Front Line Troops Getting a Grip
In the Close Quarters Battle that characterizes urban warfare, jungle warfare, and other “close encounters” terrain, the ability to quickly and accurately point a weapon can determine who lives and who dies. If you’ve ever wondered why many pictures show troops with a little grip handle pointing downward near the front of their rifle, that’s why. On the other hand, there are situations in which accuracy is key. Urban situations with many civilians, for instance, or any other kind of situation that requires marksmanship. Cameras aren’t the only things that shoot better when stabilized, which is why you often see sniper rifles with folding bipods, despite their bulky inconvenience and annoyance factor. Bipods are also attached to light or medium machine guns to give them more stability despite heavy recoil, and deliver accurate fire for effect.
Many soldiers could use the benefits of a bipod at times, especially given the loss of fine motor control during heavy stress situations like combat. indeed, the current war often presents soldiers with each imperative, in quick succession. Neutralize a sniper out in the street, then enter a building prepared for close-quarter combat, after which a firing position is set up to deliver accurate overwatch fire outside without hitting civilians. Until recently, however, troops had to choose – you either had the benefits of a forward grip, or the benefits of a bipod along with its drawbacks.
Then along came Grip Pod Systems, whose patented frontal hand grip contains a hidden bipod that springs from the bottom at the push of a button. Enthusiastic customers include the US Marines and US Army, and the firm has built a quiet success story that will soon see new capabilities added – and possibly new applications beyond soldiers’ rifles.
Getting a Grip (Pod)
The Grip Pod is a beneficiary of the US military’s “Picatinny Rail” mountings, which allow soldiers to snap accessories onto and off of their weapons without tools. The device can be triggered without ever having to look down or remove one’s hands from the trigger and control positions on the weapon, and will deploy before a soldier has finished dropping prone. Once deployed, the bipod is engineered in such a way that a fully-equipped soldier could stand on it without incident. The firm’s site touts the heavy-duty, 11 oz. GPS01 model for M249 SAW 5.56mm light machine guns and 7.62mm general purpose machine guns, or the lighter 7 oz. GPS02 version is for rifles, carbines et. al.
Newer versions include the Squad Designated Marksman version that has longer legs, as well as a canting mechanism that allows a soldier to quickly create a level bipod set-up on uneven ground.
Another forthcoming option is the Grip Pod Light Rail. This small Picatinny Rail allows mounting of PEQ-4 laser or tactical flashlight in a way that reduces “cord wrap,” and its position at the back of the Grip Pod makes it less likely to be triggered by accidental contact with Hummer doors or other objects. The latter characteristic is especially important during night operations, and the pressure pads have triggered some complaints from troops in theater. Still, its biggest benefit is the fact that it’s easily triggered from the Grip Pod, allowing an operator to trigger a targeting laser or disabling flashlight blast without sacrificing any attention,or control of the weapon.
The Grip Pod has all the makings of a procurement success story, building on a smart procurement innovation that opened up new opportunities for fast-evolving weapon add-ons (Picatinny Rails), addressing a key issue that improves combat effectiveness at reasonable cost, and continuing to innovate around the basic proposition. As one might expect, it also faces the usual hassles involving Chinese knock-offs and counterfeits on the market – so unless one buys direct or through a recognized dealer/government agency, caveat emptor.
Rifles and machine guns may not be the Grip Pod’s only market, however. Militaries around the world use shoulder-fired rocket systems like the M72 LAW, M136/AT4, Mk152 SMAW, Panzerfaust, et. al. Accuracy is not as much of an issue when your target really is the broad side of a building, especially since the soldier usually has a lot of control over the circumstances of that shot. On the other hand, these weapons are also intended for use against enemy armored vehicles. Recall the issue of fine motor control loss in high stress situations – like, for instance, facing down an oncoming enemy tank, armored personnel carrier, or even an enemy “technical” (truck with mounted machine gun) while on foot. With the exception of the M72 LAW, all of these systems feature front foregrips. All are also one-shot weapons whose firing makes the firing soldier a very visible target… but hey, no pressure.
Cameras – and guns – aren’t the only things that shoot better when stabilized.
Contracts and Key Events
These $100-250 add ons have been used by US troops for about 3 years now. The USMC’s federal GSA to speed procurement. So far, he says that the firm has filled about 150,000 orders, with production at 30,000 per month and rising. He estimates that US Army and various other branches of the US military have also ordered around 200,000 more Grip Pods, mostly through its “Close Quarter Battle Bipod” program. Other customers include the FBI, and other law enforcement and security-related organizations.
Now the US Army’s Rapid Fielding Initiative has noticed as well…
Feb 7/08: Grip Pod Systems, LLC in Jacksonville, FL won an $8.5 million firm-fixed price contract for the purchase of 86,182 forward grip bipods that attach to the M-16 and M4 series of weapons. Work will be performed in Jacksonville, FL, and is expected to be complete by Feb 28/13. The U.S. Army Joint Munitions and Lethality Life Cycle Management Command in Picatinny Arsenal, NJ solicited bids were solicited on Aug. 3, 2007, and 4 bids were received (W15QKN-08-D-0010).
Aug 13/07: U.S. Tactical Supply, Inc. in Albany, OR received a $6.9 million GSA firm-fixed-price modification to a previously awarded contract (M67854-07-F-1095) for 60,250 Grip Pods.
The General Services Administration is an agency of the US government that lets US federal agencies place orders quickly, under contract vehicles already negotiated by the GSA. Per the note above, the USMC has been meeting its commitment to field one Grip Pod per Marine via GSA orders. Work will be performed in Albany, OR and is expected to be complete September 2008. The Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, VA issued the contract.
July 23/07: Small business qualifier Grip Pod Systems L.L.C. in Jacksonville, FL won a $6.9 million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract for an additional Rapid Fielding Initiative requirement work. Work will be performed in Jacksonville, FL, and is expected to be completed by March 31, 2008. Bids were solicited via the World Wide Web on March 16, 2005, and 3 bids were received by the Joint Munitions and Lethality Acquisition Center in Picatinny, NJ (W15QKN-06-C-0071).
July 19/07: US Federal Business Opportunities solicitations are published for longer-term acquisition of Squad Designated Marksman and CQB Bipods, under small business set-asides (vid. FBO #W15QKN-07-R-0421, W15QKN-07-R-0424).