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Weapons manufacturer Heckler & Koch has upgraded the 5.56mm automatic rifle on which the Marine Corps' new M27 is based, and it's compatible with all ammunition magazines made of polymer, the company says.
The HK416's new A5 variant, unveiled in January at the SHOT Show firearms exposition in Las Vegas, incorporates a slanted magazine well similar to those on the Marine Corps' M16 and M4 rifles.
This design eliminates one of the weapon's most significant shortfalls: its inability to accommodate first-generation polymer magazines, which drove the Corps to ban PMAGs late last year.
While the HK416's original mag well is compatible with the company's proprietary High Reliability Magazines and the Corps' standard-issue metal STANAG magazines, additional clearance at the front of the well prevents many older PMAGs from seating properly.
That causes firing malfunctions, and magazines can unexpectedly fall out while the rifle is in use.
The ban on PMAGs was met with criticism from some in the infantry who praise their superior durability compared with metal magazines.
But Marine officials said the decision was based on concerns that allowing some Marines to use PMAGs could create scenarios on the battlefield in which the automatic riflemen who carry M27s would be unable to share magazines with other grunts in their squad.
The Marine Corps has no plans to test the HK416's new A5 variant, said Barb Hamby, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va. Its contract for the M27 calls for purchase of 6,500 weapons. To date, the service has taken delivery of 5,800 with the remainder expected by the end of March.
Heckler & Koch says the upgraded rifle is likely to draw interest from the special operations community and foreign militaries.