Monday, July 25, 2011

Brazil's IMBEL MD-97 assault rifle

IMBEL MD-97 family of rifles was developed on the basis of earlier IMBELMD-2 rifles, with certain improvements in parts and overall size. The family consists of two basic models, the selectively-fired MD-97L rifle, which isintended for Brazilian Army's Special Forces, and semi-automatic only MD-97LC carbine, which is intended for police use.
IMBEL assault rifles, top "military" MD-97L, bottom "police"MD-97LC; versions with folding buttstock

IMBEL MD-97 rifles feature gas operated action with short-stroke piston and rotary bolt locking. The trigger unit and folding or fixed buttstock are same as on earlier 7,62mm Fz MD963 rifles (Brazilian-made copies of Belgian FN FAL rifle).Both rifle and police carbine variants are available with either fixed or folding buttstocks; the military MD-97L also can be fitted with domestically-made 40mm underbarrel grenade launcher or bayonet. MD-97 rifles use M16-compatible magazines.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

FN FAL assault rifle

The FN FAL (Fusil Automatique Leger - Light Automatic Rifle) is one of the most famous and widespread military rifle designs of the XX century. Developed by the Belgian Fabrique Nationale company, it was used by some 70 or even more countries, and was manufactured in at least 10 countries. At the present time the service days of the most FAL rifles are gone, but it is still used in some parts of the world. The history of the FAL began circa 1946, when FN began to develop a new assault rifle, chambered for German 7.92x33mm Kurz intermediate cartridge. The design team was lead by Dieudonne Saive, who at the same time worked at the battle rifle, chambered for "old time" full-power rifle cartridges, which latter became the SAFN-49. It is not thus surprising that both rifles are mechanically quite similar. In the late 1940s Belgians joined the Britain and selected a British .280 (7x43mm) intermediate cartridge for further development. In 1950 both Belgian FAL prototype and British EM-2 bullpup assault rifles were tested by US Army. The FAL prototype greatly impressed the Americans, but the idea of the intermediate cartridge was at that moment incomprehensible for them, and USA insisted on adoption of their full-power T65 cartridge as a NATO standard in 1953-1954. Preparing for this adoption, FN redesigned their rifle for the newest T65 / 7.62x51mm NATO ammunition, and first 7.62mm FALs were ready in 1953. Belgium was not the the first country to adopt their own rifle in 1956. Probably the first one was a Canada, adopting their slightly modified version of FAL as C1 in 1955. Canadians set to produce C1 and heavy barreled C2 squad automatic rifles at their own Canadian Arsenal factory. Britain followed the suit and adopted the FAL in 1957 as an L1A1 SLR (Self-loading rifle), often issued with 4X SUIT optical scopes. Britain also produced their own rifles at the RSAF Enfield and BSA factories. Austria adopted the FAL in 1958 as a Stg.58 and manufactured their rifles at Steyr arms factory. Various versions of FAL were also adopted by the Brazil, Turkey, Australia, Israel, South Africa, West Germany and many other countries. The success of the FAL could be even greater if Belgians would sell the license to W.Germany, which really liked to produce the FAL as a G1 rifle, but Belgians rejected the request. Germany purchased the license for Spanish CETME rifle and as a result of this H&K G3 rifle became probably the most notable rival to FAL.

DSA-58OSW - a select-fire "sawed off" FAL clone made by DS Arms (USA) for police use

Austrian Steyr Stg.58 - license built FN FAL

During the time, FAL was built in numerous versions, with different furniture, sights, barrel lengths etc. There are, however, four basic configurations of FAL rifle: FAL 50.00, or simply FAL, with fixed buttstock and standard barrel; FAL 50.63 or FAL "Para", with folding skeleton butt and short barrel; FAL 50.64 with folding skeleton butt of "Para" model and standard length barrel; and the FAL 50.41, also known as FAL Hbar or FALO - a heavy barreled model which was intended primary as a light support weapon. There are also two major patterns of FALs around the globe: "metric" and "inch" FALs. As the names implied, these were built in countries with metric or imperial (inch) measure systems. These patterns are slightly different in some dimensions, and magazines of metric and inch pattern sometimes could not be interchanged. Most "inch" pattern FALs were made in British Commonwealth countries (UK, Canada, Australia) and have had folding cocking handles and were mostly limited to semi-automatic fire only (except for Hbar versions like C2). Most "metric" pattern rifles had non-folding cocking handles and may or may not have select-fire capability, but as with other light select-fire weapons chambered for 7.62x51mm NATO round, the controllability of the full auto fire is disappointing and shots spread in burst is extremely wide. But, regardless of this, the FAL is one of the best so known "battle rifles", reliable, comfortable and accurate. It is somewhat sensitive to fine sand and dust but otherwise is a great weapon.

FN FAL "Paratrooper" model (also known as FAL 50.63) with shortened barrel and folding butt

British L1A1 SLR - license built "inch pattern" FN FAL with SUIT optical sight

The only countries still producing the FAL rifles until the present time are the Brazil and, most surprisingly, the USA. Brazil adopted the FAL under the name LAR and manufactured it at the IMBEL facilities. The USA produced a small amount of FALs as the T-48 at H&R factory in early 1950s for Army trials, but at the present time a number of private US Companies is manufacturing various versions of FAL rifles using either surplus parts kits or newly manufactured parts. Most of these rifles are limited to semi-auto only and are available for civilian users. Probably most notable US manufacturer of FAL modifications is the DS Arms company, which produced its rifles under the name of DSA-58.

Canadian C2 Squad Automatic Weapon - a heavy barreled version of FAL, intended as Light Machine Gun
The FN FAL is a gas operated, selective fire or semi-automatic only, magazine fed rifle. It uses short piston stroke gas system with gas piston located above the barrel and having its own return spring. After the shot is fired, the gas piston makes a quick tap to the bolt carrier and then returns back, and the rest of the reloading cycle is commenced by the inertia of bolt group. The gas system is fitted with gas regulator so it could be easily adjusted for various environment conditions, or cut off completely so rifle grenades could be safely launched from the barrel. The locking system uses bolt carrier with separate bolt that locks the barrel by tipping its rear part into the recess in the receiver floor. The receivers initially were machined from the forged steel blocks, and in 1973 FN began to manufacture investment cast receivers to decrease production costs. Many manufactures, however, stuck to the machined receivers. The trigger housing with pistol grip is hinged to the receiver behind the magazine well and could be swung down to open action for maintenance and disassembly. The recoil spring is housed in the butt of the rifle in fixed butt configurations or in the receiver cover in folding butt configurations, so the folding butt versions require a slightly different bolt carrier, receiver cover and a recoils spring. The cocking handle is located at the left side of the receiver and does not move when gun is fired. It could be folding or non-folding, depending on the country of origin. The safety - fire selector switch is located at the trigger housing, above the triggerguard. It can have two (on semi-automatic) or three (on select-fire rifles) positions. The firing mechanism is hammer fired and use single sear for both semi-automatic or full automatic fire. Barrel is equipped with long flash hider which also serves as a rifle grenade launcher. Design of flash hider may differs slightly from country to country. The furniture of the FAL also can differ - it could be made from wood, plastic of various colors or metal (folding buttstocks, metallic handguards on some models). Some models, such as Austrian Stg.58 or Brazilian LAR were fitted with light bipods as a standard. Almost all heavy barrel versions also were fitted with bipods of various design. Sights usually are of hooded post front and adjustable diopter rear types, but can differ in details and markings. Almost all FAL rifles are equipped with sling swivels and most of rifles are fitted with bayonet lugs.

Brazilian IMBEL LAR - another license built FN FAL, one of few FAL models still in production now
Caliber : 7,62mm NATO (7.62x51)
Action: Gas operated, tilting breech block, select-fire or semi-auto only
Length: 1100 mm (990 / 736 mm for "Para" model)
Barrel length: 533 mm (431 mm for "Para" model)
Weight: 4.45 kg empty (3.77 kg empty for "Para" models)
Magazine capacity: 20 rounds (30 rounds for heavy barreled SAW versions)
Rate of fire: 650-700 rounds per minute

Belgian FAL prototype (ca.1950) chambered for British .280 (7x43mm) intermediate cartridge

Friday, July 8, 2011

Enfield EM-2 Experimental Assualt Rifle

EM-2 assault rifle, officially adopted in Britain as Rifle, Automatic, No.9 Mk.1 but never put into service. Note that the backup sights are in raised position.

The history of the British EM-2 (Experimental Model-2) assault rifle is interesting and somewhat pitiful story. The EM-2 was born as a result of the experience with small arms, gained during the Second World War. It was obvious that the modern warfare will require the infantry to be armed with light, selective fire weapon with effective range of fire much longer than of submachine gun, but shorter than of conventional semi-automatic or bolt action rifles. This requirement effectively led to the development of the various "intermediate" cartridges. The first power to adopt this concept was the Germany, which issued in limited numbers the selective-fire weapons with intermediate cartridge (7.92x33mm Kurz) since 1942. The Soviet Union was the second to this case, developing its own intermediate cartridge in 1943 and began issuing weapons for it on limited basis since 1944 and on large scale since 1949. The Great Britain also felt the need to replace both Sten submachine guns and SMLE No.4 bolt-action rifles with more modern equipment. The research and experience clearly showed that it is entirely possible to replace both of these weapons with single new weapon, with effective range of fire of no more than 1000 yards and with selective-fire capability. This weapon, of cause, required a new cartridge, which was developed after extensive research and development. This cartridge, an "ideal" from British point of view, was of .280 caliber (7mm) and had a bottlenecked case 43 mm long. The pointed bullet weighted 9.08 g (140 grains) and had muzzle velocity of about 745 m/s (2445 fps). The rough comparison of this round against other most common modern cartridges can be found in the table below. Basically, this cartridge offered significant advantage in effective range and penetration against not only 9x19mm Luger pistol cartridge, but also against 7.92x33mm Kurz German and 7.62x39mm Soviet intermediate cartridges, producing slightly more recoil, which was still significantly less than of .303 British rifle cartridge or latter 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge. This cartridge immediately attracted the attention of the Belgian company Fabrique Nationale, which at the same time worked on the advanced version of their SAFN-49 rifle. Canada also showed significant interest in this cartridge.

EM-1 prototype assault rifle.
Having the "ideal" cartridge on hands, both Britain and Belgium began to develop its own assault rifles. The Belgian part of the story will be covered in the FN FAL article elsewhere on this site, and the British part goes right here. The Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) at Enfield Lock began to develop its new assault rifle in the late 1940s. The design team was led by the LTC Edward Kent-Lemon and Stefan Janson. New prototype rifles were called the EM-1 and EM-2 (Experimental Model 1 and 2) and were of similar layout and dimensions, being different mostly in shape details and controls. Both rifles were of bullpup layout, that means that the magazine and the barrel chamber are located behind the triggerguard and pistol handle. It must be noted that these rifles were not the first ever built in the bullpup layout - I know about al least one bolt action bullpup rifle dated back to post-WW1 period. The EM-2 attracted more attention, being slightly less futuristic in appearance. It was a very well balanced and laid out rifle, with comfortable controls, accurate and reliable. In 1951 the EM-2 rifle was nominally adopted for British service as "Rifle, Automatic, caliber .280, Number 9 Mark 1". Had it been put into service, the British troops could have a first class assault rifle prior to 1960, but due to the NATO standardization issues Britain followed the USA and adopted the overpowered American 7.62x51mm cartridge instead of more promising .280, and EM-2 simply could not be easily rebuilt for this round. So, Brits had to adopt another design, but this is also another story. There's also some rumors that infamous British SA80 / L85 assault rifle, introduced in 1980s, was based on the EM-2 design. It is not true, since the crappy L85 has nothing in common with EM-2 except for general external "bullpup" layout.

From let to right: British experimental .280 (7x43mm) cartridge for EM-2; Soviet 7.62x39mm M43; US/NATO 5.56x45mm (.223 Rem); US/NATO 7.62x51mm (.308 Win).
The EM-2 rifle is a gas operated, magazine fed, selective fire rifle. It uses gas system with long piston stroke, located above the barrel. The locking system is generally similar to one found in the WW2-period German Gew.43 or in the Soviet Degtyarov DP-27 machine gun (but turned back to front). Bolt locks into the receiver by two flaps, that are pivoted at their rear to extend out of the bolt and into the locking recesses in the receiver walls. Flaps are controlled by the firing pin sleeve, coaxially located inside the hollow bolt, and the sleeve is in turn connected to the gas piston rod by the projection on the rod. The recoil spring is located at the rear part of the gas piston, above the bolt. When gun is fired, the hot power gases cause the gas piston to go to the rear. This movement first causes the firing pin sleeve to retract within the still stationary bolt, causing the locking flaps to be withdrawn from locking recesses and into the bolt. As soon as the bolt is unlocked, it begin to move back against the pressure of the return spring, ejecting the spent case and feeding the fresh round into the chamber on its return into the battery. EM-2 fires from closed bolt all the time. The firing mechanism is striker-fired, with the main spring and the sear located in the bolt. The sear is located at the bottom of the bolt and is operated by the long trigger lever, connected to the trigger. In general, this was somewhat complicated but very dust-proof, reliable and neat design.

EM-2 disassembled into major components.
The cocking handle is located at the right side of the weapon, on the front part of the gas piston rod, and can be removed when gun is disassembled. The safety switch is located at the front of the triggerguard and is similar in operation to one found in M1 Garand or M14 rifles, and the fire selector is of cross-bolt push-button type, and located above the pistol handle. All controls are easily reachable with firing hand. The furniture (pistol handle and forend) is made from wood, the buttplate is attached to the receiver directly and can be easily removed for field-stripping. EM-2 was fitted with optical sights, mounted on the integral carrying handle as standard. Optical sights were non-adjustable, and range adjustment capability was built into the aiming reticle picture. The emergency (backup) iron sights were also fitted - rear folding peep-hole (diopter) sight was attached to the left side of the carrying handle, and the folding front post sight was mounted on the left side of the gas block.

Caliber: 7x43 mm (.280 British)
Action: Gas operated
Overall length: 889 mm
Barrel length: 623 mm
Weight: 3.41 kg with empty magazine
Rate of fire: 450 - 600 rounds per minute (depends on source)
Magazine capacity: 20 rounds

Friday, July 1, 2011

FN F2000 by FN Herstal

During the late 1980s and early 1990s famous Belgian company FN Herstal began the search for its next entry into the assault rifle world. The aim this time was to produce a modern, modular weapon, and this ultimately resulted in the FN F2000 rifle, which was first displayed in public in 2001. The F2000 offers all of the most popular features of the modern assault rifle, such as a compact bullpup layout, completely ambidextrous handling, and a modular design with plenty of options and add-ons already available, which allow the rifle to be “tailored” for any particular mission or tactical situation. For example, for peacekeeping operations F2000 could be fitted with less-lethal M303 underbarrel module, which fires tear gas or marker projectiles using pre-compressed air. On the other hand, the F2000 could be fitted with various 40 mm FN EGLM grenade launchers and a proprietary computerized fire control system, instead of the standard low-magnification optical sights.So far FN F2000 rifle found only few buyers, including Armed forces of Sloveniaand Belgian Special operations forces. Nevertheless, it is one of most promising assault rifles on the market.
FN F2000 assault rifle, in standard configuration, with telescope sight

Quite recently FN also introduced a civilian version of F2000, known as FS2000. It has a somewhat longer barrel and is limited to semi-automatic fire. Otherwise it is the same excellent weapon, with great ergonomics and 100% ambidexterity.
FN F2000 assault rifle, in "Tactical" configuration, with Picatinny rail and back-up open sights

FN F2000 assault rifle, with telescope sight and 40mm FN EGLM grenade launcher

The F2000 rifle is a gas operated, rotating bolt, selective-fire weapon, featuring a polymer stock with a bull-pup layout. Itutilizes a short-stroke gas piston and a 7-lug rotating bolt which locks into the barrel extension. The unique feature of the F2000 rifle is its patented front ejection system: the spent cases, extracted from the chamber, travel from the rear part of the gun to the ejection port near the muzzle via a special ejection tube and fall out of the gun at the safe distance from the shooters' face. This is achieved using a special swinging guide, which enters the way of the closing bolt, and directs the spent case, which is held on the bolt face, to the ejection tube, while, at the same time, lower lugs of the bolt are stripping a fresh cartridge from the magazine. The cocking handle is mounted well forward on the left hand side, just above the fore grip, and it can easily be operated with the right hand when the gun is held left-handed. The selector switch is mounted at the bottom of the trigger guard. All of these features combine to make the F2000 the first genuinely ambidextrous bullpup, able to be used with equal ease by right and left handed shooters without requiring any adjustments. In its standard configuration, the F2000 is perfectly balanced around the pistol grip.
FN F2000 assault rifle, in standard configuration, disassembled into major components

FN F2000 rifle being fired by Belgian soldier. Note spent case emerging from the port at the front of the rifle

The stock has built-in standard rails on the top of the weapon (for different sights and scopes etc) and a mounting point ahead of trigger guard, where additional modules may be installed (such as grenade launchers, non-lethal modules etc). In the basic configuration, the upper rail mount is fitted with a 1.6X magnification optical sight, and the lower mounting point is covered by a removable handguard. At the current time, the F2000 rifle may be upgraded, depending on the mission, with FN's 40 mm low-velocity grenade launcher (on the lower mount, instead of the handguard), or with M303 non-lethal module; other options are handguards with built-in laser pointers or flashlights. The standard low-magnification combat scope, which has a back-up open sights on its top cover, may be replaced by any other scope onPiatiny-style mount, or with FN's proprietary computerized fire control module with laser rangefinder, for both the rifle and 40 mm grenade launcher.
FN FS2000, a semiautomatic-only version for civilian shooters

Caliber: 5.56x45 mm NATO
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt
Overall length: 694 mm
Barrel length: 400 mm
Weight: 3.6 kg empty, in standart configuration; 4.6 kg with 40mm grenade launcher
Magazine capacity: 30 rounds (any NATO / STANAG type magazines)


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