SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCE INDUSTRY CONFERENCE (SOFIC) PART IV

Equipping the individual warfighter embraces a variety of technologies: ballistic protection, headgear, footwear, weapons all of which were represented at this year’s SOFIC.

Obvious from walking the exhibit, was the veritable cornucopia of shoulder fired weapons and pistols. In case you were wondering,  2017 is year of the striker fired pistols. There has never been a greater abundance of these sidearms. Glock 17s and 19s, SIG P320, Beretta APX, FNH 509 are on the shelves and readily available to any of our armed forces components.

Glock continues to dominate the polymer frame striker fired pistol space but it faces some formidable competition. SIG Arms, for example, who won the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System (MHS) competition and was awarded a contract worth up to $580 million. SIG SAUER’s P320 beat out Glock Inc., FN America and Beretta USA, maker of the current M9 service pistol, to win the MHS contract.

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The P320’s reliability and modularity solves many of the Army’s problems. With the P320 architecture the U.S. Army has a thoroughly customizable platform that works for all hand sizes, keeps the 9mm cartridge and a high capacity magazine.

SOFIC 2017 was my first opportunity to take a close look at Beretta’s APX. Beretta may have been the last major firearms manufacturer to enter the striker fired fray, but when it did, Beretta introduced an excellent pistol. The APX ergonomics are superb as is the trigger and trigger reset. The slide is a work of art featuring the best cocking serrations I’ve ever seen. The exaggerated beaver tail lets the pistol sit squarely in the hand with a relatively low bore height. The magazine release is readily accessible and reversible for our southpaw friends. The APX also uses a removable serialized chassis frame, so the pistol can be easily modified with replaceable grip frame housings and features an ambidextrous slide stop and Picatinny accessory rail. I’m predicting that Beretta’s APX  will be a force to recon with in the striker fired space.

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Another new entry in the striker fired genre is the FN 509 from FN USA. This pistol is characteristically FN through and through. The 509 ships with two interchangeable backstraps and exceptional texturing. The 509 is a double action striker fired pistol  specifically designed to meet the U.S. Army’s MHS requirements. The slide is home to  fixed 3-dot luminescent sights (standard) night sights (optional) and features front and back slide serrations. The 509’s barrel is impressive – cold hammer-forged stainless steel, a recessed target crown and a polished chamber and feed ramp that you can shave with.

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Long guns were also well represented by Heckler & Koch, SIG SAUER, FN USA, Remington and Barrett. Honorable mention in this writer’s opinion goes to Barrett for their MRAD rifle.

The MRAD user-changeable barrel system is quick requiring little effort to effect. This Barrett design supports .338 Lapua Magnum, .338 Norma Magnum, .300 Norma Magnum, .300 Winchester Magnum, .308 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum, .260 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor cartridges. A caliber change involves removing the precision grade barrel, which is accomplished by loosening two bolts using a standard Torx wrench, the bolt head and magazine.

The MRAD also comes with Barrett’s fully adjustable match-grade trigger module, which is user accessible and the thumb-operated safety can be configured for left or right hand operation. The ambidextrous magazine release can be used intuitively while retaining a firing grip and cheek weld.

The rifle features a 21.75 inch M1913 rail with 20 MOA taper. The forward receiver is drilled and tapped for accessory rails to be mounted at the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions.

The MRAD stock is foldable and locks onto the bolt handle maintaining the same rifle width whether folded or extended.

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In the sniper support category, FN’s MK 20 Mod 0 rifle is a truly impressive semi-automatic medium sniper / designated marksman rifle chambered in 7.62mm x 51mm NATO. The MK 20 Mod 0 is a tweaked MK17 with a 20 round detachable magazine.

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