Created by noted South African gun designer Tony Neophytou, the NTW-20 is a bolt action anti-material rifle made in 20x82mm, 20x110mm, and 14.5x115mm. The weapon began as idea to use the large quantities of surplus 14.5mm ammunition available at the time, and a recognition that the 14.5mm Soviet cartridge was an excellent anti-armor round, with a really remarkably high muzzle velocity. To widen the rifle’s capabilities, it was decided to incorporate an easily interchangeable barrel, and also chamber it for the 20x82mm round used in the Inkunzi PAW individual weapon and Inkunzi Strike machine gun. The 20x82mm is low velocity compared to traditional 20mm cartridges, carrying the same explosive or incendiary payload but without the punishing recoil of what was originally an aircraft cannon cartridge.
Both of these cartridges are fed from a 3-round box magazine on the left side of the action. A single-shot version in the longer 20x110mm cartridge was also developed by request of a military client, but this cartridge is too long to fit the magazine. A version in .50 BMG was considered, but decided against on the basis of the 14.5mm being just as available and substantially more effective.
The gun is liberally sprinkled with clever engineering and design features – things like using the recoil-absorbing travel of the action to recock the hammer, and the use of both 20mm and 14.5mm cartridge cases as levers for unlocking the barrel. The optic was custom made for the rifle, an 8x56mm long eye relief scope to prevent any chance of the scope bell injuring the shooter during recoil. The trigger mechanism uses only a single spring, and is easily removed from the action. The bolt handle itself is on a pivot pin, and provides the primary extraction leverage to ensure easy cycling with the high-pressure 14.5mm cartridge.
From a military perspective, the NTW-20 is easily broken apart into barrel and action loads, and can be transported more easily than any comparable weapon by a two-man team. The use of a recoil buffer in the action and an effective muzzle brake makes it a remarkably pleasant 20mm rifle to fire. Of all the anti-material rifles I have fired (Lahti L39, Solothurn S18-1000, Mauser T-Gewehr), the NTW-20 was by far the most comfortable to shoot. It was also the only one in which I jumped at the chance to fire more rounds once the filming needs were met. It certainly has a kick, but not at all a painful one.
Many thanks to Denel Land Systems for allowing me to try out this very cool rifle!