The United States Army's Delta Force, at the request of R&D NCO Larry Vickers, collaborated with the German arms maker Heckler & Koch to develop the new carbine in the early 1990s. During development, Heckler & Koch capitalised on experience gained developing the Bundeswehr's Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifle, the U.S. Army's XM8 rifle project (cancelled in 2005) and the modernisation of the British Armed Forces SA80 small arms family. The project was originally called the Heckler & Koch M4, but this was changed in response to a trademark infringement suit filed by Colt Defense.
Delta Force replaced its M4s with the HK416 in 2004, after tests revealed that the piston operating system significantly reduces malfunctions while increasing the life of parts. The HK416 has been tested by the United States military and is in use with some law enforcement agencies. It was adopted as the standard rifle of the Norwegian Armed Forces in 2008, the French Armed Forces in 2017 and is used by many special operations units worldwide.
A modified variant underwent testing by the United States Marine Corps as the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. After the Marine Corps Operational Test & Evaluation Activity supervised a round of testing at MCAGCC Twentynine Palms, Fort McCoy, and Camp Shelby (for dust, cold-weather, and hot-weather conditions, respectively). As of March 2012, fielding of 452 IARs had been completed of 4,748 ordered. Five infantry battalions: 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.; First Battalion, 3rd Marines, out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii; 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.; and 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, out of Fort Devens, Mass. have deployed the weapon. In December 2017, the Marine Corps revealed a decision to equip every Marine in an infantry squad with the M27 IAR.
The M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR) is a lightweight magazine-fed 5.56mm select-fire weapon based on the HK416 rifle designed and manufactured by the German company Heckler & Koch. It is used by the United States Marine Corps and is intended to enhance an automatic rifleman's maneuverability. The U.S. Marine Corps initially planned to purchase 6,500 M27s to replace a portion of the M249 light machine guns employed by automatic riflemen within Infantry and Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalions. Approximately 8,000–10,000 M249s will remain in service with the Marine Corps to be used at the discretion of company commanders.
The HK416 uses a HK-proprietary short-stroke gas piston system that derives from the HK G36, forgoing the concentric to bore gas piston system standard in AR-15 rifles. The HK G36 gas system was in turn partially derived from the AR-18 assault rifle designed in 1963. The HK system uses a short-stroke piston driving an operating rod to force the bolt carrier to the rear. This design prevents combustion gases from entering the weapon's interior—a shortcoming with direct impingement systems. The reduction in heat and fouling of the bolt carrier group increases the reliability of the weapon and extends the interval between stoppages. During factory tests the HK416 fired 10,000 rounds in full-auto without malfunctioning. The HK416’s piston system was originally self-regulating in theory, but in the default position tends to give increased recoil over an adjustable gas system. A user adjustable gas regulator was added in later variants.
The HK416 is equipped with a proprietary accessory rail forearm with MIL-STD-1913 rails on all four sides. This lets most current accessories for M4/M16-type weapons fit the HK416. The HK416 rail forearm can be installed and removed without tools by using the bolt locking lug as the screwdriver. The rail forearm is "free-floating" and does not contact the barrel, improving accuracy.
The HK416 has an adjustable multi-position telescopic butt stock, offering six different lengths of pull. The shoulder pad can be either convex or concave and the stock features a storage space for maintenance accessories, spare electrical batteries or other small kit items. It can also be switched out for other variations like Magpul stocks.
The trigger pull is 34 N (7.6 lbf). The empty weight of a HK416 box magazine is 250 g (8.8 oz).
The HK416's barrel is cold hammer-forged with a 20,000-round service life and features a 6 grooves 178 mm (7 in) right hand twist. The cold hammer-forging process provides a stronger barrel for greater safety in case of an obstructed bore or for extended firing sessions. Modifications for an over-the-beach (OTB) capability such as drainage holes in the bolt carrier and buffer system are available to let the HK416 fire safely as quickly as possible after being submerged in liquids like water. To reduce the risk of slam-firing, the HK416 features a proprietary firing pin safety in the bolt. This firing pin safety limits the HK416 upper to working with standard AR-15 type full height hammers in the fire control group of the lower.
In July 2007, the U.S. Army announced a limited competition between the M4 carbine, FN SCAR, HK416, and the previously-shelved HK XM8. Ten examples of each of the four competitors were involved. Each weapon fired 60,000 rounds in an extreme dust environment. The shoot-off was for assessing future needs, not to select a replacement for the M4. The XM8 scored the best, with only 127 stoppages in 60,000 total rounds, the FN SCAR Light had 226 stoppages, while the HK416 had 233 stoppages. The M4 carbine scored "significantly worse" than the rest of the field with 882 stoppages. However, magazine failures caused 239 of the M4's 882 failures. Army officials said, in December 2007, that the new magazines could be combat-ready by spring of 2008 if testing went well.
In December 2009, a modified version of the HK416 was selected for the final testing in the Infantry Automatic Rifle program, designed to partially replace the M249 light machine gun at the squad level for the United States Marine Corps. It beat the three other finalists by FN Herstal and Colt Defense. In July 2010, the HK416 IAR was designated as the M27, and 450 were procured for additional testing.
The Turkish company Makina ve Kimya Endustrisi Kurumu ("Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation") has considered manufacturing a copy of the HK416 as the MKEK Mehmetçik-1 for the Turkish Armed Forces. Instead, the new MPT-76 rifle has been developed by KALEKALIP with MKEK as the producer, with the Mehmetçik-1 dropped from adoption into the Turkish military.
The French armed forces conducted a rifle evaluation and trial to replace the FAMAS, and selected the HK416F as its primary firearm in 2016. Of the 93,080 rifles, 54,575 will be a "short" version with a 280 mm (11 in) barrel weighing 3.7 kg (8.2 lb) without the ability to use a grenade launcher, and 38,505 will be a "standard" version with a 368 mm (14.5 in) barrel weighing 4 kg (8.8 lb), of which 14,915 will take FÉLIN attachments; standard rifles will be supplied with 10,767 HK269F grenade launchers. 5,000 units are supposed to be delivered in 2017, half of the order delivered by 2022, and the order fulfilled by 2028. The first batch of 400 rifles was delivered on 3 May 2017.
The HK416 was one of the weapons displayed to U.S. Army officials during an invitation-only Industry Day on 13 November 2008. The goal of the Industry Day was to review current carbine technology prior to writing formal requirements for a future replacement for the M4 carbine. The HK416 was then an entry in the Individual Carbine competition to replace the M4. The weapon submitted was known as the HK416 A5. The Individual Carbine competition was cancelled before a winning weapon was chosen.
Special Operations Command of the Australian Defence Force
Command of Tactical Operations (Comando de Operações Táticas, COT) of the Brazilian Federal Police
Tactical Intervention Groups (Grupos de Intervenção Tática, GPI) of the Brazilian Federal Police
HK416 A5, HK417
Naval Special Operations Command (Comando Naval de Operações Especiais) of the Brazilian Navy
Special Operations Command (Comando de Operações Especiais, C Op Esp) of the Brazilian Army
Special Operations Command of the Croatian Armed Forces
HK416 & HK417
2012 & 2015
🇨🇿 Czech Republic
Police of the Czech Republic
Commandement des Opérations Spéciales - intervention purchase for Afghanistan mission
French Armed Forces - selected the HK416F as their new standard assault rifle to replace the FAMAS.
102,000 to 117,000
French Armed Forces
Commando Parachutiste de l'Air of the French Air Force
13ème RDP of the French Army
D14.5RS and HK416 A5 – 14.5"
German Special Forces Command (Kommando Spezialkräfte, KSK) of the German Army
HK416 A7, HK417 A2
Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine of the German Navy
GSG 9 (formerly Grenzschutzgruppe 9 der Bundespolizei) of the German Federal Police
HK416 A5, HK417 A2
Hesse State Police
G38 semi-automatic 14.5"
2,005 rifles ordered
ZuZ Special forces of the German Customs Service
Georgian Special Forces
Counter Terrorism Center
Detasemen Jala Mangkara (Denjaka) naval anti-terrorism unit of the Indonesian Navy
Kopaska (Komando Pasukan Katak) Frogman of the Indonesian Navy
Detachment 88 of the Indonesian National Police
Army Ranger Wing (ARW) of the Defence Forces
HK416 A5, HK417 A2
Emergency Response Unit (ERU) of the Garda Síochána
COMSUBIN (Comando Raggruppamento Subacquei e Incursori Teseo Tesei, COMSUBIN) of the Italian Navy
9th Parachute Assault Regiment
GIS (Gruppo di Intervento Speciale, GIS) of the Carabinieri
Special Forces Group (Tokushusakusengun, SFG), of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force
Special Boarding Unit (Tokubetsukeibitai, SBU) of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force
Joint Special Operations Command (Jordan)
Special Operations Force
Pasukan Khas Laut (PASKAL) special operations warfare unit of the Royal Malaysian Navy
Pasukan Gerakan Khas counter-terrorism divisions of the Royal Malaysia Police
Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency
Korps Commandotroepen of the Royal Netherlands Army
D10RS, D14.5RS, HK416 A5
M-Squadron of the Netherlands Marine Corps (Maritime Special Operations Forces)
Brigade Speciale Beveiligingsopdrachten of the Royal Marechaussee
Dienst Speciale Interventies of the Dutch National Police
Norwegian Armed Forces
Norwegian Home Guard
HK416N, HK416K, HK416S (specialized DMR version of HK416N, modified in Norway)
40,000 + 11,000
Philippine Marine Corps Marine Special Operations Group (MARSOG)
Special Operations Troops, Portuguese Army
Tactical Actions Group (GAT), Maritime Police
Republic of Singapore Navy
Special Operations Force (Singapore)
5th Special forces regiment
🇰🇷 South Korea
Korea National Police SWAT
Republic of Korea Navy Special Warfare Flotilla
Special Naval Warfare Force
HK416 A5, HK417
🇺🇸 United States
Joint Special Operations Command
(units include Delta Force, DEVGRU, 24th STS)
CIA Special Activities Center
United States Army Asymmetric Warfare Group
NASA Emergency Response Teams
FBI Hostage Rescue Teams
Los Angeles Police Department Metropolitan Division
All members (A, B, C, E, H, G and K-9 Platoons) use 416 modified to semi-auto, but only SWAT (D Platoon) uses select fire version
United States Marine Corps
Kentucky State Police Special Response Team
Weight: 7.19 lbs (empty) 9 lbs (loaded with 30-round magazine)
Length: 36.9 inches (stock extended fully) 33 inches (stock retracted)
Barrel length : 16.5 inches
Action : Gas-operated short-stroke piston, rotating bolt
Rate of fire : Sustained: 36 rpm Cyclic: 700 to 850 rpm muzzle velocity : 2,550 feet per second
Effective range : 550 meters (point target 600 meters (area target)
Caliber : 5.56x45mm NATO
Magazine : 30-round STANAG magazine
For a period of over 10 years France will phase in the Heckler & Koch HK416F, in two different versions, to soldiers in the Army, Air Force and Navy.
The HK is referred to as the “Arme Individuelle Future (AIF)”, which roughly translates to Individual Firearm for the Future.
According to the French Ministry of Defense 93 080 pieces of Heckler & Koch 416F will be delivered between 2017 and 2028.