The development of the HK416 platform is a strange anomaly in the world of 2018. If judged by it’s design intent – an AR15 with some of the issues H&K found with the system removed-
the HK416 is by and large stands on it’s own merits. However, in the context of the flood of AR-15 pattern projects since (both Civil and Military spec), the end product 15 years on seems out of date.
How did it come to this?
The Genesis of the platform was a confluence of sorts: In the early-to-mid 90s Heckler und Koch was in the midst of multiple US-DOD weapons development programs (most notably the XM29 OICW), which was the same time that then R&D officer for Delta Force Larry Vickers was consulting and evaluating. During the consultations, Vickers made a formal request of H&K on behalf of Delta for improved carbines
The reasoning for these was straightforward: Delta and other SF units were using non-standard CAR-15s in a variety of designations, often in barrel/gas system lengths that made them wholly unreliable and ultimately impractical.
The general fix of what was now the H&K M4 was to adopt the G36 Short-stroke gas system, it itself an adaptation of the AR18 system.
In 2004 the project was complete, and after a legal scuffle with Colt over the name, Delta Force took acceptance of their requested carbine: more reliable and durable 5.56mm CQB weapon with better suppressed capability.
The cost of that extra durability and performance however, came at a weight premium,and it’s one of the criticisms made of the system to this day. Still, with the Commercial launch, the system saw solid interest.
Arguably one of the weakest points of the M16/M4 (or any STANAG rifle, arguably,) is the Aluminium “USGI” magazine. A stamped aluminium, they were made lightweight with the intent that they’d be disposed of when emptied.
That, however wasn’t the reality, and majority of armies made magazine retention a core tenet of their 5.56mm Rifles, leading to the reuse of items designed really to be disposable, with drastic reliability results.
As part of the 416 development, H&K redesigned and built new STANAG-spec magazines (tentatively called STANAG Heavy-Duty) of tougher,thicker, durable and reusable steel.
by 2008 it was clear to H&K that with the dead-ends of the XM8 and XM29 programs, combined with the limited interest globally in the G36, the rising interest in the 416 made apparent what the market wanted. No place was this more apparent than when the Norwegian Military selected the rifles, in a 1.65 inch barrel configuration, as their standard rifle- replacing 40 year old G3s
The REAL windfall though came later in the year with the US Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan, where the tell-all propaganda tour afterwards made ample highlight to “the guns that got it done”, replete with personal customisations like Magpul CTR stocks, Overmold Grips, RAHG lightweight fore-ends, and an impressive LLM stack.
The interest from procurement circles began really buzzing. H&K once again was taking the weapon to the development room at the request of SF units- this time GSG9 – to shorten the already short as a replacement to the G36C.
The project was canned eventually- citing issues with reliability of function with such a short system.
The last major adopter of the what could probably be now considered first pattern HK416 system, was the USMC- As a companion and/or replacement for the M249 SAW in an infantry Squad.
The idea has merit, and while some of the accessories the Corp decided to adopt as part of the system were questionable in their selection, the rifle itself was a good fit. Heavy barrel with a long service life, little to change in the way of battery of arms or maintenance, can deliver better Automatic performance than an M4, but retains better mechanical accuracy over longer strings.
As of 2018, the HK416 pattern is essentially the model of a miltary success- with the Second iteration of the rifle in production (the A5/A7), yet more countries adopting the rifles as their standard arms, it’s the belle of the ball. It’s so successful that H&K are at full capacity filling current orders and service parts.
On the Civilian and Law-Enforcement side it’s another story. Everything a military likes about the gun is a hindrance to it commercially when compared to the entire cottage industry or AR15s that grew from under it’s pace-setting.
It’s heavy for a Modern AR, and without Full-Auto, all it’s durability-increasing features are just added weight.
That, combined with the price H&K charge commercially as a rule compared to other manufacturers, are well established dissuading factors.
As a whole though, as far as service rifles go, this is one of a few viable open-market options left. For military purposes, it’s more than good enough, and that at the end of the day is what clenches the deal.
The NIArms HK416s set is an effectively comprehensive look at the HK416 prior to the launch of the A5 iteration, with 28 distinct options to chooose from.
As a note: the RAHG and SMR foregripped weapons do not currently support VFG/AFGs. The support will be enabled as part of a future Core update. Apologies for the inconvenience.
- 5 Barrel Lengths
- 6 Stocks
- 5 Fore-end variants
- End-user applied camo patterns
- Grenade Launcher module variants (H&K AG-C/GLM)
- Various minor ergonomic custom parts
- (includes M27 IAR and HK416N builds)
- Initial Release