Firearm Showcase: The Heckler & Koch XM29 OICW, the ULTIMATE Individual Weapon? – HIGH RES PICS!

In May of this year, I got the rare opportunity to travel to Heckler & Koch’s headquarters in Ashburn, VA, to take a look at some of the experimental and prototype firearms they have located there in their famous “Grey Room”. It wouldn’t be worth as much for me to just tell you about it and to snap a few foggy cell phone pictures, though, so I brought along Othais of C&Rsenal to help me take high resolution light box photos of these unique and rare firearms.

The “weapon” we will be taking a look at today is not actually a weapon at all, but a wooden mockup of the XM29 Objective Individual Combat Weapon, which was a highly ambitious program to develop a transformative infantry weapon for the 21st Century. It combines a “Kinetic” unit (basically a short barreled G36) attached to the airburst grenade launcher and the large sighting system. The only real part of this mockup is actually the magazine, a standard grey USGI aluminum unit. The XM29 was eventually broken into two programs, which became the aborted XM8 carbine and the still in development XM25 Counter-Defilade Target Engagement weapon.

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If you want to download all of these photos in their full resolution, you can follow this MediaFire link to a zip file containing them.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • DW

    The whole thing screams “HIT THE GYM” just by looking at it
    I wonder what the weight would be if someone were to integrate a 5.56 SBR with the Neopup, and how practical it would be.

    • roguetechie

      STK kinetics showed off their concept for this type of system awhile ago, their version paired a 5.7 fn bullet hose with their programmable smart grenade launcher concept…

      It also looked way too bulky IMO

    • GhostTrain81

      Well future soldiers are supposed to have those exoskeletons thingies :D.

      • LCON

        At that time they were aiming to issue it Today. even then they expected Exosuits not to be an option till the late 2020’s

  • Joseph Goins

    What was the downfall of this weapon? Picatinny rails.

    The program was initiated in the mid-1990s around the same time as the picatinny rail and M4 were being introduced. It was much more expensive to purchase than replacing the major components (kind of why people stopped buying TVs with built-in DVD players), and it didn’t offer any modularity that new technology requires.

    • LCON

      Actually the downfall was the weight. The Actual weight was almost 18 pounds. So they broke it into the XM25 and the XM8. XM8 bit the dust because vs M4 the “improvement” was minimal. XM25 is fighting for it’s life against the bean counters.

      • Joseph Goins

        No. The military was used to giving soldiers heavy equipment during the GWOT. The M4 with ACOG and M203 weighs twelve pounds. The weight goes up even more when you add in a light, AN/PEQ-2, foregrip, sling, and other items. Keep in mind: those are items that cannot add to XM29 OICW because it lacks pictanny rails and its associated modularity.

        • LCON

          “Associated modularity” 3 main components, the optic with was to be not just a gun camera but a Fused sensor gunsight that had it worked would have beaten out ACOG and have both a laser designation and ranging feature., The grenade launcher that offered Airburst function then unavailable in 40mm and finally a carbine that in theory that could have been used on it’s own. and if you wanted pic rails they could have been added. So what happened to XM29? First they took it apart. They took the grenade launcher and made the Xm25 and Carbine part became the XM8. when they compared XM8 to M4 they found it offered nothing over M4 they cut the barrel down and pushed more polymer to try and put it on a diet and it offered little M4 couldn’t so they scrapped XM8 they keep trying with XM25 but It’s hard to say.

          • Joseph Goins

            The XM25 is on life support. The Army just needs to pull the plug on it. The whole system (gimmicky optic included) has proven not to be durable for military operations and too unwieldy for troops to carry. The Army late last month was told by the DOD Inspector General to consider scrapping the project because it is unlikely to be adopted and has no benefit over current systems.

          • LCON

            And I quote form the Article you laud.
            “could have managed the schedule, affordability, and quantity requirements of the XM25 program more effectively.” Translation behind schedule Over budget, Par for the Course of DOD Acquisitions.
            “The soldier is unable to perform required tasks in many squad battle drills;” Translation by issuing this instead of M4A1 the soldier is not able to perform the functions we designed around an M16/M4
            “The XM25 basic load of 36 rounds is depleted quickly in a direct-fire engagement” trnaslation Not enough Ammo.
            “The soldier has a reduced capacity to engage targets at close range.” translation XM25 is a HE weapon if the enemy has closed in to close he can’t use the weapon with out risking fratricide. This is an ssue for any HE based weapon like the M203 Mk19,M32,M320 and even hand grenades.
            “Ranger units found the XM25 too heavy and cumbersome for the battlefield. They were also concerned that the limited basic load of 25mm rounds was not enough to justify taking an M4A1 carbine out of the mission, sources say.” Translation the rangers were raiding close quarters and In such They felt it was to much gun not enough ammo for the job. The same would have happened to a Marine with a M32A1.

          • Joseph Goins

            Translation: no one wants it because it doesn’t solve a problem. The basic grenadier solider s more than capable of getting the job done.

          • LCON

            the goals, longer range. beyond barrier attack with high potential for first round on target with faster reload times then the single shot.
            As the conventional weapon did not at the time allow these XM29 was created. since then it was spun off to try and develop the technology farther. parts of those Spirals made it into new 40mm rounds parts are now spinning into Computerized Weapon sight. The wants are the ability to fire around corners to attack the enemy where he hides.

          • Joseph Goins

            It isn’t going to happen. It has been dying a slow painful death.

          • LCON

            based on a report that was more a indictment of the Army’s delays and Management of the program then the weapon it’s self?

      • noamsaying

        From what I have heard, the XM 25 is on life support because of feedback from the field. The XM 25 is heavy, and the 25 mm round is not sufficient to get the job done. The troops are leaving this glorified paper weight back in the barracks.

        • Joseph Goins

          Exactly. The M203, M32, and Mk19 are what units go for in combat. New technology might look good on paper, but negative feedback from the field will stop adoption. It is kind of like revolvers vs semiautos for most people until the 19X0s. New tech is scary and it needs a proven track record before most users consider it.

          • Uniform223

            M203 and M320 are in use. Mk 19 is only for fixed positions and mounted positions. New technology is a scary thing but the only way to prove its worth is to actually use it. Saying that it is unproven when it has had incredibly limited exposure/use in combat and by troops proves nothing. Because of its extremely limited use feedback (good or bad) is almost non existent or very very hard to come by. The only “negative” feed back was from a single Ranger unit that didn’t feel it necessary for their mission at the time.

          • Joseph Goins

            Soldiers on the front line don’t want to be the guinea pig for the military-industrial complex. The field reports right now are not looking good for the XM25 because the XM25 doesn’t perform as advertised, and the round isn’t as powerful as it’s competitor. It’s like having a .44mag and dropping down to a .32ACP.

          • Uniform223

            “Soldiers on the front line don’t want to be the guinea pig for the military-industrial complex”

            > Like it or not no matter the amount of testing or engineering, there are certain things that can only be found by actually using it. The FACT is that soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors are the end user and they will find ways to A. break it or B. make it work.

            “The field reports right now are not looking good for the XM25 because the XM25 doesn’t perform as advertised”

            > Do you actually have a copy or a link of those field reports or testing/development files? Simply saying it doesn’t work when it was issued to a single platoon in the 101st is like saying chops sticks doesn’t work when you only used them once.

            ” and the round isn’t as powerful as it’s competitor”

            > That is why it is an airburst round. Doesn’t have enough “oomph” as a 40mm from a 203 or even a Mk.19. For better or for worse the XM25 CDTE fills the gap between a M203 and a Mk.19. Its light enough for a single soldier and offers faster and more accurate engagement capability than a 203 or 320.

            ” It’s like having a .44mag and dropping down to a .32ACP.”

            > Effects on target and actual application is what makes the difference. That is why 5.56x45mm is the US Military’s main/go to GP round. Still people believe we should do away with it and go back to 7.62×51… that doesn’t mean they are right all the time. Sometimes a 250lbs SDB is more flexible/useful than a 500 or even 1000lbs JDAM. Size isn’t everything sometimes.

          • Joseph Goins

            Tell me, super fan: why did the the Army Inspector General tell say that the program is likely a waste and that the brass should scrap it rather than dumping more money into it? Do some research before you comment.
            http://www . military . com/daily-news/2016/09/01/investigators-army-consider-canceling-troubled-airburst-weapon.html

        • Uniform223

          “The XM 25 is heavy, and the 25 mm round is not sufficient to get the job done. ”

          Lets lob a 25mm air burst round in your direction then tell us from personal experience that it is not sufficient.

    • hikerguy

      Being 18 pounds to hump around, hold up, and fire, especally the carbine part, was not a good sign either.

      • Joseph Goins

        No. But the weight was negligible compared to the lack of options provided with picatinny rails. The standard issue M4/M203/ACOG/light/PEC-2/foregrip was right around 15 pounds. Besides, the weight of the 40mm is a lot more than the 25mm stuff.

        • LCON

          Bogus! yes the Options Pic rails are nice but saying it was the reason the XM29 was canned is like saying the Titanic sank because the captain stubbed his toe. XM29 was aimed for a 14 pound loaded weight they couldn’t get it below 18 pounds.
          They were Aiming to include fore grips and other options as part of the program. They could have added pic rails to the 6, 3 and 9 O’clock positions.
          The optic offered abilities that if it was sucessfull would have replaced ACOG, PEC-2 and the light. What killed XM29 was to much weight and not enough tech readiness.
          And yes the 40mm has more explosive power but this was supposed to offer Precision and longer range 550 yards point target vs 150 yards point target.

          • Joseph Goins

            All of those things work on paper. They didn’t work in reality. That is why most people don’t buy television/DVD combos. If one part breaks, you need to replace the whole thing. Having separate units is a hell of a lot easier to be cheaper, replaceable, and mission-specific.

          • LCON

            Again take a look at the Xm29. The Carbine module was more or less a G36C in a new shell with a docking system and the addition of a control interface. That’s one part. The Grenade module is little more then a over sized Semiautomatic launcher with a docking system and a Scope mount with interface. And finally the optic module. The Operation of the system necessitated the Optic’s design It had to be able to operate in all conditions, stream video, range and even designate targets well interfacing with the launcher. if the launcher broke you could swap it for another same for the carbine and optic. no the optic was not ready for prime time that was part of the issues that lead to restructuring into XM25. The Optic was to big to heavy and the tech was not ready. Today We nearly ready tech wise. Infact the DOD has been looking at Programs that parallel the ambitions of the Optic module The Computational weapon Optic program does most of it and the Family of Weapon sights does as well. But saying it was Pic rails is bogus.

          • Joseph Goins

            If it was such a good weapon, why didn’t the US Army or any other military adopt it? Short answer: it didn’t perform.

          • LCON

            Short Answer It was in R&D, Not ready for Prime time. And the concept has been picked up by South Korea and now The PRC.

          • Joseph Goins

            And it won’t be adopted by either.

          • LCON

            They built there own systems the K11 and the ZH05 have both been in the works almost as long. The XM29 was develoupmental and the Army decided to break it up as they deemed that they already had a 5.56mm carbine the M4 and the part of intrest was the grenade launcher.

  • CS

    Always looked completely impracticable. Like someone came up with it as a joke, a 3-star overheard and took seriously and no-one had the hairy teabags to set him straight.

    • Blue Centurion

      But it was an awesome piece to have in a video game.

      • Sgt. Stedenko

        You could earn it on Far Cry on the island level.
        After that, the game was easy.

  • Lee Attiny

    Resembles an early 90’s camcorder. I like that they incorporated iPod controls into the trigger guard.

  • Ben Loong

    “but it rocked in nightfire”

    I remember it from the original Ghost Recon and the Delta Force: Land Warrior demo.

    I wonder how the South Korean equivalent feels to shoot.

    • SP mclaughlin

      AIMS-20 for life
      (though I thought it was supposed to be the Daewoo XK-11)

  • noob

    The switches and dials look like something out of Philco-Ford’s “1999AD: the house of the future”.

    I guess gorilla glass touchpad displays were still a ways off.

  • Martin Grønsdal

    so what was the real idea behind this? to use the grenade launcher as the main weapon, and the rifle as a close combat back up system?

    • LCON

      Urban combat weapon. the optic was to stream video to the shooter so he could shoot around corners. The Grenade launcher was to fire semi auto precision rounds into barricades and rooms the carbine was a PDW and for the times when the grenades were overkill.

      • TJbrena

        Honestly, it seems like a variant of this would be best suited as an alternative to a soldier carrying an XM25 and then becoming useless once he runs out of 25mm.

        Eliminate the gun camera stuff, put a lightweight 7-10″ bbl 5.56mm into the system. Though height over bore would be a problem.

        That or issue some sort of subcarbine as a backup.

        The Chinese solution was a single-shot bolt-action 20mm integrated into a conventional layout rifle.

        We could do something similar with modified M320s. IIRC H&K patented a system to do just that.

        • You know, the same sort of smart fuze technology has already been incorporated into standard 40mm grenades, with an electronic fuze setter that is a farily lightweight “clip on” component that can be adapted to any existing 40mm GL.

          Which gives you all the advantages of the fancy airburst technology, only with a warhead large enough to be worth sending downrange, compatible with existing launchers, compatible with current stocks of 40mm grenades (albeit without the programmable fuze in existing stocks, obviously), and allows other, useful, grenade rounds such as smoke, flare, a decent sized HEDP, riot control, etc.

          But it wouldn’t have that sexy “new acquisitions smell” like an entirely new weapons system that used nothing already in inventory except the M16 magazine and round.

          The 20mm and 25mm grenades were a joke. The ginormous weapon system that ate a pound of batteries a day was a joke, and the 8.5″ barreled 5.56mm “kinetic component” portion (which, BTW, *melts*) was a joke.

          • TJbrena

            20mm was a joke, which is why they upped to 25mm. Maintained a flat trajectory while increasing lethality significantly. It doesn’t need to be 40mm if it blows next to the target.

            That said, 40mm airburst is far from a bad idea. It’s simpler to integrate into a logistical system than 25mm is.

            I’m not advocating a return to the monster the XM29 was, just pointing out the irony of taking the gun out of it.

          • One of the reasons I like 40mm projos over 20mm or 25mm ones is the payload – not just explosive, but also the fragments. All the explosives in the world won’t help if your fragments aren’t enough to adequately fill the desired target zone. More fragments mean a larger effective bursting radius.

            For multirole use, payload becomes critical – smoke, ILLUM, or HEAT effects, size matters.

            Additionally, you have more room for your sensors for your smarter rounds.

            While a 40mm standard velocity grenade doesn’t have the max range of the XM25, a six shot 40mm GL (such as the Corps issues as a support weapon) can handle a larger area than an entire magazine of 25mm… is far more versatile than the *very* limited purpose XM25, weighs less, and provides a nice hand off to the lightweight 60mm mortar in patrol configuration, which can reach out to 3500 or 4000 meters, and has room for even *more* payload, including smart sensors.

            If a 25mm airburst will ruin your day, a 40mm one will ruin your week (and your buddies’), and a 60mm will *erase* all y’all… 😉

        • LCON

          Ironically the Gun camera bit is now among the most practical parts. at the time though portable computers were primitive and there were issues regarding focus and sharpness and delay.
          The Chinese system still has a lot of questions to answer, Fanboi will make a lot of claims but the fact that it’s a rarity proves that as yet they are still developmental. The advantage it and the South Korean K11 (which is also a carbine with bolt action grenade launcher except they have a magazine) have is they did not bother with a gas system and there weapon doesn’t break down into separate systems. The Optic, Grenade launcher and carbine.

    • Mike Medrano

      Another reason they made this is to answer the low hit probability problem. During the 1950’s they try to solve this by controlled dispersion concept using the low recoiled 5.56 in full auto. Unfortunately it was still too high of a dispersion from the M16 so they went for the air burst grenade concept to solve the low hit probability by having the fragmentation pattern take care of any aiming errors. It would also reduce collateral damage so the enemy would be neutralize without damaging the structures which is very important in Urban areas. However, the OICW was too heavy, ammo was too little and the casualty radius of the 20mm air-burst was too small to be effective.

  • LazyReader

    It should be noted this weapon did not die, simply broke off into three different parts. The gun portion was adopted and refined to the XM8 (CANCELLED)
    The grenade portion was adopted and refined to the XM25 (CANCELLED)
    the grenade portion was also adopted to te XM307 OCSW (CANCELLED)

    • Tony Williams

      Well, the 20mm grenade bore a close resemblance to that of the South Korean Daewoo K11 which is very similar to the XM29 except for a bolt-action rather than semi-auto launcher (and it’s made it into service).

      The XM25 grenade uses a 25x40B round while the XM307 (and the ATK LW25) fired more powerful 25x59B ammo.

      The ammo pic shown in the original post is actually the 25x40B.

      As has been mentioned, the XM25 is still flying in the face of heavy flak.

    • LCON

      XM25 is not officially canceled yet. It’s controversial but not yet canceled.

  • DanGoodShot

    Wow, if a firearm ever was screaming, “I’m from the 80’s!”. This is it.
    Edit: I had a 198something Mitsubishi that looked alot like this

  • Hoplopfheil

    It inspired the camera gun from Ghost Recon 2, so it cant have been all bad.

  • A bearded being from beyond ti

    Can i use these pics on imfdb like the G11 ones?

  • Jim N Jenna SK

    I’d sell a testicle for that

  • TheUnspoken

    Bullpup or traditional mag forward design? In this case, YES!

  • El Duderino

    I remember this and, around the same time, the “Future Soldier” concept with the black jumpsuit and what amounted to a burst firing pistol with crosshairs linked to goggles.

    That was a lot closer to the future, but still needs some work. Even with really good logistics you can’t have a weapon that becomes almost useless when the batteries run out. But getting heavy optics, lasers, etc off of individual weapons and aiming solely with head/helmet mounted systems is the future.