15 May 2011

FWS Forgotten Weapons: The SR-47 Rifle

One of the longest running debates in firearms circles is which is better: the M16 or the Ak47? In the early days of the War on Terror, there was an interesting and rare weapon developed to incorporate the best features of both for this new battlefield. The SR47 is a weapons developed with a specific purpose or to fulfill a specific set of tactical conditions, but few know of its existence. With all of the recent attention paid to NAVSPECWAR-DEVGRU aka SEAL Team 6, I thought we might examine one of the more unique weapons in their armory and one of my personal favorites: the Stoner Rifle Forty Seven (SR-47). I have to say that if I was a Navy SEAL, than I would want to carry one of these beauties around with me.

What is the SR47 Assault Rifle?
Basically, the Stone Rifle Forty Seven is an Knight's Armament specialty assault rifle based on the iconic M4A1 carbine that chambers the AKM 7.62x39mm round. This was purpose-built special weapon developed with USSOCOM during operations in the wilds of Afghanistan and only used for elite SMU units, like DEVGRU and CAG. This weapon was thought to be the best of both worlds, and would allow operators in-field to collect battlefield dropped ammo to extend their supply. The SR-47 accepts standard AKM magazines and ammo.

The Short History of the SR-47
Early into the War on Terror in 2001, US Special Forces were operating in caves, mountains, and deep in the rough wilderness of Afghanistan. This began to presented a problem for resupply and maintaining their cover. To answer it, USSOCCOM, in the words of Daivd Lutz of KAC: "wanted a weapon that had all the muscle memory of an M-4 - safety, grip, everything that's familiar to the soldier or the SEAL - but capable of using battlefield pick-up magazines." Four companies put in bids for a special purpose variant of the Colt M4 that fired the standard AK-47 Warsaw Pact 7.62x39mm round. Knight's Armament Company (KAC) won the contract for the initial prototype production of six rifles. KAC had a history of modifying the standard Colt M4 carbine into all manner of special purpose weapon platforms, and this looked like just another mod to the growing M4 carbine family. 
It wasn't so easy as they thought.
One of the requirements put down by USSOCOM was for this special modified Colt M4 carbines to accept standard AK banana magazines, for ease of "battlefield picks" without any need to strip out the enemy rounds out into a retrofitted M-16 mags...this required a great deal of work. David Lutz, recalls: "that was a dilemma because the AK-47 magazine won't go well in a straight chute dimensional magazine - it just won't happen,"  Also, KAC had to over come the length difference between the AK-47 and the Colt M4 carbine, causing the SR-47 upper and lower receivers to be lengthened  After months of work, testing, and a rumored one million dollars in R&D, the six prototypes were given to SOCOM in October of 2001 and in to the hands of SEALs. There nothing online stating which SEAL team received the SR-47s, however it is a good bet that it was SEAL Team Six (DEVGRU). Rumors state that the guns were given real-world battlefield testing in Afghanistan complete with sound suppressor for cave cleaning work. While the gun was heart-breaking and life-taking in enemy territory Knight's Armaments was gearing up for production on second version that fired the AK-74's 5.45x39mm, but no orders came in. And then the trail goes cold...no more information on what happened to the six SR-47 or their service with NAVSPECWAR is known.

Advantages of the SR-47
DELTA Operators, Tora Bora, 2001
When we examine Special Forces operations in regions like Tora Bora, the Shahikot Valley, and in the rumored black ops in Pakistan or Iran, we find the main two roles for the SR-47: extending the ammunition supply and low-profile. During Operation: REDWINGS in 2005, author and SEAL Team 10 member, Marcus Luttrell, stated that the SEALs carried eight magazines (plus one in the weapon I imagine, which is just under 300 rounds), but they took 12 (about 360 rounds) to be on the safe side. In the heat of battles like at Shahikot Valley during Operation Anaconda and Operation: REDWINGS, the amount of targets that these operators were shooting at outstrips their supply. Once the ammo is gone within these teams, then resupply via helicopter becomes a target for RPG fire and reveals your position.  It is not like there is a Wal-Mart around the corner in A-stan. With the SR-47, resupply is as near as the next dead evildoer's chest rig. Or even a friendly village...since the AK-47 is the most popular and widespread assault rifle in the world (300 million and counting), ammunition is commonplace, even in rural Afghanistan. This also lightens the load for long-range patrol missions, where all you got is what's on your back in your pack.
As to the next reason, is for operators keeping a low-profile.Sometimes the knife edge between survival and death is maintaining that low-profile for Tier One operations. When your small band of commandos is deep in enemy territory, the last thing you want do is kill someone with your 5.56x45mm weapon, and then have an enemy patrol find the NATO shell casing, they then know that there are Western commandos in the region and you're cover is blown. During firefights, the SR-47 sounds like an AK-47, which unlike the Colt M4 carbine could alert everyone to the fact that you are an American. The gunshot of an SR-47 could be written off in the mind of some AQ/Taliban lookout as some rival clan faction. The tactic of similar sounding weapons was especially good in cave cleaning operations, where you could use the SR-47 and not have the evildoers know how close you were to their location. In addition, to more ammo and low-profile, the Stoner Rifle -47 had also two great technical advantages over the normal Avtomat Kalashnikova, according to David Lutz:  "this particular 7.62 x 39mm is probably the most accurate 7.62 x 39mm in the world because it's got a really fine free-floated barrel. And, of course, it has the rail system so all of the other SOPMOD accessories off the M-4s are compatible. The SR-47 is a great gun because of the three technologies that it marries: the basic Stoner gun design; the AK-47 series cartridge and magazine; and the modular weapon concept."

Disadvantages of the SR-47
When looking at the Stoner Rifle forty seven  it is not as compact as  10.3inch barreled version of the M4 assault carbine,the CQBR. Adding to the lenght, is the weight of the SR-47 (7.7lbs) verse the standard M4 (6.39lbs). Given that the main reason for having your shooters use the SR-47 is extend your ammunition supply in-field without exposing your position to the enemy by aerial resupply, gives the rifle it the label of "limited mission weapon". Would you, as a CO of a special unit issue SR-47 over the M4? Not according to most operator that have access to good supply lines. There is also the continuing debate raging about the 7.62x39mm verse the 5.56x45mm. However . However, the key design element was for the SR-47, to load AK magazines, may be it's Achilles Heel. An operator may not use a weapon which takes unknown bullets (How old is this round? Where the hell was it made? Is that Rust?!) with unknown magazines (is the spring good? How old is this mag? Is that rust?! )  from an unknown supply source...which I can compare  taking an AK mag from a dead Taliban like sleeping with a whore...you could get an STD, or worse...dead. Also, reloading an M4 to a seasoned NAVSPECWAR is like taking a leak. it's second nature. But reloading an AK is not second nature to most...and that can get you killed.  
While the SR-47 used the ammo of an AK, it certainly did not have the internal advantages for the AK series. Namely loose tolerances that allow dirt to be shaken out, than clog the operation. The SR-47 still comes from the M16/M4 family design that requires more care and cleaning than any AK-47. Another disadvantage was mentioned by Gene, an RN I work with in Trauma ICU, he stated that the individual psychology of the soldier, in regards to their weapon, as a huge part in individual success or failure, and if the person breaks down, than the group breaks down as well. He told me to think of it in terms of playing COD: Black Ops with a weapon I dislike, and rating my performance with that hated gun. This also came up during my experience at Oklahoma D-DAY 2007, when I was on my third(!) backup marker...my old Tippmann Pro/Am...not the same as my beloved Viper M1. Gene said that if the soldier is not feeling it with his gun than s/he is not going to do as well.

Why Not Just Use an AK?
US Special Forces have carried versions of the automatic Kalashnikov in battle and low-profile Ops since Vietnam. During that war, it was widely known that US soldiers would dump the troubled M-16 for the AK-47, and even the VC would not pickup the black rifle! The first boots on the ground in A-Stan in 2001, was the CIA SAD team JAWBREAKER, and they carried folding stock AKs (source: First In by Gary Schroen), this was not to attract attention to the fact they were CIA. For years, rumors have flown around about US black ops mission into Iran, and if true, those soldiers would certainly use the AK. This idea was explored in the 2007 episode Johnny B. Good of the CBS TV show The Unit. One of the main reasons for US SPECOPS to use the SR-47 over the AK variants is as Lutz stated, the better, more accurate barrel  familiar M4 lower receiver  and the ability to mount all kinds of high-tech SOPMOD goodies on the rails, which  current SPECOPS operators relay on.

What Happened to the SR-47?
Rumors around the Internet say that KAC spent one million dollars on development costs for the seven prototypes that were constructed, and were gearing up for phase two of the SR-47, which would have been a SR-47 that chambered the AK-74 5.45x39mm round, the so-called SR-74...but SOCOM didn't order anymore and the program died on the vine.
One of these guns lives in the KAC museum in Florida  while the other of the six may rest somewhere in the shadow word of TIER-One SMU operations. Where they used onward from 2001? Are they still in service? Or are they in the halls of DEVGRU's barracks or rec room. But the real question is why did TIER-One operators quite using the SR-47? I think, the first main reason, is cost. Only seven of the SR-47 cost one million dollars, while battlefield AKs are free. Next would be a lack of interest by the SOF community. The AR15 platform has been used since 1965, and career soldiers don't normally switching in the middle of a war. Coupled with the fact that Special Operation Forces trust their lives and their buddys' lives to their gun, and the question comes down, can they trust the ammo and/or magazine from a dead enemy? The only theory I read online for the discounted the SR-47, is that gun was easily dirtied and fouled from using battlefield pickup mags and ammo. Which was its very purpose for existence.

The SR-47 Reborn...Version 2.0?
Two guns being manufactured today: the Magpul Masada and the Robinson Armament's XCR carry on the ideas of the SR-47. Both of these modern assault rifles can be configuration to fire the Warsaw Pact 7.62x39mm round, then converted back to fire the NATO 5.56mm with a few simple actions. These weapons are not at present being by any known military, but it nice to see the wisdom of the SR-47 coming back into current weapons design. In addition, some rec-shooters have used the uber-popular AR15 foundation to construct an assault rifle that will chamber the 7.62x39mm and the 5.45x39mm rounds, due to their different ballistics, availability, and price point. 

The SR-47 In Popular Media 
The SR-47 by design was always to be rare purpose-built gun in the real world ,and the majority of people have no idea that it exists. At this moment in 2015, there are only two  visual media production that featured the interesting SR-47 rifle: the Japanese Animated series: CAT SHIT ONE and the video game Resident Evil: Revelations.

Packy's SR-47 from Cat Shit One
Cat Shit One is an one-shot animated short film based on the manga series Apocalypse Meow by Motofumi Kobayashi. It was to be a continuing animated series, but nothing has been seen on 2011 with the release of the first episode. This military tale has American Special Forces observing an Taliban stronghold feeding on-site intel on a hostage situation of friendlies. When things turn south, the two-man observation team goes in hard. The badass bunny commando is Packy, a veteran of Vietnam and 1980's black ops, and his weapon-of-choice is an SR-47. For many of us, this was our introduction to the interesting weapon of the SR-47, and it was by conscience choice that this commando bunny carries this weapon. Given the popularity of Cat Shit One, this propelled the SR47 into the public knowledge, and caused some airsofters to kitbash an Packy loadout complete with an SR-47. The weapon is never addressed in the film, nor is it called by name. If it wasn't for Cat Shit One, the SR-47 might be less well known, and this blogpost would not exist as well, because Cat Shit One is how I learned of the SR-47's existence.

Berry's SR-47 from Resident Evil: Revelations 2
In the horror video game serial that is a prequel to Revelations and features an character named Berry, who carries an SR-47 during a search-and-rescue mission in Eastern Europe. This SR-47 is projected correctly, and could be influence by Cat Shit One. IMFDB.org believes that this is the first and only appearance of the SR-47 in a video game.

In Closing...
Kalashnikov (w/M16) and Stoner (w/ AK-47) with their creations
"The SR-47 is a great gun because of the three technologies that it marries: the basic Stoner gun design; the AK-47 series cartridge and magazine; and the modular weapon concept."


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  3. Hi William:
    Just offering my inputs (assuming the previous comments haven't touch on since they are deleted), there is one scenario for SR-47 is if the logistic is secure, in a manner of speaking. Specifically both the magazines and ammunition are of reliable quality. Like either the users receive quality supply from host destination, or the users bring their own supply. One example from Vietnam War was CIA/MACV-SOG has dedicated supply of 'sterilized' (made in U.S. or elsewhere, without identification markings) AK ammo, and other items, for covert use. I imagine spent shell casings and non-traceable AK magazines is much easier to ignore.

  4. One flaw I do agree about the SR-47 is the Direct Gas system. I feel the weapon would be better served with a piston, like that of HK416. The benefit of a piston SR would be combining the pluses of AR (AR plateform, equipment rail, free-float barrel to name a few) with that of AK. The real challenge is not to lose one in op, which is probably why the tactical sling or tether (unless everyone got killed).

  5. Given the popularity of the AKs on the US shooter market, the USSCOM would have a supply of clean ammo for the SR-47, and you are correct that would have solved some of the issues. I also agree that an piston-driven assault rifle instead of the direct gas system would have greatly benefited the SR-47. I often wonder if there is an 7.62x39mm or 5.45x39mm firing HK416 out there in the armories of the Special Operations units...Thanks for the comments!

  6. I think it should be emphasize the importance of using generic AK magazines for the SR-47 and similar weapons. These days making an AR plateform in either 7.62 or 5.45 is relatively straight-forward, unfortunately most of the examples on the market utilize proprietary magazine to accomadate the AR's push-button release, which really defeat the purpose of low-profile. Besides AK magazines are generally accepted to be more durable than their AR counter-part. So collecting them from the battlefield should not be a serious concern with the exception of spings and followers, both of which is readily availabe on the civilian market or if necessary produced in-house (if the said unit has the means).

  7. Hi palls, getting un touch from El Salvador un Central América. I guess what came next with the SR47 series, I've seen lots Of those units in service with PNC (policía nacional civil) in Spanish, but with a shortened barrell.

  8. Would make a good Air Force pilot rifle with a Cry Havoc takedown kit for a downed pilot. A GAU-47 maybe.

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  13. I remembered this gun as having been written about by someone way more famous and I remembered it as having a wikipedia page.

    Naturally, I pulled hundreds of other guns before I found this page. God damn, Google got so confused by the idea of an AR-15 that took AK magazines.

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