The Rifle That Killed Bin Laden

An example of an HK416, fully accessorized.
An example of an HK416, fully accessorized.photo from HKpro.com

Six years ago today, on May 2, 2011, a team of elite Navy SEALs raided a small compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan with the mission to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden, the most wanted man in the world,

There had been many such missions in the past to get the man who orchestrated the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States, but this one would not turn up empty. The SEALs radioed back to President Barack Obama and other government officials the transmission, “Geronimo Geronimo. Geronimo E-KIA.” Geronimo was the code name for Bin Laden and E-KIA means enemy killed in action.

According to reports and his own forthcoming tell-all book, SCPO and former member of SEAL Team Six, Rob O’Neill fired a fatal headshot from his rifle that killed Bin Laden, and ended a chapter of world terrorism along with a decade-long manhunt.

The rifle he used, according to this story from tribunist.com, was a Heckler & Koch HK416 with a 10-inch barrel and a laundry list of expensive (even for the military) accessories attached. Though it can only be guessed at, a typical Special Operations loadout for this rifle would include an AAC Suppressor, a Geissele trigger, Remington RAHG handguard, a Surefire Scout weapon light attached with an S&S Precision light mount, an EOTech optic with an EOTech 2x magnifier, and an Advanced Target Pointer Illuminator Aiming Laser (ATPIAL).

All that added up is more than $10,000 worth of gun.

A stock HK416 with no accessories attached.
A stock HK416 with no accessories attached.mfg photo

Additionally, the 416 comes with a multi-position telescopic butt stock with six different lengths of pull. The shoulder pad can be either convex of concave and the stock also features storage space for maintenance accessories, spare batteries, or other small items. It can be easily switched out for other AR-style stocks. The rifle also included modifications for “over-the-beach” (OTB) capabilities, such as drainage holes in the bolt carrier so the rifle can be safely submerged in water.

The HK416 is a carbine based on the AR-15 platform. It was conceived as an improvement to the Colt M4 carbine that came about as the result of a request from the U.S. Army's Delta Force. NCO Larry Vickers collaborated with HK to develop the carbine in the early 1990s.

One of the biggest differences is the 416 uses a short-stroke gas piston system, derived from the HK G36 rifle, instead of the M4’s direct impingement gas system, which is more reliable with various types of ammunition when combined with an adjustable gas block. It keeps the action much cleaner, since expanding gases never action enter the gun’s internals.

Delta replaced its M4s with the HK416 in 2004 after tests revealed the piston gas system significantly reduced malfunctions while increasing the life of parts. The gas system is actually older than the G36 and dated back to the AR-18 rifle designed in 1963. During factory tests, the HK416 fired 10,000 rounds in full-auto without a malfunction.

An HK416 deployed in the field.
An HK416 deployed in the field.web photo

The carbine has since been adopted by various law enforcement agencies and special operations unites and has been adopted as the standard service rifle of the Norwegian Armed Forces and, more recently, the French Armed Forces, which replaced the bullpup FAMAS with the HK416F in 2016.

The U.S. Marine Corps tested a variant of the HK416 as the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. As of March 2012, 452 IARs have been fielded and almost 5,000 have been ordered with five infantry battalions deploying the carbine.

The HK416 is also available as an upper only, attaching to an existing M4 or M16 lower receiver, providing the new gas system, barrel, handguard, rails, and sights.

In 2008, an upgraded version of the gun, the HK416A5, was introduced. It features an improved tool-less adjustable gas regular for easier suppressor use, a redesigned lower receiver with ambidextrous fire controls, optimized magazine and ammunition compatibility, a repair kit housed in the pistol grip, and a Flat Dark Earth color scheme. The storage space is removed from the redesigned buttstock. It uses the newer V2 HK Battle grip and the handguard uses a new hexagonal cross bolt that can’t be removed by the bolt locking lugs. It must be done with a takedown tool housed in the grip.

The HK416 A5 is available in four barrel lengths: 11-inch, 14.5-inch, 16.5-inch, and 20-inch. The HK417 is a similar firearm, but chambered for the 7.62x51mm NATO (.308 Win.) round.

A still of the moment before the Navy SEAL takes the fateful shot on Bin Laden with his HK416 in the film *Zero Dark Thirty*.
A still of the moment before the Navy SEAL takes the fateful shot on Bin Laden with his HK416 in the film Zero Dark Thirty.photo from imfdb.org