ADS - Warrior Expo

General Staff Requirement (GSR) New Assault Rifle

So often in media, we see a blurb about an acquisition program and a year or so later we see a follow up story announcing a winner.  What happened during that year?  This article is my attempt to provide insight into the goings-on of an acquisition program.

In the summer of 2016 I had the great fortune to participate in the summer weapons trials in Pakistan.  This was part of a $1.3B USD acquisition program that would select the future battle rifle for Pakistan.  The program required the initially purchase of rifles from the original equipment factory with manufacturing and licensing rights to third party sales eventually shifting to new facilities being constructed in Pakistan.  Of the handful of US companies registered to attend, I found myself to be the lone representative from the United States.  Our offering was a 7.62 NATO, AR10-type rifle with a piston operating system.  I arrived in early June for a brief two-week trip and ended up leaving two months later.

As this is a firearms related blog, I’ll focus primarily on the testing aspects of the trials, but I would like to start off with some general thoughts.

Pakistan was the United States’ key ally in Southwest Asia during the Cold War.  President John F. Kennedy solidified this relationship by giving Pakistani President Mohammad Ayub Khan a hero’s welcome in 1961. Fifty-five years later, as China’s influence in Pakistan grew with the construction of the New Silk Road and Gwadar Port, the US shifted its interests from Pakistan to India.  It is anticipated this area will soon dominate global trade.  As a participant in the General Staff Requirement (GSR) New Assault Rifle solicitation I had opportunity to visit Pakistan.  During my time there, my friend Adnan acknowledged this shift but said the US and Pakistan will again be close because the peoples of both countries like to fight and share the warrior ethos.

Entry to President Ayub’s home

I was continually impressed with the general knowledge of global politics possessed by even the common person.  
An individual might live in abject poverty, but they were keen to discuss the upcoming US election.  I was constantly being asked about my opinion of Clinton and Trump.

Typical roadside

I was impressed by the warmth of the Pakistani people and their friendliness.  I had the privilege to meet and form friendships with both the son of the former president of Kashmir and the husband of the former Bangladesh princess.  We shared fantastic conversations.

Amer and Adnan, great guys

Pakistan is a very poor country.  I showed up with the expectation that we could procure some of the basic tools needed to service the weapons during testing.  Just run down to Walmart.  Nope! For example, not even basic Allen wrench sets were available.  I informed my host Shameel, he should have told me all they have is dirt and water and to bring everything else.

When I arrived in Pakistan, the US embassy was on lockdown. I was the only American walking around.  It was a little disconcerting to see NGO, Embassy, and military types riding around in armored Land Cruisers I was just in a stock Toyota Corolla, but low vis works.  From my military and defense sales experiences, not having any US government back up or support was a bit unnerving at times.  That is when having good friends is vital.

Shameel and I at PAKORD Base, tremendous business associate. 

On to the trial…

The weapons trial consisted of numerous tests; below is a partial list:
• Technical briefings
• Hot chamber cook-off
• Iron sight accuracy
• Optics accuracy
• Penetration
• Hot and cold environmental chambers
• Interchangeability
• Endurance
• Pluff mud
• Sand test
• Mud

Each of these tests took place at different military installations and with varying numbers of participants.  
The following companies were invited to participate in the trials:
• Beretta
• Kalashnikov
• Sig Sauer
• Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation (MKEK)
• CZ
• PWS
• FN Herstal
• LWRC Intl
• Zastava Arms
• Anderson Manufacturing Inc
• HK
• Hanwha
• Denel Land Systems
• Colt
• Steyr
• Armalite

Several of the companies had already completed the accuracy and environmental testing during the winter trials.  For the duration of the test only three companies were present; CZ, MKEK, and the company I represented.  Each weapon OEM and/or Pakistani representative paid for their participation in the trials including; travel, accommodations, use of military facilities, ammunition, etc — very different from the US or European approach where the military pays for the official testing.

Following is a summary of several of the tests, separated by facility with key observations notes.

Islamabad

The capital city of Islamabad was our operational hub from which we traveled to the various test facilities.  I took receipt of weapons from the freight forwarders and conducted an inspection as the weapons were inventoried into the Pakistani armory.  All participants conducted preliminary briefings on capabilities and waited for the requisite stamps and signatures for access to the military bases.

PAKORD Base

Cook-off test. Firing 120 rounds as quickly as possible, last 20 rd magazine is inserted into the weapon and a round is chambered.  To the best of my knowledge only the FN SCAR and HK G3 cooked off.

Accuracy at 100m.  Three rifles firing three ten shot groups apiece.

Ammunition conditioned to 21°C (69.8° F).  At least two of the three groups must be less than 3.5moa or a 102mm circle.  In all accuracy testing the most accurate weapon was the US AR10 style rifle.


Team CZ with their test fixture

Accuracy at Effective Range.  400m firing iron sights.  600m firing optical sight.  Three rifles firing three ten shot groups apiece.

Ammunition conditioned to 21°C (69.8° F).  On the range were MKE, CZ, and myself.  MKE was assigned two of the top shooters in the Pakistan army.  

CZ brought their factory sponsored competitive shooters. Representing the US was just me wishing I had spent more time using iron sights and blaming Drake and Magpul for my inability with their Pro Sights.(Actually, Drake and Magpul are great people.) My take away is that shooting groups for accuracy using iron sights is challenging especially when using the equivalent of M80 ball ammunition.  There was considerable variability inherent in the ammunition.

Range Facility after the grass was cut.  When we first showed up it looked like a field of straw.

Monsoon rains made for muddy conditions.  Seeing the black cobras crossing the roads kept me cautious when walking around.

Penetration at Effective Range.  

Shooting 10 gauge (3.42m) steel plates measuring 1.5m x 1.5m.  600m firing optical sight.  Three rifles firing three ten shot groups apiece.  
8 out of 10 shots from 2 out of 3 groups from each weapon must pass through the plate.  During winter trials none of the rifles was able to consistently penetrate the plate.  

MKE and CZ started with mixed results, but all my shots penetrated the plate.  I had set my rounds in the sun and when they were hot to the touch I made my shots.  MKE and CZ quickly followed my example and were soon penetrating the plate with every shot.  It was interesting to see the lack of temperature stability for the powder/primer combination.

Extreme Climate Test.  Hot.  360 rounds loaded into magazines and three test weapons were conditioned at +60°C (140°F) for 12 hours.  All the test weapons performed without issue except for the US weapons, all of which had the bolt catch fall out of the weapon during testing and one of which launched the muzzle break down range.

Cold. 720 rounds loaded into magazines and three test weapons were conditioned at -40°C (-40°F).   Two cycles of 120x rounds fired from each weapon.  All the test weapons performed without issue except for the US weapons which would not chamber a round and did not fire a single shot.

Interchangeability Test.  Ten weapons broken down and placed into ten trays.  The first weapon started in tray one.  The second weapon started in tray two and ended in tray one.  

The third weapon started in tray three and ended in tray two.  The other weapons followed.  Breakdown as follows: (1) Barrel and Receiver (2) Bolt Assembly (3) Bolt Carrier/Cam Plate (4) Pistol Grip (5) Trigger Mechanism (6) Gas Tube Assembly (7) Piston Assembly  (8) Recoil/Return Spring  (9) Magazine  (10) Butt Stock

The components in each tray were assembled and ten shots fired.  There weren’t any function issues amongst the competitors, but fitment was tight on several of the CZ weapons.

Endurance Testing.  Condition of the weapons; cleaned and oiled.  Multiple series of 120 round intervals.  First magazine, five single shots and the remained fired in 3 to 5 shot bursts, with a rate of fire of 85 rounds per minute.  Subsequent magazines fired in 3 to 5 shot bursts, with a rate of fire of 85 rounds per minute.  After the 120-round sequence, the weapons cooled to within 2°C (35.6°F) of ambient, and then another interval was fired.  Weapons were cleaned and lubricated every 1,200 rounds.  

Accuracy at 100M, muzzle velocity, and rate-of-fire were tested at the beginning and end of each cleaning and lubrication cycle.  Only CZ and FN participated in the endurance testing with varying results.

Base Gharo

Mud Immersion Test.  Condition of the rifles; bolt closed on an empty chamber with a loaded magazine inserted and the muzzle capped.  The SSG took the rifles into the tidal pluff mud and rolled them in the mud until they were completely covered.  

MKE and CZ rifles along with Serbian and Chinese AK’s were able to get one or two rounds fired before jamming. The US weapon wouldn’t even chamber a round.  The Russian Kalashnikov AK ran without issue.  The SSG operators commented that when conducting operations where they know they will pass through pluff mud the only weapon they will carry is the AK.

   

SSG Range built by US Seabees

Pluff Mud.  I wish I had better photos capturing how much mud covered the weapons.

Sukkur

Sand Test.  Condition of the weapons, the muzzles were capped, and a round chambered.  The weapons were buried under two feet of sand and left to bake for one hour.  The temperature was 56°C (133°F) in the shade.  After the requisite bake, the weapons were dug up and test fired.  The US weapon wouldn’t fire.  The CZ and MKE rifle along with the Serbian and Chinese AKs were able to get one or two round fired before jamming.  The Russian Kalashnikov AK ran without issue.

Can you identify all the weapons?

Vladimir Onokoy, leader of the Kalashnikov trial team (another solo representative)

Mud Test.  Condition of the weapons; the muzzles were capped, and a round chambered.  Only the Chinese and Russian AK’s fired.  The Chinese AK had a single jam and once cleared continued to run.  The Russian Kalashnikov AK ran without issue.

Conclusion: No rifle passed all the tests without issues; however, the FN SCAR was the only rifle that was finalized, officially accepted, with licensed manufacturing approved.  

However, since the completion of the trials, Pakistan has purchased 140,000 AK 103 rifles.  The number of SCAR rifles purchased is zero – too expensive.

Takeaways: The AR10-type weapon is inherently accurate especially when compared to other service rifles, but the design leaves it very susceptible to dirt and debris.  Adding a piston system to the AR15/10/M4/M16 does not improve the reliability of the system in harsh environments due to design limitations.  Considering these trials, it is interesting to ponder weapon testing requirements of the United States and the small arms currently being used and purchased by the Services.  The selection approach of the United States may need to be rethought.  If you operate in harsh conditions where maintenance and cleaning may not be available, and you absolutely must have a rifle that fires every time you pull the trigger, then the Russian Kalashnikov AK is the answer.  Otherwise, keep your weapon clean and don’t let it get dirty.

Aside from all the technical and performance components of a procurement, you can’t discount the dynamics that money and politics play in winning a solicitation – which might be a subject better off discussed over a beer.

Keep an eye out for a subsequent article detailing how to test the functional accuracy of your rifle using lessons learned in Scandinavian and Pakistan testing.  Stop believing the marketing hype and get to know your rifle.

John Kennedy is a co-founder of www.proofmarkllc.com, a firearms accessories design and manufacturing company.  John was a contractor in OEF and OIF, with a background ranging from nuclear fuel production to ballistic protection.  He currently consults on risk management and global defense.

35 Responses to “General Staff Requirement (GSR) New Assault Rifle”

  1. rob371 says:

    Great informative read. Lots of fan boys on all sides want to claim what is or isn’t, but unbiased objective testing benifits us all. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Joglee says:

    I find it interesting you conclude 100% that if you want a good gun that runs the AK is the only option, despite basically everyone who can choose what they want to run doesn’t seem to use the AK.

    Then again, I guess they have the luxury of not needing to use their rifle or get them dirty.

    • Proof_Mark says:

      The sustainment and cleaning regiment required to keep a rifle operational says a lot.

      • Joglee says:

        It’s not as if cleaning the AR platform is hard or time consuming. If one does not care about white gloving it can be done in 5 minutes.

  3. .308 says:

    valuable lesson here is be very careful which contracts you chase… you could be wasting your time and money in a big way. Pakistan, India… big numbers, chasing the dragon..

    • Max P says:

      Yep, it’s always better to sell to Uncle Sam, who has bottomless pocket for all types of coll-looking tupperware.

  4. Bman says:

    Very interesting read and good information. Only a few things I feel like should be mentioned. Some of the tests resulted in AKs only firing 1 or 2 rounds before shutting down where the AR10 (allegedly not a very reliable version of the AR platform) did not fire. Now before I start, I like The AK platform in all calibers and highly respect it. The sand test while great is not realistic even remotely for bad conditions, I’m not sure about the mud test, but there are numerous mud tests on YouTube where ARs are subjected to unrealistic amounts of mud and extra abuse and they fire fine, while AKs have some mixed results. All in addition to how the military has tested the platform. This doesn’t take into account how any trained operator that has a significant exposure to mud or sand, will instantly begin checking and clearing the weapon as best they can to mitigate any problems. So the question to ask is would you rather sacrifice the ballistic performance and accuracy of the weapon that won those areas knowing that most of the time it will not even remotely come close or almost never come close to the harsh conditions of the tests, as well as knowing you can take preventative and responsive measures to avoid the problems observed?

    • Joglee says:

      How many first world nations choose to employ the AK platform? Hardly any, the AR pattern rifle is the defacto leader be it DI or external piston.

      • Max P says:

        well, lots of people buy newest iPhone every year, but that does not make them any smarter than others – only that they are willing to throw away money on ‘trendy’ stuff.

      • Mark says:

        Well you have Russia, Poland, Israel, Finland, and a few other modern countries using ak’s. The AK is plenty effective in trained hands. It comes down more to politics. If you lineup with the west odds are you’re going to run a western design in 5.56. Western countries that weren’t formerly Soviet controlled obviously don’t have kalashnikov production bases. Many modern rifles take serious design inspiration from the ak. Now I’m not knocking other designs especially such as the scar, but the ak is a competent weapon, that takes optics readily and if produced in large numbers is economically effecient.

        • Josh says:

          Max, your point is that just because it’s newer doesn’t make it better yes? Well lets take your example, is any iPhone not better than a cell phone made 10 years ago? And with other things, are TV’s better? Has medicine gotten better in the last 10 years? Stick to gun stuff, how about scope or bullet tech? 10 years is a very small margin, the AKM is much older, but the fact is things do get better. The appeal to novelty/trendy argument is really more of an emotional appeal and is quite weak.

          Mark, you are stretching the word “modern”. Firstly, Israel does not use AK’s. They issue Tavors which is replacing the M4. The M4 will likely replace the M1 Carbines, whose role was to arm people that don’t need “the goods” such as tour guides. Russia is not modern, their military is in shambles. Their infantry equipment looks like it came from Vietnam, their missiles are unable to shoot down modern aircraft, their aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsoz is flanked by tugboats for when a flushing toilet literally breaks it. Poland has been going through modernization for nearly 10 years and their stuff is ancient. Finland doesn’t have attach helicopters, submarines, nor long range missiles. Finland’s primary issued rifle was picked up for service in 1962. The fact is non of these nations have much of a choice, they can’t and don’t allocate much money to their military and it is more economically efficient to continue with the same crap than buy new (from another country).

  5. mcs says:

    Super cool article and interesting story! It’s neat to read about the surprise issues and perhaps unexpected outcomes of the tests, as well as the surrounding atmosphere, all in a clear and impartial manner.

    • some other joe says:

      Not impartial at all. The author does not state who he works for, and there are multiple options from the list provided, and further does not identify any NDA or other professional practice that would prevent him from doing so. We, as potential consumers, don’t know which of the various AR-10 platforms performed poorly and so we our ability to choose between the design he represented and its competitors’ designs is undermined.

      • a good Joe says:

        It’s pretty obvious who the author represented during the trials if you just look at the pictures in the article.

        • some other joe says:

          Well color me stupid, because I can’t recognize different AR-10 manufacturers based on low-rez photos and I don’t know of anyone using an equipment symbol for an attack helicopter as their company logo.

      • Proof_Mark says:

        All AR style weapons would have failed the same tests. There are inherent design limitations.

      • Joglee says:

        Also notable that the AK was in 7.62×39 while every other rifle was in 7.62×51.

        It’s not hard to argue that 7.62×39 platforms would be a smidge more reliable than .308 rifles. That’s been pretty much proven at this point.

  6. Ray Forest says:

    So I find it interesting that the AKs out performed the AR’s in the Sand and mudbtests. While we have been led to believe this should be expected the sand and mud tests conducted by Modern Weapons would lead us to believe the openness of the AK receiver would compromise it faster vs the closed AR. Was there any particular reason the AR failed to fire in both tests even though it was chambered before burial? I find it especially difficult to believe that just being boring in sandvalliwed enough sand inside the action be prevent the hammer from falling and discharging a previously loaded round?

  7. Evst. Palaiologos says:

    I’ve heard lots of things about this competition, by a person who was there.
    I don’t know how much is true but from the few I remember, CZ and MKEK received, lets say, premium treatment…. The reason, he told me, was that CZ war represented by the former Army Chief or something and MKEK, well MKEK was Turkish (Turkish = Muslim)
    He told me that these two companies repetetly failed at test but kept going despite other companies complaining.

    This much I remember. I’d like the authors take on this info.

    In any case a great informative article. Thank you very much sir!

  8. Adun says:

    Was the dust cover of the AR type weapons open or closed during the various reliability tests?

    • Proof_Mark says:

      All environmental tests were conducted with the dust cover closed.

      • Adun says:

        Thank you for the response! This type of write up is part of why I keep coming back to SSD and I appreciate you taking the time to put it together.

  9. CWG says:

    Everyone over here arguing about rifles, and I’m just sitting here wondering why you would broadcast that you are trying to sell guns to a military directorate that has the bodies of hundreds of American war fighters notched into it’s belt as its intelligence officers and commandos have led HQN and Taliban forces against Americans in Afghanistan and trained them to kill us in their own country. Hell, they hid UBL from us after he killed a few thousand of our civilians.

    But sure man, sell them your cool stuff. Merica.

    Also lol @ calling KBR fuckboy couture “low vis”.

    • Max P says:

      well, then, why not start with ‘who armed and trained the Taliban in the 1st place’, or ‘who is arming ISIS via so called “moderates”‘?

    • Tim says:

      Gotta pay the bills somehow, besides there aint no law against so why not? Getting upset because Mr Kennedy took part in something you yourself find deplorabe is juvenile and shows a lack of moral depth. Instead judge Mr Kennedy by Mr Kennedy’s own personal standards as is both right and decent. But all in all, Mr. Kennedy is a goddamn American and can do as he please, exactly like you did when you posted your comment.
      3/10 made me respond.

      • Bob says:

        Getting upset because Mr. Lindh took part in something you yourself find deplorable is juvenile and shows a lack of moral depth. Instead judge Mr. Lindh by Mr. Lindh’s own personal standards as is both right and decent. But all in all, Mr. Lindh is a goddamn American and can do as he pleases, exactly like you did when you posted your comment.

        0/10, moral relativism is fundamentally wrong…

  10. Mike Smith says:

    Is it possible to build a .308 that’s sub-MOA while still matching the AK in reliability in adverse conditions? Don’t tight tolerances for the sake of accuracy compromise ultimate reliability by definition?

  11. Nate says:

    That SCAR cookoff video is gold, the guy’s reaction is priceless!

  12. HTEngg says:

    How was the ammo handled? It sounds like it was supplied by the host country. It sounds as though the author used some smarts to counteract what be was some serious inconsistency and ammo variability.

    The AK platform obviously used a different batch of ammo and different characteristics. It does make me wonder about the effect of ammo on the tests and reliability. Obviously, if that’s the available and expected service ammo they’re smart to evaluate against it. It does sound like that potentially had a huge impact on the test results. I would be curious if there were offerings in .308 that were overgassed or delayed blowback (didn’t see in the pictures), and the effect on reliability in those conditions. If I recall Pakastan issue/ still issues the G3 “platform”.