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March 2011

Searchlight Feature - 17th March 2011


We visited IDEX in Abu Dhabi last week and met plenty of interesting people and companies: a special mention to BAE Systems, Colt Defence, Glock, Sig Sauer, FN Herstal, H&K, Steyr and Schmeisser.

The author is an old fashioned guy so it’s hard for him to get past the 1911 pattern semi-auto pistol of which there were a plethora of manufacturers offering their interpretation on.

Moving onto more modern designs, Glock were there and we have to admit to having a soft spot for their products - the Glock 23, a compact model in .40 S&W, has been a personal favourite of mine since its inception. We had an interesting conversation with the Glock representatives for which we thank them, but although out of literature they were true to their world and couriered a pack to us. Thank you again.

FN had their P90 on display and the Five-Seven, their pistol that fires the same cartridge (i.e. the 5.7 x 28mm). This is a cool piece of kit, although we have yet to test it and form an opinion, it did look awesome alongside the other larger calibre products and their two pistols. The venerable High Power (GP35) was noticeable in it absence (although still being made in Belgium) as FN were focussing on their new products at IDEX. The FNS was particularly interesting and seems to fit the hand as well as a Glock does and the FNP series sidearms in conventional DA/SA configuration were also there.

H&K – well what can one say – kudos to them for the development work they do. They had several of the many versions of the USP there as well as a very interesting, and dare we say effective sub machine gun, the H&K MP7. Personally I prefer the old and more appropriate term machine pistol as the weapon can be handled as a “large” pistol. The round it fires is the 4.6 x 30mm, which stems from the work H&K did on caseless ammo in the 80’s, and according to reports is extremely effective.  This is because the bullet yaws on impact with soft tissue due to the centre of mass of the bullet being behind its geometric centre. This causes the back to come forward on impact such that the bullet tumbles through soft tissue, creating much increased levels of trauma. The original 5.56mm calibre M16 (the M193) was reported to do this during the Vietnam War.

Steyr – again what can we say. The AUG is, in my opinion, the assault rifle the British military should have adopted when they replaced the L1A1 (FN FAL) with the SA80 (for reasons we won’t go into here). The latest incarnation of this gem was on display, and what a truly awesome 5.56mm piece of NATO kit it is! However, this certainly didn’t belittle the latest SSG on display, arguably the best full bore bolt action target/sniper rifle in the world, or their latest pistol range: the M-A1, S-A1 & C-A1. As with many other “new” pistols these models feature a Glock inspired “safe action” trigger system. Steyr have also used their considerable knowledge of rifles, which extends to world-class competition, to produce their interpretation of a .50BMG bolt-action rifle. Speaking of which, this has to be my favourite rifle calibre – it does exactly what it says on the tin – and I was pleased to see several manufacturers had .50 cal rifles on display. I have yet to fire this awesome round, but will hopefully be testing one soon in the UK.

Colt – the owners of the original Eugene Stoner blueprints for the ArmaLite AR15 (M16) had their M4 there, which everyone now seems to be producing a version of by reverse engineering, according to the Colt reps. They are now bringing a 7.62 version into production, and the extra clever bit is you can convert your 5.56 weapon to 7.62 and back by simply swapping the upper receiver group and changing the magazine. As you may know, the original AR10 (from which the AR15 /M16 derived) was chambered for 7.62 NATO.

The name Schmeisser, of the legendary WWII MP38 and MP40 fame, is back and they are doing their interpretation of the M4 (as is everyone else). They claim to have made significant improvements in certain areas of this extremely successful assault rifle. We have yet to see whether or not the world recognises this, but their product is made in Germany and we are sure it is of exceptional quality. It’s great to see the Schmeisser name back in business – we wish you luck gentlemen.
Berretta were also there pushing their PX4 Storm sub compact pistol in 9x19mm, 9x21 IMI and .40 S&W. Unfortunately it was under glass and we didn’t get to handle it during IDEX, but I’m looking forward to giving it a test.

Noptel from Finland had a brilliant training aid that simply fits to any firearm. It uses optoelectronics and a reflector at the target to monitor aim, which is displayed on the screen of a PC or laptop. It’s so precise you can even see the effect heart beat and muscle tremors have on aim. They had it on an M4 at IDEX and with a replacement bolt & magazine it allows for simulated semi and full auto fire. It’s a great training aid and has been used by Olympians such as Juha Hirvi, as well as my long-time friend Jason Burrage – a Commonwealth Games Silver & Bronze medallist. It’s also fun to boot, which you could tell by the queue of visitors lining up to try it out. I could have happily spent a couple of hours playing with it, although Jason will be horrified that I consider such a precision piece of training kit ‘fun’!

Hellweg from Australia were there with their tactical gear. Ecor (also Australian) were there with a fine range of traditional quality leather belts, holsters and ammo pouches. Our long-time friend Craig Symonds from Tactical Training FZE had a stand at the show and he reported being busy all week with, amongst other things, a large order for boots from a GCC state during IDEX. His company is based out of Dubai and can supply all your requirements for tactical gear, outdoor products & equipment. Tactical-Trading is also a Rings Blue Gun distributor in the Middle East. Check out www.tactical-trading.com for more info on what they offer.

Turkey had a large pavilion at IDEX and three small arms manufacturers from the country were there...

GIRSAN have been in business since 1994. They have an extensive range of self-loading pistols inspired by Sig and Beretta (that you can even have gold plated and engraved from the factory) as well as of their own design. The calibres they offer are 9x19 Para, 9x21 IMI, .40 S&W and .45ACP, the latter being a personal favourite. They’re one of the companies that offer a version of the 1911 and can offer this with a Picatinny rail on the frame too.
Samsun Yurt Savunma A.S. was formed in 1997 and offers an extensive range of 9mm NATO self-loading pistols under the Canik 55 brand.  Their range includes full size and compact models with steel or alloy frames.

Sarsilmaz has been operating since 1880. As well as an extensive range of semi auto pistols (in calibres ranging from .25ACP (6.35x16 mm) to .45ACP) they also offer a .357 Magnum revolver and a range of shotguns including over & under, pump and semi auto models. The .25ACP model they offer appears to be a version of the classic Baby Browning.

I’m told there is a fourth Turkish manufacturer, although they weren’t at the show so I’ll need to research them separately. All of the Turkish products we handled seemed well made and everything operated as it should, so I look forward to hearing more of these companies.

There were several arms makers from Poland present but time constraints prevented us from visiting them all. We did manage to spend time on the Bumar stand and look at some of their products. Amongst their range they offer a version of the Walther P99. We were told the frame actually comes from Walther in Germany and they just make the slide, barrel, and other components themselves, then assemble in Poland. The quality of fit and finish seems every bit as good as the Walther original but we imagine it’s considerably less expensive!

A Polish company called Intermet was there and had a new take on barbed / razor wire security systems for ships. The system is called Protector Fleet and consists of modules 3m in width that can be attached to the ships side at points of low freeboard in areas of risk. When deployed they release a barbed tape that forms a curtain. They can be released and retracted remotely and when retracted are light enough to be handled by two crewmembers. If you are interested e-mail Carmania and we’ll put you in touch.

The huge defence company BAE Systems had a large pavilion outside, where amongst other things they were showing a movie extolling the capabilities of the Typhoon that was so well produced it could have been straight out of a Hollywood action movie! We also had an interesting chat about the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers and a couple of other vessel designs (including the Corvettes for the Oman Navy) they are involved in.

Well that will do for our review of IDEX. Apologies to any we’ve missed from this article. So summing up on the firearms side: plenty of firms have their interpretation of what a .50BMG sniper rifle should be; the 1911 design is alive and well and being made all over the world; the Glock safe action has really inspired handgun designers to rethink the conventional trigger system and the M16/M4 has definitely become the 5.56mm NATO rifle of choice.

Unfortunately we were only there for one day and couldn’t see (or talk to) everyone we wanted to. At the next show in two years time we will devote at least a day and a half if not two days to the event. To all involved an excellent, well put together and professional show: we salute you…