August 31st, 2009

Euro Powder-Maker Shares Technology with ATK (Alliant), Plans Joint Production in USA

Alliant Reloder 17If you have followed our reports on Reloder 17, you’ll know that this Alliant powder, produced in Europe by Rheinmetall Nitrochemie, is a unique propellant that, in many cartridges, can offer 100 fps (or more ) velocity than any other commercial powders. The secret to the extra speed is a proprietary Nitrochemie process that embeds or saturates the kernels with burn-rate controlling compounds. This allows a longer duration, extended energy release. Most conventional extruded powders have surface coatings only. These tend to have a strong “spike” in their energy release but then decrease rapidly in energy output. By sustaining the energy release over a longer period of time (in the barrel), powders such as Reloder 17 promise to deliver higher velocities than could be achieved with other propellants.

Following the release of Reloder 17, sources at Alliant Powder, an Alliant Techsystems (ATK) subsidiary, confirmed that we can expect more powder products using the new Nitrochemie technology. Alliant plans to release both a faster powder (for 223-sized cartridges) and a slower powder (for large magnums).

ATK and Rheinmetall Nitrochemie Announce Strategic Partnership
Rheinmetall Nitrochemie (RN) is jointly owned by Rheinmetall AG and RUAG of Switzerland. Since 2005, ATK has been a Rheinmetall sales partner. Now ATK and Rheinmetall Nitrochemie plan a much closer relationship, through which RN will share propellant technologies and ATK and RN will produce powders together in US facilities. ATK has agreed to a “strategic partnership” with the Rheinmetall Nitrochemie Group, the propellants division of the Düsseldorf-based Rheinmetall Defence Group.

According to DefenseNews.com, “Under terms of the agreement, propellant technologies will be transferred from Nitrochemie to ATK, and the two companies will target sales in North America and elsewhere. While Rheinmetall will gain access to expanded markets, ATK will receive licenses to manufacture and sell powder and propellant systems developed by the German firm. These products will be marketed to both the U.S. military and other ammunition manufacturers.” Through the strategic partnership, ATK will become the exclusive North American vendor of the new-generation Nitrochemie propellants. The technology transfer positions ATK as the exclusive North American provider of Nitrochemie’s Extruded Impregnated (EI), Extruded Composite Low-sensitivity (ECL), Surface Coated Double Base (SCDB), and R-Type propellants.

Rheinmetall Nitrochemie to Build Powder-Making Facility in the USA
As part of the new, expanded business relationship with ATK, Rheinmetall Nitrochemie will shift some of its actual powder production to the United States. Rheinmetall and ATK revealed “medium-term plans” under which a new, powder-processing plant will be set up in the USA and operated by Rheinmetall Nitrochemie in cooperation with ATK. This will allow Nitrochemie propellants to be sold at more competitive prices, since they will no longer have to be shipped across the Atlantic. No specific date was given for the construction of the new powder factory.

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August 31st, 2009

New 5.56x30mm Cartridge from India

The Indian Army has introduced a new Modern Sub-Machinegun Carbine (MSMC) that shoots an interesting new round, a shortened version of the 5.56×45 (.223 Remington). According to The Firearm Blog, “The [MSMC] chambers a round developed in India called the 5.56×30mm. This round is sometimes referred to as the ‘5.56×30mm INSAS’ after the first gun to chambered the round, the INSAS Carbine.”

This is an interesting cartridge, reminiscent of the 5.56×30 MARS cartridge originally developed by COLT for its Mini Assault Rifle System (MARS) project (see below). The MARS gun never went into full production, and the 5.56×30 cartridge remained an orphan. But it was an interesting cartridge. As designed, using just 16.8 grains of commercial ball powder, Colt’s 5.56×30 cartridge could launch a 55gr FMJ bullet at 2600 fps.

Colt 5.56x30 MARS

We are intrigued by the new Indian 5.56x30mm cartridge because it would seem very well-suited for varminting, either in .22-caliber form, or necked down to .20 caliber or even .17 caliber. We already have a similar cartridge, of course, the 221 Fireball, but right now there is only one manufacturer of 17 and 221 Fireball brass, namely Remington.

221 Remington Fireball

If the Indian 5.56x30mm cartridge is produced in large quantities, perhaps we could see budget-priced 5.56x30mm brass exported for sale in the American market. That would be a boon for high-volume varminters. Also, if the Indian 5.56x30mm is standardized internationally, perhaps one of the European brass manufacturers (Lapua, Norma, RUAG, Wolf?) would consider producing it as an alternative to the 221 Fireball. We can only wish that a 20-cal or 17-cal version of the Indian 5.56x30mm cartridge might be produced some day as inexpensive factory ammo. Many varminters are now looking at centerfire options to the 17 HMR cartridge, as 17 HMR ammo prices continue to climb. A 50-round box of 17 HMR can now cost $14.00 or more.

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