Monday 23 October 2017

'Reisssuing garda with Uzis is no match for the criminals' weapons but it's a start'

A member of the Garda ERU holds an MP7 File Picture
A member of the Garda ERU holds an MP7 File Picture
An Uzi submachine gun

Michael Lavery

THE GUN murders of two men in Dublin are likely to see the increased issue of a sophisticated German weapon to detectives.

The Heckler and Koch MP7 was first issued to elite members of the Emergency Response Unit after gangsters started using body armour and armoured SUVs.

The Israeli designed Uzi sub-machine gun, which was then the Garda standard, fired a 9mm pistol bullet which was incapable of penetrating modern body armour.

The MP7, now used by the ERU and the Regional Support Units, is not a sub machine gun and not even an assault rifle - but a new class of weapon developed by the Germans called a PDW or Personal Defence Weapon.

It fires a tiny 4.6mm bullet capable of penetrating 20 layers of Kevlar armour.  It is lightweight, less than 5 pounds, easily concealable and has a 40 shot magazine.

The MP7 has been seen in Dublin over the weekend, carried by detectives at checkpoints aimed at disrupting gang activity.

Now Dermot O'Brien, the president of the Garda Representative Association, has called for more Gardai to be armed in the wake of the Dublin shootings.

Garda representive bodies raised issue of the withdrawal of the Uzi sub machine gun, which had been in use for 30 years, after the killing of Detective Garda Adrian Donohue near Dundalk three years ago.

The Uzi had been withdrawn from general detective use in March, 2012, with the Gardai saying it no longer fulfilled its requirement.

Some suspected it was part of a general move to cut costs in firearms training and to reduce the number of Gardai trained to use firearms after the end of the Troubles.

Instead, Garda management insisted the Swiss SiG Sauer 9mm semi automatic  pistol, with its 15 shot magazine which replaced the six shot revolver, was an adequate replacement.

If there was ever any validity to that argument, and most experts believed there was none, the events in Paris a year ago put paid to that.

The sight of gunmen with Kalashnikovs attacking the Charlie Hebdo offices in a central European city was a wake up call for police forces across the continent.

The London Met, for instance, which had up to then mainly issued MP7s and 9m MP5s to its armed police, re-equipped with a modern 5.56mm SiG assault rifle.

In Ireland, the ERU similiarily bought a modern assault rifle, the Heckler and Koch HK 416, also used by the Army Ranger Wing.

Now there is a Garda Representative Body suggestion the Uzi should be re issued to district detective units until more MP7s can come on stream.

Ironically, the Garda Uzis had been modernised shortly before they were withdrawn with a forward pistol grip and a Picatinny rail for mounting white lights or lasers.

The gun was a pretty basic 9mm sub machine gun, with its design stretching back to the early 1950s, with an effective range of about 100 metres. 

The Gardai persevered with it, even though more modern designs were out there, but to put it bluntly, it was a heck of a lot better than a pistol for engaging any target more than seven metres away.


It makes some sense to re-issue the Uzi. It can take three months to properly train an operator on an MP7, whereas many detectives would already be familiar with the Uzi.

The MP7 is a new concept in firearms, one which has not really been properly tested in combat. 

The MP7 is a highly specialised - and some might say even a niche weapon.

Designed originally as a handy defence weapon for tank drivers, radiomen and other soldiers who did not need to carry a rifle, it also availed of new bullet technology then coming on steam which drove a tiny, armour piercing bullet at high speeds which was able to slice through body armour and helmets.

The Belgian company, FN, developed a similar weapon, the P90, but apart from its use in the Stargate TV series, saw little use in real life. However, it was first used by Peruvian commandos against guerillas wearing body armour during an Embassy siege.

American special forces like Navy Seals and Delta Force, use the MP7 and its tiny bullet - but it has not replaced their main 5.56mm rifle calibre weapons.

American police SWAT teams, trained for hostage rescue situations, in recent years have switched from 9mm calibre weapons like the Uzi and MP5 to full rifle calibre 5.56mm weapons firing frangible rounds.

In the aftermath of the recent San Bernardino shootings in California, responding police officers, from many different forces, all carried 5.56mm weapons.

Many experts would say the answer to an assault rifle like an AK47 is another assault rifle - not an MP7 firing its tiny, untested bullet.


German officers and NCOs carried the gun in Afghanistan, but the majority of troops were armed with a modern 5.56mm  assault rifle, the Heckler and Hock G36.

The question must be asked: is the MP7 an answer to a gunman armed with a Kalashnikov AKM 7.62mm like those used at the Regency Hotel?

Is there a need to move to the US example, where most patrol cars now carry a rifle calibre 5.56mm weapon as a back up in patrol cars?

The London Met now uses a mix of 5.56mm rifle calibre weapons like the SiG and the HK G36K alongside its MP7s.

The reality is that Gardai have been outgunned for some time: with gangsters having access to AK 47s and even anti tank rocket launchers like the RPG 22 and M80 discovered here in 2010.

The Uzi is not an answer to an AK 47 with its heavy bullets and range of 300 metres. 

The MP7 may also not be adequate in an "open country" situation against a gunman armed with a Kalashnikov.

But in the absence of anything better at the moment, re-issuing the old standard Uzi on a temporary basis offers the ordinary detective some chance if he is the first responder in a situation like that at the Regency Hotel last Friday.

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