Nowegian military ammunition making soldier sick!

In my recent article about the Norwegian H416 rifle, Mauken, a Norwegian soldier, posted a link to this article at aftenposten.no (I have translated it into english using google):

Soldiers may have been sick of the military’s new rifle

Army turns the alarm after a number of officers and soldiers have health problems after the shooting with the military’s new standard rifle, “HK 416”.

Gun are heirs to AG3, and is about to be phased in for all Armed Forces branches. Some departments, including the Norwegian soldiers in Afghanistan, has had the gun in about a year, writes Dagbladet.no.

Hærstaben have been in three different concern from messages incidents where about 40 skyttere have experienced various health problems. It has been reported that strong discomfort in the chest, neck and munnhule after the shooting, unpleasant cough for several hours after the shooting, nausea, fever, headache, joint and cold svetting after the shooting.

Chief of Staff in hærstaben, Brigadier Rune Jakobsen, have now initiated full investigation to find out what it evokes the most serious problems. It has already been initiated medical examinations of the involved personnel.

One of the main theories in the military is now working on the basis that it is the gunpowder gas from the ammo, and not the weapon, which causes problems. HK 416 uses a smaller caliber, and thus a different type than the old munitions AG3.

Norway has been using the H&K G3 which is chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO. The HK416 that is being adopted is an AR-15 derivative and chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO.

Picture 4-28
H&K G3 rifle. Photo from Wikipedia.

It is not uncommon for an ammunition producing country to develop a new powder specifically optimized for the a new cartridge / rifle combination when it is adopted by the nations’ armed forces. It is possible that this powder used in the Norwegian 5.56mm ammunition is toxic. Maybe the lubricant they are using reacts badly with the gas from the powder? Maybe plastic parts are melting and releasing a toxic vapor? It will be interesting to see how this story develops.

Thanks to Mauken for the link.



Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • EzGoingKev

    I just read somewhere that some believe the ammo is also causing the piston sticking issue.

    Hopefully if it is the ammo there are no long term effects on the troops.

  • gybryant

    I once had discomfort in my munnhule. Shot of Penicillin cleared it right up.

  • I’ve read about this before and someone who knows the site commented that some of the shooting is done in doors and a malfunctioning ventilation might be the problem.

  • jeff

    I just shot about 40 rounds of 5.45 from my AK-74 yesterday. It’s a really nice thought to know that I was shooting Bulgarian surplus “corrosive” ammo.

    At least it smelled nice.

  • Vitor

    Really weird that happening in Norway. I mean, we are talking about a country where the government and the people are very rigorous about anything being dangerous. They even worry about toilet flushes been too loud.

  • Or maybe it’s because the Nords suck and they hate themselves (for buying H&K’s). Heh.

  • redmanlaw

    So it’s true that guns make some people sick. Huh. Well, more for the rest of us.

  • Dom

    Hope you don’t mind, Steve…here is a translation from Google’s garbled speech. Taking a guess on haerstaben, but munnhole is mouth:

    *Norwegian soldiers may be getting sick from their new rifle*

    The Norwegian Army is alarmed after a number of officers and soliders have reported health problems after shooting the military’s new standard rifle, the HK-416.

    The gun is a descendant of the AG3, and is in the process of being phased in to all branches of the military. Some units – including the Norwegian soldiers deployed in Afghanistan – have had the gun for about a year, writes Dagbladet.no.

    Army headquarters has received three different reports where groups of about 40 soliders have experienced various health problems, including discomfort in the chest, throat, and mouth, shortly after shooting the weapon. For several hours after firing the weapon, soliders reported a severe cough, nausea, fever, headache, joint pain and cold sweats.

    Chief of Staff Brig. General Rune Jakobsen has now intiated a full investigation to find the cause of the health problems. Medical examinations of personnel reporting the symptoms have already began.

    One of the more popular theories explaining the phenomenon implicates the powder used in the ammunition supplied with the weapon, rather than the weapon itself. The ammunition is of a different type than that used with the old AG3.

    • Dom, thanks! thats great. The google translation was terrible!

  • jdun1911

    I assume that Norwegian Special Force been using their Canadian made AR for sometime. So I think it’s safe to say that the ammo between the SF and regular infantry are the same. What changed?

    It could be that the Norwegian are a bunch of pansy. Or it could be that HK416 must use HK ammo. But one thing is for sure, it suck not being able to shoot your rifle because of bad ammo.

    Joking aside, have those 40 affected soldiers shoot a couple of hundred rounds each from US made 5.56. If they don’t get sick, it’s the ammo. If they do, well, they have to man up.

  • Hrmm. You know, I don’t think anyone ever thinks about just how much carbon monoxide is emitted by a firing gun. That and maybe some unburnt VOC content might account for this.

    I remember once reading a training report for a security provider, where they were shooting M16s out of gunslots in an armored vehicle. Everything was just skippy until before one run the ventilation system failed. They started their run, and halfway into a mag the CO alarm in the vehicle started screaming, it had gone up to double allowable limits in less than 30 rounds.

  • mmathers

    Ahh, Thanks for the translation.
    I was trying to figure out what a “munnhole” was…

  • Chris D

    It could be the result of whatever decoppering agent they are adding to the powder.

  • Sven Ortmann

    @DrStrangegun:

    That’s a major issue for coaxial machine guns. Some machine gun designs allow too many gasses to escape into the interior and are entirely unsuitable for use as a coax in tanks.

    As I wrote before – one of their firing ranges is apparently indoors and had ventilation issues.

  • Siggi

    The ammo used in the 416 is an environmental-friendly ammo, with a steel core instead of a lead core….Norwegian bureaucracy=S …damn environmental politicians. And btw nammo sells a lot of ammo to the US (for example 50 cal.)

  • Skwalla

    environmental-friendly ammo HAHA funny
    ammo is made to kill not help the environment

  • Siggi

    tell me about it=P should equip NATO with tracer rounds or whatever they call incinery rounds, woundn’t want to be on the recieving end…

  • THR

    Yes, we have switched to a new environmetal friendly ammunition here in Norway, and it destroys our guns. I’ve heard that the barrels is worn out after around 1500 rounds, and the gun is then thrown. The earliest lot’s of 9mm leadfree ammunition is not allowed for shooting anymore, because of too high pressure.

    The only gain the military have with this, is that noone longer uses this ammunition in their private weapons.

    It’s a sad story, but completely in line with our gouvenrments plan to destroy our own military.

  • Thank you for a very instructive article

  • endl3ss

    Without trying to shortcut any investigation by the Norwegian military, I think it is safe to say that it is the environmently friendly ammo that causes these ailments.
    I fired the exact same ammo from my issue Diemaco (now Colt Canada, I think) C8 SFW and C8 CQB in 2007, and my entire team had the same issues. Felt like we had the worlds worst flu, everybody was in bed after 4 days of shooting. It has nothing to do with the weapon at all, just the bloody ammo. Specifically it is the propellant used, the gunsmoke laid thick, and it felt like friggin’ CS-gas, so no wonder we got sick. Guess I could’ve told them in 2007 already that the propellant is crap…
    Heh…the ammo in total is crap as well, shoots good enough, precise and all that, but as has been mentioned already, the steel cores does no good to certain weapons, the Glock-17 being a good example. Barrels get worn out, I’ve even heard of at least one Glock with a cracked slide, due to the higher pressure caused by the steel cored ammo.

    As for trouble with the HK416… not much. Gas pistons sticking in low temperature is resolved very easy, 1 part alcohol per 2 parts of Breakfree CLP oil, sorts it out good. Alcohol works as anti-freeze, as well as making the oil less viscous. Anybody that has used weapons over time in Norway SHOULD now about that trick. Used to be a problem on the AG3, same with the MG3, even seen AK-74’s misfiring due to cold and gummed lubricant. Been in the army for 20 years by now, and never had trouble after learning that trick back in my conscription year in 1989.

    The only trouble I’ve seen on the 416 is that if you’re a lazy dude, and don’t flip up the folding front BUIS (even if you’re using optical sights), it will get stuck after a good days shooting. This is because the gas exhaust from the gas piston system is located beneath the front sight, and if it is folded down, the locking mechanism for the sight will coke up with crap. Not a big issue really, just open up the sight when you go shooting…

    Apart from that, the 416 is a brilliant rifle, and shoots all day long, with no problems whatsoever. Have used it back home, summer and winter, have used it in Afghanistan, summer and winter, no issues at all.

    Having said that, I never ever had any issues with my C8 SFW (roughly similar to the M4, same direct gas impingement mechanism, but slightly heavier barrel, I think) either, even after doing 3-week combat recce patrols (open vehicle) out in the Helmand desert, dusty as hell, but my rifle worked flawlessly, as long as you took the 30 seconds required to blow the dust out of it every now and again, with the on-board air compressor. 😛