India to continue with Excalibur Program

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The Indian Ministry of Defense is awaiting the results of trials to do with their Excalibur program, of which they are hoping will pass, and then plans to purchase over 600,000 rifles, at the price of 60,000 INR, or around $900 US dollars each. We’ve already covered the severe reliability problems with the INSAS in an article at TFB here, and we have a post about the first news of the Excalibur back in July.┬áIn case anyone was wondering, the name Excalibur has nothing to do with a possible play on the word “caliber” but instead is the name of the sword in the myth of King Arthur in Britain, where he pulls the sword out of the stone to become king. Unfortunately for India, it looks like they’re having an awfully hard time pulling the metaphorical perfect infantry rifle out of the stone. The article also mentions that the Indian Armed Forces are still in the process of looking for a carbine since they officially discontinued the 9x19mm Sterling in 2010 (I’m sure they still have tons scattered across armories and still in use, but at least from an official standpoint) and are still waiting to decide on several foreign carbines that were submitted. Of course this is also the bulk of the Armed Forces we are talking about here, the special forces and Indian Marines have their separate procurement programs. From Jane’s-

Senior army officials told IHS Jane’s that 200 prototype Excalibur rifles, fabricated at the Ordnance Factory Board’s (OFB’s) Rifle Factory Ishapur (RFI) in eastern India, would undergo user evaluation trials later in 2015.

Once approved, the army plans to induct over 600,000 Excalibur rifles for around INR36 billion (USD541 million), or around INR60,000 each.

The army opted for the Excalibur after scrapping its 2011 tender for 66,000 multicalibre assault rifles in June, as none of the four foreign models tested met its qualitative requirements.

The Excalibur is a retrofitted version of the Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) assault rifle, designed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and rejected by the army in 2010 for being “operationally inadequate”.

The Excalibur’s barrel is 4 mm shorter than that of the INSAS and its hand guard is smaller.

Indian Army Chief of Staff General Dalbir Singh is strongly backing Excalibur as it is a ‘Made in India’ programme and so fits in with the government’s preference for locally manufactured equipment. He has posted infantry officers at RFI to conduct test firings and offer advice on design improvement, sources said.

On 1 September Gen Singh, accompanied by Lieutenant General Sanjay Kulkarni, Director General Infantry (DGI), visited the RFI and personally conducted the ‘water’ and ‘mud’ tests on the rifle, which it reportedly cleared. Both officers also proposed ergonomic alterations to the rifle to render it more user-friendly.

The OFB aims to begin series producing Excalibur on modified INSAS production lines at RFI in 2016 .

Meanwhile, the army has still to decide the outcome of the 2010 tender for 44,618 close quarter battle (CQB) carbines, trials for which concluded in 2013. These featured Beretta’s ARX 160, IWI’s Galil ACE carbine, and Colt’s M4.

The Indian Army has been without a carbine since 2010 when it removed the licence-built Stirling 1A1 9 mm sub-machine gun from service.

While you have a second, this video seems to be taken at an exposition of some sort in India, where the Excalibur is being displayed and talked about. Very crowded noise volume so be sure to turn down your speakers.

Another interesting tidbit that people we have previously neglected to mention is that the Excalibur is nothing new, the concept has been around since the 1990s as apart of the INSAS program. Initially the program was to include an Assault rifle, carbine, LMG, and an Excalibur rifle, with a polymer stock and ability to mount night vision devices (no picatinny rails, 1990s timeframe). So it isn’t as if this advanced rifle just appeared out of nowhere, no, it was included in the INSAS project from the very get go, and has just been continually upgraded. Personally if I were serving in the Indian Army for this time frame, I’d be little angry that a badly performing rifle was fielded to me, while a possibly better alternative had been right there all along. Then again, it was rejected in 2010 for being inadequate.

An example of the earliest production version of the Excalibur and night optic, remember, 1990s timeframe

An example of the earliest production version of the Excalibur and night optic, remember, 1990s timeframe.

Early example

Early example.



Miles V

Former Infantry Marine, and currently studying at Indiana University. I’ve written for Small Arms Review and Small Arms Defense Journal, and have had a teenie tiny photo that appeared in GQ. Specifically, I’m very interested in small arms history, development, and Military/LE usage within the Middle East, and Central Asia.

If you want to reach out, let me know about an error I’ve made, something I can add to the post, or just talk guns and how much Grunts love naps, hit me up at miles@tfb.tv


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  • Phil Hsueh

    Is it just me or does that rifle look a bit wonky? What I’m seeing is an odd dip in the buttstock, then a straight receiver, the handguard seems to go at a different angle from the receiver while the barrels appears to level with the receiver. I don’t know if any of that would make a difference since at least the barrel appears to be straight, but it sure makes for a funky looking rifle.

    • iksnilol

      That dip in the stock will just make it pivot easier.

      • BrandonAKsALot

        I feel like there’s a “your momma” joke in there somewhere.

        • iksnilol

          Only “yo momma” joke I can is: “Yo momma so fat she probably has diabetus”.

  • They really should just get a license to build tavors in india.

    • lowell houser

      Dude they can’t figure out how to make a reliable AK, do you really think that the company involved will do better with a bullpup?

      • Dracon1201

        They would just have to take the Tavor and not f— with it.

      • If they license built it, they would have IWI experts to help them set up production up to israeli quality standards.

      • cs

        More like they cant figure out how to make a more accurate AK.

      • javierjuanmanuel

        Israeli tech, managed by israeli, but put together and machined in india.

        All the hard work is done.

        They should be able to do it

        • TJbrena

          If it were that simple, the Indians wouldn’t have gotten hung up on the Rafale purchase. They wanted Dassault liable for any screwups the Indians made on Indian-made Rafales, and if the INSAS and Arjun are examples of Indian manufacturing quality, then there would’ve been a lot of those.

          There’s several things I could say about India as a military power, but suffice it to say they’re like a cheap knock-off of China.

          • javierjuanmanuel

            Well its not hard, but bad leaders can make rady things difficult.

            I am not knowledgeable of their past projects, ill trust you that they messed it up.

            They have a bilion people, indians are great engineers, they have resources.

            It should be very easy to license other peoples tech, and put it together.

    • Giolli Joker

      They should first set up facilities capable of doing that, as their enemy Pakistan did with POF.
      I doubt that any of the current manufacturing facilities would be up to the task of manufacturing decently a Western design.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    That don’t look right.

  • Al

    Typical Indian fiasco. They are replacing a really poorly designed and manufactured AK derivative with yet another “improved” AK derivative – that will certainly suffer the same issues. But it will be an object of “national pride” as it is designed and made there.

    • Gjert Klakeg Mulen

      Why can’t they just adopt the AK-101 and be done with it?

      • Lance

        Many AK-101 had issues with jamming so its easier with a SiG 552 knock off, than find a way to correct the AK-101.

        • Esh325

          What jamming issues? Did you make that up?

        • Agitator

          What? And how is this a 552 knock off? And why would you knock off the 552 anyway, since it’s been taken out of production and replaced by the 553 due to inherent design issues?

          Back in your hole, Lance.

    • Ben Loong

      Well actually, the one detailed overview of the INSAS that was made indicates it’s
      really more like a copy of the FN FNC/CAL/FAL rifles with an AK-shaped
      receiver cover.

      • Al

        The INSAS is an AK derivative design. The handguard has some styling hints of the FN (reminiscent of another design they ripped off – the Ishapore 1a1), but the gun is straight up AK.

        • Ben Loong

          I just double checked (haven’t read that article in a while), and yes the bolt, bolt carrier and parts of the receiver are AK-inspired.

          Though the barrel, gas regulator, selector lever, trigger group, all resemble earlier FN rifles.

  • kyphe

    I groan when reading about some high and mighty personally supervising tests, are they there to ensure the tests are impartial and competent? or to ensure the thing passes no matter what.

  • lowell houser

    I’m still trying to figure out why anybody builds an AK in 5.56. If your goal is a budget 5.56 why not go with an AR18 knockoff? Why not resurrect the Leader Dynamics T2?

    • Guy

      Because bean counters don’t think about this crap. They see “Made in India”, check that box, and pat themselves on the back.

    • Dracon1201

      Everyone needs to at least try an AR18 derivative. The T2 was great, except the parts that weren’t. Masterpiece Arms has shown that.

    • Kivaari

      AR-18s could use a tougher design feature to prevent the magazine from being forced higher in the mag well. Early guns did break extractors and that hinged butt stock was weak.

  • Vitor Roma

    Wow, at least it makes brazillians feel good about the new Imbel rifle.

    • Esh325

      What’s wrong with the imbel?

      • Vitor Roma

        It had a rocky R&D, but it seems the final result is solid. Nothing very unique, but a nice execution of well proven designs.

        • Its also really heavy.

        • Giolli Joker

          And it doesn’t look crap from a mile away.

          (Actually I kinda dig it.)

  • J.T.

    They put lipstick on a pig. Nothing else has changed.

  • guest

    It’s like letting Waziristan making a clone of an XD-M while wanting to get a Glock.

    I understand a lot of pride and political bias goes into firearms procurement, but for pete’s sake get an AK 100 series and be done with it. In fact CK will be more than happy to help you licence it, provide the equipment and even let you re-brand it “Vishnu-1000” or whatever, just as long as the name is the only thing being changed.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      China will be knocking at their border someday, you need real guns that work.

      • Sinosparo

        Considering less than half of Indian households have toilets, they will look east and shout “Save us!”, and they will whisper “No…”

  • tazman66gt

    looks like plastic that was pulled out of the mold to soon, seems a bit to droopy

  • Esh325

    The m16 wasn’t perfect when it was first fielded either. With the rifle in the video the problem I see is a lack of a full length rail no railed hand guards. Stock could be better. Hopefully they’ve really fixed the problems. They should give an indigenous rifle one more shot before looking else where.

  • AJ Choudhry

    Meanwhile Pakistan will continue producing HK G3.

    • Kivaari

      Pakistan issues many different rifles and machineguns. They still have people running around with SKSs and old AKs. POF – Pakistani Ordnance Factory can build just about anything they want. India could work a better deal on M4s with changed cosmetics to make it “Their rifle”.

      • Giolli Joker

        The difference is that POF works on (certified) Western quality standards.
        I don’t think that similar capability is available in any firearm manufacturing facility in India.

        • Kivaari

          India has made L1A1s and Sterling’s, so I bet they can do it.

          • Giolli Joker

            I wouldn’t bet on it… or on the quality of the result, at least.

  • Wetcoaster

    Equally accurate alternate title: “India continues to throw money down well of indigenous small arms development”

  • Zugunder

    This looks like AK in many places, and like general appearance of AK type rifles. Yet I find this particular one to be ugly. Just my opinion.

    • Zugunder

      *and i like general appearance of AK type rifles

  • Lance

    Seems India is going Swiss with a SiG-552 knock off.

  • dshield55

    How are they being charged $900 a gun for that? The US Army gets their M4s for about $600 and they’re much costlier to build. I seem to recall reading that the Russian Army pays a bit less than $300 per AK-74M, which makes me wonder whats so much different about the Excalibur from the AK-74M that it costs $900. I’m not seeing it.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      Its a messed up country where lots of people are middle class on 1000 us dollars, the only legal handgun is a 1895 webbly, that you must buy from the state for $2500.

      I think you have to wait 2-5 years to get the webly also.

  • Vitor Roma

    Looks like the relative with an extra chromossome of the Sig550 family.

  • javierjuanmanuel

    Also anything made in the west that costs 900, should be 300 in india.

    Why the hell does a gun made in india cost 900 us dollars.

    The 900 american rifle would be 300. They should be buying at indian whole sale prices if they order a million units.

  • Kivaari

    How can anyone screw up the basic AK? A means to keep the action cover tight, like Valmets and Galils is easy, copy them. That ugly almost L1A1 buttstock and grip are OK, just ugly. The forearm is ugly as well. Gee, they could have copied Magpul AK furniture and could have had a rifle 40 years ago.

    • Ben Loong

      Actually according to the one detailed overview of the INSAS, it’s really more like a copy of the FN FNC/CAL/FAL rifles with an AK-shaped receiver cover.

      In which case they could have probably just asked the Indonesians for assistance since they’ve been making FNC derivatives for years.

      • jcl

        Indonesia actually already follow India’s path to manufacture indigenous assault rifle
        Now they produce this Pindad SS2:

        • Ben Loong

          That’s exactly my point, Indonesia license-produced the Pindad SS1 (FNC) then used it as the basis for the SS2, which is mechanically a derivative of it.

          • jcl

            SS1 still have reliability problems, India should learn from Sweden instead.
            As for SS2 they actually change the design quite alot from basic FNC. They still keep the long stroke piston but the bolt and bolt carrier now resemble ACR and G36’s bolt, the upper now aluminum and the magazine well is now bevelled to aid reloading, the gas stop resemble AK’s and the handguard resemble AR70’s. The SS2 is quite accurate but I’m not sure about its reliability.

          • Ben Loong

            Huh, didn’t know about the change in the bolt carrier group before. Interesting.

          • jcl

            Yeah it’s now look more or less like this:

  • Southpaw89

    The sword from the stone wasn’t Excalibur, in the legend Excalibur was given to Arthur by the Lady in the Lake.

    • gunsandrockets

      Watery tarts flinging swords about is no basis for a proper small arms project.

      • Mark

        Well done.

    • Phil Hsueh

      From what I recall, Excalibur was pulled from a stone but in the end it was tossed to the Lady of the Lake as Arthur was dying after the battle with Mordred’s forces.

  • Ben Loong

    Unless the Indians have improved production standards at their factories since the INSAS was made I have little doubt that this is going to face the same old problems.

  • TDog

    Oh boy… an improved INSAS. I can think of better ways to polish a turd, but it’s their money.

  • Justanotherviewer

    Can India get the AN-94 or heck even the M16 family of rifles? Overproduction and army surpluses means that buying this rifles are dirt cheap and they are proven to be reliable.

    For the AN-94 at least the Indian Army can brag about having a rifle that has a complex design and mechanism.

  • AYIDAYI

    You got the most voluminous and ancient body of litterature in the human
    history containing epic jewels like Ramayana, Mahabbarata etc, yet you
    name your nation’s battle rifle after a legend of your ex-usurpers! Go
    figure! The Englishmen excalibured them also in the brain I guess!

    • RicoSuave

      Maybe they wouldn’t want to associate one of their own religious/cultural icons with a shoddy weapon. Better to associate one from a former colonial power’s epics.

  • Tom – UK

    Someone should set up a company providing guided tours for business men and women around Indian Defence Procurement departments to show them exactly what they should never ever do.

    Tourguide – “So now on your left what appears to be flaming train wreckage is in fact the INSAS/Excalibur rifle procurement project. Please note the government ministers stood near the dead soldiers agreeing that the new rifle really must come from India at any cost.”

  • Why don’t they just pick something up off the shelf, give it some new furniture, license the necessary bits and put it into production to the same standard as the parent rifle..? I am sure they could even call it a “collaborative effort” if they threw a bit of extra cash at the original manufacturer.

  • Rock or Something

    Pride, like everything else in life, has it’s place.

    “I found quite saddening was the obvious lack of pride by the workers at the Ishapore factory. One of the rifles which the author inspected did not even bother wiping off the white enamel paint which is used to color the lettering.”

    -“The INSAS 5.56mm Rifle”:

  • CJS3

    They should have just bought an AK variant, since that seems to be what they’re trying to “develop” on their own.