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.
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…
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.”
HK416 10” upper, LMT registered SBR lower
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?