The Free Syrian Army (FSA) has been taking further steps in making their own tools of war to fill the gap between what they need in the battle and what’s available from their logistical supplies. They made a very sophisticated RCWS system (Sham R3) and they also made improvised weapons in heavier calibers.
Some of their resources are captured weapons from Al-Assad’s regular forces or taken when dissident members of the Regular Syrian Army (from various branches) left Al-Assad’s side and joined the armed opposition against his regime.
It is very obvious to many observers that the Anti-Material Rifles had recently become a very popular trend in the Middle East conflicts. Palestinian, Syrian and Yemeni combatants are vying to own this type of infantry armament due to its increasing importance in eliminating valuable and expensive targets. With a relatively small investment, they can destroy (or sabotage) aircraft, fuel storage tanks, or kill the mobility of a Main Battle Tank (if it hits the tracks or the tank’s turret rotary rail).
In this article, we will take a look at 3 different local made anti-material rifles in Syria specifically by the FSA.
The first one has been seen in Aleppo, it’s the simplest design among them, a 23mm barrel is taken from an Anti-Aircraft gun and assembled to “zip-gun” mechanism in the rear. No traditional trigger is used, just a bolt block with a firing pin in front of a tensioned spring–once the pin block is released it shoots. Also, there are no reliable sights; it’s aimed by aligning the barrel with the target. This rifle uses a civilian tripod, with minor modifications, to hold the weapon. While this is a very primitive weapon, the damage caused by a 23mm round is really destructive (and efficient if shot with decent accuracy).
It can be deployed and operated by a single person which is an important factor in urban combat where grouping many fighters in one place can be very dangerous.
The second rifle was seen Damascus in 2015. It was also chambered in 23mm and from the size of the barrel it’s probably taken from a ZSU-23 Anti-Aircaft gun mounted on a vehicle. (Note that there is not available info, nor data provided from the manufacturers, so I did my best to analyze every aspect of these weapons).
This design is more modernized than the previous primitive AMR of Aleppo; it has a trigger, bolt, and a scope. We have to think twice before considering it as a rifle as it is likely deployed by a crew (even if its operated by a single person). The weapon appears to be very heavy and apparently in a fixed position so it would not be useful in hit-and-run tactics (note the sandbags used to stabilize the monopod).
The rifle is manually loaded by a bolt action mechanism, there are two ways of firing either by a normal trigger pull or by a wire linked from the trigger to the rear handle grips which are made to facilitate aiming and handling of the weapon.
The weapon would have a decent amount of utility for hitting an on-move soft skin vehicle. The downside is the time it would take to deploy and be ready for action; making it impractical for a rifle that has to be easy to handling and relocate–especially since it shoots a single round per load.
The third and the last one in our list had been seen in Eastern Ghouta “Al-Ghouta Al-Sharqeyya الغوطة الشرقية”, chambered in 23mm as well (which makes me wonder if there is a plenty of 23mm ammunition available or is it so very precious that they made a single shot rifle to spend it carefully?)
Unlike the previous rifle, this one has no finger trigger but instead, there is grip trigger with a wire taken from a bike brake. It is categorized as an anti-material rifle because of the caliber and application in combat (the targets its meant to counter) even if it didn’t look much like a rifle, especially with such size and weight.
The rifle appears to have dove-tail sights with no rails for a scope. The bolt block is very simply machined and the bolt handle itself is made out of screw bolt (which anyone can buy from a hardware store).
Despite being jury-rigged and cobbled together, these rifles still deliver a deadly projectile with the potential for viable accuracy that would make any ground force think twice. It is interesting to see how forces in theaters without armories and supply shops are able to improvise and engineer weapons to counter larger threats.