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Small Arms Production Is Flourishing In India

February 19, 2020

Via SSS Defence.

DEFEXPO 2020 surpassed expectations with the scale and variety of products exhibited at the show, which took place from February 5 until 8 in Lucknow, and cemented India’s status as a destination for high tech manufacturing. A modest but impressive display at DEFEXPO 2020 came from ammunition manufacturer SSS Defence whose selection of new firearms garnered a lot of visibility. The product line it revealed at the show included a selection of sniper rifles and a modular carbine chambered for 7.62x39mm, the same ammunition used for the AK-47 and its derivatives.

India’s military and police have long been familiar with Kalashnikov rifles since these are sometimes preferred over standard issue small arms in trouble spots like Kashmir. But for decades Bulgarian and other Eastern bloc Kalashnikovs were imported and now SSS Defence has gone the distance with a novel local product.

At first glance the carbine designated “P-72” resembles small arms manufactured in the Czech Republic and Serbia. Its external characteristics follow the ongoing trend where an adjustable stock and rail mounts are the essential parts of the weapon’s ergonomics. End users familiar with both Kalashnikov and NATO-pattern small arms will find the P-72 convenient for these reasons:

  1. The pistol grip and charging handle are ambidextrous.
  2. Plastic and steel 7.62x39mm magazines are easily fed into the magazine well.
  3. Laser dot sights and other optics can be added to the rails running from the back to the front of the carbine.
  4. Additional laser sights and accessories are attachable to the rails below and on either side of the barrel assembly.
  5. The stock is adjustable and side folding.
  6. The barrel length is available in 14-inch and 16-inch standards.

If SSS Defence intends to compete with the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), whose Ishapore site manufactures Kalashnikov-pattern rifles under a different name, its carbine may have few takers in the armed forces. The Indian Army is committed to adopting a new battle rifle ordered from Sig Sauer and the INSAS won’t disappear any time soon. There are, however, strong prospects among India’s police forces–whose numbers reach several hundred thousand–since they’re issued locally made firearms in bulk. For example, if the Central Reserve Police Force or CRPF, a law enforcement branch equipped for counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism, release a new tender requesting assault rifles chambered for 7-62x39mm a minimum quantity could total 30,000 pieces.

Large orders can also materialize from other institutions such as the Border Security Force and urban police departments. Forecasting its sales prospects brings the P-72’s estimated domestic market share to 400,000 carbines for government tenders. This might explain why SSS Defence are confident with a full catalog of small arms. Besides the carbine are two models of bolt action sniper rifles named the Saber and Viper also displayed at DEFEXPO 2020. To date, the outcome of the Indian Army’s request for 1,800 sniper rifles chambered for .338 is uncertain. With the domestic market as large as it is, SSS Defence enjoys a home court advantage if procurement guidelines lean toward Indian manufacturers, which is what the defense ministry prefers over what the military chooses.

Regardless of the success achieved by SSS Defence’ foray into small arms manufacturing the eventual participation by private sector firms in supplying the armed forces is a significant trend to watch. The mass-production of light weapons has thrived in South Asia (Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan) for the past three decades albeit controlled by state-owned factories. A broadening of this capacity now that the private sector is involved might result in output surpassing Europe and North America combined–a very serious likelihood.

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