Caracal, LLC.: The First Gulf Coast State Small Arms Manufacturer
ABOVE: Shown is a UAE sniper using the Caracal bolt action 7.62x51mm CS308 rifle.
SADJ first visited the at the time brand new Caracal firearms manufacturing facility in 2011 and the article by SADJ Editor-in-Chief Dan Shea can be read online at: www.sadefensejournal.com/wp/?p=889. It’s interesting to see the growth and evolution of direction of this innovative company over the past 5 years.
When one thinks of the Gulf region they may think of oil and wealth. This is true in many areas. But oil is one of the very few exports of the Middle East countries. In the defense industry throughout the region, for the most part all military small arms and ammunition are procured from other countries making the defense of the region dependent upon the shipping schedules and the political views of the government of their vendor at any given time. There are reasons for this. One of the biggest is not having the labor and skill force needed to design and test weapons as well as those who can operate modern CNC and other modern machines. Unlike the US and Europe, there are not machine shops or manufacturing support companies throughout the region. Separate companies that do aluminum forging, deep hole drilling, hammer forging, polymer mold injection, heat treating as well as anodizing to name a few. To make a successful small arms manufacturing facility in this part of the world, you would have to be self-contained, and have basically all needed manufacturing processes in-house. If such a company was to exist the Middle East would have a place to go to procure small arms that is in their back yard. Not dependent on foreign countries, but Arab built military grade weapons for law enforcement and military use.
Such an company is steadily up and coming in the United Arab Emirates city of Abu Dhabi. It’s called Caracal, LLC. Caracal aspires to be a self contained military small arms manufacturer that will make the UAE less dependent on foreign military equipment and will be able to equip law enforcement in the UAE as well as their Arab neighbors with Arab made small arms. Caracal wishes to be a defense enterprise with global wide sales to military, law enforcement and commercial markets. Plans are underway to invest in a manufacturing facility in the US. Currently there is a Caracal office in the US.
In 2004 a team of UAE weapons experts collaborated with European weapons designers to develop a range of modern combat pistols. In 2006 the first prototype of the Caracal F & C models were made. Perhaps the biggest milestone is the test certificate being issued to Caracal in May of 2006 which apparently fully certified that the Caracal pistols to be compliant with the test criteria of NATO CD14 standards, TA police standards and the Federal Armed Forces Technical Purchasing requirements. The 1st CEO was Hamad El Niyadi and the company was run by a group of investors. With the initial prototypes plans were made to gradually increase the number of parts manufactured in the UAE until the entire pistol was made in-house. At first pistols were mostly made from vendor parts outside of the country. Going through the development process helped Caracal to determine what processes needed to be brought in house and which ones just made no sense. In 2008 they improved and began molding and manufacturing of the polymer pistol frames.
As the most modern CNC machines, mills, hammer forge machine, heat treating station, anodizing line, barrel manufacturing stations, stress relieving stations, polishing, development of quality control programs and so on Caracal had to deal with the biggest problems they would face as an arms maker in the Middle East. First were resources. They cannot call a local tool shop and have tools next day mailed to them. Getting tools and materials had to be bought in large quantity to keep production going. Getting tools could be months away. Keeping these necessary resources on hand is critical. The second is who was going to run these high tech machines? There is really no industrial capability in the area. Caracal brought veteran arms design experts and manufacturing experts from countries including the US, Germany, Russia, Australia, England and India just to name a few. The team was able to get everything up and running and to get technical training schools to train the UAE work force to run these machines.
Caracal really only offered two products from 2004 to 2013; two pistols. The Caracal F (Full Size) and C (Compact Size) 9mm pistols were sold. This was by design, to get their manufacturing expertise and logistics down to be able to support new projects and larger scale production. They sold these pistols locally in the UAE as well as to customers on the American market. However in 2013 Caracal discovered that an extremely low percentage of pistols experienced discharge upon being dropped. The decision was made immediately to recall all of the pistols. Caracal felt the safety of their customers was the first priority. They offered customers a new pistol or a refund. To Caracals testament, the vast majority of customers wanted the new gun. They experienced some customers they had difficulty getting the guns back from because the customers were fond of them. Recalls are not unusual for any company in any industry let alone the firearms industry. Caracal was slightly more visible due to it being their first product. Given the background of what was going on with Caracal in Abu Dhabi, one can see the difficulty they had that American and European firearms manufacturers did not.
Today in 2015 Caracal has had a drastic transformation into a self contained small arms manufacturing facility in a place that can make it almost impossible to do so. This is a state-of-the-art facility which would put some of the greatest names in firearms manufacturers into shock. Rows of brand new CNC machines, new barrel cutting machines as well as mold machines for the polymer pistol frames are found. The complex has sections for assembly, testing; heat treat and another capability to manufacture hammer forged barrels up to 18 inches long in any caliber. Between the button cut and hammer forged lines they make calibers 9x19mm, 5.56x45mm, 7.62x51mm and 338 Lapua Magnum barrels. They finish their own with anodizing, manganese phosphate and Cerakote. The only finish they send out for is QPQ. The company is now led by Hamad Salem Al Ameri. He is not your typical CEO or businessman. He is an active duty UAE Army Special Forces officer who was commissioned in the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, UK. He has seen combat tours in numerous locations throughout the world and has been decorated for bravery in those missions. Hamad brings an end user sense of need and the urgency of high quality military weapons from the perspective of a combat soldier. He permits no corner cutting or compromise in the manufacturing or the quality of the weapons made at Caracal. Combine this with the fact that Hamad is a very astute businessman and the company has a strong presence in its CEO. As of this writing Caracal weapons are in service in the UAE as well as some other Gulf countries and many other Caracal rifles and pistols are being tested throughout the region. Hamad assures the quality to the military small arms industry and they will be facing stiff competition in the Gulf and globally. The Caracal cat has a firm paw print in the sand of the Gulf region.
The most well known product in Caracals lineup are the 9x19mm pistols models F and C. As of this writing the pistol is 85% made in the UAE. The F is the full size duty pistol that is being seen in holsters of military and Law Enforcement in the UAQ. First look at is you may think it is just another Glock clone. But that would be the farthest from the truth. The frame is manufactured in-house at Caracal and is steel reinforced. The pistol is striker fired with a firing pin block safety. The grip angle is probably the most significant feature of the pistol. The slide sits very low with the bore axis right in line with the shooting hand giving perhaps the softest recoiling pistol this author has fired. The muzzle flip is noticeably less than anything this author has fired in 9x19mm caliber. During testing the muzzle flip was compared to some other high quality name combat pistols and the video clearly showed this to be true. The trigger pull is a short .314 inches resulting in quick accurate firing. The barrel is hammer forged with a QPQ finish. The barrel of the F model tested is 4.09 inches and was tested at Caracal with a proof cartridge and then magnetic particle inspected. The slide is manufactured from steel and is also QPQ treated. The first Generation was recalled in 2013 due to the possibility of the pistol discharging if it was dropped. The Gen 2 or upgrade pistol exceeds the military specification drop test to ensure the pistol is in compliance and they give their customer the safest gun possible. The pistol weighs a light 1.65 pounds and has a width of 1.10 inches. The magazine catch is ambidextrous. The magazine is manufactured from steel and holds 18 rounds. The pistol disassembles similar to that of a Glock. With an empty chamber the trigger is pulled and the slide lock is pulled down from both sides and the slide is slid right off the front of the frame. The recoil spring is captured and the spring is flat giving a long service life. The pistol is constructed to be rated for +P and +P+ ammunition. There is a slide stop on the left side of the pistol similar to that of a Glock. The author was able to test fire the Caracal F 9mm pistol at the Caracal Shooting Club; an impressive facility in its own right with extremely modern indoor air conditioned 25 meter and 10 meter ranges located in the middle of Abu Dhabi. The pistol was fired with 1,100 rounds of UAE produced 9mm 124gr FMJ ammo. There were no malfunctions of any sort regardless of attempts to cause them. There was in fact a string of 8 (18 shot) magazines fired as fast as the trigger could be pulled. Impression of the pistol was this is at least as good as any pistol put out by the top brands in the US and Europe. The Caracal is a newcomer so its reliability and durability record is not really known. Every day more and more of these pistols find their way into military and Law Enforcement hands in the UAE and the Gulf Coast region. This pistol will be a force to be reckoned with for
Middle East sales.
Caracal is also offering a modern 9mm carbine called the CC10. As of this writing, they are shipping their first 1,000 CC-10 semiautomatic 9mm carbines to the US for commercial sales. Caracal aspires this to compete with their competitor, the Beretta Cx4 9mm carbine. They wish to compete in price but not take away and quality or reliability. The stock is synthetic and has a pistol grip. On the backstrap of the pistol grip is a grip safety similar to that of an older UZI. The trigger pull is approximately 3.3 pounds. The rifle fires from a closed bolt, blowback operation. The non reciprocating cocking handle is on the left side of the receiver. The barrel is hammer forged and 16.1 inches long with no muzzle devise. A short barrel 9 inch model is available as well. On top of the rifle is a continuous Mil-Std-1913 rail and on the bottom of the fore end is a small rail segment allowing for the attachment of a vertical grip or bipod. There are also fixed iron sights on the carbine. The magazine itself is the standard 18 round pistol used by the Caracal model F. The 15 round magazine of the Caracal C is interchangeable. This carbine was also made available to SADJ for test fire. Approximately 100 rounds were fired with no malfunctions. At 25 yards 18 rounds was kept just a hair over an inch group. This gun will certainly have a future in the US commercial market.
To fill in the portfolio Caracal also offers a tactical sniper rifle that is manufactured 100% in-house in the Abu Dhabi manufacturing facility. The rifles are offered in 7.62x51mm (CS308) and .338 Lapua Magnum (CS338). The chassis is manufactured from a billet of 7075 T6 aircraft grade aluminum. Attached to the receiver are an A2-style pistol grip and a fully adjustable stock. The stock is sort of complex but extremely high quality. The stock is adjustable for length and cheekweld. Attached to the bottom is a monopod. The bolt is manufactured from stainless steel. The rifle is fed from a detachable box magazine which is available in 5 or 10 round capacity for the 7.62x51mm and 5 rounds only for the .338 Lapua Magnum. The two stage trigger is adjustable by the user from 1-6 pounds. The barrel is made in house and is button cut. The barrel is manufactured from stainless steel and is match grade quality. Each barrel is test fired with 2 proof cartridges and then magnetic particle inspected to be sure there are no stress fractures. The 7.62x51mm barrel is 26 inches long with a 1 turn in 12 inch right hand twist. The .338 Lapua barrel is also 26 inches with a 1 turn in 12 inch twist. The muzzle is equipped with a Caracal designed muzzle brake on both models. The barrel is held into the receiver with a barrel nut which is attached to an aluminum handguard. This handguard has a long rail segment of Mil-Std-1913 rail which will allow for thermal/night vision optics. The 7.62x51mm caliber rifle weighs in at 15 pounds and has an overall length of 49 inches. The .338 Lapua Magnum caliber rifle weighs 18 pounds and is 49.5 inches long. These are for government contract only.
Caracal has entered the assault rifle market as well. These military grade direct gas and short stroke piston M4-type rifles are military grade and will surely step up the competition for the Gulf Coast market for the American and European small arms manufacturers. Caracal has hired lead design personnel from backgrounds in Heckler & Koch and Sig Sauer. These minds created the Caracal CAR814 (Direct gas) and CAR816 (Short Stroke Piston) rifles.
The CAR816 has been purchased locally in the UAE and as of this writing production is ramping up. The barrels are offered in 7.5, 10.5, 14.5 and 16 inches. These are colt hammer forged barrels which are 1 turn in 7 inches and chrome lined. Caracal expects under normal use the barrel to have a life of 20,000 rounds. This is the configuration of choice for Caracal in the Middle East region due to heat. Ambient temperature for a rifle in this environment can well exceed 100°F. Once a few magazines go through the rifle, it will heat up very rapidly. By using a short stroke piston, the heat is not transferred back into the receiver or bolt carrier group. Also due to the fine sand in the region, the rifles are subjected to another major environmental factor. By using the short stroke piston, fouling from the firing mechanism is not introduced into the bolt carrier group and receiver. This will increase reliability when the mechanism is exposed to sand. The gas valve on the rifle has three positions. First is the normal operating conditions, two is for harsh conditions and the third is for use with a sound suppressor. The rifle uses a buffer that differs from the norm. Standard M4/M16-type rifles use steel and tungsten sliding weights to cope with bolt carrier bounce and to delay opening of the bolt. Caracal uses Tungsten powder. The receivers are made from 7075 T6 aluminum forgings and are machined right in the Caracal manufacturing facility in the UAE. They are also anodized in the same plant. The grip is a standard A2 pistol grip with a standard selective fire trigger group (SAFE, SEMI and AUTO). The trigger pull is 7.5-11.5 pounds. The stock is a six position stock and Magpul CTR and STR stocks are used. The handguard is an aluminum handguard with quad Mil-Std-1913 rails and 4 quick detach sling mounting points. The rifle is provided with folding back up iron sights. Cycle rate of the CAR816 is 750 to 950 rounds per minute with an average of 800 rounds per minute. The rear of the bolt carrier has “skis” on the bottom to assist with proper bolt carrier alignment in the receiver extension to minimize the effects of bolt carrier tilt. The carrier is one piece with a ‘tombstone” on the top to serve as the impact area of the operating rod. The carrier is lightened compared to many other s this author has seen. The overall length of the CAR816 with the stock extended with a 14.5 inch barrel is 34.6 inches. The weight without a magazine is 7.93 pounds.
The CAR814 is the direct gas version of the Caracal assault rifle line. This rifle is available with barrel lengths of 11.5, 15.5 and 16 inches. This rifle is offered with a pinned on standard front sight base. It is also selective fire. The handguard is not free floating but similar to a KAC Rail Adapter System. It has 4 quick detachment points for a sling adapter. It also uses the tungsten powder buffer. This model is not made in large quantity and it is likely to become the most popular export model- especially in semi-automatic. Caracal was keen to mention that, like some high end competitive models, the CAR 814 is Over The Beach test compatible which is impressive for a direct impingement rifle.
With Caracal coming online as a self contained small arms manufacturer, the small arms sales market both in the middle east and globally could have a drastic change. For any Gulf or Asian country, it might make more sense to procure their small arms from a local country rather than one overseas. The logistics of transportation and getting spare parts as well as access to technical factory assistance is made downright simple. Caracal has capabilities many western firearms manufacturers do not have on site. They manufacture truly military grade weapons and will be able to offer at a price and maintenance package that western companies would be hard pressed to match. Caracal at this point has everything to prove, they are a new company. With the current leadership and business plan they are on fast track to be a force to be reckoned with in the Gulf and ultimately worldwide.