Infantry: November 30, 1999


Heckler & Koch is exporting a hunting rifle version of its HK50 military rifle (used in the German Army as the G36) known as the SL8-1. Chambered for 5.56mm ammunition, the barrel twist (1 in 7 inches) is unusual and will not work well with all types of that caliber. The rifle is 980mm (38.58 inches) long, and weighs 3.9kg (8.6 pounds) with an empty magazine. The barrel is 200mm (20.8 inches) long. The stock can be adjusted in length, and a cheek-pad can be adjusted in height, to fit the individual shooter. The weapon is gas operated, but unlike the M-16, it is a steel rod not a burst of gas that travels back to the bolt carrier. This keeps the fouling out of the receiver area (a major fault of the M-16) and limits it to the gas piston itself. Designed to avoid all of the "assault rifle" definitions, there is no flash suppressor (a bad thing since 5.56mm ammunition has a horrendous flash) or bayonet lug. The stock uses a "thumb hole" instead of a pistol grip; the effect is the same, indicating a flaw in the assault weapons ban language. The magazine well can only accept the specific magazine for the SL8-1, and this magazine is limited to 10 rounds. The SL8-1 comes with iron sights or an optional 1.5-power optical site. This site has a built-in rangefinder, which works by measuring the height of the target against a scale built into the scope. The shooter lines up the top of the target on one line, then reads the range in hundreds of meters by seeing where the target's feet line up. The sight assumes that the target is 5-feet, 6-inches high. Once the shooter knows the range, he can adjust the point of aim by using marks below the center of the aiming circle. For example, for a target 400m away, the shooter centers the target not at the center of the aiming circle but at the point the centerline crosses the circle's lower edge.--Stephen V Cole

November 30; Robinson Armaments is offering its new M96 Expeditionary Rifle on the sporting market. Bearing a startling resemblance to the Stoner-63, it avoids the legal definition as an assault rifle by having no selector switch, bayonet lug, or flash suppressor. There is a muzzle brake which does reduce the flash. Chambered for 5.56x45mm ammunition, the barrel's 1 twist in 9 inches can accommodate the original .223 Remington and the newer SS109 rounds. The receiver is stainless steel with parts TIG welded to it; there are no pins or rivets. All of the rifle's steel elements have been treated with a special black finish that is actually part of the steel, not just a coating. The M96 weighs 8.4 pounds empty; with that much weight, recoil is not a factor. The barrel, including the muzzle brake, is 21.25 inches long; the weapon is 40 inches long overall. Retail price is $1599. The M96 is gas operated and fires from a closed bolt. [After firing, the bolt is forward on a new round. This means that when the trigger is pulled, the bolt does not move (only the firing pin) until the round has almost left the barrel. Submachineguns usually stop firing with the bolt locked back to allow air to cool the chamber. While this is needed due to the heat from automatic fire, it means that the bolt flies forward when the trigger is pulled, slightly spoiling the aim.] The bolt is locked to the barrel by six lugs which rotate into recesses in the breach block. This has caused problems in the Stoner-63 and the M-16, in that the two lugs which take most of the stress can break off. Robinson conducted a detailed analysis of this bolt and redesigned it to reduce this problem. The recoil spring is wrapped around the gas piston and rod, a feature that has been criticized in automatic weapons because heat from the barrel tends to ruin the spring. As the M96 is semi-auto, and the spring is of a special steel, this problem doesn't really come up for the M96. The cocking handle is on the left side, as it is with most H&K weapons and some others, on the theory that a shooter would rather keep the weapon against his shoulder and on target with the right hand (on the pistol grip) while the supporting left hand can be briefly moved to cock the weapon. This is a debatable feature, in that it is more natural for the right hand to do the cocking, but many advanced shooters swear by left cocking, as this allows them to fire the weapon more quickly after it is cocked. The magazine well can accept M-16 series magazines, giving the shooter access to high-capacity magazines available at gun shows (since new ones cannot be offered). The shooter is warned, however, that the cheaper M-16 type magazines found on the market are often those made for and rejected by the government and are not totally reliable. The more expensive Colt magazines are less likely to jam. The M96 incorporates the modular concepts of the original Stoner. The barrel can be replaced in the field by a shorter 16.5-inch carbine barrel, and the receiver can (with some extra parts) be rotated to mount the magazines on top. --Stephen V Cole




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