Another Quixotic choice: HK G11 Assault Rifle
I have mentioned how much I like rational solutions, even if they prove not to be widely adopted: Esperanto, the Shaw Alphabet, the Dvorak keyboard, and others.
I forgot to include the Heckler und Koch G11 Assault Rifle. It’s a fascinating and, in my opinion, well-designed weapon. It uses caseless ammo (no brass, just bullet and propellant) so nothing is ejected from the weapon—thus it is suitable for both left- and right-handed soldiers. Also, no brass left lying on the ground to provide information to the enemy.
It is designed to be easily learned by novice soldiers, and tests showed that it was successful in that regard. The rifle barrel is quite long, concealed within the housing. Because the caseless ammo is lighter, round for round, than traditional ammo, a soldier can carry many more rounds. Three-round bursts fire at the spectacular rate of 2000 rps, with the recoil occurring after the burst has been fired. (Three-round bursts greatly increase the hit probability.)
At any rate, I think it’s a great weapon, but (so far as I know) it has yet to be adopted.
Some other observations. From here:
The handguard and center part of the receiver were redesigned to allow a total of three 45-round magazines to be carried side by side on the rifle. This would mean for a total weight of less than ten pounds (about the same weight of an empty MI Garand rifle!), a soldier can carry 135 rounds already loaded in magazines right on the rifle. The center magazine presents rounds to the mechanism during firing and is easily and quickly exchanged with the two outside magazines during reloading.
… During German Army testing of the G11 K2 in the Fall of 1989, new draftees achieved an average of 50% more hits using the G11 over the results with the G3 rifle. The unorthodox shape and operating procedures of the G11 K2 were leared more quickly and easily by the new recruits.
… U.S. Army testing of the HK-ACR and three other industry concepts was concluded in late August 1990 at Fort Benning, Georgia. While the official results are not yet available, the performance of the HK candidate system was outstanding. There were no major parts failures experienced on any of the fifteen test weapons during the entire test period. A total of forty-six Army and Air Force shooters, both men and women, spent three weeks firing each of the four candidate weapons. The Heckler & Koch ACR was regularly praised for its semi-automatic accuracy, both for zeroing and long range (300-600m) target engagements and its ease of use.
Field stripping and maintenance times for the unique HK system was markedly less than the other candidates in the hands of the test personnel. This is due both to the fact that the unique caseless propellent leaves almost no fouling behind after firing, and that only five parts are removed by the operator during field stripping (compared to ten with the M16 rifle). The HK rifle also received high marks for reliability, ease of handling, minimal recoil in semi-automatic mode, and its high capacity (45 round) magazine. As one might expect, the troops enjoyed not having to “police” any brass after the conclusion of range firing.
The main advantages of this system are:
- simple design with few components
- very short overall length of the weapon with a long barrel
- elimination of the rearward travel of the bolt
- shortest possible and absolutely straight cartridge feeding
- high rates of fire due to extremely short bolt movements.
The entire mechanical part of the weapon, excluding the trigger, safety and fire selector mechanism is mounted in a floating manner within the sealed receiver. After mechanical ignition of the first cartridge and after the bullet has left the muzzle, the entire mounted part of the weapon moves to the rear and compresses the mount spring.
When firing a 3-round burst, the hammer ignites the second and third cartridge as soon as they are in firing position upon completion of the cylinder rotation. During all three rotation or firing cycles, the mounted part of the weapon moves to the rear at an increased velocity, though it transfers only minimal recoil to the shooter’s shoulder. The weapon remains steady in the aimed position; no conventional weapon can achieve these same firing results.
During sustained fire, the hammer remains cocked after the first rotation or firing cycle until the rearward motion of the mounted part of the weapon is completed and the mount spring has driven the mounted part into its forward initial position. Thus, the rate of fire is not determined by the rotation cycle of the bolt, but by the cycle of the mounted part of the weapon. Again, there is no notable recoil on the shooter’s shoulder. As mentioned above, the weapon can be easily controlled in the aiming position to track moving targets, i.e. for the first time ever aimed sustained fire is possible.
And here are videos and much more detailed photos and diagrams.
And there’s also a Wikipedia article, which includes some information on why the G11 failed to be adopted:
HK participated in the U.S. Advanced Combat Rifle Program during the 1980s and 1990s. None of the final four test entrants scored high enough to replace the M16. Some sources report that the low scores resulted from the Army’s requirement that the new rifles improve on the M16’s score by 100%, and question whether that was a realistic goal.