Worst. Sling. Design. Ever!

Indian soldiers are complaining about the INSAS rifles they are issued. One of the chief complaints is the poor sling design. It breaks easily and its placement on the rifle obscures the front sight! Times of India reports:

Also, its sling often snaps while firing, making it fall during manoeuvres. The sling also obstructs the rifle’s sight. But most of all, the size of the sling never took into account the bullet proof jacket worn by jawans. As a result, it falls short and is uncomfortable to hold. This hampers quick reaction. Insas also does not have a rapid fire feature; it shoots only three rounds in a single burst

Insas Carbine
INSAS (left)

Other complaints include loss of zero after cleaning and the barrel overheating when firing.

The INSAS is, I believe, is the standard issue rifle of the Indian Army, although it is one of many rifles used by the Indians. It is loosely based on the AK-47 design and also comes in a 5.45x30mm variant.

Hat Tip: MP.net

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Cliff

    When I was last in India I was sitting in the Mumbai airport looking at soldiers with multiple uniform variations carrying: FN-FAL, AK, INSAS, and a bolt action I could not identify but looked like a SMLE.

    Also, I have NEVER seen an Indian woman in uniform through many trips – that picture really startled me.


  • A loss of zero after cleaning alone should consign this rifle to the scrap heap.

  • RP

    Like Cliff, I’ve seen lots of different weapons carried by Indian soldiers. Most of the soldiers outside the airports usually carry FAL’s and inside they carry the INSAS. However, on my last trip in June I noticed that about half the soldiers at the Bangalore and Delhi airports were carrying underfolder AK’s. I hadn’t seen those much before over there.

    The police I’ve seen pretty often have SMLE’s. In the Mumbai terrorist attacks last year there was video of police with SMLE’s behind cover.

    • KAG

      RP please don’t call them soldiers, not by any stretch of imagination, just because they are sporting combat fatigues of the Indian Army. They are policemen from the Central Industrial Security Force, tasked with guarding installations like airports and metro rail stations. These civilian sham soldiers are armed either with self loading rifles (FN-FALs clones) INSAS, or even AK-47s and occasionally an MP5.

  • Fred

    I never felt under gunned with only a three round burst… The only time I ever used my M16 on burst was from a moving vehicle anyway.

  • R.A.W.

    There have been other complaints about the INSAS:


    “The INSAS rifle saw combat with Indian soldiers during the 1999 Kargil conflict with Pakistan. According to the Times of India, the rifle had some reliability problems in the very cold climate in which that conflict took place. Due to the cold weather, the rifle would jam occasionally and the polymer magazines would crack in the cold[3]. There were also cases wherein the rifle would fire in full auto, while in three-round burst fire mode[3]. According to the manufacturers, these problems have now been fixed.”

    A pity; it looks like a 5.56mm AK with sensible ergonomics, which sounds like an excellent starting point for a design.

  • “Insas also does not have a rapid fire feature; it shoots only three rounds in a single burst”

    hmmm, 3 round burst have worked for the US Army since the mid 80’s, I guess that is a big change if all you do is teach your conscripts to point the rifle in the general direction of the enemy and pull the trigger until the weapon no longer goes “bang!”.

    As far as the variety of weapons, remember the Mumbai massacre last year when there were police and military forces scrambling to find weapons and when they found them they didn’t know how they were uses properly?

  • Claude

    I’m not trying to be facetious here, but is there a product ever made by Indians that actually works?

  • jody

    i am startled by any woman carrying an m16 with an m203, let alone one in a country like india.

    makes me have bad flashbacks to being stopped by the army in mexico. many five foot tall, high school dropouts with m16s draped over their necks, telling me what to do.

    sorry, i know i’ll be told that i am an absolute idiot, racist, and moron who has no idea what i’m talking about.

    at least i’m still allowed to have an opinion on what it’s like to be face to face with poorly trained people armed to the teeth.

  • Clodboy

    According to Wikipedia, the Indians were finalizing an agreement with Izhmash to start license-building the AK-103 in early 2008, and that production should be underway in a year’s time.

    The AK-103 is probably a great gun, but you can’t help but wonder how the procurement process works in the Indian army:

    Military: “Guys, the FAL is a great gun and all, but everybody uses the 5.56mm now, so can we have one too? Like, with AK-style reliability, and Western economics. Come to think of it, the Galil or the FN FNC would kind of fit that description”
    Bureaucrat: “Nonono, we’ll just build our own from the ground up”
    *fast forward*
    Military: “The INSAS kind of sucks. The soldiers have written down a list of problems though, which shouldn’t be all that hard to fix in an improved model. Just get a bunch of veterans to sit down with some of the thousands of engineer whizkids we export all over the world, and it should be doable. Or we’ll just hire FN or IWI to improve it”
    Bureaucrat: “You know, I just read this article about the AK-47 being the most robust gun ever, so why don’t we just use that? They actually had a modernized version, the AK-103, so I just ordered that.”
    Military: “So what about all the now-obsolete 5.56mm ammo? I mean, they also offer an AK variant in 5.56, you know.”
    Bureaucrat: “Sorry, can’t hear you, the new Shah Rukh Khan* movie is on!”

    …on second thought, that is probably how the procurement process works in pretty much every military organization in the world.

    * for some unknown reason, 99% of all Indian movies foreign audiences ever get to see seem to have guy as the lead.

  • jdun1911

    That is one piss poor reporting I have seen in a while.

    I never seen an INSAS rifle in person so take my comments as opinions.

    I did a search on google and wonder at which point the sling would snap. The sling itself doesn’t have a quick detachable buckle. So that’s not a point of failure. The sling width is wide enough that you need a lot of abuse to cause it to snap. The hook is made of metal and not plastic, which is good. The only point of failure I can see is the hook but that’s unlikely.

    The sling can be warp around the barrel beneath the piston. That will solve the sight problem.

    I can see how the lost of zero occur. The rear sight is mounted on the AK like receiver cover. In that configuration you will never have zero.

    All barrel overheat with continuous firing. It looks like it has a pencil like barrel, tho.

    The report about the 5.56 doesn’t kill is extremely bad reporting at best.

    I can believe the magazine will crack when drop but so does every magazine with use.

    Oil spillage? I don’t think that’s a problem. Never with me anyway. I over oiled all my rifles. If they have a problem switch to grease. And yes I do use grease on my ARs.

    • jdun1911, my reporting is piss poor, or the Times?

      The Times of India is generally not good. I don’t get what they mean by oil spillage … who cares if oil leaks out? I over oil most of my guns (cleaning most of it out of the semi-autos before firing).

      As far as barrel overheating goes, they are probably referring to the light machine gun / automatic rifle version of the gun. The barrel does look thin to me.

  • mattling

    Its based on the AK-47 by the way of the Galil with a side trip to FN. This is why the special forces in India are getting the IMI Tavor (called Zittara in India). I think they fast forwarded the deployment of the Tavor after 26/11 cause a whole lot of them popped up in the media images this past year.
    It was useless to try to finagle a brand new localized rifle just to get a “buy local” contract, shoulda stuck with foreign made guns.

  • Kris

    I was in India in March…Pune and Dehli. Lots of soldiers as it was only a week after the Mumbai attacks. I concur with Cliff. Lots of different rifles in use.

    Most of them looked like their maintenance was pretty abysmal.


  • jdun1911

    The Times and not you. The reporting was piss poor.

    BTW on the other thread, the AK-74, the piss poor comments was directed at the reporter and not you.

    • jdun1911, no problem! I figured that, just wanted to check.

  • Kamal Singh


    Couple of points – most reporters in India have very little understanding of matters military, even less of issues concerning firearms. So jdun1911 is right, that is pretty bad reporting.

    Pete made a comment about teaching “conscripts” to shoot. The Indian army is an all volunteer force, there are no conscripts in any units. In fact there is an extreme focus on marksmanship, as the training aims for one shot one kill.

    I am pretty sure the INSAS is not perfect but then which weapon is? The Indian government and the armed forces want to move away from importing all their weapons, so as to not rely on the whims and fancies of foreign suppliers. I am sure INSAS MK2, MK 3 whatever would improve on the earlier models.

    The Indian armed forces do not have M16s. So I do not know where that photograph came from, though one of them is definitely toting an INSAS.

    • any idea what nationality those women are?

  • pjs

    I was in the Bangalore airport recently and saw a guard with a Russian AKMMS (underfolder AK). Pretty beat up but definitely Russian. Couldn’t tell if it was Tula or Izhmash, but likely Izhmash.

    At any rate, I asked some countrymen about it, and they said that the AK’s in the country are not purchased – they confiscated or collected from incursions on the Pakistan boarder. These AK’s are then integrated into the Indian military.

    Additionally, the AK-103 contract was never actually fulfilled. The contract was written for 70K units not for the Indian army, but in fact for the Railway Protection Ministry (essentially, the government’s security forces that protect India’s substantial passenger and cargo railway services). Izhmash never built those rifles though, and the supposed factory that was to be set up in India never happened. This information has been gathered from a variety of sources in Russian and India. The New Delhi times reported this as well.

  • jdun1911


    It not just in India, bad reporting is common everywhere. The sad thing about it is people believe them.


    I hate to be the Armorer for India if what you said is true. So many different type of firearms and all the parts are incomparable with each other. What a nightmare.

  • Steve,

    I have heard that the Indian Border Security Force, a paramilitary outfit, has now started recruiting women to its ranks and involving them in actual combat roles. That said, the unusual logos / stickers on the stocks of the assortment of rifles that these women are carrying, and the number of different firearms that they have in a single group, suggests to me that this may be some rebel outfit in the Indian Northeast and not Indian soldiers or Border Security Force personnel. The M 16 / M 203 combination, as far as I know, has never been used by Indian security personnel and this makes me think that these women are rebels fighting the Indian armed forces even more.

    That said, the INSAS is a pathetic piece of equipment, even worse than the Times of India’s reporting, if such a thing is possible, and if this apples to automobiles comparison could be maintained. I don’t think there is a worse service rifle in use anywhere in the world, and that, almost certainly, is the reason why the Indians plan to issue a global tender very shortly to buy a huge quantity of service rifles from overseas suppliers. As has been pointed out, small quantities of Tavors have been bought for use by VIP protection units in India, but, by and large, the average Indian soldier has to use INSAS junk. If you consider a soldier’s role important, then no country does a worse job of equipping its men in uniform than India does in issuing junk like the INSAS. I hope that the Indians will select a betterservice rifle (it shouldn’t be difficult at all considering the INSAS) soon and distribute it to their service men and women.

  • R.A.W.

    Mehul Kamdar, would you mind listing all the INSAS’s shortcomings in one place? I’ve seen articles complaining about this and that, but I’ve never seen an exhaustive list of the rifle’s flaws in one place.

    Also, are the mini INSAS and INSAS excalibur any better?

  • R.A.W.

    Interesting ID to troll with! I seriously wonder what an intelligence arm of the Indian Foreign Ministry has to do with firearms, but troll names are usually little more than funny concoctions.

    I have shot the Indian made FALs and I see the Lee Enfields that the IOF made sold here as wall hangers for under $ 100 all the time at gun shows. I have also shot the 315 rifle based on the Lee Enfield that is still made in India as well as the 32 revolver – I wouldn’t use any of the long arms made in India as fence posts or handguns as paperweights.

    As far as the INSAS is concerned, any Indian library would have Jane’s Defense Review’s listings of the failures that have been cataloged since 1999 including premature barrel wear (sometimes in as little as 2000 rounds) jamming at Himalayan temperatures as well as in the Rajasthan desert and of carrying handles breaking off. To think that someone could make a complete mess of a design based on the AK 47 with design aspects copied from the Galil / R-4 would be incredible to say the least, but considering how the IOF routinely messes designs that have done beautifully in other countries, I am not surprised at the mess that they have made in the INSAS.

    Finally, if this is such a great firearm, why is the Indian MoD out to buy tens of thousands of new service rifles now? The IOF has to come up with unusual new stuff like its completely redundant 5.56×30 round only to justify its miserable existence.

  • R.A.W.

    Mehul Kamdar, “R.A.W.” is a coincidence; those letters are my initials.

    That is indeed an impressive list of failings. I take it Indian-made FALs aren’t so hot either?

    So if they can’t domestically produce their weapons effectively, how do they intend to arm troops? It would be rather expensive to obtain them all internationally.

    • it won’t be the first small arms failure. The British L85 is another example. I remember hearing a saying “the difference between the L85 and the L85A2 is that the L85A2 actually works!”.

      It seems to me that any country wanting a fairly modern assault rifle with greater emphasis on reliability than accuracy, they can hardly go wrong with the R4, which Mehul mentioned, or if they want to use 5.45 ammo then then the AK-74.

  • Here is the article about woman being used on the border patrol force:


  • Richard

    Its not just the procurement system for rifles which is bad its just about procurement of any kind of equipment for the military and internal security forces. Eevn with 26/11 we have failed to take any of the threats facing us seriously enough. With rampant corruption and state ministers building memorials of themselves is it any wonder why we are where we are????????????

  • Raj

    The women on the photographs are not Indian probably they are Nepalese

  • Koti

    The info you gentlemen got is very inaccurate I say. Almost all of the problems of the Insas rifle stated are very true at some point in time. But, after the 1999 Kargil conflict(when the induction of the rifle gained momentum) most of these problems have been sorted out.
    The oil spilling was addressed so was the magazine cracking. You can see that most of of the regular troops are now issued Insas if you put a little effort into it.
    I could not find a single case when a soldier would require to fire a weapon while it was slung and he has to aim through the sights too!!! Look at the design of the sling, it wouldn’t obstruct if the rifle is lifted to aim.
    The pic most definitely is not of Indian military of paramilitary personnel. It could be Maiosts of Nepal or the militants of north east India.

  • Nit

    To Mehul Kamdar,

    If Jane’s Magazine is your reference about “how bad/good” the Insas rifle is,then I wish you good luck. Are you commenting, based on your experience with actual being a operator of Insas? as in a former/current IA trooper?

    Insas was developed and introduced in the late 90’s.Hence it would “abnormal” if it did not face issues initially. And if it so bad ,IA would not that stupid to introduce close to a million rifles to it’s forces, given that IA has the option to import any firearm and license produce it locally.

    Even the “best thing after sliced bread” Tavour had it’s introduction delayed because it failed to perform satisfactorily in Indian conditions.

    Please note: Indian conditions. Insas works in Indian conditions.

    Add to this, can you please tell which other rifle has been planned to be introduced/mass produced to replace the “faulty Insas”? If you are answer is AK series / M series, then you are totally wrong.


  • NIT, can you please contact thirtycal@comcast.net directly concerning the introduction of modern AK-100 series to IA.


  • aNYU

    Those women soldiers are from Nepalese army or probably the maoist rebels in nepal.
    AK 47s arent only used from the ones collected by captured terrorists but indian counter insurgency and counter terrorist forces specifically use AK 47s as well which have been procured.

  • Destroyer

    Nothing worse than a bad service rifle. There were initial minor issues with the Tavor but the latest reports are that it is a accurate, reliable, satisfactory rifle (that requires additional training because of its different bullpup ergonomics). The British L85 was a nightmare that was inexcusable by both the British and superb Enfield (even the A2 version is still questionable when compared to the M4/M16). Not surprising that many units use the Canadian copy of the M16 and M4 and why india uses the AK-series and FALs. Like the L85, the INSAS looks like a decent weapon (a copy of the AK47 and FAL) though it obviously has significant issues that need to be dealt with. This is further reasoning why India imports significant numbers of military equipment (like Russian T90 tanks because of the significant issues that arose from the domestic Arjun design).

    Jody, LOL!!!! your comment reminds me of those pictures in liberia during the battle of monrovia.

    http://img467.imageshack.us/i/84mz.jpg/ – Life Jacket Body armor
    http://img467.imageshack.us/i/63lk.jpg/ – Homie G RPG stance
    http://img467.imageshack.us/i/105ws.jpg/ – Bounding Overwatch
    http://img464.imageshack.us/i/131xg.jpg/ – remedial action for the AK47 (look at the magazine LOL)
    http://img464.imageshack.us/i/173jo.jpg/ – superior marksmanship
    http://img467.imageshack.us/i/36yc.jpg/ – You know you are badass when you have a one hand AK47 stance

    Yes, involving people with 3rd grade educations and modern military weapons are questionable scenarios to say the least.

  • charles222

    …Is that a sling, or a piece of rope? lol

    And loss of zero after cleaning? roflcopters!

  • Armoured Strike

    Those women in the photo are not form the Indian armed Forces or paramilitary forces. They are from some North-Eastern Indian separatist group most probably Nagas. These outfits arm themselves with weapons bought from black market (M16-A2 in the picture) or by the weapon captured from security personnel during an encounter. Indian ArmedForces does not have M16 as standard issue type especially with 203 UBGL.

  • bill

    Some of you Indians are quite sure that these ladies are insurgents from North-East India but i doubt it.
    I’m from the North-East Indian state of Mizoram. Yes that’s where CIJWS is.
    I have never seen a military personnel or an insurgent with an M16 in India except for foreign militaries in and around CIJWS. The insurgents mostly use double barrel shotgun, Lee-Enfield, AK47, FAL (LMG) and captured INSAS and Sterling carbine.
    @Armoured Strike, how many times have you been to North-East India and see the separatists.
    INSAS is not a perfect firearm but improvements do come along. It performed satisfactorily here in CIJWS according to the reports.

  • zaprod

    Bill, agreed that most of the militants in north-east use the weapons that you mentioned but let me give you a list of weapons captured in the last few years from states like manipur and assam. These include RPGs, M-16/AR-15 with UBGLs, RPDs, M79 gren launchers and even PK UMGs. Even claymore mines are rampant. these weapons generally reach the militants through there camps in Burma, Nepal or Bangladesh, through a porous border. For the past few years infiltration has reduced due to intensive operations by security forces in these states. In my view these are North Eastern Militants, most likely Assamese insurgents, but surely not training in India. most likely they must be in a camp in one of the neighboring countries.
    INSAS is not the best weapon in the world agreed. but a few things stand out – it is damn accurate, light weight for its size and quite easy to clean. the transparent mag is a boon, especially while operating. the open sight is very easy to adjust too. but a more recent weapon would def b a welcome change.

  • EzioAltaïr

    The picture is of maoists, not professional Indian soldiers.

    The sling is improvised, not the regular army sling. It is just a piece of cloth here.

    Loss of zero happens with every rifle, including the AKM.

    Overheating priblems have been fixed long ago.

    Your words show how little you know of it. Loosely based on AK-47 and also comes in 5.45 variant? It only comes in 5.56, nothing else.

  • MK


    The INSAS comes only in 5.56 mm NATO. It can fire the rounds
    that M-16 can, but it can also fire more powerful rounds that the M-16 cannot. When those powerful rounds are used, it
    results in a very flat trajectory, and is highly accurate.

    The INSAS comes in two variants, Assault Rifle (AR) and
    Light Machine Gun (LMG). The INSAS LMG is fully automatic capable, while the
    INSAS AR has an automatic capable variant.

    The fact that the regular issue INSAS does not have fully
    automatic capability is a good thing, for the following reasons:

    – Fully automatic AR for such powerful rounds is
    equivalent to wasting bullets.

    – Fully automatic rifles need heavier barrel so
    that it does not overheat, but that will make the rifle heavy.

    – During British-Argentinean War, The Brits has
    semi-automatic FN-FAL while Argentineans had fully-automatic FN-FAL. The
    semi-automatics performed better.

    The Indian Army (apart from COIN forces) focuses on
    marksmanship. Therefore, a semi-automatic is better than a fully-automatic. In
    contrast, the Soviet doctrine in Afghanistan was to suppress the enemy with
    automatic fire while the artillery (be it small mortars or large howitzers) would
    pummel them; and here, fully-automatic capability is preferred.

    In other words, it is wrong to assume that semi-automatic is
    worse than fully-automatic. It can often be the opposite.