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The Assault Rifles Of The Near Future

September 20, 2013

5.56mm FAMAS with night-day video sight. Part of France’s current “future soldier” experiment.

Note: This article has been updated.

With the advent of Picatinny rails, standardized ammunition calibers, and new plastic materials, the assault rifle has evolved beyond expectations.

When one considers the shift from conventional wars to low-intensity urban conflicts, the radical changes in how rifles are built and designed seems inevitable.

This explains why the rifles that emerged in the past decade are not only recognized as daring ideas made real–universal weapon systems with interchangeable parts–but as feats of ingenuity borne from the protracted US campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are exceptions to this prevailing mindset, however.

Below is a selection of current rifles that are available on the global arms market. Some are being mass-produced, others aren’t. All are innovative.

US Remington Advanced Combat Rifle

Adaptive Combat Rifle

Recent experience has blurred the lines between rifles and carbines. The Adaptive Combat Rifle (ACR) is proof of this. A product of multiple companies (Remington‘s is pictured above), the ACR is the culmination of modular features in a common design. This trend explains why the current generation of rifles from different countries are almost indistinguishable from each other.

Whether it’s the extensive Picatinny rails to accommodate tactical gear or polymer receivers, the ACR series has taken the concept of a modern gun to an exciting new direction. Like most of its peers, the ACR is outfitted to be altered according to its user’s needs. For example, the barrel assembly can usually be changed to accommodate 7.62mm rounds. Depending on how they’re reconfigured, ACRs perform multiple roles be it as a precision sniper rifle or a squad automatic weapon.

Note: In 2008 a US company named Magpul licensed their Masada ACR to Bushmaster, which now manufactures the weapon under their brand.


The Automatkarbin-5 manufactured by Saab Defense is the popular 5.56mm FN FNC tailored to fit the Swedish military’s requirements. Extensive modding has resulted in a weapon that can be adjusted for the operator’s needs, whether it’s by adding ergonomic tactical accessories, precision optics, or shortening the barrel assembly to convert the rifle into a carbine.

Russian AK-103

AK-100 series

It’s hard to imagine the AK-47 ever becoming obsolete. The AK-100 series is proof that Russia’s greatest export will always endure.

Originally manufactured by Izhmash, the entire AK family is now centralized and overseen by the Kalashnikov Concern.

The critical difference that separates the original Cold War-era AK’s and the 100-series are the latter’s black polymer folding stock, an improved foregrip, the universal muzzle brake, and varied calibers. This was done for the AK-product line to have greater exposure in global arms sales.

While the Russian military has embraced the AK-74M–an all black finish AK-74–in traditional 5.45mm, succeeding variants are chambered for NATO 5.56x45mm, 5.45x39mm, and 7.62x39mm.

Although not designed for mounting Picatinny rails, the newfangled AK’s do support their own tactical accessories.


The AK-12 was unveiled in Russia last year and cited as a basis for a new family of weapons. The AK-12 is essentially the AK-74 with a retractable and foldable butt stock, an improved upper receiver, an ergonomic fire selector switch, and a pistol grip.

Other changes include Picatinny-like rail amounts on its polymer foregrip, a relocated sight, and a lengthened muzzle brake.

The AK-12, rather than the AN-94 Abakan or the AK-100 series, is  being favored as the latest next-generation assault rifle for Russia’s sprawling military.

According to state-owned news organ RIA Novosti, the AK-12 enters service in 2014.

ARX series

Italy’s Beretta are no slouches when it comes to providing new guns for emerging markets.

Not to be outdone by FN or Heckler & Koch, the 5.56mm ARX-160 is the most exciting assault rifle and carbine hybrid from the European Union in the past several years,

The semiautomatic delayed blowback ARX-160 dates to 2008 and remains a closely watched model that has done the rounds in trade shows. As of this year, the ARX-160 is already in its A3 variant with slight improvements to its foregrip/heat shield ventilation and pistol grip.

Like most rifles of its generation the ARX-160 is easily broken down into a handful of working parts and can fit different barrels. It features a side folding butt stock, Picatinny mounts and ergonomic fire selection switch.

The ARX-160 is living up to the Beretta mystique. Aside from the Italian army, ARX-160 orders from Albania, Kazakhstan, Egypt, and Mexico have increased its profile as a much sought-after firearm. In what could become Beretta’s crowning moment, the ARX-160 is under consideration as a replacement for the Indian Army’s current INSAS assault rifle.

Note: This article has been updated.

Via Barret

Via Barret

Barret REC7

Eight years ago the venerable US gun maker Barret rolled out a new carbine based on the lower receiver of the M16.

The 5.56mm REC7, sometimes called the RC7, adhered to the newfangled principle of stripping down a firearm to its fundamental working components. The result was indistinguishable from similar efforts by Colt, Adcor Defence, FN Herstal, and Heckler & Koch.

The REC7 is basically a reinforced aluminum receiver–note the round trigger guard–attached to a barrel assembly and a retractable polymer stock. Its flip sights along its upper Picatinny mounts are the same as those found on later generation modular assault rifles. Tactical accessories and optics are optional.

The REC7’s most distinguishable feature is a robust steel firing mechanism that Barret insists is tougher than most AR-based firearms.

US BEAR Elite (via Adcor Defense)

BEAR Elite

When the US Army were searching for a new carbine in the late aughties, among the contenders was the Brown Enhanced Automatic Rifle (BEAR) from military contractor Adcor Defence.

Combining features of the proven M4 and the FN SCAR, the BEAR Elite is essentially a gas piston receiver connected to a barrel assembly and a sliding stock.

The stark simplicity allows its user to customize as they see fit, including optics and tactical attachments on its Picatinny rails.

Like the FN SCAR, the BEAR Elite was designed to be easily field stripped and modified. Its available barrel lengths allow for long range, CQB, and even firing 7.62mm rounds, depending on the mission.

Czech BREN A1 assault rifle 02BREN CZ 805

The open secret in contemporary small arms is the AK-47 serves as the fundamental template when designing for simplicity and ease-of-use. So it is with the CZ 805 BREN, whose firing system is derived from the CZ 58, which is an improvement over the AK-47.

The CZ 805 BREN manufactured by gun maker CZ-UB was first revealed in 2008. Since then it has become the main battle rifle of the Czech military.

The gas operated BREN’s firing mechanism uses a rotating bolt and is encased in a plastic receiver. Designed to be field stripped with ease, the BREN can operate as a CQB carbine or a sharpshooter rifle depending on the user’s choice of barrel assembly. This allows the BREN to fire either 5.56x45mm NATO or Russian 7.62mmx39mm rounds.

The rest of the BREN’s features borrow from its contemporaries, including a side folding stock, Picatinny mounts for optics and an underbarrel grenade launcher, plus air vents along the length of its foregrip.

The BREN is now being marketed for export.

US Colt M-4


The Colt Modular Carbine CM901 was the gun maker’s entry for the US Army’s 2010-2013 Individual Carbine Competition. It’s basically the M4 stripped to its bare working parts and given the modular features of the FN SCAR.

For example, the 16-inch 5.56mm barrel assembly is replaceable with a barrel that fires 7.62mm rounds. The upper receiver has been reduced to fit an extended Picatinny rail mount running the length of the foregrip/heat shield, whose sides and bottom may carry accessories and tactical gear. The carbine’s sights are adjustable or can be removed for mounting more powerful optics.

The CM901 retains a steel-polymer sliding butt stock and the familiar lower receiver of the Colt weapons family.

Czech CW 556 assault rifleCZW 556

As its name indicates, the CZW is chambered for 5.56mm rounds. Designed and manufactured in the Czech Republic by the company Czech Weapons–not to be mistaken for CZ-UB–the CZW is a relatively new assault rifle with a conventional layout. Another assault rifle made by Czech Weapons is the CZW 762 whose appearance is based on the AK-74.

According to its product page the CZW 556 weighs seven pounds and is effective at up to 400 meters. It was also designed to be be reconfigured with different parts and accessories although it’s unclear if its wire stock is detachable from the lower receiver. While interchangeable parts are an almost universal feature among contemporary small arms, the crucial difference with the CZW model is an unspecified breech locking mechanism that’s been patented by Czech Weapons.

Via Lithgow Arms.

EF-88 Austeyr

Unveiled in 2012, the EF-88 Austeyr or F90 is a radical improvement over the license-built 5.56mm Steyr AUG used by the Australia and New Zealand militaries for the past 30 years.

Rather than adopt a new small arm the Australian military opted for a thorough modernization of a proven rifle. It fell on the defense contractor Thales Group and its local partner Lithgow Arms to enhance a bullpup rifle that embodied an innovative approach to infantry firearms.

The result couldn’t be more surprising. Much of the original bullpup rifle was kept but the exposed barrel assembly got housed in a new milled upper receiver with extensive quad rails. Minor alterations were made to the handguard, which has a tiny slot for a grenade launcher’s trigger, but the ambidextrous pistol grip remained.

The Austeyr was designed to carry the SL40 underbarrel grenade launcher and various sighting appendages. The rifle can accept three barrels of varying lengths and features cosmetic improvements to its butt stock, charging handle, fire selector switch and magazine well.

The EF88/F90 was first issued to the Royal Australian Regiment in 2015 and then standardized the following year. New Zealand’s defense ministry rejected the Austeyr in favor of an AR-based rifle.


Chilean FAMAE 2013


Chile might not be a major weapons exporter, but its state-owned arms factory FAMAE is keeping up with the times.

Rather than develop a new assault rifle–often a long and costly process–FAMAE opted to give its longstanding SIG-series the Picatinny treatment.

Although no specifications or product details accompanied the picture above, it’s clearly a model of the closed bolt gas-operated Swiss SIG 540 license-built by FAMAE for the past 30 years.

The other changes are superficial. Mainly a Picatinny quad rail along its barrel assembly, front and back folding sights, a side folding polymer butt stock and an uncharacteristic bipod.

The crucial difference between the Chilean and Swiss SIG rifles is the former used stamped steel receivers, which weigh less. This particular variant features Picatinny rails on the upper receiver that extend to the gas piston.

Judging by the new FAMAE’s shortened plastic magazine, their latest assault rifle is chambered for the powerful 7.62x51mm round.

Belgian FN F2000 (via FN Herstal)

FN F2000

The F2000 was introduced 14 years ago as FN Herstal’s first and only bullpup assault rifle. Since then it has gained wide acceptance for its simplicity and cutting edge engineering.

The F2000 represents an out-of-the-box approach to assault rifle design. Aside from its cousin the P90 submachinegun, it counts itself among the very few small arms in existence designed from an ergonomic point of view. For example, consider the curved ambidextrous pistol grip that also serves as the magazine well; the polymer contours housing its barrel assembly as well as the optical sight; and the sturdiness of its bulky stock, a rare feature for an assault rifle.

The F2000, though futuristic in appearance, is chambered for the 5.56mm NATO round and accepts M16 type clips, with an optimal range of 400 meters. Being easy to disassemble and upgrade with tactical gear, it also supports a 40mm underbarrel GL1 grenade launcher.

FN Herstal, which is state-owned, offers the F2000 as a customizable firearm that works with a variety of modifications.

Since its debut at the turn of the century, eager customers from a dozen countries have embraced the F2000.

Belgian FN Scar


The US subsidiary of Belgian gun maker Fabrique Nationale are responsible for the current modular small arms trend. (See the ACR.)

All the way back in 2003, when US special forces were expanding their missions around the globe, a need arose for a tough new assault rifle.

The winner among multiple entries was FN USA’s Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) that used a polymer-based lower receiver together with milled aluminum parts. Among the SCAR’s impressive features were its M16/M4 series direct impingement gas block, which allowed the user to endure less recoil on a weapon that operated like the M16/M4 they trained with,

But the SCAR was very different from any of its peers. Extensive Picatinny rails meant it could support a lot of tactical gear and mount an underbarrel grenade launcher. Variants also had multiple barrel assemblies for different missions and could fire standard NATO 5.56x45mm rounds (SCAR-L) and both NATO 7.62×51 or Russian 7.62x39mm rounds (SCAR-H).

The SCAR was approved for production in 2007 and reached Army and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) personnel by 2009. A new variant, the Mark 17, is being favored by the US special forces community although it’s uncertain if the FN SCAR will remain in their arsenal for long.

Thanks to its brand, extensive product placement in video games and Hollywood movies, and top-notch engineering, the FN SCAR is enjoying brisk sales among law enforcement and counter-terrorist units worldwide.

German HKG36

Heckler & Koch G36

The G36 is hands down the best designed assault rifle of the late 20th century. Meant to replace the German Bundeswehr‘s dated 7.62mm G3 assault rifles, the G36 entered service in 1996 and set the bar for all infantry small arms, from performance to ruggedness.

The G36 was originally chambered for standard 5.56mm rounds and eschewed sophistication in favor of reliability. This explains its simple layout, a conveniently placed fire selector switch over an ambidextrous pistol grip, and a plastic see-through magazine ideal for mass production.

During its R&D process in the first half of the 1990s it was engineered to support polymer housing that was lightweight–hence the right folding stock–and easy to field strip for cleaning. The resulting G36 succeeded in both counts despite a built in optical and laser dot sight on its carrying handle. Even without the fancy bells and whistles, the G36 is every bit as tough as an AK-47 or an FAL.

The basic rotating bolt G36 has evolved into multiple variants, from a heavier squad automatic weapon configuration, to a special forces carbine with Picatinny rails.

Owing to its reputation and aggressive marketing via product placement, the G36 is an export success. Used by at least 40 countries, with Mexico even manufacturing their own variant, the G36 will remain in the hands of soldiers and policemen for decades to come.

Note: This article has been updated.


Heckler & Koch M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle

The M27 came into existence during the US Marine Corp’s 2010 trials for a new squad automatic weapon. This one-off from the prolific gun maker features an M16-type receiver, a polymer sliding stock,  ergonomic pistol grip, extensive Picatinny rails along the barrel assembly, and a gas operated short stroke piston firing mechanism.

Some writers have taken note of the M27’s resemblance to the H&K 416, its “carbine-ized” sibling.

The original belt-fed M249 SAW, a licensed copy of the Belgian Minimi, entered service in 1984. A quarter century of wars later and the USMC realized it needed a lighter and more accurate option at the squad level. The result was a stripped down rifle that can mount optics, a bipod, and is ideal for focused and precise shooting during small-scale battles.

The M27 is the only automatic rifle–it can fire single shots–in recent memory to replace a belt-fed machinegun. It’s now in limited use by the USMC.




The IA2 from Brazil’s state-owned IMBEL is another example of modernizing a proven assault rifle.

IMBEL took its license produced FN FNC–the FAL shortened and chambered for the 5.56mm NATO round–and simply installed popular accessories that are sweeping the world of small arms.

These are a sturdy side folding polymer stock; a redesigned upper and lower receiver with a conveniently placed fire selector switch above the pistol grip; and extensive Picatinny rails for mounting optics, tactical gear, and a grenade launcher.

The front and back sights are  simplified and much of the barrel assembly is jacketed in a protective handguard and heat shield with gas vents. The IA2 is now the standard assault rifle of the Brazilian armed forces and is issued with a sheathed bayonet.

The IA2 is expected to become a universal model whose variants include a battle rifle chambered for 7.62x51mm NATO and a CQB carbine.

Israeli IWI Galil Ace 23IWI Galil ACE

As one of the most successful small arms to emerge from the Middle East, the Galil is proof that appropriating a foreign design–the Kalashnikov–can still produce impressive results.

The ACE series is simply an updated version of the original Galil manufactured by Israel Weapon Industries (IWI), who also designed and mass-produced the ubiquitous Uzi.

The ACE is an improvement over the Galil thanks to new sights, an AR-15 type sliding stock, Picatinny mounts for optics, and a redesigned lower receiver. Aside from the assault rifle pictured above, IWI offers a shorter carbine variant for special forces and law enforcement.

The ACE series is available in three calibers: NATO 5.56x45mm; Russian 7.62x39mm; and the heftier 7.62x51mm.

Israeli TAR-21 2


The Tavor TAR-21 is the first bullpup design produced by Israel Weapon Industries (IWI). True to the spirit of Israeli-made weapons, it’s simple, tough, and versatile. More than an assault rifle, the TAR-21 is equally suited for CQB and precision firing at long range.

The TAR-21 is chambered for the NATO 5.56mm round.

Unlike most entries on this list, the TAR-21 is now used by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and is available for export. The TAR-21 and its shortened commando sibling has found eager customers in South America, the EU, and Asia.

South Korean Daewoo K11K11

In the final years of the previous century two experimental weapon systems were combined to maximize the US infantryman’s firepower.

It was called the Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW) and it was too cumbersome to be feasible. The available technology was spun off into the XM-29 25mm grenade launcher and the equally short-lived H&K XM-8.

The concept was revived years later by South Korea’s Daewoo (who are known to reverse engineer US prototype weapons), who put the resulting K11 in limited production.

Simply put, the K11 is the first of its kind, integrating a 5.56mm carbine with a single-shot bolt action 20mm grenade launcher that fires air burst rounds. The K11 uses a computerized fire control system that allows the infantryman to accurately target downrange, a feature now becoming popular in small arms engineering.

Iranian Khaybar KH-2002


The KH-2002 is the first bullpup rifle to emerge from Iran, whose government controlled arms industry thrives on reverse engineering a broad range of existing weapons.

The KH-2002 is chambered for indigenous 5.56mm rounds and bears similarities to the US M16 as well as the French FAMAS, with other variants carrying a foldable bipod.

The KH-2002’s pistol grip is supported by a hand guard and an extended ergonomic foregrip underneath the barrel assembly.

It is unclear if all KH-2002 models are fed with 20-round box magazines or if a 30-round version is now available. Though spotted in public military events within Iran, according to one military analyst, the Khaybar was shelved by its manufacturer in 2012 after it found no international customers.


Serbian Zastava M21


The Zastava M21 was first introduced in 2004 when the resurgent Serbian arms industry began diversifying. The M21 is a 5.56mmx45mm assault rifle based on the AK-47, which Serbia has manufactured for several decades now. As a derivative of the AK-47 the M21 takes after the Israeli Galil and the Finnish Valmet with external improvements that enhance the weapon’s performance.

Designed as a family of small arms that includes a CQB carbine, the M21’s most distinctive features are a lengthened barrel assembly with a muzzle brake. The sight has been moved above the gas chamber, which is encased in a plastic handguard and foregrip that replaces the usual wooden furniture. Recent variants of the M21 now carry underbarrel and upper receiver Picatinny-like rails to support optics, a grenade launcher, plus other tactical accessories.

The M21 also uses a different polymer magazine shape and comes with an ergonomic pistol grip and a side folding stock. The Zastava M21 is the star of its maker’s extensive product line that includes 12.7mm machine guns, automatic grenade launchers, and civilian sporting arms.




The MPT-76 traces its origins to the “Modern Infantry Rifle Project” of Turkey’s powerful state-owned arms manufacturer MKEK.

After several years of R&D the resulting firearm is deemed a suitable replacement for the license-built H&K G3’s that are in use by the military. Once the MPT-76 enters service it can expect a production run in the hundreds of thousands. Its appearance may resemble the M16 but the MPT-76 is a completely new rifle that borrows features from a broad selection of influences.

Without the detachable carrying handle, which is clipped to the Picatinny rails along the upper receiver and heat shield, the MPT-76 looks like an HK417 with its front and rear folding sights. It’s also chambered for the 417’s 7.62x51mm NATO. The MPT-76 uses a short-stroke gas piston firing mechanism with a rotating bolt.

A sturdy retractable polymer stock stabilizes the MPT-76’s barrel assembly that’s connected to milled aluminum upper and lower receivers. The current version of the MPT-76 features two foregrips; one with a built-in bipod and an angled polymer attachment in front of the magazine well to support the user’s palm while aiming.


MSBS Grot Modular Firearm System

The existence of the rifle known as the MSBS dates to 2007. But the first viable models came to light at an arms show in 2012 when it was publicly displayed by its manufacturer. Although hyped as a next-generation infantry weapon, much of its appearance seems borrowed from the Bushmaster ACR.

Although chambered for the 5.56mm NATO round, a 7.62mm variant of the Grot Modular Firearm was also under development. This is understandable since it will be issued to Poland’s military in the coming years as a replacement for its Kalashnikov-type rifles. According to the state-owned exporting agency Polish Defence Holdings the Grot’s essential part is a universal upper receiver that can be assembled to the end user’s needs, be it as a carbine or a marksman rifle.

Judging by available pictures, however, the Grot is meant to be a universal small arm with all the usual tactical attachments, even alternating configurations like a bullpup CQB variant.

Chinese QBZ-95 bullpup

Norinco QBZ-95

It remains unclear when the QBZ-95 was first issued to the Chinese military. Even less is known about its development at a time when China’s economy opened up to the world in the 1980s and 90s.

What became apparent upon its first public display in Hong Kong during the 1997 handover to China is it represented a radical departure from the PLA’s prevailing infantry rifles.

The QBZ-95 is a bullpup design reliant on extensive polymer housing. It fires a unique 5.8x42mm round, a caliber allegedly superior to those used by either NATO or the Soviet Union.

The QBZ-95’s adoption eventually overshadowed the Type 81, a derivative and an improvement over the ubiquitous AK-47, which China’s manufacturers have knocked off in the millions.

The QBZ-95 features a unique trigger guard doubling as a foregrip. Its stock flips open and houses a cleaning kit. A carrying handle also serves as a mount for optics and protects the bolt that’s configured the same way as the French FAMAS. The QBZ-95 supports rifle grenades and underbarrel grenade launchers, be they imitations of Russian, US, and European models.

The QBZ-95’s manufacturer, state-owned Norinco, sells a 5.56mm variant called the Type-97. Its only noticeable difference is the more conventional trigger assembly.

As the basis for a family of weapons, the QBZ’s lineage includes a machine gun variant with an extended barrel, a bi-pod, and fits a drum magazine; a sniper rifle; and a shortened ‘commando’ carbine.

Note: This article has been updated.

Chinese Norinco QBZ-03 rifle 02

Norinco QBZ-03

The QBZ-03, also identified as the Type 03, is a conventional assault rifle with a gas operated, rotating bolt firing mechanism. Like all modern Chinese infantry small arms the QBZ-03 is chambered for the 5.8mm round. Judging by its appearance, the QBZ-03 is derivative of the Type 81 assault rifle featuring a polymer folding stock and a lengthened heat shield with air vents encasing the barrel assembly. Other improvements are obvious, like a simplified fire selector switch above the pistol grip and a side folding butt stock.

The engineers behind the earlier Type 81, a mainstay of the PLA during the 1990s, used the AK-47’s shortcomings as the basis for their new rifle’s appearance, which included a robust rear sight, a gas piston above the lengthened muzzle brake, and a Bakelite folding stock.The Type 81 is a hybrid as well, combining aspects of the SKS.

The QBZ-03’s two-part lower receiver is designed to accept M16-type magazines–the export version is chambered for NATO 5.56mm rounds–and its muzzle brake is different from its peer, the bullpup QBZ-95. The addition of Picatinny rails along its upper receiver means it conforms to ongoing trends in small arms.

Despite having been displayed in public, many are confused by the QBZ-03’s use. It appears the QBZ-03 is Norinco’s attempt at providing an infantry weapon that combines the Colt M4’s lightness and the reliability of a successful firearm.


Singaporean SAR-21


The current assault rifle of Southeast Asia’s best equipped military, the Singapore Assault Rifle 21 is a compact design reflecting the influence of predecessors like the British SA80, French FAMAS, the Israeli Tavor, and the Austrian Steyr.

The 5.56mm SAR-21 follows a conventional bullpup layout, supporting a 30-round magazine, a pistol grip molded into a handguard, and an optical/laser dot sight with the bolt underneath. At just 32 inches long, the SAR-21 is transformable into a squad automatic weapon and a marksman’s rifle with a maximum range (on paper) of 800 meters.

According to its manufacturer ST Kinetics, the basic SAR-21 is ideal for close quarters battle (CQB) and modifications based on the infantryman’s needs. Recent upgrades are a plastic see-through magazine and Picatinny rails for its barrel assembly.

It can also carry night vision optics, a 40mm grenade launcher, and various tactical gear.

Turkish Sarsilmaz 223SAR-223

Not to be confused as a product of Singapore Technologies (ST), the SAR-223 by Turkey’s Sarsilmaz is a 5.56mm carbine that borrows extensively from existing designs. Small wonder that it resembles the popular HK416.

The SAR-223 uses an AR-15 type receiver to support the barrel assembly and extensive Picatinny mounts for optics, accessories, and a grenade launcher.

Front and back flip sights and a sliding polymer stock guarantees the SAR-223’s place in the family tree of modern assault rifles.

The SAR-223 is now in production and available for export. It’s unclear if the Turkish military have adopted it as the main battle rifle or prefer a modular rifle chambered for a different caliber.Swis SIG716SIG Sauer 716

Owing to the almost universal popularity of the AR platform and its myriad offshoots, the celebrated Swiss gun maker rolled out their own variant for export.

Rather than use its proven SIG 556 as the basis for another carbine, SIG Sauer remain faithful to the AR-15/M4 and offer five different models of this particular 716 variant chambered for 7.62mm rounds. None of its features are remarkable when compared to current (and very similar) small arms. Its lighter NATO-friendly sibling the SIG Sauer 516 has five versions too and it looks exactly the same.

The 716 uses a sturdy nitride treated barrel attached to short stroke pushrod firing mechanism encased in an aircraft-grade aluminum receiver. Front and back flip sights are mandatory. A quad mount for the barrel assembly and a Picatinny rail attached to the receiver ensure ample space for optics, foregrips, and tactical accessories.

Aside from its ergonomic pistol grip and lightweight retractable butt stock, a short 20-round magazine keeps the basic 716 at just over 10 pounds locked and loaded.

Sig Sauer have a total of 12 rifles and carbine sin their catalog. The popular SIG 556 and its shortened version now come with Picatinny mounts on their upper receivers.

Austrian Steyr AUGA3

Steyr AUG A3

During the Cold War neutral Austria’s state-owned gun maker developed an exotic bullpup rifle that was designated the Stg 77. It was adopted by the armed forces the following year as a “light infantry rifle” chambered for NATO’s new intermediate cartridges. The original AUG did look odd–as if everything were compressed in its distinctive gray polymer stock. The Steyr AUG then had other curious features such as a ribbed plastic magazine, a pistol grip molded with a handguard, and a telescopic sight mounted above the barrel assembly.

Its futuristic appearance proved a hit in the 1980s and thousands were exported to dozens of countries. (Licensed production was even transferred to Australia and Malaysia.) Having outlasted and outperformed rival European bullpups, the same models cursed by teething problems, the Steyr AUG/ AUG A1 didn’t need a serious overhaul.

Until, that is, the AUG A3 was unveiled in 2009. It had few external changes except for a length of Picatinny rail over the barrel assembly. Sleek, dependable, and proven. Available to buyers worldwide. The underbarrel grenade launcher is optional.

Indonesian Pindad SS2


The SS2 from Indonesian arms manufacturer Pindad is the country’s first locally made assault rifle. Combining features of the M16 and the successful 5.56mm FN FNC, the SS2 is a multi-purpose gas operated selective fire weapon system with a foldable metal stock. The SS2 was designed to support an underbarrel 40mm grenade launcher and Picatinny rail mounts. Conceived as a family of weapons, shortened CQB and a sniper variant are also available.

The SS2 is currently in service with the Indonesian armed forces and being marketed for export to foreign buyers. In 2012, pictures and models have already surfaced of a bullpup Pindad SS2 designated the SS3.

Croatian VHS 2 assault rifle


The VHS 2 from Croatia is an improvement over its predecessor, which bore many similarities to the French FAMAS. The VHS 2 in its current form is a bullpup assault rifle built according to the dimensions of a carbine chambered for 5.56mm NATO rounds.

Designed and manufactured by gunmaker HK Produkt d.o.o., the gas operated selective fire VHS 2 features a sturdier carrying handle mounting Picatinny rails, which are also found on the sides and underneath its barrel assembly.

The VHS 2 supports an underbarrel grenade launcher with different accessories and optics.

A plastic magazine similar to the Steyr AUG holds 30 NATO 5.56mm rounds. The butt stock was redesigned to allow adjustment.

The VHS 2 is now in production and is the service rifle of the Croatian Army. It’s also available for export.

US Robinson Armament XCR


The XCR-M was an entry from Robinson Armament in the doomed Individual Carbine Competition that sought to replace the US Army’s M4. With so many familiar characteristics that hardly sets it apart from its peers, it’s easy to see why the XCR-M isn’t as distinguished as the CM109 or the venerable FN SCAR.

Rather than push for military sales abroad, Robinson Armament civilianized its entry and made it available to the US domestic gun market.

To date, the XCR-M is the most capable 7.62mm assault rifle developed in North America. This distinction comes from its basis, which is the short-lived AR-18. But with the dominance of the 5.56mm for the past 50 years, the XCR-M is consigned to relative obscurity. It has three variants–a long rifle with a 20 inch barrel, a Mini with a 16 inch barrel, and a shortened Micro Pistol sans the folding stock.

Users familiar with the AR-15 will be comfortable with its lower receiver. The side folding retractable stock is a bonus for CQB and an extended Picatinny rail along its upper receiver and barrel assembly provides ample space to mount optics.

Despite being designed for combat, the XCR-M has no customers outside North America.




For the past several years a combination of grainy footage and random photographs suggested that China’s army had a new assault rifle.

It turns out this wasn’t the case. The ZH-05 is an attempt to produce an advanced infantry weapon with a fire control system and a powerful grenade launcher. Though often considered the Chinese equivalent of an OICW, the mysterious ZH-05 is more than a mere copy.

Without any specifications or widespread online media coverage to reveal such, the ZH-05’s capabilities are unknown. Based on its appearance, however, as well as a single photograph dating to 2011, a few characteristics can be discerned.

The ZH-05 is a combination rifle and grenade launcher for a PLA “future soldier” program. The former appears to be a Type 81 chambered for 5.8mm rounds fed from a polymer magazine. The latter is a yet-to-be-identified 20mm single-shot bolt action grenade launcher loaded from the stock, similar to the South Korean K-11 but without the magazine.

The telescopic sight is allegedly the fire control system whose button controls are embedded on the receiver.

Even if the PLA’s small arms are usually from Norinco, the ZH-05’s manufacturer hasn’t been revealed. Neither is there reliable information on how many have been built and which units use it.

Note: This article has been updated.

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