Estonia Narrows Choices For Next Service Rifle

    Men of the Kalev infantry battalion with Galils, October 2017 (Estonian Defence Forces)

    Back in July, we reported that the Estonian Army was in the market for a new service rifle. A tender worth €75 million (approx. $86 million) was released calling for 20,000 new rifles, to be chambered in both 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm. The rifles are to replace the Galil (used by the the 1st Infantry Brigade) and the AK4 (a licensed G3 clones used by the the 2nd Infantry Brigade), despite a 2008 upgrade program carried out by B&T.

    Defence24 reports that 14 submissions were made before the August 2017 deadline. Of the 14 the Estonian Centre for Defence Investment (ECDI) reported that 9 had been selected for testing. This includes rifles from manufacturers from all over the world.

    Solider with an Ak4 during an exercise in September, 2017 (Estonian Defence Forces)

    The 9 rifles that have qualified to participate in the evaluation program, according to Defence24, come from: Zbrojovka Brno CZ [likely the BREN series of rifles], Israel Weapon Industries [Galil ACE], Lewis Machine & Tool Company [LM8 series], Patriot Ordnance Factory Inc., SIG Sauer [MCX series], Heckler & Koch [HK416/17 or HK433], Radius, and a joint submission from Beretta and Sako [potentially the ARX160/ARX200]. Poland’s MSBS/GROT was also said to be in the running, with Polish news outlets recently reporting Estonian interest in the rifle.

    Weapon testing and evaluation is scheduled to take place during 2018, with the first batch of 11,000 rifles to be delivered between 2018 and 2021. This will be followed by a second later batch of 18,000 rifles to be delivered by 2024. The new weapons will not only equip Estonia’s small Land Forces but also the Police and Border guards.

    Matthew Moss

    _________________________________________________________________________ – Managing Editor – Managing Editor

    Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. He also runs Historical Firearms, a blog that explores the history, development and use of firearms. Matt is also co-founder of The Armourer’s Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms.

    Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news.

    Reach Matt at: [email protected]