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Service Rifles of Indian Army: 1947-Present

Recently the government of India has placed an order for 72,000 additional Sig-Saur 716 G2 rifles for Indian Army. There were a previous order 72,400 rifles earlier. These rifles along with Kalashnikov AK-203 rifles are being procured by India army to replace its INSAS (INdian Small Arms System) service rifle or the standard issue rifle. But this is not the first time the Indian Army is doing this. Indian Army has replaced its service rifles earlier three times.

What is a Service Rifle

A service rifle  (also known as a standard-issue rifle) is a rifle which an armed force issue as standard to its service members. In modern forces, this is typically a versatile and rugged battle rifle, assault rifle, or carbine suitable for use in nearly all environments.

In other words, service rifles are the most common rifles given to the infantry soldiers. Indian Army has used Lee-Enfield Bolt-Action Rifles, Self-Loading Rifle (SLR) and in modern times using INSAS as the standard firearm since independence.

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List of all Service Rifles

RifleService lifeAction And caliber
Lee Enfield Rifle
aka “.303 rifle”
1947-1963.303 British cartridge,
Bolt action
L1A1 SLR
( aka Rifle 7.62mm 1A1)
1963–19987.62×51 mm NATO
Semi-automatic
Isapore 2A1963-1970s7.62×51 mm NATO
Bolt action
AKM and it’s varients1980-present7.62×39 mm
Select fire
INSAS1998-present5.56×45 mm NATO
Select fire
IWI Tavor tar-212002-present5.56×45 mm NATO
Select fire
Sig 716 G22019 -present7.62×51 mm NATO
select fire
AK 203future induction7.62×39 mm

Lee Enfield rifle

The legendary Lee-Enfield is a bolt-action, magazine-fed, repeating rifle that was the main firearm used by the military forces of the British Empire and British Commonwealth during the first half of the 20th century. The WWI versions are often referred to as the “SMLE”, which is short for the common “Short, Magazine, Lee–Enfield” variant. This rifle saw over 17 million unit production around the world.

The Lee Enfield rifle invented by James Paris Lee, the rifle was initially manufactured by Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield has the dubious distinction of having the highest kills to its name

Indian Army inherited the Lee-Enfield rifles from the British Indian Army after independence. Indian army used the SMLE MK III* variants which were produced in rifle factory Isapore, west Bengal.

Lee-Enfield was used by Indian Army Troopers even after World war-2 ended and continued to do so until 1962. It was found that Indian Troopers equipped with Lee-Enfields were found severely lacking compared to Chinese Soldiers equipped with Automatic and Semi-Automatic Weapons like Type-56 (Chinese copy of AK 47) Assault Rifles and SKS Carbines. This was primarily because of the rate of fire of the rifles. It was better in terms of accuracy, range, and stopping power.

Specifications

MassSMLE Mk III*: 3.96 kg (Mk III)
LengthSMLE Mk III*: 44.57 in (1,132 mm)
Barrel lengthSMLE Mk III*: 25.2 in (640 mm)
General Specifications
Cartridge.303 Mk VII SAA Ball
ActionBolt-action
Rate of fire20–30 aimed shots per minute
Muzzle velocity744 m/s (2,441 ft/s)
Effective firing range550 yd (503 m)
Maximum firing range3,000 yd (2,743 m)
Feed system10-round magazine, loaded with 5-round charger clips
SightsSliding ramp rear sights, fixed-post front sights, “dial” long-range volley; telescopic sights on sniper models. Fixed and adjustable aperture sights incorporated onto later variants

After the 1962 Sino-Indian war this rifle was withdrawn from service. Indian army gradually transferred these rifles to Police forces. This rifle was replaced by Ishapore 2A and L1A1 SLR rifles.

Ishapore 2A/2A1

The Rifle 7.62mm 2A/2A1 (also known as the Ishapore 2A/2A1) is a 7.62×51mm NATO caliber bolt-action rifle adopted as a reserve arm by the Indian Armed Forces in 1963. The design of the rifle – initially the Rifle 7.62mm 2A – began at the Rifle Factory Ishapore of the Ordnance Factories Board in India, soon after the Sino-Indian War of 1962.

The Ishapore 2A/2A1 has the distinction of being the last bolt-action rifle designed to be used by a regular military force other than specialized sniper rifles. While they are no longer in service with the Indian military, the rifle is still used by the Indian police.

Externally, the Ishapore 2A/2A1 rifle is based upon (and is almost identical to) the .303 British calibre SMLE Mk III* rifle, with the exception of the distinctive “square” (10 or 12 round) magazine and the use of the buttplate from the 1A (Indian version of the FN FAL) rifle.

The rifle was produced at an average rate of 70,000 a year. Around 250,000 rifles were made in total before production ended in 1974

Mass4.7 kg (10.4 lb), unloaded
Length44.5 in (1130 mm)
Cartridge7.62×51mm NATO
ActionBolt action
Rate of fire20–30 rounds/minute
Muzzle velocity792 m/s (2,600 ft/s)
Effective firing range800 m (875 yd)
Maximum firing range2,000 m (2,187 yd)
Feed system10- or 12-round magazine, loaded with 5-round charger clips
SightsSliding ramp rear sights, fixed-post front sights
Rear sight2A: 2000 yards
2A1: 800 yards

L1A1 Self Loading Rifle

The L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle, also known as the SLR (Self-Loading Rifle),  is a British version of the Belgian FN FAL battle rifle (Fusil Automatique Léger, “Light Automatic Rifle”) produced by the Belgian armaments manufacturer Fabrique Nationale de Herstal (FN)

Indian Army inducted SLR as “7.62 mm rifle 1A1” in 1963 just after Sino-Indian war to phase out its Lee-Enfield rifles. It is also known as Ishapore 1A1. It is a copy of the UK L1A1 self-loading rifle. It is produced at Ordnance Factory Tiruchirappalli of the Ordnance Factories Board. It differs from the UK SLR in that the wooden butt-stock uses the butt-plate from the Lee–Enfield with a trap for oil bottle and cleaning pull-through. 

During the 1960s the need for a semi-automatic rifle was felt.  Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE) evaluated several Australian, Belgian and British FAL rifles and each one was disassembled and examined. Simultaneously Indian government was negotiating with Belgian FN for license production of FN Fal in India. As these negotiations failed ARDE decided to manufacture its own version of FAL. This rifle was named as ‘Rifle 7.62mm 1A1’

Variants

Variantdescription
Ishapore 1A1It was the copy of British L1A1. It was the semi-automatic variant
Ishapore 1CIt was a fully automatic variant designed for firing from port hole of BMP-2
Ishapore 1AIt was a copy of automatic belgian FN FAL

FN threatened a lawsuit when they learnt of the unlicensed variant. Then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was not made aware of it and after he had heard it, offered to settle FN’s complaints by agreeing to purchase additional Belgian-made FALs, FALOs and MAG 60.20 GPMGs.

FN FALs, Isapore 1A1, 1A and 1C were gradually withdrawn from service after 1998. 1998 onward, INSAS began replacing the SLR family of weapons. The retired rifles were transferred to CRPF, NCC, and Police forces of various states.

General Specifications

Mass4.337 kg (9.56 lbs) empty
Length1,143 mm (45 in)
Barrel length554.4 mm (21.7 in)
Cartridge7.62×51mm NATO
ActionGas-operated, tilting breechblock
Rate of fireSemi-automatic (1A1)
Fully Automatic (1A and 1C) 675-750RPM
Muzzle velocity823 m/s (2,700 ft/s)
Effective firing range800 m (875 yds)
Feed system20- or 30-round detachable box magazine
SightsAperture rear sight, post front sight

Indian Small Arms System (INSAS)

INSAS is a family of rifles and LMG and currently is the standard issue rifle of Indian Army’s regular infantry Soldiers. It is extensively used by Indian Army, Airforce, Navy, CRPF, CISF, BSF and almost every police force in India. It is also used as a training rifle for small arms training at various training establishments of the armed forces. over 9,00,000 units belonging to this family have been produced.

In the mid-1980s, the decision was taken to develop a 5.56 mm calibre rifle to replace other obsolete rifles. Trials on various prototypes based on the AKM were carried out by the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) in Pune. On the completion of the trial, INSAS was adopted in 1998 and thus entered service. 

Issues with INSAS

Within a year after its induction, INSAS got the opportunity to prove its worth. It was the Kargil War of 1999. During the 1999 Kargil War, the rifles were used in the high altitudes of the Himalayas. But this rifle did not meet the expectations. There were complaints of jamming, the magazine cracking due to the cold and the rifle going into automatic mode (luckily) when it was set for three-round bursts. There was also a problem of oil being sprayed into the eye of the operator. Some injuries during firing practice were also reported. In 2001, the 1B1 variant was introduced to solve problems regarding the rifle’s reliability back in the Kargil War, but it opened up other problems such as broken magazines.

Despite all efforts made to improve the rifle, INSAS seriously lacks the stopping power. According to some soldiers, one bullet of INSAS was not enough to kill its target. A confirm kill often requires multiple hits. This might be because of the small 5.56 mm calibre. That is why the Army does not use INSAS rifle in Kashmir Valley. Due to poor reliability and lack of power army prefers AKM over INSAS in Kashmir Valley.

Though this rifle was intended was intended to be cheaper and simpler than the AK 47 type rifle, its far more complicated and difficult to maintain. There are allegation of corruption on ARDE as INSAS contains more parts than required amount.

Thus due to all these short comings of INSAS, Indian army decided to replace its service rifles on a mass scale for the fourth time. SIG 716 G2 and AK 203 will be the future rifles of Indian Army.

Specifications

Mass4.018 kg (8.86 lb) (without magazine)
Length960 mm (37.8 in)
Barrel length464 mm (18.3 in)
Cartridge5.56×45mm NATO
ActionGas-operated, Rotating bolt
Rate of fire600–650 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity900 m/s (2,953 ft/s)
Effective firing range400m (Insas Rifle)
600 m: Point targets (Insas LMG)
700 m: Area target (Insas LMG)
Feed system20- or 30-round detachable box magazine
SightsIn-built iron sights, mount point for telescopic or night sight

AKM family

AKM family is the most used firearm in the world. Indian Army has procured different variants time and again. There are over 4,00,000 AKM type rifles in active duty with the army.

Indian army was gradually phasing out its L1A1 type rifles during the 1990s. However, to phase out the still in use bolt-action Lee–Enfield rifles as quickly as possible, India had to acquire 100,000 7.62×39mm AKM-type rifles from Russia, Hungary, Romania and Israel in 1990–92.

Even today Indian army use the seized firearms from the insurgents. Indian Army is looking forwad to make Ak 203 its future rifle which is nothing but an improved AKM.

Tavor Tar-21

Tavor Tar 21 is the standard issue rifle of Indian Special forces. Tar 21 is an Israeli rifle manufactured IWI. Indian Special forces use TAR 21, CTAR 21, STAR 21, and X95 variants.

Procurement

 In late 2002, India signed an ₹880 million (equivalent to ₹2.7 billion or US$38 million in 2019) deal with Israel Military Industries for 3,070 manufactured TAR-21s to be issued to India’s special forces personnel, where its ergonomics, reliability in heat and sand might give them an edge at close-quarters and employment from inside vehicles. By 2005, IMI had supplied 350–400 TAR-21s to India’s northern Special Frontier Force (SFF). These were subsequently declared to be “operationally unsatisfactory”. The required changes have since been made, and tests in Israel during 2006 went well, clearing the contracted consignment for delivery. The TAR-21 has now entered operational service – even as India gears up for a larger competition that could feature a 9 mm X95 version.

There was an attempt to create an Indian version of the Tavor under license known as Zittara, which was not adopted and it was made with a few prototypes from OFB. The new Tavor X95s have a modified single-piece stock and new sights, as well as Turkish-made MKEK T-40 40 mm under-barrel grenade launchers. 5,500 have been recently inducted and more rifles are being ordered. A consignment of over 500 Tavor bullpup assault rifles and another 30 Galil sniper rifles worth over ₹150 million (US$2.1 million) and ₹20 million (US$280,000) respectively was delivered to the MARCOS (Marine Commandos) in December 2010.: In 2016, IWI announced that it was establishing a 49:51 joint venture with Punj Lloyd in India, in order to manufacture rifle components in India.

Specifications

Mass3.27 kg (7.21 lb) (TAR-21)
3.18 kg (7.0 lb) (CTAR-21)
3.67 kg (8.1 lb) (STAR-21)
Length720 mm (28.3 in) (TAR-21, STAR-21)
640 mm (25.2 in) (CTAR-21)
Barrel length460 mm (18.1 in) (TAR-21, STAR-21)
380 mm (15.0 in) (CTAR-21)
Cartridge5.56×45mm NATO
ActionLong-stroke gas-operated, rotating bolt
Muzzle velocity910 m/s (2,986 ft/s) (TAR-21, STAR-21)
890 m/s (2,919.9 ft/s) (CTAR-21)
885 m/s (2,903.5 ft/s) (TC-21)
Effective firing range550 m
Feed system30-round detachable box STANAG Magazine (5.56×45mm NATO)
SightsBackup iron sights and integrated Picatinny rails are provided for the Meprolight MP 21, ITL MARS with integrated laser and IR pointer, Trijicon ACOG, EOTech holographic sight and other optical sights

That was all about the standard-issue rifles of the Indian army. However, there are various other rifles operated by Indian army but in limited numbers thus they cannot be termed as service rifles. Very soon the Indian army will have Ak 203 and Sig 716 G2 rifles as service rifles.

JAI HIND

Sheershoo Deb

I am a defense aspirant Preparing to be an officer Earning the prestigious blue uniform is my dream. I am a Defense analyst and enthusiast

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