The rifle US Special Forces used to kill Osama bin Laden was revealed earlier this week and it’s said to be a Heckler and Koch 416. The information appeared on the Military Times Gear Scout blog, which is considered a reputable source, but the detail has not been confirmed by other sources.
The HK416 is a select-fire carbine chambered in 5.56mm NATO. It was introduced in 2005 as a possible replacement for the M4, which has been reported as unreliable in desert environments partly due to its gas-operating system. How the HK416 is different is it uses a gas-piston operating system, meaning propellant gases are directed against a rod to push it back and drive the bolt rearward, whereas in a gas-operating system gas pushes the bolt directly.
The M4 is closer to the M16A2, which is an accurate rifle yet highly susceptible to dirt and sand, whereas the HK416 with its gas-piston operating system isn’t because gases aren’t expelled into the chamber gunking it up. As a side note, the ubiquitous AK-47, which is famous for reliability, also uses a gas-piston operating system.
The HK416 also has features like quad-Picatinny rails and hidden compartments that makes it a very modifiable and convenient weapon. And the upper receiver is supposed to be compatible with M4/M16 lower receivers, too.
Although the HK416 was specifically designed to replace the M4 ideally for the US military, other militaries and law enforcement agencies worldwide employ it. But its future in the US military isn’t quite clear yet. In March and April of this year the US Army began a competition of sorts for a possible replacement for the M4A1, a version modified to withstand harsh desert environments.
Although HK416 allegedly killed the worlds most wanted fugitive, perhaps it’ll take the gold in the competition, but we’ll see. It still has to prove reliable in the competition’s endurance runs of shooting more than 2 million rounds (which it’ll probably do fine). But it’ll more than likely stay within in the elite units.