The Gold Standard for Small Arms

SP’s Land Forces’ Vishal Thapar profiles some of the world’s most iconic military rifles, and also takes a peek into the Indian Army’s new Infantry weapons

Issue: 2 / 2019By Vishal ThaparPhoto(s): By US DoD,, Kalashnikov, PEO Soldier, Wikipedia, Colt, Victrix Armaments, Caracal, Sig Sauer, Kalashnikov, Barrett


Arguably the best assault rifle in the world, the Heckler and Koch 416 is famous as the weapon with which Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011. It looks similar to the American M4, but unlike the latter’s direct impingement system, uses a short-stroke gas piston action which keeps it cooler and requires less cleaning. It can fire around 900 NA TO 5.56 mm rounds per minute.

The HK416 is designated the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle for the US Marine Corps Infantry.

Design company & country of origin: Heckler and Koch - Germany

First used: 2004



One of the most reliable rifles in the world and the standard issue weapon for the British Army, Navy, and Air Force. A bullpup-configuration weapon with its magazine positioned behind the trigger, it makes the weapon compact and easier to wield in urban warfare. It fires a 5.56 mm round and can use the same magazine as the American M4. Later variants have been upgraded by Heckler and Koch.

Design company & country of origin: Royal Small Arms Factory - United Kingdom

First Used: 1985



The AK-74M replaced the legendary AK-47 as the standard issue rifle for the Russian land forces. The AK-74M uses the smaller and lighter 5.45 mm ammunition as compared to the 7.62 mm rounds used for the AK-47 in a 30-round magazine. This was used extensively against the US and Pakistan-propped mujahideen during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

This rifle has a side-folding stock and a 16.3-inch barrel in a total length of 37 inches. It has recently undergone Western-style modifications to incorporate a skeletonised stock, and rail accessory mounting system similar to that on the M4. The AK series of rifles are widely regarded as amongst the most reliable, easy to use, can withstand dust, grime, moisture, and can be fired even from under water.

Design company & country of origin: Kalashnikov - Soviet Union/Russia

First Used: 1974



The replacement for the venerable M16, a lighter and shorter variant, and hence called a carbine. It was accepted by the US Army in 1994, and used in many theatres. Originally developed by Colt for the UAE.

Like the M16A2, the M4 carbine fires the 5.56 mm round from a thirty-round magazine and has both semiautomatic and three-round-burst modes. Recently, the US Army decided to upgrade the gun to the M4A1 standard. It can be equipped with the M203 and M320 grenade launchers.

Original design company & country of origin: Colt - USA

First Used: 1994



Widely acknowledged as one of the world’s best sniper and anti-material rifles, this was specially designed for the British armed forces and the US Navy Seals. the AS50 has an effective kill range of 1.5 km, is light weight and can be assembled in less than 3 minutes. This .50 BMG rifle can fire 5 rounds in under 2 seconds and deliver explosive or incendiary ammunition with pinpoint accuracy.

Design company & country of origin: Accuracy International - United Kingdom

First Used: 2007



Whilst TrackingPoint does not produce its own firearm, it promises to usher in the era of ‘Smart Rifles’. The American company has developed the world’s first precision guided firearms (PGF) system to convert rifles into smart weapons.

This system calculates range, tracks a target, monitors wind direction and provides a firing solution to the user. It includes a head-up display (HUD) and provides an automatically adjusting aiming reticle. The system is under evaluation and testing by the US Army. It has reportedly been installed on the XM2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle in this context.

Design company & country of origin: TrackingPoint - USA

First Used: 2011



This legendary handgun dates back to the late 1940s, but continues to occupy an iconic space in the world of small arms. Designed by the legendary Uzial Gal, this very light and handy can fire six hundred 9mm rounds per minute with the intensity of a heavy machine gun. It has an effective range of 200m. It was one of the first weapons to use a telescoping bolt design allowing the magazine to be housed in a pistol-like grip.

First used by the Israeli special forces in 1954, the Uzi has been exported to over 90 countries, more than any other submachine gun ever. Post the 26/11 terrorist attacks from, it was also acquired for the Mumbai Police. It is used as a weapon both for assault and personal protection. Besides the AK-47, also the most preferred weapon for gangsters. This gun has very few moving parts and costs less than many assault weapons.

Designer and Country of Origin: Uzial Gal - Israel, Manufacturers: Israel Military Industries, FN Herstal and others

First Used: 1954


FAMAS Assault Rifle

One of the most distinctive rifles in the world, FAMAS or Fusil d’Assaut de la Manufacture d’Armes de SaintÉtienne Assault Rifle from the Saint-Étienne Weapon Factory), has a very high fire rate of 1,100 round per minute. Like the British SA80, this French weapon is a bullpupstyled assault rifle, popular as Le Clairon (The Bugle) in the French military, which has been using it since 1978. It fires the 5.56 mm NATO standard ammunition.

Radioactive tritium sights for night fighting set it apart from other assault rifles. It also has a built-in bipod.

A G2 variant was developed in the mid-1990s but the older F1 continued to be the primary Infantry weapon for the French forces. It is now being replaced by the HK 416 F rifle.

Design company and country of origin: Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne (MAS) - France

First Used: 1978


M16 ‘Space Rifle’

With 8 million units produced over the decades since the early 1960s, this American weapon is the most-produced 5.56 mm calibre rifle in the world. It was a way ahead of its time and came to be known as the ‘Space Rifle’.

The M16 - also known as the AR-16 - was Armalite’s futuristic response to a US requirement for a lightweight and chambered rifle for an intermediate charge. Armalite M16 solution replaced steel parts traditionally used in rifles by aluminum. Also, for the first time, it used fiberglass in place of wood.

It’s ergonomic design was part of new features which were never seen before in a rifle at that time.

It was inducted as a standard issue Infantry weapon in the US forces in 1964 and was used in the Vietnam War. A few years later, it was replaced by the M16A1. Over the decades that it was in service, the weapon went through numerous upgrades till its replacement by the M4.

Design company and country of origin: Armalite Inc - USA

First Used: 1964


New Small Arms Inventory of Indian Army


An interim replacement for the INSAS standard issue assault rifle, the SiG-716 is built for a harsh tactical environment. With this American weapon, the Indian Army will move back to the 7.62 mm rounds which will provide a higher kill probability.

Combining the reliability and ergonomics of the SiG 516 series with the more lethal 7.62 mm cartridge, the SiG 716 is built around an advanced short-stroke pushrod gas operating system, which reduces excessive heat and carbon fouling for better reliability and performance.

The SiG 716 and the Barret M95 will be the first American small arms to be used by the Indian military in decades.

Manufacturer & country of origin: Sig Sauer – USA



The Italian Beretta Scorpio uses the famed .338 Lapua Magnum calibre cartridge, which boasts of the longest confirmed sniper kill in combat at a range of 2,475 metres by the British sniper Corporal of Horse Craig Harrison in November 2009. Widely used in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. The Beretta .338 Lapua Magnum Scorpio has a 22-26 inch barrel, comes with a suppressor, and has a 5-round magazine. This is a bolt action rifle like the American Barret M95

Manufacturer & country of origin: Beretta – Italy



Touted as the most current version of the legendary AK-47 assault rifle, the AK-203 shall be the new standard issue rifle for the Indian Army. Over 7,50,000 of these rifles will be manufactured under licence at the Ordnance Factory, Korwa in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh. It will be lighter and shorter than the INSAS. It can fire up to 600 7.62 mm rounds in one minute – or 10 in a second – in both automatic and semi-automatic modes - with a very high reliability factor. It has a kill range of 400 metres, and its magazine can hold 30 bullets.

It can be equipped with an under-barrel grenade launcher or a bayonet, and all versions can be fitted with quick-detachable tactical sound suppressors. The legend of the Kalashnikovs is built around reliability – these rifles are never known to get jammed. These rifles are made for use in very rugged and extreme climatic conditions.

Manufacturer & country of origin: Kalashnikov – Russia



An interim replacement for the Indian Army’s vintage 9mm Sterling carbines, the CAR 816 is a centre-fire, gasoperated and rotating-bolt system chambered in NATO 5.56 x 45 configuration.

The weapon is also available as an assault rifle, comes in varying barrel lengths, and is the standard issue weapon for the UAE forces. The Close Quarter Carbine variant barrel length is 10.5 inches.

Manufacturer & country of origin: Caracal – UAE



One of the two replacements for the vintage Soviet-origin Druganovs, this bolt action American sniper rifle chambered in .50 BMG is an improved version of the earlier Barret M90. Proven in Iraq and Afghanistan, its innovative bullpup design minimises length without sacrificing ballistic performance or accuracy of the .50 BMG cartridge. Fed by a 5-round detachable box magazine.

The major difference between the M95 and its earlier avatar the M90 is that the pistol grip and trigger have been moved forward 1 inch for better magazine clearance. Also, the bolt handle has been redesigned and bent down and to the rear.

Used by militaries and law enforcement agencies in 15 countries.

Manufacturer & country of origin: Barret Firearms Company – USA