army production — the allies will not get the full version. Of course, a tank that is so very dependent on software makes the production of what Soviet guys back in the day used to call their “monkey model” for export relatively easy.

It also enables a couple of logistic things that haven’t been done quite this way before. For example, Russian Army tanks could be very quickly reconfigured and flown to an ally in extremis, as the USA did with Israel in 1973, and also, Russian crews could be rapidly airlifted and fall in on an ally’s monkey-model tanks, flashing them to full Russian Army standard with a firmware upgrade. This would be an improvement on the US’s Cold War REFORGER prepositioned unit sets, by getting the allies to store, maintain and exercise the unit sets unless and until Ivan needs them.

Even if this tank is never produced in more than limited quantities, it is a revolutionary tank that must be taken seriously. We expect to see some of these concepts influencing future Western developments.

Extra: Another SA80 Chart, and the Defense Industrial Base

Here’s another SA80 chart from the aforementioned HK presentation. It was not presented because, as you can see, the legend is garbled. The numbers look a little better, but we’ll get to those after we fix the chart.



Thinking about the garble, it occurred to us that the garbled “words” had the characteristic frequency count (at a glance) of a substitution, not transposition cipher; therefore, perhaps the characters had been subjected to a Caesarian cipher like ROT-13. Why, we have no idea; this is Ernst Mauch era HK, where “you suck and we hate you” was corporate policy.

Indeed, LZ and OVZ are clearly meant to be IW and LSW, and are the letters 3 spaces further along the alphabet. We quickly built an Excel decoder1 and determined that the lines below were not Caesarian +3.  E u x q h l, for example, yields H x { t k o when subjected to +3. That can’t be it!

Changing to -3, E u x q h l decodes as B r u n e i. More like it. D o d v n d becomes A l a s k aN x z d l w breaks out as K u w a i t, and Z d u p l q v w h u (the “u” is there, it’s almost invisible against the blue background) becomes W a r m i n s t e r. Exactly where the narrative tells us the 2001 tests took place! Here’s a corrected slide.



Why HK went to NDIA with a jacked-up slide, and why they jacked it up like this, are mysteries for the ages, but we’re inclined to think that it could have been sheer bloodymindedness on the part of Powerpoint. Powerpoint has bugs on its bugs sometimes. Couple that with a presentation handed off to someone to deliver who was a gun expert, not a computer jockey, and therefore couldn’t fix it. It also could be that HK didn’t go to the show with a bad slide. It might have been perfectly fine in PowerPoint and been botched by NDIA’s or DTIC’s conversion to .pdf. A vast quantity of data is lost in this conversion every show (including every video), so it’s not hard to imagine a perfect slide from HK going garbled in this process.

In any event, we have ungarbled it for the ages, although lots of luck getting the correction back into DTIC. Not going to happen.

Now, as to the numbers in this slide, they look better than the ones previously addressed, but they’re still not good for the LSW. The rifle numbers are OK and you’d get similar numbers from anything good (yes, even AK). While the LSW numbers show that HK really worked their Teutonic tushes off to try to make a silk purse of this sow’s ear, it’s still a sow’s ear. Reliability numbers of 89 to 94 percent sound great, until you break it down to failures per magazine. Here are some reliability percentages from the HK tests; the two on the left are from the 1999 tests, the four on the right  from Alaska, Brunei, Kuwait and Warminster testing in 2001.



99 01 AK 01 Bru 01 Ku 01 Warm
96% 86% 95% 90% 89% 94% Reliability percentage
28.8 25.8 28.5 27 26.7 28.2 Average good rounds per 30-round mag
1.2 4.2 1.5 3 3.3 1.8 Average failures per 30-round mag

Is 95% reliability reliable enough for you? That best-case reliability (tested, remember, by the same guys selling the modifications to the MOD) yields three failures in every two magazines in the light support weapon L86A2.

If your car was 95% reliable, you’d be late to work three days every two months. If you still had the job after that.

It’s amazing that dogged German engineering could come so close to triumph over what we’re really hesitant to call bad design just because the “design” of the L85 was so haphazard in the first place. History records how designers like Kalashnikov and Garand and Stoner adopted and adapted parts concepts from earlier designers’ best ideas. But those guys knew what they were doing. It’s sad to see that by the 1970s, Enfield Lock was reduced to copying (and borrowing) parts from other firearms without understanding them or doing proper engineering substantiation or testing. They may not even have known what it was they didn’t know, and the proceeded to give the British Army a rifle that was so much less than such a good organization deserves. They were unskilled and unaware of it — a Dunning-Kruger index case.

It would have been something to hear the muttering in Oberndorf as various Herr Professor Doktor Dipl.Ing guys finally got a chance to examine the documents on what they were committed to re-engineer, when they realized it had never been engineered in the first place.

There is also a lesson here that goes far beyond the tragedy of the L85 or the world of small arms for that matter: it’s that there is a price for neglecting or ceding your defense industrial base. For reasons of policy and politics, Britain went in 100 years from a hotbed of firearms RDT&E, engineering and manufacture to a nation which can’t design an infantry rifle or pistol and will henceforth have to import them. Germany is very close to the same position today: their export controls and the G36 fiasco make it increasingly likely that some future German prime minister will have to go to his or her future French counterpart (Marine le Pen?) and ask to buy guns. Bismarck would be fit to be tied.


  1. To do this, convert the character to its ASCII code, with the Excel CODE() command, where the parenths are full of the cell reference you want to convert. Then you have a number to which you can apply any numeric operator — all we need here is addition and subtraction. Then take than number and convert it back to an ASCII character with the CHAR() command.


Just How Bad Was Is the SA 80?

Here’s an old HK document bragging up their rebuild of Britain’s buggy SA 80 assault rifle, circa 2007.  Whilst it’s marked “Commercial in Confidence,” a rough equivalent of the US’s proprietary information markings, it was presented at a public NDIA Conference (the 2007 Small Arms Conference) and it’s still available in DTIC’s document repository.1

HK Future Requirements 2007 Bantle_210PM.pdf

The Original L85A1 rifle

The Original L85A1 rifle

Without the audio or video of the presentation, making sense of the slide deck is a challenge, as the document was not made by fluent English users. You learn that after HK was contracted to un-screw the unreliable Enfield in 1996, the processes included “Weapon Measurement 4 Weapons,” “Evaluation with Various Ammunition,” and HK’s personal bugbear, “Firing at Different Temperations. [sic]” By 1997 HK thought it had some answers, and then it took another year to hash out a contract to fix 100 each of the rifle (Individual Weapon) and squad/section automatic (Light Support Weapon) units. The actual modification of the firearms took only six months, or half the time of contract negotiations — who do these guys think they are, with all this bureaucracy, Americans?

Why was the L85A1 so unreliable? This dissassembled view gives a clue. The innards were copied from the AR-18 -- indeed, the prototypes used Sterling-made AR-180 parts. Simply copied, not engineered at all.

Why was the L85A1 so unreliable? This dissassembled view gives a clue. The innards (bolt, gas system, barrel/magazine alignment) were copied from the AR-18 — indeed, the prototypes used Sterling-made AR-180 parts. Simply copied, not engineered at all.

Here are the firing cycles HK used for the 1999 tests:

Individual Weapon Firing Cycle
Sequence Rate (rounds / min) Duration sec Rounds fired Comment
1 30 40 20 40 secs
2 10 360 60 6 minutes
3 30 60 30 1 minute
4 10×4 60 40 10 bursts of 4, 1 min.
totals   520 150 150 rounds in 8:40

And here are the firing schedules used with the support weapon.

Light Support Weapon Firing Cycle  
Sequence Rate (rounds / min) Duration sec Rounds fired Comment
1 60 180 180 3 minutes
2 0 60 0 1m cooling
3 60 180 180 3 minutes
4 0 120 0 2m cooling
5 60 150 150 2:30
6 0 600 0 10m cooling
7 30 600 300 10 m, lower rate
8 0 120 0 2m cooling
9 60 150 150 2:30
totals   2160 960 960 rounds in 36:00

We note that those firing schedules, especially the rifle schedules, are very light compared to what is expected in modern combat and combat training. It’s nothing to burn through 5 magazines during a single practice hit during SFAUC, or any other CQB/MOUT training evolution, and you will burn through them in well under 8:40. And rates of fire in defensive operations, under the pressures of a modern, complex attack, are much higher.

The initial trials results in 1999 showed a very great improvement in both weapons (and exposed just how crappy the originals had been). But they didn’t go far enough. Results in Arctic firing tests, conducted in Alaska, were particularly shabby.


We can all agree that a weapon achieving 5% or even 22% reliability on that mild test cycle is junk, and that HK’s improvement of the firearm was near-miraculous. (We do wonder how much of it was just bringing indifferently-manufactured SA80s up to blueprint spec). But while the numbers speak for themselves, they don’t say this is a good firearm — even post-overhaul.

Now, 96% reliability sounds good, but that means, on average more than one malfunction or failure per magazine! And 86% reliability means, on average, more than four failures per 30-round mag. Of course, that beats the relative inutility of the unmodified guns, but you have to wonder why the MOD didn’t just send the SA80 to the knackers’ yard after these dismal tests.

Results in hot weather trials in Kuwait that summer were better, but not much better and probably within the margin of error of the test design.


You can’t help but think that what HK had at the end of this round of tests was a much better firearm than the British Army had had before — but still a piece of junk.

At this point, the UK considered ditching the SA80 and buying Stoner systems from Colt or Diemaco, but given that HK was then owned by Royal Ordnance (soon itself bought by BAE), it seemed sensible to give the contract to HK, and brag up the 98.5% reliability number — which was, you see, the very best result, in one style weapon, from one test. This produced the SA80A2, which had the following differences from the original (source):

  1. A new cocking handle, made of shaped nylon polyamide, which doubles as a cartridge case deflector;
  2. A new magazine, which is slightly longer, more curved and comes with a smoother spring feed action;
  3. The LSW has a heavier barrel;
  4. A new gas plug and cylinder made from superior materials;
  5. The catch spring has been widened to prevent jamming in the gas feed during re-assembly;
  6. The gas blowback cycle has been improved;
  7. One-and-a-half locking nuts removed from the barrel extension / chamber to accommodate a different extractor shape, which should also guide empty cases away from the ejection port;
  8. An all-new bolt head that has a larger, more robust extractor;
  9. The cartridge ejector has a new rim and a stronger multi-wire spring;
  10. The carrier has been polished to reduce the friction between it and the top-most cartridge in the magazine;
  11. A new sturdier firing pin has been installed, made from high-strength, quenched and tempered steel, with the stop moved from the rear to the front;
  12. The ejection port has been enlarged to improve the round ejection pattern;
  13. The magazine housing has been reinforced with additional welding to prevent it breaking;
  14. The weight of the hammer has been increased by 9g to prevent misfires caused by ‘bouncing’;
  15. The bolt release catch has been strengthened;
  16. A new recoil spring with a higher compression has been installed to even out the rate of fire.

HK received approximately $180 million for the upgrade of these rifles, about $400 each for the weapons that were done. Meanwhile the Army had been downsizing and so barely more than half of the initial buy were upgraded.

These were the weapons with which the British Army went to Afghanistan in 2002. (SAS were deployed earlier, but they were carrying M4s and Minimis). The regulars also used the Minimi in Afghanistan; as the L110A1 it has de facto replaced the unreliable L86 Light Support Weapon.

Since then, a Picatinny rail fore-end (developed for the firearm by Daniel Defense of the USA) has been added and Magpul E-mags have replaced the reliable but expensive HK steel “maritime” magazine.


You’d need more nearly A/B equivalent tests to be sure, but it seems that even after modification the SA80 is not even in the same reliability grid square as more popular weapons like Stoner and Kalashnikov system weapons, or even HK’s own much-maligned G36.

And while the LSW tests appear to have actually loaded up the weapon with heat — almost 1000 rounds in a half hour — the rifle firing tests were much lighter than a troop unit is likely to experience in a position defense.  In other words, as grim as these reliability figures are for the SA80 series weapons, they’re nowhere near the worst case for those weapons.

All this raises the question: how do weapons whose performance goes nonlinear at high sustained rates of fire get adopted in the first place? Our belief is that the initial testing protocols do not test the weapons sufficiently. A routine part of procurement of, for example, aircraft, is the provision of static test airframes or articles that are tested to failure or destruction. It’s clear from the dismal performance of the unmodified SA80 on these extremely mild firing programs that this weapon was not only not tested to failure or destruction, it was not remotely challenged during its original adoption. If it had been, the sorts of fixes the HK engineers used to raise the reliability of the weapon from nonexistent to merely worst-in-class could have been implemented way back in the 1970s when the British Army was shaking the thing down for the first time. Or pretending to.

How do you prevent an oversight like the one that gave some of the world’s most professional soldiers a weapon they couldn’t count on? We see that oversights are more likely to happen on in-house and sole-source projects, rather than on COTS and competitive projects. We think that helps point the way to a broadly useful prophylactic measure: more independent analysis (from varied independent analysts) and independent review of testing protocols and results. Also, weapons must be tested to and beyond the edge of the performance envelope, including testing to failure/destruction.

Is it wasteful to test toolroom prototypes, built for tens of thousands of dollars each, to destruction? Not if you think it’s wasteful to spend tens of millions on redesigning and rebuilding your combat arms after they’re fielded.


  1. NDIA’s document stash has recently been reorganized with a new website, just as amateurish as the last, and a new search function which can’t find much. The good news: trying to find specific documents you used to have links to, DTIC’s incompetent organization instead serves up serendipitous finds like this!

Unique Presentation Tokarev TT-33 at RIA Auction this Weekend

Bet you’ve never seen a pistol exactly like this before:

elbe meeting tt-33 right

It’s up for auction this weekend. Here’s what RIA says about it. First, about TTs in general:

Manufactured in 1944, the TT-33 was a simple and robust design firing the bottlenecked high-velocity 7.62mm Tokarev round and using a quick-change action group that allowed many otherwise crippling mechanical failures to be solved with a simple exchange of drop-in components.

To that we’d add that the TT-33 design has some Browning features, some Petter features, and some improvements that appear to be Tokarev’s own. As you can see from the images, it had among the best sights of any period pistol, and definitely the best on a period service pistol.

Now, about this particular gun:

Matching numbers are present on the slide, frame and magazine, with a matching partial number “50” on the action group and matching dates on the slide and frame. The grips are a set of clear acrylic (airplane windshield soirced) with steel frames, which each have an underlaid green paper panel; similar grips are known to have been field-improvised by Allied soldiers using lexan and similar materials salvaged from downed aircraft.

To that, we’d just quibble that Lexan was far in the future. This is simple acrylic, Plexiglas by its American trade name and Perspex in Britain. The paper pieces under the grip appear to have been done with colored pencils that any headquarters would have on hand, and if they are truly original, they’ve been kept out of the ultraviolet for these 70 years.

The right panel has a red star flanked by “CCCP” with blue and pink border accents, and the left panel shows some light vine accents around a finely written cyrillic inscription. A translation was included by a prior owner: “To Brigadier General Shugg/from Colonel Patanin/May 10 1945 Elbe River/in Memory of the War with Germany”.

elbe meeting tt-33 left

It seems like a rather touching exchange between near peers, at the end of a cataclysmic war that brought often-opposing nations together to face a much greater threat.

Research has not produced any results on Colonel Patanin, but records do show a Brigadier General Roland Paget Shugg (b 1893 d 1989) as a artillery officer with the XIII Corps. XIII Corps was among the Allied units that made it to the Elbe River, the politically mandated “stop point” for the Western Allies and famous as the meeting point for American, Commonwealth, and other Western Front units and their Soviet counterparts on the Eastern Front. Many exchanges of souvenirs are known to have happened at these meetings, including weapons and military equipment. Shugg started his military career as a West Point cadet in 1912, joining the Cavalry post-graduation for Border Patrol duty in Texas before transferring to Field Artillery and combat action in Europe in World War One. Between wars he took a number of staff postings while also studying at Fort Sill, Fort Leavenworth, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During World War Two he was the commanding General of XIII Corps’ Field Artillery, which as noted was at the Elbe at the time in question. After the war, he would serve as a member of a joint Brazilian-American defense commission, a staff officer to the American Mission to Turkey, Commander of the Port of Embarkation in New Orleans, and division artillery commander for the 3rd Infantry, a role that would take him back into combat during the Korean War. Among his decorations were the Silver Star and Legion of Merit (both earned in World War Two with oak leaves from the Korean War), Belgian and French Croix du Guerre with Palm, and others

via Historic Soviet Tokarev TT-33 Semi-Automatic Pistol with Custom Grip Inscription from a Soviet Colonel to an American Artillery General for the Meeting of the Allies at the Elbe River.

It seems probable that Soviet-era archives will have something about Colonel Patanin.

They sum up the pistol and its condition like this:

Excellent, with 98% of the original blue finish, showing some light scratches and handling marks overall. The period replacement grips are very good, with a few light scratches, and the paper panels show fine color and strong ink detail. Mechanically excellent. A historic piece of Soviet World War Two military hardware, connected to the final defeat of Nazi Germany and the end of the war in Europe.

… and suggest it might sell for $2-3,000. That seems to us to be a considerable lowball for a gun with probable WWII provenance and considerable historical value. Nice original TTs have grown scarce, although crudely smithed ones to pass ATF’s idjit “sporting purposes” safety rule are common here; but this one is not just any nice original, but an original with a difference and a story. A centerpiece for the collector of Russian and Soviet arms, and a suitable display in many a museum.

Guest Post: Russian Internally Suppressed, Captive Piston Quiet Weapons (Max Popenker)

This is a guest post by the Russian firearms expert and historian Maxim Popenker, co-author (with Anthony Williams) of several reference works1, and the founder and owner of the indispensable website. some time ago, we mentioned in a story on the Quiet Special Purpose Revolver that the US had not pursued such technology, but the Russians had, and Max asked if our readers wanted to know that Russian history. We said they certainly did, and he shared it with us — and now, with you. It has been very lightly edited, which is amazing given that Max is writing in what is to him a foreign language. We have added amplifying footnotes here and there. — Ed.

A very brief history of the internally suppressed, captive piston ammunition and firearms in Russia.

The basic concept of suppression of the firearm’s sound by capturing powder gases inside a closed volume in not new. In fact, it is quite old, with patents to that effect issued in USA as early as 1902 (see US Patent # 692,819 “Means for effecting noiseless discharge of guns” by J.E.Bissell)2.

Gurevich's design.

Gurevich’s design.

In Soviet Russia, a similar concept was first researched shortly before and during the Great Patriotic War3. So far we know about two concurrent developments, one by designer Gurevich and another by the Mitin brothers (who also designed more conventional sound suppressors for Nagant revolvers4 and Mosin M1891/30 rifles successfully used by Soviet partisan and NKVD troops against invading Nazis).

Gurevich experimental pistols.

Gurevich experimental pistols.

Gurevich's revolver.

Gurevich’s revolver.

The design by Gurevich was quite similar to that of Bissell; it also used a special cartridge with a piston in front of the powder charge, and a portion of water, which was used to push the 5.6mm or 6mm projectile through the bore; the powder gases were contained inside the case by jamming the piston inside the case mouth. Ammunition was based on 20 Gauge brass shotgun shells, and fired from the single shot, break-open pistols, or, later, through a special revolver with a necessarily long and wide cylinder.

Mitin Brothers' captive-piston Nagant revolver.

Mitin Brothers’ captive-piston Nagant revolver.

The Mitin brothers’ design was more unorthodox, in a sense. It featured a heavily modified Nagant revolver with two coaxially mounted cylinders. One cylinder sat in its conventional place, holding seven rounds of ammunition with sabots and subcaliber bullets. The second cylinder, mounted on the same axis and rotating synchronously with the first, sat at the muzzle of the gun. The front cylinder was bored through with seven bores, slightly squeezed or choked at the front. When the gun was fired, the projectile with its sabot travelled through the barrel in the traditional way; then, its 7.62mm sabot jammed itself in the constricted bore of the front cylinder, and the smaller-diameter bullet continued forward and to the target. Neither design was successful, and for some time the concept was abandoned.

A couple of Stechkin's "cigarette cases."

A couple of Stechkin’s “cigarette cases.”

During 1950s, the famous Soviet gun designer Igor Stechkin5 was tasked to design several deep concealment, noiseless weapons for KGB and GRU6; He then produced an experimental SP-1 cartridge7, similar in concept to that of the Mitin brothers. It used a specially designed bullet which could be squeezed through a constricted bore with an entry (throat) diameter of 9mm and exit (muzzle) diameter of 7.62mm.

Another of Stechkin's experimental hideout guns.

Another of Stechkin’s experimental hideout guns.

A special 9mm wad, placed between the projectile and powder charge, jammed itself in the bore to capture powder gases inside the barrel. Stechkin produced several prototype three-barrel guns on this concept, concealed inside a flat tin case imitating a contemporary cigarette case.

Stechkin's original SP-2 design, showing both the exterior and a cut away.

Stechkin’s original SP-2 design, showing both the exterior and a cut away.

Later on, Stechkin produced an improved round,  SP-2, with long, 7.62mm projectiles consisting of the jacket from 7.62mm TT bullet8, fitted with long aluminum core. The cartridge case contained small amount of powder and a pusher piston, which captured powder gases at the neck of the case.

During the sixties, similar developments were conducted by KGB’s own research institute (yes, they had their own well-funded and top secret scientific and R&D branch at the time). For their own use, KGB produced two similar captive piston rounds of same basic design but of different size and power.

Ammunition: a live and expended round each: PZ, PZAM, SP-3 and SP-4.

Ammunition: a live and expended round each: PZ, PZAM, SP-3 and SP-4.

S4m pistol.

S4m pistol. Holds two rounds in a spring clip, and opens by tipping, like a shotgun.

The smaller (and better known) one was the 7.62x63mm PZ “Zmeya” (Snake) cartridge, which later evolved into cheaper and more reliable PZAM cartridge of the same basic dimensions. It featured a massive steel case with a single-stage piston which propelled a standard 7.62mm PS projectile, taken out of the 7.62×39 M43 intermediate cartridge. Combined with the derringer-type break-open S4 pistol (see ) with two barrels, the PZ was intended for use by undercover agents, as well as by military Special Forces (Spetsnaz) to take out sentries or other enemy personnel during critical missions behind enemy lines.

Ammunition: a live and expended round each: PZ, PZAM, SP-3 and SP-4.

Ammunition: a live and expended round each: PZ, PZAM, SP-3 and SP-4.


Ammunition cutaways. From top to bottom: PZAM, SP-3 and SP-4.

The larger cartridge is noticeably scarcer even now. It is quite big and heavy (case length is 93mm), and it is available in two varieties, based on the same machined steel case. The PFAM “Falanga” cartridge was loaded with a heavy, pointed 9mm projectile made of hardened steel and equipped with a brass driving band. It was intended to take out NATO personnel wearing body armor, who can be found in the vicinity of critical installations such as C3I, ammo depots, airfields and tactical missile launchers. The PMAM “Mundstuck” propelling round was loaded with an aluminum push rod, used to silently propel a 30mm AP-I grenade, which would deal with the targets listed above, once the guard personnel were accounted for using PFAM rounds. Both rounds were fired from a huge, single shot pistol known as “Device D” (see ), and, later on, through a multi-shot carbine / launcher “Device DM” (see ).

Device DM in front of some other exotic weapons

Device DM, the latest Russian silent weapon, in front of some older exotic weapons

Firing Device DM

Firing Device DM

The MSP pistol with two rounds.

The MSP pistol with two-round clip of SP-3 ammunition. The pistol is completely unmarked.

During the early 1970s, the Tula Arms factory developed a more compact alternative to the PZAM ammunition and S4 pistol, in the form of a 7.62×35 SP-3 cartridge and a double-barrel, derringer-style MSP pistol (see ). This ammunition also used 7.62 M43 PS bullet, but featured a noticeably shorter and lighter case with a two-stage telescoped piston. To ensure safe containment of a high pressure gases, the thin-walled steel case is noticeably “fireformed” during the discharge. The same SP-3 ammunition was later used for the single-shot NRS shooting knife (see ).

Firing the NRS. Note the guard is the rear sight.

Firing the NRS. Note the guard is the rear sight.

NRS with accessories. The knife and sheath resemble those for the AKM bayonet, but the sheath extends to form a buttstock.

NRS with accessories. The knife and sheath resemble those for the AKM bayonet, but the sheath extends to form a buttstock.CORRECTION: Per Mac, the sheath is just a sheath. The hinged part is a wirecutter. The sheath stays on the belt, while the operator fires the gun with the blade toward his face, as in the picture above. Recoil is very low so that this is safe. –Ed.

Loading the NRS. The barrel comes out of the base knife, the round is loaded in the barrel, and then it is restored to its place.

Loading the NRS. The barrel comes out of the base knife, the round is loaded in the barrel, and then it is restored to its place.

The MSP is compact, and was deniable when first issued.

The MSP is compact, and was deniable when first issued.

The current author can attest that MSP pistol with SP-3 ammunition is quite silent; it is noticeably quieter than, say, integrally suppressed PB pistol firing 9×18 PM ammunition. However, KGB and GRU wanted their agents to be armed with silenced guns that could offer more than 2 shots and more lethality. This was achieved during early 1980s with introduction of the now well known PSS semi-automatic pistol (see ) and its 7.62×40 SP-4 ammunition.

PSS internally suppressed pistol.

PSS internally suppressed pistol.

PSS with action open and magazine of ready rounds.

PSS with action open and magazine of ready rounds.

The latter featured a single-stage pusher piston, jammed at the neck of the case, and unique projectile, made from steel rod and equipped with brass driving band at the front. This weapon is still issued to special elements of Russian army and police, and appears to be quite popular for its intended role – taking out bad guys (these days it’s mostly Muslim terrorists or organized crime strongmen) with as little sound as possible. The only weak spot of the PSS, besides its unique and expensive ammo, is, surprisingly, its semi-automatic action, which produces most unwelcome sounds during the cycle.

OTS-38 showing the unusual reload process.

OTS-38 opened up to show the unusual reload process.


OTS-38, side view, closed.

To alleviate this problem while maintaining adequate capacity, the late Igor Stechkin designed an unique OTs-38 revolver (see ). This five-shot revolver produces noticeably less sound when fired, compared to the PSS. It also features a barrel, aligned with the bottom chamber of the cylinder, a manual safety for cocked and locked carry, and a built-in laser pointer above the barrel. And if all that is not enough, it also features a unique side-swinging cylinder, a  system developed to ensure ideal coaxial alignment of the bore and cylinder chamber, which is especially important due to blunt shape and hard nose of the SP-4 bullet.

Finally, we must mention two underbarrel grenade launchers, built to same concept of capturing powder gases inside the closed volume. The first is “Tishina” (Silence) system, developed during 1970s to be mounted below the barrel of AMK / AKMS rifle. It used 30mm AP-I grenade, similar to that of used in D and DM devices, and propelled by a special blank 7.62×39 round Powder gases were captured after each shot gy a piston, located inside the rear part of the launcher’s barrel. With introduction of the 5.45mm small arms systems into the Soviet Army, it was reworked into the “Kanarejka” (Canary) system, mounted below the AKS-74U assault rifle. It was similar to the predecessor in concept, but used 5.45mm blank cartridges (see ).

Artists rendering of a carbine with the "Kanarejka."

Artists rendering of a carbine with the “Kanarejka.”

Actual weapon, shown with ammunition, including a sound suppressor for AKSU carbine.

Actual weapon, shown with ammunition, including a sound suppressor for AKSU carbine.

Editor’s Notes

  1. Those books include (stolen links from Forgotten Weapons, containing his code, so Ian gets any Amazon kickback):
    1. Assault Rifle: The Development of the Modern Military Rifle and its Ammunition
    2. Machine Gun: The Development of the Machine Gun from the Nineteenth Century to the Present Day
    3. Modern Combat Pistols: The Development of Semi-automatic Pistols for Military and Police Service Since 1945
    4. Sub-Machine Gun: The Development of Sub-Machine Guns and their Ammunition from World War 1 to the Present Day
  2. While we’ve linked to the patent, you can also find it in a previous article Max wrote for Forgotten Weapons. Yes, if you’ve read that you still need to read this one. And vice versa (it’s Part III of a three-parter on Spetsnaz weaponry).
  3. You guys probably know this already, but The Great Patriotic War is the Russian and Soviet term for World War II, which began for them when Hitler broke the non-aggression pact and invaded the USSR on 22 June 1941.
  4. Russian Nagants were well-suited to suppression because of their gas-seal design, unlike other revolvers (even other Nagants, many of which were produced in Belgium with no gas-seal mechanism).
  5. Stechkin is best known in the West for his select-fire pistol with a stock holster, the APS, which was produced in the early 1950s and remained in Soviet and Russian service for a long time. Some were exported to friendly states and guerrilla movements; one was a favorite of Argentine Communist revolutionary, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.
  6. Two Soviet intelligence agencies. The KGB stood for Committee for State Security and was a political/civilian intelligence and counterintelligence organization like the FBI or CIA (although its officers had military ranks, and in some assignments, wore uniforms). Its successors in the Russian Federation are the SVR (foreign intelligence gathering) and the FSB (counterintelligence and domestic security) of Russia. The GRU was the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff — military intelligence; it still exists except as a function of the Russian not Soviet General Staff.
  7. “SP” stands for Spetsianiy Patron, “special cartridge.”
  8. This is the 7.62 x 25mm Russian round of the TT (Tula-Tokarev) pistol of 1930 and 1933, also used in the wartime submachine guns PPSh-41 and PPS-43.

BREAKING: G36 Replacement will be All-New, Competition Starts in November

The G36 is the standard service rifle of the German Armed Forces, as it has been for about 20 years. But the Bundeswehr has announced that it’s now on the way out, and a solicitation for replacements is out — to all European manufacturers, not just German ones.

End of Life: Always controversial, the G36 is scheduled to be replaced by a new rifle, to be selected in a process that will probably be just as spectacularly controversial.

End of Life: Always controversial, the G36 is scheduled to be replaced by a new rifle, to be selected in a process that will probably be just as spectacularly controversial.

Early this morning, commenter “Tobse” flagged us to this article in the FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany’s most-circulated newspapers), noting that the decision to replace the G36 had been made. Here’s our translation of the first grafs of FAZ political correspondent, Johannes Leithäuser’s, article, The G36 Assault Rifle is being Mustered Out:

Defense minister Ursula von der Leyen made it known back in March that scientific tests of the G 36 had revealed an accuracy problem at high temperatures. A month later, the Minister announced that the standard troop rifle had ” no future in its current form” in the Bundeswehr

While the Ministry set up and tasked numerous commissions with the questions of: whether soldiers had been injured or killed in action because of faulty weapons; whether the manufacturing firm Heckler & Koch had too tight connections to the Ordnance Department of the Ministry; and whether the Ministry took too long to react to reports of the deficiencies — while, then, a great deal of attention was focused on working out questions about the past — the military leadership was working on a solicitation for a new weapon.

You may read the article in German here or a dread Google robotranslation here.

The key points of the article are drawn from this solicitation. They are:

  1. The BW won’t really get the new rifle until the 2020s.
  2. The solicitation is Europe-wide. Sorry ’bout that, Colt, LMT, etc. (Also, sorry ’bout that, HK. You’re going to have to compete with everybody, including those Polish rifles we saw this morning).
  3. The solicitation seems biased towards current production, COTS rifles, as the Ministry feels that only with such a head start can they hope to make a 2019 fielding of test units and 2020s for quantity production.
  4. In the light of the problems with the G36, there are specific environmental requirements for the new rifle’s accuracy (including in automatic fire) and its polymer parts.
  5. The various German (i.e., HK) and foreign weapons used as controls in the tests that exposed the G36 overheating problems were all better than the G36 at that, and sometimes at something else, but they all had disadvantages relative to the G36, such that none of them seems superior all-round.

BW soldier with G36

Previous FAZ coverage of the G36 problem is here (these are the links to the native German, copy the links — not our translated titles — and paste them into if you need the robo-english:

Augen Geradeaus! on the Solicitation

As you might expect, Thomas Wiegold is all over this at Augen geradeaus! He has three stories up so far including:

  • 8 Sep 15: Out with the G36: The Bundeswehr shall get a completely new assault rifle. This article is an update based on materials provided to members of parliament (the Bundestag). Most of the details of the specification remain up in the air, but will be in the Funktionalen Forderung Fähigkeitslücke (FFF), roughly equivalent to a US procurement Requirements Specification, which is due in November. So even such questions as caliber are still not decided. He quotes Minister von der Leyen as saying:

We have, with the military leadership, decided for a clear break. After almost 20 years with the G36, we want to acquire a new assault rifle for the Bundeswehr. The new sustem should also full more modern requirements better than an updated, improved G36. For this purpose, there will be an open and transparent tender process.

New Military Arms from Poland

Coat_of_arms_of_Poland-officialJane’s has been to an armaments exhibition in Poland (MSPO in Kielce, PL) where Polish armories have displayed new Polish small arms to the public for the first time. These arms comprise a modular family of 5.56mm small arms, the Modular Small Arms System, whose key gimmick is that the whole family interchanges to standard or bullpup lower-receivers, and a further improved UKM-2000P general purpose machine gun, which was already an improved, NATO-caliber evolution of the PKM, now with improved modularity and ergonomics.

I: The Modular Small Arms System

The Modular Small Arms System (hereafter MSAS to save typing, if you please) is a product of Fabryka Broni “Łucznik”– Radom Sp. z o.o. which looks intimidating to an English speaker, but means “Archer” Arms Factory, LLC in Polish, and is actually easy to spell and pronounce with a little coaching, because Polish is a phonetic language: Fab-REE-ka BRO-nee WOOCH-neek gets you pretty close. (You can’t fool a Pole, but he will probably appreciate you trying. The Polish language does not deserve its reputation for difficulty). Fortunately for non-Polish-speakers, FB Łucznik publishes their website in English as well as in their native language; unfortunately for us, they don’t have the MSAS information up there yet.

FB Lucnik Radom 90 years_drzwiotwarte_a4_netThis month is Fabryka Broni’s 90th aniversary. Fabryka Broni has made the Beryl AK-based assault rifle for the Polish military, the Glauberyt 9mm submachine gun, and traces its history back 90 years to its forerunners in inter-war Free Poland, before Nazi and Russian occupations (the USSR occupied eastern Poland from 1939-41 and the whole country from 1944-45. Apart from the roughly half of Poland annexed to the USSR [for which some German territories, stripped entirely of movable property by the Red Army, were given Poland as compensation], unlike some other slave states such East Germany, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, that were kept under or put back under the Red Army boot, the USSR armed forces withdrew in 1956 and let Polish quislings run the country).

FB’s forerunners were the producer of Polish “Radom” Mauser 98-pattern rifles and the well-regarded 9mm VIS Radom pistol before and during the war, and later produced weapons, mostly of Soviet pattern, for the Polish Warsaw Pact forces.

The end of the Cold War required Polish forces to adapt to new tactics and interoperability challenges as part of NATO, but it also unleashed the nation’s considerable design and engineering talent and produced a variety of interesting firearms.

Here’s the MSAS in bullpup mode:


The picture is less than ideal, but visible variants include rifle, carbine, and short CQB variants. Common AR add-ons like COTS suppressor mount/flash-hiders and Surefire magazines are depicted, along with FB’s own compact grenade launcher and a sight resembling the original snap-on M203 peep sight. There’s no visible provision for a bayonet. Visible features include modular rail attachments, an adjustable gas system, and an ambidextrous selector/safety lever. Charging handle and ejection seem to be convertible to left or right. The rifle clearly uses a great deal of modern polymer structure.

Here’s the conventional-stocked MSAS modules. This picture’s a little lower-rez than the bullpip one, but the conventional rifles’ and carbines’ AR ancestry and SCAR-like folding stock are evident. The ability to accept an AK-like bayonet is an interesting feature.



In both bullpup and conventional layout, the “standard” barrel length is 16″ (406mm), not the more customary 14.3-14.5″ (~360-370mm). A shorter barrel length is available. The operating system used allows the stock to fold.

The grenade launcher is also an interesting module, and one that has export potential (as do the rifles themselves).

In the meantime, this is not a theoretical, proposed or prototypical weapons system, but is now in production for the Polish Armed Forces. Exactly which variants the Poles are buying remains to be seen.

II: The UKM-2000P Improved GPMG

First, our Polish friends need a better name for this thing. Because it really seems like the cat’s pajamas as a general-purpose machine gun, based as it is on the reliable PKM, but updated to use NATO ammunition, and accept modern attachments. This is made by another Polish arms concern, ZMT (Zaklady Mechaniczne Tarnow, or Tarnow Machine Factory).


Source: Remigius Wilk photo via Jane’s.

A lot of new engineering has gone into the MG, and as a result it has fewer legacy PKM parts than it looks like. Indeed, over 2/3 of the parts are new since the first NATO MGs, the UKM-2000, went into service fifteen years ago:


@Weaponsman 2015, data from Jane’s.

According to the ZMT catalog (English version), the changes from the UKM-2000 were the direct result of combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of requests from Polish troops. The company says:

Changes include introducing a new, folding telescopic buttstock with a cheekpiece and rear support, integral Picatinny rail and a three-rail fore-end system on the gas cylinder tube to improve the weapon ergonomics and reliability. The modified UKM-2000 is equipped with a new bipod and ergonomic pistol grip and a new cocking handle and safety selector as well as an improved tactical sling and a 100-round soft ammunition bag. Additionally, shell extractor and ammunition button had been modified [sic] and the breechblock covers latch was added to keep it in the open position. The modified UKM-2000 may be equipped with a shorter 440 mm (17.3″) barrel with an effective flash hider.

According to Jane’s, it’s durable and reliable.

The modernised UKM-2000P is more reliable than the original UKM-2000P (test guns fire 37,000 and 53,000 rounds) and can fire all 7.62×51 mm rounds – both NATO and non-standard. It can be loaded by any type of link belt, including German DM60. The steel ammunition box was replaced by a 100- or 150-round soft bag. ZMT introduced a new folding and telescopic stock for both dismounted soldiers and paratroopers; an ergonomic handgrip; a front grip; and a carrying handle.

Poland placed a $6.53 million contract for the delivery of 378 modernised UKM-2000Ps (30 in 2015, 138 in 2016, 106 in 2017, and 104 in 2018) back in June, although this only came into force on 28 August after the successful trials of two prototypes.

The original 2000 version could accept NATO standard disintegrating links, but it couldn’t interoperate with the German fixed link belts (even though those are also a NATO standard). While it seems like a PKM with a NATO caliber conversion and some cosmetic changes, that’s not only not true, it’s not even bad if it were true.

A Polish trooper with a camouflaged version of the original UKM-2000.

A Polish trooper with a camouflaged version of the original (and much less modular) UKM-2000.

Commenter Kirk was just saying that NATO needed something like a PKM. Well, the Poles were miles ahead of him.

Along with the GPMG, ZMT makes Poland’s heavy machine guns including a .50-caliber powered Gatling, sniper rifles, light grenade launchers and mortars, and some aircraft and vehicle armament mountings and interfaces.


Fabryka Broni „Łucznik”- Radom Sp. z o.o. website. Retrieved from: (Note: the MSBS family is not on the website, yet).

Wilk, Remigiusz. MSPO 2015: Fabryka Broni unveils full MSBS-5.56 rifle family. IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, 2 September 2015. Retrieved from:

Wilk, Remigiusz. MSPO 2015: ZMT unveils modernised UKM-2000P machine gun. IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, 4 September 2015. Retrieved from:

Zaklady Mechaniczne Tarnow website. Products catalog (English language, also available in Polish, Portuguese and Arabic). (The “Modified UKM-2000” on p. 10 appears to be a slightly earlier version of the UKM-2000P.

Zaklady Mechaniczne Tarnow website. Main Page:

Zaklady Mechaniczne Tarnow website. UKM-2000 Page: (Note: the UKM-2000P is not posted yet).

More G36 Information from Thomas Wiegold

Lithuanian troops with the G36. They have also stopped procuring the controversial rifle.

Lithuanian troops with the G36. They have been satisfied with the rifle for 10 years, but have now delayed procuring more units until the heat-accuracy issue is resolved.

This is the latest of Wiegold’s posts, from 28 August; here’s the original in German; the Google machine mumble; and, below, our manual translation.

After State Secretary for Armament Karin Suder decided, to purchase a limited quantity of new assault rifles and machine guns from Heckler & Koch, this question immediately arose here: why an acquisition on the vasis of the HK417 rifle with the larger 7.62 caliber, and not, like the G36, in the 5.56 caliber? I enquired at the Defense Ministry. The responses, a little concatenated:

As it says in the Ministry’s announcement, the planned new acquisitions are not intended as the regular successor to the accuracy-problem stricken G36. But rather, intended to fill out the so-called “Weapons Mix.” Thus: the 600 additional assault rifles and 600 aditional machine guns are coming on top of, not in place of, the G36s, and are also no foreshadowing of the decision over a G36 successor.

One the acquisition of 600 assault rifles on the basis of the accepted G27P, this is the decisive statement: “on the basis of a weapon already adopted by the Bundeswehr.” With that, the prescribed procedures for introducing a weapon that is not already in the forces do not apply — and that also explains, why the decision settled upon the G27, and thus the HK417, and not the HK416. The latter does have the same caliber as the G36, but is not adopted by the Bundeswehr. 

At the same time, the statement, “..on the basis of the… G27P,”  suggests that the rifle that will be bought is not the precision weapon that has been introduced by the KSK [special operations forces unit, “Kommandostreitkräfte” — Translator note] but rather a variant that is expected to be different, especially in the optics. You might say, then, a “high end assault rifle” that is used as such, not a DMR- or sniper rifle, as for example the Norwegian forces: 

Norwegian sniper/designated marksman with HK417. Original Norwegian Forces caption: Close to 300 soldiers from Telemark battalion, parts of the Norwegian Army's Quick Reaction Force (QRF) and the Armored Battalion was in May of 2015 on an urban warfare exercise (Urban Viking/Urban Mink) in Marnehuizen, Netherland. (Sniper from the Armoured Battalion)

Norwegian sniper/designated marksman with HK417. Original Norwegian Forces caption: Close to 300 soldiers from Telemark battalion, parts of the Norwegian Army’s Quick Reaction Force (QRF) and the Armored Battalion was in May of 2015 on an urban warfare exercise (Urban Viking/Urban Mink) in Marnehuizen, Netherland. (Sniper from the Armoured Battalion)

Personally, we didn’t get this from the Bundeswehr statements, and came away thinking that Herr Wiegold is going a little too far with this — that the HK rifles are indeed intended to be DMR rifles, although he may be right that their optics will differ from those used by KSK already. Still, we weren’t sitting in on his discussions with Ministry officials, either! Back to the translation:

In increasing the number of MG4s with the troops, the caliber was obviously not decisive — but again the fact that the weapon is already adopted, and for that reason more of them can be ordered without a lot of bureaucratic hassle.

But above all: the G36 will continue to be used, until a successor is selected. Particularly as the 1,200 weapons on order can’t begin to replace the roughly 170,000 G36s on hand.

With this it is perfectly clear: it’s actually less of an interim solution for the G36 problem, than an interim solution that makes the weapons mix, something that’s required anyway, a little more practical. But the experts in the preceding thread had already said that.

That’s the end of Wiegold’s original posting. He updated it with a transcript of a news conference with MOD spokesman, Oberst Ingo Gerhartz. Gerhartz fields a series of fairly obtuse questions, of which we’ll excerpt just two answer that extend our knowledge.

Once more, briefly, the facts: There are 600 rifles of the G27 type, a so-called assault rifle, and then there are 600 guns of the MG4 type, so-called light machine guns. By November, 2015 60 G27-type rifles will be acquired, therefore all remaining 540 rifles of the G27 type, and the 600 guns of MG4 in the course of the next year, or by the end of next year.

That makes the purchase schedule pretty clear. [Note that in German it’s OK to call both rifles and MGs, “rifles.” It isn’t in English, so we’ve used “guns” for the MG, even when Gerhartz used “Gewehre.”]

The other excerpt worth translating is this discussion of the G36’s technical issue:

The G36 – we’ve learned this through intensive investigation – has two weak points,one of them the so-called shot-induced  warming. That means, if I fire too much at a high rate of fire, then I get a loss of accuracy. The other, I also get a loss of accuracy, in an extremely warm environment —  30 or 35° C or more (86-95º F or more). These are the two weak points. This is exactly why we’ve chosen this supplement right now. First: the G27 is a rifle that can handle this hot climate, in any case. There will be no diminution of precision. The other is a machine gun. With that, I can naturally shoot at a higher rate of fire, without any sacrifice of accuracy, and naturally, this ameliorates the other weak point of the G36. It all comes down to the weapons mix. It;s not a substitute that we’re now throwing out for the G36, but it’s something we’re putting out there to ameliorate the weak points of the G36 in the weapons mix.

The reporters did not seem happy with this (indeed, they didn’t all seem to follow this), and many of them followed the Green Party line that to buy these weapons from H&K now is to somehow “reward” the company for the problems with the G36.

To which HK would reply: but, the test changed after the gun was accepted. And the soldiers like it.

How this problem will shake out is anybody’s guess. Germany’s defense budget is an anemic 1.16% of GDP, and will go down further in 2016 (as a percent of GDP. In real-Euro terms, it’s slightly growing). The Bundeswehr is suffering from aging, Cold-War-era equipment and poor readiness:

The military said only 70 of 180 Boxer armored fighting vehicles, seven of 43 navy helicopters, 42 of 109 Eurofighters and 38 of 89 Tornados were operational. Transall transport planes were also in poor condition, with only 24 out of 56 deployable. These are symptoms of Germany’s push for fiscal austerity. Germany has pushed strict austerity measures in order to combat deficits and public debt.

The demographic squeeze on Germany’s social safety net leaves little in the coffers for discretionary spending, like defense. The numbers, in fact, look worse than the paragraph above suggests:

Bundeswehr Mid-2014
Operational Capability of Select Weapons Systems

Available Deployable
Tiger helicopter 31* 10 10
NH90 helicopter 33* 8 8
Sea King helicopter 21 15 3
Sea Lynx helicopter 22 18 4
CH53 helicopter 83 43 16
Eurofighter fighter jet 109 74 42
Tornado fighter jet 89 66 38
K130 corvette 5 2 2
U212 submarine 4 1 1
Frigates 11 8 7
Marder IFV 406 280 280
Boxer IFV/multi-role 180 70 70
Total stock = all procured units
Available = in operation, including systems currently out of service because of maintenance or repair
Deployable = can be used immediately for missions, exercises or training*includes pre-production models
Source: Bundeswehr German Armed Forces via

The Bundeswehr is in a tough spot. It needs money for personnel, for maintenance, and for readiness, and it can’t afford everything. In this case, what usually goes by the boards, whether it’s the American forces in 1975, the Russian forces in 1995, or the German in 2015, is maintenance and readiness, as the table above illustrates.