Aussie-made auto: bolt-action to follow?

A brand new Australian-made AR-style rifle is now on sale and it may spawn a bolt-action design to give cat-B shooters a chance to buy a locally made tactical-style firearm.

The Warwick Firearms and Militaria WFM4 is being built in Australia, in both semi- and full-automatic configuration, and its makers went into the project after being thwarted by Australia’s stringent import laws.

“I’ve had some fantastic feedback from licensed people all around the country,” WFM’s Scott Warwick said. “Some people who bought them, some who haven’t – they just rang me to say how happy they are to see it.”

Scott has sold 11 semi-automatic M4s to date and about twice as many fully auto M4s, all in .223 calibre.

Set up with 7-inch rails, Magpul flip-up sights and other items, the WFM4 is advertised for $8750, but Scott says that if A- and B-category rifles are produced they will sell for a fraction of that price.

He says he has had many requests for A and B firearms from shooters who are excited by the heavily restricted M4 but can’t own it because of its prohibited status.

The WFM4 is an AR-style weapon assembled from a locally made upper, lower, barrel and stock, but WFM is preparing to tool up to make other components as its pre-existing stock runs out.

WFM has not used forged parts, which can be bought cheaply before being finished off by the gun maker.

“Ours are solid billet then machined, everything, the whole lot, which is a far superior product,” Scott says. He adds that the WFM4’s tolerances are all tighter than off-the-shelf US-made parts.

He had no plans to set up as a manufacturer until WFM tried to import US-made weapons to rent out as part of its business supplying militaria and weapons to the film and TV industry in Australia.

Scott found the importation laws demanded such weapons be brought in only for a specific film before being returned or destroyed, and the budgets of many local productions, including TV series like Rush and Underbelly, weren’t big enough to do this.

State gun laws allow for the sale and use of semi- and fully automatic weapons in the right circumstances, and Scott realised that to avoid the need to import the guns he’d have to make them himself.

“It’s taken two years and probably 18 months of solid trial and error, because some things have got to be reverse engineered and that’s not easy,” he said. WFM had to make multiple prototypes.

“We’re overcoming our last hurdle at the moment, which is the auto sear and the hook on the back of the hammer, and once we’ve overcome that we’re right.

“It’s been expensive to do.”

The next model they’ll make will be a .308 version of the M4.

A cat-A or B rifle would be “similar but still different,” Scott says.

“You’ve got to change the design. We’ve got to make it as hard as possible to turn into a D category, so it’s a different design at the rear completely.

“Certain things will be interchangeable but the integral things for working won’t be.

“I’ve had the OK from the local police [who] said as long as it meets this category it’s fine.”

However, Scott admits the biggest challenge will be bringing the price way down to make a bolt-action model competitive in the market.

Film and TV rentals will remain the core of WFM’s business, and Scott says it’s not likely the manufacturing side will be huge.

Future growth “would depend on the shooting fraternity in Australia,” he says. “I mean, I’ve made 35 firearms. That’s nothing. If I make a bolt-action and they’re popular, then maybe. That’s a long, long way off.

“This is just something on the side.”

“You’d call it a labour of love at times,” he said, but reckons the extremely positive response has been a boost. “It really gets you going when you get good feedback like that.”

WFM4 specifications

Upper and lower: CNC machined from AL7075 billet

Finish: MIL-A-8625F Type III Class 2 Hardcoat anodized

Calibre: .223 Rem

Barrel: 16.5-inch, heavy profile, 1:9 twist, button rifled, gas nitride

Gas block: low-profile, railed

Rails: 7-inch quad

Magazine: 30rd (automatic); 20rd (semi-auto)

Stock: 6-position collapsible

Cleaning kit: included

Contact: Warwick Firearms and Militaria, (03) 9569 4329

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