Why Was This Advanced Rifle Such a Failure

The HK G11 is probably the fastest assault rifle ever built... but it needs to be redesigned to make it safe and cost-effective.
HK G11in a museum

The HK G11 is the quickest assault rifle ever made with an impressive 36 rounds per second and It was produced by the German firm Heckler & Koch, in its factory in Germany.

This rifle has been a noteworthy leap to reshape the traditional assault rifle – so much so that many decades later, no one dared to try such an ingenious design.

So, why hasn’t this assault rifle been massively embraced by the armies of the world? And what’s the problem with the HK G11?

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What makes the HK G11 so special?

THe HK G11 in a museum
G11 Prototyp by Bojoe, licensed under CC by 3.0

It was created in the late 1960s, and the German administration supported this project and ordered the production of this rifle. It seemed like a viable idea and a very clever concept. But, this is a 4.77mm caliber rifle, which operates caseless ammunition, and caseless ammunition is still very challenging to implement.

The caseless ammo for the HK G11 was produced by Dynamit Nobel and accomplished much higher than average fire rates by eradicating all extra processes such as ejecting the case from the firing cycle.

This revolutionary concept makes the Hk G11 faster than any other assault rifle. It reached a rate of fire of 460 rpm, which is regarded as really fast.

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But… Why did it have such a high fire rate?

HK G11 noBG
G11 aus der Wehrtechnischen Sammlung der Bundeswehr by Clemens Vasters, licensed under CC by 4.0

The G11 rifle is fitted with a special rotating chamber, where the cartridge is fed vertically downward, and when the cartridge is aligned with the barrel line, a shot is fired.

The caseless ammo makes it easier because, without a casing, there’s no necessity for the mechanism to throw the cartridge case out while firing. After firing the shot, the chamber recoils to get the next round.

So, what’s the Problem with the HK G11?

G11 Schnittmodell
G11 by Bojoe, licensed under CC by 3.0

After trying the HK G11, the Americans and Germans were amazed by its ease of use, high ammunition capability, simplicity of its assembly and disassembly, robustness, and incredible accuracy.

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It was the perfect rifle! It had a stunningly high rate of fire, and it seemed so convincing that the German leadership was thinking of adopting this rifle as fast as possible.

The most significant problem with this assault rifle is the ammunition since the caseless ammo gets several functional issues, and the rifle feeding mechanism can’t be done in the traditional way. There’s also the problem of removing the bullet in the event of jamming, which is a very likely scenario in combat.

In addition, the high production expense of this weapon made the German government abandon the assault rifle and its caseless ammunition – and unfortunately, this weapon was only an excellent idea of the H&K firm that was never mass-produced or tested on the battlefield.

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This rifle technology is still available for the future

Rifle bullet
G11Cartridge by Drake00. Licensed under CC by 3.0

The G11 is a remarkable piece of German engineering but too complicated to build.

For many years these have been the primary problems in mass-producing these weapons in big industries and promoting their use in the world’s major military forces… But that doesn’t decrease the outstanding accomplishments of this visionary assault rifle.

When will we see something comparable on the battlefield? Only time will tell, but we may never see the HK G11 rifle in real combat… or maybe some innovative weapon manufacturer will dare to try this design again.

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Featured image credit: Wehrtechnische Sammlung by Clemens Vasters. Licensed under CC by 4.0.

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