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Canipe Correspondence – Retiring My 416

My HK416’s Retirement Party

In late 2009, I traded into an HK416 10” upper. With a cold-hammer forged 10.39” (as per HK) barrel widely regarded as the finest production rifle barrels in the world and a gas piston operating system, this gun was my go-to rifle for about 3 ½ years. I knew the back story of US Special Operations units seeking an M4 replacement with enhanced durability and reliability, which led to the development of the 416 between a US Army unit and Heckler and Koch. The platform today enjoys widespread service in many LE and military organizations across the globe. It’s a sad day, that I thought would have come a couple years ago, but it’s time for my 416 to go into the back of the safe. I haven’t been able to kill it, but I want to let it die with dignity. Plus parts are expensive, and I want it to remain functional enough to shoot when I’m bored.

Canipe's 416

I kept a pretty accurate round count out to 50K rounds. After that, I started counting by the hundreds. As of its last firing on the 14th of March at the Fairfax County, VA range facility, it topped 67,000 rounds. About 17,000 of those rounds were suppressed. When I got the upper, they were going for about $5K on the secondary market. I was into mine for about $2K and some change, which I think was a bargain any way you look at it. Is the cost of mine twice as much as a top-end DI upper? Yes. How many barrels and bolts would I have bought in 67,000 rounds in a DI SBR? I don’t know, but I bet it makes the margin close in pretty evenly. My partners and I often took guesses when a bolt would break, or the gas rings on the piston would need replacing, or the extractor would break. I must have some kind of luck, because none of that ever happened, and other than the buffer spring at 40K I never changed an operating part on this rifle. The gun stayed in one pretty consistent configuration for the entire time I owned it save for the hand guard, which I swapped for a prototype from Geissele Automatics early in 2012, and a riser/magnifier mount I got from Wilcox at a trade show last year. I knocked out the firing pin safety the day I got it so I could use a standard Geissele trigger without needing a custom hammer. It’s had the same Sierra Precision SPR grip, LMT stock, and Surefire Mini-Scout all along I think. It’s had a Surefire FH-212A flash hider so I could run the corresponding suppressor on it. The optic has been an Eotech XPS, or the Aimpoint I used whenever the Eotech was back being serviced under warranty (a few times, unfortunately). It’s a boat anchor, too. I don’t remember what it weighs, but with all this crap on it and the older heavy barrel contour, it’s somewhere in the range of my SR-25…

Do You Love Matt's Mom?

Today, I’d be lying if I told you the barrel was in good shape. It’s a solid 4 MOA with 77GR MK262 now, and is experiencing some velocity loss. The accuracy is still within acceptable margins I guess, but compared to the 1 MOA I was getting at the beginning of its life that’s a sizable loss. More unsettling is the velocity loss, but that’s just the name of the game with a very shot-out barrel. It also doesn’t like to run suppressed any longer over the last 500 rounds. I haven’t even bothered to diagnose that one; I’m just chalking that up to being worn out. That might be a good problem to solve on a rainy Saturday in the future. The gun went 17,000 unsuppressed rounds between cleanings, although I lube it like I would a DI gun. Moving metal is moving metal, after all. Cleanings came more frequently as I shot suppressed, blowback from the can made the gun plenty dirty, even with the benefits of the piston keeping fouling out of the breech. I think you can regularly neglect a DI gun as well, as long as it’s well-and frequently-lubed, but the ability to leave the gun alone and just shoot it was a confidence builder all the same. While it was not perfect, I would say I had less than 20 malfunctions with this gun. I can attribute all of them to cheap frangible ammo at one particular event or firing with the can attached in the last 500 rounds. Anything related to the gun isn’t coming to mind right now. A special message to everyone worried about carrier tilt: I am sorry to report my gun did NOT wear a new hole in itself, and you’ll have to fabricate a new fatal flaw in the system.

I’m pretty attached to this rifle, and I’m sad to be shelving it. Seeing how badly I could treat this gun and how long it would last with no parts replacements until necessary has been a long-term project, and gun the gun outlasted my willingness to abuse it. The rifle won the battle of the wills. Sure, it’s expensive and heavy, but I’ll be damned if I could find a way to make it not work within its life cycle…3.35 times in a row. Well played, German engineering well played.

“The highest quality steel is used in this unique manufacturing process producing a barrel that provides superior accuracy for greater than 20,000 rounds with minimal degradation of accuracy and muzzle velocity.”
–HK USA

Summary:
HK416 10” upper, LMT registered SBR lower
67,000 rounds
1 MOA thru at least 20K rounds, 4 MOA at 67K. I didn’t bench it up very often…
<20 malfunctions, none attributable to the gun itself
400+ hours of arguing the piston-wonder-gun’s virtues, on the internet.
4000+ hours of reading how SOF was dumping it since 2006, on the internet. How’d that work out?

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45 Responses to “Canipe Correspondence – Retiring My 416”

  1. Ben McNally says:

    SOF is dumping the 416?

    • SSD says:

      Please take the three minutes required to read the article. You didn’t even read the headline right.

      RIF

      • Ben McNally says:

        Sorry, I was confused by the “4000 hours reading about how SOF is dumping it” line at the end of the article.

  2. Borebrush says:

    Rest Easy Kraut gun…

  3. I look forward to this “column” every week. Thanks DC!

  4. Wolf says:

    Well after more than 60 years since the war is over you could actually call it by it´s real name and that is German, not Kraut.
    Don´t get me wrong, I personally don´t give a rats ass about those terms but I know a couple German fellas who think it´s offensive.

  5. PLiner says:

    Matt’s Mom makes good sammich’s :-)

  6. Arctic1 says:

    Good stuff Jon.

    You have 4-5 times the round count that I have on mine, but mine’s still going strong as well.

    Thanks for the write-up.

  7. Sean says:

    To be honest if I were him I would do a complete rebuild of the upper. More than likely to include replacing the barrel. But that’s just me

    • Mike says:

      I’m sure if you can point out where to get replacement parts, and then find them at a reasonable cost, JC will rebuild the shit out of that upper.

      • Riceball says:

        Replacement parts aren’t that hard to find unless you’re either looking specifically for H&K parts and/or there are a lot differences in DI AR parts vs. piston AR parts. Because of the panic parts are a little hard to find but they’re out there and they’re coming in and out of stock on a fairly regular basis. You can get parts from places like Midway USA, Cabelas, Primary Arms, Palmetto State Armory, Ranier Arm, Bravo Company Manufacturing, and a whole host of others.

  8. Jon c says:

    Oh, I’ve got a new one. Problem solved…

  9. Will says:

    If I could only find a source for replacements barrels…

  10. joe shipley says:

    where do you shoot in fairfax county? Are there any non- “flat” ranges nearby?

  11. Aaron says:

    Where’d you get A…the money for the bullets and B…who paid for them?

    • Jon c says:

      It’s my job, I’m fortunate that I shoot for free. I had a command that was very supportive of off-duty shooting and a civilian job following that buys my bullets, otherwise I’d have about 1,000 rounds through it. Ammo ain’t cheap…

  12. Terry says:

    Have you thought about rechambering it in 300 AAC?

  13. ODG says:

    Great looking rifle Jon, “I’m sure excited for the panic buying to subside so guys like us that do this for a living can get back to work and find parts to rebuild beautiful rifles like that. Its almost criminal to retire that workhorse instead of just throwing on a new barrel and BCG.

  14. Joe says:

    Im confused a little. Read the article twice. I didnt think an H&K 416 Upper wouldfit on a Mil Spec. Lower? Or is that just civvie MR556′s? And also what command would support off duty shooting to the tune of 67k freebie rounds? Im not complaining just jealous lol.

    • C. Reed says:

      Joe, I’m not Canipe but I think that’s 67K is both on and off duty shooting over a 3 1/2 years period. The actual 416 uppers can fit on a Mil-spec lower. The original MR556 wouldn’t fit on a Mil-spec lower due to a different receiver pin hole locations. But the updated MR556A1 upper would fit on a Mil-spec lower.

      Oh by the way Jon, I’ll buy that upper receiver group and eotech off of you for $5, I don’t think you want to have to worry about a worn out upper that’s hard to get parts for and an optic that’s always breaking. Is $5 too low, alright, I’ll give you $100 only if you include that PEQ15 into the deal. ;) LOL

    • SSD says:

      Where did you hear that they won’t fit?

      • mike says:

        I think Joe is confusing the SCAR with the 416…

        • Haji says:

          IIRC, HK reported over the years that they were going to make a 416 commercially available, but it had to use their lowers because they were being built according to a German manufacturing law (odd, because they were for export) that made it mandatory that a Mil Spec upper wouldn’t fit on a Mil Spec lower. They accomplished this by moving the rear take down pin further forward in the receiver. That was at least a few years ago, and I’m working off memory so take that info with a brick of salt.

          • SSD says:

            That’s pretty much what I remember. If anyone has any info on the European MR223 please share but I think it may have the offset pins.

      • TCBA_Joe says:

        Prior to the actual American release of the MR556 HK announced that their MR556 would be shipping with proprietary take-down pin points so that they could not be mounted on a standard lower.

        I guess HK realized that would be a death sentence to any success on the US market and changed the takedown positions to the standard pattern as the MR556A1. However, there are still MANY people who are still under the impression the MR556 was released without that change.

  15. Leib says:

    Just buy another one if you are LEO member.

    Also Rainer Arms makes a barrel of the same steel. Close enough.
    That being said why did you shoot it out in the first place. Should have bought some other rifles to beat up. That’s more of a collectors gun anyway. To each there own. But I would say that is a mistake.

    Regards

    Leib

    • jon c says:

      Cause I’m not a gun collector…I’ve got 3 dozens various ARs, it wasn’t a matter of not having any others to beat up.

      If it was as simple as “buy one from HK as an LEO” everyone would have one. HK got wise to the buy a gun/sell the upper scheme a while back and has taken steps to make it harder to do.

  16. Matt E. says:

    Nice write up Jonny. Late at night, if you quietly listen outside the safe, you will hear that rifle annexing other groups of guns in the safe. That’s just how they roll…

    Oh, and I’ll shoot you my addy so you can send the rail to me. I know you were about to ask.

  17. Bruce says:

    LWRC. As good or better. Not near as expensive. CIA just bought some. Saudi’s bought 100 million dollars worth. SF are buying them now. LWRC makes a 10.5 inch an 8.5 inch and a 7 inch. And they make them for civilians as well. Why buy German when u can have American made.

    • RJ says:

      Because the Germans got it right.

      • Jon C says:

        I’m very familiar with both, and while LWRC has come a long way in the last few years I wouldn’t consider it nearly equal.

        Who in SF is buying them and what is your source?

        The CIA is the largest US user of the 416, FWIW.

        • Bruce says:

          Obviously the CIA has changed their mind on HK. They just put in for a big order. Just about every SF group is starting to order them now. If you need factory work done on an HK it goes to Germany. LWRC is in Maryland. The Saudi’s have money to burn and they spent it on LWRC 6.8 instead of HK416.

          • Jon C says:

            Obviously! Do you work at either place you cited?

          • RJ says:

            You seem to forget H&K’s US facility in Columbus, GA. Just like FN, they realized that it is feasible and to their advantage to manufacture here. Now, while I can’t speak to the capabilities of aforementioned GA plant, I would be willing to bet that they can get parts and have at least one person who is qualified to work on the 416.

          • BrettW says:

            @ RJ
            Most build secondary facilities here due to US Gov contracts – not because its better to do business here. Another thing to remember is ITAR- one reason NOT to move and 416 stuff here would be if any improvements were made and then put into 416′s in Germany it could be considered exporting of technology. A lot of people don’t think about that when they either travel abroad or host foreign nationals you can easily violate ITAR but just mere suggestions that then they implement.

    • John says:

      LWRC’s quality control is iffy at best. HK, on the other hand, over-engineers their stuff….and that’s what you pay for.

  18. Duke says:

    “LWRC. As good or better.” –bwahahahahahahahaha. And posted on April 1, no less. Well played.

  19. Matt E. says:

    Bruce,
    Bro, you are adding 1 and 1 and getting 3.2.

  20. BrettW says:

    I want to make a couple points based off a number of above posts.

    SOF never adopted the 416, therefore it could not have been dumped SOF. Certain units went outside their buying authority and were told to turn them in.

    Barrel life is indicative many parameters – that why when manufactures make certain claims based upon controlled conditions, trying to control variables and testing over multiple weapon systems. Different end users measure what a “failed” barrel by a few different standards. Some use gauging others use accuracy or even a mixture of both. That’s for them to decide not me, but I’ve seen barrels gauge and not shoot and I’ve been barrels shoot and not gauge. 67,000 is a hell of round count! I’ve seen 7.62 SCAR barrels fail at 40k simple for being .25 MOA out of spec.

    There hasn’t been a program that LWRC has won for a SOF bid for rifles that I can remember. This is not to take anything away from them, they make a great rifle.

    It’s been common practice for the public (people who don’t know acquisitions) to say SOF is buying a certain manufactures rifle if they know a SOF guy who bought a particular brand. That doesn’t mean guys are deploying with it; it also doesn’t mean they are replacing the M4; or the new fad is having former SOF guys endorse rifles and lead you to believe that their former units are / were / trying to run these weapons. You show me a Program of Record and I’ll show you what SOF IS using (minus black side programs).

    (For full disclosure here – my former employer is FNH USA. I work on the MIL side {NOT the commercial LE side} with SCAR, IAR, FNP45 and a few other programs.)

  21. Good read. I’m confused about the I love Matt’s Mom dust cover.

    • Jon C says:

      Matt’s mom is a smelly pirate hooker. So we made dust covers about Matt’s mom.