More HK416s for Special Forces

About a month ago I noted an Army Times article on the decision by Delta Force to go with the Heckler & Koch HK416, a piston-driven assault rifle, over the standard M4 carbine. Now, it appears that a Special Forces battalion is taking things into its own hands and ordering their own HK416 upper receivers to use on their existing weapons.

According to the Brand Name Justification Letter:

Currently Heckler & Koch Defense, Inc. (H&K) is the only company that can meet the Government’s needs. H&K is the only company that manufactures the 416 Upper Receiver Kit. The 416 Upper Receiver Kit is an upper receiver replacement that allows soldiers to replace the existing M4 upper receiver with an HK proprietary gas system that does not introduce propellant gases and the associated carbon fouling back into the weapon’s interior. This reduces operator cleaning time, and increases the reliability of the M4 Carbine, particularly in an environment in which sand and dust are prevalent. The elimination of the gas tube currently used in the M4 Carbine means that the M4 will function normally even if the weapon is fired full of water without first being drained. There isn’t another company that offers these features in their products. It is a practical, versatile system.

That’s a good description of the system, and note that it’s not just a new “barrel” that’s being used but an entire upper receiver.

However, the “there isn’t another company that offers these features in their products” isn’t accurate. The first alternative that comes to mind is LW Rifles, which built the weapons Murdoc fired at the SHOT Show last January. LWRC’s (formerly Leitner-Wise) system, I believe, does everything the H&K system does.

I don’t know how the LWRC system compares cost-wise. Maybe the H&K is significantly cheaper? And I don’t know how ready they are to begin large-scale production, but this order is only for 84 uppers with diopter rear sights, 10 spare barrels, and associated tools and mounting gear.

If the wares on display at the SHOT Show were any indication, piston-driven ARs are going to be the next big rage, and if Special Forces use of HK416s, HK416 uppers, and SCARs proves the value of the piston system in US weapons, manufacturers are going to have to scramble to keep up with the demand.


  1. Patriot Ordnance Factory (POF) also makes piston uppers for the AR type rifles, as well as complete rifles. I think it’s probably more a matter of the .gov being familiar with HK (and HK having the contacts) than a matter of price. This is especially true in the world of SOCOM (think MP5, Mk23). I wonder if the SCAR isn’t coming off the assembly lines as quick as they’d like?

  2. However, the ‘there isn’t another company that offers these features in their products’ isn’t accurate. It is if you’re buying for the government – perhaps H+K is the only company that meets minimal government standards. Whatever those are – I’m no expert.

  3. Cynical prediction: If this trend gets off the ground. Colt will sue HK for infringement. The lawsuit will fail and Senator Dodd will sponsor a defense funding rider the will require the Army to purchase the upper receivers from an American source.

  4. HL: The FNH rep at the SHOT told me things were well on track, though of course that doesn’t mean a whole lot. BDunbar: No doubt you’re right about what they really meant by ‘there isn’t another company’. Sort of like how they said that no one else could make gov’t-cleared Cleaner-Lube-Protectant for small arms. Never mind that the current CLP sucked and that alternatives (some of them very good) were available. So while it’s maybe (or even probably) legally correct, it isn’t really true that no one else can make these. James: I tend to agree with you on that. Colt has two piston-powered M4 clones now available (or soon, anyway), the LE1020 and the M5, which seem to be virtual twins except that one has a flip-up front sight and the other is fixed, and that the forearm rails are physically a bit different but functionally about the same. In fact, I’ve long been confused about why they have two virtually identical weapons and for a while thought that they were both the same system. But Colt had literature about both of them at the SHOT Show.