Putting behind the recent controversy over the “barrel bulge” experienced by the Border Security Force while using Beretta’s MX-4 Storm sub-machineguns, the defence ministry has included the company among a total of four contenders – other three being IWI, Sig and Colt – for choosing 45,000 ARX-160 assault rifles for the jawans of the Indian Army.
Udai Singh, Beretta – India country manager, said the ARX-160 A1 and A2 assault rifles are developed to be the most effective weapons on the battlefield.The rifles are designed to accept multi-calibre cartridges: a magazine of 45 cartridges of 5.56mm (NATO standard) as well as 39 cartridges of 7.62 mm in a magazine (in use among the jawans as with the INSAS rifles).
The rifle’s barrel can also be changed from 16-inch to a 12-inch one, depending on the nature of combat planned, besides the weapon can also double as a sniper rifle in urban combat scenarios.
Both versions of the AEX-160, manufactured in Brescia in Italy, are already in use in at least 10 member countries of NATO, he said.
A unique feature of both versions of the assault rifle is that they are ambidextrous – which means safety catches and other features including the empty cartridge ejection chamber is provided on both sides of the rifle. This provides an added benefit that the soldier can choose which side the empties can eject from just before resorting to “corner fire” (firing at a target on the sides without turning the body).
Sources in Beretta informed DNA that the defence ministry is also in talks with the company to procure a specialised sniper rifle from the stables of Sako, a Beretta subsidiary company, “…but the talks are still in the initial stages,” the source said.
A company spokesperson separately told DNA that Beretta was looking forward to a new beginning with the Indian defence ministry after the “barrel bulge” controversy was amicably resolved after all the 80 MX-4 Storm sub-machine guns, suspected to have the defect, were completely replaced with new ones. The 80 MX-4 weapons were a part of a total of 38,000 delivered to the Border Security Force in May 2012.
“The problem that we refer to as ‘barrel bulge’ occurs commonly due to defects in the ammunition, not in the weapons,” explained the spokesperson. “Especially in an automatic rifle, which has micro grooves inside the barrel, a small defect in the cartridge can lead to the bullet getting stuck within. But as it is a machine gun, the following bullet rams into the stuck one at high velocity and displaces it. But this causes the barrel to bulge a little.”