Indian Defence forces are still using the Small Arms based on pre 1960 designs. The OFs have not been able to meet the forces huge requirement, which has resulted in India spending billions of dollars on small arms import. It's high time, that the Government changes its policy on arms & ammunition and allows private sector industries to come forward and manufacture state-of-the-art weapons.

 The major users of Small Arms (SA) are the three Defence Services, Paramilitary Forces and the State Law Enforcement Agencies. The Indian inventories are estimated to contain approximately 2.88 Million Small Arms; approximately 1.17 Million of these belong to the Defence Services and 1.7 Million to Paramilitary. The likely holding of various types of serviceable Small Arms by the Armed Forces: Rifles 8.0 lacs, Carbines/Pistol/LMG etc 3 Lakhs. Similar ratio of 75:25 pattern of holding is expected in Paramilitary Forces/Police Forces.  It is estimated India has 40 million firearms with individuals out of which, only, about 15 % are licensed.

Main Imported – Small Arms

Glock 17 Semi-Automatic Pistol Austria   Standard issue Special Forces (SF) pistol 
Beretta 92 Semi-Automatic Pistol Italy   --- 
SIG Sauer P226 Semi-Automatic Pistol  Germany   Germany\Switzerland
Micro-Uzi  Sub-Machine Gun Israel   For use by SF
Heckler & Koch MP5 Sub-Machine Gun Germany   MP5A3, A5, SD3 and SD6 models in service.
Heckler & Koch Sub-Machine Gun MP5K Germany   Shortened version of the MP5 used by SF
AKM  Assault Rifle Soviet Union   AKM fixed stock and AKMS under-folding stock variants used.
Arsenal Co. AR  Assault Rifle AK-47 Bulgaria   Police and paramilitary forces; used in some quantities by Army as well.
MPi-KM Assault Rifle MPi-KM-72 and MPi-KMS-72 East Germany   Both bakelite and wooden lower hand guard variants used
Pistol Mitralieră model 1990  Assault Rifle Romania   Romanian version of the AKM. Palmswell lower hand guard versions in use.
AK-103  Assault Rifle  Russia   --- 
Vz. 58  Assault Rifle Czechoslovakia   Vz. 58 P fixed stock and Vz. 58 V side-folding stock variants used. 
IMI Tavor TAR-21  Assault Rifle Israel   3070 purchased for the SF.
M4A1 Carbine  Carbine US   Bought under FMS. For use by Army & SF
Dragunov SVD59  Sniper Rifle  Soviet Union   Standard sniper rifle. 
IMI Galil 7.62   Sniper Rifle Israel   For use by Army & SF.
Mauser SP66  Sniper Rifle Germany   Standard bolt-action sniper rifle.
Denel NTW-20  Anti-Material Rifle South Africa   Bought in small numbers
Gepard GM6 Lynx  Anti-Material Rifle Hungary   For use by the Indian Army & SF.
PKM  General Purpose Machine Gun Soviet Union   Co-axial weapons in Russian produced for T-90S Bheeshma, T-72M Ajeya and BMP-2S Sarath. Also used by SF.
Browning M2  Heavy Machine Gun US   --- 
NSV  Heavy Machine Gun Soviet Union   --- 
KPV  Heavy Machine Gun Soviet Union   --- 


Indigenous Production

Presently, the entire manufacturing of Small Arms for all the forces as well as for civilian use, are confined to the Department of Defense Production viz Ordnance Factories (OFs), while, DRDO is responsible for design and development. The OFB/DPSUs do not have the technology for delivering the next generation of SA and also do not have the capability to produce the huge quantities required for replacement or to make up the deficiencies. As for arms and ammunition production by OFB is concerned, a four year Roll on Indent on OFB is planned and the corresponding annual production requirements are projected and accepted, still there is shortfall in 54 to 73 percent in different types of arms and ammunition every year as per CAG report. Consequently, indigenous small arms production from Ordnance Factory Board is not even sufficient to fill the replacement gap. (Source: CAG, 2001 & MoD Report, 2012)

The absence and inability of own indigenous design/development capability has resulted in the country spending billions of dollars on small arms import. Some of the major SA imports by the country between the period from 1995-2012 are listed out in the above given Table:

Item RFI IssuedQtyApprox CostService
Light-Weight Assault Rifles For Para-SF (Special Forces)   Jan 11  10730   $70 Million    Indian Army
7.62 mm Light Machine Gun Jan 10 4400   some value 1   Indian Army
12.7mm X 99mm /.50 Heavy Machine Gun   Mar 10 Unspecified   $96 Million   Indian Army
12.7 mmHeavy Machine Gun  March 11 400  ---   Indian Navy and Coast Guard
30 mm Gun April 2015 116   Rs 1500 Crores   Indian Navy and Coast Guard
60mm Mortar  Nov 09 Unspecified   ---   Indian Army
Carriers &Enhancement For 81mm Mortars  Dec 09 Unspecified   ---   Indian Army

Procurement Plan

There has been no major procurement of the Small Arms in last few years despite a dire need of new and modern inductions. Some RFIs/RFPs have been issued in the past; however, poor planning and wishful QRs have resulted in ultimately scrapping of tenders which in turn has derailed the procurements. One such much talked about recent case is the procurement of 65768 Multirole Assault Rifles (ARs) worth $250-300 Million (each rifle costing around 2 Lakhs) for the Indian Army which are to replace the DRDO-designed and OFB-built INSAS 5.56 mm AR introduced into service in the 1990s, which is long due for replacement. Five international firms - Beretta of Italy, Israeli Weapons Industries (IWI), Colt Defense of the US, Ceska Zbplojovka of Czech Republic - were shortlisted. All the weapons they presented for the trials were prototypes, meaning, none of them were actually in service and none of them could meet the Qualitative Requirements. Eventually, the tender was scrapped in June 2015. Subsequently, after cancellation of the tender for multirole assault rifle, the Army decided to go ahead with the alternative indigenous Excalibur 5.56 X 45 mm Assault Rifle, a derivative of INSAS being developed by the DRDO, as the new assault rifle fires 5.56 mm bullets. The features include:

However, as of now the trials conducted in 2015 have been received with mixed results and a trial report is expected soon. Once approved, the army plans to induct over 600,000 Excalibur for around $541 Million (around Rs 60,000 each). However, the induction is not possible before 2017. Seeing the delays in the acquisition/induction of new assault rifles which are to replace the INSAS rifles that are considered as operationally inadequate, the Indian Army has come out with a modification of INSAS/AK-47 Weapon. The name of the innovator and the details has not been disclosed. The modifications include:

Though, the changes/ modifications incorporated are good enough but they do not meet the requirements as the Army's 2011 tender was for a Multi Caliber Assault Rifle or for a weapon that could fire INSAS and AK-47 ammunition with a barrel change.

Same situation is seen in the case of CQB carbines. A tender was issued in way back 2011 for 44618 carbines along with 33.6 million rounds of ammunition worth $400-500 Million. The selected CQB manufacturer was required to transfer technology exclusively to the OFB to licence-build some 3,80,000-4,00,000 carbines. Of these, 160080 will be for the Army and remainder for the CPF and the police. Trials of the shortlisted contenders - IWI Israel, Italy's Beretta, USA's Colt, Sig Sauer were completed way back in 2014 but the winner has not been announced till date due to unknown reasons. And as per the reports circulating this is also heading for cancellation.

Some of other major programmes in pipeline that are also facing delays are as under:

Market Opportunity: The Army is in need for better and state-of-the-art weapons for its Infantry to replace/augment its existing holdings. It has plans to equip its 362 infantry battalions, over 100 counter insurgency units and Special Forces (SF) with a modular, multi-calibre suite of small arms. In addition, there will be recurring requirement of ammunition, used for stocking and training. Also, going on is the Futuristic Infantry Soldier System (F-INSAS) program which is designed to equip Indian infantry soldiers with most modern small weaponries including an advanced lightweight rifle and heavy machine gun.

Apart from these other smaller procurements have been from MHA and Specialized Forces. The paramilitary and police personnel will be requiring small arms approximately over 2 Million pieces worth over Rs 13500 Crores ($3 Billion) in next 5-10 years. In due course the forces are expected to employ the same weaponry as the army as standardization measure.

Participation by Private Sector

As of now, the private sector is primarily engaged in the manufacture of single and double-barrel and air rifles/ pistols and supplying to OFB some of the subsystems.  In the past some of the industries, had applied and received Industrial License for Small Arms and Ammunition but eventually the case did not progress as MHA was unable to issue the licenses. It's high time now, that the Government changes its policy on arms & ammunition and allows private sector industries to come forward and manufacture state-of-the-art weapons. Recently, MHA has formulated a draft Arms Act-2015 and it has been put up in the open domain for comments from all sections of stakeholders, wherein the private industries will be allowed to manufacture and proof test arms & ammunition including the ones being used by military. The Home Ministry is likely to bring the Arms Act Amendment Bill, 2015, in the next Parliament session; however, no announcement has been made so far.

Small arms have a life of approx 20 years depending on their uses and how well they are maintained. Taking the overall requirement of replacement of SAs for the military and paramilitary forces to be 3.0 million and the life of weapon to be 20 years we need a production capability of approximately 1.5 Lakhs per year for the replacement cycle to ensure that our forces are always equipped with latest technology SAs. Even with enhanced  annual production capacity of approximately 0.90-1.0 Lac small arms of all types, against the required quantity for replacement, the Ordnance Factories will be unable to meet even the annual replacement requirement of the military, not counting requirements of Paramilitary Forces. The same also goes for matching requirement of ammunition. Hence, the scope for private sector to fill the gap to the tune of 50% Level to OFB production capacity. Further, estimated OFB's Value of Production of Arms & Ammunition is around 60% of the total turnover says around 8000 Crores ($1454 Million). Average import on Arms & Ammunition is about Rs 3500 Crores ($636 Million)/Per Year. Estimated Value of Arms & Ammunition for Paramilitary Forces (MHA), State Police and civil Arms is Rs 1000 Crores ($180 Million)/Per Year. So net market for Small Arms and Ammunition is about 12000-13000 Crores ($2182-2364 Million), Out of which some import say about 1000-1500 Crores, will have to be there till capacities are established. Net about Rs 3000 Crores is available for new private sector entrant.


At present, there exists a capability gap in Small Arms segment in five counts: Vintage Design, Design Capability, Production Capability, Quality & Cost and Heterogeneous Inventory which needs to be addressed immediately if India is looking out to become self reliant coupled with having substantial and state-of-the art small arms inventory.

The above issues can be overcome only by way of active participation of the private sector. The technology involved in manufacturing of small arms is neither critical nor a rocket science, however, so far the government is yet to allow private players to play a strategic and leading role in manufacture of small arms inspite of the Indian private industry's willingness to invest and play a major role in defence indigenization. The Government should also emphasize and promote public-private partnership which would not only create the much needed defence industrial base but also generate economic spin-offs.  Of course, the necessary security and regulatory provisions can be insisted.