The dream of dropping armed soldiers into an enemy’s ill-defended rear areas was fantasy when Ben Franklin mused on the subject in the late 18th century. But in the years between the World Wars, militaries across the globe experimented with the technology required to accomplish just such a feat.
The Allies planned a major airborne operation for February 1919, but World War I ended before it could be executed. It was the Italians who initially did it for real, their first large-scale parachute operation taking place in November 1927. The Italians subsequently raised two full divisions of elite paratroops.
The Russians are rumored to have somehow motivated some poor dogfaces to dangle from the landing gear of early transport aircraft and drop onto snow-covered lakes in the vain hope of being combat effective once they arrived. One can only imagine what sort of colorful language was required of the Soviet NCOs to get those unfortunate grunts to let go of the landing gear. But by the beginning of World War II, the world was refining the art.
The Germans dropped their Fallschirmjäger in support of the invasions of Norway and Denmark and committed an entire Airborne Assault Army Corps to the operation to seize the Netherlands. The airborne assault on the island of Crete represented arguably both their greatest victory and their worst defeat.
Alerted via highly classified Ultra intercepts, the Allied defenders of Crete put up a spirited defense, and casualties among the German paratroop force were astronomical. The Germans lost 284 aircraft and more than 6,600 troops in ten days of vicious fighting. The Allies took the lessons learned from the Crete operation to heart and built upon them to refine their own tactics of vertical envelopment.
The Allied airborne component of the D-Day invasion was designated Operation Neptune and has been exhaustively documented. This indeed likely represents the pinnacle of airborne operations throughout military history, though the subsequent Operation Market Garden did involve some 35,000 troops.
Later, Operation Varsity was a daylight assault across the Rhine by two Allied airborne divisions. Airborne forces undertook combat drops during the wars in Korea and Vietnam, as well as the invasions of Grenada, Panama, and Iraq, though the widespread use of helicopters has minimized the need for paratroop operations in recent years.
SKY SOLDIERS AND THEIR GEAR
The typical paratrooper is expected to be in exquisite physical condition to support potentially extended periods of combat away from logistical support.
His weapons must be lightweight and compact to facilitate safe management within the confines of aircraft as well as during the rigors of the jump itself. At the same time they must provide a high volume of overwhelming fire while remaining utterly reliable. A great deal of effort is invested in getting the sky soldiers to the fight. Their weapons and equipment must be up to the task.
During the invasion of Crete, fully one quarter of the German Fallschirmjäger carried MP38 or MP40 submachine guns for their reliably high volume of automatic fire.
U.S. paratroops of the era carried standard M1 Garand rifles and Thompson and Grease Gun submachine guns as well as a specially modified version of the Carbine designated the M1A1 and equipped with a side-folding wire stock. Current members of the U.S. Airborne forces are armed with standard M4 carbines.
The Battle Rifle Company of Houston, Texas, recently introduced its BR4 Paratrooper rifle. Combining features that keep the rifle lightweight and remarkably compact, and with unparalleled attention to reliability, the BR4 Paratrooper is indeed an optimized firearm for tight spaces and hard use.
A DIFFERENT SORT OF COMPANY
Chris Kurzadkowski is the Commander at Battle Rifle Company (BRC), and he is passionate about his guns. Chris is himself an Airborne-qualified former Infantry officer who has seen first-hand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to combat weapons.
Chris uses only the highest quality parts built to his personal specifications to produce weapons whose durability and reliability were only dreamt of in generations past. Now, all that is easy to say. How might one establish such a claim as fact?
A group of friends and I spent a sunny Saturday at a range facility outside Houston, Texas, putting Chris’ claims to the test. We ran 10,200 rounds of M193 ball ammo through a single rack-grade Battle Rifle Company BR4 Spartan rifle in less than eight hours.
The regimen was to fire 300 rounds as fast as was practical, pour cold water over the gun to cool it down, and repeat the process until we had turned ten cases of Federal 5.56mm ammo into a lot of noise and a simply ridiculous pile of empty brass.
We took an hour off for lunch and replaced the gas rings at 5,000 rounds. The rifle was lightly lubed at 2,500, 5,000, and 7,500 rounds, but was otherwise run constantly. One of our shooters hit a quarter at 40 meters with the last magazine.
Throughout the entire day, there were four stovepipe stoppages that were cleared in moments at the operator level. Even the vaunted AK would be hard-pressed to run so well.
WHAT’S THE SECRET?
Proper parts make proper rifles. Chris uses chrome-lined bores and chambers in cryogenically treated barrels for wear and corrosion resistance. Internal parts are surface treated with autocatalytic coatings for maximum lubricity and wear resistance. They lap their upper receivers and hand-finish the interiors of the receivers for optimized smoothness.
Treated buffer springs are rated for 50,000 cycles before appreciable wear. Each firearm from this boutique rifle company is hand-built by craftsmen. The result represents the state of the art.
The new BR4 Paratrooper takes that baseline BRC compulsion with quality and shrinks it down to size. The buttstock slides to retract around an abbreviated buffer tube to provide an eminently compact package. The length of the stock is determined by how far forward the struts can slide when retracted, so it may initially seem a bit short when extended. But I felt that the resulting package strikes the perfect balance between portability and tactical effectiveness.
The minimalist KeyMod forearm offers more mounting options for accessories than Paris Hilton’s closet. The proprietary muzzle brake is permanently attached to a 14.5-inch barrel that keeps the overall length of the gun as short as is legally possible. Robust flip-up iron sights and a variety of finish and caliber options round out the package.
The first thing you notice after slipping the BR4 Paratrooper out of its case is that this is one seriously lightweight rifle. After you run a modern trickedout M4 for a while, it’s easy to forget how lithe this little gun was before we started hanging so many accessories on it. The collapsible stock and abbreviated barrel combine to yield a package that would legitimately ride comfortably in a jump case.
The sliding stock is just cool. A quick snatch on the buttplate deploys it rapidly. A discrete push button, not unlike the standard magazine release, collapses it back in place. The ribbed buttplate is just big enough to provide adequate bite into the shoulder pocket without being bulky.
As the intent was to build an airborne- capable lightweight carbine, I resisted the urge to bedeck the rails with undue bling. A SureFire X400 combines a 500-lumen white light with a 5mW green laser in a single robust militarygrade package about half the size of a cell phone. I added a Lucid HD7 optic, but otherwise left the rifle in its stock configuration.
I became aware of Lucid glass awhile back and have been quite taken with it. The optical quality is superb and their sights offer the bells and whistles you want while dispensing with what you don’t, all at a price that is a fraction of their competition.
The sight is built around a rubber armored aluminum chassis and powered by a standard AAA battery. It has four user-selectable reticles and a push-button brightness control.
The neatest piece of their sighting solution is a discrete light sensor on the top of the rig that automatically adjusts the brightness for ambient conditions. You can’t call a timeout to adjust your sight when running into bright sunlight from a dark house, and the Lucid optical gun sight takes care of that chore for you.
CONTRIBUTING TO THE SCOURGE OF NOISE POLLUTION
The BR4 Paratrooper really is remarkably lightweight. Recoil might be an issue in a heavier caliber, but the beating heart of the gun is Eugene Stoner’s direct gas impingement system, which renders superlative accuracy with minimal mass.
The trigger is crisp and pleasant, and the gun had no latent personality defects that I could divine. There were no mechanical failures, but given its pedigree, this was not surprising.
Back on my home range, I ran ammo ranging from top-end Winchester 62-grain cop ammo through steelcased Tulammo 55-grain blaster bullets through the gun, and the rifle ate them all without complaint.
The rifle stays on target readily, and double taps flow forth like a symphony thanks to BRC’s polished single-stage trigger. I made instant hits out to 100 meters until I got tired of doing it. The ergonomics of Mr. Stoner’s rifle set the standard for everyone else’s, and the BR4 Paratrooper is light enough to hump long distances with ease.
Standard push-button sling swivels snap into the KeyMod rail. A standard swivel-mounting hole is in the buttstock assembly as well. The rifle hangs comfortably across the chest or under the arm and maneuvers indoors like an MP5 on steroids.
I have jumped out of airplanes myself in pitch darkness and felt that unique snap as the static line comes tight. I always dreaded the inevitable fearsome shock to the soles of my boots and thanked the Good Lord Above each time that I didn’t streamer in or twist my leg around behind my head.
My wife says that my final word with my final breath will be “Hooah,” and I can think of no more derogatory epithet to hurl at some mindless moron I encounter in traffic than “Leg.” That airborne stuff kind of burrows into your mind, as well as your bones.
These days everybody and their aunt seem to be bodging together AR rifles in their basement and hawking them as God’s gift to grunts. However, Battle Rifle Company products are genuinely top-flight and built for hard use in the real world. Their new BR4 Paratrooper does all that while remaining compact enough to tuck into small places and look sharp doing it.
If you’re in the market for something black and shiny and you’re not afraid of being the coolest guy on the range, zip over to the Battle Rifle Company website and check out their wares. The new BR4 Paratrooper perfectly embodies the elite warrior ethos that is the Airborne.
Special thanks to www.worldwarsupply.com for the gear used to outfit our Allied paratrooper.