New Guns for The French Army
Companies Vie for Semi-Auto Pistol and Sniper Rifle Contracts
By Jean Huon
Via a message dated January 6, 2020, the French Ministry of Defence announced the choice for the replacement of the Model 1950 pistol and the FR F2 sniper rifle. Other pieces of combat equipment will also be replaced: battle dress, helmets (25,000) and body armour (96,800).
THE SEMI-AUTOMATIC PISTOL
Designated “PANG” (Pistolet Automatique de Nouvelle Génération or New Generation Automatic Pistol), the program started with a call for tenders on March 19, 2019. The DGA (Armament Head Office) sought to purchase 74,596 pistols, some of them with accessories (night shooting devices, silencers) and 51 million 9mm cartridges. Training devices, holsters, carrying cases and cleaning kits will be joined to the procurement.
The need was 80% for the Army, 12% for the Air Force and 8% for the Navy. The registration of weapons candidates was closed on April 12, 2019, and the winner is to deliver the order in less than 48 months.
The weapons were to be furnished with repair kits, spare parts, training material and technical manuals. The winner was to be the manufacturer proposing the lowest price, after the pistols passed the tests and met the technical features.
Professional references were needed for all candidates, which also had to show a turnover of more than 50 million euros continuously over the last 3 years. They also had to be settled in the European community (except for any electronic night sights).
This excluded any French manufacturer. Years ago, French politicians voted to close the state-owned arsenals and additional anti-gun laws had the same results on private factories.
Tests of the new pistols were completed between April and December 2019 with models presented by CZ, GLOCK and HS Produkt. Other companies such as Beretta, FN Herstal, Heckler & Koch (HK), Steyr and SIG SAUER did not compete.
The technical features requested were very strict: 17-round magazine, or more; technical commitment for a long-lasting service; short period of delivery, with penalties if overtaken; ambidextrous bolt stop; and a low price, for example.
Finally, a competition took place between CZ with its P-10 C, HS Produkt with its SF19 and the GLOCK 17 Gen5, the latter being selected for adoption. This result was contested by the dealer of the Croatian pistol, HS Produkt, who didn’t agree with the results of a magazine speed loading test by a female soldier. A plea before the administrative court was rejected.
The GLOCK pistol will be made in Austria at the GLOCK factory in Deutsch-Wagram, 10 miles Northeast of Vienna. Created by Gaston Glock in 1973, the factory produced combat knives and shovels made of steel and plastic. He entered the family of handgun makers in 1980 by creating with Wilhelm Bubits a powerful pistol, the conception of which was revolutionary.
Adopted by the Austrian Army in 1982, the pistol has many variations in various calibres and a worldwide distribution. More than five million were made, and a factory was built in the United States in Smyrna, Georgia.
In France, some GLOCK pistols were already used by several units, such as police, Gendarmerie, Air Force security and Special Forces.
The GLOCK 17 Gen5 has a polymer frame with metal inserted parts. The trigger guard is square with a serrated front. The grip is grainy on its front and sides; its back can receive interchangeable back straps to accommodate users’ hand sizes. In front of the trigger guard, a rail can mount various light or sight designators.
The barrel is completely housed in the slide. The recoil spring is made of flat coils with a plastic guide. The slide has a square shape, with an ejection port at the top right and serrations at the rear and the front. A safety is integrated on the trigger. It has an ambidextrous bolt stop, located on both sides at the top of the grip. The rear sights are “U”-shaped, and the front sight is square. The polymer magazine with a thin metal insertion is located in the grip. The magazine lock is on each side, near the lower part of trigger. The magazine well is flared. The pistol works by short-barrel recoil. The barrel is cylindrical with a cubic rear part which locks into the ejection port. The firing pin is cocked before bolt closing.
The price of the entire sale (gun, ammunition and accessories) is 44 million euros. GLOCK will furnish the pistol and the night sighting devices; ammunition will be made by Sellier & Bellot in the Czech Republic to include:
- 45 million ball cartridges 9mm NATO;
- 4 million training cartridges; and
- 2 million subsonic loads.
Also to be furnished are:
- Blackhawk T-Series L3D holsters, magazine pouches and accessories;
- 25,000 special carrying cases;
- 15,000 night-sighting devices;
- 9,000 sound suppressors furnished by B&T in Switzerland;
- 7,000 UTM training kits;
- 800 laser devices for sighting adjustment; and
- Repair parts and maintenance tools.
THE SEMI-AUTOMATIC SNIPER RIFLE
The replacement of the French forces’ sniper rifle followed the same procedure, with a call for tenders opened on August 16, 2019, and registration of weapons candidates closed on October 5, 2019. There was a short delay, and the candidates had to present proposals to meet the following requirements:
- 2,620 semi-automatic 7.62mm NATO rifles and accessories;
- 1,800 night-vision scopes;
- 1,000 infrared devices; and
- 15 million 7.62mm NATO ball cartridges and the same amount of armour-piercing rounds.
Conditions for candidates were the same as for the pistol competition for location of subscribers and for turnover. But some manufacturers did not compete. For example:
- PGM could not, due to its low turnover, and it had no semi-automatic rifle to propose;
- Heckler & Koch was the favourite with the HK 417 but rejected the proposal—the offer being too fastidious for a small quantity of rifles and the expected price being only 20% of the global market; and
- Beretta did not present the ARX200 because it did not have enough time to find partners.
Subscribers were the following grouping companies:
- Safran Electronics, FN Herstal with Schmidt & Bender day scope;
- OIP, FN Herstal with Schmidt & Bender day scope;
- Thales and CZ with a rifle derived from the 7.62×51 Bren 2 and Scrom scope and
- Verney-Carron Defense with a rifle derived from the AR-10, Schmidt & Bender day scope and night vision.
Only Safran and OIP were selected. OIP won because the price was lower.
The German-Belgium partnership specially organised for the French offer is:
- FN Herstal SCAR-H rifle in 7.62mm, FN silencer, bipod, cover, repair kit and Schmidt & Bender day scope;
- OIP-Sensor Systems and Telefunken-Racoms for night scope; and
- MEN for the ammunition.
Note that FN was present in the two proposals.
FN SCAR-H Rifle
The SCAR, or Special Operation Forces Combat Assault Rifle, was developed for American Special Forces as a modular system to replace other materials. It was developed in two versions: 5.56mm (L) and 7.62mm (H). Research began in 2001, and the first specimens were delivered at the end of 2007 for testing and an adoption in 2010.
The French Army selected a rifle with a rigid stock and adjustable in length. The FN SCAR-H’s frame is made of light alloy, has a right or left cocking lever and an ejection port on the right. The pistol grip is organized like the FN FNC assault rifle.
The handguard has four Picatinny rails and can utilize a front grip. The bolt and the 20-inch barrel are made of steel. The frame is made of light alloy, and the pistol grip of polymer. It has a black or tan finish. The rear sights are aperture-type (100m-600m); the front sight has a tunnel. Both can be folded. The Picatinny rails can accommodate any sighting device.
The vertical magazine is locked in position by an ambidextrous push-button. The rifle works with a short-stroke gas action. The gas port has two positions. The bolt is locked by a rotating head with several locks.
The first rifle was delivered beginning of 2020, and all the 2,620 will follow until 2022. The market price is 100 million euros.
Many thanks to: FN Herstal (Anne Devroye); GLOCK (Elisabeth Triebel); and MEN.
GLOCK 17 Gen5
Overall length: 202mm (7.95in)
Weight with magazine loaded: 911g (32.13oz)
Capacity: 17 rounds
FN SCAR-H Rifle
Length with stock extended: 1,083mm (42.64in)
Length with stock retracted: 1,019mm (40.11in)
Barrel length: 508mm (20in)
Weight: 6.750kg (14.88lb)
Capacity: 10-20 rounds