HS Produkt of Croatia makes an interesting modern bullpup rifle, the VHS. The rifle has gone through several major design iterations in the past two decades or so, and the most recent version (the VHS-2) was part of the competition to replace the FAMAS in French military service. It ultimately placed second, behind the HK 416, and I have been very interested to get a closer look at one for some time. Well, today I was able to!
What we have here is not just a VHS-2, but actually one of the group of rifles actually tested by the French, designated a VHS-F2. It has the longer of the two barrel lengths (about 19 inches) and uses STANAG M16-type magazines (although a FAMAS-magazine adapter was developed and offered). So let’s dig into it!
An almost-French rifle 🙂
The rifle shows a great deal of thought for usability and manufacturing. It’s not always so obvious how much thought goes into a machine for these qualities, but in this case it’s really obvious.
Now, this a smartly designed modern assault rifle which beats potentially anything I have seen so far. As much as the Tavor might have carried the banner of progress, it is possible that this Croatian creation has eclipsed it. Here we can see, that the perceived bullpup’s ‘shortcomings’ can be bypassed – relatively easy. This is a far-far cry from SA-85, among others.
Of course, the gas powered system is superior to anything we know and here again, the designers took advantage of excellent combination of gas tappet with a short-stroke based, compact Bolt carrier. One has to wonder WHY the French did not get serious about it. Fed-up by Clairon-like shape? No, I think it was pure jealousy; Croatians beat them in their own game and that is for proud French unthinkable. Yup, Croatia is in the “eastern” Europe, right? 🙂
The core of the structural solution, part of common sense and unique design details (such as the “dog-leg” bolt pin) is obviously in excellent utilization of composite materials. I suspect that creators of this product were exposed to this type of work beforehand while working in Germany (my best guess).
What was said about rifle, the same applies for the Grenade launcher. Look for comparison at a clumsy similar H&K product. It is a world of difference between in bulk and manufacturing efficiency. True, the second and third have it a bit easier; that is a natural process of learning by example.
Even as a German I feel kind of sad to see this newcomer being beaten by boring HK offering a boring rifle…
The author Milan Kundera once argued that Prague, not Paris, should be considered the true seat of modernism in the arts, because it was a multi-ethnic cosmopolitan center sharing German as a common language for the trade of ideas. The Austro-Hungarian empire (or more broadly, the Alps and the Danube area) spawned, I argue, a similar interaction in arms-making, starting with Steyr and Sauer and proceeding on to Brno, and now to Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia and Croatia. You might even consider Turkey part of this trend. I would guess here we have an industrial tradition (and technical education) melded into the need to think outside the box. Glock being an example of this — a collection of quite old ideas welded into modern materials and modern simplified manufacture. (Wonder what the Hungarians will come up with?) My guess is that HS engineers got their ideas from closer to home than Germany.
“My guess is that HS engineers got their ideas from closer to home than Germany.”
That may be so, however the Germany had been a popular work destination to many Yugoslav citizens since 1960s. They returned home and applied their new skills there.
Same time you are right about advantages of multiple nationalities melded into one under old A-H Empire. I hope it will continue in modern form. We have the V4 in waiting, for case of contingency and you probably know which one I talk about 🙂
As far as Hungary’s military light arms, they chose Czech designed (made under license in Hungary) rifles and pistols, as you would expect from Central-European spirit of cooperation. Same did the Slovaks.
Hungarians used automatic-pistol developed by FEG from High-Power
and its’ derivative
Czech out P07/P09 pistols. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_equipment_of_the_Hungarian_Ground_Forces
There is also Ferlach and before 1860, Brescia and Val Trompe, to add to the Austrian gun making areas.
Valle Trompia in Brescia is where Beretta is seated https://www.bresciatourism.it/en/things-to-do/valle-trompia/
“The Trompia valley is like a concentration of the history
of the area. It’s home to the Headquarters of Beretta, the oldest factory in the world for sport and hunting arms. still in operation today.”
Something like Thuringia in Germany I suppose.
I had the chance briefly to examine one of those a few years ago and was quite impressed. I especially like the simplicity of allowing fire from either shoulder by using a big old case deflector, rather than the hooky gimcracks seen on, say, the FN2000.
Of course, user-configurable ambidexterity does carry the risk of the lads assembling the thing wrong…
They’ve been in use for a while by Iraqi Government CT units, so have seen action.
I would love to buy one of these!! Very impressive setup and engineering!!
I think a few more pins on this could have been captive pins.
Or at least put some holes in the furniture to retain them ala G3/33/mp5
That is stupid, imo.
If you are disassembling rifle, keep track where something is.
I can’t see how having a place to stick your two non retaining takedown pins being stupid for some reason.
There are two holes in the front handguard to stick them in, however on this particular example, they are hidden (and unusable) behind the side picatinny rails
why did HK win? price and/or compensation orders. guessed wrong/right?
HK won because FN goofed up its offer.
The SCAR end first in trial but FN offer was rejected as not valid because of a misinterpreted administrative requirement by FN.
Price was a factor, but I’m told there was also a technical issue with the VHS-2:
“…the cross pin retaining the firing pin is “locked” in place by a o-ring, and sometimes during heavy firing this cross pin was just sliding out of the bolt carrier, inducing failures to feed.” -EmericD
Sounds like a solvable problem to me, but of course it’s easier to buy another gun that doesn’t have the same problem – especially if it’s cheaper…
Why did HK win because they(GERMANY) never disagrees openly with us(FRANCE) about anything and vice versa. We actually had VERNEY CARNON who were capable of producing a similar clone but their gross profits was not considered high enough by the french government.. The higher your profits the more chance you will still be in the (gun) business 20 years from now
Verney Carron was rejected because of the minimum company revenue requirement
Similar was situation with a Slovak pistol maker’s bid whose well established line of production was sidelined in favor of Czech made pistols from CZUB. Yet, their bidding price was lower that the foreign competitor’s. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Power
Money talks, nobody walks. It must be spent one way or the other 🙂
I believe you are right. I read about the mentioned French private company which was in fact for number of years supplying to French civilian market AR15 style rifles. From what I read, they were not able to deliver the quantity coupled with requested certifications, services and warrantees (which seem to be more important than technical attributes), in precisely mandated schedule as French government stipulated.
I have always wondered what the inside of these looked like. Thank you, Ian.
There was as much chance of France adopting a Croatian rifle as there was of Croatia beating France to win the World Cup in 2018. Some things are just not “allowed” to happen.
Much like VHS will not replace SA-85, no matter how good it is. Pride and politics is strange and often dangerous mix.
It’s much more an institution thing…
Think of the levels of denial and decades of cover-ups from various Churches (especially the Roman Church in Ireland and the closely related churches with Irish priests in America, Britain and Australia) About kiddy fiddling
Peter Wright’s book “spy catcher” (I think it might still be banned in Britain) covered some of the denial within the British spying organisations, following the “Cambridge spies” Kim Philby etc, which was blamed on their homosexuality, rather than on having recruiting known communists, simply on the basis that they had graduated from the right colleges at Cambridge
The banning of Wright’s book in Britain (when it was available everywhere else in the world) added another layer to the attempt to cover up the institutional embarrassment.
The embarrassment and cover up about the SA80 was demonstrated when Jan Stevenson’s “Handgunner” magazine got politically disappeared for a year in the 1980s, for publishing an article that described a very long list of problems with the two
absolute pieces of shitguns.
I’ve read pieces that speculate on the psychology of cover ups and denials like those,
Which portray the people who indulge in ghe cover-up as believing that the institution is genuinely valuable and deserves to be protected from harm…
I suspect that there’s a lot of messiness beneath that surface.
Infact, it’s said that people who have narcissistic personalities (and think that that’s very much at play here) can never rid themselves of the nagging feeling that they’re incompetent/ not good enough/ just kiddy fiddling, bullying scum.
And that drives them to act out their beloved, grandiose false self that they want to see reflected in the eyes and reactions of other people
And to pathetically try to suppress any evidence that contradicts their bullshit and points to their true nature.
We’re seeing that all around us right now, the censorship and narcissistic gaslighting are working overtime
The SA80 and the disappeared handgunner magazine is a good exemplar for the principles.
Just checked up,
Spycatcher was banned in England, but not in Scotland
I believe as you say, Keith. I have my name for it – Tribalism; which has been a defensive mechanism for any society based on proven medieval practices, same from one country to another. Is it necessarily wrong or deviant? No, absolutely not; it is normal conduct of power structure and system of values preservation. You do what you are used to and what keeps things going for you. That is the tradition.
Keith, what you’re describing is the same thing I’ve been observing for years, and railing against.
Pournelle called it the “Iron Law of Bureaucracy”, which states that the inevitable result of setting up an organization of any sort is that it will seek to perpetuate itself and expand.
My corollary to that is “Human beings are lousy at hierarchy”. Every institution that I can think of has corrupted itself, along a timeline modified only by the heat of exigency–If the original crisis that led to the creation goes on, so too will the institution before it lapses into a horror show.
What I’ve concluded from this, is that you cannot hand-wave away the decay effect. It’s as much an iron law of nature as gravity. You want long-term success, you have to avoid the monolith power blocks and rely on small, agile elements that ad-hoc themselves to success without ever stopping to accumulate the cruft of power-hungry incompetent apparatchiks who want to be in place to make decisions ‘cos that’s where the power is, and they get off on it. And, generally, they can figure out an edge to make money off of it.
Instead of “Persian Empire” as a model, we ought to embrace “Grecian chaos”, with dozens of small city-states in a constant sea of strife and turmoil. That’s what we love, and that’s what works in terms of solving problems. The main reason the Europeans triumphed during the Age of Exploration isn’t that they had better technology or were genetically superior, it’s because they had a cultural legacy of competition, excellence (else you won’t survive…), and adaptation. The primitives and the empires they encountered were steady-state types, inflexible and hide-bound; contrast the Chinese mandarin with the British government official, who was lucky if he could vaguely do his job, whatever it was, in the face of his fellow countryman and their general disdain for authority.
Everywhere you’ve got an authoritarian culture, whether its from top-down or bottom-up, you’ve got failure. Want success? Route around.
That’s how the US Army got its last MG, the M240. And, that’s a damn indictment of the status quo if I ever heard one…
Interesting thing is that french Rafale were chosen this year for new croatian warplanes.
So, why not trading vice-versa for rifles…
That’s interesting indeed. Thanks for pointing this out. I guess Dassault must be happy lately, with several Rafale export prospects…
As a matter of coarse comparison, this is newly released Ukrainian rifle offered in a wide variety of calibers including intermediate ones such as 5.56×45 and 7.62×39 https://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2021/07/06/ukrainian-magna-ballista-semi-auto-bullpup-rifle/
In visual comparison with the Croatian rifle it looks kind of spartan. Its action locks thru rollers operated by gas piston driven rod. There is a video attached showing 12.5x55mm Russian round which is on top of caliber scale. The penalty is obviously an extra bulk necessary to provide for such hefty shot. It is no surprise it fires in semi-auto mode only.
That new Ukranian rifle has a frankly overblown name! I do prefer the Croatian rifle. From what I could see in Ian’s video, it is better executed and ranks highly in my rather limited list of ‘good’ bullpups. Still prefer a conventional rifle configuration though, but I recognise that this VHS product deserves a closer look by countries wanting a modern rifle. Especially one that is produced by someone who is not one of the ‘usual suspects’…
Also read somewhere that Romania is considering it (including licenced manufacturing), which is interesting, given the availability of other central options produced in central European nations like Czech CZ 806 BREN 2 which is being very successful in the export market.
I am not a bullpup fan, but this is a really well engineered piece of equipment.
The Croatian rifle is very interesting.
Despite the dubious technical solutions and unknown user properties, it is interesting as an attempt to embody the maximum of useful qualities in one product.
The large weight, and most importantly, the stupid blocking system, does not leave her a chance.
Even if the rest is okay.