Firing the full-auto Umarex HK416.
(Photo by Alex Landeen)

Not everything displayed at the recent Athlon Outdoors Rendezvous in the Grand Tetons required a federal firearms license. Amidst the absolute state-of-the-art in modern weapons, ammunition and accessories, the Umarex HK416 fully automatic BB machine gun was sufficiently cool to have precipitated the gyrating fantods in me had I encountered it as a teenaged boy. No kidding, I’d have drunk bathwater to get my mitts on this rascal at age 15. I’d very nearly do that today.

Umarex HK416

Master Sergeant Kirk Tensile moved like a wraith toward the target building, his customized HK416 assault rifle tracking like some sentient beast. A 10-year veteran of the Unit, MSG Tensile now found himself the point man for the most important mission of his career. Ever since he had assessed into Delta Force he had prepared for this very moment. Every training iteration, every deployment, every drop of blood and sweat he had spilled led up to this event. Now he is stacked outside the derelict shack in the Mississippi Delta with his mates tucked in tightly behind. He took a deep breath, thumbed the selector on his German assault rifle to rock-and-roll and kicked in the door.

Operation Urgent Chaos

 He had gotten the call at school on Friday. It had come as a nondescript note slipped to him by a cute intermediary during fourth period Geometry. It read simply, “Operation Urgent Chaos is a go. Mission brief after study hall behind the gym.” Tensile wadded the note up and shoved it in his pocket. It promised to be a hard weekend.

The mission was indeed intense. ISIS had captured the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders on a public relations junket in Iraq. Before U.S. forces could react, they had spirited the dozen terrified girls to Syria and locked them away in their evil lair. As soon as the sixth period bell rang, Tensile and his mates were immersed in their accelerated planning cycles. The following morning he was stacked outside the shack ready to rock. It was showtime.

Lock & Load

The door burst inward and his Number Two tossed in a fistful of Black Cat firecrackers as a distraction device. The moment the pyrotechnics detonated, he and his fellow operators poured into the room like some kind of deadly serpent. They were met by three cardboard terrorists, each packing an AK-47 meticulously drawn with Sharpie markers. Without a moment’s hesitation, MSG Tensile unleashed a burst to the chest and head of each of the Tangoes, leaving a tidy cluster of holes for his trouble.

The Umarex HK416 mimics the famous HK rifle.

As soon as the operation began it was over. The Tangoes were all down, and, in the minds of the teenaged operators at least, the imaginary cheerleaders all rescued successfully. MSG Tensile and his fellows cleared their weapons, popped open the cold Cokes their moms had packed for the occasion and proceeded to the debrief. Another day, another professional cheer squad rescued. Such was the life of a teenaged Delta Force operator.

Life Imitates Art

I wouldn’t admit this to just anybody, but my buddies and I actually did silly stuff like that back when I was a kid. I’m a professional gun writer. This means I’m congenitally cursed with a hyperactive imagination, a deplorable dearth of maturity and questionable impulse control. When we discovered girls for real the tempo on our tactical exercises dropped off precipitously, but I have indeed killed many a Saturday doing sophomoric CQB drills with my friends on my buddy’s Mississippi Delta farm. Don’t hate. We all ultimately grew into law-abiding, tax-paying adults.

The training area was an expansive working cotton farm replete with derelict barns and abandoned structures. Our kill house was an empty shotgun shack that still contained a bunch of old furniture. Considering all the bottle rockets and smoke bombs we touched off in the place it is a miracle we didn’t burn it to the ground.

Our weapons were generally improvised from the toys of the day. There were not so many rules back in the late 1970s, and war toys looked very much like the real thing. Uzis, MACs, M16s, and AKs filled the armory. Some even made mechanical machinegun noises when you pulled the triggers. Back then we did a lot of simulating. Pellet guns stood in for sniper rifles, but for close-in work we just faked it. Nowadays I’m sure we’d have been remanded someplace vile for mandatory inpatient re-education. Back then, however, we were just boys being boys.

Back when I was 15, I had no idea exactly what I was missing. Running about like idiots playing with fake guns is one thing. However, I would have done just about anything to get my mitts on one of these Umarex HK416 full-auto BB guns back in the day. Whether you are 15 or 55, this thing will reliably bring out the kid in you.

HK416 Background

The Heckler & Koch HK416 was a collaborative effort between HK and the American Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta back in the 1990s. The legendary Larry Vickers helped design the weapon alongside HK engineers. The end result is arguably the finest assault rifle in the world.

The HK416 was originally supposed to be the HK M4, but Colt purportedly threatened a lawsuit. The gun indeed resembles an M4 on the outside. However, underneath the hood it is a different beast entirely. For starters, the HK416 is a piston-driven rifle. The action is inspired by the original AR-180 that Gene Stoner intended to replace his previous M16. This design ensures the receivers remain tidy and keeps the heat and chaos up in the handguard where it can’t hurt anything. Disassembly involves using one of the bolt lugs as a wrench to remove the railed forearm and strip the piston system. The resulting rifle is markedly heavier than a comparable direct impingement M4 but is hugely more forgiving and reliable.

Owning One

There are two ways an American civilian can obtain an HK416. HK sells a semi-auto facsimile of the rifle called the MR556 that costs as much as my car. The alternative is to find a police agency with some ragged-out HK416s they want to trade for newer iron. Bin the registered lower receiver and buy the rest as a ludicrously expensive parts kit. You could then build the whole thing up on a registered transferable M16 lower receiver. There is literally no telling what that project would cost.

Left and right side of Umarex HK416 models.

As an alternative you can get into a decent rendition of the Delta Force HK416 that shoots standard steel BBs at 460 feet per second for a mere $140. This selective-fire gun has a 500-BB reservoir, feeding a 36-round magazine. It is powered by a pair of standard 12-gram CO2 cartridges and cycles at up to 1,500 rounds per minute. The full-auto function features a six-shot burst limiter to help perpetuate the fun as long as possible.

The general layout is classic HK416. Flip-up polymer sights keep things shooting straight, and there is ample rail space up top for optics. Forearm rails will accept any real steel or airsoft accessories. The sliding stock adjusts like that of the actual rifle, and the controls will seem familiar to anyone who has ever hefted a live M4. The CO2 cartridges reside in the detachable magazine, while the BBs ride in the forearm.

Flying BBs

Wow. Just wow. Don’t touch one of these things if you are stingy with CO2 cartridges and BBs. Just keep reminding yourself of what it would cost to be doing this with the real steel.

 You would struggle to kill a man with this thing, but it will transform an aluminum Coke can into a screen door for your pet hamster in less time than it takes to describe. The Umarex HK416 will shatter glass bottles with verve and chew a cardboard box absolutely to pieces. You could conceivably use this HK416 to whack poisonous snakes if you live in the sorts of places I frequent, but that would be missing the point.

The Umarex HK416 is a range toy for grownups. An airsoft or paintball version would make a better training tool. This thing is pure unadulterated fun. After a long day at work, just unlimber your imagination, slip into some Oakley’s and feel the stresses of life melt away. I got about half a dozen 36-shot cycles out of each pair of CO2 cartridges.

Ruminations on the Umarex HK416

The Umarex HK416 is like crack to guys like us. Once you squeeze that trigger and feel this thing chatter against your shoulder you’ll just want more. It is kind of amazing something this cool ships straight to your door.

Despite all the sophomoric buildup, the HK416 is most certainly not a toy. Eye protection and a safe shooting space are non-negotiable necessities. You recall how Ralphie shot himself in the eye with his Red Ryder in A Christmas Story? This rascal does the same thing at more than 1,000 rounds per minute.

Actual full-auto operation has been so glamorized by a toxic combination of Hollywood and lame federal restrictions as to tempt us like the sirens of antiquity. The HK416 is the cheapest, easiest route to own a legit real-deal, fully-automatic gun I have yet encountered. The construction is predominantly plastic instead of aluminum and steel, but this rascal will reliably cure what ails you. It’s what I personally use whenever I’m called upon to rescue the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders from vile ISIS terrorist masterminds. For more information visit

This story also appears in our sister publication, the May-June 2022 issue of Tactical Life magazine. Subscribe for more great stories like this at

The Umarex HK416 impressed.

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