The Wz. 96 Beryl or Assault Rifle Model 96 Beryllium marked the Polish integration into NATO military alliance from their former home in the Warsaw Pact. Under the Soviet alliance the Polish had been preparing to transition to a 5.45 caliber rifle like Russia did with the AK74, the FB Tantal. Well with no more Soviet Union there was no more alliance based using 5.45 and they were joining an alliance that used 5.56.
Simple problem, simple solution.
Make a 5.56x45mm AK. And it worked.
Henry over at 9-Hole reviews (go subscribe) has a closer and more personal connection to the Beryl than many since he served very closely with the Polish both in Europe and the Middle East. I personally went to Poland on a short mission in 2018 and the Beryl’s were ever present and well cared for. I wish I could’ve gotten up close and personal on the rifles then but it wasn’t part of my job. I was busy elsewhere and despite my Infantry and Small Arms MOS’s I was doing neither of those two jobs.
AK “Purists” are a funny bunch and many deride the existence of 5.56 chambered AKs as pandering to the US market or as substandard to true AKs. Many claim such rifles are inferior to the 7.62 and 5.45 Soviet chamberings and used all manner of anecdotal ‘data’ to prove it. From the results of the AK74’s use in Afghanistan to the massive number of AK/AKM clones worldwide to the legend of its indestructible nature. Just don’t put it in mud, check InRange TV to see why.
Once one digs beyond the surface of those claims they.. well they fall apart. It turns out that a poorly built AK is still a poorly built rifle and a well built AK is a well built rifle.
The caliber is secondary to the build quality and the build quality of rifles like the SLR106F (Which are the base rifles of RD NATO’s) and the Beryl’s are top notch.
If you look at the modern Beryl and how a great many ‘Western’ AK’s (of all calibers) are run you can see that the Polish military were both pragmatic and forward thinking in their design choices and have not sat on their hands in keeping the Beryl up to standards. The Beryl reminds me of the Canadian C7 and C8 rifles, the Canadian Armed Forces did a great job of integrating small improvements into their rifles while sidestepping a lot of the extravagant things that US rifles went through.
Now the Beryl is set into its retirement arc similar to the M16. As the M4A1 and M27, to be follow by the NGSW (according to plan), have taken over in US Service the FB MSBS Grot is taking over in Poland.
The new rifle is highly reminiscent of the ACR and began being fielded in 2018. Unlike the interim Beryl which only had ammo commonality the Grot has STANAG magazine commonality and the improved 21st Century “AR” derived control suite that we are seeing on the majority of modern rifles. The Bren 2, SCAR, MCX, APC, XCR, MARS, HK416, HK433, Carmel, and the MSBS all seem to feature very common threads of control development. The NGSW doesn’t stray from these commonalities either as the most significant change is the caliber, not the ergonomics. Short stroke gas piston, free-float, ambidextrous controlled, negative space rail system… I just described every modern service rifle/service rifle candidate of today.
The Polish clearly liked some of the bullpup advantages too as their is an MSBS ‘B’ Bullpup variant that resembles an X95
Additionally they have a 7.62 NATO model that has a degree of parts commonality and could easily be a candidate for following the US ammunition selection of the NGSW should Poland so choose.