By Julio A. Montes
The Mexican Military surprised everyone in mid-2006 with the introduction of a new, nationally designed and produced, military rifle: the FX-05 (Fusil Xiuhcóatl 2005). The rifle was shown publicly during the Military Independence Day parade celebrating the 196th anniversary of the Republic. The weapon was paraded by elite units in two variants, one with iron sights and one with an integral sighting system/rail (actually detachable). The rifle is claimed to be 100% Mexican in design and manufacture, with SCAR-styled cocking handle, and with only superficial and casual resemblance to the HK G-36.
There is very little information available regarding the rifle, but it appears that a few hundred have been issued to several different units, starting with the Special Forces Airmobile Groups (GAFE) and Military Police. The rifle was designed and readied for production in 2005 after a developmental time of only 16 months by the Search and Developmental Technological Military Industry Center – or Centro de Investigación y Aplicación de Desarrollo Tecnológico de la Industria Militar (CIADTIM) – under the leadership of Generals Oropeza Garnicia and Iztiga Landeros, both of the National Military Industry Directorate. The engineers selected for the project are said to have been trained in Portugal and France, while the industrial equipment for its manufacture, including the necessary equipment to build the plastic/composite furniture, was acquired in Germany.
There is no license agreement between HK and the Mexican government to build the G-36 in Mexico, and although the Mexicans tested and considered the HK G-36, and are still producing Heckler & Koch products (P-7-13, G3 rifle, MP5 SMG and HK-21 MG), the new rifle is said to be the result of a complete national entrepreneurial effort. Nevertheless, it is of interest that under the Developmental Topic 7, of the Naval Project 2003-CO2-12489 published in 2003 by the Naval-Industrial agencies of INIDETAM and CONACYT, the Mexican Navy listed the allocation of funds and efforts for the development of a national designed rifle for adoption in 2004-2005. It would be logical to assume that the Army and Navy agreed to concentrate efforts resulting in the new rifle. Another interesting point is that when funds were sought by the National Defense Secretariat from the National Credit and Treasury counterpart in 2004, the request was for funds for the transfer of technology for the national developing and production of a military rifle. The National Defense Secretariat made an initial investment of USD $45 million to produce the rifle, and there are reports that the basic design and technology transfer were purchased from HK. Effectively the weapon entered production and was typified under the name of FX05 – short for Fusil Xiuhcóatl 2005 (“Snake of Fire” in Aztec).
The FX05 presents a modular design that is ergonomically optimized to fit the average Mexican soldier. It sports a polymer receiver and furniture in two basic colors (green and desert tan), and it is equipped with a plastic stock that folds to the side to reduce its overall size and facilitate transport; the stock lock release is similar to that of the M4 carbine. The hand guard is equipped with Picatinny-type rails for the installation of telescope or night vision devices, laser and flashlights, and other various attachments to include tactical front grips, and possibly the M203 PI grenade launcher. The rifle comes with either a top receiver fitted with a sight rail (for iron, red-dot, and other types of sights), or an integral optical sight. The rifle is produced in caliber 5.56x45mm FMJ SS109 NATO, and uses G-36 type 30-round plastic magazines. The rifle’s stripped down parts are said to be very similar to those of the G-36, while there is no information on the gas system and bolt assembly. Assuming that the FX05 is in fact based on the G-36, the system could be described as a short piston stroke, gas operated action, with rotating bolt locking. The basic design appears to be based on a stainless steel barrel of 318mm of length, and other specialized variants could use barrel lengths of 229mm (compact SMG variant) and 508mm in SAW or precision variants. Its weight is calculated to be around 2.65Kg, having a rate of fire of approximately 750rpm.
As part of the 6-year plan, the National Military Industry is to manufacture about 10,000 FX-05s per year, for a total production run of some 160,000 examples.
Rich, But Little Known Small Arms Legacy
The indigenous Mexican small arms industry can trace its origins to the Munitions Factory of 1885, established to supply ammunition to the 18,500 Remington rifles acquired by the Mexican Army in 1882. In 1933, Rafael Mendoza designed the Model B-1933 automatic rifle, and 750 of them were built between 1933 and 1945 for the Mexican Army. The B-1933 is said to have been equivalent, if not superior, to the BAR.
Engineer Rafael Mendoza from Santo Tomas Chihuahua established the Mendoza Products company in 1911. During the Mexican Revolution, General Francisco (“Pancho”) Villa seized the Federal Ammunition Stockpile at Torreón, and requested from Mendoza the production of weapons for its forces to use such ammunition. Mendoza then produced a two-barrel “light Gatling” machine gun, several types of hand-grenades, and 35 and 37mm guns. In 1915, he produced the Mexican (fusil México) rifle said to be superior to the Mauser. “The (Mexico) rifle seemed to be a bolt-action without a bolt handle, leaving no obvious method of operating it. But in fact, the bolt itself was connected to the fore-end and the action and barrel to the buttstock. The parts of the two-piece, wood stock met just under the receiver. To operate the action, the user rotated the pistol grip outward and backward to unlock the bolt, extract and eject the case. When the pistol grip was pushed forward and rotated downward, the bolt stripped another cartridge from the magazine, chambered it and locked the action to the bolt. The design and operation was ingenious, ergonomic and very straightforward. Mendoza’s rifle was not adopted for military service, but it remains a milestone in bolt-action rifle development…”.
Once the Revolution was over, Mendoza produced his Modelo 1934-C automatic rifle. The present company director Héctor Mendoza Orozco affirmed in 2001 that 5,000 M1934-Cs were built in Mexico: “The “Fusil Ametrallador Systema Mendoza” Model 1934 is an air-cooled, magazine-fed, gas-operated light machine gun weighing approximately 18.5 lbs. The design features a quick-detachable barrel with 39 radial cooling fins, a flash hider and a bipod. The top-mounted, 20-or 30- round box magazine is offset to the right, allowing the sights to be centered. The rotating bolt has eight locking lugs in three rows that lock directly to the steel receiver. The gas system is fed from an adjustable gas port 11″ from the rear of the barrel. Gas flows through a tube in the gas port where it impinges on the recessed face of the piston, which forms part of the operating rod assembly. Cyclic firing rate is 380 to 550 rounds per minute (rpm) depending on the gas system setting. Designers consider that while the Mendoza borrows much from both the Lewis and the Hotchkiss machine guns, the Model 1934 is a first-class design in its own right. In many ways, the Mendoza Model 1934 is what the American BAR should have been.”
Rafael Mendoza traveled to Detroit, Michigan, between 1943 and 1945 and received a contract to produce 5,000 automatic rifles and 2,500 machine guns for the US military. “In 1943 Rafael Mendoza and his son Hector traveled to the U.S. to sign an agreement with Maury Maverick, Chief of the U.S. Bureau of Government Requirements for 5,000 Mendoza light machine guns in .30-’06 Sprg. caliber and 3,000 Mendoza machine guns in .50 BMG caliber. While Hector studied drafting at the University of Detroit, Rafael traveled the U.S. making arrangements to manufacture the guns ordered. During those years, Rafael became friends with John Garand and Capt. Melvin Johnson – both noted firearm designers in their own right. When World War II ended in September 1945, the U.S. Government canceled most arms contracts, including those for Mendoza, before any guns could be delivered. Undeterred, Rafael used the design work done to convert his Model 1934 from 7x57mm Mauser to .30′-06 Sprg., thus introducing a new model of light machine gun dubbed the RM-2 in 1947. This new model emphasized ease of production and eliminated the quick-change barrel, cooling fins and flash hider. It also used a top center magazine that required offset sights and a muzzle brake to control recoil. Introduction of the new model coincided with the Mexican Army’s adoption of the .30-’06 Sprg. cartridge and new military arms to fire it. Productos Mendoza made approximately 50 prototype Model RM-2 machine guns which were subsequently tested by the Mexican Marine Corps, but not adopted.”
It is specified that the National Military Industry produced 750 B-1933 automatic rifles between 1933 and 1945. As indicated, the B-1933 refers to the original design, with a barrel of 635mm of length and a layout that owes certain inspiration to the Hotchkiss and the Lewis light machine guns in its operation. The weight of the weapon was 8.39 Kg, with a 450 rpm cyclic rate, and fed by a 20-round detachable magazine. The Model 45 is an improved B-1933 in .30-’06 caliber, equipped with a shorter barrel (622mm), and having a 500 rpm rate of fire. The weapon weighed 8.15 Kg and was also fed by a 20-round magazine. The RM2 was also a low cost and simple design, retaining the same basic layout, and weighting 6.30 Kg. Its cycle of fire was 600 rpm.
After WWII and after his return, Mendoza formally established his company in 1952. “In the 1950s Rafael began work on a modern assault rifle in .30-’06 Sprg. caliber called the “Fusil de Asalto.” His design was reminiscent of the German FG42 paratroop rifle in that it fired a full-power cartridge and was intended to replace the infantry rifle and submachine gun. However, Mendoza’s assault rifle design was not successful as the Mexican Army later adopted the German G3 series of rifles in 7.62x51mm NATO and produced them at the National Arsenal. The assault rifle was the last firearm design Rafael Mendoza worked on before he was diagnosed with leukemia. Following a long struggle with this disease, Rafael Mendoza died at age 85 on December 25, 1966.”
In 1997, the Mexican government approved the No. 008 Permit, clearing Mendoza Products to design and market a new submachine gun. The HM3-S SMG was presented at MILIPOL, France, in 2001. It is understood, however, that the HM3 was originally manufactured in 1973, and in its original form it was equipped with a side-folding stock similar to the Madsen M50. This has since been replaced with a lighter and more compact stock shown at MILIPOL, along with other minor changes. The HM3-S resembles the UZI and the FMK-3 SMGs, using a telescopic bolt which wraps around the barrel, allowing for a well-balanced and compact weapon. However, instead of an open-bolt design, the HM3-S fires 9mm Parabellum ammunition from a closed-bolt, blowback design. The magazine well is located within the pistol grip, and the grip is equipped with safety devices. The weapon is said to be easily disassembled and equipped with a folding wire-stock. The standard HM3-S weights 3.6 Kg with a 32-round magazine and the more compact HM4-S weights 2.8 Kg loaded. The weapon has a 600 rpm cycle of fire, and it is provided with a 255mm barrel. The weapon has been adopted by several Mexican State and local Police Departments.
The company has been forced to diversify due to the strict export arms controls, and it now has branches involved in the production of bicycles, sport equipment, and office and student materials. The factory remains at Xochimilco, Mexico DF. Mendoza S.A. employs 750, and reports 2,000 clients, with sales to Guatemala, Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Canada, the US, and France.
Mondragon, Obregon and Others
There are other examples of the Mexican ingenuity for small arms. The Mexican Army adopted the “Porfirio Diaz Mondragon Rifle System” in 1908. This was a semi-automatic rifle designed by Mexican General Manuel Mondragon but produced by SIG in Switzerland. Mondragon obtained a US patent of his design in 1907, but was forced to produce its rifle elsewhere since there were no suitable installations in Mexico, and little interest in the US for a semi-automatic rifle. The Swiss delivered some 400 rifles to Mexico before Porfirio Diaz was deposed, and the new government rejected the remaining 4,000 M-1908s. SIG still had some 3,000 rifles when war broke out in Europe, and the weapons were eventually taken over by the Germans.
The Obregon pistol is also notable of the earlier Mexican small arms industry, and was produced between 1934 and 1938. It externally resembles the Colt M1911. The weapon used a 7-round detachable magazine and was chambered in .45 caliber.
The Mexican modern military small arms production can be traced to the assembly of the FN-FAL at the National Arsenal undertaken in the 1970s in Mexico City, followed by the production of HK weapons in the 1980s. The local military industry also produced the Morelos precision rifle. This is no other than a G3 style rifle featuring parts of the PSG-1 and MSG-90 rifles, such as adjustable stock, longer and heavier barrel, and provision for a telescope. The Morelos rifle is issued to battalion level sniper teams while the Special Forces snipers prefer the Barrett M82. Furthermore, the Mexican built DN-IV Caballo APC has been equipped with the SAMM-Morelos one-man turret equipped with a heavy machine gun.
Of particular interest has been the complete re-equipment of the Mexican Naval Infantry. In addition, the first 10 Sa-16 MANPADS arrived in 2001, and now these are used as a single portable missile or in light two-round pedestals mounted on Ural trucks. The Navy has equipped its Marines with several Italian-made M56 105mm howitzers, along with the very interesting APC-70 and the Chenoweth FAV. The APC-70 is no other than the BTR-60 with several modifications, with the most evident being the two large windows at each side (“firefighting” model developed in Russia or the Ukraine?); its engine is said to be a diesel model, which would indicate a change from the two weak original gasoline engines. The Mexicans have provided a pedestal forward where either an Mk-19 grenade launcher, M2HB or a M16 LMG is mounted.
Although some support elements still carry the FAL with folding stock, most Marines now sport several variants of the M16, M16 Colt LMG, and M249. The Naval Special Forces (FES – Fuerzas Especiales) were established on April 1, 2000, under Secretarial Agreement No. 031. Naval Special Forces and naval commandos have received FN P-90 and the HK UMP-45 SMGs as replacements for the MP5 while the FX05 might be the next standard rifle to reach the Marines arsenal.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V10N5 (February 2007)