The rifle of Naval Special Warfare Development Group
The HK416 is an assault rifle designed and manufactured by Heckler & Koch. It is a modified version of the American M4 carbine with many changes, most notably a new gas operating system from the Heckler & Koch G36. Customers have the option of purchasing a new upper receiver, buffer and drive spring to refurbish M4s or buying a completely new build HK416.
The United States Army's Delta Force collaborated with the German arms maker to develop the new carbine. During development Heckler & Koch capitalized on experience gained developing the Bundeswehr's Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifle, the US Army's XM8 rifle project (canceled in 2005) and the modernization of the British Armed Forces SA80 small arms family. The project was originally called the HK M4, but this was changed in response to a trademark infringement suit filed by Colt Defense.
Delta Force replaced its M4s with the HK416 in 2004 after tests revealed that the piston operating system significantly reduces malfunctions while increasing the life of parts. The HK416 has been tested by the United States military and is in use with some law enforcement agencies and special operations units. It has been adopted as the standard rifle in one NATO nation as well.
A modified variant is undergoing testing by the United States Marine Corps as the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. After the Marine Corps Operational Test & Evaluation Activity supervised a round of testing at MCAGCC Twentynine Palms, Fort McCoy, and Camp Shelby (for dust, cold-weather, and hot-weather conditions, respectively), limited fielding began for 458 IARs to four infantry battalions (one per each Marine Expeditionary Force and one reserve) and one light armored reconnaissance battalion; all are slated to deploy to Afghanistan in 2011.
The HK416 uses a proprietary gas system derived from the HK G36, replacing the direct impingement gas system used by the standard M16/M4. The HK system uses a short-stroke piston driving an operating rod to force the bolt carrier to the rear. This design prevents combustion gases from entering the weapon’s interior, a shortcoming with direct impingement systems. The reduction in heat and fouling of the bolt carrier group increases the reliability of the weapon and extends the interval between stoppages. It also reduces operator cleaning time and stress on critical components. The SA80 bull-pup assault rifle used this system long before the HK G36 was developed. According to H&K "experience that Heckler & Koch gained during its highly successful 'midlife improvement programme' for the British Army SA80 assault rifle, have now borne fruit in the HK416.".
The HK416 is equipped with a proprietary accessory rail forearm with MIL-STD-1913 rails on all four sides. This allows most current accessories, used on M4/M16-type weapons, to be fitted to the HK416. The HK416 rail forearm can be installed and removed without tools by using the bolt locking lug as the screwdriver. The rail forearm is 'free-floating' and does not contact the barrel, improving accuracy.
The HK416 has an adjustable multi position telescopic butt stock, offering 6 different lengths of pull. The shoulder pad can be either convex or concave and the stock features a storage space for maintenance accessories, spare electrical batteries or other small kit items.
The trigger pull is 34 N (7.6 lbf). The empty weight of a HK416 box magazine is 250 g (8.82 oz).
The HK416's barrel is cold hammer-forged with a 20,000 round service life and features a 6 grooves 178 mm (7 in) right hand twist. The cold hammer-forging process provides a stronger barrel for greater safety in case of an obstructed bore or for extended firing sessions. This includes "OTB" (Over-the-beach) capability; the HK416 can be safely fired after being submerged in water and not completely drained.
In July 2007, the US Army announced a limited competition between the M4 carbine, FN SCAR, HK416, XCR, and the previously-shelved HK XM8. Ten examples of each of the four competitors were involved. Each weapon fired 60,000 rounds in an "extreme dust environment." The purpose of the shoot-off was for assessing future needs, not to select a replacement for the M4. The XM8 scored the best, with only 127 stoppages in 60,000 total rounds, the FN SCAR Light had 226 stoppages, while the HK416 had 233 stoppages. The M4 carbine scored "significantly worse" than the rest of the field with 882 stoppages.
A US Army Ranger armed with a Heckler & Koch HK416 in Iraq (bottom right).
The HK416 was one of the weapons displayed to U.S. Army officials during an invitation-only Industry Day on November 13, 2008. The goal of the Industry Day was to review current carbine technology prior to writing formal requirements for a future replacement for the M4 carbine.
In December 2009, a modified version of the HK416 was selected for the final testing in the Infantry Automatic Rifle program, designed to partially replace the M249 light machine gun at the squad level for the United States Marine Corps. It beat the three other finalists by FN Herstal and Colt Defense. In July 2010, the HK416IAR was designated as the M27, and 450 were procured for additional testing.
The Norwegian Army made an extensive evaluation before selecting the HK416 as its new primary firearm.
The HK416 is currently (2010) available in four different barrel lengths: the D10RS model with a 264 mm (10.4 in) barrel, the 368 mm (14.5 in) barrel length D14.5RS, the D16.5RS fitted with a 419 mm (16.5 in) and the 505 mm (19.9 in) length barrel of the D20RS.
The HK417 is a larger version of the HK416 chambered for the full-size 7.62x51mm NATO rifle cartridge.
Civilian variants of the HK416 and HK417 were announced in 2007, named MR223 and MR308. Both are semi-automatic rifles with several 'sporterized' features. At the 2009 SHOT Show, these two firearms were introduced to the American civilian market renamed respectively MR556 and MR762.
The HK416C ultra compact variant of the HK416 has been introduced in October 2010. The HK416C has a high degree of component commonality with the HK416 family though the HK416C has a new retractable butt stock and buffer system. According to its specifications the HK416C, with its for the 5.56x45mm NATO chambering very short 228 mm (9.0 in) barrel, can be expected to produce muzzle velocities of approximately 730 m/s (2,395 ft/s). The firearm's precision is specified as ≈ 4 MOA (12 cm at 100 m) by Heckler & Koch.The philosophy behind the ultra compact HK416C variant has similarities with the Heckler & Koch G36C subcarbine, which was developed out of the G36 assault rifle, and the XM8 Compact Carbine design. The intended purpose of subcarbines is to provide operators with a weapon of (nearly) submachine gun or personal defense weapon size, but firing standard military rifle cartridges, for scenarios such as VIP protection, urban warfare, and other close quarters battle (CQB) situations.
Differences from the M4
The HK416 is a modified variant of the American carbine, the M4. It includes international symbols for Safe, Semi-Automatic, and Fully automatic, a redesigned retractable stock which allows the user to rotate the butt plate, a new pistol grip designed by H&K, made to more ergonomically fit the hand and, attached to the rifle is a new single-piece hand guard with a free floating RIS system, used for mounting accessories. The most notable internal difference is the short stroke gas piston system, derived from the HK G36. To compensate for increased pressure due to the new gas system, a thicker barrel was also integrated. Finally, the HK416 includes a folding front sight, and a rear sight similar in design to the G3. The HK416 system is offered as an upper receiver, separate from the rest of the rifle, as a replacement to the standard issue M4 upper receiver. It can be attached to any existing AR15 family rifles, giving them the new gas system, the new hand guard, and sights, while retaining the original lower receiver. The Heckler & Koch 416 can also be purchased as a fully assembled, stand alone carbine.
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