USAF's GAU-5A Takedown Survival Rifle Enters Service

Matthew Moss
by Matthew Moss
Airman First Class Zack Day, 366th Operation Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment apprentice, assembles a GUA-5A May 6, 2019, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)

Back in June 2018, we reported on the US Air Force’s new survival/self-defence weapon – the GAU-5A. The GAU-5A is an upgrade to the M4 which allows it to be stowed in the survival kit of US Air Force fighter jets. The Aircrew Self Defense Weapons (ASDW) is fitted with a takedown system that allows the rifle’s barrel to be detached from the receiver and it is also fitted with a folding pistol grip.

F-22 Pilot firing an ASDW at 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska (USAF)

The ASDW uses the Quick Release Barrel (or QBR) from Cry Havoc Tactical and what appears to be a FAB Defense AGF-43S Folding Pistol Grip. The barrel assembly now has a longer MLOK forend with the original front sight post removed, replaced by folding BUIS. Functionally, the carbine remains a direct gas impingement weapon with a standard M4 lower receiver. The new ASDWs began entering service this spring with the 3rd Wing, which operates F-22 Raptors, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska sharing some photos of pilots training with the newly updated carbines at the range.

The compact ACES II survival kit includes 4 magazines (120 rounds) and fits beneath the jet’s ejection seat, measuring 16″x14″x3.5″ and weighing just under 40 lbs. A recent news piece from Mountain Home Air Force Base explains that “each survival kit is outfitted with flares, a sidewinder flashlight, medical modules, survival modules, life raft and GAU-5A aircrew self-defense weapon (ASDW) among other tools.”

Before & after disassembly

A comparison photo showing an M4 and the new ASDW GAU-5A (USAF)
A comparison photo showing an M4 and the new ASDW GAU-5A disassembled (USAF)

Master Sgt. Mark Caron, in charge of 366th OSS aircrew flight equipment quality assurance, explained that “survival kits are there to make sure our aircrew have everything they need should a bad day occur.” The new ASDW is an improvement in firepower over the standard M9 sidearm.

The Air Force previously confirmed that 2,137 ASDWs will be fielded with all combat coded A-10, B-1, B-2, B-52, F-15C, F-15E, F-16, and F-22 units. The carbines are being retrofitted at the USAF Gunsmith Shop, at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

Matthew Moss
Matthew Moss

Managing Editor: & Overt 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. Matt is also runs 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:

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