Is caseless ammunition coming back?

Could NATO ammunition shortage caused by the Ukraine war, bring back the caseless ammunition projects? The G11 and C.A.R. from VBR-Belgium. Reduce of brass, reduce of production time and stop independence of foreign raw brass material supply.  

The most strategic advantage of caseless ammunition is the huge reduction of the raw brass material needed for the cartridge case production. Second comes the reduce of weight and other technical advantage.

Prototype C.A.R.1 out the end years 80s.

The most know caseless ammunition assault rifle system is the German G11 project developed by Heckler und Koch and Dynamite Nobel, but in the Flanders this G11 project caused doubts about the operating principle which leaded to the C.A.R. (Caseless Ammunition Rifle) project from VBR-Belgium in the late 80s.

Recently, the patents for the German G11 caseless ammunition weapon system have expired, prompting several weapon manufacturers to re-examine the concept of caseless ammunition.

Another reason why caseless ammunition is back in the spotlight is that the limitations of the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge are starting to be felt. New weapon and ammunition developments in the United States including the SIG M5 Spear 6.8x51mm and even the lighter 6 ARC prove that the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge has got its best days.

Prototype C.A.R.2 during development out the end years 80s

In the Flanders, reservations were made from in the beginning about the development of the G11 drum bolt weapon system and its caseless rectangular ammunition. Inserting the cartridge at 90° angel into a rotating chamber can in theory pose a safety problem, especially if cook off occurs before the chamber is aligned with the barrel axis. Although this is theoretically obvious, there has been no catastrophic failure reported involving a drum bolt anywhere?

The rectangle dummy cartridge from the beginning of the G11 project caused a too limited magazine capacity compared to the cylindric dummy cartridges. The rectangle cartridges could not function in a double row magazine, while cylindric cartridges cause no feeding problems in a double row magazine.  A double row magazine doubles the magazine capacity and provides more firepower.  

The small caliber of 4.7 mm has not a chance for military use compared to the new heavier calibers 6 mm and 6.8 mm.

The study of the caseless ammunition concept in the Fanders led to the development of a new prototype, the C.A.R. of VBR-Belgium. This system used only a central drive plate to move a minimum of parts required for the weapon's reload cycle.

The basic parts of the CAR system.

The basis is a fixed and sturdy frame, a fixed thick barrel that is susceptible to caliber enlargement and that offers sufficient strength and possibility to be provided with cooling fins. The central drive plate is driven by a gas piston and all operating moving parts as, rotation of the drum bolt, the cartridge insert hook and the hammer mechanism grip in at the right spot on de drive plate during cycling of the system.


The frame of the C.A.R., the gas piston, the central drive plate with teeth that match with the teeth in the drum bolt, the cartridge insert hook and the hammer mechanism.

Although the G11 with its rotating bolt passed military testing, one of the first failures of the C.A.R. system has given the designer the shivers. A small chip of metal had gotten between the rotating bolt and the frame causing the rotating bolt to jam at an angle of 45° with the chamber completely sealed and not aligned with the barrel axis. Had there been a life caseless ammunition cartridge in an overheated chamber, cook off could have blown up the entire system. The reaction of the designer was of course ... OMG ... this is not safe! The system needed to be opened and the drum bold removed with a soft hammer. This type of blockage can also happen in the field even some sand in the magazine that is feed together with a cartridge in the drum bolt can cause a catastrophic failure.  

Original rapport about the 45° angle dangerous ghost position which gave rise to the immediate abandonment of drum bolt developments at VBR-Belgium.

As a result, the Flemish designer Rik Van Bruaene considered all cartridge input systems that are not directly aligned with the barrel axis as unsafe! The 90° rotating chamber concept was abandoned and research continued into other caseless ammunition systems with fewer safety concerns. These new caseless ammunition concepts can be made in larger calibers up to the level of the 6.8x51mm Spear energy platform.

Although most Russian soldiers are not equipped with a level 4 body armor and the current military conflict in Ukarine has not shown to NATO that there is a body armor penetration problem. If one now reverses it from the Russian point of view, the Russian army has a problem with the widespread use of class 4 body armor in the Ukrainian army. The US army considers the body armor penetration problem of the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge also as a serious problem because bulletproof vests class 4 are also extensively used by the Chinese army.

Whether the SIG M5 Spear 6.8x51mm rifle will now cause a revolutionary shift in armament remains to be seen, as current sniper rifles in the caliber .338 Lapua magnum already pierce a class 4 body armor.

On the battlefield, the protection value of the class 4 plate is simply increased by placing two bulletproof plates one after the other. Not all plate carriers are able to apply this principle.

The 5.11 TacTec plate carrier can be equipped with heavier or thicker protection than class 4 without any problems. Two bulletproof plates glued together with Duck tape can be placed in the TacTec plate carrier and stop the SIG M5 Spear 6.8x51mm ammunition without any problem.  

 5.11 TacTec Plate carrier