Kraut Space Magic: the H&K G11

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Forgotten Weapons

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Shared December 25, 2018

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I have been waiting for a long time to have a chance to make this video - the Heckler & Koch G11! Specifically, a G11K2, the final version approved for use by the West German Bundeswehr, before being cancelled for political and economic reasons.

The G11 was a combined effort by H&K and Dynamit Nobel to produce a new rifle for the German military with truly new technology. The core of the system was the use of a caseless cartridge developed in the late 60s and early 70s by Dynamit Nobel, which then allowed H&K to design a magnificently complex action which could fire three rounds in a hyper-fast (~2000 rpm) burst and have all three bullets leave the barrel before the weapon moved in recoil.

Remarkably, the idea went through enough development to pass German trials and actually be accepted for service in the late 1980s (after a funding shutdown when it proved incapable of winning NATO cartridge selection trials a decade earlier). However, the reunification with East Germany presented a reduced strategic threat, a new surplus of East German combat rifles (AK74s), and a huge new economic burden to the combined nations and this led to the cancellation of the program. The US Advanced Combat Rifle program gave the G11 one last grasp at a future, but it was not deemed a sufficient improvement in practical use over the M16 platform to justify a replacement of all US weapons in service.

The G11 lives on, however, as an icon of German engineering prowess often referred to as "Kraut Space Magic" (in an entirely complimentary take on the old pejorative). That it could be so complex and yet still run reliably in legitimate military trials is a tremendous feat by H&K's design engineers, and yet one must consider that the Bundeswehr may just have dodged a bullet when it ended up not actually adopting the rifle.

Many thanks to H&K USA for giving me access to the G11 rifles in their Grey Room for this video!

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