India’s Anti-Terror Troops Despise Their Assault Rifle

Robert Beckhusen
Jan 13, 2015 · 5 min read

Soldiers would prefer AKs to this piece of junk

by ROBERT BECKHUSEN

In 1999, the Indian Army fought a three-month-long undeclared war with Pakistan. It was also the combat debut of India’s new Insas battle rifle.

The Insas is a very bad rifle.

During the conflict—waged over the disputed and mountainous Kargil district in the province of Kashmir—the Indian troops’ rifles jammed up, and their cheap, 20-round plastic magazines cracked in the cold weather.

To make a terrible weapon worse, the Insas had a habit of spraying oil directly onto the handler’s face and eyes.

Soldiers also preferred the heavier 7.62-millimeter rounds in the FAL rifle, which the Insas and its 5.56-millimeter rounds replaced.

Then in 2005, Maoist rebels attacked a Nepalese army base. The Nepalese troops had Insas rifles bought from India. During the 10-hour-long battle, the rifles overheated and stopped working. The Maoists overran the base and killed 43 soldiers.

“Maybe the weapons we were using were not designed for a long fight,” Nepalese army Brig. Gen. Deepak Gurung said after the battle. “They malfunctioned.”

Image for post
Image for post

In November, India’s Central Reserve Police—which uses the rifle—finally had enough. The CRPF is a counter-insurgency force tasked with fighting Maoist rebels known as Naxalites in several eastern states.

“We have sent a proposal to the government that all Insas rifles with the force be replaced by AK rifles,” CRPF general director Dilip Trivedi told the Times of India. “The Insas has a problem of jamming. Compared to AK and X-95 guns, Insas fails far more frequently.”

Another CRPF soldier alleged New Delhi chose to “lose the lives of our jawans to promote a faulty indigenous gun,” he said, using the Indian term for a soldier.

As part of this offensive, the CRPF is relying more on heavier weapons such as mortars and grenade launchers. At the same time, the Maoists are building bigger bombs to use against the CRPF’s armored, “mine-protected” vehicles.

But there’s larger reasons why the Insas is such an awful gun.

The main cause was a myopic obsession among the Indian military beginning in the 1980s about relying more on weapons made at home. The state-owned Ordnance Factories Board manufactures the Insas.

Image for post
Image for post
At top—CRPF soldiers with Insas rifles near Jammu, India on April 17, 2010. Channi Anand/AP photo. Indian Army troops in Babina, India on October 13, 2009. U.S. Army photo

To be sure, India had practical needs for a new weapon. Well into the 1990s, the Indian Army and the country’s internal security forces relied on a mix of old, 1950s-era FALs, Lee-Enfields — first developed in the 1890s — and Russian-made AK-type rifles.

The Insas turned into a hybrid, combining features of both the FAL and the AK-47. But the result was an awkward weapon—and one prone to failure.

A few years ago, a pseudonymous Indian gun blogger inspected several of the rifles. Hoo boy, they’re a sight to behold.

Image for post
Image for post

There’s lots of redundant parts and features that seem to serve no purpose except to make the rifle more complicated and expensive to produce. Its plastic hand guard is wobbly. The gas cylinder—which powers the reloading mechanism—is prone to breaking.

The Insas is also “several times” more expensive than an AK, according to a 2012 report in The Hindu.

In addition to the plastic parts, there’s “four different kinds of metal, an amalgam almost guaranteed to impair their functioning in the extreme [mountainous] climates of Siachen and Rajasthan,” the paper added.

Nilkamal Plastics—the Indian plastic furniture giant—produces the crack-prone magazines.

“In the end it shoots fairly accurately and with reasonable reliability,” the gun blogger wrote. “But it’s plagued by shitty quality and needless refinements of dubious value.”

Last year, the Army tested the Israeli Galil ACE, the American CM-901 Modular Carbine and the Italian ARX-160 rifles as a potential replacements. But it’ll still take years to swap out the Insas. And that’s a big if.

But remember what the counter-insurgency troops said. India could always buy more AKs.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

War Is Boring

From drones to AKs, high technology to low politics…

Robert Beckhusen

Written by

Editor at War Is Boring. Email: firstnamelastname (at) gmail.

War Is Boring

From drones to AKs, high technology to low politics, exploring how and why we fight above, on and below an angry world

Robert Beckhusen

Written by

Editor at War Is Boring. Email: firstnamelastname (at) gmail.

War Is Boring

From drones to AKs, high technology to low politics, exploring how and why we fight above, on and below an angry world

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store