Written by Jason M. Wong Sunday, 23 March 2008 00:00
The 35th annual International Trade Fair for Hunting and Sporting Arms, Outdoor Articles and Accessories, was held in Nürnberg, Germany, from March 14 – 17, 2008. Formerly the “Internationale Waffen Ausstellung,” (translated: “International Weapon Exhibition,”) the show is frequently referred to as “IWA,” despite the change in name. As one of the largest European tradeshows dedicated to shooting, hunting, and outdoor activities, nearly 600,000 square feet of exhibition space was filled by 1,046 exhibitors from 51 countries, including over 100 exhibitors from the United States. Approximately 30,000 individuals from over 100 countries attended the show. Of note were several new product releases from well known and lesser known manufacturers.
Heckler and Koch, JS
Heckler and Koch Jagn und Sportwaffen (HK JS) displayed a new civilian version of the HK416 rifle, dubbed the MR223 rifle. While similar in exterior appearances to the HK416 rifle, subtle engineering differences were observed. The changes were explained as necessary in order to comply with European and Canadian firearm regulations.
Four significant differences between the MR223 and HK416 were observed. The rear take down pin on the MR223 lower receiver was relocated 6mm to the rear, preventing the installation of a 416 upper receiver on an MR223 lower receiver. In addition, the MR223 chamber has a protrusion, preventing the installation of a standard AR15/M16 bolt carrier into the MR223 receiver. In the event that an AR15/M16 bolt carrier were installed in an MR223, the bolt would not fully seat within the chamber, and the rifle would not function. The MR223 bolt carrier has a corresponding notch to match the chamber protrusion, allowing the rifle to function properly with use of an MR223 bolt carrier. Finally, the firearm was not equipped with a flash suppressor, although the muzzle was threaded to allow the installation of a flash suppressor if desired.
As the distributor responsible for distributing Heckler and Koch firearms throughout Europe and Canada, the products on display by HK JS are not readily available for sale within the United States, but offer a glimpse into the company’s marketing strategy. Presumably, any civilian legal HK416 rifle sold within the United States would be made within the US, and would not be neutered in the same manner as the European version.
Sport Systeme Dittrich
Sport System Dittrich (www.ssd-weapon.com) displayed six classic semi-automatic versions of German firearms. Manufactured to the same original manufacturing dimensions and specifications as the originals, Sport System Dittrich currently manufactures semiautomatic versions of the FG-42 and STG 43 machineguns, and semiautomatic versions of the MP 3008, MP38 and MP44 sub-machine guns. Already on sale within Europe, three models have reportedly been submitted to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Firearms Technology Branch for examination, review, and import approval.
The BD 42 (the semi-automatic version of the FG42) utilizes gas operated, closed bolt operation, and retails for approximately 6,000 Euros. The BD44 (the semi-automatic version of the MP44) is also gas operated, fires from the closed bolt, and retails for approximately 2,200 Euros. Reportedly, the hardware between the semi-automatic and fully-automatic versions are interchangeable, with the exception of the bolt. The semiautomatic receivers will not accept a fully-automatic bolt, thereby precluding an easy conversion of the semi-automatic firearm from semi-automatic to fully-automatic fire. Given the current exchange rate between the Dollar and the Euro, the semiautomatic versions offered are quite costly, yet cost significantly less than the transferable fully automatic versions.
The BD 38 (the semi-automatic version of the MP38) and the BD 3008 (the semi-automatic version of the MP 3008) both fire from the open bolt, and presumably could not be imported for commercial sale within the United States.
Glock (www.Glock.com) revealed two new grip patterns for the Glock pistol, and sought consumer input on a preferred pattern. Currently dubbed the “Rough Textured Frame,” both patterns seemed to offer increased grip and control via the use of an aggressive grip pattern when compared to the current production grip pattern. Both grip patterns functioned well, without affecting the overall function and reliability of the firearm.
Also of note, Glock has reportedly manufactured a disposable wet suppressor made entirely of plastic. According to a Glock representative, the suppressor is intended for use with one or two magazines of ammunition before losing effectiveness. Upon completion of use, the suppressor is thrown away. Admittedly, a disposable plastic suppressor would challenge the current US consumer suppressor market. Luckily, the disposable suppressor is reportedly still in the developmental stage, and not for sale. Although on site at the show, the plastic suppressor was not on display and requests to view the available model were politely refused.
Madbull Airsoft and Red Wolf Airsoft
Red Wolf Airsoft (www.redwolfairsoft.com) in conjunction with Madbull Airsoft (www.madbullairsoft.com) has reportedly received an exclusive license to manufacture an airsoft version of the Transformational Defense Industries (TDI) Kriss Super V submachine gun. Previous communications with TDI have reported the planned sale of a semi-automatic Kriss Super V rifle, however for those enthusiasts that desire a fully automatic submachine gun, this may be the only way to possess a realistic look-alike, without resorting to the purchase of a post-86 dealer sample machine gun. The airsoft version is still in the developmental stage, with only a wax model available on display at the show. Full production is expected by press time.
German Sport Guns
The recent release of the German Sport Guns GSG-5, 22 caliber HK MP-5 look alike is well known throughout the firearms industry. However, German Sport Guns announced the production of a 22 caliber AK-47 look alike, endorsed personally by General Mikhail Kalashnikov. As the inventor of the AK-47, this is reportedly the first AK-47 rifle to be personally endorsed by Kalashnikov. No price for the planned 22 caliber AK was discussed.
Also of note was the large inventory of realistic airsoft guns on display by German Sport Guns. A quick comparison between an airsoft MP5 to the GSG-5 22 caliber rifle demonstrated well manufactured products, with an attention to detail. Given that the GSG-5 rifle is a faithful copy of the original Heckler and Koch MP5, the differences between the 22 caliber firearm and the airsoft version were very slight, and barely noticeable. Given the simplistic design and diminutive size of a 22 caliber rifle, one would expect additional models to be released in short order. Examination of the airsoft versions of the British L85 bullpup, French FAMAS F1, and SIG 550 series were promising, and 22 caliber versions of these rifles would likely sell very well within the commercial US market.
Smith and Wesson/Powertech
Smith and Wesson, together with Powertech (www.swflashlights.com) displayed tool room prototypes of a new weapon illuminator system. Powered by two CR123 batteries, the Mk-300 illuminator offers a 200 lumen CREE LED main light, a 10mW green laser/target designator, and two IR capable LED navigation lights. Designed to give the operator total control, the unit offers two switches - a four position rotary switch to power the main light and laser, and a second switch to control the navigation LEDs. The main switch allows the operator to choose from light only, laser only, light and laser, or power off. A secondary three position switch allows the operator to choose between powering one LED or both. In this manner, the operator could choose between utilizing an IR LED in conjunction with night vision equipment, while allowing the other LED to provide visible light. Finally, the unit allows the operator additional control via a switch integrated into the grip, allowing momentary on/off or constant light.
The pre-production model allowed the unit to be mounted to any mil-spec M1903 Picatinny rail system. The production model will reportedly also allow the use of a LaRue Tactical LT 107 rail mount. Retail price will be approximately $450, and although final production had not been initiated as of the show, the units are expected to be in full production by the time of publication.
IWA 2008 was a great success, and offered a glimpse into the European firearms markets. The 2009 show is scheduled for March 13 – 16, 2009, in Nurnberg, Germany. Additional information regarding the show can be found at www.iwa.info.
Mr. Wong is a Washington licensed attorney. He regularly provides legal counsel to manufacturers, importers, and exporters in the firearms and defense industries via his law firm, The Firearms Law Group.