The Mysterious Burton Machine Rifle

In a change of pace to our usual videos Matt is joined by Danny Michael, curator of the Cody Firearms Museum, to discuss a mysterious rifle which has fascinated us for years. The Burton Machine Rifle, in my opinion, is one of the most interesting rifles in the Cody Firearms Museum’s incredible collection. Developed in 1916-17 at Winchester, likely by engineer Frank Burton, the rifle incorporates a plethora of advanced features which have led it to often be christened the first American assault rifle.

Burton Machine Rifle (Cody Firearms Museum)

In 2018, Danny and I examined the rifle and attempted to disassemble it. While we learnt a great deal from our examination we were unable to disassemble the rifle fully. The prototype is exquisitely made with fine machining and deep blueing – far from an in-the-white prototype we often see. Sadly, we were unable to remove what we believe to be the spring assembly housing, to remove the rifle’s bolt.

The Burton Machine Rifle disassembled, c.2018 (Danny Michael)

It is not just the weapon’s design which is mysterious. With little to no primary source paper trail it is difficult to trace the rifle’s history beyond the date of its manufacture, its technical features and some tantalising potential references to the rifle.

We discus the rifle, our own history with it and the importance of historiography and how we can trace what we know about the rifle back through secondary sources written about it. The Cody Firearms Museum is currently raising funds to reprint early editions of the ARMAX journal – which contains the very first article published about the Burton Machine Rifle. In our conversation Danny eloquently explains the importance of this project and how you can support it.

Comparison: left – original edition of ARMAX rifle – planned layout of the reprint (Helios Publishing/ARMAX)

Here’s some information on the planned reprint from ARMAX:

“Armax was launched by former CFM Curator Herbert G. Houze in 1987, and comprised nine issues spread across six volumes, published from 1987 to 1996.  These first six volumes contained a lot of important original research, but, unfortunately, these original issues are hard to find today, and often expensive. We only know of a few complete sets that are available to researchers. To remedy this state of affairs, the Cody Firearms Museum and Helios House Press plan to ‘remaster’ and reprint the original six volumes of Armax. The layout, illustrations, and design have been updated to make the legacy material more accessible to modern researchers and enthusiasts. These will be beautiful, functional publications printed on high-quality paper in full color.”

Find out more and pre-order the reprinted editions here.

40MM Grenade Mortar

Since April, a Ukrainian unit has shared a number of short videos showing a small mortar capable of firing 40mm grenades.

From their patches and TikTok username, 16batzsu, the men’s unit appears to be the 16th Separate Rifle Battalion. They appear to be part of the battalion’s embedded mortar battery and are seen operating other larger mortars and automatic grenade launchers in numerous videos.

A close up of the small mortar (via 16batzsu)

On the 11 February, 16batzsu shared a video showing a small mortar with a stainless steel insert seen dropped into a small hand-held mortar. The same video was shared on their YouTube account under the title ‘New Toy’. While the resolution of the video is low it clearly uses the same barrel sleeve principal seen in later videos. In replies to comments 16batzsu explain that the small mortar has a range of 2km and is 30mm in calibre. This suggests that the weapon may launch 30×29mm VOG grenades normally fired by AGS automatic grenade launchers. Unlike the later 40mm mortars it does not appear to have a bipod. No further videos featuring the 30mm mortar have been shared.

A still from a video showing a 30mm handheld mortar (via 16batzsu)

The first video providing a close up look at the 40mm mortar was shared on the 26 April, with the small mortar in a pit next to an 82mm mortar. The mortar uses 40mm high velocity grenades which are slid into the base of a rifled steel barrel sleeve. The rifling is needed to both maximise the grenade’s range but also impart spin which arms grenade. The loaded sleeve is then dropped into the mortar tube, the grenade’s primer presumably strikes the mortar’ firing pin and the grenade is ignited firing it out of the mortar. The sleeve remains in the tube.

A closeup of the inside of the barrel sleeve, note the rifling (via 16batzsu)

In terms of size the small mortar looks similar to the Ukrainian 60mm KBA-118, however, the base plate, bipod and tube differ. Despite similarities I haven’t been able to find an exact match to a mass-produced mortar. The weapon appears to be well made and the examples seen in the videos appear to be near identical suggesting they may be a locally developed and produced weapon.

In a pair of videos posted on 3 May, we get a closer look at the weapon and a member of the unit explains the principal behind how it works. The tube has a pair of parallel cuts which allow the steel barrel sleeve to be removed. The video shows a pair of the small mortars and also shows the rifling inside the sleeve. The sleeve appears to have approximately 16 rifling grooves and on its exterior are three rings cut into the top end of the sleeves outer surface to aid removing it from the mortar tube.

A 40mm high velocity round about to be loaded into a rifled barrel sleeve (via 16batzsu)

Finally, in a video posted on 9 May, we can clearly see the mortar fired a number of times. The operators can also be seen loading the 40mm grenades into the rifled barrel sleeves. One man loads the three tubes while another fires the mortar. The spent grenade cases are removed with the aid of a metal ramrod. The 40mm grenades which appear in the video are high velocity high-explosive dual-purpose (HEDP) grenades of the type used with Mk19 automatic grenade launchers. The reason the sleeve is rifling is to arm the grenade’s fuze when the round is fired. These include grenades like the US M383, M384, M430 and M677 as well as German DM111 and DM 112.

A still of a 40mm grenade being loaded into a barrel sleeve (via 16batzsu)

So what is the small mortar for? Why not just use the unit’s Mk19 automatic grenade launcher? My initial theory was that the barrel sleeve might provide an increase in range over the Mk19 though the 2,000 metre range mentioned in one of the videos suggests the mortar has a range on parr with the Mk19. Another theory is that the unit’s Mk19 may be inoperable and they still have a supply of 40mm grenades to use. The grenades are also perhaps more readily available and cost-effective than small mortar rounds. It could also potentially have the effect of mimicking drone-dropped 40mm munitions, keeping enemy combatants on the look out for drones. As a harassment weapon the small mortar seems to have potential, allowing its operator to fire from cover while being relatively lightweight allowing it to shift firing positions quickly. The accuracy of the weapon is difficult to gauge but with the aid of an observation drone rounds could be walked into the vicinity of a target. The mortar is a very interesting piece of innovative engineering.

Thank you to Ukraine Weapons Warfare for bringing the original footage of the mortar to my attention.

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Top Attack SMArt155 In Ukraine

SMArt 155 is a Sensor Fuzed Munition (SFM), developed by Rheinmetall and Diehl BGT Defence in the late 1980s. It is a 155mm howitzer round which contains a pair of fire-and-forget top-attack submunitions. The submunitions use a ballute and parachute to slow their descent and allow the submunitions’ onboard infrared sensor and millimeter wave radar to locate its target and fire and explosively formed penetrator.

In a previous video/article we’ve looked at the 155 BONUS round which also carries two submunitions which are arrested by a pair of winglets which arrest the submunitions flight to enable their built-in sensors to detect targets within their search footprint before striking down on a target vehicle.

A cutaway of a SMArt 155 (Swiss Army)

The round is manufactured by GIWS, a joint venture between Diehl Defence and Rheinmetall, and entered service in the late 1990s. It is capable of being launched by NATO standard 155mm howitzers but in Ukraine appears to primarily be used in conjunction with Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled howitzers. The round is also in British service as the Ballistic Sensor Fused Munition fired from AS-90s, the UK has recently provided Ukraine with a number of AS-90s but it is unclear if they will deploy SMArt155 rounds.

The manufacturer describes SMArt 155 projectile as consisting of: “a thin-walled shell body, a base plate, an ejection unit, time fuse, and two functionally identical submunitions.” The SMArt155 round allows a 155mm projectile to deliver two submunitions capable of penetrating any tank’s top armour with considerable accuracy. SMArt155 has a listed maximum range of 22km (13.6 miles) when fired from 155mm/39-calibre systems and 27.5km when fired from 155mm/52-calibre systems such as the PzH2000. Adding a base bleed unit would extend the round’s range further. The submunitions carry a shaped charge of 9.7lbs (4.2kg) of high explosive which create explosively formed penetrators (EFP). The manufacturer states that extensive German Army trials found that the round has a very low failure rate.

A DM702 shell seen briefly in a video posted by the 43 Separate Artillery Brigade, 16 May (via social media)

Once the round is fired an onboard timer fuze, set before firing, ignites an ejection charge in the shell’s nose which pulls the submunitions out of the shell body. Once clear the submunitions’ ballute and then parachute deploys they begin to spiral down over the target area using their onboard sensors to detect the target vehicle before detonating their payload.

Though there is controversy surrounding SMArt, and BONUS, the shells do not fall into the category of weapons banned under the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions as they comprise of just two submunitions and both have onboard self-destruction mechanisms.

The summer of 2022 saw a flurry of drone videos which showed strikes of Russian vehicles and equipment many of these were attributed to either BONUS or SMArt 155, but with most of the videos it is difficult to definitively identify which top attack munition was in use.

The ballute and parachute of a SMArt 155 (DM702A1) found near Kreminna in March 2023 (via social media)

On the 2 July, the first video believed to be a SMArt in action was shared online. In it a munition can be seen descening before detonating above. The framing and resolution of the video is too low to confirm if it is a parachute arrested submunition. Russian telegram channels shared a photograph of a ballute and parachute, said to have been seen near Kirovsky, in Donetsk in early August.

On the 13 September, another fairly low resolution video showed a top attack munition detonating above a Russian armoured vehicle. On 4 March 2023, photos of a ballute and parachute from a SMArt 155 were shared and said to have been found near Kreminna. Around the same time another video showing a potential SMArt 155 strike was shared. On 17 April, the 26th Artillery Brigade shared video showing what was claimed to be a SMArt munition striking two Russian vehicles. On 23 April, Ukrainian military journalist Andrii Tsaplienko shared a video from inside a PzH2000 showing some German DM702 SMArt 155 shells. The DM702 shells were again briefly seen in a video posted by the 43 Separate Artillery Brigade posted on the 16 May.

A ballute and parachute, said to have been seen near Kirovsky, August 2022 (via social media)

While the lack of easily verifiable videos of SMArt in use is frustrating it is impressive that we have any footage of top-attack munitions in use at all. Production of SMArt 155 paused in the late 2000s but even before the war in Ukraine began their had been plans to revive production. The war has, however, provided impetus for renewed production and in late 2022 the German government agreed to spend EUR 97.4 million to restart manufacture of the complex electronic components needed to manufacturer the round.

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155mm SMArt, GD-OTS, (source)

Germany modernizes ammunition tested in Ukraine, Defence24, (source)

New serial production of SMArt 155 slated for 2024, Janes, (source)

What Weapons Did Wagner Capture in the Soledar Mines?

At the beginning of May 2023, Russian media shared a flurry of videos from salt mines near Soledar. The videos showcased a captured weapons storage depot said to be inside part of the mine complex which was recently captured by Russian private military contractor unit Wagner. Most interesting was the lack of modern weaponry displayed, indicating Ukraine may have removed the more useful equipment stored there. The mine is located in the vicinity of the settlements of Paraskoviivka and Soledar, north of Bakhmut.

A Lend-Lease M1A1 Thompson removed from its shipping crate (via social media)

The mines contain a former Soviet arms storage facility, initially said to have been established in the late 1950s, which was taken over by Ukraine when the USSR collapsed. There is also a small arms and light weapons repair facility established by the Ukrainian Army. The facility was temporarily seized by Separatists forces in April 2014, with one Separatist militia member then telling Sky News that: “There are rifles, machine guns, heavy weapons and millions and millions of rounds of ammunition. We are here to stop the forces of the west and anyone else for that matter from getting their hands on them.” Later fighting saw the region secured by Ukrainian forces and the mine back under Ukrainian control.

With the heavy fighting in the region and Bakhmut becoming a focus of Russia’s offensive efforts in the second half of 2022 and the first half of 2023, the mines have again become a focal point. Russia reported that the area the mines were located was captured in mid-February but it wasn’t until early May that the weapons depot was secured and featured in a flurry of videos.

A crate of damaged AK-74s at the captured Ukrainian repair facility (via A. Simonov)

Using the videos shared by Russian media outlets and individuals lets take a look at what has reportedly been captured. From the imagery it is immediately clear that the depot appears to have been stripped of the most useful and modern materiel which was stored there. Videos from the mine focus on the scale of the depot and the plethora of vintage weapons which are said to be stored there.

The first video posted by Alexander Simonov, an RIA contributor, on his personal page on 30 April, begins with the reporter descending in an elevator explaining that the depot is 150 metres below ground. He describes the scale of the facility as ‘impressive’ spanning 5km with 28 galleries and a repair facility. He also explains that Ukraine’s retreating armed forces removed the most modern equipment and unsuccessfully attempted to mine the depot’s entrance. Simonov says that the depot primarily holding small arms ammunition. Simonov speaks to an individual who shows him parts of the depot and explains how it was set up in the 1960. The individual describes the galleries as almost 400 metres long – with torches failing to illuminate the whole gallery. Simonov is told theres 292,000 boxes containing small arms.

Prigozhin opens a crate of three PM1910 Maxims (Wagner)

Simonov is then shown a repair facility where badly damaged weapons have been abandoned by the Ukrainians when they retreated from the depot. The weapons appear to have been sent to the depot where their damage would be assessed to see if it was possible to repair them. The weapons seen include: AK-74 and AKS-74s, two damaged Barrett M107A1 rifle, DP-27s and SPG-9 recoilless guns.

In one shot there are hundreds of stocks for SKS carbines [misidentified in the video as Mosin-Nagant stocks] seen and in a clip from Simonov’s RIA report shelves filled with AK-74 furniture are seen. In another clip posted a on 1 May, Simonov also examines a DShK heavy machine gun which the Ukrainians have adapted with a muzzlebrake, bipod and stock. Next to it is a PK general purpose machine gun.

One of the weapons depot’s 28 galleries with thousands of boxes stacked (via A. Simonov)

The RIA report published on 30 April, appears to have been filmed at the same time and shows boxes of AK magazines, manuals and walls hung with Soviet-era small arms disassembly posters as well as the shelves of AK furniture seen in the first video. Another shot shows an AK-74 still in a vice and a disassembled a AGS grenade machine gun in a crate.

An Izvestia report published on 2 May shows more of the weapons stored in the depot with the footage showing a crate of Second World War Lend-Lease M1 Thompson submachine guns. Also seen are DPM light machine guns and damaged weapons including an RPG-7 and AK-74s. The video also shows the 4.5 tons of explosive stacked to blow the entrance to the galleries.

Prigozhin lifts the original packing paper to show an M1928A1 Thompson (Wagner)

Also published on the 2 May was the first video showing Yevgeny Prigozhin, owner of the Wagner group, visiting the mine. In the video Prigozhin shows off some more Lend-Lease Thompsons submachine guns, this time M1928A1s, “new in oil packing’ he says. He also mentions that there are thousands of PPSh and PPS submachine guns and Maxims, showing a crate containing three PM1910 Maxim guns. In the video he says: “Do we really need this? Should we leave it here to rot further? I wrote to everyone I could. No one is interested.” Suggesting that he would exchange them for shells to support Wagner operations. Despite Prigozhin mentioning PPSh and PPS submachine guns we’ve been unable to find any imagery of the weapons in the mines.

Since 2 May, there has been no further imagery from the mines. It remains to be seen if any of the weapons stored in the mine are utilised by Russia and what exactly is held there with some sources suggesting tens of thousands of weapons dating from the first and second World Wars and later. With many of the weapons obsolescent the most useful of those shown in the videos will likely be the old Soviet machine guns (the DPs and Maxims) and the small arms ammunition. The old Soviet submachine guns and Thompsons will be of less practical value. It’s telling that the officially released videos showed little modern equipment.

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Protesters in Ukraine guard biggest weapons cache in eastern Europe, Guardian, (source)
Ukraine: Militia Controls A Million Weapons, Sky News, (source)
Pro-Russia Activists Set Up Checkpoints in Ukraine’s Far East, VOA, (source)
Retreating Ukrainian troops tried to destroy salt mines in Soledar, TASS, (source)
Ukrainian light weapons captured in Soledar exceed one million, PL, (source)

Evidence of Ukraine’s First Use of Storm Shadow Cruise Missiles

Last week, on 11 May, the UK became the first country to provide Ukraine with medium range cruise missiles. Less than a week later the first evidence of their use has emerged.

Storm Shadow is an air-launched subsonic cruise missile with a reported range of 250-300km (155-185 miles). It can reportedly reach speeds of Mach 0.8 or around 620 miles per hour. This will enable Ukraine to strike targets within territory occupied by Russia including Crimea. Theoretically, Storm Shadow could also strike targets inside Russia, but the UK has provided them on the understanding they will not be used outside Ukraine’s borders.

Storm Shadow is characterised by its accuracy and also has a sophisticated warhead: the Bomb, Royal Ordnance, Augmenting CHarge (BROACH). The 450 kg (990 lb) BROACH warhead uses a precursor penetrator charge followed by a follow-through main charge to penetrate hardened shelters and structures. 

RAF technicians arm a Typhoon with Storm Shadow, 2021 (Cpl Steve Buckley/UK MOD Crown copyright)

Storm Shadow is said to be extremely accurate.  Once the missile is released from the aircraft its wings deploy and it uses a GPS/INS and Terrain Profile Matching navigation system to guide the missile to the target area. The missile typically flies at a low level and on its the final approach it jettisons its nose cone and the on-board infrared sensor guides the missile to the impact point. With a reported price tag of around £790,000 per missile, they are typically used against high value targets.

Development of the missile requirement began in the mid-1980s becoming part of the multi-nation NATO Modular Stand-Off Weapon (MSOW) programme. While the US pulled out of the programme in the late 1980s Matra BAe Dynamics continued development of a missile based on the Matra Apache. The missile became known as Storm Shadow and was procured by the UK in 1997, it entered service in 2002. 

The missile also entered service with the French in 1998 as SCALP-EG (Sistème de Croisière Autonome à Longue Portée – Emploi Général, or Long Range Autonomous Cruise Missile System – General Purpose). Since then Storm Shadow and SCALP have been used in the Gulf, Iraq, and in Libya by the UK’s Royal Air Force and the French Air Force.

A Tornado GR4 aircraft with 617 Squadron fitted with Storm Shadow, 2004 (UK MOD Crown copyright)

Ben Wallace, UK Defense Secretary, addressed the UK’s Parliament on 11 May saying:

Today I can confirm that the UK is donating Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine… the use of Storm Shadow will allow Ukraine to push back Russian forces based within Ukrainian sovereign territory. …Russia must recognise their actions alone have led to such systems being provided to Ukraine. It is my judgement as Defence Secretary that this is a calibrated, proportionate response to Russia’s escalations.”

Wallace added that it hadn’t been easy to incorporate the missile on a former Soviet aircraft. He said “that has been one of the reasons for the time… working out if it is technically feasible, and I would like to pay tribute to our scientists & technicians.” It is believed that Ukraine’s Su-24 Fencers have been adapted to launch the missiles. 

Storm Shadow is key for Ukraine as it provides a much needed long range, deep strike capability, well beyond that of HIMARS rockets and other artillery. Ahead of Ukraine’s anticipated offensive the cruise missiles will allow Ukraine to strike high value targets including infrastructure and logistics nodes and command and control centres – most of which have been repositioned outside of HIMARS/GMLRS munitions range. 

A building in Luhansk claimed to have been struck by a Storm Shadow missile (via social media)

13 May saw the first evidence of Ukraine’s use of the missiles emerge with Russian media outlets and telegram channels sharing fragments collected in Luhansk. Russian media shared photographs of an industrial building destroyed. Subsequent photos and videos showing further fragments with serial numbers and other markings were also shown. Russian state media reports that LPR Separatist authorities claim Luhansk has been targeted with at least three Storm Shadow missiles. This claim is yet to be independently verified.

A tail fin fragment believed to be from the Storm Shadow strike on Luhansk (via social media)

The strike on the target in Luhansk is the first with physical evidence of Storm Shadow’s use, now that the missile is known to be in service it will inevitably be one of the weapons discussed when considering future strikes but given the missile’s cost and the relatively small number available, the Ukrainians will likely be picking their targets carefully.

On 16 May, France signalled its intention to also provide Ukraine with longer range missiles, while not confirmed by name this potentially means its SCALP-EG missiles. In late May some German politicians made calls for Germany’s similar Taurus missile to be provided to Ukraine.

Update – 24/5/23: During a visit to Ukraine UK secretary of Defence signed a photograph of a Ukrainian SU-24MR carrying a Storm Shadow. Inscribing: “To all the brave ‘few’ who risk all for the glory of Ukraine” in reference to Churchill’s remarks referring to the RAF as the ‘few’ during the Second World War.

Update – 3/6/23: A photo of a Ukrainian air force SU-24M was shared online showing it carrying a pair of what appear to be Storm Shadow missiles.

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Defence Secretary oral statement on war in Ukraine, UK Government, (source)

House of Commons Proceedings 11 May 2023, UK Parliament, (source)

UK Provides Storm Shadow Cruise Missiles to Ukraine, OVD, (source)

Russia says Ukraine used Storm Shadow missiles from Britain to attack Luhansk, Reuters, (source)

Interview with President Emmanuel Macron on TF1, Elysee/TF1, (source)

Storm Shadow, ThinkDefence, (source)

Putting Russia’s Army in the Shadow of the Storm, RUSI, (source)

Uzi In Ukraine

The iconic 9x19mm Uzi submachine gun has been intermittently seen in Ukraine since the early months of the conflict. The earliest images of the Uzi in theatre, which we could find, date to the beginning of May 2022. The origins of the Uzis are currently unclear with a number of possibilities including Israeli IMI-made guns, Croatian EROs, surplus German Bundeswehr MP2A1s or perhaps most likely Belgian manufactured Uzis made under license by FN Herstal.

One of the earliest images of an Uzi in Ukraine appeared at the start of May 2022, with a Ukrainian combatant posing with an Uzi and a drone at what appears to be a range. 11 July, saw a group photo of International Legion members shared featuring one combatant holding an Uzi. Several days later on the 17 July a photo was shared of an international volunteer with an Uzi in the back of a vehicle. A month later a Ukrainian soldier was photographed holding a pair of Uzis.

A Ukrainian officer with the 93rd Mechanized Brigade holds a pair of Uzis (via social media)

On the 21 February 2023, a member of the Stugnabat unit, with the International Legion, shared a photo of a combatant with an Uzi. A Ukrainian infantry officer shared a video featuring himself firing two Uzis at one on 14 March. Subsequent photos shared online, seemingly taken at the same time, featuring the officer and the Uzis revealed he is with the 93rd Separate Mechanised Brigade. In early April another Ukrainian combatant shared a clip of himself on TikTok test firing an Uzi at an ad hoc range.

Research by OSINT researcher Ukraine Weapons Warfare has confirmed that at least three of the Uzis seen in Ukraine in early 2023 are of Belgian manufacture. Ukraine Weapons Warfare spoke to two Ukrainian combatants (those who had posted videos with Uzis) who confirmed that their guns had FN Herstal markings. FN Herstal acquired the license to manufacture the Uzi in 1958 with production of Belgian-made guns continuing into the early 1970s. As a result large numbers of Uzis purchased by European countries were made by FN, not IMI.

The Uzis haven’t appeared in any combat imagery and largely appear to be being used as personal defence weapons. They’re most often seen in photos from the range, away from the front line. Due to the iconic weapon’s notoriety they also appear to hold a novelty value for Ukrainian combatants.

Until we can get clear photos of markings or corroboration from users we can’t be certain if all of the Uzis in theatre were originally manufactured by FN Herstal. Similarly, it remains unclear which country or countries may have provided Uzis to Ukraine but we at least know that several of them were manufactured in Belgium.

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The UZI Submachine Gun, C. McNab (2011)

The UZI Submachine Gun Examined, D. Gaboury (2017)

Thanks to Ukraine Weapons Warfare

Canada To Supply Ukraine with More Than 20,000 Rifles

On 11 April, Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, announced that Canada would provided Ukraine with “21,000 5.56mm assault rifles” and 2.4 million rounds of ammunition. This latest round of security assistance brings the value of Canada’s aid to Ukraine to CAD 8 billion ($6 billion). The official announcement stated:

The new military assistance package includes 21,000 5.56mm assault rifles, 38 7.62mm machine guns, and over 2.4 million rounds of ammunition to support these weapons as well as small arms already in use by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

The statement, which the Canadian Department of National Defense confirmed, noted that the small arms would be “sourced from Colt Canada”, meaning that the weapons would not be coming from the Canadian Armed Forces’ own stocks. The announcement also noted that the: “donation comes from the remaining funds across the Government of Canada’s various funding envelopes for military assistance to Ukraine.”

Ukrainian SOF with Colt Canada C8 carbines (via Social Media)

In terms of previous small arms donations, Canada has provided a range of weapons. These include 100 Carl Gustaf M2 Recoilless Rifles, 7,500 hand grenades and up to 4,500 M72 LAW anti-tank weapons. Canada has also transferred C9 (FN Minimi) light machine guns, C6 (FN MAG) general purpose machine guns and an undisclosed number of Colt Canada C8 carbines.

When the new aid package was announced, there was considerable speculation about what models might be – C7 or C8s or perhaps the newer Colt Canada MRR?

One of the surprising weapons on Canada’s list of rifles for Ukraine – M4A1 carbine (US Army)

I enquired about the types of ‘5.56mm assault rifles’ that Colt Canada would be providing. A Department of National Defense spokesperson stated that the donation would include: “M4 carbines; M4 Commandos; M16A4 rifles; M5 carbines; and C8A2 carbines.” This is a surprising list as the C8A2 is the only weapon on the list manufactured by Colt Canada. Of the other weapons, the M4 and M16A4 are US military weapons, and the M5 is a rifle aimed at the international law enforcement and military markets offered by US-based Colt only.

We asked the Department of National Defense about the unexpected models listed, and they responded that: “we expect that the majority of the rifles will be manufactured and assembled at the Kitchener plant [Colt Canada’s facility in Ontario], though it is likely that they will need to source certain parts from their subsidiaries.”

An unexpected entry on Canada’s list of rifles for Ukraine – Colt M5 carbine (Colt)

It appears that Colt Canada will act as the vendor but call upon Colt in the US to provide components and perhaps complete weapons – both companies are part of the Colt-CZ Group. We also reached out to Colt Canada, who responded to our request for comment, saying:

We are honored to be part of Canada’s military assistance to Ukraine. Colt Canada will play an important role in the deliveries of assault rifles, machine guns, and ammunition to the Government of Ukraine. We are proud to be a strong and reliable partner to the Canadian government, in helping Ukraine to defend its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Colt Canada declined to comment on the variety of weapons listed by the Department of National Defense and did not comment on the hypothesis that parts for the weapons would be drawn from across the Colt-CZ Group.

Ukrainian SOF with Colt Canada C8 carbines (via Social Media)

21,000 rifles is a considerable number of personal weapons. The average Ukrainian brigade size is around 4,000 personnel. We also have to factor in the considerable attrition rate experienced during heavy fighting but even so this supply of rifles could in theory perhaps arm three or four brigades. This is especially useful as Ukraine is currently raising new Army and National Guard brigades.

Another aspect to consider is spare parts for the weapons – as yet the Canadian government have not disclosed spares which might be provided. The Canadian Department of National Defense expects the delivery of the weapons “to be completed in the coming months”.

This article was based on an earlier article written by the author and published at TFB.

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Inside the Dutch Effort To Send Rifles to Ukraine

In a video a few months ago we looked at the use of Diemaco C7A1s in Ukraine. The C7s have been seen in use with various Ukrainian units including the International Legion, the Belarusian the Kalinouski Regiment and most recently elements of the Azov Brigade.

In that video I theorised about where the rifles may have been sent from – with several options. Since then after speaking with numerous sources the rifles have been confirmed to have come from the Netherlands. I’ve spoken with Dutch colleagues and members of the Netherlands Armed Forces about the rifles and have been able to interview a source familiar with the Dutch operation to supply the rifles. 

Ukrainian SOF operator with a Dutch C7A1 mounted with an ELCAN optic originally used on a simulator range (via social media)

In the summer of 2022 a small team of Dutch Army armourers worked feverishly to check and prepare thousands of surplus rifles for shipment to Ukraine. Since then the rifles have regularly been seen in the hands of numerous Ukrainian military units.

The Netherlands has provided a wide range of military aid to Ukraine since the outbreak of war ranging from Stinger MANPADS to YPR-765 APCs, and from 155mm PzH 2000s self-propelled howitzers to Barrett and Accuracy International precision rifles.

A workbench filled with C7A1 rifles, with ELCAN optics, after being checked by armourers from the Royal Netherlands Army (redacted by TAB, via source)

We spoke to a source familiar with the Dutch operation to supply the weapons who described the mammoth task of preparing rifles, pistols, optics and light machine guns for transfer to Ukraine. 

The primary weapon the team had to get ready for shipment were 5.56x45mm select-fire C7A1 rifles. Made by Diemaco, now Colt Canada, these rifles were made in Canada under license from Colt. The A1 variant is easily identified by its combination of a handguard similar to that of the US M16A2 and its upper receiver which has a length of STANAG Picatinny rail for mounting optics. Since the early 2010s the Netherland’s C7A1s have been progressively upgraded to the C7NLD standard with new adjustable stocks, railed forends and Integrated Upper Receiver (IUR)s. The remaining C7A1s were placed in storage – many still sporting old paint jobs. 

Older C7s with integral carrying handle were also shipped. Note: Another identifying feature noted by numerous Dutch sources is the small QR code armoury tags seen on the right side of the magazine housing (redacted by TAB, via source)

Each rifle had its headspacing, barrel alignment and disconnector and sear checked as well as an overall check for damage or corrosion. On average, if the rifle had no significant defects, the inspection took around five minutes before it was set aside to be prepped for shipment.

So many C7A1s were checked and prepared that the team ran out of the standard C79 ELCAN optics to mount on them, with our source noting that “we used the ELCANs designated for the FN Minimi on the rifles… we also used the ones for the simulator [optics used on electronic indoor training ranges] eventually. We had to remove the front lenses [which allow them to be used on the simulator ranges].”

A Dutch C7A1, fitted with an Aimpoint Comp sight, in the hands of a Ukrainian combatant, c. June 2022 (via social media)

Once the weapons were checked they were mounted with optics. Collimating these involved setting a 300m zero. Which our source said “took the longest of all and really trained our arms. Holding the rifle in the air with one arm and adjusting the optics with the other.” After this they noted that the “tools for inspection and alignment for optics were completely worn out.”

Our source also noted that the Netherlands also transferred a significant number of Gen 3 Glock 17 pistols and some FN Minimi 5.56x45mm light machine guns.

An FN Minimi Para light machine gun, with FDE finish, checked ready for transfer to Ukraine (redacted by TAB, via source)

Along with the more numerous C7A1 rifles, a number of the earlier C7 pattern rifles with a carrying handle and a selector with a 3-round burst option rather than fully automatic found on the C7A1s, were also shipped to Ukraine. These earlier C7s are rarely seen in imagery from Ukraine.

Our source explained that when the weapons arrived at the depot for preparation for shipment “every gun came with one magazine and no optic at first.” But it was decided that rifles needed optics, at first they mounted Aimpoint Comp M3s, then the older 3.4×28 ELCANs, Hi-Mag ELCANs which had originally been mounted on the Dutch Army’s FN Minimis and finally the simulator range ELCANs were used. All of these optics have since been seen in use in Ukraine. 

A 3.4×28 ELCAN and Hi-Mag ELCANs originally fitted to machine guns – with their old operational camouflage paint jobs (redacted by TAB, via source)

The team of armourers were only allowed to prepare surplus material for shipment so rifles which were damaged – some weapons had corrosion, bent barrels, damaged receivers or furniture – were rejected. Some rifles were cannibalised to repair as many defective weapons as possible but with time short only quick, basic repairs were undertaken.

A C7 lower receiver with some corrosion and a rifle with a badly bent barrel (redacted by TAB, via source)

The process took weeks of hard work and while our source couldn’t provide an exact number of rifles prepared for transfer he estimated that just under 10,000 were checked, repaired and prepared for shipment.

Since the team completed its work the weapons they prepared have been seen in numerous photographs and videos from the fighting in Ukraine. [As mentioned earlier] The C7A1 rifles have been seen in use with Ukrainian special operations forces, the Ukraine-aligned Belarusian Kalinouski Regiment and most recently with elements of the 47th Separate Mechanised and Azov brigades. The weapons are easily identifiable by their configuration, the characteristic range of ELCAN and Aimpoint optics and also by the small armory identification tags which can often be seen on the right side of the magazine housing. 

Ukrainian SOF operator at the range with a Dutch C7A1 mounted with an ELCAN Hi-Mag optic (via social media)

When asked what he thought of the rifles being used in Ukraine our source said: “I’m glad to see they are being used there. Makes me proud of my work.” Special thanks to those who helped ID the rifles and to our sources who spoke to us for this article/video!

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TAB Reference Collection: Vickers Vigilant, G3, Browning High Power, Carl Gustav & MILAN

A look at some interesting items from the TAB Reference collection. Lots of great photos and some pretty rare manuals.

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Russia’s Rare A-545 In Ukraine

The Russian A-545 is perhaps the rarest of assault rifles in use in Ukraine. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion last year there have only been a handful of sightings of the rifle which features an internal recoil mitigation system.

The A-545, also known as the 6P67 Kord, is the latest iteration of a long line of rifles which began development back in the late 1970s with the first iteration designated AEK-971, developed for Project Abakan. 

The A-545 is a select-fire rifle with an ambidextrous selector with settings for safe, single shot, 2 round burst and fully-automatic. The rifle is gas-operated and uses a rotating bolt locking action coupled with the BARS recoil mitigation system. The rifle has a reported cyclic rate of 900 RPM. 

Russian troops with A-545 (via social media)

BARS (Balanced Automatic Recoil System) works by shifting mass towards the muzzle-end of the rifle to counter-balance the mass of the bolt and carrier moving towards the rear of the receiver. A pair of synchronised gears in a rack-and-pinion system move the counterweight forward during cycling, powered by the the movement of the bolt carrier as well as gas tapped from the barrel.

Designed by Stanislav Koksharov and developed at the ZiD/Degtyarev Plant in Kovrov. The A-545 development was completed in 2014, adding a new collapsing stock, new furniture and lengths of Picatinny rail. The rifle was tested during the Ratnik equipment trials in 2015 onwards which saw it tested against the AK-12 from Kalashnikov Concern.

The A-545 reportedly faired well in the trials but its more complicated action meant that the AK-12 was selected for wide scale issue while the A-545 was earmarked for elements of the Border Service, special forces, and the national guard (Rosgvardiya). Serial production of the rifles reportedly began in the summer 2020. There is also a 7.62x39mm chambered version, the A-762 or 6P68. 

Patent drawing showing the internal layout of the A-545, note the pair of gears just ahead of the trunnion (Russian Patent)

Before the war the A-545 was also seen with the Rosgvardiya’s SOBR Rys, the VDV’s 45th Independent Guards Spetsnaz Brigade, the 810th Naval Infantry Brigade and elements of Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), 

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year it has been seen on just a handful of occasions. 

Numerous photos have been posted by RAZVEDOS, a well-known Russian SOF veteran. On 9 April, RAZVEDOS posted a pair of photos featuring himself holding an A-545 along with a short ‘review’, reading:

Reviews are positive, BUT! Firstly, “KORD” is much more complicated than AK, so it is hardly suitable for a simple soldier – and this applies not only to “conscripts”, because many “contract soldiers” left not far from them. Secondly, if we turn to the facts, i.e. to the test numbers, the combat characteristics of the “KORD”, although higher than those of the AK, are by no means head and shoulders above.

Given the review is likely based on feedback from VDV Spetsnaz RAZVEDOS visited in April after the Battle of Hostomel the opinion could be based on battlefield experience.

The location these first photos were take is unclear. Several days later, on 13 April, RAZVEDOS shared several more photos featuring an A-545, which appears to be the same rifle, on top of a sleeping bag on a camp bed, in what appears to be a tent. This has frequently been cited as with VDV Spetsnaz at Hostomel (but the original post does not claim this). The rifle is fitted with a 1P87 red dot optic. A third photo, seemingly taken inside a tent, appears to be the same rifle fitted with the 1P87.

A-545 mounted with a 1P87 red-dot optic (via social media)

Late October saw the Russian Ministry of Defense share imagery of recently mobilised troops undergoing training led by an instructor with an A-545. In late December a photo seemingly taken on the back of a moving vehicle shows a A-545 fitted with a Holosun 403/503 red dot sight.

Most recently a photograph of an A-545 in a fighting position said to be in Ukraine was shared. The rifle is seen equipped with 45 round magazine, a suppressor and a Holosun 403/503. This is potentially the same rifle seen in December.

A-545 fitted with Holosun optic reportedly photographed in Ukraine (via social media)

Another question which is regularly asked is – have their been any sightings of the AN-94?  The AN-94 was developed to meet the same requirements laid out by Project Abakan. It reportedly passed state trials and was adopted for service but its complex design means it is rarely seen. There haven’t yet been any confirmed sighting of the AN-94 in Ukraine or with troops training in Russia. If any of the rifles ever appear they’ll definitely be the subject of an article/video.

The A-545 is undoubtedly a more advanced weapon than the more common AK-12 but how many of the rifles are in service is unclear and the extent of their use in Ukraine remains unknown. In the past several months there have been a number of Russian news reports on the rifle including a feature length report from Zvezda and a shorter piece from HTB on production of the rifle. From the limited imagery available it would seem that they have seen some limited in theatre use while instructors back in Russia may also be using the rifles.

Update 17/04/23:

A pair of photos of A-545 in use with the VDV have been shared with TAB by nrxnb. The first photo was reportedly taken by a member of 175th Reconnaissance Battalion with the 76th Guards Air Assault Division (VDV). The 175th took part in the battle of Hostomel. The rifle has been fitted with an 1P87 red-dot optic and has a polymer magazine normally issued with AK-12s.

The second photo was said to have been taken in April, post Battle of Hostomel, by a member of the 45th Guards Spetsnaz Brigade (VDV). Again it appears to have been fitted with an 1P87 red-dot optic and a suppressor.

Specifications (via Rosoboronexport)

Weight (unloaded)3.5kg (7.3lbs)
Stock Collapsed720mm (28in)
Stock Extended960mm (38in)
Maximum Range800m
Feed 30 round magazine
Cyclic Rate900 RPM

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Military Acceptance “Balanced Avtomat”, 12 Feb. 2023, Zvezda Live, (source)

Automatic Small Arms with Balanced Automatics, Russian Patent #2482417, (source)

BREAKING: Russian Army Accepts Both AK-12 And AEK-971, TFB, (source)

The Russian Balanced-Action A545 Rifle In Action, TFB, (source)

6P67/6P67-1 KORD Assault Rifle, Rosoboronexport, (source)

Meeting Government Orders: Unusually Designed Russian Rifles, M. Popenker, SADJ, (source)

6P68/6P68-1 KORD Assault Rifle, Rosoboronexport, (source)

Serial Production of An Assault Rifle, a Competitor to the AK-12, Has Started in Russia, 1 Jul. 2020, RIA, (source)

Thanks to Rob Lee and also to our friends at StreakingDelilah over on Instagram.