Replacing the M-16: another look at the HK-416



The HK-416 and 417 are evolved versions of the M-16. Heckler and Koch replaced the direct impingement system with a short stroke piston at the behest of U.S. Army Delta Force members. Delta Force worked witht he gunmaker to design this weapon. A pistion system was chosen because:

…This design prevents combustion gases from entering the weapon’s interior, a short-coming 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 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 a bolt locking lug as the screwdriver. The rail forearm is of the ‘free-float’ variety; it does not contact the barrel and improves accuracy.

The HK416’s barrel is cold hammer-forged with a 20,000 round service life. 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.
Wikipedia: HK-416

So far the following countries/units have adopted it:

Turkish official with the Mehmetçik-1/HK-416

Turkish official with the Mehmetçik-1/HK-416

  1. French Air Force and Army Special Operations Units
  2. German GSG9 and KSK units.
  3. Netherlands Army special forces unit Korps Commandotroepen
  4. Norway
  5. Poland: GROM
  6. Turkish Army as the Mehmetçik-1
  7. United States: Army’s Delta Force (1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta), various other United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) units and formerly, the US Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group. The latter has since had to turn in their HK416s.[17] It is also in use with various elite law enforcement units, such as the United States Capitol Police SWAT

Turkey had to replace its HK G3 rifles, Poland had M-16/M-4 style weapons it bought from American companies.
While other countries have already replaced their M-16 style weapons with the 416, the US Army has a standoffish attitude toward this weapon. The Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group was forced to turn in their 416’s. Army leadership has stood by the M-16/M-4 calling it the “warfighter’s choice”. However poor performance in a dust test caused the Army to hold open competitions for a possible new rifle.

HK416 Gas regulator

HK416 Gas regulator

As the debate rages over replacing the M-16, some reports have come in about the performance of the HK-416. The Firearm Blog quotes a Norwegian soldier’s problems with the rifle. The gas regulator flips between setting for a suppressor and normal by itself, the rifle cannot take temperature and humidity changes well. That’s really bad for an arctic country.

There are even reports that HK has suspended production because of other combat malfunctions.

Like the FN-SCAR, time will tell whether this is a temporary problem or will dog the 416 like the M-16’s early bugs.

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