Rifles seem to be flavour of the week as we learn that the French National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN) has ordered Česká zbrojovka (CZ) CZ-806 BREN 2 assault rifles chambered in 7.62x39mm, this calibre being chosen for the first time by French law-enforcement services to meet their requirement for higher stopping power to counter terrorists wearing bullet-proof vests.
The GIGN has signed an initial contract for 68 compact versions of the CZ-806 with a nine-inch barrel to be delivered in 2017 but is expected to order more soon to replace most of the 5.56mm Heckler & Koch (HK) HK-416 it currently uses. The rifles will be equipped with Picatinny rails for accessories, such as optics and a forward vertical grip. Currently, the GIGN is stipulating that the rifle must be modified to accept a suppressor and an accompanying gas system to assist with reliable shooting of subsonic ammunition.
The 7.62x39mm calibre is the ammunition used by the AK-47 Kalashnikov, the weapon of choice of many terrorists.
The CZ-806 BREN 2 is an improved version of the CZ-805 BREN, introduced in 2009 with the Czech Army. The BREN 2, which incorporates improvements to ergonomics (e.g. a new foldable stock) and reduced weight, was developed in 2015 to take part in the competition for the French Army’s AIF (arme d’infanterie future) programme (see this FOB article) but was too late to join in. The 5.56mm version was nevertheless chosen by the Czech army as its standard assault rifle to replace the CZ 805.
The GIGN started to look for a new weapon in the wake of the January 2015 terrorist attack on the Bataclan theatre in Paris when it became clear that 9mm and 5.56mm ammunition were not very efficient against terrorists wearing body armour. The GIGN undertook trials with a variety of weapons. Apparently, CZ only joined the evaluation programme in the latter stages but its rifle was intensively tested in a variety of situations throughout 2016.