Umarex H&K M27 RIF
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- Last updated: 27/01/2017
I’ve long been a fan of the HK416 family of replica firearms, having owned my own since they very first hit the market. Mine is a rock-solid, dependable electric model that has done me very good service for over eight years now, and with a couple of professional overhauls carried out by my good friends at Fire Support it’s every bit as good now as when it first arrived.
Umarex have really grabbed the tiger by the tail when it comes to licenced replicas, and as they hold the worldwide exclusive for branded models from Heckler & Koch GMBH what they bring to market is as close to the real things as you’re going to get. All the Umarex H&Ks, whether they be gas or battery powered, are beautifully put together and feel incredibly solid in the hand. There are no creaks or groans, no flexing parts, and out of the box they perform incredibly well.
It was therefore a great pleasure when UK distributor ARMEX asked me if I’d like to take a look at the latest model in the 416 Series, with the longest barrel of the lot (more on this later!) the M27 had me excited from the word go. Arriving in a stunning hardcase the rifle promised to be every bit as good as it sounded to be and I was interested to see how the gas version stacked up against the battery powered model.
This however took me down a certain path for two reasons. First and foremost the M27 in the real world has been designated the ‘Infantry Automatic Rifle’ and has been adopted by the US Marine Corps not as a replacement for the M4, but to supersede the aging stock of M249 Squad Automatic Weapons; in effect the USMC have stepped back in time to the days of the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) where a heavy barrelled, magazine-fed weapon was issued at squad level, using the same calibre as the infantry issued rifle.
This principle is one that has come in and out of favour over the years; in WWII the Americans had the BAR and we Brits had the Lewis and the BREN. After WWII there was a heavy barrelled version of the FN-FAL that served as a squad support weapon, and the Russians of course had their RPK. The Stoner system rose to legendary status in the hands of the USN SEALs during the Vietnam War, although most in fairness were the belt-fed variant. You can carry on with models such as the Steyr AUG H-BAR, and of course our very own ill-fated L86 LSW, but generally speaking a belt-fed weapon was felt to be the right thing to lay down suppressive fire at squad or section level when it really counted. Amongst NATO countries this was usually the M249 SAW.
However, many M249s have been in service for some considerable time now, and everything has a service life. The Infantry Automatic Rifle program began in 2005, when the USMC first started speaking to manufacturers. It may initially seem strange that it would be the Corps that really took this program on board, but then you have to look at their history, and how they view the ‘average marine’. Bizarrely my other review this month is for the Thompson SMG and during the late 1920s in Central America the Corps fielded the Thompson in a very similar role to that intended for the M27, that of a fast firing ‘support weapon’ at squad level.
You also have to take into account the Corps view that EVERY marine is first and foremost a rifleman, qualified to a very high standard. Over the course of their illustrious history they have proved this time and time again.
So it’s quite understandable that they had very strict criteria for a new weapon. It needed to be lightweight and easily portable, and given their changing role on the modern field of battle it needed to not be so obviously visible to insurgents as a support weapon. It did however need to be able to maintain a sustained high-rate of fire for suppressive purposes when required. An initial requirement for a 100-round capacity magazine was dropped in favour of the 30-round STANAG magazine because at the start of testing the 100-round magazines put forward proved unreliable. It had to use the same 5.56mm ammunition as that used by the Marine rifleman, so that magazines could be easily shared amongst the squad when the gunner needed to ‘pour it on’.
Having undergone extensive testing the M27 was officially adopted in 2010, and in 2011 the procurement process really swung into action. It was intended for up to 6500 M27s to be taken into service by the Corps, although speaking to a good friend who is still a serving Marine, I was told that the although the M27 is most definitely in service, many non-line squads are still making do with their old M249s.
And so it was that I approached testing the Umarex gas blowback replica of the M27 with great enthusiasm, but also with a little bemusement. Here is, in real life, a firearm that has been designed to fulfil the role of a fast-firing support weapon; the marine behind an M27 has at his disposal an issued load of 22 30 round magazines so as to carry the same number of rounds as the old M249. As I’ve often commented before, gas magazines are not cheap, and loading up with 22 of them is going to cost you a pretty penny, as what comes with the replica is a single 30 round gas magazine!
Now there is no doubt in my mind that if you play in a serious MilSim team portraying the USMC, you might want to follow this route, and I’d give you full credit for doing this – spread amongst a team of players both buying and carrying an additional 21 magazines might be feasible, but if you’re a bit of a lone wolf then this is going to be a BIG ask. This got me looking even further at the M27, and one comment got me to thinking: in one account from the USMC it was stated that the gunners actually liked the rifle a lot as they could lay down accurate suppressive fire in semi-automatic mode out to an effective 800 metres given the longer, heavier barrel. My confusion was dispelled; the M27 replica would actually make a superb marksman rifle combined with some form of bipod and a decent optic. So it was I went straight to my spares box and hoiked out a Grip-Pod to attach to the front end. This would give me a great foregrip and additional stability when it came to the prone marksman role. I then went back to ARMEX to request an optic, and very quickly one of their excellent Walther PRS 1-6 x 24 Precision Riflescopes turned up in my office.
Once I had everything together it was off to the range for some serious testing. Although the M27 resembles the HK416 a lot, sharing commonality in relation to the ergonomic four position sliding stock and the distinctive pistol grip, it’s a much heftier beast than its carbine brother. The picatinny rail still remains flush with the upper receiver but is longer. The barrel is longer too, 460mm as opposed to the 415mm of the 416, and is indeed made to look heavier, with a distinctive gas block configuration.
Controls on the M27 are also identical with the carbine being the usual, easily identifiable red and white H&K ‘bullet’ pictograms to represent safe, semi, and full. The magazine release is in the same place as the carbine as well, so if you’ve used any form of M4 you’ll feel at home with it from the get-go. The M27 comes ready fitted with some first-rate, low-profile flip-up iron sights which are adjustable for both windage and elevation. Another feature I truly love is that an extended cocking handle comes as standard, and this is a superb bit of attention to detail that I have come to expect on Umarex replicas.
In operation the M27 replicates its real-life counterpart well. With 30 rounds loaded into the gas charged magazine it’s simply a case of snap it into the mag-well and away you go. Once the cocking handle has been pulled to the rear and released the heavyweight bolt snaps forward with a solid thud, and it’s at this point that you can turn the selector to safe; please don’t try to do this if the rifle is not cocked as it can lead to damage!
Flipping the ambidextrous selector to semi, you’re ready to send rounds down range, and I have to say that the M27 does this with alacrity. Although, as always, I tested the M27 with high-grade .20g BBs, which incidentally gave me a respectable average 348fps (slightly higher than the 100m/s or 328fps that’s quoted on the paperwork), as I intended it be used more as a ‘distance’ gun I switched out to heavier .28g BBs. These were soon zipping to target, giving me hits to a Figure 11 type out to a good 75/80 metres. The sight picture of the fully adjustable Walther PRS sight is simply incredible, and I have to say on a good, wind- free day I believe you’d be hitting targets way out there with this rifle/optic combination.
Once the 30 rounds were away, the bolt clicked back into its rearmost position. Inserting a fresh, loaded magazine you need to carry out real drills, palming the bolt release on the left-hand side of the receiver to let the bolt forward again. Changing the selector to full-auto is when any gas rifle really sings, and the M27 didn’t disappoint, the heavy bolt slamming back and forth in rapid succession is both audibly and physically impressive, giving some small feeling of felt recoil.
Overall I am very, very impressed with the H&K M27 GBBR, and I can see that this would be a superb skirmish rifle used in the marksman role; in fact it’s a proper tack driver and would be devastating in the right hands! I would also love to see this used in its real world role by a good USMC MilSim team with the correct Trijicon Sight Unit, SU-258/PVQ Squad Day Optic fitted, as the sound it makes when it’s on full- auto has to be heard to be appreciated.
A great choice for the player that wants the true firepower of the M27 as a support gun, though I believe that most will still opt for an electric version with a self-winding high-capacity magazine. Sadly this lead me onto another question: the M27 looks like a long barrelled HK416 carbine, and many site operators call for a support gun to be of a dedicated variety such as an M249 or M60. I asked around a number of seasoned players and Site Operators whose opinion I respect and got a number of different replies. Some felt that the M27 was too similar to the carbine to be recognised as a true support gun, but luckily most felt that it fitted into exactly the same slot as an L86 or RPK. If, in the real world, the M27 was designated as a support gun, then they would allow it in that role for gaming purposes. That said I would check with your local site to get their view on this before turning up with an M27 AEG with a C-Clip!
Now it must be said that I’m not normally a long rifle kind of guy, but I was honestly disappointed when the time came to send the M27 back. It’s well-built, functions reliably, and with the right sight set-up is one heck of a skirmish rifle! H&K replicas never come cheap, and I’ve seen this GBBR already on sale for as much as £450. The AEG version does come in cheaper, but with the GBBR, at the end of the day, you’re getting a superb bit of kit for your money with some extra realism thrown in. What more could you want? My thanks go to ARMEX for the loan of the review rifle and the equally superb Walther PRS sight.