India May Scrap Rifle Competition


India’s rifle competition may be on the verge of cancellation. From Jane’s:

India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) is likely to scrap its 2011 tender for 66,000 multi-calibre assault rifles after four overseas vendors failed to meet the Indian Army’s qualitative requirements (QRs) in user trials that concluded in October 2014, official sources said.

The Czech Republic’s Czeca CZ 805 BREN, Italy’s Beretta ARX 160, the Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) ACE 1 (a variant of the company’s ACR rifle), and the United States’ Colt Combat Rifle (a M16A1 specially configured for the Indian contract) are competing for the INR48.50 billion (USD782.25 million) deal.

The contract cost includes reflex, day- and night-sights, and laser designators.

Jane’s has made a couple of errors in their reporting. The Colt Combat Rifle is not an M16A1, but rather most likely a Colt Advanced Carbine or similar derivative of the Colt line. Likewise, the ACE 1 is not a derivative of an ACR, that is probably a typo.

The Indian military must find a replacement for its INSAS rifles soon – already many have been replaced by vintage (but serviceable) AKM rifles in critical areas. It’s unclear whether India will proceed with their MCIWS rifle project if this competition is cancelled, or some other indigenous development.

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


  • Giolli Joker

    “four overseas vendors failed to meet the Indian Army’s qualitative requirements (QRs) in user trials”

    Never read BS more blatantly false.
    The four competitors are head and shoulders above anything that the Indian Army has ever touched.
    It would be nice to find somewhere the accounts of the soldiers that really tested the guns.

    Still, it’s hard to tell what motivated this decision: political move to protect national pride? push to save money? corruption gears not oiled enough?

    • Geo

      Or maybe waiting on China to submit one for “testing”?

      • hikerguy

        If it weren’t for the fact that they are two countries most apt to get into nuclear war with one another, I would highly doubt it. That’s why the Pakistanis are such good friends with the Chinese and are a major purchaser of Chinese military equipment.

    • MPWS

      And what do you think is so much better about them? Is it not that properties of particular arm are mainly properties of ammunition they shoot? The existing Indian service 7.62×39 is adequately effective, so is potentially dressed up AK in Indian guise. They just need to upgrade it, as have done many other forces thru time, including U.S. services.
      I see this as apart of moving away from western suppliers/licensors all across recent Indian forces acquisitions.

      • Giolli Joker

        According to several sources the current rifle is kind of a poorly assembled mix of features that the committee who designed it found interesting on other rifles.
        Btw, the INSAS is chambered in 5.56x45mm.
        And the fact that the ammunition is the only factor to be considered seems a bit too simplistic, don’t you think?
        Reliability? Ergonomics? Size?Weight?

        • MPWS

          Well, for 5.56 is INSAS a bit hefty – true. Then, depending on your background and particular experience, you may have your own conception, how military firearm should look like.
          Based on what I gathered so far, it needs to be hefty to sustain harsh use including hand to hand combat. Also, weight being contentions subject on this forum has some meaning. I served one time with light rifle which was not stable during burst – so take your pick.

          • UnrepentantLib

            In a rational world, they’d bring in some German or Czech or Israeli engineers, put them in a room with an INSAS and a squad of soldiers who actually used the thing, figure out what’s wrong with it, and fix it.

          • MPWS

            I agree; “if” they did is the word. I have no doubt it would be fixed. And maybe even one of good ones.

          • Raven

            I think that’s called the Galil ACE.

          • Zugunder

            Wouldn’t it be great if we as rational human beings cooperated on such things? Like, not divide to “west/east” bullshit. Put together US/EU/Russian/Asian engineers and let them make ultimate rifle. Would like to see what they can create together. Dreams. Politicians suck.

          • All you need to know about the INSAS’s failings as a rifle are available through the links.

            A rifle does not need to be heavy for hand-to-hand fighting, something that’s only barely relevant, anyway. The INSAS for all its weight, would probably break its flimsy top handguard if you used it in melee, besides.

            I do not know where this idea that rifles must be heavy to be durable comes from, but I am hearing it often, and it isn’t true.

          • John

            Not really “heavy” so much as “durable” and “well designed so it doesn’t automatically break in a firefight”. I think people just lack the engineering terminology to describe what they do want, so they say “heavy” for what they mean.

            Look at the G36. Light, plastic, and it was designed badly. Whether or not it’s true, the German Army seems to think it is, and they don’t want anymore of those. Heavy is indicative of quality.

          • Heavy is not indicative of quality. It’s indicative of heaviness.

          • Giolli Joker

            On the flip side, “Heavy is indicative of quality.” would look great on XXL and above t-shirts. 😀

          • Raptor Krav Maga

            In the common mind “heavy” is equivalent to quality.

      • simon

        Except they are not “moving away from western suppliers”. Have you noticed they just ordered a bunch of Rafale fighters?

        • David

          So true. Why even solicit the aforementioned companies for their respective rifles if India was “moving away from western suppliers”?

          It doesn’t make sense.

          I understand the desire to keep production domestic for more reasons than one. But the corporate culture as well as political culture in India would make the domestic production of a high quality anything really really tough. I’ve done business over in India on multiple occasions. Nothing works, even in large cities. It’s a pattern repeated over and over and over again. There’s always some kind of problem or descrepancy or issue that prevents something from going smoothly, be it driving somewhere to closing a deal. The corruption is just too complete. This kind of thing happened to the INSAS.

          That doesn’t mean there is no desire to have a domestically designed and produced service rifle that works well. There obviously is. But India is getting in the way of India on this one. Sometimes you have to suck up your pride and write the big check, because it’s worth it.

          • Yallan

            They can’t afford the big check. And they are too corrupt and incompetent to develop a peer. Hell, they are the first nation to eff up an AK derivative.

            Best case scenario is some european nation has AK machinery for sale. (Check Finland) And they build an AK with a quad rail on it.

      • iksnilol

        What I think is better is that they work much better. They have had QC issues to put it mildly. That and the rifle isn’t designed well.

        Then again, I am armchairing it now.

        • UnrepentantLib

          Looking at the article cited above (INSAS Rifles) it appears that part of the problem is unnecessary or poorly thought out features, but a major part of the problem is horrendously bad workmanship. If they don’t resolve that, then it doesn’t matter what design they buy if they intend to manufacture locally.

    • John

      >”Never read BS more blatantly false. The four competitors are head and shoulders above anything that the Indian Army has ever touched. It would be nice to find somewhere the accounts of the soldiers that really tested the guns.”

      Here’s what I understand about the current contenders:

      1. Nobody really likes the ARX (it has failure-to-eject issues and other problems) and Beretta has resorted to building factories in different countries just to win the contract, like Finland.

      2. Colt has been resting on their laurels for a long time, to the point where they either let prices soar or quality suffer. There’s a reason the DoD awarded FN the contract for M16s now.

      3. IWI has been making a killing with the Galil ACE and the Tavor. They may actually have the strongest case in being unfairly labeled, but Israel and India have sort of had political problems recently. I wonder if it’s not related to IWI.

      What I’m seeing a lot of across the internet is a surge in Indian nationalism and pride; everyone would rather put money into fixing and enhancing the INSAS than paying a foreign firm to supply foreign guns to the Indian Army. They’re bringing up the M16 as the perfect example, and I can’t fault them for it.

      • Except the M16 didn’t have anywhere near the problems the INSAS does, and was a promising new design as opposed to a rehash of an old, near-obsolete one.

        • Ben

          So the INSAS is basically like an M14 then?

          (That zipping noise is me putting on my flame retardant suit).

          • Maybe like an early H&R M14, sure. The TRW M14s were really excellent, and it’s pretty regrettable that production was ended before TRW could reach a return on their investment for the production of the M14. If they had, they would have actually entered the firearms market and could have shaken it up a bit.

            If I ever have the means and opportunity to own an actual TRW M14, I probably will.

      • Wetcoaster

        I’m curious as to what the Colt multi-calibre rifle is. Looking at India, the Bren and the ARX, it looks like the calibres are going to be 5.56 and 7.62 x 39 which narrows the field substantially.

        • Giolli Joker

          India indeed wants their new rifle to be easily able to switch between the two calibers you mention.

          According to the Wiki entry for the INSAS, the following is the summary of the required features of the replacement:

          “The specification of the weapon is of a modular rifle,
          with ability to fire both 5.56×45mm and 7.62×39mm, by changing the magazines and the barrels. The 5.56×45mm are to be used in conventional warfare and 7.62×39mm in close quarters combat and in counter terrorism operations. The rifle should have mount points for under-barrel grenade launchers and reflex sights. The rifle’s weight with an empty magazine should be less than 3.6 kg. The barrels for both calibres should be less than 16 inches.”

          (If they expect to switch barrels but keep the same bolt, refer to my previous reply on absurd requirements.)

          • Wetcoaster

            I’m impressed that it’s even possible to change between the two calibres without replacing the magazine well given the difference in taper of the two rounds and resulting difference in mag curvature.

            I’m guessing the only real way to do that is to drop compatibility with any existing magazines so that both types can fit into the same well?

        • Joshua

          I’m pretty sure it was a joint venture between Colt and MGI for the Hydra.

          I could be wrong, but I believe that is what was submitted.

      • Giolli Joker

        My words were implying more the flaws of the INSAS than possible merits of the much more modern competitors.

        However, I could reconsider the following sentence:
        “four overseas vendors failed to meet the Indian Army’s qualitative requirements (QRs)”

        By personal experience with technical tenders from Indian government companies (power generation in my case) I can testify that their bureaucracy tends to master the art of concocting completely absurd technical requirements, by letting several people with no hands-on knowledge each add their own take on the specification.

        The competitors therefore might be facing requests like:
        -1mln rounds barrel life;
        -ability to shoot 35 rounds out of a 30rds magazine;
        -ability to shoot after being dropped in wet cement and left dry 2hrs;
        (I’m joking, but that is the style)

        They also tend to be quite adamant on their position.

        So yes, it is not impossible that the competitors failed to meet the requirements.
        Simply there are good chances that the requirements cannot be met by anything manufactured on this planet or by anything that can be manufactured at the agreed price.

        • FarmerB


        • RJ

          This actually makes sense considering H&K and other s didn’t bother…or did I miss something and they did?

        • TCBA_Joe

          This is probably VERY true. I’ve noticed a trend of 3rd world crapholes upgrading from old AKs and Mosins following a trend.
          -Need new rifles
          -ignore the laws of physics wen writing requirements
          -have the best companies send and modify their best designs
          -test the rifles as requested
          -realize you can’t afford any new western rifles
          -break every rifle that passes in unauthorized testing in hastily done extreme tests
          -fail all applicants and bar them from future competitions while attacking their reputation for inability to design a rifle that surpasses said laws of physics
          – wait for bribes, wait for US (or Russian) aid, buy more old garbage, or have local gun company turn out “barely good enough turd”.

      • Yallan

        I think the Galil ACE is too expensive and too difficult to build for India given their INSAS rifle.

        I think what they really want is a lower priced AK but are too cheap to pay the russians for theirs.

      • BobNoxious46

        I think they want to take the money that we spent outsourcing IT and insource their own d a m n rifle. That’s what it comes down to.

  • Vitor Roma

    LOL, really. Btw, a M16A1 in the competition? Really?

    • Joshua

      It wasn’t a M16A1.

      • I am not sure why Jane’s reported it as such. I think it was a Colt Advanced Carbine.

  • micmac80

    I do not know who still takes Indias tenders seriusly ,the canceled or backtracked(drasticaly cutting resoulting orders) on just about every mayor deal in past decade.

    • Mike N.

      True, just look at their history with commercial aircraft. Military aircraft too, for that matter. Indian bureaucracy is truly epic.

      • KestrelBike

        Even the sporting industry hates India. For World Superbikes, India wanted to impound all of the bikes for 15 days as they “inspect them”, not realizing/caring that the race calendar dictates that the entire show (bikes fly in on cargo, get transported to track, raced, flown back out) occurs within a single week. India also tried to impose an importation cover, meaning that any importation of a good would be taxed unless it could be shown that it then left the country in a short time. Problem was that they wanted upfront a cash deposit of 105% of the value which would eventually be returned (less fees, naturally), which for a world superbike is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The different teams couldn’t possible front that cash.

        From the article I’m summing up:

        “But dealing with India is not easy
        even for F1; the Indian Sports Ministry could have waived import duty
        requirements for F1 by designating the race an event of national importance.
        They did not, leaving the F1 organization to deal with a mountain of paperwork
        for the event. The situation was so complex that some teams, such as Ferrari,
        decided against flying in development parts for the Indian race, a decision
        which Fernando Alonso felt cost him significantly in the title chase”

        In short: India is stupid.

        • MPWS

          Look at it this way – India is a subcontinent with its long and colourful tradition. It apparently does not feel it has to take any more lessons form “advanced” West. You can check on history on your own to see how that country was treated in past. So, it is more or less natural result of this experience.
          As far as their motorcycle production (if that’s what you mean by “bikes”) they are a super-power in that field, hands down.
          This said, I am not in any way apologist for Indian ways of doing business, perhaps to contrary. But, it’s the reality to live by.

          • tts

            International history has nothing to do with the mindblowing levels of corruption and incompetence in modern India’s national and local govt. which is what is being brought up here.

            No one is saying, or even giving examples of, anything about foreign lessons that India should be following either.

          • MPWS

            I have to agree with your point. They are truly socialist (mess) country, spiked with tribalism on top of it.

          • Mike N.

            If anything, they inherited the bureaucracy from the Brits, and f’ed it up even further.

        • MclarenF1Forever

          Permit Raj is the name of the game over there. This is a country that has “make work” jobs, like copy machine operator. The people in that job has one task, take the original from the person, put it in the copy machine, and make the desired copies and hand it all back. They just stand/sit next to “their” copy machine. A complete waste.

          • Giolli Joker

            True. Or “office boys” giving tea to employees in each company.
            Crazy from western standards, but it helps putting food on the table of poor people in an overpopulated country.

          • FarmerB

            No, the real job of the copy machine (fax, printer) operator is to stop people stealing the printer paper.

      • Martin M

        ICMY, India just announced that they are cutting their Rafale order from 126 aircraft down to just 36.

    • The Indians are also _infamous_ for ordering a few thousand guns and then making copies without a license, usually fabricating some sort of BS claim about improprieties of one sort or another. These guys should probably be thankful that they didn’t “win”.

      • Al

        Yep, it’s business as usual for the Indians. Wonder which one of the “losers” they will blatantly copy and refuse to pay license fees for? After 70 years of this, I only wonder why the manufacturers bother.

  • Bal256

    Enfields are great bolt action rifles and were produced in Britain and India (via Ishapore). Nowadays neither country can design a proper assault rifle.

    • forrest1985

      Too true!

  • DW

    India must have misheard. Scrap the INSAS, not the INSAS replacement competition!

  • May

    The only possible requirements I could see all those guns failing that the INSAS didn’t is cost.
    Also since when is the Galil ACE based on the ACR? And for that matter since when did IWI have anything to do with the ACR?

    • Jane’s made several errors in their reporting.

  • guest

    Maybe they’ll just ditch the whole lot of fancy toys and go for a proven tool like the AK.

  • ghost

    Indians are cheap. Whatever it cost will always be too much.

  • toms

    They will buy Russian guns, just watch.

  • Has anyone done the math here? $782,000,000/ 66,000 rifles = $11,848 per rifle + optics.

    With that type of budget, they could be equipping them with the most modern rifles and optics in the world.

  • Core

    I was like, ACE is IWI ACR? Had be thinking for a minute. lo

  • Doom


  • LCON

    I have said it before, I’ll Say it again There Elites already use licensed IWI Tavors might as well just as well go whole hog.

  • Aimz

    Man, Indian military procurement never ceases to amaze me. Their Air Force is just a complete mess of aircraft…everything from Mig-21s, 23s, 27s, 29s, French Mirage 2000, British Jaguars, Su-30MKI, and now the Rafale. Sounds like a formidable force, except they have terrible logistical problems. The pride of the air force, the MKIs, are at 55% availability! Yet they keep buying or upgrading their aircraft (or at least attempting too).

    Do you see the logic the Indian politicians have? ‘Let’s buy all this fancy stuff, and then attempt to make some of it home, and if it screws up, we’ll just sit around for a decade or so until we decide what to do.’ The exact same can be said about the INSAS. It’s been a complete failure of a rifle for nearly two decades, and they JUST decided to do something about it. Smh.

    The best solution would be for India to build several hundred thousand AK-100 rifles and equip their police/paramilitary/military forces. If Venezuela was able to afford 100,000 AK rifles (this includes all the production facilities), then India can definitely procure several times that.

    • Maphisto86

      Same goes for the Arjun main battle tank. A several decades old boondoggle that is still lurching forward despite India’s army pretty much favoring the Russian T-72 and T-90 designs. Despite some progress finally with the design it is still too expensive and according to a recent article in Defense News most of India’s Arjun tanks are grounded due to lack of parts! India could be a great nation once again if it were not for the weeds of bureaucracy and corruption strangling everything.

  • Fegelein

    Wow, India, you really are learning from America on how to make sure you always get exactly what you want.