GAU-5A: You Can Now Own a Clone of the Air Force’s Micro-AR Style Rifle
But is it worth your time and money?
While most pilots like to think of themselves as fairly detached from the brutality of warfare on the ground, they all face the very real possibility of being shot down and forced to defend themselves on the ground. For most of the twentieth century, shot down pilots could be expected to be captured and interned as POWs, so were generally armed with lightweight survival rifles or pistols. But more recently when combating extremist or terrorist groups, pilots who are shot down face being burned alive, or worse
As a result, militaries have moved to arm their pilots with proper weapons for self-defense. In 2015, the Royal Netherlands Air Force bought B+T MP9 submachine guns for their pilots flying over ISIS territory. Some militaries were already ahead of the curve; following experiences in Chechnya most Russian pilots are armed with AKS-74U carbines in their survival kits.
But the U.S. Air Force has perhaps devised one of the most compact and effective survival rifles for a downed airman. The GAU-5A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon is a short M4 variant that incorporates a quick-detach barrel and folding pistol grip to fit within the survival kit compartment of an ACES II ejection seat.
However, the GAU-5A doesn’t use proprietary parts developed solely for the GAU-5. Perhaps due to the need to urgently field the rifles, many commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) parts were used on the GAU-5. In order to reduce the length of the pistol grip in the stored configuration, the Israeli FAB Defense AGF-43S folding pistol grip was fitted to the GAU-5A. The quick detach barrel kit is also an existing commercial product, the Cry Havoc Tactical QRB kit. Finally, a lightweight rail from Midwest industries was fitted in lieu of a standard front sight post and plastic handguard. While most modern rifles use optics, the GAU-5A uses flip-up iron sights to minimize weight and profile.
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