Earlier this week we posted our 10th episode, on the HK53, I thought this would be a good point to recap on our first 10 videos. We’ve reached over 560 subscribers and had nearly 15,000 views over on YouTube. We couldn’t be happier with the response we’ve had so thank you all for watching and reading. We’ll have new episodes up soon and will hopefully be filming more in the new year!
In the meantime here’s a recap of everything we’ve covered so far from 18th century breech-loaders to 20th century caseless assault rifles!
Here’s our very first video, with Vic and I introducing the project and explaining what we hope to accomplish!
Our first proper episode covered the unusual WWII British Besal Light Machine Gun.
The Durs Egg-made Crespi Breechloader with its long spear point bayonet was a personal favourite.
Vic took a look at the X11E4 ‘Belt-fed Bren’ in our 4th episode.
The extremely rare Maxim-Tokarev Light Machine Gun.
Australia’s other WWII submachine gun, the Austen.
In Episode 7 I took a look at the US M45 .50 cal Quadmount
Vic took a look at not one but two Heckler & Koch G11s in Episode 8!
I took a look at the Chilean prototype FAMAE PAF submachine gun in Episode 9.
Finally, in Episode 10 I took a quick look at the handy Heckler & Koch HK53 carbine
Thanks for watching, reading, subscribing and commenting on the videos we’ve posted so far. It means a lot to us that so many people have enjoyed our content so far and we look forward to sharing much, much more with you!
In 1968 Heckler & Koch launched the HK33, chambered in 5.56x45mm, to compete with Colt’s AR-15/M16. The HK33, and later HK53, used the same roller-delayed blowback action developed for the G3 in the mid 1950s. However, few major contracts were forthcoming with the German military opting to continue using the 7.62x51mm G3.
Due to the modularity of the HK33′s design users could replace the butt of the standard rifle with a collapsible telescopic metal stock. H&K also subsequently designed a carbine version of the full-length HK33, the HK33K with a telescopic metal stock and 12.7 inch barrel. In the mid-1970s H&K began development an even shorter version. The result was essentially an intermediate calibre submachine gun similar to the Colt Commando and the Soviet AKS-74U. H&K designated this new weapon the HK53, it used the same telescopic stock as the HK33K and MP5 and a cut down 11 inch barrel, the HK53 also utilised a polymer forearm similar to the MP5s.
Like the HK33, the HK53 fed from 25, 30 or 40 round box magazines. The weapon weighed just over 3kg (7lb), almost a 1 kg less than its parent rifle the HK33. Unlike the HK33, the HK53 has a four prong flash hider. A number of police forces and militaries adopted the HK53 for a variety of roles. Special forces units around the world including the British SAS, Royal Military Police Close Protection Unit and Royal Marines, designated the L101A1 in British service, who typically used it during close protection duties and operations involving close quarter battle.
As shown in various MoD Equipment Failure Reports dating from the early 1990s the HK53’s in British service suffered from repeated damage and failure of the carbines’ locking rollers. This issue arose when using a number of different ammunition types including brass cased blank ammunition (H&K recommend the use of their proprietary blank cartridges). Following a meeting between the Army Technical Support Agency’s Directorate of Engineering and H&K a new design for the locking pieces were developed. These changes “increased the roll of blowback force during the unlocking phase… in turn this will reduce the mean energy of the recoiling mass of breech block and carrier” this was intended to reduce bolt bounce. The Royal Military Police Close Protection Unit’s L101A1’s were also fitted with a new two stage buffer within a fixed stock.
Due to its short length the HK53 also found itself pressed into the port-firing weapon role. Designated the HK53 MICV in this role the foregrip and stock was removed and a specially designed endcap and a spent case bag could be attachment. During its service life the HK53 went through a series of changes to furniture mouldings, buttstock types and fire selector options. It remained in production into the early 2000s, when Heckler & Koch replaced the HK33 and HK53 with the G36 and G36K.
The 1960s and 70s saw Chile was racked by political turmoil with a military junta, led by General Augusto Pinochet, taking control in September 1973. Pinochet’s Junta took control of the country via a bloody coup, overthrowing President Salvador Allende, and as a result all export of small arms from Britain to Chile ceased. In the early 1970s, before the coup d’etat, The records of the Sterling Armaments Company show Chile purchased an example of the company’s Mk4 submachine guns and no less than 101 suppressed Mk5 Sterling-Patchetts.
With the import of small arms from the UK and other countries banned by an embargo Chile’s government were eager to increase their self-sufficiency. As a result in the mid-1970s the state-owned firearms manufacturer Fábricas y Maestranzas del Ejército (FAMAE) experimented with copying the Sterling Mk4 in an effort to minimise development costs.
The resulting 9x19mm submachine gun was dubbed the PAF or ‘Pistola Ametralladora FAMAE’. It took the basic Sterling design and simplified it. The PAF lacks the Mk4’s perforated barrel jacket and instead has an exposed barrel, tipped with a rudimentary spoon-shaped compensator. It also lacked the Sterling’s folding stock, instead it had a simple collapsing stock. As a result, the disassembly catch has been moved 90-degrees to the left side of the receiver.
Like the original, the Chilean copy retained the dirt-clearing grooves cut into the weapon’s breech block. The PAF’s plastic charging handle and butt stock shape are reminiscent of the Heckler & Koch MP5 – although much cheaper feeling in quality. The profile of the PAF’s pistol grip is slightly different but the weapon still fed from standard 34-round Sterling magazines. Interestingly, unlike the Sterling’s screwed-in-place barrel, the PAF’s was held in place by a machined barrel nut – in terms of production this is a much simpler system, no doubt borrowed from the Uzi.
left-side view of the PAF with stock collapsed (Matthew Moss)
Mag housing, front sight hood and barrel nut (Matthew Moss)
Magazine Housing (Matthew Moss)
The Chilean copy weighs significantly less than the British original, 2.5kg (5.5 lbs) and reportedly has a much higher 800 rounds-per-minute rate of fire. In general the PAF looks much like Sterling’s own later Para Pistol model, the Mk7.
Some sources suggest that only a small number of toolroom prototypes were made, although the relatively high serial number, #00748, of the example we looked at may indicate a limited production run may have been produced. It is clear, however, that the PAF did not go into general production. Instead, FAMAE later focused on weapons derived from Swiss small arms including the SIG SG 510 and SIG SG 540, and the SAF submachine gun introduced in the 1990s.
Note: The PAF was the last weapon we filmed during this particular research trip and we did not have time to film or photograph the PAF’s internals (we filmed a lot of videos that day and were pressed for time). Rest assured if and when we get the opportunity we will update this article with photographs of the weapon disassembled!
Note: While this collection of images covers only the externals of the G11, rest assured that if and when we get the opportunity we will follow this up with hi-res photographs of the weapon disassembled!
Many thanks to the collection, which wishes to remain anonymous, that holds this example of the G11 for the opportunity to examine, photograph and film it.
Vic kicks off his series looking at the US Army’s ACR trials rifles with a look at, not one but two versions of, Heckler & Koch’s advanced caseless ammunition assault rifle – the G11. This video is an introductory overview, we’ll be delving into the G11’s insanely intricate and wonderfully complex action in later videos!
There are few experimental weapons that have cultivated myth and reputation like Heckler & Koch’s G11. The product of decades of research and development into what was hoped would be the next evolutionary step in small arms design. The G11 was Germany’s attempt to combine advanced caseless ammunition with a weapon system which could increase the average infantryman’s hit probability. The G11’s action has three distinct modes of fire and uses a complex action and buffer/recoil system to achieve a high rate of controlled fire.
The program began in the late 1960s as part of a NATO initiative, however, it became a primarily Bundeswehr project and over two decades the design evolved substantially. The project sought to increase the hit probability of the individual infantryman. Heckler & Koch’s approach to this problem was the most radical. Working with Hensoldt to develop an integrated optical sight and with Dynamit-Nobel to create a new kind of ammunition.
Numerous studies and theoretical designs were worked up but by the mid-1970s the base design of what would become the G11 was cemented. The design team included Gunter Kastner, Dieter Ketterer, Tilo Moller and Ernst Wossner – all of whom are credited in H&K’s 1976 patent protecting the G11’s rotary action.
The G11 went through dozens of iterations throughout the 1970s and 80s, with the first firing prototypes ready by 1974. Both the design and the ammunition also went through a number of changes.
The revolutionary ammunition was developed by Dynamit-Nobel AG.
The 4.73x33mm round which was finalised comprised of a solid propellant material body which encased a primer, booster, projectile and a plastic nose cap. Dynamit-Nobel developed the High Ignition Temperature Propellant (HITP) in an effort to prevent accidental ignition (cook-off) of the ammunition’s outer propellant body.
The G11 fed from 45 or 50-round horizontal, single stack box magazines which fed rounds into the action at 90-degrees. The rounds were then rotated into alignment with the breech by the rifle’s action.
The rectangular shape of the Dynamit-Nobel ammunition was more efficient and better suited to storage than conventional circular rounds. The positioning of the magazine along the top of the weapon, parallel to the barrel, also in theory helped minimise the rifle’s profile and reduce encumbrance for the soldier equipped with the weapon.
The G11 is a gas-operated weapon with gas being tapped from the barrel, to cycle the rifle’s cylinder drive system, which rotated the breech through a series of cams and gears. At the heart of the G11 is a complex rotary action. Rotating actions themselves are not a new concept with the earliest dating back to the 17th century, such as the Lorenzoni system.
The G11’s rotating breech was patented in late 1976 by Heckler & Koch. While our initial video does not go into detail on how the G11 operates, we will be covering this in later videos, this article will explain the action in more general terms.
Below are two diagrams showing the internal layout and major components of the G11 from a March 1982 draft of the ‘Rifle, 4.92mm, ACR’ armourer’s manual (source). It shows the major assembly groups and also a component list for the breech assembly.
From the diagram we can see the various action parts which feed the projectile into the breech, lock the action and ignite the round. We can also see the counter-recoil system beneath the barrel.
The G11 used a counter-recoil buffer mechanism to allow high rates of burst fire. When firing three round bursts the weapon send the rounds downrange at a rate of ~2,000 rounds per minute, only when the last round has left the barrel does the barrel and action begin to recoil inside the stock along a central guide. When in sustained fire the rate of fire is closer to ~460 per minute.
The buffer spring below the barrel is compressed as the recoiling barrel and breech assembly moves. In sustained fire the buffer spring is partially compressed with each round, but in burst fire the buffer is compressed to its maximum hitting before the buffer housing (which is when recoil from the burst is felt by the operator), this is described as having the barrel and breech assembly ‘float’.
To ready the weapon to fire a magazine was loaded into the magazine channel on top of the G11, a magazine dust door, which automatically closed when unloaded, was depressed as the magazine was pushed home. The cocking handle on the left side of the butt was then actuated. The operator rotated the handle 360-degrees counter-clockwise until the weapon was cocked (essentially like winding a clock). The same process will eject any rounds left in the chamber once the magazine has been removed.
Gas tapped from the barrel cycles the cylinder drive system with gas pushing a piston back to act on a series of gears which rotated the rotary breech from horizontal to vertical to allow a new cartridge to drop into the breech. There was a vent for high pressure gas underneath the butt stock this prevented pressure build up and mitigated some of the thermal build up.
The G11 K1 was tested by the German Army in the late 1980s with adoption planned for the early 1990s. Heckler & Koch continued to develop the G11, entering the G11 K2 into the US Army’s Advanced Combat Rifle (ACR) trials alongside entries from Steyr, AAI and Colt [all of which we will examine in upcoming videos]. However, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 meant that West Germany no longer had the huge amount of funds needed to field the G11. At the same time the ACR program ended inconclusively and the G11 project was finally abandoned.
The extreme complexity of the design, the inadequacy of the weapon’s ergonomics and its inevitably high production cost casts doubt on whether the G11 would ever have seriously been considered for widespread adoption. Regardless of this the G11 is a fascinating footnote in small arms history representing a false start along a technological avenue which, with the Lightweight Small Arms Technologies (LSAT) program, may still prove fruitful. Heckler & Koch and Dynamit-Nobel’s ambitious design marks one of very few serious and potentially successful attempts engineers to overcome the plateau that firearms technology is currently stuck on.
Matt recently had the opportunity to visit the excellent Menorcan Military Museum at Es Castell, on the Spanish Balearic Island of Menorca. The museum is well worth a visit with some very rare and extremely interesting weapons on display.
The M45 Quadmount was developed by the W.L. Maxson Corporation for the US Army. It mounted four .50 calibre M2 Browning Heavy Machine Guns on a lightweight, rotating powered mount. I recently had the opportunity to take a closer look at an M45 while visiting the Menorcan Military Museum.
Introduced in 1943, the M45 was capable of 360 degrees of rotation and 90 degrees of elevation. It was manned by a three man crew: two loaders, who loaded the M2 Browning’s 200-round belt drums, and a gunner.
The M45 was extremely versatile and could be mounted on a number of trailers and vehicles including the M20 and M17 trailers and the M16, M17 and M51 half-tracks.
The gunner sat on a canvas seat inside the M45, between the two pairs of guns. He controlled the aiming of the guns with two control handles and aimed the M45 through a reflex sight which was mounted to a sight bar.
The M45 was powered by two 6-volt batteries and weighed approximately 2,400lb (1,090kg). The gunner was protected by an armoured plate at the front with two hinged armour plates either side of the M1X reflex sight. The M45 mounted four M2 TT (Turret Type) varriant machine guns – these were fired by solenoids. All four of the guns could be fired at once but gunners normally alternated between the upper and lower pairs in order to allow the guns to cool and loaders to replenish the drums.
When all the guns were fired together the M45 had an impressive rate of fire of approximately 2,300 rounds per minute. The Quadmount saw action throughout World War Two, the Korean War and in Vietnam. However, with the beginning of the jet age the M45 became increasingly obsolete in the anti-aircraft role. It continued to be used against ground targets with many mounted on vehicles to create ‘gun trucks’.
This is just a quick update on TAB’s status as we haven’t been able to post a video in several weeks. This is for a number of reasons, Vic is currently editing quite in-depth videos on both the AR-10 and the G11 – two important subjects we want to cover in detail – and they are taking a little time to complete. In the meantime I (Matt) had planned to upload several shorter videos (on coastal artillery and the M45 .50 cal Quadmount) I filmed on recent travels. Sadly, however, my computer is in for repair and I won’t be able to edit or finish them until next week at the earliest.
TAB is a labour of love and we don’t always have the time to devote to it that we would like with our day to day work often having to come first. What we would like to achieve going forward though is weekly videos. We have plenty of footage and now that I am also, when I get my computer back at least, able to edit we should be able to increase the number of videos we post. We have further collections in mind to visit in the near future, time and funds permitting, and we hope to have even more interesting content filmed soon.
As for the helpful feedback we’ve received in comments and in private we’re very receptive to this and as we stressed at the very beginning of the TAB project it’s a learning curve! We will be striving to improve our techniques and how we present during future filming trips. It’s still early days!
Thank you for your patience and your support so far. We’re really pleased with the reaction we have received with thousands of views and hundreds of subscribers over on YouTube. You can also stay up-to-date via the TAB Facebook page. We have lots planned and look forward to bringing it to you soon.