- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2016

U.S. Special Operations Command is on the hunt for U.S. gun manufacturers who can churn out Russian-designed AK-47 rifles.

Military officials at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., released a market research request last month for “non-standard weapons.” The list includes the iconic Kalashnikov rifle, the Dragunov sniper rifle, and machine guns like the DShK.

Lt. Cmdr. Matt Allen, a spokesman for the command, told the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday that American-made AK-47s may save taxpayers money in the long-run.

“A U.S.-based source would be a good use of taxpayer funds, while also delivering the weapons our partners not only need to fight extremists, but also the ones they know how to use, know how to fix and have the supplies in their regions to maintain,” the officer said.

American allies in the region prefer the rifle for its durability and the ubiquity of its 7.62mm ammunition. Although the AK-47 has a reputation for inaccuracy, it is a weapon-of-choice around the world.

The newspaper reached out to U.S. gunmakers who said they were skeptical they could provide a less-costly version of the AK-47 than Bulgaria, China, and Russia.

“The factories around the world set up to do that are doing it with dirt-cheap labor,” said Mark Serbu, founder and president of Tampa-based Serbu Arms. “I don’t know how to compete here. I am surprised they are trying to do that. It doesn’t make sense.”

Greg Frazee, CEO of the Tampa-based Trident Arms, concurred.

“It is cheaper to lay hands on a couple containers of foreign AK-47s from overseas than manufacturing them and then exporting them,” Mr. Frazee told the newspaper. “At the end of the day, is the juice worth the squeeze? They are looking for capabilities more so than nailing down a number, so we will probably end up responding.”

A spokesperson for Kalashnikov USA, which recently opened a plant in Pompano Beach, told the newspaper that it is “totally focused on ramping up the new facility” to fulfill existing orders of its civilian variant.

Matt Schroeder, a senior researcher with Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based group that tracks weapons, told the Washington Post on Friday that there would be additional upsides to producing the weapon in the U.S.

“Building them here would normalize transfers, make oversight easier,and prevent ad-hoc type arrangements like we’ve seen in the past,” Mr. Schroeder said.

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