On the 25 January, Polish media outlet, Onet.pl, published an article about the MSBS GROT, the new service rifle recently introduced by the Polish Armed Forces. The MSBS Grot is produced by Fabryka Broni “Łucznik” in Radom, part of the Polish Armaments Group, a state-owned holding company. The article reported on a series of trials conducted by a team of experts led by Pawel Moszner, a former Polish SOF officer and ex-member of the Polish GROM unit. Moszner decided to test the rifle as it had apparently earned an unpopular reputation among Polish SOF operators.
The results of the tests were staggering. According to Moszner the gun overheated, parts such as the polymer stock and lower receiver tended to break, the rifle suffered from numerous malfunctions and the gas regulator in front of the Grot simply fell out. Besides that, the gun itself suffers from a lack of any anti-corrosive protection.
The first information on the issues with MSBS Grot came in mid-2018. The rifle was first issued to the Territorial Defense Forces (WOT), the newest formation in the Polish Armed Forces. Many WOT members are volunteers who have never had any military experience before. This resulted in a lot of controversy among professional soldiers, who were already disappointed in unfair treatment of the regular forces in comparison to the WOT. You can find more information on this subject in our earlier look at the WOT.
The idea was that Fabryka Broni would deliver the gun to people who had no previous experience with firearms in order to gather information on the issues from inexperienced users to inform improvements to the next version of the rifle. Three variants of the rifle Grot C-16 marked M1, M2, and M3 were considered to follow, each one modified and improved.
One of the key problems mentioned in online discussions on social media and forums is a tendency for part corrosion to become an issue and for the gas regulator to become loose and on occasion fall off the weapon. It has been reported that any damage to service weapons has to be paid for by the soldiers the rifles are issued to, not the manufacturer.
The fragility of the rifle and the damage which has been seen in photos is unlikely to have been caused by mistreatment by soldiers. It appears that the rifle’s manufacture was flawed resulting in parts malfunction and failure when used during drills and training. The issue seems to be one of improper quality control, which is the opinion of a variety of soldiers and shooters who have commented on the issues.
Fabryka Broni Responds
The tests concluded by Moszner highlighted the issues that were already present, yet introduced concerns over completely new issues, perhaps over stating them somewhat. The publication was met with backlash from the Polish media outlets connected to the ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), and attacked the author and the publication. Onet, is owned by a German-Swiss digital media joint venture – Ringier Axel Springer Media AG, this has been seized up with some Polish media outlets accusing Onet of anti-Polish sentiments and working ‘in the interest of German companies’.
Fabryka Broni, however, have gone a step further and launched a lawsuit against Onet and the authors of publication, suing for $250,000 in reparations on the basis of personal rights infringement and defamation. The publishers of Onet have decided to take up the fight in court. According to the Ministry of Defense and the rifle’s manufacturer, the Grot passed all the exams and overall qualification tests for general issue to the armed forces.
The WOT made a robust response to Onet in a lengthy statement and on their Twitter feed, on 26 January, with a multi-tweet thread refuting the data published and points made in the article. See below for several examples:
On the other hand, Fabryka Broni have decided to take matters into their own hands and have promised to modernize the M1/A1 variants of the Grot already delivered to the improved M2/A2 variant and address all the issues that were the subject of complaints. Units that obtained the M1/A1 variant of the rifle are now obligated to return the rifle to the producer in order for them to be upgraded with new parts.
Media War Continues
The issues of Grot became a political subject that was easily picked up by the national media. Within a week dozens of key media outlets produced analysis over analysis, criticizing or favoring the government, the producer, and the rifle. Generals and experts were invited for endless talks and interviews. The MSBS scandal has now become almost as important as the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic and the introduction of new legislation.
But besides being a political subject, far more important concerns were raised. Many reporters began to ask questions about national security and the capabilities of the Polish defense industry. These concerns are fully understandable as the Polish Armament Group (PGZ) frequently goes through a full restructuring that results in a complete exchange of office staff and workers. PGZ’s financial loses for 2019 surpassed $400,000,000. The international armament market is virtually closed for the Polish producers, while the national manufacturers are often unable to provide Polish Armed Forces with much needed modern equipment.
Is the Grot Affair Shocking?
The scope over the Grot rifle affair gives an impression of the grim state of affairs but is the situation as dire as has been suggested in some media reports. We spoke with an independent source about the revelations around the MSBS. Jan Moszczuk, a competition shooter, small arms expert, and author at Frag Out! magazine shared his thoughts on the MSBS:
“In my opinion, most of the issues that the MSBS platform is facing are a matter of quality of control, not the deficiencies of the gun design itself. The tests concluded by Moszner, an ex-GROM operator, were clearly biased – virtually no carbine currently in military service is expected to handle thirty magazines of continuous burst fire. Considering that Grot’s barrel has relatively light profile the test, if anything, proved that Grot handles intensive firing schedule very well. It is no worse than AR-15s and AKs with similar barrel profiles.”
“The so called “sand test” was also questionable as the carbines such as AK and AR seemed to be dry when subjected to the sand… Yet, when [the] Grot was subjected to the sand test, the dust mysteriously stuck on the gun surface, that can indicate the lubrication of the assault rifle before the test – something that could explain the result… Thus, the “test” was not conducted in an objective manner (at best) and staged (at worst).”
“The one issue that Moszner is partially right about is the gun weight. Grot is clearly heavier than other competing 5.56 carbines. Even the ones designed to be a modular platform, just as Grot is. Grot weighs 3650g with the magazine detached. Comparing it to its 2 closest competitors, SCAR-16 (3500g) and CZ Bren 2 (3130g) Grot loses in terms of weight.
Although, from my own shooting experience, I can tell that Grot handles well despite the weight and its ergonomics are well-designed. This opinion is shared by many professional shooters.”
The affair over the publication Onet’s article was an overreaction by the media to some extent. However, Fabryka Broni’s response to the accusations in the article is interesting. The drama that occurred after months of inaction from “Łucznik” could be easily evaded by the manufacturer if the issues with quality control had been addressed. The rifle itself is believed to be a solid and reliable platform, that provides a much needed upgrade from the AK-pattern rifles currently in service with the Polish Armed Forces but it will be interesting to see if issues persist following this debacle and how the planned upgrades to the Grot will improve the weapon.