We all know what the INSAS rifle is , some know it in a negative way , some in a positive way ; some just know about the constant need to replace it ; others try to delve deep into the details of this ambitious project. Considering so many factors in mind , lets try to form an Unbiased Opinion on this rifle , leaving aside the requirements for replacement.
Here , we’ll take a look at the Standard issue INSAS rifle for the regular Jawan. There are variants such as the one with a folding stock which we shall mention but not the INSAS LMG ( to be discussed in some other post) or the subsequent variants such as the Excalibur, Amogh and Kalantak.
Before we give an opinion on the matter, it’s important to lay down some cold hard facts for some of you who may not be completely aware of what the INSAS is , sure you must have a general idea of the rifle but to really understand it we must delve into the technical details. Going over them one by one again and giving an honest opinion on each factor of the rifle.
INSAS, is the short form of Indian New Small Arms System. The INSAS family has two variants, an Assault Rifle and a Light Machine Gun. The INSAS rifles are the standard weapons for the Army and the Central Armed Police Forces of India.
The INSAS assault rifle , is chambered in 5.56×45mm NATO standard ammunition. The ammunition has a Muzzle velocity of 900 m/s. The overall gun lengh is 960mm/ 96cm/ 0.96m. The weight of the rifle is 4.15kg. The effective range of the gun is stated as 400m. The gun is prescribed a magazine capacity of 20 rounds. The rate of fire of the rifle is 600-650 rounds per minute. It has a recoil energy of 4.43 Joules and has a rifling in the barrel of 6 grooves ( right handed) . It has post-and-aperture type iron sights as standard. The standard rifle fires in Single shot and Three Round Burst mode. Another version was also created with an additional Automatic mode.
Now that we have all the technical formalities out of the way , let’s go over the INSAS rifle in earnest. For anyone who has handled the Rifle and fired it , there are two factors which come up instantly , the first being the weight. For a modern assault rifle , 4.15 kgs is not a good number. The next thing which hits you is the inconsistency in quality of the materials used for the rifle. Some rifles “feel right” and some don’t , its hard to describe but you realize the difference in quality between each gun after you pull the trigger on them. We can say the INSAS rifle is kind of like the Government , sometimes it works sometimes not , but it’s average.
The rifle for me , is quite aesthetically pleasing to look at but only when the furniture is in Black color , not the leaf brown color which I personally think is a disater. The furniture color for the leaf brown ones are modded up by the Army by just causally painting them black or in Black enamel , jungle camo and even in desert camo.
Some may say the rifle is ugly but it all depends on personal tastes. Honestly, the rifle utilises some very dependable mechanisms and designs from legendary firearms , the rifle would be a class apart if only it was made of good materials and construction techniques. Here are some of the Design features that I think are overlooked :
1. The dependable long stroke gas piston system used on the AK family
2. The multi purpose barrel with a good flash suppressor, bayonet lug and an attachment for Rifle Grenades
3. Charging handle ( cocking handle) derived from that of the HK33.
4. Trigger group similar to that of the AK family
5. Tinted poly carbonate magazines derived from the Steyr AUG
6. The aperture-and-post type sights along with the general layout similar to that of a FNC.
7. Easy to reach safety lever and fire selector.
Despite all the good design adaptations, the rifle is not well suited for left handed shooters, as the charging handle is up front on the left side , far from easy reach and the shooter may experience some hot brass bullet casings hit his face or shoulder sometimes.
A word about the weight issue of the gun , it’s directly linked to the poor to average use of materials for construction and the crude use of the stamped parts of the receivers ( gun bodies) that accounts for the weight issue. Here too, quality of materials is key for a lightweight rifle.
Coming onto the ammunition it fires, the INSAS has taken a lot of heat for allegedly firing “less powerful” ammunition than the AK’s 7.62×39mm , in my honest opinion this is all a bunch of unnecessary hulla-baloo. The 5.56×45mm ammunition is as good as if not better than 7.62×39mm , with greater penetration and range than the AK’s bullets. A wave of sensationalism spreads fast among men and many tend to disregard good things quickly , there is a reason why the whole world converted from using bulky 7.62×51mm bullets like on the SLR to the standard 5.56×45mm , even the Russians use 5.56×39mm ammunition in their AK-74s.
More on this ammunition jhamela later , back to facts , it has a velocity of 900 m/s which is good enough and pretty standard. I’d like to point out that there are inconsistencies in the quality of cartidges provided by OFB as well , which sometimes lead to jamming, misfires , failure to eject or even failure to feed. This, again , doesn’t happen to everyone , but I’m just saying that it does happen sometimes.
The length of the weapon at 960mm is easy to handle if you’re above 5 feet 6 inches otherwise you do spend a while fumbling to put the gun to shoulder. The rifle is not the best for Close Quarter Battle but is surely better than an SLR. The length of the gun and the lack of a folding stock on most models means it’s uncomfortable to get in and out of cramped interiors of vehicles like the Gypsy and the BMPs. The folding stock feature on some rifles offers respite for troops in the Mechanised Infantry but these variants are not widely seen.
A point to note is the the sling attachments on the rifle are bad , whether its slung over the shoulder or across the chest, the rifle keeps rattling along the sling attachment making it very irritating to walk with.
The magazine capacity of the rifle is 20 rounds , but the 30 round magazine can also be used without any problem. The slightly tinted transparent poly carbonate magazines have quality ranging from Nilkamal plastic to Good magazines fit for a Steyr AUG , this ofcourse is my own experience. Im just highlighting the inconsistencies available in the INSAS arsenal.
The barrels are chrome plated for long life against wear and tear and the bayonet can also be used for cutting barbed wire and as an entrenching tool.
The flash suppressor is good and the ability to launch rifle grenades by easily adjusting the gas piston is a useful feature along with the ability to mount a 40mm Grenade Launcher , increasing the modularity of the rifle.
The rifles are equipped with a simple mounting rail for attachment of Holographic sights , Telescopic sights and a Passive Night sight which always comes in handy , the mounting point is well balanced .
The standard iron sights of the rifle are also good with a clear picture of the target and a flippable aperture for both long range and short range. They are easy to re-acquire targets with .
The standard rifle is cited to use three round burst mode along with semi automatic but most jawans tend to use the semi automatic mode only as the three round burst mode doesn’t always work due to the inconsistencies in construction, so it’s better to play it safe and keep up the accurate semi automatic shots rather than deal with a jam.
Coming on to firing the gun , the trigger of the rifle feels crisp and breaks in a single motion but on some guns it did feel sticky when released but nothing too serious . The recoil force of 4.43 joules is easy to control and does not throw your aim off target if you’re holding it correctly , this control is easy to keep even when firing in 3 round burst or even fully automatic.
The fully automatic mode of the INSAS is easy to control and has a decent rate of fire of 600 rounds per minute.
Before firing , the gun was cleaned and greased as per procedure, the rifle is easy to assemble and field strip and maintain. Regular drills allow the jawans to field strip the weapon blindfolded. Another point to be noted is, if your gun isn’t clean, no matter who the manufacturer is, it will jam and cause you problems , there is a reason for so many drills in the Army, to have the habit of getting things done right become natural.
The Charging handle is easy to use and easy to cock the gun, but the grip becomes slippery for people with sweaty hands.
The carry handle on the gun is a funny little feature inspired by the SLR and considering the weight of the weapon as compared to other assault rifles, is a welcome feature easing the job of lugging it around.
The accuracy of the gun is average but is kind of impressive considering the inconsistent quality of cartidges provided by OFB , in a fire test of 10 rounds at a target with a Telescopic sight at 100m , the group of the shots on target was, a dispersion of 2.5 to 3 inches circle, which is pretty average.
The rifle however lacks a bolt-open feature as present in weapons like the AK family and the M-16 family . The bolt-open feature means that when the gun is empty of cartridges, the Bolt of the gun snaps open does not close with the rest of the receiver , this makes reloading faster as one can just change the magazine and release the bolt with one flick of a lever easily cocking it , instead of loading the magazine and then losing your aim just to reach the charging handle and cock the gun. This feature also clearly tells the soldier that his gun is empty and needs a new magazine.
The lack of mounting picatinny rails on top of the receiver and along the front grips is a definite downside for the gun. Picatinny rails allow for attachment of multiple optic sights, which can be used as and when the mission requires and also , they hold some ergonomic features like vertical grips and bipods , they also hold utilities such as flashlights which otherwise would have to be held by the soldier himself taking his hand off the rifle.
In conclusion , that kind of covers all the aspects of the rifle , I should however highlight again that there are inconsistencies in quality of the rifles , so everyone is free to have their own opinion about them , but I tried to be neutral and give credit where credit is deserved and bash when it’s obviously bad. The matter about the INSAS replacement scandal is another story altogether which we shall take up later.
All in all , I think the INSAS rifle is an Average gun in all aspects except for the weight and definitely not average for the dependable quality factors as stated . But the jawans make do with what they have and there have been no severe problems with the rifle that can’t be fixed by the jawan with a tool kit and a good cleaning. The INSAS was an ambitious project and could have achieved great milestones for OFB had the rifle not ruined its reputation due to the design and construction flaws and also in the Kargil War , no matter how much OFB improves the quality of the rifle , it’s reputation is dead and so are it’s hopes of carrying on service. A replacement for the rifle is highly needed , which is ergonomic and makes the men who see it fill with confidence instead of doubt.
We may just get an answer by this year’s end.
Contributor- Pradyumn Bhatt
Pic Credits to owner