The SR-88 owed much of its design to the preceding SAR-80 series and certainly maintained much of its form and function. The SR-88 was a gas-operated weapon with the gas cylinder fitted over the barrel in a traditional fashion. The firing action further relied on a rotating bolt internal system and the weapon was fed from a standard 30-round STANAG-type curved detachable box magazine. Naturally, the weapon was chambered for the 5.56x45 NATO standard cartridge - the same as used in the M16. Iron sights were fitted at the rear of the receiver and over the barrel at the cap of the gas cylinder. The barrel extended a ways ahead of the cylinder cap and fitted a slotted flash hider. Construction included better quality with a plastic pistol grip, shoulder stock and handguard as well as aluminum and steel along the receiver. The gas cylinder and piston system were both chrome-lined for longevity. The barrel could also fire rifle grenades as needed with proper management of the gas cylinder and the handguard was designed to accept the American M203 single-shot, breech-loading 40mm grenade launcher without excessive modification. Overall length was 36 inches with a weight of 8.11lbs. The barrel measured in at 18 inches. A fire selector allowed for burst and full-automatic fire as needed. A folding carrying handle facilitated transport. The stock of the basic rifle was solid and fixed. Production of this version spanned from 1988 to 1995.
In 1990, an improved version was introduced and this took on the designation of SR-88A. A new handguard was introduced as was a new fiberglass /nylon tubular-skeletal fixed shoulder stock fitting. Quality was once again improved for the rigors of military abuse. The receiver was manufactured of cast aluminum while the chambering remained 5.56x45mm NATO. Chrome plating was retained along the gas system operation. Luminous night sights were added as was an optical mount. Support for the fitting of the 40mm M203 remained. There was an optional folding shoulder stock as well and this unit was adjustable ad removable, the latter for a more compact approach (29.37 inches from its 38 inch length). The SR-88A remained in production up until 2000.
CIS also introduced a 8.16lb carbine form of their new SR-88A which essentially was the full-size weapon with a shorter barrel, shortened handguard and collapsible shoulder stock. Overall, however, the features inherent in the SR-88A remained in check. With its compact qualities, the SR-88A Carbine was issued to paratrooper forces and the like - those units appreciating a more compact weapon.
Beyond the Singaporean Armed Forces, the SR-88 was eventually fielded only by the Slovenian Army.
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