ATC Revolutionizes Small Arms Testing

Scott A. Hill

Chief, Small Arms Field Branch, Firepower Directorate


REAPER was instrumental in ensuring a
fair and accurate test, leading to the
selection of the SIG Sauer as the
Armyís next generation side weapon.

There is no margin for error in the support of our troops.

A new invention fielded by the Small Arms Systems Division of the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center has revolutionized the world of small arms testing. ATCís Andrew Wagner and Jason Brooks created and implemented the Remote Electronic Automated Program Event Resource, known as the REAPER, which has vastly improved the accuracy of small arms test data and reduced testing variances. Now, variables such as firing cadence and firing mechanics can be controlled with a level of precision not previously available.

The first success story for the REAPER was the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System testing. Next, the REAPER became a critical component of Phase 1 of the highly publicized XM17 Modular Handgun System competitive test, in which the REAPER was used to ensure that each of the prospective vendorsí weapons were fired under conditions identical to those of all other weapons in the test.

The REAPER consists of a firing control interface that connects multiple test weapons to a computer. First, the REAPERís computer program is set up to meet specific testing parameters, such as firing cadence and number of rounds to be fired. Each weapon is then placed in a mount that has a solenoid-operated trigger actuator custom-fitted to the weapon. Once the test setup is complete and the weapons are loaded, the test officer begins the firing sequence using the REAPERís fire control box. As firing commences, the REAPERís program controls the firing cadence, monitors the test weapons to verify that each weapon functions, and records time-stamped data for the entire firing sequence.

Before the REAPER existed, reliability testing of a group of handguns typically consisted of a group of six small arms technicians hand-firing each weapon. In this scenario, the firing cadence was controlled by the lead shooter, which introduced the potential for variability in cadence precision. Other human-induced variabilities in firing mechanics came from differences in the techniciansí grip strength, fatigue, trigger pull and hand size. These variabilities could be viewed as a weakness (against protest in a competitive test), because each weapon was handled differently.

Using the REAPER in Modular Handgun System competitive testing, nearly 500,000 rounds were fired simultaneously, by six weapons, in 26 days of testing. The technicians who formerly hand-fired the weapons monitored each weapon to ensure safe and proper weapon function. With the REAPER, human-induced variability in cadence precision and firing mechanics has been eliminated.