Skip to content

Updated: The Assault Rifles Of The Near Future

March 1, 2014
Via Hugh Gentry

Via Hugh Gentry.

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

The result is an overwhelming trend in small arms design where the use of composite parts fabricated with CNC machines is almost universal. The resulting uniformity in appearance is further proof that all firearms are evolving toward an uncertain, though homogenized, direction.

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 RifleAdaptive 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.

Swiss B and T APC223Advanced Practical Carbine

Brügger & Thomet is a Swiss manufacturer and distributor specializing in R&D for firearms that meet law enforcement and military needs.

The APC pictured above is available as an assault rifle and a sports shooter for civilians. It’s a practical weapon that conforms with current trends, from Picatinny rails to separate carbine and sharpshooter variants. In keeping with Western European tastes, the APC is a short stroke gas piston rotating bolt design.

The APC uses a polymer lower receiver patterned after the AR-series with an ambidextrous fire selector switch above the pistol grip. The lower receiver supports an aluminum upper receiver attached to the gas vented heat shield encasing the barrel.

Like the Beretta ARX-160, the APC has a reversible charging handle to maximize its ambidextrous features.

The APC is chambered for Nato 5.56mm rounds and is fed by a STANAG polymer magazine. Its side-folding skeleton stock is replaceable with a sturdier and retractable alternative.


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 2012 and cited as a basis for a new family of weapons. The AK-12 is essentially the AK-74 with a retractable and side folding 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, small numbers of the the AK-12 entered service in 2014.

Russian A-545 assault rifleA-545

While most countries struggle to equip their armed forces with proper small arms Russia has the opposite problem. Its military has to select a rifle that wouldn’t just replace the dependable AK-74M but retain all its features.

Although the peculiar AN-94 Abakan was a credible alternative during the 1990s, today another rifle, the A-545 is being considered for Russia’s special forces. The A-545, however, is neither an AK-type rifle nor a brand new design.

As an improved variant of the Cold War-era AEK-971, the A-545 features an impressive balanced action firing system that reduces its recoil.  The A-545 is also lightweight and chambered for the Russian 5.45x39mm round. It’s recognizable for its ergonomic collapsible stock and the housing for its bolt balancer above the barrel assembly.

The A-545 is still in limited production.

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.

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 retractable 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.UAE Caracal 816 rifleCaracal 816

The insecurity of Arab monarchies make them eager customers for weapons.

But the United Arab Emirates is forging ahead by laying the groundwork for self-reliance. This is why state-owned companies like Tawazun Group is fostering an indigenous arms industry. The Caracal 816 is an early fruit of this labor.

It’s the heftier sibling of a license-built Caracal 814, a Colt M4 clone, and is tailored for modularity and accessorization. The dusty environment of the Arabian Peninsula inspired the Caracal’s short-stroke gas piston in lieu of the traditional gas impingement system. Like recent offerings from US gun makers the Caracal employs front and back flip sights and a free floating heat shield with integrated Picatinny rails.

To further customize its performance its gas piston has three operations depending on the shooter’s needs. Barrel assemblies are replaceable too and a whole range of tactical gear can be fitted on it.

The Caracal is simply the latest M4 derivative in the global small arms market.

Canada Colt prototype rifle

Colt “Smart Gun”

A prototype bullpup being R&Ded for Canada’s Soldier Integrated Precision Effects System (SIPES) is proof that the OICW concept still inspires military planners.

Unveiled in February 2015, the so-called “smart gun” is the world’s newest assault rifle and very little is known about it.

Judging by the single promotional image used in its debut press release Colt’s mysterious smart gun is fed by a large integrated box magazine attached to the stock. The magazine’s size and apparent heft suggests it contains ammunition that’s perhaps a smaller caliber than 5.56mm, or not. A mounted 35mm or 40mm launcher is optional.

The final model may feature unexpected levels of accuracy if Canada’s armed forces adopt a FELIN-esque fire control system to target shots at distances and around obstacles.

At this point there are too many questions marks surrounding this smart gun. Although not yet in production, should Colt’s latest enter service it completely replaces the M16, shrinking the pool of countries using the venerable assault rifle.

US Colt M-4CM901

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 upper foregrip and heat shield, whose sides and bottom may carry accessories and tactical gear. The carbine’s sights are adjustable and removable for mounting more powerful optics.

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

US M4 Carbine 02M4

Although its direct gas impingement system is a magnet for criticism, the M4 remains the most popular carbine in the world.

The M4 began as a shortened variant of the M16A2. By 1994, however, it was adopted by the US Army and various special forces units. The M4’s origins dates to the XM177, a trimmed down M16A1 similar to the CAR-15 used by US soldiers during the Vietnam War.

As the War on Terror went into full swing, the M4 proved itself in challenging terrain and was subject to extensive modifications by its users. This made an impact on its civilian counterpart, the AR-15, and the prevailing trend of accessorizing small arms using Picatinny rails.

Remarkably, US gun makers today have improved on Eugene Stoner’s original vision for an accurate and dependable firearm. The results come in startling varieties.

Colt’s M4 can be transformed into a completely different assault rifle, with its small lower receiver the only discernible feature, which is in turn copied by other firearms. The HK 416 is an example, along with more than a dozen entries on this list. In short, the M4 is a better M16. (Pun intended?)

The M4 is now being license-built and pirated in almost every continent. Along with countless US gun makers, Canada, Germany, the Philippines, Israel, South Korea, Taiwan, and the UAE produce and export M16 and M4 derivatives.  Unlicensed M4’s are exported by China, Iran, Sudan, and Vietnam.

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.

Iranian Fateh Assault Rifle 01


The Fateh is another perplexing firearm from Iran. Despite the respectable capabilities of its defense contractors and state-owned factories, certain weapons are still produced whose effectiveness is questionable.

The Fateh, a 5.56mm assault rifle, was first revealed in propaganda footage during the 2014 Sacred Defense anniversary, an annual memorial for the Iran-Iraq War.

Having produced licensed and unlicensed copies of the G3, AK-47 and AKM, and even the M16, the new Fateh is a brazen attempt to mimic the Remington ACR, the FN SCAR, and the XCR.

Closer scrutiny reveals the Fateh uses AR-15 parts–like its lower receiver, muzzle brake, and 20-round box magazine–combined with a customized retractable polymer stock and a heat shield with gas vents enveloping the barrel assembly. The Fateh has a left hand charging handle below its Picatinny rail mount for sights and optics.

It’s possible the Fateh would end up like the Khaybar, an unsuccessful experiment quickly withdrawn from production. No images of the Fateh in police or military use have surfaced. Whether it finds customers or becomes standardized is unknown at this point.

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 7.62mm 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 SMG, 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 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.

Mexican FX-05 assault rifle


The FX-05 Xiuhcoatl is arguably the most remarkable assault rifle developed by a Latin American state. Despite having used the tough G3 and the M16 for decades, Mexico’s armed forces began adopting the new small arm in 2006.

Manufactured by a government-owned munitions plant, the Xiuhcoatl is based on the successful Heckler & Koch G36 but only resembles its German forebear externally. The FX-05’s features do bear a stronger sense of ergonomics judging by its pistol grip and the contours on the aluminum receiver. This is apparent in the large magazine well, whose curved edge serves as an impromptu foregrip.

Internally, the FX-05 contains parts that are incompatible with the G36. Other differences include its robust polymer side folding stock and sturdy carrying handle, which is replaceable with a Picatinny rail mount.

As an ambidextrous, gas-operated, selective fire weapon, the FX-05 was designed to conform with NATO specifications and even accept M16 magazines although it uses transparent polymer ones.

Tactical accessories can be installed even if these aren’t in vogue among Mexican soldiers. It’s unknown if the FX-05 is being marketed for export.

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 subsequent 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-hand 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 gas  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 its own variant, the G36 will remain in the hands of soldiers and policemen for decades to come.


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 “carbinized” 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.

Indian Insas Excalibur 01

INSAS Excalibur

The Excalibur is the redemption of the original INSAS. As a shortened version of its ancestor, the Excalibur features a side folding butt stock and limited space for mounting Picatinny rails along its upper receiver.

The 5.56mm Excalibur should not be mistaken for an FN FNC, a Sig 550, the Chinese Type 81, or a Galil, although it obviously combines features from several well-known assault rifles. The upper and lower receiver, for example, are the same as a stamped steel AK-47 or AKM. The transparent polymer magazine is familiar to contemporary small arms in Western Europe. Unlike its “modular” peers, however, it supports a bayonet.

The INSAS is perhaps the most unsuccessful assault rifle being used today. Intended as a universal small arm for India’s millions of soldiers, low quality control doomed its potential.  Everything from misaligned iron sights to poor Bakelite components soiled its reputation among jawans.

The INSAS’ future is an uncertain one, although the Ordnance Factory Board continues developing new small arms in limited quantities. Examples of note are a Micro Assault Rifle and the Amogh, a 5.56mm carbine patterned after the AK-47.

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 submachinegun.

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 K2CK2

The growing family of weapons manufactured by Daewoo subsidiary S&T Motiv represents East Asia’s most comprehensive small arms selection.

The K2’s adoption in 1987 was a successful attempt at switching to an indigenous small arm for South Korea’s armed forces. The K2 also stands out as a rare hybrid of the M16 and AK-47. While its lower receive, magazine, and muzzle brake is akin to the AR, it uses the Kalashnikov’s long stroke gas piston action.

The K2 is remarkably light and easy to use, with either a side-folding or retractable stock available to operators. The K2C pictured above is a carbinized K2 modded with tactical accessories.

The K2 and its variants will likely stay in service for years to come.

South Korean Daewoo K11


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.

British L85A2 or SA80L85A2

Dubbed the “Civil Servant” for its less than commendable tendencies, the original L85–also known as the SA80–belonged to a sweeping generation of bullpup assault rifles that transformed Western European small arms.

Unfortunately, Enfield’s attempt to create a peer for the Steyr AUG and FAMAS was fraught with problems. Its plastic parts broke often, its chamber jammed on 5.56mm rounds, and its weight was problematic. Come the British involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the L85 became a difficult piece of equipment to maintain.

While the L85 succeeded in replacing the FN FAL’s length, its shortcomings doomed it to exclusive use of the British Army. When the UK’s defense sector collapsed and coalesced under BAE Systems, the L85 was set for small improvements.

Even Heckler and Koch was contracted to save it. For now the L85 is the mainstay of British infantrymen. But are its days numbered?

US K&M M17S 556 bullpup


A new spin on a classic design, this 5.56mm bullpup manufactured and sold by K&M Arms is a civilian sporting rifle with genuine military origins.

The original M17S was licensed by Bushmaster from an Australian company that acquired the rights to a prototype rifle for the Australian Army during the 1980s. The M17S sold in the US domestic gun market was a minor success but it disappeared by 2002.

In 2014 the founder of K&M Arms revived the rifle to meet a growing demand for bullpups among American gun collectors. The new M17S is the sum of multiple parts and accessories, from a Magpul butt pad on the stock to an ergonomic trigger sourced from a partner company. This M17S is a reflection of the prevailing modular revolution and shares only a slight resemblance to its forebear.

The K&M M17S uses a short stroke piston firing system and is primarily made of milled aluminum parts with gas vents on either side of its barrel assembly. It features upper and lower Picatinny rails and is designed to accept AR-15 compatible modifications.

A law enforcement and military grade M17S is not yet available. A 7.62x51mm variant of the M17S is currently under development.

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.

US DRD Tactical M762M762

Powerful 7.62mm rifles for the AR-15 are bestsellers in the US domestic gun market. A fine example of the type is DRD Tactical‘s M762, a stripped-down and very robust model with ample space for tactical accessories.

The M762 uses an AR-type lower receiver with an expanded magazine well to fit a 20-round polymer box magazine. Maintaining the gas operated direct impingement system, the M762 preserves itself from fouling thanks to a freefloating handguard with air vents encasing its chrome lined barrel assembly.

A Picatinny rail runs along the top of the M762 and a retractable butt stock completes its minimalist qualities.

Returning to the front end of the rifle, a noticeable barrel nut secures the freefloating handguard and barrel assembly. This feature is part of DRD Tactical’s philosophy of accurate rifles that can be broken down for concealment, which is attractive for special forces operators.

US Desert Tech MDRMicro Dynamic Rifle

The MDR by Desert Tech is an ambidextrous gas operated bullpup assault rifle. It’s quite possibly the newest in the world and joins a growing number of similar small arms emerging from the US.

The MDR is available in two variants, the basic MDR chambered for 5.56 mm and the MDR-C, which is shortened to 21.6 inches for CQB with a handguard encasing the front of the trigger assembly.

Like the FN F2000 and the Kel-Tec RFB, the MDR uses a unique forward ejection firing mechanism so that empty shell casings don’t affect the operator’s aim.

Depending on the customer’s specifications, the MDR is convertible to fire three different calibers, including 6.8 mm and 7.62 mm.

Indian MCIWS 01

Multi Caliber Individual Weapon System

With decades of experience manufacturing various small arms, India’s state-owned factories have a rich heritage to draw on for R&D.

But results can sometimes be mixed, even perplexing–like the controversial INSAS. The MCIWS is a prototype of the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) that was unveiled in 2014. Judging by its appearance, the MCIWS combines features from several assault rifles and doesn’t forget its Picatinny rails.

The barrel assembly is the most striking with its strong resemblance to an AK-47’s but elongated like an FN FAL. This arrangement suggests the MCIWS is a gas operated short stroke piston design. The MCIWS uses an AR-type receiver and retractable butt stock.

According to the DRDO, the MCIWS can be chambered for 5.56 mm, 6.8 mm, and 7.62mm. Further accessorization with tactical gear is inherent and an optical fire control system is attached above the bolt for guiding air burst rounds from an under barrel grenade launcher.

The MCIWS is currently not in use.



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.

Polish Beryl 5.56 assault rifleMod. 96 Beryl

Not to be confused with the Russian AK-12, the Beryl manufactured by Fabry Kabroni is another successful attempt to improve a Kalashnikov rifle. Having developed the Tantal, a 5.45mm derivative of the AK-74, Poland took its Army’s existing assault rifle and retooled it according to NATO specs.

The Beryl entered service with the Polish Army in 1997 as a gas operated selective fire 5.56mm rifle with a side folding skeleton stock. It was recognizable for its elongated muzzle brake and its polymer furniture. Almost 20 years later and the Beryl has been caught in the accessorization frenzy among modern small arms.

It can now support Picatinny rails along its upper receiver, foregrips, and alternate folding stocks. A shortened CQB variant of the Beryl is also manufactured by Fabry Kabroni. Thanks to Poland’s growing reputation as an arms exporter, demand for the Beryl is rising in Eastern Europe and parts of the developing world.


MPAR 556

Unveiled in 2013 by Masterpiece Arms, the MPAR is a rare US assault rifle that doesn’t use the AR-15 as its basis.

As a matter of fact, the MPAR 556 was influenced by another creation of Eugene Stoner, the AR-18 with its gas operated short-stroke piston. Appearance-wise, however, every detail of the MPAR 556 appeals to a shooter with a sensitivity for AR-type rifles.

Chambered for 5.56m rounds and designed for accessorization, the MPAR features not just a side folding but a retractable stock as well. Its anodized aluminum receiver supports a unique left-handed charging handle and a freefloating detachable handguard lined with circular gas vents and Picatinny rail amounts. As a bonus, a curved foregrip allows for ergonomic handling.

Like the majority of assault rifles today, flip sights are mandatory. It’s unknown if the MPAR is being marketed for export, but it’s available to US civilians as a sporting rifle.


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.

Taiwanese Next Gen Assault Rifle

Multi-Utilization Rifle

The MUR is a rare and generally mysterious small arm that came to the Internet’s attention several years ago.

Originating from Taiwan, a country with an advanced arms manufacturing tradition, the MUR appears to be an indigenous attempt at replicating the well-known FN SCAR.

The MUR thus appears to be a hybrid, combining an AR-type lower receiver with a presumably gas operated short stroke piston design. A milled upper receiver supports an ambidextrous charging handle and Picatinny rails.

If the MUR is the Taiwanese FN SCAR, then it’s a modular weapon of aluminum and polymer, with a side folding retractable stock to boot. Switching it to a different caliber is optional too.

The MUR is believed to be in limited use by the Taiwanese Army.

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 of 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 bipod, and a drum magazine; a sniper rifle; and a shortened commando carbine.

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.


Norinco Type 81

The Type 81 assault rifle is a potent symbol of China’s modernization. Fielded in large numbers during the Deng Xiaoping-era, it marked the reemergence of the PLA from its late Maoist doldrums.

But the Type 81’s appearance betrayed its crude origins. Owing to the poor state of China’s local industry at the time, the original Type 81 was a hybrid of the AK-47 and the SKS that sought to overcome the limitations of either rifle. But when most third generation rifles were using plastic and aluminum, the Type 81 was made of carbonized steel and wood, or sometimes Bakelite.

The Type 81 was doomed to infamy, however, and exported in limited numbers once it was replaced by the bullpup QBZ-95. Bangladesh is the only other country to produce the Type 81 under license while ethnic armed groups in Myanmar have been photographed carrying the rifle.

China’s vast police force hasn’t given up on the Type 81. During a Beijing arms show in 2014 a new rifle was displayed by Norinco together with other “tactical” small arms.

It was a Type 81 chambered for the 7.62x51mm NATO round. To tickle the sensibilities of foreign buyers, it had an extensive Picatinny rail mounted on its stamped steel receiver, a side folding stock, and a new muzzle brake reminiscent of the AK-74. Even without customers, it looked impressive.

US LaRue Tactical PredatOBR


Like many American gun makers Larue Tactical is riding the wave of AR-type rifles and carbines. To establish itself in the US, the company is marketing its OBR family, a series of firearms available in either 7.62mm or 5.56mm.

The PredatOBR, for example, is another attempt to overcome the M16’s limitations. The lower receiver is fitted with an ergonomic pistol grip and a magazine well for a 20-round clip.

More importantly, the OBR alters the direct gas impingement system for an adjustable gas block designated as the Port Selector Technology. Unique to the OBR, however, is the free-float handguard, optimized with gas vents and Picatinny rails, for its barrel assembly and the RAT retractable butt stock.

US KelTec RDB bullpupRDB

Kel-Tec Industries‘ RDB is a fresh take on the “traditional” bullpup and. Debuting in 2015 the RDB is a 5.56mm firearm for law enforcement and military use.

Its most radical innovation is its ejector chute behind the magazine well. Instead of exiting from the chamber above the butt stock, the RDB manages to remain ambidextrous by discharging shell casings from underneath the rifle.

The RDB is also one of the more efficient selective fire bullpups in the market, having ample space for tactical gear and optics while that don’t encumber the rifle’s use.

US KelTec RFB bullpupRFB

The RFB is an ambidextrous 7.62mm bullpup assault rifle manufactured by Kel-Tec Industries, a US gun maker.

Kel-Tec Industries boasts that the RFB is the most effective 7.62mm bullpup yet. This is because of its forward ejecting system. This means that no matter the rate of fire, all shell casings are released above the barrel assembly, far from the shooter’s face and line of sight.

Introduced eight years ago, the RFB is a rare example of a viable bullpup model for the North American arms market. Its most distinctive feature is it uses 20-round FN FAL box magazines. The RFB is available as a sharpshooter and an even more compact short barrel variant.

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.

Swiss SIG Sauer MCX rifle


The newest Swiss assault rifle is a far cry from its proper European roots, being an AR-based creation that pushes the modular envelope.

If there’s elegance in simplicity, then the MCX’ appearance is its strongest selling point. Aside from a familiar lower receiver, the MCX uses a lightweight side folding skeleton stock and a free-floating foreguard perforated with gas vents.

The position and alignment of the MCX’ Picatinny rails and sights resembles the H&K 416 but it retains SIG Sauer’s gas operated short-stroke piston firing system. The MCX comes in three variants: an assault rifle, a carbine, and a machine pistol.

As a weapon geared toward operators and special forces, the MCX is easy to disassemble and is designed for whatever configuration its user needs. It can be chambered in Russian 7.62x39mm, NATO 5.56×45, and the powerful .300 BLK.

SIG 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 or M4, offering 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 20-round box magazine keeps the basic 716 at just over 10 pounds locked and loaded.

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

US Ruger SR762 via RugerSR 762

The latest assault rifle from American gun maker Ruger is another successful spin on Eugene Stoner’s AR. Debuting in 2014, the SR 762 is the heftier sibling of the SR 556, tandem variants chambered for different rounds.

The SR 762 is a 7.62mm assault rifle that uses modified lower and upper receivers. To rectify the faults of the original M16, the delayed gas impingement system is replaced by a two-stage gas piston installed above the barrel assembly. This feature prevents the build up of dirt in the chamber, which risks jamming the rifle.

The SR 762’s integrated hardcoat anodized upper receiver, which is also sold individually by Ruger, combines the housing for the chrome molybdenum barrel. Multiple gas vents and Picatinny rails complete the SR 762’s modular charms.

The SR 762 is sold with an ergonomic pistol grip, a 20-round Polymer magazine, and a retractable stock. A civilian sporting rifle is available in the US.

US Bulldog 762

SSR Bulldog 762

The SSR Bulldog from Short Rifles is the quirkiest bullpup to emerge in North America. Designed by Sgt. Rich Cabral, a Marine Corps veteran, the SSR Bulldog is a 7.62X51mm M14 reconfigured to match the length of modern carbines.

The resulting firearm is half the size of the original M14 and features a unique upper and lower heat shield encasing its 22-inch barrel assembly. Aside from gas vents, this peculiar housing is able to support top and bottom Picatinny rails for mounting optics and tactical accessories–like a foregrip.

The SSR Bulldog’s most innovative feature is the integration of the receiver and magazine well into the butt stock. This cuts down on its overall size but does require the shooter to brace for the Bulldog’s recoil, which is less than the M14’s by as much as 30%. For marksmen, follow-up shot time between rounds fired is shorter too.

Although not in use by the US Army or Marines, the SSR Bulldog is retailing to civilians for $1,299.

Indonesian Pindad SS2 V5SS2

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. The SS2 is now a family of small arms, a first in Southeast Asia, that includes several variants.

Swiss Steyr Aug A3Steyr 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.

Brazil Taurus FAT 556Taurus 556

The latest carbine from Taurus, a gun maker known for its dependable handguns, is an impressive outing that blends multiple features common among today’s military and law enforcement small arms. As a gas operated selective fire carbine of compact proportions, the Taurus 556 can be further shortened with its side-folding stock and an abbreviated barrel assembly.

Ergonomics have a clear influence on the Taurus 556 and the magazine well is designed to act as a foregrip for close quarters. It’s also possible for operators to attach a separate grip underneath the handguard covering the barrel assembly along with optics and illumination devices onto its rail mounts. As its name reveals, Taurus’ new carbine is chambered for NATO 5.56x45mm rounds via and is fed by AR-15 or M16 magazine.

The Taurus 556 is in direct competition another Brazilian carbine, the IMBEL IA2. It also vies in the same niche as the Beretta ARX-160, the BREN CZ 805, the IWI Galil ACE, the Pindad SS2, and the S&T Motiv K2C.

Japan Howa Type 89Type 89

Unique to Japan and never exported, the Howa Type 89 is the main battle rifle of the Self Defense Forces (SDF)–its name indicates the year it entered service.

The Type 89 may resemble the ubiquitous H&K G3 and the SIG 550 but is a fundamentally different rifle. When the Howa Machinery Company acquired the license to build the AR-18, a very late successor to the Colt AR-15, it used the American-designed rifle as the basis for a brand new model.

The resulting Type 89 is a gas operated selective fire STANAG assault rifle. The Type 89 is issued with an integrated bipod and an airborne variant features a side folding skeleton stock.

Images have already surfaced online of a carbine-ized Type 89 with a shortened barrel, flip sights, a retractable polymer stock, and a “spec ops” outdoor color scheme.
South African Vektor CR-21

Vektor CR21

Like half of the assault rifles on this list the viability of the CR21 is a question mark. First introduced by state-owned arms manufacturer Denel in 1997, a time when a new generation of small arms were emerging from the defunct Cold War’s shadow, the CR21 was South Africa’s attempt to find a replacement for their hardy license-made 7.62mm Galils, locally dubbed the R4. The CR21 combined an attractive wavy design with stark simplicity.

To its credit, the CR21 possessed all the features of every other bullpup assault rifle designed in Europe and elsewhere…and perhaps this is why it ultimately failed. Be it extensive polymer housing, ample space for an underbarrel grenade launcher, and a pistol grip doubling as a handguard, the CR21 stood side by side with the Steyr, the FAMAS, etc.

Internally, however, the CR21 operated a rotating bolt no different from its conventional forebear, the Galil/R4. With a barrel chambered for 5.56mm NATO rounds, the CR21 had the potential to entice international customers–but it didn’t.

No Vektor CR21’s are in use today.

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 gun maker HS 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 along 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.




SARG Global is a private venture in the US striving to reinvent modern assault rifle production and design. The XS14 is their latest prototype following the XS-2012.

The XS14 is the sum of current trends in small arms R&D. Its appearance is amorphous and features aspects common among rifles like the SCAR H, ARX-10, and the ACR. These include Picatinny rail mounts above the receiver; an AR-type trigger assembly and magazine well; a side-folding stock; and the option for interchangeable barrels.

The XS14 is being tailored to chamber four different rounds. By 2015 SARG Global promises to reveal another rile, the M2015.

What is atypical about it, however, is its delayed gas piston system. It’s a patented method combining the low recoil of a direct impingement action with the reliability of a gas piston that keeps the chamber clean from fouling.

To date SARG Global isn’t manufacturing or selling any of its products.

US XM8 rifleXM8

For years now, the US Army has sought to replace its beloved M16. But testing new rifles is akin to opening a can of worms.

The Heckler and Koch XM8 is the most notorious post-M16 candidate. An H&K G36 tweaked to appear more futuristic, the XM8 tested poorly in trials from 2003-2005. It has since been dropped and consigned to obsolescence.

The XM8’s shortcomings were numerous. Although STANAG compliant and crammed with useful features like an efficient gas operated rotary locking bolt firing mechanism, a transparent magazine, integrated red-dot and infrared optics, a convenient fire selector above its pistol grip, and lightweight, the XM8’s flaws were glaring too. Its polymer housing was inferior and the retractable stock left much to be desired.

Furthermore, its elongated carrying handle was superfluous at a time when customization was becoming the norm for modern assault rifles.

Like a ghost, the XM8 has all but vanished.




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.