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Pakistan Reveals New Rifles – POF BW20 and POF BW21

Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) took the shrouds off its new in-house, original rifle projects – the BW20 and BW21. The POF BW20 and BW21 are chambered for 7.62×51 mm rounds.

Citing videos released by Salman Ali, the lead designer of the POF BW20-series, The Firearm Blog reported that the BW20 uses roller-delayed blowback. This is the same mechanism used in the Hecker & Koch G3, which is the standard-issue battle rifle of the Pakistan Army (PA) and one of POF’s main current products.

It seems that POF is pitching the BW20 for the PA’s next-generation rifle requirements. According to POF’s Salman Ali (via The Firearm Blog), the BW20 is a new rifle design that delivers cost savings by re-leveraging POF’s existing production infrastructure, which is geared for the HK G3.

However, the BW20 is not an upgrade of the HK G3, it is a new rifle.

Picture of POF BW20
Pakistan Ordnance Factories BW20

For example, where the G3 comprises of 200 parts, the BW20 uses 125 parts. This is a clear difference in design and build. Moreover, the BW20 uses POF’s in-house trigger mechanism, which is based on the AR-15, while its feed system make use of AR10 magazines. The final production version will have a polymer lower receiver, ambidextrous magazine release and selector system, and bolt hold open mechanism. The BW20 also has picatinny rails for accessories such as sights and forward grips.

POF is also reportedly working on 5.56×45 mm and 7.62×39 mm versions of the BW20. The latter design will reportedly be compatible with AK magazines. POF will likely pitch the 7.62×39 mm to both the PA and the Ministry of Interior’s (MoI) paramilitary units as service adoption for that round grows.

As for the BW21, according to Salman Ali, is also a 7.62×51 mm design using the roller-delayed blowback mechanism, but “in an AR-style platform.” Ali said that the BW21 is entirely different from the BW20. It is unclear if the BW21 is a continuation of POF’s AR development, which it first showed through the PK18 in late 2019. However, it is interesting that POF re-applied the roller-delayed blowback mechanism to an AR-style frame. The BW21 might be even more of an original design than the BW20.

Pakistan Ordnance Factories BW21

Analysis – A New Shift in Pakistan’s Future Rifle Program?

In 2015, the Pakistan Army issued a tender for a new-generation assault rifle. It had tested many designs from all over the world, including the FN SCAR, Beretta ARX-200, CZ BREN, AK-103 and others. In the end, however, the Army did not select any of the 7.62×51 mm designs for local adoption. There were reports of Pakistan requesting the AK-103 from Russia, but the status of that program is unclear.

Ultimately, it seems that POF was given the greenlight to design an original rifle. Part of the reason seems to stem from a sense that none of the foreign designs substantially improved upon the G3 in terms of its accuracy and durability. This is not to say the other rifles were not good, but the added improvement they offered may not have justified the total cost of adopting and locally manufacturing a foreign design.

The Army probably welcomed the new designs’ improvements to weight, recoil, and versatility enough to still seek a new design. But instead of seeking an off-the-shelf design from abroad, the Army is willing to let POF take the lead in designing the most suitable next-generation rifle solution.

Both the BW20 and BW21 rely on roller-delayed blowback mechanisms, which the Army is familiar with through its decades of using the HK G3. The Army reportedly preferred the accuracy and terminal impact offered by the roller-delayed mechanism. So, POF is retaining this core design feature to preserve the end-user’s familiarity and comfort as it transitions to the new rifle designs.

However, POF is incorporating polymers in ways to create optimal, clearcut improvements over the G3, such as weight reduction. In fact, by reducing the number of parts in play from 200 to 125, POF may have achieved even further weight reduction and, possibly, more simplicity and reliability. By offering a 7.62×39 mm variant of the BW20, POF is also trying to build commonality between two different requirements so as to achieve economies-of-scale and, in turn, reduce the long-term procurement cost. Finally, POF is also working on specialized variants of the BW20, such as a designated marksman rifle (DMR).

Interestingly, the BW20 might be the “conservative” option. The BW21 appears to be the more radical or fundamental change to the Army’s rifle transition. Though POF calls it an “AR-style platform”, it the BW21 still uses the same roller-delayed blowback mechanism. So, fundamentally, the BW21 is an original design that is neither a G3-based or AR-based rifle. However, it is similar to both in that it uses the G3’s underlying mechanism, but with a largely polymer-based design similar to the AR.

But if the BW21 is that different, then the cost of transitioning to it could be higher than the BW20. So, it seems that POF is working on a multi-pronged roadmap. It starts with a ‘short-term’ solution – i.e., BW20 – that enables the Army to adopt the benefits of a new rifle at a reasonable cost. However, there may be a long-term play to move to the “perfect” design – i.e., BW21 – once POF can indigenously source the new materials and handle cutting-edge production techniques.

The BW21 might also be a ‘premium’ offer for the export market. In this case, POF would hope to secure a large enough order from overseas to fuel its self-investment in new facilities and capabilities. But in any case, the BW21 seems like the solution for the future, while the BW20 is for today.

Finally, it will be interesting to see if POF gains momentum to produce other original designs. It is already working on a new side-arm called the PK-10. Could POF also work on a new pistol/submachine gun (SMG) to replace the HK MP5? Could POF build upon the work it has already done for the Light Sniper Rifle (LSR) and create another .308 design? Will it focus on a new light-machine gun (LMG) and/or anti-materiel rifle (AMR)? Or, if given the runway, try designing rifles for totally different rounds like 6.8 mm?

While a high-cost endeavour, the benefit of investing in POF’s production and sourcing capabilities is that it makes new programs like SMGs, LSRs, LMGs and AMRs more feasible. It gives POF access to more local resources (especially high-skilled labour, cutting-edge production facilities, and indigenously sourced core materials like polymer) to try out more ambitious design work. Projects like the BW20 and BW21 clearly show that POF is extremely interested in original design work. The only things holding POF back are wider structural issues, like the lack of indigenous material development or high-skilled labour, to empower it to indigenously manufacture cutting-edge, world-class small arms.

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