"This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this is mine.
My rifle is my best friend.
I have to shoot my rifle well. I have to shoot better than the enemy who tries to kill me..."
Premise: I consider the NARP to be one of the best possible technical and industrial evolutions of an already optimal project: Eugene Stoner's AR15/M4. The know-how and the industrial and production capabilities of the Beretta technicians (military division), supported by the "in the field" experiences of the men of the special departments of the Italian FFAA, have given rise to a product of excellence, the fulcrum on which the tactical operations of our forces will be based soldiers.
Above I quote "The Rifleman's Creed", a text made known by some films (above all Full Metal Jacket by Kubrick), used by the American army and marines to make recruits understand the absolute value of always being able and having to have a precise and reliable weapon, known in the smallest detail, in its performance in varying environmental conditions, the its compatibility with ammunition, and more.
Although it may seem a little forced, in my opinion, this is the technical-philosophical reminder that every design team of military small arms factories should read and understand before starting to design a new weapon system for infantry. It seems that this time we are there.
In other words: the soldiers and security operators, with their wealth of experience in the field, which is today very broad and diversified, must be listened to in advance or at most during the design phase, and not at an already industrialized stage of work, requiring the military to adapt to the project. It's right to try to push yourself further on a technical level, of course. But if there is a field in which it must be done in synergy with operators and only if this really allows for decisive and indisputable technical leaps, and only above all if "combat proven", it is that of armaments.
This applies to all weapon systems, from light to heavy. The price to pay turns out to be too high if you underestimate the real aspects of the environment in which you will find yourself "in the field".
During the Falklands/Malvinas War the British discovered too late that their very modern and fast frigates built partly in aluminum coated with polymeric material, instead of steel, were hit by missiles Exocet French cars fueled the fires and produced lethal toxic gases.
If we want, even "our" AR15/M16 A1 had its "teething" problems in the humid tropical climate of the jungles of Vietnam, giving rise to that technical and use evolution which then led to the current M4 platform, in its variants.
It was the 60s anyway, let's not forget.
Today, unfortunately, similar commercial-conceptual problems persist on military supplies, which instead should take into account almost exclusively the tactical and strategic capabilities of the weapon systems as a whole, tested, already designed for subsequent upgrades, adaptable to different scenarios, integrated with the most modern command and control systems (C4I), with realistic training systems.
Perhaps the case of the wagon comes to mind for some Ram C1? Exactly.
The parallel comes to mind with the CR42 biplane fighter, without closed cockpit, without radio, sent to fight against the Spitfire English, and not only. Macchi, Caproni, Reggiane had already proposed modern aircraft. And in any case the choice of the CR42 appeared to be made without taking into account the characteristics and capabilities of future enemy aircraft. Let's leave autarky to those who can afford it.
But let's go back to NARP, I would say fortunately.
Basically an infantry soldier will always ask the armorer to have a weapon with four fundamental characteristics: reliability, precision, ergonomics, ease of maintenance. These are the basic requirements, to which they can be added if the project is conceived correctly from the start, i.e. maintaining basic ergonomics:
- modularity (barrel length and caliber variation of the ammunition depending on the contexts of use)
- possibility of easy installation of optics, night vision systems, laser pointers
- installation of grenade launch systems
- magazines of various capacities and designs
- possibility of mounting sound reduction and stealth systems during fire action.
However, with regard to the first four desires, the fundamental ones, it seems that Mr. Eugene Stoner, already in the 50s, knew a little more than all the other gunsmith engineers (at least the Western ones) by designing an assault rifle for the infantry whose ergonomics and functionality (matured as written above in the field and not without hard "lessons learned") are still the most chosen, where there are no conceptual or political prescriptions of some kind, by special and non-special military operators almost the whole world.
Every nation has light military weapons factories, institutional suppliers of its armed forces and security forces. But if you look closely in the armories of the barracks of their elite corps, you can always find a certain number of AR15/M4s in various versions, ready for need.
The NARP will be equipped with all these features, there is no question. But... History should never be forgotten!
In the last twenty years of the last century, and also of this one, non-US small arms manufacturers in the Western world have manufactured various types of assault rifles, which have followed very different engineering paths compared to the one conceived by Stoner.
Among others, we can mention: the French Famas and English SA80 bullpups, the German G36, the Israeli Galil and, last but not least, the AR70/90 and above all the Italian ARX 160. All excellent weapons, but recently they are replaced by weapon systems clearly inspired by the AR15/M4, despite the manufacturers having declared their own design and production peculiarities.
Looking at our home, and for the record, some defects should be listed regarding the AR70/90: the excessive weight compared to foreign counterparts (about 4 kg); an excessively angular structure with the risk of accidents during use; accidental magazine release, absence of a Picatinny rail integrated into the receiver for mounting the sight optics, thus making the collimation of the optics unstable; trigger guard subject to dents in the event of impacts with the possibility of deformation and jamming of the trigger.
For the ARX 160: reported some problems with the shutter closure, plastic used too extensively and not of excellent quality.
Given the list of examples in this regard (German and French HK416, English AIW and today the Italian NARP), the simple and pragmatic suggestion to listen to the soldiers in the field first, when designing a weapon intended for them, has finally been implemented.
And this also applies as a wish as a taxpayer.
Images: Beretta / Italian Army / Ministry of Defense