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Heckler & Koch HK G11 Caseless Assault Rifle (1987)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 10/20/2014

The West German Heckler and Koch HK G11 was an attempt at a caseless assault rifle design.

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The Heckler & Koch HK G11 assault rifle design was, in every way, a revolutionary firearm departing from several traditionally accepted attributes common to guns for decades. Chief among these was the idea of "caseless" ammunition fired from a 45- or 50-round detachable box magazine through a 3-round burst or full-automatic fire function. The three-round burst fire was intended to provide the highest probability of first-hit accuracy by landing three rounds in direct succession during a single recoil action. As such, the internal workings of the gun were very radical from anything Heckler & Koch - or anyone else - had achieved by the late 1960s and its design would continue to impress gun-lovers for decades since.

Design work on the project spanned from 1968 to 1990. While formal issue began with German special forces by 1990, the fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent political changes (including the absorbing of the old East German Army into the West) led to a cancellation of the complete order. The G11 was not picked up again and has since falled to history.

The G11 system was originally designed to a German Army need for a high-probability, first-shot assault weapon. When HK designers looked over the process of how contemporary automatic weapons operated, they realized that the low hit probability arose from muzzle climb when firing. That is, by the time the first round (round One) of a three-round burst was loosed, the weapon had already begun to climb, resulting in a lower probability of a hit with rounds Two and Three. The decision was made to design a weapon system capable of firing all three rounds before the entire recoil process was completed. Furthermore, it was thought that operating the weapon system through caseless ammunition - ammunition not requiring the typical ejection phase of the spent shell casing - would decrease the gap of time between each fired round.

Outwardly, the G11 became a very futuristic-looking assault weapon form for the time and, in some cases, continues to be considered as such today. It certainly lacked the traditional appearance of conventional assault weapons of the period which included the storied Cold M16 and Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles. Despite its unorthodox look, the gun was rather fundamental to some extent with the body frame encompassing an underslung pistol grip, integrated shoulder stock, and fore-end grip section. An optical sight was fitted over the receiver as standard as there proved no iron fall-back sights. The final service versions were to feature provisions for a bayonet as as well though the usefulness of such a design element in modern warfare was suspect.

One of the distinct elements of the G11's design was its ammunition. The weapon was fed through a front-mounted magazine that presented the cartridges in a vertical form. A rotating metal breech pulled the next available cartridge from the magazine, rotated it 90-degrees to the horizontal position, and chambered it. The ammunition was ignited through the striking of an integral nitro-cellulose combustible cap that allowed the projectile to be fired and effectively leave behind little to no propellant residue. Ammunition was of a specially developed 4.7x33mm DM11 cartridge and fired from the front-loading 50-round disposable pack. A 45-round count magazine was also noted.

The primary mode of fire was the three-round burst function. The first ignited cartridge would begin the recoil process while the chamber accepted the second round and fired it in sequence. By the time the third round was accepted and fired, the entire recoil process was finally completed. The idea behind this execution was to allow all three shots to be fired one-after-the-other as quickly as possible with little movement imparted on the gun itself, thusly increasing basic accuracy - the second and third rounds held an equal chance of hitting the target as much as the first round fired. The weapon could also be selected to fire in full-automatic and this process was as in the traditional way - continuous repeat fire until the trigger was depressed.


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Specifications for the
Heckler & Koch HK G11
Caseless Assault Rifle


Country of Origin: Germany
Manufacturer: Heckler & Koch GmbH - West Germany
Initial Year of Service: 1987


Overall Length: 750 mm (29.53 in)
Barrel Length: 540.00 mm (21.26 in)
Weight (Empty): 7.94 lb (3.60 kg)


Caliber*: 4.7x33mm DM11 Caseless; 4.73x25mm Caseless
Action: Gas Operated; Rotary Breech Mechanism; Select Fire
Feed: 50-Round Detachable Box Magazine
Muzzle Velocity: 3,050 ft/sec (930 m/sec)
Rate-of-Fire: 460 rounds per minute
Range: 1,315 ft (401 m; 438 yds)
Sights: Integrated Optics as Standard


* Listed caliber(s) for firearms may be model dependent if more than one model type/chambering was produced. Always consult official manufacturer's information or a licensed dealer.


Variants:
G11 - Base Series Designation; base assault rifle product; 4.73x33mm chambering.


G11 PDW - Personal Defense Weapon pistol variant; 4.73x25mm chambering.

LMG11 - Light Machine Gun model; 4.73x33mm chambering


Operators:
West Germany