Good Guns Don’t, Good Guns Don’t, Good Guns Don’t … But I do

In the second of a two-parter about German arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch (H&K) and its efforts to rule the world, though it will settle for the Army’s gazillion-dollar rifle biz, we will delve into the testing that might have placed the HK416 at the top of the firearms heap. 

There has been a sandstorm of controversy surrounding the M-4 and possible successors, especially following last year’s Army-sponsored (and congressionally requested) “dust test” in which the Colt M-4, the MK16 SCAR from Belgium’s FN Herstal, and the HK416 and the XM8 from H&K were coated with fine dust to simulate sandstorm conditions. We’re told by our source that 50,000 rounds were fired through each. (It seems the number might have been closer to 6,000.) The M-4 malfunctioned 882 times according to published reports. The HK416 experienced 233 stoppages (our guy quoted 100, and thus says the HK416 performed 800 times better than the M-4. We’re not sure if we’d state it that strongly regardless of the number. It also appears H&K’s XM8 performed the best, but that’s another story.) When expressed as a percentage, it seems the M-4, though dead last, was just one percentage point behind the other weapons. Though the top possess a gas-piston system design, the M-4’s gas-impingement system leaves gun-clogging residue. 

(It appears the M-4 performed far better in a second test with less than half the malfunctions after the firing of a greater number of rounds. Increased lubrication seemed to be the answer.) 

Regardless, “stand by your man” seems to be the Army’s mantra, and the Boys in Green seem satisfied with the results. Not so fast! Our determined source, who favors the H&K, in case you haven’t noticed, says 11 percent of soldiers who have been firing their weapons in theater are griping about the M-4. Our guess is 10 percent would gripe regardless. 

Sources say H&K is telling Army Secretary Pete Geren all it wants is an open competition for a new weapon, despite there being no perceived need for a new rifle. Even M-4 proponents concede the HK416 is a better weapon but are not so sure the Army needs to change — especially now during high-tempo operations. H&K reps discount this concern, saying the transition would be “easy.” (Again, we’re not so sure we’re tracking with H&K’s view on this.) History tells us such a change proved less than ideal in Vietnam. However, a similar transition was successful during World War II. 

The potential for decades of dollars across DoD is probably pushing H&K. Army reluctance might be less a function of the judicious stewardship of taxpayer greenbacks and more a concern over pulling precious funding away from its Future Combat Systems and thwarting its dream of modernization. 

The Army has no plans of changing weapons until there is a leap ahead in technology. One Army source put such a leap in the realm of bullets bending around corners. We get his point.

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