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The author test fires one of the only two MG4s available in the U.S. at Long Mountain Outfitters in Nevada. Note the manner in which the rotational bipod can extend forward to get the gun close to the ground.

German gun maker Heckler & Koch (HK) is well known for breaking molds. The engineers in Oberndorf are not afraid to blaze new trails with guns like the G36 assault rifle with its polymer construction and integral optics. Note I said “optics,” plural: The G36A1 sports both a red-dot sight and a 4X scope stacked on top each other in a sort of figure 8.

When it came time to upgrade the army’s squad machinegun, the Bundeswehr naturally turned to HK to develop a weapon. Yes, the Germans could have bought M249 SAWs from FN in neighboring Belgium, but that’s not how they operate in Europe’s foremost manufacturing country. The Bundeswehr wanted a German gun. I can’t blame them at all. In a quick digression, I note with alarm that America’s military cares not a whit about sustaining our own domestic small-arms development capability.

We bought Beretta pistols from Italy. We awarded FN the contract to develop the SCAR. Glock pistols were recently bought by the hundreds of thousands to give to Iraqi cops. I would like to see our military try a little “buy at home” for a change, like the Germans do.

Suitable in Assault Mode
hk-mg4-bFeeds like a dream! The MG4 feeds from the left side using disintegrating link belts. Note the attachment for a 100-round belt-box below the belt feed.

And so HK was tasked with developing a SAW-like weapon: a belt-fed 5.56mm light machinegun that can be adapted for an assault mode as well as a fixed position mode (i.e., tripod mounted). The result was the MG43 which first appeared in 2001 and was later type-classified and adopted by the Budeswehr as the MG4. By 2007, the MG4 had replaced the previous MG3, a 7.62mm machinegun, on vehicles and for ground troops.

The MG4 is a definite departure for HK as it’s a conventional gas-operated, rotary cam design whereas previous German machineguns have relied on the distinctive Vorgrimler-designed roller-delayed blowback action.

According to experienced users, the MG4 is a good gun, a reliable and innovative weapons system. “It’s a good companion gun to the G36 because the sighting system is the same,” observed Howard Heeg, Chief Armorer at Long Mountain Outfitters in Nevada.

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