India Changes Horses Again: Bye-Bye Excalibur, Hello 7.62 NATO

In the latest installment of the Indian next generation rifle procurement saga, the nation-subcontinent has decided to forgo their “Excalibur” rifle development program, which consisted of essentially a product-improved INSAS rifle, in favor of a new 7.62x51mm infantry rifle. The new larger-caliber weapon is reportedly going to be chosen after the country conducts a Request for Information (RFI), soliciting material from manufacturers around the world regarding their latest 7.62x51mm caliber rifle products. IHS Jane’s reports:

In order to plug a longstanding operational gap the Indian Army has re-launched its quest for an imported assault rifle after recently rejecting the locally designed option.

Military sources told IHS Jane’s that the army is readying a global request for information (RFI) for 7.62×51 mm assault rifles, instead of inducting the Excalibur 5.56×45 mm rifle designed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

The Excalibur is an upgraded version of the DRDO’s Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) 5.56×45 mm rifle, which entered service with the Indian Army in the mid-1990s, but was rejected in 2010 after being found ‘operationally inadequate’.

The Indian Armed Forces have been trying to replace the troubled INSAS rifle for several years now. The INSAS has reportedly not performed up to expectations, due to problems both in build quality and inherent to the design. The Indian Armed Forces initially sought a foreign solution, but that program was cancelled for reasons that I can only speculate were political. In the meantime, the country decided to replace the INSAS rifle in all major combat zones with the aging AK pattern of rifles, so great were the problems with the domestic rifle type. Now, India is back on the international market, shopping for options, but this time the country is requesting larger-caliber guns, possibly joining both Pakistan and Turkey as nations using the 7.62mm NATO caliber as standard issue in lieu of a small-caliber, high-velocity round.

Interestingly, there is no more word on the indigenous Indian MCIWS rifle since the new requirements.

Thanks to Daniel for the tip!

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


  • DW

    100 buck says it will still suck, if it even gets adopted in 10 years

  • Anonymoose

    Just get a license from Izhmash to produce select-fire .308 Saigas with hinged dust covers+iron sights, and they can stick with the familiar handling of the AK platform, or dust off ye olde L1A1.

    • Bellan

      One option is to get Lithgow Arms owned by Thales (French), but based in Australia (Indian ally) to help you design the rifle. (FN FNC or Daewoo K2). They have some experience designing and manufacturing weapons like the new EF88 as well as a bolt action rifle. I’m sure they’d love to work with you as well.

      • Anonymoose

        The idea of a 7.62×51 AUG really turns me on.

        Also, what about a Galil ACE in 7.62×51? They already make those, and they’re a lot lighter and more ergonomic than a standard AK.

        • Jwedel1231

          Select-fire .308 Saigas, select-fire .308 AUGs, select-fire .308 Galils…

      • Tassiebush

        They built our FAL service rifle as well.

    • Harry’s Holsters

      They’d screw that up.

      • Anonymoose

        Probably, but that’s just the nature of Indian manufacturing.

        • Harry’s Holsters

          They should go with an AR15 since it’s designed to explode safely if it blows up. Or maybe go with 22LR since it’s low pressure.

          • Anonymoose

            Just issue the troops blunt sticks, and teddy bears for all the police officers. That’s safer for all involved.

    • Tritro29

      They failed to actually produce that one locally without hiccups.

  • Giolli Joker

    I sooo wish that all the world manufacturers involved in the previous program would jointly sign a letter not so politely telling the Indian Army generals to shove their RFI up their… noses.

    • randomswede

      Less likely considering the sums of money involved. But I’ll bet they will be less willing to spend money on the lobbying; that’s how we spell “bribes” these days isn’t it?

      • Giolli Joker

        I guess so.
        However this time it seems more an interest towards off the shelf designs, no outworldly requirements, so the investment might be much less substantial and more on the line of: “please find attached our catalogue, please open pages 12 and 13”.

        • randomswede

          Imagine what a contract like that would mean to RobArms with the XCR-M or Keltec with the RFB, not that they are likely to get the contract, as in hard-to-read-on-a-micrometer unlikely. It’s got to be a million rifles; I’m guessing.

          • Giolli Joker

            This is the kind of contract that is in the league of only a handful of manufacturers in terms of production capacity and most likely they should have precedence in supplying Armies. This both in regards to references looked for by the client and in terms of experience and financial strength in the managing of similar projects – on the latter, see the lack of interest shown by Ruger on the MHS competition.

          • randomswede

            Indeed, this is an FNH, HK level contract.

          • Harry’s Holsters

            Even HK is questionable with their size.

          • randomswede

            The contract could stipulate that they need to set up shop in India for the majority of the production. If that is the case some other manufacturers are in and others are out.

          • Tritro29

            The only affordable manufacturers will not set shop in India as India has this very annoying practice of demanding full ToT. While Zastava might be interested (like it did in Pakistan), there’s always the risk of red tape in India, just ask the French. And then you have the never ending regional feuds, to build that kind of facility in India at least 4/5 Governors are going to fight each other to death. Literally.

          • randomswede

            The more I hear about India the more confusing it gets and even less interesting to deal with.

  • nellan

    My suggestion the FN FNC or the Daewoo K2, no patents to worry about. Since you can’t adopt the AK, those are the two next best options. Also without too much tinkering you could replace the stock with a standard AR-15 stock and claim it was made in India, nobody will suspect. And the same with the fronguard with rails.

    • randomswede

      7.62×51 FNC, would you make it more FAL or SCAR-H like, or simply scale the original design up an AR-15 in reverse?

      I like how the FAL joins the magwell and the barrel in the same component, should you wish to change calibers odds are good it will use a different pattern magazine as well. Not that that is at all relevant to a service rifle, rifle design just sets me off like a ball does a puppy.

  • Anon

    I wonder how they’re going to screw this up, if it goes anywhere, that is.

  • lowell houser

    I’m just gonna say that India needs an AR18 variant. It can be scaled up to use .308 if they want it, it’s CHEAP, and would work with their existing production facilities once they are tooled over from building an AK variant to the AR18 variant. Something like the Leader Dynamics T2 with an added AR15 forward assist would actually be easier to build than the AK they are currently building.

    • CommonSense23

      So a AR16?

      • Jwedel1231

        But stamped steel and short-stroke piston operated, instead of milled aluminum and intra-bolt piston driven.

        • ostiariusalpha

          Right, that’s an AR-16.

          • Jwedel1231

            Sorry, mis-read your comment (thought you said AR-15). The AR-16 being a .308 would fit the requirements, and the wood stock would be a classy touch. I’m now fully on board with the AR-16 choice.

  • john huscio

    MKEK mpt-76 is the answer their lookin for

    • hikerguy

      My thoughts exactly. I wonder how the relationship between Turkey and India are. The Chinese Norinco NAR 10 would be my next bet.

      • Not sure you’d want to buy guns from a country you might go to war against

        • hikerguy

          Yes, come to think about it, their relationshp with China is none too good.

    • John

      That’s just an HK417, which is one of the most expensive AR variants in existence. Norway nearly went broke outfitting their own military with them.

      • john huscio

        The mpt will undoubtedly be cheaper to procure in numbers.

  • Major Tom

    Maybe they should just buy an HK-417 or SCAR-H or that 7.62 NATO version of the AK-12, reverse engineer it like the Chinese do and then make a new gun based on that.

  • SP mclaughlin

    Norinco MAR-10 4 lyfe

  • Docduracoat

    India always insists on local production
    Then they steal your design and technology
    That is after you pay the bribes and build the factory and train the workers and transfer the technology
    The corruption and incompetence of the Indian armed forces procurement
    beauracracy is legendary
    Quality of any Indian government manufactured item is awful
    No company with any business sense would agree to local manufacture
    H and K, Colt, etc will all refuse
    IWI ( Tavor) took 10 years to get the permission to produce components in India for Tavors
    They are using a private company, not the government factory, in India
    We will see what the quality will be when IWI engineers supervise Indian workers
    The idea of locally made stocks on a foreign made rifle sort of makes sense
    That way they could claim local manufacture

    • This times a million. I’d also add that the Indian military has a very nasty habit of ordering small quantities of small arms so that they can clone them domestically sans license. I’d be wary as hell of getting involved in this – lotta money, but the customer is not exactly going to deal honestly.

    • Giolli Joker

      India always insists on local production
      Then they steal your design and technology.

      Then they screw up design, technology, materials and build quality… for your utmost amusement.

    • John

      >India always insists on local production
      >Then they steal your design and technology
      >That is after you pay the bribes and build the factory and train the workers and transfer the technology

      You know, I’d be cool with all of that if it actually meant I could build a decent factory and train a decent workforce to build my weapon the right way, every time.

      India seriously has an operational problem here. I just want them to field a competent rifle at this point.

    • The violent nomad

      If your statement were to be true, then India would have manufactured M4 or HK-G36 in millions. But instead India uses INSAS as standard infantry rifle, which is its own design (albeit loosely based on AKM and FN-FAL), and Tavor TAR-21 (imported from IWI) for its special forces. Do you have any proof that India has stolen weapons tech from any of OEMs? Does the website of Indian OFB (Ordinance Factory Board) show clones of Tavor/M-16/HK G-3 in their product list? Just because you’ve got democracy doesn’t mean you can puke out any bullshit

      • ItalianAmerican

        Indian Pride? If that’s the case – friend – I’ve experimented on my own skin with a year, TRYING to work with them. And they screwed us over. Not going to happen again; I subscribe to all of the above comments, ‘sorry mate’. Shukria!

    • buzzman1

      All countries that buy from international sources, including the US, insist on local production.

  • At this point, India should seriously consider sharp sticks and/or rocks.

    • DIR911911 .

      why? would that make YOU feel safe with neighbors like Pakistan and China?

      • Zachary marrs

        If the other option is INSAS quality rifles, yes.

  • gunsandrockets

    Dumping 5.56mm? Well that certainly goes against the world trend.

    • DIR911911 .

      they know the truth . . . it’s better to shoot through the walls than to force entry 🙂

      • Jwedel1231

        Shoot through walls? Are they ordering large amounts of rockets?

  • Rock or Something

    Maybe they should dust off that Ishapore 2A1 production line if they want to go back to 7.62 NATO…

  • TDog

    India’s hoping that by choosing a NATO round that the US will furnish them with everything they want. “See? We chose a NATO standard! You and me, we’re the same now! Now gimme!”

    • Tritro29

      They already use a NATO round with the INSAS…as well as half a dozen other calibres.

      • TDog

        Just a half dozen? 😉

        • Tritro29

          For infantry individual weapons? I think yes…;-)

  • GhostTrain81

    They will find that the 7.62 is as corrupt as the 5.56.

  • Deanimator

    Lets list India’s active/potential enemies:
    Islamist terrorists
    Various separatist movements

    You know, if I were India, I’d be taking smallarms procurement a WHOLE lot more seriously than the Indians seem to have done for a LONG time…

    • Bob

      From what I’ve heard, everything else they do is in the same vein, so even if they suddenly had the finest weapons available…

    • ARCNA442

      Their other military equipment isn’t much better – their indigenous tank and fighter programs look a lot like the INSAS debacle. For some reason their ships and missiles are supposedly decent though.

      • Aimz

        Except their only missiles which are ‘decent’ are the Brahmos, and that too was made mostly by the Russians. As for ships…they are able to construct the hulls, but just about all the other sub-systems (be it the electronics, weapon systems, etc.) are all imported from other countries.

  • Petto

    Just give the those cheap G3 clones 😀 – in worse cases grab some rusted AKs

    • Jwedel1231

      They are currently using those AKs…

  • Bob

    I want to suggest Colt take an interest in it, but from what I hear, they wouldn’t be able to go cheap enough, would lose money if they did, and if any parts were manufactured in country, their reputation for quality, as much as they do have, will go down the tubes.

    Say, on another topic, is there any chance of the INSAS being imported to the US? I wouldn’t mind playing around with the Saturday Night Special of assault weapons just for the amusement value, assuming they were priced accordingly.

    • El Duderino

      Ooh, a torch cut gun that was a piece of junk to begin with. Sure you want one? 🙂

      • Bob

        For a fair price, say $20, why not? ;D

  • Sianmink

    Based on previous Indian political nonsense,
    They’ll take submissions for their replacement battle rifle.
    They’ll pick a winner, and try to build something domestically that approximates it.
    This will fail utterly after costing an embarrassing amount of money.
    Have I ever told you about the definition of insanity?


    On the plus side maybe they import the H&K-417 for a few years, then steal the tech, build locally and we get cheaper imported H&K-417 clones in the US like 10 years down the line

  • Ed

    AR-10 clone will win hands down.

    • Tritro29

      Nope, their SF rejected it …twice.

  • roguetechie

    AR-16 ftw!

    A very nice looking cheap to make king size AR18.

    One gun to rule them all…

    Need a subgun, yeah there’s an upper for that.

    Need 7.62×39, 5.45, and 5.56 yup we can do that.

    Need a design even derpy Indian factories could manage, yup.

    Honestly though, if I was India I’d just buy a crap ton of imbel ia2 rifles. At least their guns mostly work.

    • buzzman1

      How about a simple AR-10.

  • Thomas Weißhuhn

    India srewed to build an own AK variant… even parkistani tribesman in areas where time stood still for the last 100 years, with tools even older, can do it.

    Maybe its all due their cast system, some idiot have had an idea and nobody can tell him the he’s an idiot and his ideas are crap because of their stupid system. Guess the only reason for Parkistan (and maybe the fact that they have a whole lot of problems within their own borders) not to invade is the Himalaya, if india’s AK pattern rifles wont work then how the hell are their nuke suposed to funktion?

    • ostiariusalpha

      India’s rocket scientists are actually surprisingly competent. It’s about the only industrial field that they do well.

      • Thomas Weißhuhn

        But how?

        • Ballan

          Probably something to do with fear of explosives.

        • Aimz

          Their space program is run quite differently than most of their other defense programs. Different mission, different organization, etc. It makes a world of difference.

      • Aimz

        Yeah, India’s space program is actually quite advanced and they have made some very good strides in recent decades.

    • Tritro29

      The problem isn’t that the INSAS is bad, it is the way the production is set up.
      One of the major complaints for the INSAS has been the fact the rifle mixed two seemingly colliding universes. The AK world with the CAL/FAL world. This leads to very very funny issues like, some CAL tolerances, in the gas system and barrel, being so tight compared to those of the AKM that serve both in in the bolt and receiver that a constant firing makes the rifle overheat. Some of the issue are also related to production consistency. As some parts are made up in different plants, the quality (gas occlusion system for grenades that locks on because the lever looks like a Coca Cola can, magazines that can’t stand either too much heat or too much cold) is a leap of faith on each and every gun.

      This isn’t due to cast but to nepotism policies.

  • Rob

    I’m sure I’m wrong on this, but when I hear “Indian Military” I think “short bus-special” forces.

    A bit like that photo from the 80’s of the satellite being pulled by an ox cart.

    I don’t mean to be hard on them, if they are good guys I wish them luck…I’m just not sure where they fall on the good guy-bad guy spectrum.

    • ostiariusalpha

      They’re a post-colonial socialist democracy, with all the baggage that entails. The people get a voice, but it gets filtered through a ton of graft and corruption, and most of the voters are of the low-information type. Still, they have plenty of honest, intelligent folks trying to make a difference bit by bit, and there’s at least economic mobility for the middle-class.

  • Elijah Decker

    They’re already issuing (presumably Russian made) AKs to their combat troops, just keep using those and order more for the rest of the Indian armed forces. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  • El Duderino

    It’s cool that India provides TFB a new standard rifle announcement every 3 or 4 months.

  • kyphe

    Ah India’s main form of international gamesmanship! The arms contract tango!

    • DW

      No wonder it looks like Bollywood movies

  • jono102

    I wonder what will the Indians do if Pakistan actually see their current rifle replacement program through? Maybe a panic rifle program so they aren’t seen to fall behind their neighbor producing something like the “Excalibur 3” in 7.62 NATO? I shouldn’t joke it will probably break down something like that

  • idahoguy101

    I thought India was going to produce a version of the Galil ACE. Did that fall through?

    • John

      Yep, that fell through. Beretta also sent them the ARX, Colt sent them an AR-15 chambered in 7.62 Russian, and… there was another company, but India rejected them all in favor of a domestically produced weapon.

  • Tritro29

    This knee jerk reaction to Pakistani tender is ridiculous. India is really becoming like that paranoïd neighbour or ex that thinks that they need to one up you on what ever you do.

    It’s sad because this means Cz isn’t going to take part in this tender. Cz has a zero licence policy for their products.

  • Kivaari

    India should be able to produce any product as small as a rifles. If the design was correct, and proven, clones would be easy to replicate. Indias cast system creates too many under-educated people. But there is a growing middle class with highly technical people in the work force.

  • Jacob Peters

    India needs to go back to the old Ishapore Lee Enfield Rifles. The only gun they made decently.

  • Fed24

    That farce that is Indian defence procurement:

    1) India declares a contest for a new armament
    2) Only companies that have not been black listed for corruption need apply (more on that later)
    3) Companies that enter have to submit their weapon to years of testing by a vast and impenetrable bureaucracy
    4) During that testing local companies/factories usually state owned will complain and lobby that they could produce a local solution to the Indian government and MOD
    5) To get through the impenetrable bureaucracy said bidding companies are forced to employ local ex military officials on a vastly inflated wage to help advise on how best to bid
    6) Shortlisted companies will be require to offer significant offset with 80, 90 and even 100% being the required level
    7) Local production as part of the deal will be required
    8) Companies bidding will not be able to chose their local partners or set up new facilities to produce weapons system
    9) Only old state run companies/factories with their own vast bureaucracies will be allowed by the Indian MOD to be local production partners
    10) These will be the same companies/factories as those in point 4)
    11) To win contract bidding companies must agree to the license production program to be managed by the Indian based companies/factories
    12) Yet those bidding companies must also agree to 100% financial liability if the program overruns due to poor local management
    13) Local companies/factories will continue to complain even when selected as the final partner and continue to offer local solutions
    14) Once a bidding company as won the contract then local Indian companies/factories will drag their feet
    15) It will then be revealed that the local advisers in point 5) that the bidding companies were forced to employ were paying bribes to MOD/factory/military officials
    16) Contract is immediately cancelled with that company and all its sub divisions banned from bidding in the future
    17) Indian government will go for local solution
    18) That will go massively over budget and schedule
    19) Indian MOD will look at new bidding process for off the shelf solution
    20) Points 1) to 19) happen all over again

    21) Eventually Indian PM will go with military to a common and trusted supplier like Russia or Israel and buy a solution off the shelf via a government to government deal thus bypassing the whole bureaucratic mess that is Indian defence procurement

    22) Rince and repeat!

  • Blake
  • Blake

    Sounds like the target market the AR-18 was envisaged for…

    “Its simple construction promised significantly reduced production costs, and allowed it to be licence-produced locally on less advanced machinery, potentially reducing dependence on foreign manufacturers. Moreover, the gas piston operation of the AR-18 proved much more resistant to carbon fouling than the direct gas impingement system of the earlier AR-10 and AR-15 rifles, as it does not vent gas and carbon particles directly into the receiver.”