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The USAF take-down GAU-5A survival gun

Picture from USA Military Channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9ENCaRlYOM

Not that long ago, the Air Force adopted a new break down rifle for the survival kit of pilots. They decided to recycle the designation GAU-5A for this new weapon configuration.


The original GAU-5A was the Colt Model 610. Here is a picture from RetroBlackRifle.com

Many of old carbines were later rebuilt into other configurations, the GAU-5A/A, GAU-5A/B, GAU-5B/A, GAU-5P, GUU-5P, etc. There is a fair chance there are a few of these floating around in their original configuration, and others have likely been rebuilt into M4 carbines.

But this isn’t about that cool old gun.

The new GAU-5A is a retrofit to a standard M4. This break down setup was picked because they could jam it in their current survival kit along with four full thirty round magazines.

To make the lower smaller, they remove the sling loop from the M4 stock, and install a FAB Defense folding pistol grip. Part number AGF-43S. I looked around for price and most places had it out of stock. $43.99 was the price I found for a black one, 36.49 for other colors.

This break down rifle uses a shorter barrel. From what I can find, it is reported that a Bravo Company 12.5″ barrel is being used. I’m guessing the model at this page: https://www.bravocompanyusa.com/BCM-Standard-12-5-Carbine-Barrel-Stripped-NFA-p/bcm-brl-s-12%20std.htm Flash hider appears to be a standard A2. The stripped barrel is for sale for $239. You would still need a low profile gas block, flash hider, and crush washer.

A low profile gas block is used, and for the take down system a custom different length gas tube is used. That is provided with the take down kit.

The take down kit is a retrofit for standard AR15 uppers and barrels. It is made by Cry Havoc Tactical. This “QRP Kit” sells for $349 shipped. They also make a model for .308 ARs. This kit lets you use most standard aftermarket free float hand guards. Link here: http://cryhavoctac.com/qrb-kit.html

The chosen hand guard is a 10.5 inch long Midwest Industries “MI-G3ML10-BLK”. Due to the quick change barrel kit, this hand guard is pushed out longer than if it was mounted normally. It runs $169 dollars from MidWest Industries website. https://www.midwestindustriesinc.com/product-p/mi-g3ml10-blk.htm

For sights, this little survival carbine uses the Magpul MBUS PRO LR. It appears to be using the version adjustable for distance. This would let the shooter roughly adjust from 200-600 meters. To buy a new set would run you about $200 dollars.

With the exception of a full auto lower, if a person wanted to make a “clone” of one of these guns, all the parts would be easy to source and readily available.

When this weapon was first announced, I recall the gun forums and the like generally responded negatively to the announcement of this weapon. All sorts of alternatives were suggested, most of them ridiculous.

This new gun is an interesting oddity. But I don’t imagine it will get much of a fan following. I doubt it will ever be considered classic like the original GAU-5A.

8 thoughts on “The USAF take-down GAU-5A survival gun”

  1. There were specific nomenclatures and specs for those guns (technically they were considered SMGs in Air Force speak) but by the time I came in the mid 90s they were all Frankenguns. Many configurations and parts but most were updated to GUU-5P standard in the late 90s when all the units finally swapped to M855. The last true GAU-5/A/A I saw was in 2005 for one of the special communications roadshows. 11.5” barrels and moderators…and damn did I want one! I’ve got a picture of an XM177E2 turned GUU-5P I had to work on. It’s nothing special but if you’re interested I can see where I saved it.

    Some of the parts choices I don’t agree with (KAC 300m sight would’ve been better or something with tritium) and even caliber. The goal of this, and any other arm carried by a distressed aircrewman, is mostly to make people who are looking for them think twice about really poking around in potential hidey holes. Downed crew’s priority is to evade.
    The chances this tool will be repurposed by those locating the downed crew is pretty high. 5.56 is common too. Go to a nonstandard caliber like the KAC 6×35 or even it’s parent 221 Fireball. Don’t help fund their war efforts.
    Lastly, integrally suppress it. Help that crewman not be as noticeable if he has to touch off a round.

    All those gripes said, it’ll work for what it’s made for. And it’s recycling some parts already in inventory. I’d rather have this than nothing.

      • I’m not much of a writer but I’ll give it a shot.

        The Air Force broadly classifies its weapons into two categories; ground and aerial. For instance, an M240 mounted in the door of an HH-60 Blackhawk would be maintained as aircraft armament by those technicians whereas that same M240 mounted on an HMMWV sitting overwatch at a gate would be maintained by the servicing Combat Arms Training & Maintenance (CATM, pronounced phonetically as kat-um) section. By “maintained” I mean everything above operator level maintenance but below depot level. Despite this separation any qualification would most likely be run by the servicing CATM section which is where the “T” in the acronym comes from. The Air Force centralizes small arms training and qualification where other services are mostly unit led functions. My background is CATM so I’ll say that is my bias up front.
        First, just as I stated in my last statement to the original post, what the AF has chosen will work just fine. It is utilizing “recycled” components as its core; lowers, uppers and standardized ammunition. The equipment peculiar to the new GAU-5A is all COTS and probably well within the small budget the program would have been allowed. As an academic exercise taken from behind a keyboard and given the self-imposed limitations of this piece being stored in an already cramped, finite space let’s discuss alternatives. (The take-down upper feature is a novel problem solving idea so I’ll leave it be.)
        Sights. The rifle wouldn’t need those range adjustable sights. In a perfect world, an MRDS like an RMR would be even more ideal and easier for someone who’s day-to-day is not spent in the pursuit of mastering small arms. Simplicity is desired here. A self-defense weapon would not be used at distances much beyond rock throwing range. The point being you’re inside the battle sight zero of the weapon. It will add height to the weapon so I’d recommend an RMR in a throw lever mount. In the absence of an MRDS a simpler style rear BUIS would be more suitable. Something with a large aperture that allows a quick sight picture for close-in, fast moving threats. A tritium sighting aid would also be ideal. The KAC 300m BUIS comes to mind as a place to start.
        Barrel. The primary goal of downed aircrew is to evade/escape so let’s stack the deck in that direction. Short barrels are loud and flash brightly. Add a suppressor to the kit as a separate piece of equipment, or, go with a shorter, integrally suppressed barrel. Short, removable cans are COTS but given the chance to bid any manufacture could produce a specific unit in short order and at minimum cost. It needn’t have the whiz bang features of their flagship models, just something that’d reduce muzzle blast and sound. At a max of 120rds fired I’d bet an aluminum unit would suffice.
        Caliber. Cartridges such as 6x35mm KAC, 300BLK, etc are AR capable and, by design, great performers from a short barrel. The major consideration and benefit of such an alternate caliber is being able to deliver a larger pill into a threat’s fleshy, pink body. I still see 300BLK as a niche, boutique cartridge in the big picture but still a capable one nonetheless. Imagine the crewman with his ready mag having 5-10rds of subs loaded on top of supers. If he gets through those subs he’s decisively engaged and it won’t matter after that. The minor bonus of an alternate caliber being not giving the bad guys a couple free shooters they could easily feed later. The con being follow-on costs associated with short runs of ammunition needed for sustainment training and replenishment of stock for operational needs.
        Stock. If the standard Colt stock is not a show stopper in terms of size I’d consider a storage capable stock for stowing/carrying survival items. If the addition of the proposed equipment hit weight constraints a return to a more utilitarian style can be pursued as well. Let us not forget the original AR15 based survival rifle had a simple tube stock with a formed, sheet metal butt plate.

    • I have had half a notion of doing a form 1 and making one of those moderators. Would be pretty easy to make. I would be tempted to make the out side section screw on instead of be welded on, but it isn’t like you would really need to be able to take it apart for maintenance.

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