Caseless Ammunition


I understand that the “case” is made of something that breaks apart when the bullet is fired, but how does a bunch of residue not build up quickly?

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The idea is that the case and any associated residue would be blown out the barrel along with the bullet. One way of making caseless ammunition is to make the propellant itself sturdy enough to form around the bullet and be chambered without any additional structure surrounding it. When the propellant burns it would take everything with it.

As an aside one of the big challenges for caseless ammunition is excessive heat buildup. Heat from the combustion of the propellant would flow into the walls of the chamber and at higher rates of fire be difficult to extract effectively, leading to the chamber becoming hot enough to lose integrity or even ignite rounds that haven’t been intentionally fired. A normal gun with cased ammunition can avoid this because most of the heat first goes into the material of the case which is very quickly ejected from the gun.

Caeless ammo might have a “case” like powder bags in artillery or non at all like what G11 used, If the propellant is a single solid piece around the projectile or in bags that will combust just like propellant if you have a case, There will be some residue from both but with the right composition is can be minimal.

Caseless ammunition is not common for direct-fire weapons that do not use a black blast system. If you for example use it in a assault rifle one major problem is heat, the case gets hot and removes heat so the gun will get warmer quicker with careless ammo.

Caseless ammo is quite common for indirect fire weapons and backblast weapons like Hoizter, mortars, RPG etc.


The basic idea of Caseless ammo is that if you can eliminate the need for an ejection cycle in a weapon then you don’t need to waste time or energy getting the brass casing out of the gun, therefore you can achieve much higher rates of automatic fire.

The ammo is also a fair bit lighter than tradition brass cased ammo.

The Caseless ammo concept (for a rifle) that almost made it to production was the H&K G11 rifle.

They achieved an extremely effective high-speed burst type firing pattern that would but 3 rounds roughly in the same spot per trigger pull, and generally speaking the weapon worked quite well. There’s videos of the trials on youtube.

The G11 used nitro-cellulose as solid propellant. The bullet was encased in solid propellant, imagine the propellant being baked around the bullet like solidified play-dough. When fired the propellant is designed to vaporize and all the residue goes down the barrel.

In the case of the G11 there was no disposable Sabot like foam, the entirety of the propellant burned away.

So why wasn’t it adopted?

The man reason was political, the Berlin wall came down and suddenly the priority wasn’t making weapons for the Cold War but re-unifying Germany. So a lot of big and expensive projects like the G11 were abandoned.

But Caseless ammo had a lot of teething problems.

The solid propellant was prone to breaking and crumbling (in the magazine) which could cause the gun to malfunction. It could also cook-off meaning that it would burn prematurely.

It also didn’t like getting wet, at least the early versions of it.

It was also impractical in a lot of ways. The magazines were long sticks that had to be loaded into the gun horizontally from the front and couldn’t be carried in traditional Webbing or Chest rigs. H&K solved this by putting 2 spare mags in the rifle housing itself.

The American soldiers that demoed it also wouldn’t stop breaking the guns…

The G11 was made of plastic much like the later G36 and the American soldiers wouldn’t stop breaking the furniture. This is in part why the standard American infantry rifles are still mostly metal to this day, they are just too hard on them