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SR 88A: Singapore’s quest for reliability

We have already seen previously two interesting Singaporean models of military weapon, the SAR 80 assault rifle and the Ultimax-100 light machine gun. Both of these weapons have technically and conceptually interesting aspects. The rifle that we will analyze here is well in keeping with this line of thought.

A great creativity

The city-state may not seem to represent much from a geographical point of view. Nevertheless, it remains an important economic player, to the point of sometimes being compared as the Switzerland of Asia. Therefore, it is not surprising that this former British colony finds a particular interest in meeting its defense needs. It may come as a surprise, however, that this country has devoted a great deal of energy to finding means of production and even design in small arms on its own. Other countries – supposedly more “important” – are looking abroad to meet such a need. There is hardly a simple answer to this question and making comparisons between countries would be a dead end. It is very complex and presumptuous to pretend to understand what the real stakes of a country are, whatever they may be: the very vision of the world is sometimes altogether completely different between two countries yet separated by only a few meters. Therefore, with this in our minds, we can simply observe the fruitful Singaporean efforts: here a rather atypical assault rifle!

A mixed construction

Designed and built by the Charted Industries of Singapore company (now ST Kinetics) in the late 80s, the construction of the weapon is articulated in a conventional way (at least for western standards) around a lower receiver and a superior receiver. The first specificity is the choice to carry out these two parts by different procedures: the lower is made of forged / machined aluminum while the upper is made of stamped sheet metal (Pic. 03). Except for the FNC (article available here!), this choice of mixed construction is rare enough to be highlighted. It is also one of the evolutions between the SR 88 and the SR 88A, the former having a lower receiver made of stamped sheet very similar to the SAR 80’s. This choice is above all industrial because it mainly impacts costs and means of production. A stamped sheet metal receiver is not necessarily heavier than its aluminum counterpart and their strength depends above all in both cases on a judicious design of the parts. On the other hand, modern CNC machining tools are very versatile where the machines needed for the production of sheet metal parts are specific to a limited use. Moreover, it is noteworthy that this transition corresponds to an era of democratization of the first machining centers.

The weapon was quickly proposed with the polymer magazine now used on the SAR 21 in service within the Singapore Army. This approach was then innovative without being revolutionary. Austrians produced this type of magazine as early as the late 70s with the Steyr AUG and Soviets had introduced it on the AKM as early as the middle 60s! Our test model was supplied with Singaporean aluminum magazines, common to the others weapons of the same caliber from the manufacturer.

All steel parts are phosphated. The upper and lower receivers are painted. The inside of the barrel, the piston, the gas nozzle, and the inside of the gas block are chrome plated.

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    Arnaud Lamothe

    Expert for the French Department of Justice, former technical manager of the Ministry of the Interior, co-founder of the site LAI Publications, Arnaud is a specialist in small arms of war. Author of many articles, he wishes through this site to share his passion and knowledge for these subjects.

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