This is one of the most advanced firearm
s ever made, and only the end of the Cold War
kept it from being fielded by the German Army
Heckler & Koch, creator of such famous weapons as the MP5 submachine gun and the G3 rifle, was tasked in the late 60's to create a replacement for the G3. Modern combat weapon design is actually quite mature, and every weapon currently in use is based on technology developed during WWII. H&K felt that the best advance in small arms lay in the area of reduced weight, increased rate of fire, and increased ammunition capacity (as opposed to the US Army's current direction of research, which seems to favor a smart-weapon approach that threatens to turn soldiers into pack animals.) To address this requirement, they looked at ammunition.
Bullets used today were invented at the turn of the last century, the only improvements being in the quality of material and consistency of manufacture. However, only about 20-30% of the materials they are made from actually leave the weapon in the direction of the enemy (excluding propellant.) A "caseless" round, a bullet without a cartridge, would be a significant advance. It would allow the weapon to be made without an open breech, as there wouldn't be any empty cases to eject. In addition, it would eliminate an entire step from the firing cycle, enabling a much faster reload and fire sequence. Also, bullets without cases would be smaller and lighter than those with, making it easier for a soldier to carry a lot. It would have to be more than just a powder charge and a bullet wrapped in waxed paper, though. The resulting round was designated the DM11, and consisted of a rectangular block of propellant coated with flammable lacquer with bullet and primer embedded into it. This was no easy task, and it took until the mid-80's before a satisfactory round was developed.
As mentioned, without a case to worry about, the weapon could depart from traditional design in interesting ways, the most radical being the firing mechanism. A traditional linear bolt cycles back and forth in the weapon to ram a round into the chamber (picking the round up from a spring-loaded magazine) and then remove the spent cartridge after it has fired. The HK-G11 used a rotary cam that acted as both bolt and chamber. In firing, the cam started open-side up to accept a round that entered the top of the weapon and rotated 90 degrees to fire the round down the barrel. With no empty case to discard, the bolt simply rotated back to pick up another round to continue the process.
Three-shot burst rates for the HK-G11 achieved an effective rate of fire of close to 2,000 rounds per minute, meaning that the third round left the weapon before the first round's recoil could be felt.
In continuous fire, the effective rate of fire was something like 600-700 rounds per minute, but that could not be sustained for any length of time, as it was discovered that ejecting empty cases was a major cooling mechanism in an automatic weapon, an aspect unrealized until the G11 was developed. However, that was not considered a major drawback to what was to be an infantry weapon (the current version of the M-16 has also replaced full auto fire with 3-round burst mode, for ammunition conservation purposes.)
The magazine contained a linear block of 45 bullets that ran along the top of the barrel, with room alongside in the front grip for two more, for a total of 135 rounds held in the weapon at a total weight less than that of an empty M1 Garand.
The rifle was scheduled to be fielded by the West German Army in the early 90's. However, in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the government felt that the expense was unjustified.
- Caliber: 4.7 mm caseless
- Overall length: 750 mm
- Barrel length: 540 mm
- Effective range:600 meters
- Weight: 3.6 kg empty
Several sites are dedicated to this amazing weapon, and here are a few: