ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- The Small Arms Repair Facility enhanced the testing and final cleaning processes since opening for production in 2012. The changes make a significant difference in efficiency, safety and cost.Firing rangeAccording to Jeff Dodgen, a small arms supervisor, prior to 2012, when the Small Arms shop was located in Bldg. 129, employees could perform function fire tests, but could only test targeting and accuracy for pistols and rifles, which was about a third of the production in the shop.This meant approximately two-thirds of the weapons produced had to be inventoried, packed up and moved to the outdoor firing range then tested, brought back and inventoried again.The process involved six Small Arms employees, range control, depot security and, for certain weapons, depot paramedics.“That was time-consuming,” said Paul Barber, chief of the Small Arms and Fielding Operations Division.Today, with an almost completely indoor process, the Weapons Value Stream saves time and money on their testing processes.“It keeps the price down and our cost and quality keeps the customers coming back,” said Dodgen.Dodgen said there is no transport necessary for most testing processes, meaning no security or EMS requirements.Additional time and cost savings arise from ammunition being on-site and ready to go for the weapons and combining some of the function fire tests with the targeting and accuracy testing, thus saving ammunition.“Now, once we put the weapon on the test fire stand, we complete all function firing and targeting and accuracy in a single operation, as long as the weapon meets the DMWR testing requirements,” said Dodgen. “If you look at the old way, compared to the new way, I would say we have at least a 50 percent reduction in test fire operations.”Until the test firing moved completely indoors in 2013, Small Arms utilized six employees for the outdoor firing range and six on the indoor firing range. Today, there are four employees who test weapons on the indoor range.“The cost reduction allows units to spend less money on their weapons and more on other necessities,” said Barber.Dodgen said the safety risks have decreased as well.“The number of times we handle each weapon has been cut by about two-thirds,” he said, adding there have been no safety incidents since 2013.The processes have improved ergonomically as well.According to Barber, the weapons go directly from the rack to the point of use, with few or no strenuous movements.Once a month, the testing team still goes to the outdoor range to test targeting and accuracy on 10 percent of all M2 .50-caliber machine guns, verifying the results from the indoor range and fulfilling customer requirements.Cleaning lineWhen weapons leave the firing range, they must be cleaned and inspected a final time before being shipped to the customer.“We don’t want to send a dirty weapon to the Soldiers,” said James Johnson, a small arms supervisor. “We want to send a quality product.”The line doesn’t run every day, only as needed to ensure performance to promise is met for each month’s production.As a weapon comes into the cleaning line, it’s field stripped - taken apart to the level a Soldier in the field would typically disassemble it - for cleaning.Afterward, the individual parts are loaded on a conveyor belt, which takes them to the various stations.“The cleaning line is a more efficient and ergonomic process, over bay style weapons cleaning, because it brings the work to the employees,” said Barber.Approximately four years ago, the M4 Carbine Rifle cleaning and final inspection areas were separate. The weapons would be cleaned and reassembled, then transported to another area for the final inspection.“It can all be done at one time, this process reduces movement, time and personnel,” said Johnson, adding it can take as little as three minutes for a weapon to go from one end of the line to the other.The first stations clean the weapon components in an environmentally friendly solvent. Each employee is assigned certain components to clean, so each part is washed properly.After cleaning, the weapon components go into a shielded area where an employee air dries each piece. The parts must be completely clean and dry before moving on.In the final step before reassembly, protective oil is brushed onto each part. The firearm is then reassembled and inspected.“Every weapon is checked for function and gauged to ensure it meets specifications,” said Johnson. “The final inspection process is our verification that the weapon is 100 percent mission capable, per the Depot Maintenance Work Requirement – how it’s supposed to be, quality before quantity.”Safety is an important component of the cleaning line. In addition to the reduction in physical movements required, thanks to the ergonomic design of the line, employees are able to maintain at least six feet of distance from one another, ensuring additional safety during the current COVID-19 pandemic.