Haenel MK556 rifle is a product designed by the Haenel Defence company based in Germany. Its heritage is one of the richest, when it comes to firearms design. The business located in Suhl, in the central part of Germany, is not really well known to a broader audience. This stems from the fact that Haenel specialized itself in working with the manufacturers of the end products. Haenel Defence was working as the subcontractor and parts supplier at the time. The company got itself involved in an in-depth cooperation with Heckler & Koch and, meeting all of the customer requirements, it was delivering high quality, ergonomic and modular products and associated services and logistics support. Haenel was also supplying a myriad of external accessories.
The above activities were conducted in sync with delivering own manufacturing and R&D potentials. A few years ago Haenel Defence started to offer its own MK556 5.56 mm rifle in different versions, also with the civil market in mind (with a number of barrel and chamber options available). MK556 is an AR-15 derivative and thus it is very much similar to the famous HK416 design. Haenel Defence has been a parts supplier for the latter rifle for many years now. The Haenel’s gun shares the AR-15’s general design layout, however, it has been fitted with a short gas piston movement mechanism that, with the use of a pusher element, inflicts pressure on the top portion of the slide. Representatives of the UMO company emphasize the fact that MK556 is not really that different from the AR. The design also placed a major emphasis on better ergonomics and functionality. This has been achieved, for instance, by using high quality materials. The weapon is ambidextrous, with two safety switches, two magazine releases and locks. One of the advantages it has is the fact that the field-stripping procedure is easier than in case of its prerequisite.
MK556 enjoys a good reputation, both in Germany, as well as in a global dimension. It was one of the contenders in the final stage of competitive procedure concerning a new rifle for the Bundeswehr. It is also one of the favorite guns of the German Police and other services.
MK300, an MK556 derivative using the .300AAC (7.62×35 mm) round was premiered during the UMO Live Fire Days.
Design genesis for the .300 BLK round fuses the best properties of the 5.56 and 7.62 mm ammunition. It is a novelty that has a lot of advantages over the 5.56 mm round. These include higher energy that translates into a greater stopping power. This is important in close quarters when one may stop the enemy from opening fire and neutralize the attacker in an effective manner. The trajectory is also different, thus there is a smaller danger posed by the fact that the round goes to far potentially causing collateral damage. Both matters remain relevant during the urban operations, for instance in scenarios involving the special units of the Police. These solutions save lives of the officers, hostages and persons who are around by an accident.
For all of the aforesaid reasons, MK556 and MK300 are offered by UMO in Poland to meet the requirements of the Police and of the military. The idea seems to be interesting. Nonetheless, introduction of a new round into the inventory always poses some challenges. The new Haenel Defence are offered, together or separately, along with MEN .300 AAC Blackout ammunition. The round is a result of tight cooperation between the two entities. MEN is a German company offering high quality products, dedicated solely for uniformed services and the military. MEN’s offer is not available on the civil market at all.
UMO’s representatives stress the fact that sharing of the barrel profile of the new MK556 gun with MEN allowed the latter entity to perfectly tailor their rounds for the new rifle. This translates into a higher level of reliability and minimized number of jammed rounds. During the UMO Live Fire Days 5 thousand 5.56 mm rounds and 5 thousand .300 AAC Blackout rounds were fired, without any malfunctions. Close cooperation between the ammunition supplier and the firearms manufacturer also translates into greater precision and greater impact power on target.
MEN also emphasizes the fact that .300 AAC Blackout round in the LFI variant (Lead-free Indoor) lacks heavy metals, especially lead that may be hazardous for the user. It turns out that lead poisoning is a major professional hazard for the policemen working at the counter-terrorism units. The above does not really concern real life operations, but it rather pertains to regular training – if lead rounds are used, illnesses and health hazards are among the risks involved.
The LFI rounds match the global trends. Similar solutions are already becoming quite common around the world. Many companies offer TFMJ (Total Full Metal Jacket) ammunition with a lead core covered by a different metal. LFI is totally lead free. Thus hazards are neutralized completely instead of being just reduced.
MEN created a zinc core and copper, zinc-plated jacket round. Not only does the ammunition in question not produce hazardous fumes (which is enhanced by a powder mix of minor toxicity), but it is also safe to use in close quarters, as, when it hits a hard target, no ricochets happen - the rounds simply disintegrate into micro-particles. Even hitting a metal objects standing 10 meters away does not create hazards, of any sort, for the shooter. Meanwhile, when hitting a body, the round has stopping power equivalent to that usually associated with FMJ rounds.
During the UMO Live Fire Days event UMO also presented other products by MEN and Haenel Defence. These included Haenel RS8 .308 sniper rifles (standard or subsonic-dedicated version with an integrated suppressor) and RS9 rifles utilizing the .338 Lapua Magnum ammunition, along with a broad range of rounds for those firearms, labeled as Sniperline. Both rifles, as well as ammunition are offered by UMO. They can be listed among “top quality”, globally recognizable products used by the German users, Bundeswehr, Police or uniformed services included. MEN’s ammunition works very well with Haenel Defence sniper rifles, even though it has not been a subject to cooperation as tight as the one associated with the .300 AAC Blackout/MK300 Tandem in case of which we can witness the maximized level of synergy.