Florida firm pushing sales of its American-made AK-47
By: The Associated Press, March 19, 2017 (Photo Credit: Sgt. Pete Thibodeau/Marine Corps)
This outfit is not the only company doing this, the original Kalashnikov company has American facilities doing, or about to do, the same, as Sanctions against Russia no longer allow for the Import of whole Rifles, or Parts for the same..............this applies across the whole range of AK's, from AK-47, to the latest 100 series..............
PALM BAY, Fla. — Just down the road from a Krispy Krunchy fried chicken store, in a nondescript east coast business park in Florida, a 60,000-square-foot factory produces about 2,500 AK-47 rifles a month.
The Tampa Bay Times reports*that Ulrich "Uli" Wiegand, a German immigrant who started the company called Inter Ordinance Inc., sees a bright future for the American-made version of the Kalashnikov, the classic Soviet-bloc weapon with the iconic banana-shaped ammo magazine. It is the world's most popular weapon. There were as many as 150 million Kalashnikovs as of 2012, according to Aaron Karp, senior consultant to the Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based research institute.
But Wiegand wants to put Florida on the map as the place where the best AKs are made, combining modern American manufacturing prowess with the original design by Russian Lt. Gen. Mikhail Kalashnikov. With the help of a Tampa-registered company called Purple Shovel, he wants to double his capacity and his workforce, and switch the bulk of his business from consumers to governments.
"We are taking the best features of American manufacturing and infusing them into an AK-47, with 100 percent American-made parts," said Wiegand, who moved the company to Florida from North Carolina in 2013.
Purple Shovel is the exclusive government distributor of the company's AK-47s.
To reach his goal, Wiegand has invested about $5 million in the plant and estimates he needs to invest another $3 million to $5 million for new equipment and work stations.
The investments have garnered the attention of the Florida Space Coast Economic Development Commission.
"Their investment further enhances our manufacturing base and provides a positive impact for the region," said Lynda Weatherman, the commission's president and CEO.
It's a move that has some local gun manufacturers scratching their heads.
"I don't see that as a wise investment," said Greg Frazee, owner of the Tampa-based Trident Arms.
Frazee said he prefers to stick with the American-designed civilian line of rifles known as the AR-15 platform, arguing that the AK-47 "is too much of a niche product."
Wiegand and Benjamin Worrell, owner of Purple Shovel, see things differently.
Purple Shovel, named for a child's beach toy, already has more than $110 million dollars worth of contracts with U.S. Special Operations Command, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, for "small arms, ordnance and ordnance accessories manufacturing," according to federal procurement documents.
Worrell and Wiegand are prohibited by law from talking about those contracts. SOCOM, citing "operational sensitivities," declined to comment on what types of weapons Purple Shovel is providing.
But SOCOM has a strong interest in American-made Soviet-bloc weapons.
A year ago, the command sent out a market research request regarding what it calls "non-standard weapons." This includes Russian-designed guns like the AK-47 and other similar assault rifles, as well as sniper rifles like the Dragunov, light machine guns like the PKM, and heavy machine guns like the DShK and the KPV. They are weapons preferred by U.S. allies and foes alike for their relatively low cost and simplicity of operation.
SOCOM, tasked with training and equipping commandos and synchronizing the war on terror, provides weapons to allies at the behest of commands like U.S. Central Command. CENTCOM, also based at MacDill, has overall control of U.S. military operations in the Middle East.
As with the existing contracts, Worrell and Wiegand can't talk about whether they submitted proposals to SOCOM to sell it American-made AK-47s.
"It is still an ongoing effort," said SOCOM spokesman Ken McGraw. "No manufacturers have been identified."
Inter Ordnance is not the only Florida company in the market. About 140 miles to the south, in Pompano Beach, Kalashnikov USA has plans to make the AK-47s as well. The company, not connected to the Russian firm prohibited from U.S. sales by sanctions, is making Kalashnikov shotguns but plans to roll out AK-47s later this year, said Laura Burgess, a company spokeswoman.
Like Wiegand, she said there is a strong market for the weapons.
SOCOM searches for 7.62mm conversion kit
20th March 2017 - 11:40
by Andrew White in London
A US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) solicitation calling for the design of a Personal Defense Weapon (PDW) could have serious implications for the future of the standard NATO 5.56mm x 45mm calibre assault rifle across the special operations community, defence sources have explained to Shephard.
According to the 9 March request for information (RFI), the Tampa-based command is seeking a conversion kit for the 5.56mm x 45mm Colt Defense M4A1 carbine in order to upgrade it to a .300 BLK cailbre (7.62mm x 35mm) weapon system.
The news follows years of ongoing debate in which special operations forces (SOF) have considered the evolution from 5.56mm to alternative calibres including 6.5mm, 6.8mm and .300 BLK ammunition.
Despite retaining the option to alternate between such weapon systems for specialist tasks and roles, sources explained how such a wholesale change in calibre across entire assault rifle inventories had been avoided due to the vast costs associated with such a change.
The USSOCOM requirement features an upper receiver and buttstock conversion kit, which would allow an operator to switch between 5.56mm and .300 BLK calibres within a few minutes with the additional benefit of the added integration of a suppressor, the solicitation reads.
Despite being tagged as a PDW development, USSOCOM's requirement falls in line with similar efforts across the international special operations community where force elements are demanding enhanced lethality and stopping power particularly relevant to close quarter combat situations.
For example, in November, the Netherlands Maritime Special Operations Force (NL MARSOF) announced plans to procure 200 Sig Sauer MCX .300 BLK carbines (pictured) in order to replace its existing inventory of Heckler and Koch 5.56mm x 45mm HK416 rifles.
The MCX, according to defence sources, is also being considered by the Royal Netherlands Army's Special Forces Regiment (KCT) as well as the German Army's Special Forces Command (KSK).
According to USSOCOM's solicitation, the PDW requirement must comprise a non-permanent upgrade solution with the M4A1 weighing no more than 5.5lbs and measuring no more than 26inches when fully extended.
'The weapon shall be fully functional when collapsed or folded. Kit should include a 5.56mm barrel that can be changed from .300 BLK to 5.56mm in less than 3 minutes. Accuracy shall be 3.0 MOA (T), 2.0 MOA (O) @100 yds. and 5.0 MOA (T), 3.0 MOA (O) @ 300 yds. both in .300 BLK supersonic,' the solicitation added. Deadline for responses is 10 April 2017, it concluded.
Defence sources explained to Shephard how most of the small arms manufacturers in the US will be capable of supporting such a programme with participants likely to include Sig Sauer, Heckler & Koch, M4A1 designer Colt Defense and FN Herstal USA.
The news follows USSOCOM's interest in the development of Suppressed Upper Receiver Group (SURG) technology, designed to reduce 'mirage effects', noise and dust effects during operations in confined spaces.
However, this option would comprise an upper receiver with floating barrel and permanently integrated suppressor, which has become a signature piece of equipment for the international special operations community in recent years.