Indian Competition to Replace INSAS Begins

According to, India has begun its competition, announced in 2011, to replace the troubled INSAS rifle. Tellingly, the new rifle will not be Indian-made (much less designed). The competitors originally included the Colt Combat Rifle(sic) (probably the Colt Advanced Carbine), the CZ 807 Bren, the IWI Galil ACE, the SIG 556, and the Beretta ARX-160. However, the competition has been pared down to only two rifles: The ACE and the ARX-160. Unique to the Indian solicitation, the rifles must be capable of converting from 5.56mm caliber to 7.62x39mm. It’s not clear what the reasoning behind this requirement is, but perhaps the Indians are considering taking advantage of the extensive local logistical support for the latter caliber.

The winning rifle will earn its parent company a contract for 66,000 weapons to start, with license production following afterward. If Beretta wins, it will be the first time the ARX-160 has been adopted as standard issue by any military outside of Italy. If IWI wins, it will represent the latest in a long line of contracts earned by the humble ACE.

H/T Remiguiz of BroĊ„ i Amunicja

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • mosinman

    i actually think the INSAS looks really cool, all problems aside. when they ditch them i hope we can get a few stateside

    • joe schemo

      Trust you do not want one. Unless the following conditions are met.
      1. Cheap like a mosin in 2007 price $60
      2. If you plan to hang it on the wall for display
      3. Plan to do a lot of self repair. If you decide to shoot it.

      • mosinman

        i didn’t say it was good, i just want it because i like how it looks not because it’s functional

        • UnrepentantLib

          It’s a shame the Insas turned out so bad. Maybe when they started they should have brought in IWI as consultants and asked “How do we make a 5.56mm AK47?”

      • Zachary marrs

        Maybe if century imports them, the crappyness will cancle out?

        • HSR47

          Crappy/shoddy workmanship is always multiplicative. Thus, an INSAS built by CAI using an Indian parts kit would be exponentially crappier than a wholly Indian gun.

          • Zachary marrs

            It would be like dividing by 0, twice.

      • koti

        Too quick to judge. The famed Beretta MX4 failed miserably to perform in India.

        How much are you willing to pay for it? $75?

  • echelon

    Either one, they’re both favorites…

    If I were looking towards the future, I’d probably go with the ARX though…

    • koti

      Beretta has a bad reputation currently due to its shabby manufacturing of the MX-4. It corrected the issues later but so did Insas(Ishapore)

      • echelon

        Maybe. I guess time will tell. In matters like these it’s naive to think that the best product is what will actually win.

        It’s usually who knows who or which salesman kisses the right posterior. Maybe the Beretta guy will take the officials in charge of the decision to just the right restaurant and that’ll be what wins them over. Or maybe the IWI guy will get the right pros…never mind, I’ll leave that alone.

        Some will laugh or scoff, but this is how it is done the world over.

  • joe schemo

    1. Indian are bad at designing weapons. Their arm industry are plagued by curruptions and ineffiencies.

    2. The tavor would make a better weapon choice, also multi caliber. The bullpup fits the smaller frame of indians better.

    3. I find the arx100 cheap and airsoft like. The accuracy is on par with a AK 2 moa if you are lucky with good ammo. 3 moa or worse with military bulk made ammo, which is what they will be using for the army. Quick change barrel is cool, but unless the indian wants to adopt 300 blackout the advantage is not as great vs other barrel change systems.

    4. They can save a lot of money by going back to the AK. It seems to work well with the russians to this day, unless it is a face saving or prestigue issue. Then again nothing says “we suck at designing weapons” then buying a ready made foreign weapon.

    • Cornelius Carroll

      Agreed but there’s no shame in buying a Tavor IMO. You could say “we’d clone it but feel you guys should get credit for designing it and working out the bugs”.

      • joe schemo

        Well its between arx and galil now.

        INSAS is basically a ak hybrid done badly. It takes a lot of “skills” to screw up a ak. I read that the problem is so bad that the Indian ended up buying 40000 romanian ak to replace them in the front lines. Romanian aks are not exectlly good by any means.

        I am sure bribe change hands between ishenpore and whoever is in charge of selecting weapons for the army.

        • Yes, the INSAS is in the running for “worst issue rifle after 1945”.

          • Ge

            Along with what else? The FAMAS and original L85?

          • Zachary marrs

            Only problem with the original m16 is that it didn’t have a chrome lined bore.

          • koti

            Similarly, most of the reported problems in Insas were initial. Most od not all are corrected in the later batches.

          • koti

            I wonder if that is the cause of the jamming.

          • Zachary marrs

            We’ve had this conversation plenty of times on this site. The powder used was originally meant for the m1 garand. Keep your m16 lubed up, and you will have no problems, as long as your rifle is within spec

          • Original M193 ammo used WC 846 ball powder, the same powder used in 7.62 at the time. It was discovered that the 846 spec allowed for too much calcium for the AR-15, and so the specification was split into WC 846 and WC 844, both of which are still in use.

          • Biggest problems were bad ammo and “expedited” quality control. I wouldn’t put the original M16 the same class as the L85 or INSAS.

          • What’s with the hate for the FAMAS? It seems like a fine rifle.

          • Ge

            From what I’ve read, it works but isn’t too great. Having to outsource the only ammo that works in your rifle is not a good thing. Relying on steel cases and being limited by rifling are other concerns. France also doesn’t have the funds to make the switch to the G2 so they’re stuck in their situation.


          • Those problems seem much more related to the weapon’s age than anything else. The design itself is admirable for having held up for so long without replacement!

          • koti

            Have you got a chance to fire the rifle sir?

            Most of the problems mentioned in the media were corrected in the later batches. I am sure you must be aware of this

          • I’ve handled an INSAS. “Shoddy” is maybe not the best word; “apocalyptic” is more appropriate, I think.

        • koti

          The AKs were bought for counter insurgency. Not for Infantry. Ishapore in a government company. It is not logical for it to attempt a bribe or is it capable of something like that.

        • n0truscotsman

          Cugir Romanian AKs are just fine. I consider them equals to Russian AKs in many respects. Ditto on the East German, Polish, and Bulgarian ones.

          Whatever they may be, they seem to be better than the INSAS yet cost a fraction (like 1/7th).

  • Cornelius Carroll

    Need 7.62×39? Ace. Though it’s not clear that the same weapon needs to be able to change back and forth.

    Honestly they should just buy Tavors and call it a day. No shame on your local industry in buying a Tavor.

    • Joshua

      Must be easily swapped between 5.56 and 7.62×39 with minimal spare parts.

    • Man pippy

      Tavor is too expensive, keep in mind India is technically still a third world country. Regarding the ARX-160, if Beretta couldn’t manage anything better than an atrocious trigger, I shudder to think what India will accomplish.

    • koti

      India actually bought and license manufactures the Tavor. Indian doctrine does not sllign with a bullpup, like the American and Russian doctrines.

  • Joshua

    The Colt submission was a partnership between them and MGI with the Hydra.

    Colt does not have a platform that can easily swap between 5.56 and 7.62×39. Honestly the AR platform makes that difficult, as any AR bolt that is not based off the AR-10 has to be reemed out and generally has very poor bolt life.

    • I wonder if that had sonething to do with the creation of the CK901.

      • Joshua

        The CK901 was made specifically for the competition the Yemeni held.

        But it was designed to combat the issues that plague the average 7.62×39 AR. It however uses a special lower reciever built for the AK magazine that is not compatable with GI mags, nor is it compatable with the 7.62 to 5.56 conversion block the basic 901 was built around.

        Making a AR compatable with both 7.62×39 and 5.56 is a very tall order that would require a modular lower, modular upper, different bolts, barrels, and magazines and frankly it is near impossible. Well if you wanted even half way decent bolt life from the 7.62 bolt(lets face it you need an AR-10 bolt for the 7.62×39).

        • I did not know that, thanks.

          The CK901 is a bit of an odd bird, especially since it’s so heavy. It’s strange to me that 7.62×39 is still so popular that many companies are willing to spend so much effort accommodating it.

          • koti

            I think it was CM-901 that was involved in the Indian tender. I don’t know how it is related to CK901 though

          • Joshua

            The CK901 is the 7.62×39 variant of the 901 that Colt developed for the competition held by the Yemenis.

            They submitted a M4A1 to this because they do not have a modular 5.56 to 7.62×39 platform. The basic 901 is 5.56 to 7.62×51, but in order to run AK-47 mags they had to make a custom lower receiver that is incompatable with GI mags.

          • DiverEngrSL17K

            There should be absolutely nothing strange about why the 7.62mm x 39 cartridge is so popular —- it is, after all, an excellent, accurate, hard-hitting and completely reliable battlefield round that happens to be also very cost-effective. Part of the problem with AR compatibility is exactly as Joshua has described — attempting to adapt this round to a mechanical design, i.e., the M4 / M16 / AR15

          • 7.62×39 is a ballistic yawn. It’s no harder hitting than smaller caliber rounds. It takes more raw materials to make.

            It’s no mystery to me that it’s still popular, in the same way that .30-30 is popular. What’s a bit strange is that people are still expending a considerable amount of effort to design new weapons for the cartridge.

          • DiverEngrSL17K

            I have to say that I definitely cannot agree with you insofar as your first paragraph is concerned. Respectfully to each his own, and whatever works best for you.

            As for your second paragraph, the popularity, low cost and abundant availability of the cartridge in themselves would provide a strong incentive to design and manufacture firearms chambered in that particular caliber — after all, making money is still a driving force in firearms production, as it is in any other business endeavour. And it doesn’t even have to be a case of actual fact ; as long as there is the perception, rightly or wrongly, that there is a potential market for the product in question, manufacturers will try their hand at it.

    • Koti

      I think it was CM901

  • big daddy

    The ACE looks like it was designed with simple infantry in mind. It looks like an AK. I sure wish they would sell them in the USA.

  • dave

    Is there any chance of seeing INSAS parts kits popping up in the foreseeable future due to this?

  • Bill

    Check this out. Insas in full auto. The lack of recoil is simply amazing.

    • dave

      The gun weighs 10lbs in that configuration… of course recoil will be negligible. To say the gun is overweight is an understatement..

      • koti

        It is supposed to. It replaced the Bren.

  • Don Ward

    Is the Indian Army trying to be too cute with the whole “modular” weapon thing?

    • koti

      I never understood the logic too. It just makes the weapon more complex, expensive and relatively less reliable(?)

      • Dirty Old Armorer

        That makes the concept perfect for India. A nation plagued with complex, expensive and useless layer upon layer of bureaucracy.

        Requiring modularity is an excellent way of promoting the real mission of any bureaucracy: expansion of that bureaucracy. 5.56mm and 7.62mm? Twice as many bureaucrats to supervise ammo production and acquisition. And they’re going to need a couple of layers of supervision, so that should create positions for some more bureaucrats. And all those babus are going to need offices, and staff, and office supplies.

        Somewhere outside Delhi, a mid-level babu is getting giddy with the opportunities this will be creating. He’ll be putting more effort into picking out the options for his new Mercedes than he ever will put into the new Indian armed forces rifle, but cut him some slack, he’s going to be under a lot of stress trying to make sure he gets a bigger desk than any of his underlings.

  • Ed

    I wouldn’t buy into just one web sight. Rumors and scuttlebutt fools amny of us. As for India they use amny rifles in there armed forces Many still use AKMs and others had FALs and western weapons. I doubt they go full uniform one weapon anytime soon that cost ALOT of money. Hope Beretta wins… Since they are the under dog.

    • The tender isn’t to replace all INSAS rifles… Yet.

  • IMI [not IWI] is under a 10 Year ban (start March 2012) from selling to India’s OFB [Ordinance Factory Board] weapon’s procurement division when India’s General Sudipot Gosh was indicted for “Illegal Gratification” [accepting bribes & kickbacks]. Six companies were banned & one the companies was IMI. Has IWI been allowed to sell to India on the grounds that is not IMI, even though it is a spinoff of it?
    List of banned companies: Singapore Technologies; IMI; Reinmatel; Corp. Defense Russia, two Indian firms

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      Excellent input, Ghost — thanks for reiterating and reminding us of what happened during the procurement process lest we forget. Much appreciated!

      • Interesting. Do you consider bribing Generals part of the procurement process?

        • DiverEngrSL17K

          Definitely not — corruption and favoritism should never be part of a competitive procurement process. In reality, however, this is unfortunately not the case in many instances. The bribing of senior officers associated with the INSAS programme is but one example.

  • John Daniels

    They should just buy Diemaco rifles like everybody else and get it over with.

  • toms

    The Mr potato head gun! Sad but I would have a hard time choosing between this and a Riesling if those were my two choices.

    • koti

      Are you comparing a SMG with an assault rifle? Good luck sir.

      • toms

        I am comparing two poorly made weapons with long histories of failure. Both are likely to take a dump on you when you need them. The Insas would probably win but not by much.

      • schizuki

        Actually, he’s comparing a Rhine wine with an assault rifle.

        The Reising submachinegun, while lacking the flowery, almost perfumed aroma and delightful apple notes of a good Riesling, does edge out even the best vintages with its authoritative .45 ACP finish.

        • DiverEngrSL17K

          Good call, Schizuki — and I got a good laugh out of this exchange too!

      • DiverEngrSL17K

        Agreed — except that a glass of properly-aged vintage Reisling would be hard to beat under most circumstances :).

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      I think you meant to say “Reising”, didn’t you? Not that I have any objections to a glass of decent Reisling :).

  • toms

    Didn’t the arx get picked up by Albania?

    • john huscio

      Special forces

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    The initial concept of the INSAS looked good on paper, but the execution was deeply flawed by cost-cutting measures and a lack of an integrated approach to RD & T, hence the “fix it and add to it as you go” history of the gun. I am loath to say this, but the shortsightedness of the “babus” ( Government bureaucrats ), coupled with mismanagement and corruption at every level within the acquisition system, were the real primary factors in the downgrading and downfall of the INSAS as a production weapon.

    For those of you who might have an added interest in the topic of the INSAS and the Indian small arms acquisition programme as seen from an ethnic insider’s standpoint, I would recommend

    For the sake of the Indian soldier, who will have to live and die by the choice and functionality of the rifle given to him by a system in which he has little say, let’s hope the same does not happen again with the replacement rifle, whatever it might be.

    Come to think of it, the same applies to ordinary soldiers of every stripe and nationality anywhere in the world.

    • koti

      I think it would have turned out to be better if it straightly copied the AK, like the Galil or the chinese clones. It tried to combine FAL with AK making things better on paper but ended up with a sour lemon mostly due to QC

      • DiverEngrSL17K

        Precisely — you have put it very well indeed in summarizing the primary issues that contributed to the INSAS’ downfall. Thank you for adding to the conversation!

      • John

        Actually, the original Chinese AK was not a clone but a fully licensed product with full Soviet tooling.

        India despite massive poverty and the cheapest labor costs in the world still can’t make a happy meal toy competitively, so who are we kidding? ??

    • n0truscotsman

      added to favorites. thanks for the post

      • DiverEngrSL17K

        You’re welcome!

    • BobNoxious46

      Cost cutting measures? What did they do, outsource to LCC? HAHAHAHAAH

      • DiverEngrSL17K

        The way they went about it, they might as well have done so :).

  • Darren Hruska

    After seeing TFB’s troublesome review of the ARX-100 (civilian ARX-160), India better avoid that thing. The Galil ACE series may be promising, though.

  • familr

    Reason for 7.62x39mm? Many AKs were bought as interim rifles and in a country as big as India there’s still many around.

    History of the AK in India –

  • fighterclass

    dear gawd ! the ignorance is simply awful here !

    INSAS suffered (note past tense) from some QC problems. that was waaay back in late 90’s.

    it has seen a decade & half of reliable service and it is well loved by the grunts.

    to say INSAS suffers from poor quality is like saying the M16 is an unreliable piece of $hite because of its vietnam record.

    • Interesting, then, that the Indian military isn’t turning to Ishapore to design its replacement.

      • DiverEngrSL17K

        I distinctly remember Steve Johnson’s posting of this article, originally written by “Cottage Cheese” on the web site, about four years ago. It was, and still is, a valuable insight into the vagaries and potential pitfalls of small arms acquisition. Many thanks for the reminder!

  • n0truscotsman

    “wo, although the priority was on R&D the defence ministry would have to consider the cost factor because IOF would be forced to keep the price of EACH Insas to around Rs 15,000 to cover averhead costs whereas a certain East European vendor had (then) just quoted around 100 US dollars for one AK (a variant). China was ready to sell its Type 56 for around 90 USD. Those days a USD was equal to Rs 20 (or Rs 22 maybe) if my memory doesnt fail me”

    0.o Wow…

    They would have been better off buying Romanian AKs by a long shot.

  • Martin Frank

    Soooo, the arx-160 was adopted by kazakastan as reported here on this very webpage. So it will not be the first time its adopted.

    • Agitator

      Kazakhstan adopted it as an SF weapon only. This would be the first “standard issue” adoption of the ARX outside of Italy… as clearly stated in the article. Good try though.

  • idahoguy101

    I’d bet on the ACE. I wonder why the Daewoo K2 rifle wasn’t considered?

  • Cknarf

    I want one.

  • Brad Ferguson

    I like the Colt but, I love the Sig. However………..I’m not so much in love with the Sigs, price.

  • Lasis

    What’s with MCIWS? Too green and unproven for competition?