By Gordon Arthur
Formed on 1 November 1992, Dasan Machineries is an important small arms manufacturer in South Korea. It tends to focus on export markets, whilst competitor SNT Motiv concentrates on serving the Republic of Korea (ROK) Armed Forces. However, there is a lot of crossover, since Dasan has regularly subcontracted to SNT Motiv for domestic contracts, plus it is offering complete weapons to the country’s military.
At the Seoul ADEX 2023 exhibition, held from 17-22 October, Dasan Machineries’ focus was on promoting the DSAR-15 family of weapons, these being an evolution of the ubiquitous AR-15 series. Prominent was the base DSAR-15P assault rifle. Kang W. Lee, Dasan’s Sales Division Executive Director, said the DSAR-15 has been continuously improved since it entered the international market in 2016. He also said the weapon had been sold to many countries – more on that later.
At Seoul ADEX 2023, a DSAR-15P with 14.5-inch barrel was on display. This rifle with gas-operated piston (note that the “P” designation in its name stands for piston) and rotating bolt, and it has a length of 33in (840mm) and weight of 6.8lb (3.1kg). It features an ambidextrous charging handle and collapsible butt stock with six positions. Its effective range is listed as 547y (500m).
Significantly, the DSAR-15PC 5.56 x 45mm rifle was selected in June 2020 to meet a requirement for 16,300 new carbines for South Korea’s Special Warfare Command. After a subsequent development and evaluation period, these weapons would have begun to replace the incumbent K1A carbine. The DSAR-15PC with 11.5-inch barrel had won out over the competing SNT Motiv STC16 for this program.
However, this Special Operations Submachine gun Type I program was suspended after an investigation revealed that Dasan had gained unauthorized access to government documentation about the type of weapons being sought. The president of Dasan and a former army officer were later charged. The country’s Defense Acquisition and Program Administration (DAPA) subsequently halted this procurement effort in June 2021, though it was recently relaunched.
The delay has likely put competitor SNT Motiv in a better position, as in the interim it has won the Special Operations Submachinegun Type II program with its STC16 5.56mm carbine. When the Type I program was launched, SNT Motiv’s weapon was only in prototype form, whereas now it is fully developed. One source told Small Arms Defense Journal that some of these shenanigans may be politically motivated.
Also on show at Seoul ADEX was the DSAR-15PQ 5.56mm rifle, with the “Q” in its nomenclature denoting a quick-release barrel. In advertisements at the show, this DSAR-15PQ was also referred to as the NGAR, standing for Next-Generation Assault Rifle. Unveiled just last year, the DSAR-15PQ is available with 7.5-inch, 10.5-inch, 11.5-inch, 14.5-inch or 16-inch barrels. According to Dasan literature, the version with an 11.5-inch barrel weighs 6.6lb (3kg), is 28.9in (733.5mm) long and has an effective range of 437y (400m). Its rate of fire is listed as 750-850 rounds per minute. A silencer has been developed for it too. Kang said the DSAR-15PQ has already been tested by the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA).
Also newly exhibited was the DSAR-762, a 7.62 x 51mm rifle with a 16-inch barrel, after its development was completed last year. It has an effective range of 875y (800m). It uses a gas piston and can fire on fully automatic, but its recoil is more like that of a 5.56mm weapon, Kang noted. The DSAR-762 weighs 8.8lb (4kg) and measures 35.5in (902mm) long, plus it is available with a longer 20-inch barrel.
Also available is the DSSR-762 semiautomatic designated marksman rifle chambered in 7.62 x 51mm. This gas piston-operated weapon has a muzzle brake, adjustable bipod and 20-inch hammer-forged barrel to create an 875y (800m) range. Its overall length is 40.7in (1.035m), it weighs 9.6lb (4.3kg) and 5-, 10- or 20-round magazines are available.
Elsewhere, the DSAR-47 7.62 x 39mm rifle with 14.5-inch or 16-inch barrel is targeted at countries that use AK-47 weapons and ammunition. Nonetheless, it is still based on the AR-15/M4, so it features interchangeable parts. Dasan completed the DSAR-47 last year and it is now in the testing phase. The version with a 16-inch barrel weighs 7.5lb (3.4kg), and it offers a 383y (350m) range.
Dasan has won sizeable contracts overseas, plus it has a factory in the U.S. known as Alpha Foxtrot. The facility is located in Duluth, Georgia.
One of Dasan’s most recent successes was a deal from the Philippine National Police for 5,755 DSAR-15 rifles with 14.5-inch barrels and a full rail interface system. The rifles will be distributed by United Defense Manufacturing Corporation in the Philippines, in what SADJ understands is Dasan’s first major deal with Manila. The national police force showed off its first batch of DSAR-15s on 2 October. Another known Asian customer of Dasan rifles is the Indonesian Coast Guard.
Dasan also exhibited 5.56mm and 7.62mm versions of its belt-fed XR-17 machine gun, which use a long-stroke gas piston operating system. First shown at DX Korea last year, the latter medium machine gun weighs 13.9lb (6.3kg) and is 45.3 (1.15m) long. With a rate of fire of 550-650 rounds per minute, it has a maximum effective range of 875y (800m). As for the XR-17 light machine gun, it is 39.4in (1m) long and has an 18-inch barrel. The “X” in the designation shows that the XR-17 is still in development. It will compete directly against the K15 5.56mm light machine gun and K16 7.62mm medium machine gun from SNT Motiv.
Unfortunately, Dasan has attracted some criticism over the quality of its weapons, both domestically and internationally. A prime example was a sale to Finland with rifles patterned after the AK, following a public tender. These were for the Maanpuolustuskoulutusyhdistys (MPK, which translates as the National Defense Training Association of Finland), which is responsible for providing military training to Finnish citizens. The MPK wanted a rifle that would mimic in-service RK 62 and RK 95 7.62mm rifles, and Dasan was selected to supply DAK47 weapons in 2020. They had several features such an adjustable folding buttstock, polymer pistol grip and aperture rear sight to replicate Finnish weapons.
However, there was a mixed reception to Dasan’s AK clone, with charges of flimsiness and production quality issues. A translated article on MPK’s official website dated 4 May 2022 stated: “In 2020, the rifles acquired from South Korea have not met expectations. Within a short period of time, there have been four malfunctions leading to breakage of the MPK rifle frame, which is why the weapons are prohibited from use. However, according to MPK, no personal injuries have occurred.”
The MPK pulled these weapons from service in the volunteer training force. Then, in January 2023, the MPK announced that Dasan would recall the rifles and provide an AR-15-based variant instead. Simultaneously, the MPK will obtain new AR-15-based 5.56mm rifles from Sako.
Another South Korean firm to exhibit at Seoul ADEX 2023 was K-Tech Firearms, which was only established in 2018. In 2020, DAPA licensed K-Tech to produce firearms, and in March this year it signed a contract with Caracal to promote its weapons in the South Korean market. At the Seoul exhibition, K-Tech had on display KCAR 816 and KCAR 817 rifles, which were clearly Caracal offerings.
Competitors for the aforementioned and resurrected Special Operations Submachinegun Type I program are almost certainly set to include SNT Motiv, Dasan Machineries, and K-Tech.