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The Caracal 817AR Is The First True Arab Battle Rifle

July 8, 2018

Via Caracal.

One of today’s newest infantry small arms is from the Middle East. A subsidiary of the Tawazun conglomerate, which is responsible for nurturing the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) military industries, has a catalog that spans a handgun, a submachinegun, and a modified variant of the popular M4 carbine. But Caracal’s latest product is an unmistakable battle rifle chambered for the powerful 7.62x51mm round.

Locally designed small arms are rare in the Arab world but during the 1950s Egypt was already making its own 7.62x39mm rifles. Both Egypt and Iraq also used to mass-produce copies of Soviet AKMs. For decades, Saudi Arabia and Sudan both had state-owned factories assembling licensed West German G3 rifles before switching to other models.

The UAE’s own CAR 817AR is best described as an AR-pattern small arm with common parts for the benefit of its end users. Its predecessor the CAR 816, for example, is a short-stroke gas piston carbine issued to the UAE’s soldiers who were previously equipped with M16’s and M4’s purchased from the US. The CAR 816 resembles the Heckler & Koch HK416 carbine albeit with some external differences–the former uses a triangular collapsible stock resembling the Magpul CTR.

The CAR 817AR is now in direct competition with the Heckler & Koch HK417. Via Heckler & Koch.

The CAR 816 shouldn’t be confused with the CAR 814, which is just a copy of the M4 carbine. Operators who need a primary weapon for close quarters battle can choose the CAR 816 with a 10.5 inch barrel and they will appreciate its ease of use and familiar maintenance routine. Caracal offers both its carbines for export and its subsidiary in the US sells its rifles to the civilian and military market.

The unannounced arrival of the CAR 817AR in 2017 looks like an attempt to meet anticipated global demand for battle rifles fed by 7.62mm NATO ammunition. The Turkish army was an early adopter with the locally designed MPT-76 replacing the prolific HK33’s used by its soldiers. The Indian army, on the other hand, is still looking for a supplier who can provide 72,400 battle rifles and 93,895 carbines. Caracal is reported to be among the five competitors vying for the sale and it even found an Indian manufacturer who can take care of licensed production.

The CAR 817AR isn’t a descendant of the original AR-10. The two rifles share little in common aside from having the same bullets. The CAR 817AR’s firing mechanism depends on a short-stroke gas piston attached to a milled gas block that secures it together with the barrel whose length varies from 12.5″, 14.5″, or 16″. The rifle is available in select fire or semi-automatic configuration and end users are allowed to choose either an all black finish or a desert tan finish.

The SIG716 Patrol. Coincidence? Via Sig Sauer.

When it comes to accessories, the CAR 817AR has a familiar collapsible stock resembling a Magpul CTR. Its 20 round polymer magazine also looks like it was sourced from Magpul. A length of rail extends from the upper receiver until the front sight resting on the gas block.  The milled aluminum handguard on the CAR 817AR uses the “quad rail” arrangement so operators have four locations to mount additional accessories like a detachable foregrip or a flashlight.

According to Miles Vining, a US Marine Corps veteran who runs Silah Report, there’s a discernible similarity between the CAR 817AR and another European battle rifle. Vining recognizes the CAR 817AR’s gas block and handguard, along with Magpul accessories, from the SIG716 Patrol of Sig Sauer. He does note the CAR 817AR’s pistol grip has the same pattern as Caracal’s signature 9mm handgun. But there’s little evidence of a previous joint venture between Caracal and Sig Sauer to collaborate on a new rifle, although Caracal does make Sig handguns under license.

To further entice buyers, Caracal have a Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR) based on the CAR 817AR in their catalog. The CAR 817AR remains untested in combat and faces lots of competition from gun makers everywhere except Russia. It does have a good chance of winning the Indian army’s battle rifle competition and opportunities in Africa, the rest of the Middle East, and maybe Central Asia are plentiful.

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