Springfield Hellion: The VHS-2 Bullpup Comes to the US

Today we are taking a look at the Springfield Hellion, the semiautomatic US version of HS Produkt’s VHS-2 bullpup rifle. The VHS-2 development goes back almost 20 years, with a first VHS rifle and then the revised second model entering production in 2014. These were trialed by the French, and came in second place overall to the H&K 416 – but not for any deficiency in the design.

The Hellion / VHS is an extremely simple to work with design, including completely ambidextrous controls, adjustable length of pull, and provision for any sort of modern optics. A two-position gas regulator allows easy suppressed use, and the ejection can be set to either left or right – although it can be fired from either shoulder regardless of the ejection side.

45 Comments

  1. Hi Ian, nice rifle!
    But I have some other topic I like to inform you.
    Youtube since one week play COMMERCIALS in front or within your videos or similar weapon related videos.
    Something they refuse for years because of you know bad bad bad……things…..
    I just want to remind you that YOUTUBE should not forget to give you your credentials for changing their policy!

  2. Just in the interest of picky historical accuracy: Croatia did not have a civil war. Croatia, and ethnic Croatian populations outside of Croatia, were involved in the Yugoslav civil war.

    • The war was a classic example of aggression of one dominant country trying to expand its territories against the others (Serbia against Croatia and Bosnia&Herzegovina).
      In Croatia this plan failed, but in B&H they scored half of territory (not having half of population), after much “ethnic clensing”.
      Last push for territory was in Kosovo in 1999. when “international community” suddenly realized the repeating scenario should be stopped (same thing that they could do already in 1991. but were not interested) so NATO intervened, though from territorial standpoint the Kosovo was legally part of Serbia, which was not the case for any of other territories they invaded prior.

      So, calling it a civil war (which Ian repeatedly and ignorantly does) is a gross insult for any of the people from that part of the world, and I especially do not recommend it if one is talking live with person there, an unnecessary faux-pas.

      On the other hand, as I said it here already, ww2 in former Kingdom of Yugoslavia was a textbook example of a civil war – and in historical publications it is almost never called like it, because of 50 years of yugoslavian cold war relations muddling the historical water.

      • IMHO it was a civil war following the breaking up of yugoslavia. I mean, they were all citizens of Yugoslavia before the war (or rather sires of wars) started after all and not really long independent. The first war being the ten days war in Slovenia, when it declared independence from Yugoslavia. Then the other member states of Yugoslavia followed declaring their own independeces. Depending on the perspective you could also call these wars of independence or a civil war. It depends who wins in the end I guess 😉 Kosovo was a bit of a different matter being part of Serbia and ended up with the USA having a convenient outpost there in the form of Camp Bondsteel controlling the Balkans and keeping Russia out of the area. And turning the Kosovo into the shithole country of Europe along the way.

        • It’s all a matter of perspective and time. If you were a Yugoslav of the 1960s and 1970s, I’m pretty sure that you would describe what happened in 1990 as an insane outbreak of civil violence brought on by malign outside influences. If you were a Croat of the 2000s, things probably look a hell of a lot different. I know the Slovenes of my acquaintance think they were fighting the equivalent of the American Revolutionary War, but some of their immediate neighbors regard them as German-sponsored traitorous insurrectionists.

          Who is right? Dunno; give it a few centuries, and maybe we’ll be able to say something dispassionate and profound. Now? Too damn close to the event.

  3. Finally, a bullpup that is truly well and thoroughly thought out for the end user needs and with ease of field maintenance in mind. What calibers are available?

  4. One question; is functionality impeded if you allow BOTH ejection ports to function? For example, if the pin used to deactivate one went missing, i’m guessing that both ports open, but ejection will only happen out the side the bolt has been set to?
    Thanks.

    • Dirt will get in, but that’s about it. If you use a suppressor and didn’t mind a little extra gas in the face, it might even help to have both ports open. Thoughts?

  5. It seems to be a good setup and would like shoot one for sure.I’m curious did they send out all the demo’s with $1800 LPVO’s or did you and James Reeves beat up the same rifle?

    • They sent the rifle with that Nightforce. It looks like all the demo ones had them; I’m not sure why. Maybe Springfield got a bulk discount? They did not mention anything to me about it.

      • Shipping the demos with a Terminus ACOG clone, from a marketing perspective, would make no sense at all if the intent to eliminate the possibility of a junk optic skewing the tests. Yeah, I had to ponder that too.

  6. Interesting, I am curious re Springfield in front of Hellion. Is this offered by springfield Armory or what. I am somewhat aware of the firearms scene and have never seen anything by SA shown as only “sprinffield”.

    Puzzled Wolfie

  7. Laserdisc possie represent!

    The trigger pack looks almost identical to a P/PS90, from the quick glance I got, form and function I guess

  8. Interesting rifle, but it still has the inherent poor ergonomics of the bullpup design to contend with. It is bad enough when you can’t index the magazine for reloading with your fingertips, and have to settle for randomly shoving it into the vicinity of your armpit and praying, but that whole “let’s put the magazine and bolt release where only your off hand can actuate them…” is pure madness in the midst of a firefight.

    I’m gonna say it again: The people who design these things never, ever had to actually use a rifle in a fight for their lives. If they had, they’d have realized that none of the supposed virtues of a bullpup actually do much for the rifleman trying to stay alive under fire.

    This is likely a better rifle than the L85, but that ain’t saying much. Even the X95, which arguably solves some of the ergonomic problems inherent to bullpup controls, has the bolt catch/release back behind the magazine–Which, in my book, is a major detractor for a fighting rifle.

    Bullpups are going to keep having issues with these things until we transcend the cartridge/magazine paradigm. If you didn’t have to reload the damn things every 30 rounds, then the issues wouldn’t be that big a deal, but since we’re operating under the constraints of the technology we actually have…? Yeah; no bullpups for me. I’d advise anyone taking a rifle into harm’s way to study the issues carefully, and make sure that the benefits outweigh the problems before selecting a bullpup design.

    • Thales Australia together with AHQ is developing bullpup rifl… next-generation individual weapon chambered in 6.8mm calibre. See 1st photo from top
      https://fragoutmag.com/thales-developing-new-6-8mm-close-combat-weapon/
      interestingly
      The contract also calls for Thales to develop a magazine-fed support weapon version of the assault rifle, potentially fitted with a top-mounted 50-round drum magazine. This weapon will have a combat rate-of-fire of 90-120rds per minute sustained for longer than the assault rifle version.

      The company is also developing a training rifle chambered in 7.62mm NATO as a surrogate training rifle to reduce cost, retaining the 6.8mm weapon for operations. This will include a 7.62mm frangible round which is less damaging to training range infrastructure and facilities.
      So maybe top-feed magazine Australian tradition (see OWEN MACHINE CARBINE xor F1) will be revived, even if in limited scale and Australians would get top-feed bullpup weapon.
      This weapon is supposed to fire a single-piece 6.8mm cartridge made from a material “more advanced than traditional brass” and better able to cope with higher pressures. apparently inspired by new-fangled ammunition for U.S. NGSW programme.
      I am wondering how Australian’s “individual weapon” would be compare ergonomics-wise against existing 5,56×45 bull-pup rifles?

      • A top feed 50rnd “drum” surely it would need to be an fn90 style “box” in a bullpup; given were your cheek goes, on a bullpup. Even with new hypothetical (shorter) via being telescoped or such, in polymer… A drum, like say lewis sized would fit but not if you want to use conventional sights, maybe with very offset to the left and high… Sights; or a laser. Try it with a dinner plate, see thats a funny cheek weld.

    • Agreed.

      And I reiterate that the main reason we are afflicted with bullpups to begin with is that the people and armies designing IFVs don’t know WTF they are doing.

      Trying to turn every IFV into a light tank/tank destroyer invariably results in a vehicle with inadequate interior volume for actual soldiers. Trying to “shrink” an average 1.8m tall infantryman with full kit to fit in a box with less overhead height that the average crossover civilian vehicle ends up with an interior with no room for the infantryman’s basic tool- the rifle.

      And everybody says the solution is to make the rifle smaller in OAL.

      So you end up with either;

      1. A “bullpup” rifle, with all of its problems, in an attempt to keep the barrel long enough to get decent effective range (out to about 350 meters) or

      2. A “short” rifle/”carbine” with a barrel too abbreviated to get either decent range or accuracy, with greater muzzle signature to blind you at night, deafen you all the time, and give your position away every single time.

      Note that I define effective range as 350 meters or so. Personally, I think that’s a stretch; historically, other than specialized snipers, individual rifle kills have rarely been much beyond 100 meters. (“Volley fire” after about 1910 is another way of saying “We didn’t buy enough medium machine guns”.)

      Yes, the present fashion for “taking back the infantry half-kilometer” is BS. The “infantry” never had it to begin with; just the machine gunners.

      Like it or not, the Wehrmacht had the right idea. The machine gun does the work; the infantry section is there to protect its flanks while it’s working, or moving, or whatever.

      Ideally, we’ll eventually have a rifle with a 300-400 meter effective range that is neither a bullpup or a short-barreled ear-buster.

      But even then, it will still be secondary to the machine gun.

      And they will both need to fit inside the IFV. So coming up with a better design and tactical concept for it should be the Next Big Thing.

      cheers

      eon

      • Eon echoes my feelings. The bullpup isn’t the answer to a question that nobody was asking, it is more an answer to a bunch of questions nobody should have been asking in the first damn place. If you’re starting out from a premise that the vehicle hauling your infantry around on a battlefield is a “fighting vehicle”, you’ve lost your damn mind. The equation simply doesn’t work, when you go to work out the armor/armament/carrying ratios. If you’ve got enough room for troops, then you don’t have enough room for armament and armor, which is nuts for a vehicle you’re going to be taking into harm’s way deliberately. The saying that goes “You can’t have your cake, and eat it, too…” ought to be engraved on the insides of these geniuses eyelids, because that’s just as true in building armored vehicles as it is anything else.

        The argument that “Everyone is doing it…” doesn’t hold a lot of water, for me. “Everyone” is a bunch of idiots, when you get down to historical cases, because “Everyone” is usually faddish and walking around with their reality distortion controls dialed up to about 11. Cold, hard reality has a way of intruding, and that reality is that the Infantry Fighting Vehicle concept was something designed for a battlefield that didn’t eventuate, and a war which never happened. If you were sending hordes of motorized infantry to cross an irradiated Europe to reach the Channel, OK, maybe an IFV makes kinda-sorta good sense, but my question has always been “OK, you’re at the Channel… What now?”.

        The whole IFV concept is basically “Imma gonna design a vehicle to fight a pyrrhic battle for a war I can only win by destroying what I’m fighting over… With nukes… And, chemical agents. Maybe even biological ones…”. The reality is, in a conventional fight, putting all that firepower and all those troops into the same vehicle is crippling that vehicle when it comes to actually performing any of those entirely separate missions, and ohbytheway, now you’re gonna give the crew of that vehicle a whole bunch of extra buddies to ride and die with. Nuts. If you’re hauling around infantry, your primary function is to get those infantry to where they’re needed, not get into armor-on-armor duels with other armor. Putting those weapons systems on top of an IFV just tempts the commander to go play George S. Patton with them, and wind up like Custer when the Sioux showed up. It makes no damn sense–If you’re big and light enough to haul troops, you can’t put enough armor on to survive a one-on-one with a tank or other AFV, and you’re also a hell of a lot more noticeable. Not to mention, all that ammo you’re hauling around…? LOL: Can you say “Brew up?”.

        IFV: Not even once. That’s an entirely Elbonian concept, if I ever saw one. And, because we haven’t fought a major conventional war in several generations, everybody is playing the game. Wait until the after-war reviews, then see how many idiots are sticking with the IFV as an idea.

        Of course, how many continued on with full-power rifles after WWI? You can never underestimate the power of delusion when it comes to military affairs.

        • It’s like the idea of the rifle and MG using the same round. Two different missions that require two different sets of ballistics.

          The only thing that is a bigger mistake than a full-power MG-level round in the IW is starting with a round specifically for the IW, then deciding (usually after losing a few fights) that you need more range and power without changing the bleedin’ cartridge case. Because that costs $$$$, what with changing the “platform” and etc. Politicians especially hate that part.

          You end up with a cartridge (like 5.56 x 45mm M855)that is supposed to perform like a larger, more sensibly designed cartridge (like 7.62 x 51mm M993), but instead mainly increases bore wear due to higher propellant burning temperatures, velocity and etc.

          As far back as WW1 some people (like Soddy) knew this approach mainly made the rifle useless. The Pattern 14 rifle was an excellent design, as the later Enfield variants in 0.303in and .30-06 showed. (To say nothing of the civilian 30S Remington.) The 0.276in Enfield cartridge, like the 6mm Lee that preceded it, was an accident going somewhere to happen. They’d all have been better off sticking to 7 x 57mm Mauser and accepting that 300 meters was about as far as an individual soldier can reasonably shoot.

          Leave the long-range shooting to the machine gunners. And let them have a cartridge that can handle the job without trying to put it into the rifle, or worse yet designing the MG around a “one-size-fits-all” round that will end up defeating the purpose of the rifle.

          cheers

          eon

          • Only people who got it halfway right were the Swedes during the interwar years. That heavy cartridge for the MGs was a much better idea than what other forces were doing, which was pumping up the individual weapon cartridge to meet the needs of the MG. They stuck with the 6.5 Swedish for the rest of their infantry weapons, and that was the right call.

          • Kirk;

            The Italians came so close with the 8 x 59mm Breda for the Mo37 and other HMGs. Ballistically a .300 H&H Magnum which strayed on to the battlefield, and proved to be just the thing for perforating trucks and etc. out to 1,000 yards in the Western Desert. The British 8th Army, especially the LRDG, loved it.

            The 6.5 x 52mm Carcano was an entirely adequate rifle round and the Italians were smart to stick with it.

            Contrary to myth, the 7.35 x 52mm Carcano was not developed due to perceived inadequacies of the 6.5mm in Ethiopia, it came about because the Regia Aeronautica wanted a heavier MG round for their aircraft MGs. Which makes perfect sense in that sort of shooting.

            Its use as a rifle round (which never entirely replaced the 6.5mm) was the result of a standardization drive starting in 1938 that was short-circuited by the war. Which is why you find M38 Carcanos in both 7.35 and 6.5. Many of the latter have dates around 1942-43, as they were built as 7.35s and then rebarreled to 6.5 as a result of ammunition production shortfalls.

            If the RA had just adopted the 8 x 59mm Breda as their standard aircraft machine gun round, they could have saved everybody a lot of trouble.

            cheers

            eon

          • “(…)the 7.35 x 52mm Carcano was not developed due to perceived inadequacies of the 6.5mm in Ethiopia, it came about because the Regia Aeronautica wanted a heavier MG round for their aircraft MGs.(…)”
            Regia Aeronautica used Breda-SAFAT since 1935
            https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breda-SAFAT
            smaller version consumed 7,7 mm (303 British) cartridge. Why would they elect to run development of marginally different cartridge?

          • Daweo;

            Rimless vs. rimmed. They wanted a round that could be fed reasonably, like the 7.9 x 57mm. Not one requiring the pull-back-drop-down-push-forward gymnastics of the 0.303in in the Vickers-Maxim.

            And in that at least, they were exactly right.

            cheers

            eon

    • An fg42 with a 20rnd box on the right, and a 30 round box on the left… Forward ejection like one of those fn2000’s and a magazine cut off/switching mag, switch; like one of those keltec twin tube mag shotguns… No? He he.

      • Er, split chambers… (Split chamber being, a chamber extension; a circular piece that pops up and extends the chamber length.) Say if you had a hypothetical 5.56x51mm round and a 5.56x45mm round “The 51mm being the same case but longer” then… You have a lever on the barrel, which if you push forward pushes the barrel etc forward by say half an inch. In so doing allowing a spring loaded chamber extension to pop up behind the normal chamber, so its chamber mouth now sits were the original chamber mouth sat… And then you use the right hand mag for the long cartridge.

        Ar15 modified gas tube system lark, which just sees the gas pipe being slightly longer and thus can work in the barrel to the rear format or the forward version. Solves the operating system complications, of said layout in principle he he.

        Possibly complicating the issue; but point being you get the slightly longer barrel of the fg42 layout “if shorter than a bullpup” but with a way to make it fire at more distance. You could operate it usually via 30rd x45mm cases on the right and just keep a 20rd box of the x51mm case in your pocket etc.

        Gas seal, well it would be fair flush. Or if that didn’t work, you could maybe have the (barrel push forward lever) operate to “index” the barrel into the pop up chamber I.e. Via a step/cut out arrangement.

        In effect turning the infantry rifle into a designated marksman type rifle; if ever needed, perhaps in 6.8… Just thinking 6.8 is still not 7.62x51mm but a “boosted” 6.8 case of some type might be more close; and thus try to solve the multiple gun issue.

        The pop up chamber wouldn’t really be very big, or weigh much. Anyway you can see that developed from my fg42 right and left mag concept in the past ten minutes, in relation to the topic of a bullpup that is “better” than, but different than a forward magazine design.

        No? Ok he he.

          • Thats very cool “Sort of like a drill bit; think I have seen that before.” but I meant just case length as a oppose width. Could have a 6.8x63mm vs a 6.8x45mm type case difference but the only difference between the cases is; length.

            So the (pop up) chamber would be about 20mm wide, not huge; barrel handle pushes barrel forward, and back, so you could seat said chamber “via steps in both” by pulling the barrel back.

            Without AR style direct impingement a pop up chamber in a “auto” operating system might be hard to do, but with it, essentially the gas would just pop out into the bolt 20mm behind were it does now, then in the forward position it would pop out; as per. Might work.

          • Via the gas pipe being 20mm longer I.e. It sits in the bolt carrier in both positions as described, roughly he he.

          • Gas regulation, tap thing at the usual place I.e. Up front if needed to regulate the different cases.

            Ways and means…

          • The bolt carrier would pick up the longer case, sooner than the shorter one (once it’s mag has been cut off); but again I do not see that as a impossible problem, it might not even be one, but if it was there are simple ways to address that… A block in the back behind the recoil spring that pushes it forward or back.

            Ways. Anyway I think that would be quite good really; Taliban causing issues at range, pop in a 6.8x63mm Round.

          • Actually it wouldn’t as the barrel is further forward, meh point being, few simple adjustments in whatever form; transform the rifle. The right mag, would start in the same place at the back as the left one, but pass it at the front.

            Along those lines, he he.

          • Er, well no… The pop up chamber… So actually the “big” right hand mag, would start before the shorter one, anyway I will shut up; ways anyway.

          • That Dyer rifle’s basic concept is just… Nuts. I wonder what it would cost to actually produce, and how long it would last in service. I’d lay long odds that the cost/benefit ratio would be damn near million to one.

            I can’t see anything with a mechanical basis for setup being at all workable. You want the same cartridge filling multiple roles between individual weapon and the crew-served support one, I think the most likely practical approach would be to have the propellant charge be set up for effective use in two different barrel lengths–Shorter barrel would give the propellant package less time to burn, leaving lower pressures and lower velocities for the projectile as a result. Longer barrel would allow the propellant more time to burn, equaling more power for the projectile. You could have what amounted to a two-stage propellant–One stage that mostly gets wasted in the shorter individual weapon barrel, and the second stage that only contributes when fired in the longer support weapon barrel.

            This would be enormously wasteful, very expensive, and I suspect that you’d be better off going with a two-cartridge solution, each tailored to its role. But, if you had to do it… I think that’s a better way of achieving it than some mechanical adaptation that would be horribly prone to parts breakage.

            I do wonder if there wouldn’t be some way of doing a “dial-a-yield” on propellants by means of having two different primers, as well–Say you had an electrically-sensitive booster that only ignited when an electric charge was induced, and that if it wasn’t, you just got a normal propellant “shot”. Some kind of externally-applied catalyst, maybe? Microwaves?

            What else might have effect on the propellant that we could use to get two consistent yet different results under control?

            What would be ideal would be some kind of liquid propellant that you could meter into the chamber behind the projectile, but that opens up a whole new set of problems, ones we couldn’t manage to make work with artillery-scale weapons, so I think that going down that path in small arms is questionable at this point on the technology ladder.

  9. I agree with Kirk and Eon. In any intimate relationship, particularly when its hot, sweaty, and dark, you must be able to touch the important bits without looking. And regardless of what the overly educated but not overly bright designers believe, size does matter. A rifle is a weapon, not an accessory for an armored fighting vehicle.

  10. How many antennas, spoilers, moldings and rear wings…
    A little more and you get F1, with its tiny wheels.
    But I don’t see a coffee maker or a DVD player…
    It’s no good. 🙁

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