Meet the G11 Caseless Assault Rifle: Germany’s Fallen Might-Have-Been

    A promotional photo of a late-model G11, from an H&K promotional document.

    In the world of “might-have-been” small arms, a world of .276 Garands and NATO-standard EM-2s, none flew so high nor fell so far as the Heckler & Koch G11 caseless hyperburst assault rifle. Designed to out-match any contemporary small arm in a Cold War shootout across Central Europe, the G11 combined the aesthetics of a scifi plasma rifle with complexity of a Swiss watch. The result was a bullpup caseless wunderwaffe with a 2,000 round per minute hyperburst setting, and a price tag that, as the joke goes, compared unfavorably with reconstructing East Germany.

    Over at his project The Armorer’s Bench fellow TFB contributor Matthew Moss takes an introductory look at the West German Caseless Wundergewehr, with both a video overview of not one, but two different late-model G11s, as well as a companion article. The article you can read here, while the video is embedded below:

    Recently, we briefly discussed caseless ammunition and how, although right now it seems to belong more with fiction than reality, things can change and maybe someday caseless small arms ammunition could become practical. However, we really can’t say the same for the G11 itself, or any weapon much like it. As Matthew so eloquently puts it in his article:

    The extreme complexity of the design, the inadequacy of the weapon’s ergonomics and its inevitably high production cost casts doubt on whether the G11 would ever have seriously been considered for widespread adoption.

    In the brief time I got to spend with the G11s in H&K’s Grey Room state-side, I came to a similar conclusion. The G11 is simply too complex, too fragile to be a viable service weapon – and that is aside from the problems introduced by the caseless ammunition itself. As a small example, in many -if not most -of the extant G11 rifles, the cocking tab (which more resembles a folding half-disc than it does a handle) has broken off!

    In the article, Matthew links to two primary documents, a design/info document, and a sales brochure, both available on the Small Arms Review archive (linking the search is not enabled, just search “G11”).

    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 [email protected]