Inkunzi PAW aka Neopup – 20mm Direct-Fire Grenade Launcher
The Inkunzi PAW (Personal Assault Weapon) is a 20mm shoulder fired semiautomatic grenade launcher designed by Tony Neophytou (and previously known as the Neopup). It is a creative and very interesting weapon system, both from a mechanical perspective and also from a question of practical application.
The PAW has a 6-round detachable rotary magazine, and an effective range of 1000m for area targets and 600m for point targets. Its purpose is to give the individual soldier an explosive area-effect weapon that fires like a rifle. To this end, the ammunition has been developed to give a muzzle velocity of 1000fps (310m/s), giving it a far flatter trajectory and shorter flight time than a 40mm grenade, either low pressure or high. It allows rapid repeat shots, rapid reloading, and easy target transition. The high muzzle velocity (for a grenade launcher) makes range estimation and engagement of moving targets much simpler than with the rainbow-like trajectory of 40mm systems. For specialized modern applications like guarding against one or more vehicle suicide bombs, fast-moving pirate skiffs, it seems extremely compelling. That utility extends to typical targets as well, like light armored vehicles, buildings, gun emplacements, and even something as simply as a patch of brush with an enemy hiding within somewhere. Typical small arms fire requires a substantial expenditure of ammunition for targets like those, while an explosive 20mm projectile can neutralize them in one or two rounds, without the need for a direct hit. The lethal radius of a 20mm HEI shell is between 6 and 18 feet (2m – 6m) depending on who you ask. That’s a significant margin of error.
Mechanically, the PAW is a simple system to disassemble, and it uses a quite clever inertial locking system which is clean and reliable. The unique layout with the grip on the right side is done to accommodate the hydraulic recoil system, which allows the action to slide back into the stock assembly on each shot. This absorbs much of the recoil and spreads its effect out on the shooter, making it not unpleasant to shoot. An easy stowage feature allows the gun to be locked in its compressed configuration, shortening it for transit and also offering a way for the gun to be carried with a round chambered and ready to use, but with the trigger safely disconnected to prevent accidental firing for troops in armored vehicles or helicopters.
Compared to the American XM-25, the PAW strips away the overcomplications of laser designation and complex projectile fusing, which are arguably not really necessary anyway. It offers a simple and effective system, with tremendous firepower as well as suppression capability (nothing says go away quite like rapid fire explosives). It does this with a larger magazine and more compact and lighter weight design, no less.
It is rare to find a truly unique and innovative firearm these days, but that is exactly what Tony Neophytou has done here. The design is elegant in its simplicity, and well refined. It truly offers a unique set of capabilities – while it has been purchased in limited numbers by several smaller militaries, I hope to see it given serious consideration by some first-tier forces, as I think it has tremendous potential.