Croatia appeared on the world scene as an infantry weapon manufacturer when it introduced a very successful pistol HS2000 (Croatian Self-Fire 2000), made by the company “HS Produkt”. The success of this gun was established when it was purchased by several famous police forces in the United States under the name “XD Extreme”. A few years ago, this company presented its new product, an assault rifle VHS that has quite a unique technical solution.
Plans for the developme nt of the Croatian assault rifle were together set by the foundation of the
company and the deve lopment of the pistol, in the early nineties. Zastava M-70 and other Kalashnikov models were significantly present in the Croatian armed forces. The plan was to replace them with a new product. The first prototype of the new rifle resembled the AK-47 in an upgraded bullpup version, caliber 7,62.
The weapon got its name Alan APS 95, but it was soon dropped because of its high price as well as logistical problems. At that time, it used NATO cal. 5,56x45mm, which was quite a challenge to Croatia and considering existing stocks 7,62x39mm, at a very low price on the world gun market, there was no excuse from the economic point of view. APS95 mostly looks like Israeli Galil, but it had a different cover and adjusting butt. It’s equipped with an integrated optical pointer in the carrying foot, similar to Steyr Aug and German G36. In the mid-90s, it was tested with a similar product, a so-called delayed lock. Neither solution gave satisfactory results.
Finally, they developed something called assault rifle VHS. Prototypes were manufactured and intensive testing started. They wanted this project to set its roots deeply, of course, they needed the help of the Croatian army who would become users of this new arming process. Entering NATO meant caliber 5,56mm which immediately replaced the so-called eastern products. HS Produkt got to its proper target. VHS underwent several transformations during its development process, employing several existing weapons, such as Israeli Tavor, G36… At the end, they got a rifle which definitely resembled the French FAMAS.
An important document for the development of VHS was a cooperation contract signed between MORH and HS Produkt on April 13th, 2007. It didn’t take long before a new and intensive research began. It was officially presented on November 24th, same year, on the Karlovac shooting range: in front of a public, they tested 40 rifles in two versions: one with a short and one with a long barrel. Testing implied that the rifle was undergoing the most extreme weather conditions, high and low temperatures, water, sand, mechanical impact, frequent shootings. In all the above situations it proved as a very reliable weapon. It was meant to be very functional and to fit the soldier perfectly. VHS rifle passed severe examinations and it satisfied all the requested criteria of OSRH and NATO as well. The contract was signed and this weapon was introduced in the Croatian Army.
HS PRODUCT VHS 5,56×45 MM
Assault Rifle Type VHS is projected strictly for military and police use, against enemy live force and light armored vehicles. The design of VHS Rifle uses the Bullpup principle in which the action and magazine are located behind the trigger and alongside the shooter’s face, so there is no wasted space for the butt stock as in conventional designs. This permits a shorter firearm length for the same barrel length. The result is saving the weight of the weapon and increasing handiness for the soldier who becomes important in confined spaces, during transportation or combat in urban environments.
In comparison to other assault rifles the Assault Rifle Type, VHS is up to 25% shorter in length while at the same time its efficiency by muzzle velocity is 10% higher. Assault rifle VHS is manufactured in two sub-types: VHS-D1 which represents the longest version (765mm) and VHS-K1 which is the shortest version (675mm). Assault rifle VHS is a gas operated weapon that uses direct impingement gas system and hot powder gases are taken from the bore to gradually slow down the bolt opening. On the cap’s moving, gases get compressed and act as an ‘airbag’, slowly stopping the cap in a front position that, of course, goes back to a front position. This is an excellent solution that enables light jerk comparing to other assault rifles. Similar systems can be found on the machine gun Ultimax100 from Singapore, which Croatia had among its weapon range. This solution can give a contribution so as the VHS caliber 7,62×51 (.308) appears at a day light; because rifles of this caliber are more requested on the worlds market since .223 is ineffective in many situations.
ASSEMBLING, EVEN FOR THE MOST DEMANDING ONES
The grip is set under a convenient angle, in accordance to the barrel’s axis; the trigger cover can be easily reached even with gloves. In front of the trigger, on the upper side there’s a shooting regulator which is very innovative, it turns around a small axis and can be turned on “JAMMED” (front position of the wheel),”SINGLE FIRE’ (wheel on the right),”BURST FIRE” (wheel on the left).This is a somewhat unusual but interesting solution because the regulator can be easily used by lefties. VSH cartridge cases can be thrown out on both sides, i.e. it fits left handed users, and the opening for letting out casings is far on the rear part of the weapon: typical for bullpup design.
On the rifle’s body, a distinctive ‘bridge’ is being extended used for weapon carry, but functions as a carrier of the optical pointer made by Institute “Rudjer Boskovic” from Zagreb. This pointer is integrated into the upper handle that is the optical carrier. It has an optical magnifying power of 1,5x and so called red-dot technology. The rifle can also use two separate optical pointers, set in series, one with a magnifying power of 4x, and the other with the red dot of 1,5x magnifying ability. This rifle can also support attachment of eight Picatinny rails, which is far beyond necessary even for the most demanding ones.
There can be placed all sorts of battery flashes from optical up to laser ones, and all other kinds of pointers, accessory handles…The rifle itself can be disassembled in a very easy way, and as within many modern weapons, those assembly parts are held with many security ‘pin-ups’. Right below the pointer’s handle-carrier, there’s a pawl of the cap that is easily stretched up and down, and when the pawl is in the back position, it goes back. It is made in ambidextrous performance and the lever of the pawl can be twisted both ways. The head of the ammunition magazine has a practical solution, so that inserting a magazine runs smoothly and without any pinning so that construction itself enables simple insertion even in low light conditions.
It is interesting that this rifle uses NATO cartridge standard magazines of 20 to 30 rounds, manufactured in the black transparent polymer of high hardness. It enables permanent visual control of the cartridge resources, the same ones used for a rifle M16/M4 (STANAG standard). As an accessory part of the rifle, a hand grenade launcher calibre 40mm could be placed, which is being inserted in two moves below the front part of the rifle. The same launcher with a simple help of a handle and a telescopic butt can become an independent weapon. Grenade launcher pointer is placed with a help of Picatinny rails, at any side of the rifle, the same if the launcher works independently.
When it comes to equipment, we can mention feet, also made of polymer, attached to Picatinny rails. They can overleaf, depending on the shooter’s needs they can be made into two lengths – shorter and longer (when they overleaf). The butt is made for military intentions. The upper line of the facepiece completely follows the axis of the barrel, and in the inner part besides the moving parts, there’s a special mechanism for easing the weapon’s jerk at the moment of shooting. For close hand-to-hand combat, Assault Rifle Type VHS may be equipped by a multipurpose knife which, mounted on the rifle, becomes a bayonet and combined with knife case derivates into barbed wire scissors. Those are the bayonets manufactured by AREX Slovenia. The rifle itself is easy to handle. The first sensation for anyone shooting this weapon for the first time is that the trigger runs smoothly, and there’s almost no jerk at all. At 100 meters in a standard shooting target R-50, hits are being concentrated in an incredibly small set. During the fire bursts and shooting, in brief, bursts, the rifle is perfectly controlled and there’s no bounce as with the AK -47 and similar weapons from the past.
According to some required knowledge, there’s an interest in this rifle from Venezuela, Kuwait and the Philippines, however, it was allegedly lost at bidding in Albania from the German G36. Croatian assault rifle VHS was sold at the United States’ market, to some parts of the States’ Army. It could be seen in action in Iraq because several hundreds of pieces were sold, some time ago to the Iraqi army.
Portuguese Army new Assault Rifle: SCAR-L in 5,56x45mm
On the 20th February 2019, FN Herstal was awarded a major contract for thousands of assault rifles, by NATO’s Support & Procurement Agency (NSPA) on behalf of the Portuguese Army. The contract is for the 5.56x45mm caliber FN SCAR L assault rifles. Included in this contrat, FN will also supply other guns, namely the FN40GL grenade launchers, MINIMI 5.56 and 7.62 Mk3 light and medium machine guns respectively, and the designated Marksman Rifle SCAR-H in 7,62x51mm.
The NSPA, is the main logistics and procurement agency of NATO and is able to handle and support procurement for member nations. NSPA described the contract as a ‘major milestone’ for the agency. The contract was signed by FN’s sales director and NSPA General Manager.
NSPA made a short statement:
“NSPA awarded today a contract to Belgium-based FN Herstal, one of the world’s leading designers and manufacturers of small caliber weapons. This is for the Agency a major contract to produce FN SCAR® assault rifles and FN MINIMI® machine guns as new standard issue weapons for the Portuguese Army’s.
The contract includes the manufacture and supply of 5.56mm and 7.62mm NATO caliber FN SCAR® assault rifles, FN40GL grenade launchers, MINIMI® 5.56 and 7.62 Mk3 Tactical light machine guns, and all related accessories.
The Portuguese Army’s standard issue service rifle is currently a Portuguese license produced variant of the Heckler & Koch G3, while the MG3 and HK21 are used in the General Purpose and Light Machine Gun purpose. The exact size of this new contract and its worth have not yet been announced, but In 2017, when the program was released, the acquisition called for 11 000 assault rifles in 5.56x45mm. The value of this weapons package procurement would be €42.8 million ($50.3 million).
This is a major acquisition for the Portuguese Army as the old G3 Battle Rifles are outdated, even in its class, and are obvious not adequate for the assault role. This purchase does not only manage to replace the G3 Battle rifle with one of the best current assault rifles, if not the best, but it will allow that the Portuguese Army to change the fire dynamics of it´s small units, increasing firepower and combat capabilities and being able to have more Hit probability on the enemy.
QBZ-95-1: China’s Super Assault Rifle
The QBZ-95-1 is issued with a bayonet and, along with six WY-91 hand grenades, forms the firepower of the average PLA soldier. Each nine-man PLA squad has two fire teams, with one grenadier per fire team. The grenadier carries a QBZ-95-1 equipped with a 35-millimeter under barrel grenade launcher similar in concept to the long-serving U.S. Army M203 grenade launcher.
One of the most widely issued—but least known—infantry small arms is the QBZ-95-1 assault rifle. The QBZ-95-1 is the official rifle of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and its various sub-branches, including the People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps. Unorthodox in appearance, the bullpup QBZ-95-1 also fires an unusual 5.8-millimeter cartridge. The result is a unique weapon symbolic of China’s attempt to go its own way in the world of military small arms.
China was one of the largest land powers of the twentieth century—though not exactly the most powerful. The People’s Liberation Army, both before and after the end of the Chinese Civil War, was predominantly an infantry army with millions of trained ground troops. After the civil war, China’s “People’s War” military doctrine stressed defensive wars, in which invaders were lured deep into the Chinese interior and then destroyed by a combination of regular and guerrilla forces.
The 1991 Gulf War, in which a rapidly moving U.S.-led coalition swiftly destroyed a larger Iraqi Army (often equipped with Chinese weapons) was a seismic event in Chinese defense thinking. The People’s Liberation Army was thoroughly revamped, and part of that revamping was the introduction of a new generation of infantry small arms. Older weapons, including the Type 68 and Type 56 assault rifles were retired.
In their place arrived the new QBZ-95-1 series of assault rifles. The QBZ-95-1 is a uniquely Chinese rifle, with a futuristic look that was a clean break from older, Soviet-inspired weapons. The weapon is officially known as the QBZ-95-1 5.8-millimeter assault rifle, with the initials standing for “Light Infantry Weapon, Infantry, Automatic.” The basic ammunition load for PLA troops is 300 rounds, carried in ten 30-round magazines.
The QBZ-95-1 is a bullpup weapon, meaning the action and magazine are all located behind the trigger group. This creates a more compact weapon: although the rifle is just under 30 inches long, it has a barrel with a length of 20 inches, as long as that on a M16A4 assault rifle. That’s 5.5 inches longer than that on the M4A1 carbine and should be good for a slight range increase over the American infantry carbine.
The QBZ-95-1 uses a short stroke, gas piston design, the same as used in rifles such as the M1 Garand and AK-47. In that respect, China’s infantry rifle still maintains its Soviet heritage. Its rate of fire is 650 rounds a minute. The weapon uses iron sights integrated into a carry handle running along the upper portion of the receiver. Although some rifles have been observed with optical sights installed on the carry handle, the already high height over bore of the mounting site makes add-on optic integration less than ideal.
Unlike U.S., NATO, and Russian assault rifles that use 5.56 or 5.45-millimeter cartridges, the Chinese weapon uses a locally designed 5.8×42 round. Exactly why China chose to develop an entirely new round is unknown, although it could be for security reasons. The 5.8-millimeter round offers improved ballistics performance over the U.S. Army’s 5.56-millimeter M855 round when that round is fired from the M4A1 carbine. This may be a function of the slightly larger round, pushed by slightly more propellant out of a longer (20” vs. 14.5”) barrel.
The QBZ-95-1 is issued with a bayonet and, along with six WY-91 hand grenades, forms the firepower of the average PLA soldier. Each nine man PLA squad has two fire teams, with one grenadier per fire team. The grenadier carries a QBZ-95-1 equipped with a 35-millimeter underbarrel grenade launcher similar in concept to the long-serving U.S. Army M203 grenade launcher. The grenadier also carries an additional fifteen rifle grenades. A heavier QBB-95 light support weapon features a bipod and 75-round magazines for laying down suppressive fire.
Despite the increasingly mechanized nature of the People’s Liberation Army, China’s infantry arm is still, as it is in other armies, the “Queen of Battle.” The QBZ-95-1 is a powerful and reliable, although slightly dated, weapon that was emblematic of the military revolution that began in China in the early 1990s and continues to this day.
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