Weekly DTIC: Jim Schatz on Caseless Ammunition

Nathaniel F
by Nathaniel F

Whenever the topic of future small arms comes up, a mention of the caseless ammunition concept is sure to follow. The benefits – lighter ammunition weight and reduced use of strategic materials – of the concept are obvious. The drawbacks, however, don’t see nearly as much time in the spotlight. Fortunately, Jim Schatz, former H&K Vice President of Military Programs, did a presentation in 2012 on his colored experiences trying to bring the idea from concept to reality. The PowerPoint file for that presentation is available on DTIC, and despite lacking Schatz’s narration, seems fairly complete.

The presentation, creatively titled “Caseless Ammunition Small Arms: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly”, documents some of the rather dramatic problems experienced with H&K’s G11 rifle and its 4.7×33 caseless ammunition. These include everything from the rifles taking rough or improper handling poorly, to malfunctions during the ignition of the ammunition causing total weapon write-offs. In particular, Schatz emphasizes the importance of the cartridge case – playfully called the “Exoskeleton Pressure Vessel”, or “EPV” – in protecting the ammunition during handling and feeding, and in sealing the breech to prevent the escape of dangerous high pressure gases that can wreck the action of a firearm.

Schatz’s presentation definitely makes a convincing argument for a great distance facing caseless ammunition before it will be ready for active duty. It’s probable that the technology may never be ready before it is passed up by less ambitious concepts, like plastic-cased ammunition.

Nathaniel F
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. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.

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  • Bbmg Bbmg on Aug 12, 2014

    One idea that was not mentioned was the possibility of having the propellant inside the bullet, an idea that goes back a long time (see "Rocket Ball" bullets) but was experimented with by Benelli in the 80s:



    • See 4 previous
    • Rick Randall Rick Randall on Aug 15, 2014

      @bbmg Right.

      1. Thick, soft, copper jacket, just as I said.

      2. War crime, just as I said, based on intended performance characteristics.

      3. Getting that penetrator perfectly centered, with no flaws in the thick jacket is going to be expensive (especially with rifle bullets), just as I said.

      If these rounds function as illustrated against soft targets, they are clearly in violation of the basic Hague standards (which even non-signatories have accepted). Because an expanding jacket is legally no different than just loading expanding bullets like hollow points.

  • Joshz Joshz on Aug 12, 2014

    I really feel caseless or plastic ammo will be the way to bring prices down. But no one has been able to do it properly yet.