Carrying the Deadliest Assault Rifle—HK416, in your hand

A random display picture caught my eye, I had never seen a gun so sturdy, but being a dilettante, I did not know the name of the gun. So I decided to nudge the person to know more.

Me: Hello there, what is that gun in your DP?

Him: It’s the deadliest gun in the world, the one which had attained a celebrity status after it came to be known that this was the gun which killed Osama Bin Laden.

I was taken aback by what I had just heard and decided to prod further.

Me: So, which gun is this?

Him: It’s the ­­­German HK416F.

Later I realized the last character F classifies the picture of the gun in front of me as the latest edition of HK416. The German cars, like BMW and Mercedes, have a reputation and are world renowned, but now I know that the German short-arms manufacturer –H&K, Heckler and Koch, too have carved out a niche for themselves in the arms industry.

Me: Have you used the gun? If so, what is it that you like most about it?

Him: The characteristic which makes this gun stand out in a crowd is its reliability. Even if one were to fire 10,000 rounds non-stop, the barrel would not get heated.

To put things in perspective—any counter terrorism operation can consume up to 700-800 rounds. This makes 10,000 appear to be a divine number for soldiers who put their life at harms way in places infested with terrorists.

Yet for a moment I thought the gun’s properties went against the laws of physics which said—every machine produces heat. An assault rifle which fires rapidly should ideally produce more heat. So how does this gun circumvent laws of Physics?

As if he had heard the voice inside my head, he replied,

Him: The fact that the gun doesn’t get heated up shows how efficient it’s internal mechanism is, and for this reason HK416 can be given the credit for revolutionizing the counter terrorism strategy, like never before. A gun that doesn’t jam or turn hot during an ops is a soldier’s dream come true, who often is a part of a gun-fight that lasts for long hours.

The gun was apparently first produced by the German company for US soldiers, who had requested Heckler & Koch to create an assault rifle, in early 90’s. M4 and M16 were till then the most used guns, but unfortunately M4 had a reputation of jamming. In an operation, a gun which jams can cost you your life. This is how HK416 came into existence– a gun which externally looks very similar to M4 but internally relies on a gas piston system. Infact, 416 in HK-416 is a combination of digits frm M4 and M16.

Me: What is Gas piston system?

Him: Won’t get into great details on how it works but I can surmise it as a system which allows the weapon to vent out hot gas with each shot while preserving some of it for activating the bolt again. Hence, the gun promptly gets ready for the next shot without getting heated up.

This is what makes HK416, reliable and safe to handle. In case of soldiers, this boosts the gun’s combat efficiency.

Me: Oh! That sounds great. But doesn’t the barrel get heated up?

Him: HK416 has an interchangeable barrel. And honestly, I have yet to come across a situation where one has to fire more than 20,000 rounds sans a break.

Me: Where does a gun like HK416 find utilization?

Him: It can be used effectively by both soldiers and boys of law & order agencies. HK416 is for those who will see a lot of action. The gun finds use during room to room sanitization, OBUA, especially in night to produce a shock and awe effect.

Me: What is OBUA?

Him: Operating in built up area.

I realized OBUA is same as FIBUA– fighting in built up area, a term that was introduced to me by a soldier while interviewing him for Tavor.

In case you are interested you can read about FIBUA here. 

I continued with my queries.

Me: Gotcha! What did you mean when you said shock and awe effect?

Him: Let us say there’s a soldier in an operation carrying HK416. While carrying out room to room sanitization, these guys have to be very careful about not alerting the terrorist. If a gun has a long barrel, then there are chances that while you’re at a corner, the tip of the gun sticks out like a sore thumb, exposing the soldier’s position. HK416F has a barrel length between 280-510 mm. While holding HK416 one feels like a croc (crocodile) in water, silently waiting for it’s prey.

Me: Scary! Is this why it is listed among one of the deadliest guns in the world?

Him: There are many reasons, one being—it’s precision. Adding to it’s advantages are it’s optical features which include range finders and night vision. Another reason is—HK416’s rate of fire is high, about 800 to 850 rounds per minute. It can hold the usual 30-round magazines, and in custom made magazines there can be upto 60-rounds. This gun can also be fitted with NC1 silencers. These silencers not just suppress sound but also the light emitted during firing. With silencers, the gun is usually used on single-shot semi-automatic mode. It’s a huge advantage when you are using this gun during an operation at night. Though, the silencer can cost upto $1000.

He chuckled! I understood that like every other German machine which are revered for their quality and eye-popping prices, HK416 too lives up to the perception.

He continued—Yet the gun is worth every penny invested in it. Precision, shorter barrel, ease of handling and operating, suppressed light and sound, non-stop firing etc are few of the characteristics which decide the success and failure of a mission.

Me: Hm! True. I forgot to ask you about the kind of bullets it uses.

Him: This gun can use both 5.56mm and 7.62 mm, the interchangeable barrel gives that additional benefit to it. I hope you know that– 7.62mm is exacerbating when compared to the 5.56mm ones, which are used against terrorists only to decapacitate them. 7.62mm bullets are deadly! We usually keep our guns on single-shot mode. That reminds me, this gun has an adjustable trigger mechanism—which helps the gun to be used in winters and in the deserts too. The winter trigger system is an imperative feature for people using it in extreme cold. With the winter gear and gloves on, the usual guns become difficult to use, but with HK416’s adjustable trigger system, it’s not an issue at all.

Me: Oh! In that case this gun must be getting used in higher altitudes. But with so many magazines won’t it be heavy to carry?

Him: A fully loaded HK416 will weigh between 3.5-3.7Kgs, which is not very heavy. Infact, its butt stock is thin, and made of carbon fibre and aluminum, making it relatively lighter weapon. The butt stock has a recoil pad too which reduces the backward-push one feels when a shot is fired. Did I tell you how comfortable it is to hold? HK416 has a V7 grip, a new poly carbon modification which makes it tensile and facilitates a good grip. The curves of the gun would make anyone fall for it.

I thought to myself– this isn’t the first time I have seen a man call his gun, his car or an aeroplane, a beauty and curvy. A man usually associates these words with equipment which he finds comfortable to use and might use repeatedly for the same reason. Prolly, if the operator was a woman, she would have called HK416 a Barbie of the guns. I sniggered!

 So, to the next question.

Me: Interesting! How would you rate HK416 when it comes to maintenance?

Him: Did you know that HK416 can be assembled by a professional in less than 45 seconds? Maintenance has never been a herculean task with this gun. The complete process of opening, cleaning, and re-assembling takes about 10 minutes. But the only disadvantage that I see here is—when you remove the firing system for cleaning, the chamber is very cramped.

Me: I am awestruck by it’s statistics. Which defence forces use HK416?

Him: Since it was first produced at the request of Americans, it is largely used by them– CIA, FBI, DEVGRU(Navy) and also their counter-terrorism force called the Delta force. This is a standard rifle in Norwegian Armed forces and the French Armed forces. HK416 has a thumb-impression-activated firing system too, which makes it the right gun to be used by the law enforcement agencies. A thumb activated gun has lesser chances of theft, you see.  

Me: Impressive! Little while ago you said, the gun is used by operators who see a lot of action. How about you?

Him: Yes mam, I too have seen a lot of action.

He ended the conversation there. As promptly as he had joined the conversation to answer my queries, he had left, leaving me ruminating— a powerful weapon like HK416 in the hands of the right person is a boon. Definitely!!!

An article by Levina

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