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The UAE Takes Care Of Its National Gun Maker

October 4, 2022
The CAR 817-DMR. Via EDGE Group/Caracal.

The greater Middle East is now a hotbed of small arms production in ways that can and can’t be measured. One result of this phenomenon is the usual centralized and state-owned military-industrial sectors among individual countries become reliable markers for how far and how much this very process is evolving. At the recent ADIHEX 2022 in Abu Dhabi, an industry event devoted to outdoor lifestyles, the Emirates’ very own Caracal enjoyed a spacious pavilion all on its own. The company, which is under the EDGE Group’s management, displayed the requisite sporting and hunting firearms but also included its military catalog.

Caracal is almost 20 years old and enjoys a strong public profile thanks to EDGE Group’s marketing strategy. At this stage its military products boasts AR-pattern rifles in 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm. The latter is known as the CAR 817AR and has the distinction of a battle rifle assembled in an Arab country decades after Nasser-era Egypt forged ahead with its short-lived Hakim rifles. (The Egyptian armed forces have stuck to licensed AKM’s ever since.) The CAR 817AR is complemented by the CAR 817-DMR, obviously a designated marksman rifle that gives the operator a choice of either 16-inch or 18-inch barrels, with its own signatur epistol grip and adjustable stock. (Pictured above is a CAR 187-DMR at ADIHEX 2022.) Although Caracal has found opportunities to close big contracts outside the Emirates–its subsidiary Caracal USA serves the North American market with signature handguns and AR-pattern carbines–its reach so far is limited and regional competition is difficult.

Just across the sea Iran’s state-owned small arms plant is ramping up production to unexpected levels. Just like Caracal’s AR-pattern CAR 816 and CAR 817 for intermediate and heavy calibers the Iranian “Masaf” rifles embrace the AR-10/15 as the basis for a fresh redesign on a proven small arm. The Masafs are available in NATO 5.56x45mm and the heavier 7.62x51mm ammunition. A precision variant of the Masaf naturally exists with the usual features like a heavier barrel supported by a folding bipod and an adjustable ergonomic stock. Returning to the Emirates, Caracal’s selection of contemporary small arms mirrors those found in Iran, a reflection on broader trends in gun making worldwide. The same parallels are found in Türkiye where the state-owned MKE and its local competition offer identical firearms. As with the CAR 816 and the Masaf in 5.56x45mm their Turkish equivalent is the MPT-55K also in 5.56x45mm.

For the 7.62x51mm caliber the CAR 817AR is up against the Masaf in 7.62 and the MKE MPT-76. All three battle rifles share the same characteristics but have slightly different appearances from each other. All three have designated marksman variants too and in MKE’s case it’s called the KNT-76 and comes with interchangeable barrels and modular furniture. Unlike the Turkish MPT-76 and its updated variant the MPT-76MH that are now issued to the Turkish armed forces and law enforcement and is being shared with allies. By comparison, Caracal’s rifles haven’t supplanted the M4/M16’s used by the Emirates’ own military. Neither has Iran’s regular army, along with the other branches, set aside their aging G3 rifles for the Masaf. It will be interesting to see how far Caracal’s production grows in the next few years as its catalog is now diverse and mature. Larger calibers are surely to be expected and the arrival of an Emirati light machine gun can’t be ruled out.

Below is a convenient tabulation of Middle Eastern small arms and their manufacturers organized according to their caliber and type.

MOMP (Egypt)DIO (Iran)IWI (Israel)JAWS (Jordan)MKE (Türkiye)Caracal (UAE)
SMG – 9x19mm-/-K7
Uzi Pro-/-MP5
MOT 919
RIFLE – 5.56x45mm-/-MasafCarmel
JAR-556MPT-55KCAR 814
CAR 816
RIFLE – 7.62x39mmMaadi/AKMKL/Type 56S
Galil Ace-/--/--/-
RIFLE – 7.62x51mm-/-G3
Galil Ace-/-MPT-76
SNIPER RIFLE (s/a)* – 7.62x51mm-/-MasafAce Sniper-/-KNT-76CAR 817-DMR
SNIPER RIFLE (s/a) – 7.62x54mm-/-SVD-/--/--/--/-
SNIPER RIFLE (b/a)** – 7.62x51mm-/-M40-/--/-JMK Bora-12
SNIPER RIFLE – .338-/--/-DAN 338-/-KN-12CSR 338
CSA 338
SNIPER RIFLE – .308-/--/--/--/--/-CSR 308
ANTI-MATERIAL – .50-/-Sayyad-/--/-MAM-15CSR 50
ANTI-MATERIAL – 12.7mm-/-OSV-96-/--/--/--/-
LIGHT MACHINE GUN – 5.56x45mm-/--/-Negev-/-SAWSAW
LMG – 7.62x51mmHelwan/FN MAGMG3Negev-/-MMT
LMG – 7.62x54mm-/-PKM-/--/--/--/-
MULTI-SHOT GLMilkor MGLMilkor MGL-/--/-Milkor MGL-/-
AUTO-GL- 30mm-/-AGS-17-/--/--/--/-
AUTO-GL – 40mmMk 19Mk 19-/--/-Mk 19-/-
* semi-automatic
** bolt action

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