As­sault Weapons – More Lethal

The mod­ern as­sault ri­fle is an ap­pro­pri­ate ex­am­ple of an ‘as­sault weapon’ as de­fined orig­i­nally but cur­rently with new tech­nolo­gies the as­sault weapon such as an as­sault ri­fle has be­come far more lethal than what was imag­ined ear­lier

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral V.K. Kapoor (Retd)

The mod­ern as­sault ri­fle is an ap­pro­pri­ate ex­am­ple of an ‘as­sault weapon’ as de­fined orig­i­nally but cur­rently with new tech­nolo­gies the as­sault weapon such as an as­sault ri­fle has be­come far more lethal than what was imag­ined ear­lier.

AS­SAULT WEAPON IS A term which orig­i­nated in the United States to de­fine some types of firearms. The def­i­ni­tion varies among reg­u­lat­ing ju­ris­dic­tions, but usu­ally in­cludes semi-au­to­matic firearms with a de­tach­able mag­a­zine and a pis­tol grip, and some­times other features such as a flash sup­pres­sor or bar­rel shroud. Some firearms are spec­i­fied by name. At the time that the nowde­funct Fed­eral As­sault Weapons Ban passed in 1994, the US Jus­tice Depart­ment said, “In gen­eral, as­sault weapons are semi­au­to­matic firearms with a large mag­a­zine of am­mu­ni­tion that were de­signed and con­fig­ured for rapid fire and com­bat use.” The name as­sault ri­fle seems to have also evolved from this term. This refers to mil­i­tary ri­fles that can fire in au­to­matic and/or burst mode.

Com­mon at­tributes of as­sault weapons as ac­cepted in var­i­ous leg­is­la­tions in the United States in­clude: Semi-au­to­matic firearm (now ca­pa­ble of fir­ing in an au­to­matic mode) and ca­pa­ble of ac­cept­ing a de­tach­able mag­a­zine Fold­ing or tele­scop­ing (col­lapsi­ble) stock, which re­duces the over­all length of the firearm.

A pis­tol grip that pro­trudes con­spic­u­ously be­neath the ac­tion of the weapon Bay­o­net lug, which al­lows the mount­ing of a bay­o­net

Threaded bar­rel, which can ac­cept de­vices such as a flash sup­pres­sor, sup­pres­sor, com­pen­sator or muz­zle brake. Gre­nade launcher

Bar­rel shroud, which pre­vents burn­ing of shooter’s arm or hand as a safety de­vice. Night fir­ing aids such as NVDs or ther­mal imag­ing de­vices.

The mod­ern as­sault ri­fle is an ap­pro­pri­ate ex­am­ple of an ‘as­sault weapon’ as de­fined orig­i­nally but cur­rently with new tech­nolo­gies the as­sault weapon such as an as­sault ri­fle has be­come far more lethal than what was imag­ined ear­lier. Some of the new tech­nolo­gies in use in as­sault weapons such as as­sault ri­fles are briefly given in the suc­ceed­ing para­graphs.

Bullpup De­sign and Ac­cu­racy

The ac­cu­racy of a weapon is de­pen­dent on the length of the bar­rel among other fac­tors. When you go to a bullpup de­sign (de­vel­oped in 1950s), be­cause you move the mag­a­zine be­hind the pis­tol grip, you can move the cham­ber of the bar­rel back where the mag­a­zine is. The over­all length of the ri­fle is shorter, how­ever the length of the bar­rel can re­main long for ac­cu­racy pur­poses. So the bullpup lay­out at­tempts to ad­dress the mo­bil­ity ver­sus ac­cu­racy is­sue. If you have a shorter weapon, it should help you move through tight spa­ces that much eas­ier. The ques­tion that arises is, can the per­son shoot more ac­cu­rately with it? And can they shoot more quickly?

Ac­cu­racy is de­pen­dent upon other fac­tors as well. While train­ing cer­tainly has an im­por­tant role to play, so do de­sign and op­ti­cal tech­nolo­gies.

Ma­te­rial Used

Dr Franklin Wong of De­fence Re­search and Devel­op­ment Canada (DRDC) says: “The bul­let has to achieve a cer­tain sta­bil­ity as it leaves the bar­rel so that it flies straight,” he ex­plained. “Shoot­ing a bul­let is sort of like an in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine. There’s a big ex­plo­sion with a flow of hot gases. Ev­ery time you shoot a round it’s like hit­ting the bar­rel

with a ham­mer with each ex­plo­sion. That’s where in­ac­cu­ra­cies come in…..It’s very hard to pre­dict where your bul­lets are go­ing to go if your bar­rel, due to ma­te­rial used and the me­chan­i­cal de­sign, is al­ways chang­ing where it’s de­flect­ing. One of the goals for our weapon stud­ies is to un­der­stand what ma­te­ri­als and me­chan­i­cal de­signs give con­sis­tent bar­rel dy­nam­ics,” he con­cluded.

Com­bat Sights

Com­bat sights al­low shoot­ers to com­pen­sate if the bar­rel de­flec­tion be­hav­iour re­mains con­sis­tent, in ad­di­tion to al­low­ing the user to more quickly iden­tify and en­gage tar­gets. These sights fall into one of two cat­e­gories: di­rect op­tics and elec­tro-op­tics.

While di­rect op­tic sights can im­prove re­ac­tion time in day­time con­di­tions by pro­vid­ing clear, bright images, elec­tro-op­ti­cal mod­els may have even greater po­ten­tial. Dr Wong ex­plains: “Once you have a dig­i­tal im­age, this is where you can bring in vis­i­ble and ther­mal cam­eras with im­age pro­cess­ing and then have al­go­rithms that will help, for ex­am­ple, fuse the images from the vis­i­ble and ther­mal cam­eras or au­to­mat­i­cally de­tect threats. And then once, for ex­am­ple, an al­go­rithm has de­tected a threat, it will present that in­for­ma­tion along with a fused im­age in some form to the sol­dier on a mi­cro dis­play. So we see that there are po­ten­tial gains to be made in the re­duc­tion of time needed to de­tect, rec­og­nize and iden­tify threats with this tech­nol­ogy.”

Night Vi­sion

It is vi­tal re­quire­ment for the mod­ern bat­tle­field where op­er­a­tions will be fought by day as well as by night. The two types of night sights avail­able are ba­si­cally the Night Vi­sion De­vices (NVDs) which are based on im­age in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion prin­ci­ple and the ther­mal imag­ing sight.

An NVD, also known as a night op­ti­cal/ ob­ser­va­tion de­vice (NOD), is an op­to­elec­tronic de­vice that al­lows images to be pro­duced in lev­els of light ap­proach­ing to­tal darkness. The im­age pro­duced is typ­i­cally mono­chrome, e.g. shades of green. NVDs are most of­ten used by the mil­i­tary and law en­force­ment agen­cies, but are avail­able to civil­ian users. The term usu­ally refers to a com­plete unit, in­clud­ing an im­age in­ten­si­fier tube, a pro­tec­tive and gen­er­ally wa­ter-re­sis­tant hous­ing, and some type of mount­ing sys­tem. An NVD may have an IR il­lu­mi­na­tor, mak­ing it an ac­tive as op­posed to pas­sive night vi­sion de­vice.

Ther­mal ri­fle scopes of­fer the flex­i­bil­ity of day­time and night time use, but they also de­liver in weather con­di­tions when other op­ti­cal de­vices sim­ply fail. Fog is one such ex­am­ple. Like all other ther­mal imag­ing de­vices, ther­mal ri­fle­scopes read off ther­mal sig­na­tures of all ob­jects and present the user with an im­age show­ing a gra­di­ent map of the heat sig­na­tures. To­day there are 2 in 1 ther­mal units, de­signed to be used as ei­ther scan­ning monoc­u­lars or front ri­fle­scope at­tach­ments.

Some Mod­ern As­sault Ri­fles

In or­der to un­der­stand the at­tributes of as­sault weapons let us take the ex­am­ple of some mod­ern as­sault ri­fles.

F90 As­sault Ri­fle. The F90 which is a light­weight as­sault ri­fle man­u­fac­tured by Thales Aus­tralia to pro­vide sol­diers with in­creased fire­power in the bat­tle­field. The new gen­er­a­tion F90 is an evo­lu­tion of the Austeyr F88 as­sault ri­fle, which is op­er­a­tional in more than 30 coun­tries, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia and New Zealand. The ri­fle has five vari­ants, namely F90, F90(G) (gre­nade launcher vari­ant), F90M (Marks­man vari­ant with a longer bar­rel), F90M(G) and F90CQB (close quar-

ters bat­tle-a car­bine). F90’s bullpup de­sign and open ar­chi­tec­ture al­low it to be con­fig­ured for a wide range of mis­sion pro­files. The ri­fle has an over­all length of 700mm and a weight of 3.25 kg. It is equipped with a 407mm long fixed and lighter bar­rel. It is pro­vided with cold ham­mer forged chrome lined bar­rels in all con­fig­u­ra­tions for im­proved bar­rel life and pre­ci­sion. An en­hanced gre­nade launcher quad­rant sight de­liv­ers rapid tar­get ac­qui­si­tion and fast re­ac­tion times. It is com­pat­i­ble with night vi­sion gog­gles and can sup­port op­er­a­tions dur­ing low-light/ night con­di­tions.

M16A2/A4 As­sault Ri­fle. The M16 se­ries as­sault ri­fles are weapons of choice of the US Armed Forces, and are cham­bered for NATO 5.56 x 45mm am­mu­ni­tion. More than eight mil­lion M16 ri­fles have been sold to 15 NATO states and over 80 coun­tries. The M16 vari­ants are in ser­vice with the US Army, Navy and Ma­rine Corps, the lat­est among them is the M16A4 which was in­ducted dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom. The short­ened ver­sion of the M16A2, M4 Car­bine sup­ple­ments the M16 that is in use with most of the US Army com­bat units. The M16A4 weighs 3.26 kg and in­te­grates a re­mov­able car­ry­ing han­dle and rail mount­ing for in­stalling op­ti­cal sights and other aux­il­iary de­vices. The ri­fle has a rate of fire of 700 to 950 rounds and ef­fec­tive range of 600 me­tres.

Rus­sian AK-12. The Rus­sian Army is in­duct­ing mod­i­fied ver­sion of new Kalash­nikov AK-12 as­sault ri­fle along with sev­eral other small arms into op­er­a­tional ser­vice.

An up­graded vari­ant of the Rus­sian Army’s Soviet-era 5.45mm cal­i­bre AK-74 Kalash­nikov se­ries, AK-12 is ca­pa­ble of fir­ing for­eign-stan­dard bar­rel-mounted grenades in three dif­fer­ent modes, in­clud­ing sin­gle shot, three-shot burst and au­to­matic fire. Rolled out by its man­u­fac­turer, Izh­mash in Jan­uary 2012, the ri­fle re­tains al­most all the AK-74’s features and over­all lay­out, with en­hanced tech­nol­ogy and features a fold­ing stock, height-ad­justable heel­piece, as well as Pi­catinny rails to sup­port at­tach­ment of op­ti­cal and night-sights, gre­nade launch­ers, tar­get in­di­ca­tors and other spe­cial equip­ment. Con­fig­urable for car­tridges vary­ing from 5.45mm x 39mm to 7.62mm x 51mm Nato stan­dard, the ri­fle is also de­signed to serve as a ba­sic plat­form for devel­op­ment of AK-12U car­bine, PPK-12 sub­ma­chine gun, SVK-12 sniper ri­fle, RPK-12 light ma­chine gun and sev­eral other ex­port ver­sions.

QBZ-95. The QBZ-95/Type-95 is the stan­dard is­sue as­sault ri­fle of the Chi­nese Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA) and is also ex­ported to Cam­bo­dia, Myanmar, Pak­istan, Sri Lanka and Su­dan. It is cham­bered for a Chi­nese made DBP87 5.8 x 42mm rounds. The QBZ-95 is a gas op­er­ated, au­to­matic ri­fle in­cor­po­rat­ing bullpup de­sign. It is fed by 30 round mag­a­zine and can fire 650 rounds per minute to an ef­fec­tive range of 600 me­tres. The ri­fle features hooded front sight post and rear sight base, while its rail mount­ing points al­low the mount­ing of op­ti­cal or night vi­sion scopes. It can be mounted with an un­der­bar­rel gre­nade launcher or a bay­o­net.

G3A3 Au­to­matic Ri­fle. The G3A3 au­to­matic ri­fle, de­rived from Heck­ler & Koch G3, is pro­duced by Pak­istan Ord­nance Fac­to­ries for the Pak­istan Army. The mod­ern ri­fle is cham­bered for 7.62x51mm NATO stan­dard rounds. The ri­fle fires am­mu­ni­tion in semi au­to­matic and fully au­to­matic modes and can be fed through 20-round box mag­a­zine. The ri­fle weighs 4.4 kg and can be mounted with fixed hooded front post and ad­justable ro­tary rear sight. The cyclic rate of fire of the G3A3 is 500 to 600 rounds per minute and the ef­fec­tive range is 400 me­tres.

The Tri­ji­con Vari­able Com­bat Op­ti­cal Gun­sight is a rugged vari­able pow­ered ri­fle­scope

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