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Heckler & Koch HK CAWS Select-Fire Automatic Combat Shotgun (1983)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 10/1/2013

Though the CAWS program was ultimately cancelled, the HK-Winchester submission proved an interesting concept for an automatic shotgun.

It seems that the US military has long been attempting to convince itself of a full-automatic shotgun combat system for close-quarters work for some time now. Such was the purpose of the HK CAWS, born of the Close Assault Weapon System (CAWS) intended to find a new lethal solution at the most intimate of combat ranges. The HK CAWS entry was headlined by the German concern of Heckler & Koch, best known for their ubiquitous HK MP5 series submachine guns, and the American concern of Winchester/Olin Corporation, the former best known for its long-running history as a rifle-maker and the latter best known for ammunition production. For the purposes of the CAWS entry, Heckler & Koch headed the development of the gun system itself with Winchester and Olin working together to develop the specialized ammunition for the weapon. The CAWS program was in consideration throughout the 1980s before falling to naught.

The HK CAWS end-product became a bullpup configured assault system meaning the action and magazine were both contained aft of the trigger unit. In this way, a full-sized barrel could be used while promoting a more compact overall size (the receiver essentially making up the shoulder stock). The receiver was largely square and utilitarian-looking with a straight detachable box magazine inserted into the frontal base of the shoulder stock. Along the top of the receiver was a carrying handle with a cutout containing the charging handle. The wide gap ensured a gloved hand access to the handle. The pistol grip was mounted at the middle of the design with the integrated curved trigger assembly and a thin guard. The firing selector switch was added to both sides of the gun body which made the weapon ambidextrous. The forend was smooth and featureless, tapering towards the barrel. The barrel lacked any sort of compensator and proved a smooth, cylindrical offering. All told, the HK CAWS was certainly a futuristic-looking weapon by 1980s standards.

The HK CAWS was fed by a belted 12-guage (18.5x76mmR) system and these pulled from a spring-loaded, 10-round detachable box magazine. The included fire selector offered a safety, semi-automatic and full-automatic modes of fire. The primary action (an HK patent) was of recoil-operation as seen in many true field machine guns with a rate-of-fire of 200 to 300 rounds per minute reported. Effective range stood at approximately 150 meters - any target caught in its sights was utterly decimated through the repeat-fire nature of the weapon. A optical scope was optional for increased accuracy as close ranges.

As good an entry as the CAWS proved, the system was simply not what the United States Military sought at the time, the CAWS program eventually being cancelled within time. The HK product, therefore, has since languished as a largely forgotten prototype to date, perhaps to reappear at a future time to attempt to fulfill yet another US military full-automatic shotgun request.

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Specifications for the
Heckler & Koch HK CAWS
Select-Fire Automatic Combat Shotgun

Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: Heckler & Koch GmbH - Germany / Winchester Olin - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1983

Overall Length: 762mm (30.00in)
Barrel Length: 457.00mm (17.99in)
Weight (Empty): 8.16lbs (3.70kg)

Caliber: 18.5x76mmR (12-Gauge, 3-inch belted)
Action: Select-Fire (Semi/Full-Auto); Recoil Operated; Gas-Assisted
Feed: 10-Round Detachable Box Magazine
Muzzle Velocity: 1,640ft/sec (500m/sec)
Rate-of-Fire: 250 rounds per minute
Range: 500ft (152m; 167yds)
Sights: Iron; optional optics

HK CAWS - Base Series Designation

United States (trialed)