The web is currently abuzz with news of the launch of a brand new, modern assault rifle by Heckler & Koch: will the 5.56x45mm caliber HK433 become the new service rifle for the German military?
One of the most important military trials currently being held by a major NATO military is that one that will select a service rifle to replace the Heckler & Koch G36 with the German Armed Forces, following a history of disputed and controversial claims of accuracy loss caused by overheating if used in sustained fire in high-temperature environments.
One of the contenders for the role is known to be the Rheinmetall-Steyr RS556 assault rifle, an AR-15 derivative developed by Steyr-Mannlicher of Austria as the STM-556 and specifically modified in cooperation with Rheinmetall Defence to suit the needs of the German military.
And it was widely believed by analysts and gun experts all around the globe that Heckler & Koch's entry would have been the HK-416, particularly after a slightly modified variant of the platform – dubbed the HK416F – won the trial to replace the FAMAS as the French military service rifle, as announced in September 2016.
All speculation was cut short when the February 2017 issue of the German Europäische Sicherheit & Technik magazine published news of Heckler & Koch's new assault rifle, seemingly conceived exactly to replace the G36 in German service: the HK433.
Details are still sketchy, but a quick look at the pictures that were leaked all around the Internet in the past hours and days is enough to understand why some German observers have already nicknamed this gun the "Heckler & Koch Masada", as a reference to the MagPul's prototype rifle that was later developed into the ACR Adaptive Combat Rifle by Remington Military and Bushmaster Firearms.
The Heckler & Koch HK433 departs from the current trend of standardization towards the AR-15 platform, offering a design that is more in line with the European (and only partially American) inclination towards the development of new platforms that would be an alternative to whatever else is already available.
The German military trial to replace the G36 rifle
As of today, fifteen or sixteen models have been officially or supposedly identified as contenders to the German military trial for the replacement of the Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifle.
Among those entries are many AR-15 platform variants; even more so, the launch of the Heckler & Koch HK433 seems aimed to stem the increasing popularity of the quintessential American rifle system among European militaries.
What follows is a list of the officially announced or supposed contenders to the German military trial; we did not include the new Heckler & Koch HK433, nor the HK416 – whose role in the competition is now uncertain.
Heckler & Koch advertises the HK433 as combining "the outstanding features of the G36 and HK416 assault rifles and is thus setting standards world wide".
Although the design seems to have caliber conversion potential, the only confirmed caliber so far is the NATO standard 5,56x45mm; the HK-433 feeds through STANAG 4179 (AR-15 type) magazines, which is once again something new for the German military since so far they have carefully avoided to standardize on a feeding system that was deemed "troublesome".
The Heckler & Koch HK433 is an adjustable gas-system, piston-driven rifle whose polymer receiver sports ambidextrous controls – available in G36 or HK-416 configuration – and a polymer stock that's both side-folding and adjustable for length of pull.
The machined aluminum, monolythic upper receiver features a full-length top MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rail for optics, a shorter rail under the handguard, and HKEY slots on both sides.
The Heckler & Koch HK433 can be configured to cover at least six different field roles, from PDW to DMR, simply by changing barrel; quick barrel change capabilities make it feasible by the user right on the field in a matter of a very short time.
The cocking handle is located on top of the barrel; it is non-reciprocating, but it dubs as a forward assist, and can be reversed for right-handed or left-handed operation without tools. As a matter of fact, the entire rifle can be stripped without tools.
The HK433 is drop-safe, according to AC225/D14 specs, either with the manual safety on or off. The rate of fire is set to be controllable enough, at 700 rounds per minute – inferior to that of all G36 or HK-416 variants.
The HK433 seemingly has a lot going for it. We will of course try to provide you with further information as soon as they come available, but only time – and a very short time indeed, given the timetable of the German military trial – will tell if it will be a worthy (and possibly better) replacement for the G36... and maybe even for the now-very-mainstream HK-416.
Heckler & Koch HK433 - Specifications
Selective-fire assault rifle
Adjustable, piston-driven gas system
STANAG 4179 (AR-15 type) magazines of any make and capacity
700 rounds per minute
Six overall lenghts available:
– 280 mm / 11"
– 318 mm / 12.5"
– 368 mm / 14.5"
– 421 mm / 16.5"
– 480 mm / 18.9"
– 503 mm / 20"
Foldable iron sights, MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rail for optical sights
Depending from barrel lenght and stock position:
– 843 mm / 577 mm (33.1" / 22.7")
– 881 mm / 613 mm (34.6" / 24.1")
– 931 mm / 634 mm (36.6" / 24.9")
– 989 mm / 705 mm (38.9" / 27.7")
– 1032 mm / 764 mm (40.6" / 30")
– 1060 mm / 792 mm (41.7" / 31.1")
3,25 kg / 7.16 lbs to 3,65 kg / 8 lbs depending from the configuration