The following text was provided by HKPro member G3Kurz.
Why the HK416 is the Best 5.56mm Carbine in the World
This is all fact and not conjecture or opinion. I was the U.S. PM and developer at HK for the HKM4 (the early HK416 project name) and HK416 development from Day 1 thru May 2006. I assigned Larry Vickers and later Tom Kivlehan the temporary duties of HK416 PM while they were with HK. I sat alone with Ernst Mauch, Managing Director at HK in Germany when the first idea of starting a Mid-Life Improvement Program for the US M16/M4 was envisioned by Ernst in 2001, this coming on the heels of the very successful SA80A2 Mid-Life Improvement Program conducted for the Brits. While many at H&K were involved with SA80A2 and HKM4/HK416 efforts and contributed to their eventual success, Ernst was the one who got these two programs started and fed each to successful completion and user fielding. He is the true and only father of HK416. This being said it is not just one person but a team of dedicated and capable men and women who made HK416 and other great weapons happen.
HK first created and briefed the concept of an improved M4 as far back as 2001. The choice of the gas system was a no brainer based on the success of other piston operated weapons, like the HK G36. The first HKM4s were US M4A1 carbines loaned to HK which then had the first versions of the HK piston rod gas system installed in Uncle Sams COLTs (not to be confused with Samuel Colt). The joint industry and user development of the HKM4, and then HK416, is considered by those in the know as they most successful rifle development program of its kind in recent history.
HK approached the user unit/our US Government partner on this effort with the idea for HKM4 after most every other US Government ordnance organization passed on it. After a legal review of the concept was conducted from the user side the program began basically on a hand shake and later a No Cost (0 dollar) contract for the development. HK developed the HKM4 for free in exchange for user involvement and prototype testing. In the end the users received a vastly improved 21st century AR-based rifle in less than 2 years from start to finish, including time wasted with the Colt law suit against the HKM4, with not a single US Government R&D dollar spent!
Those who know the current elite users of the HK416 will realize why they selected the HK416 over ALL other carbines available, to include the M4s they replaced with the HK416, and that these organizations only buy and use the very best available. They selected the HK416 after detailed comparative testing against other weapons, to include in some cases the M4A1 and even SCAR L.
What makes the HK416 better than most if not all other M4-style weapons? You can decide for yourself based on the list of proven capabilities provided below. All these statements are documented in actual testing. Can your M4-style weapon approach this degree of performance? Does it have these features? Since the debut of the HKM4 at the 2004 SHOT Show, the concept of the piston operated M4-style weapon has been included in a rash of more than 12 (to date) similar AR-based weapons. While not the first company to offer a pusher rod M4-style weapon, NO ONE but H&K can yet claim the success of a piston operated M4-style weapon in the elite user community that the HK416 has achieved in a very short period of time.
HK416 Advantages Upper Receiver
HK416 Advantages Lower Receiver
- Flared Magazine Well
- Assists in the ease and speed of reloading
- Improved HK-style Buffer Retainer
- Improved buffer retention for increased reliability
- HK Tungsten Granulate Buffer and Buffer Spring
- Improves feeding and locking reliability and reduces bolt bounce back to eliminate light strikes. One HK buffer and buffer spring is delivered with every HK416 and HK416 upper receiver.
- Improved HK High-Reliability Steel Magazine up to 30% improvement in feed reliability over that with the standard aluminum USGI magazine. One HK magazine is delivered with every HK416 and HK416 upper receiver.
HK416 Advantages Miscellaneous
- Special Order Over the Beach (OTB) Variant/Capability
- Allows the HK416 to be safely fired and reliably, if need be, from the surf with it completely full of water. This can be done repeatedly without ill effect to the shooter or weapon (an M4 blows the top of the receiver off).
- Unique HK Safety Blank Firing Adapter
- Will catch up to 3 live projectiles if accidentally mixed with blank ammunition during blank firing training
- Unit Price The HK416 price includes a user removable free floating rail system with insured/proven return-to-zero, HK buffer and spring, sling, manual and 30-rd steel "high-reliability" magazine US DoD cost $1425 (qty of one). Current 2007 US DoD pricing for the US M4 with non-free floating rail system and USGI magazine is $1300 (qty of 400K).
System Lifecycle Cost
The M4 is a good gun and has served and continues to serve its users well. The HK416 is simply better, packed with the many features and capabilities described above and thus it does cost slightly more. If you have not experienced an HK416 for yourself you simply don't have it as a high water mark point of reference (a horse drawn carriage looks fine until you experience your first model T!)
The US military price, from the large quantity (10K+) US Government contract for an M4 w/o rail system is/was @ $967. A KAC free-floating rail is $200-$400 and requires armorer installation and barrel removal to mount it. So thats @ $1200-$1400 for a comparably equipped M4 with free-floating rail system.
An HK416 with rail system costs @ $1425. More money yes but A LOT more gun. Why do you think the M4's maker is improving (new op rod gas system, rail system, etc.) the M4 now (Colts M5) after so many years?
If you add up the cost and time to replace M4 bolt heads, extractors and springs and barrels to get to the service life of the HK416 parts (>20K rounds) you've already easily covered any price difference between the two weapons AND with the HK416 you have superior weapon performance and operator safety for the entire life cycle of the system.
That means a whole lot to the current users who are the most elite of the elite. They can also use the shorter 10 barreled HK416 in places where the 14.5 barreled M4 is simply too long, like from vehicles, and still not lose accuracy down range.
You can also get all these upgrades, except the flared mag well and HK buffer retainer, by simply adding a drop-on HK416 upper receiver "upgrade" kit to an M16 or M4 lower for just over $1000. Oh, and dont forget the 7.62x51mm HK417. You cant get that from the M4s maker, and there is a 6.8mm SPC HK416 available as well.