Q&A #12: Small Arms in Modern Conflict Zones, with Nic Jenzen-Jones of ARES

This month’s Q&A features a special guest, Nic Jenzen-Jones from Armament Research Services (ARES). We have a bunch of very interesting questions for him on modern conflict zones and insurgent groups:

1:15 – Russian cartridge development similar to Mk318, Mk262, or M855A1?
2:25 – Small arms vs heavy weapons in the illicit arms trade.
5:13 – How do insurgents deal with ammunition supply? Old ammo? Obsolete cartridges?
9:05 – The container of Sturmgewehrs in Syria
11:36 – Why the move back towards .308 caliber rifles?
14:16 – What is the most interesting or surprising thing you have found in a conflict zone?
15:58 – What weapon system would you put on a technical?
17:22 – Do militias and insurgents try to standardize on weapon systems?
21:20 – Are locally produced arms affective or just hazardous to the users?
22:15 – Purpose in anti-mine treaties for small nations far from conflict zones?
23:18 – Popularity of rifle grenades
25:03 – Future of UK-based small arms production?

(ARES paper on self-loading rifle production and history)

27:39 – NATO replacement of 5.56mm with something else?

(ARES paper on emergent ammunition technologies)

33:25 – What guns are the bad guys using?
38:02 – Is the man-portable antitank weapon changing the role of the main battle tank?
40:03 – Modern anti-armor systems, like the Russian T14 Armata
40:50 – Improvements in small arms and optics in Afghanistan, and are they a maintenance burden?
44:46 – How does the US firearms market impact worldwide arms trade?
47:41 – Interesting non-technical development in the small arms trade?
48:55 – North Korean AK88 helical drum magazine
51:14 – Future potential for careless ammunition
52:58 – Developments in de-mining and ordnance disposal




  1. “Future potential for careless ammunition”
    Spell checker strikes back, or it is fancy new term for unguided projectiles :)?

  2. “Russian cartridge development similar to Mk318, Mk262, or M855A1”
    Query in Russian wikipedia: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/5,45_×_39_мм
    lists among other:
    7Н22 – armor piercing adopted in 1998, produced by Barnaul plant, can pierce 5 mm armor at 250 m
    7Н24 – armor piercing adopted in 1998, can pierce 5 mm armor plate from 2П steel* at 350 m. Core from tungsten-cobalt alloy. Produced by few plants.
    7Н39 «Игольник» – experimental armor piercing, tungsten carbide (92%) – cobalt (8%) alloy, can pierce 24 mm СТ3 armor place at 100 m.
    7БТ4 – armor piercing-tracer, can pierce 5 mm plate from 2П steel at 70 m.
    * Si-Mn-Mo steel, hardness 486-600 (Vickers)

    • It would be interesting to know if and when will Russian Federation forces adapt 6-7mm general purpose round. It may be highly speculative, I realize it

      • I don’t have information about all development, but so far I know there was never attempt to replace 5,45 x 39 cartridge.
        There was, designed in late 1980s 6 x 49, see photos:
        but it was designed to replace 7,62 x 54 R cartridge – that is it was rifle-machinegun round, for which some machine guns and sniper self-loading rifle were made.

        • 6-mm machine guns program was code-named Гашетка.
          Probably best know proposition is that from Klimovsk (ЦНИИ ТочМаш): АО-64
          it is derived from PKM machine gun, but is lighter (6,85 kg) and breech is locked directly to barrel (unlike PKM), feed is from belt (75 or 100 or 200), designers are А.С. Куликов and В.И. Суслов, it achieved required service life (4000 rounds) but not muzzle velocity of 1120-1150 m/s (achieved: 1020-1050 m/s), it has built-in optical sights of mild magnification. Developed in 1989.

          • I thank you Daweo for reply. I read previously about 6 x 49mm shot and my understanding is that they keep it ‘on ice’. Apparently it is too hot to be useable in current service weapons (barrel materials).

            This “trial machinegun” you point to looks well; it has all attributes of a modern weapon. However, the ball weigh of 5g appears to be about marginal for MG purposes. Chinese are not exactly happy about similar shot of their own DBP88 (heavy) weighing the same 5g. I consider projectile weighing 7-8g with 6.5mm diameter about optimal for both rifle and universal MG. In that case the velocity could drop bellow 1000m/s and prolong barrel life; with approximately same muzzle energy. Something like 6.5mm Grendel but with longer case.

          • There is a mention that Prvi Partisan is developing 6.5mm round as standard cartridge for Serbian forces. In that case they would be “prvi”(first) in the world; Grendel is limited with overall length to fit M16 action. So far however I do not see physical sizes/ weight or performance data being published. I suspect they are likely to stretch AK based case by several millimeters.

  3. Even with subtitles, this Q&A is very difficult to follow. Nic seems to keep his words inside his mouth, which makes hearing what he says a tough job.

  4. “Is the man-portable antitank weapon changing the role of the main battle tank?”
    Appearance of such weapons, lead to some doubts about armor of tanks and construction of some “thin-skinned” tanks, which favored mobility over armor like AMX 30. Anyway heavier armored do not become extinct.

      • It is a widely-repeated truism that the reason the French left the program that would become Leopard 1 because they disagreed with the Western consensus on armor protection and sought a tank with less armor and greater mobility, which would become the AMX 30. I can’t produce sources to support this popular wisdom, but the AMX 30 is some tons lighter than the Leo 1, and may have a better power to weight ratio.

        They may have been on to something after all. After the Israeli experience on the receiving end of 9M14 during the Yom Kippur War, the question on everyone’s lips in Western armor circles was ‘what effect have [primitive MCLOS] guided missiles had on the role of armor in the modern battlefield?’ Personally, I feel that 44 years later we still haven’t identified the lessons of October ’73. Man-portable guided missiles have already changed the role of the tank beyond recognition, and we’re all stuck in a WWII paradigm of what armor is and does.

        • Leopard 1 already had a better mobility than than contemporary US and British tanks, which makes me somewhat doubt that mobility was the reason for the French leaving the program. The armor of the Leopard wasn’t even designed to resist the modern HEAT warheads of the day, since the Germans thought it would be impossible with simple steel armor. They knew about the advantages of spaced armor against HEAT as well, but it was not considered worth the added weight and complications in manufacturing. However, later generations of the Leopard 1 did include “advanced” anti-HEAT protection as they were developed further (such as perforated plates designed to break up up the “jet” etc.).

          The lessons of 1973 were, in my opinion, taken into account when the new generation of Western tanks were developed in the 1970s. All of them included advanced anti-HEAT armor solutions, which of course are still mostly classified, but have been shown to work even in combat. The Soviets had some already in the T-64, and later with the ERA, which they developed to a high degree, since it was more weight effective than many of the advanced Western passive armor solutions.

          The newest challenge to MBT armor are top attack missiles, which admittedly remain problematic. However, they emerged decades after the first MCLOS and even SACLOS wire guided missiles, so they must be considered separately. Active defense systems show some promise in countering top attack missiles and other HEAT AT weapons as well, although their effectiveness in combat has not yet been shown and they have the added tactical complication of being potentially dangerous to friendly infantry close to the tank.

        • “(…)feel that 44 years later we still haven’t identified the lessons of October ’73. Man-portable guided missiles have already changed the role of the tank beyond recognition, and we’re all stuck in a WWII paradigm of what armor is and does.(…)”
          I am not sure what you are understanding under we, but at least Soviet Union developed effective “counter-RPG” system, DROZD:

  5. On modern rifle grenades: Japan has them as (apparently) standard on the Type 89. I’m not sure there has ever been a Type 89 fired in anger let alone a rifle grenade used such though.

    • Oh and “ground up matchhead for primer” is actually a pretty well known solution that frequently comes up in discussions of how easy it is to make guns (and thus gun control is impossible). It’s highly corrosive, but it works. Also only strike anywhere work, not “safety” matches.

      The “ammo” for cap gun toys is also a source of primer. Apparently the US WW1 (corrosive) primer is relatively easy for a decent chemist to make from common stuff, but I haven’t looked into that extensively.

      • Or just make a picrate of lead or almost any other heavy metal, a quick procedure for anyone with high-school chemistry or a copy of the old Improvised Munitions Black Book.

        Lead picrate itself is the basis of most modern non-corrosive priming. Bisuth picrate is fairly simple to prepare and has similar characteristics.

        Picrates of silver or gold are also usable, but less stable. Ammonium picrate is a primary HE, mainly only usable as a gain in a detonator. I suppose a picrate could be made of thorium or one of the other heavy transuranics, but I don’t think I’d like priming that triggered a scintillation counter or showed up on a film badge.

        Man-made laws are generally no match for the laws of physics.



        • “chemistry”
          I am (vaguely) recalling design of fire-arm (or it was artillery piece?) which instead of normal hammer/striker has sparking plug.

          • You mean an electric priming system? Those are common in aircraft guns, autocannons and also in some modern artillery pieces. The Germans in WW2 used them to better synchronize MGs firing through the propeller (MG 131), but in an aircraft application they are also potentially more reliable than percussion primers.

      • “The “ammo” for cap gun toys is also a source of primer. Apparently the US WW1 (corrosive) primer is relatively easy for a decent chemist to make from common stuff, but I haven’t looked into that extensively.”
        One of early used priming compound (in percussion fire-arms) is Hg(CNO)2 or Mercury fulminate:
        in Russian it is reasonable called гремучая ртуть that is roughly thundering mercury and was known by 17th century alchemists like Kunkel von Löwenstern, forgotten for some time and rediscovered by Edward Charles Howard in 1800. Wikipedia name ingredients needed for crafting it, none seems to be very exotic.
        There exist also similar compound – thundering silver that is AgCNO.

  6. Unfortunately, after about 1/3 of program I had to quit; could not receive wording of guest in a comprehensive way. His speech is in huge contrast of Ian’s – who is very easy to understand. It is a gift to be good speaker/ lecturer.

    On subject itself – such as resupplying of insurgent groups with arms and ammo, this is IMO highly contentious and relatively dangerous subject. I tend to stay in public debate as far as possible from current power politics and for apparent reason – it is mother of all dirt. Interpretations of distant history is tricky enough.

      • Right. I can see you understand both (if that was all!) sides of the world. Casual look thru alternative media clearly indicates who is behind “insurgents” worldwide. Case in point: Philippine uprising. Pres. Duterte chastises world only superpower… and here he goes, gets homemade hassle thru backdoor .

  7. Hey Ian!

    Is that a sweet sweet French 50mm mortar I see peeking out in the foreground of your video?

    You have all the cool toys!

  8. I tried to open the two links in the questions both here and on YouTube and got ‘Problem loading page’ on both links from both sources. On the page it says it timed out.

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