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Iranian Special Forces Have Their Own Cool Rifle

December 12, 2019

Via Iranian media.

Each year two important dates allow outsiders to scrutinize Iran’s military strength through a wealth of local media coverage. These are Army Day in April and the Sacred Defense in September. The Sacred Defense anniversary, commemorating the long war with Iraq in the 1980s, is the bigger event and features a lavish military parade in Tehran followed by a week of curated exhibitions. A dazzling array of weapons and equipment are either demonstrated, displayed, or unveiled on Sacred Defense Week.

A welcome sight during Sacred Defense 2019 is the new small arm for the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) that looks like another AR-pattern rifle.

Since military parades are always led by infantry squares whole formations from the Artesh or regular army along with the Basij reservists and the IRGC participated this year. Among the IRGC were a special forces unit in battle dress and light green berets. (The IRGC logo is imprinted on their sashes.) Each of them carried what looked like an AR-pattern rifle with a 16-inch barrel and the distinctive triangular front sight. Each of the rifles had a camouflage finish for desert environments and the handguards encasing the rifle barrels had upper and lower rails for mounting optics and grips.

The M16 was never adopted by the Iranian military at any point prior to the 1979 revolution. The Artesh were issued almost the same kit as their counterparts in West Germany; the standard issue rifle was the H&K G3. The only US-made small arm that proliferated in Iran at the time were surplus M1 Garands that were issued to reservists during the long war against Iraq. According to Armament Research Services it was China and not the US who either sold M16’s then transferred M16 production to a state-owned factory for the IRGCs use. The rifles themselves weren’t copies of the M16 but a derivative known as the “CQ.”

The CQ was an odd choice for a alternative infantry small arm since the Artesh never replaced their G3 battle rifles and the IRGC kept enormous stocks of Kalashnikovs. By the mid-1990s the Defense Industries Organization (DIO)’s subsidiary the Armaments Industries Group (AIG) mass-producing an AKM copy it branded the “KL.” Since small arms manufacturing in Iran is quite broad, the need for a rifle in 5.56 x 45 mm could have been expedited by adopting the existing G3 to the HK33 variant, which is what Turkey’s MKEK did. But the DIO in the 2000s tried experimenting with a strange “Khaybar” bullpup rifle instead. Neither the “Khaybar” nor the “CQ” were issued in large numbers but Iranian AR-pattern rifles enjoyed a resurgence during the Syrian Civil War (2011-present).

The AIG’s “CQ” rifles are identified by their local name “Sayyed.” It seems Tehran’s unfailing commitment to Damascus fostered a minor evolution of the Sayyed rifle. The IRGC special forces photographed (see above) with Sayyed rifles at the Sacred Defense parade were carrying variants designed not just for a specific geography but are potential marksman’s weapons, hence their 16-inch barrels. When rebuilt as a markman’s rifle an M16A2/A4 can reach targets 600 meters away and the Sayyed may prove just as lethal. The IRGC’s Sayyeds other features are a fordable grip attached below the handguard and an adjustable/collapsible stock. Another Sayyed rifle unveiled in 2016 is dubbed the “Iranian HK416” for its short-stroke gas piston firing mechanism. It had front and back rear sights and a redesigned muzzle brake.

Since Iran’s state-owned factories also manufacture M203 underbarrel grenade launchers and their 40 mm ammunition; not to forget 7.62 x 51 mm ammunition in abundance; as well as optics for various small arms; it’s worth pondering how deep is the adoption of AR-pattern rifles and their variants among the IRGC in the coming years. Unhindered by its age, the AR-15’s design remains at the cutting edge of firearms innovation today. If the AIG made further improvements on its Sayyeds–a 7.62 x 51 mm battle rifle comes to mind–this is another unwanted advancement for the dreaded IRGC.

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