It’s been nearly five years since the peculiar L5 rifle design was unveiled, which drew a lot of attention from firearm enthusiasts and the like due to its unique look and mechanism. Will it, however, live up to its initial hype and make it into the hands of the military?

Made in Colorado

Martin Grier invented the five-barrel electronic rifle in his garage in Colorado Springs, for which he spent $500,000 out of his pocket. His efforts were not in vain when the Army noticed his craft and requested a prototype for testing in 2018 as a potential replacement for the current service rifle.

Grier’s initial prototype weighs 6.5 pounds, less than half the weight of the Army’s current lightweight M4 Carbine. Its lightweight is primarily due to the rifle’s use of electronics rather than traditional mechanics, which eliminates the use of bolts and pistons.

“A multibore firearm, with several bores within a single barrel, could potentially exhibit many of the advantages of a multibarrel design, while reducing the size, weight, and complexity disadvantages,” reads Grier’s patent application.

The Army requested a military-grade, four-barrel prototype of the L5 rifle to evaluate the platform further and determine whether it is truly what the inventor claims.

L5 Rifle’s Unique Mechanics

Aside from its eye-catching frame, the “charge block caseless ammunition” is one of the arguably best features of the L5 rifle. Instead of the traditional ammo, it has an ammunition block made of composite material stacked and chambered horizontally through the weapon. Moreover, because the shell firing is distributed through “four bores,” in the case of the Army-requested version, it has far better heat distribution than most automatic capable weapons.

Accordingly, when the shooter fires, an electronic charge triggers a firing pin striker, igniting the propellant on each hollow, sending each 6mm bullet down the bore and into its target. Each trigger pull fires the next bullet in sequence, and once all four rounds have been shot, the first “block” of ammo would be ejected, consequently loading the next. Moreover, the shooter can fire the entire block at once. Yes, all four bullets at once.

charge block
FDM’s charge block ammo comes pre-loaded in 4-round blocks. (Image source: FDM)

With this, unlike its traditional counterparts, the L5 rifle requires fewer moving parts, thus minimizing the probability of jamming—one of the most common and dreadful issues in active combat.

Because only the block is moving, the majority of the heat from the rifle circulates within the composite material and comes out with it as soon as ejected. According to FD Munition, this reduces the likelihood of the firearm overheating even after a couple of simultaneous firings. As a result, the L5 rifle can fire up to 15,000 rounds on just one battery, with an impressive short reload time.

In a 2020 interview, Grier explained the L5 rifle’s firing rates and velocity details. The excerpt is provided below.

“The velocity quote of 2,500 mph is close, with velocities of 3,400-3,600 fps. achievable with our composite Charge-Block ammunition (depending on projectile mass). The COPV (composite overwrap pressure vessel) design is much stronger than steel and can safely operate at 80k psi.

The maximum theoretical rate of fire with our electronic fire control is about 6,000 shots per minute (SPM) in full-auto mode, since the pulse width is 10ms. (1/100 sec.)
In burst-fire mode, That rate goes up to 7,500 spm since the pulses can be overlapped somewhat for short periods.

In actual use, for a personal weapon, 4-600 spm in full-auto mode seems to be the most controllable, just as with other weapons, and in burst fire 1,800 spm is the sweet spot.
Since the tech is fully scalable, in other applications, such as [Squad Automatic Weapon], or other crew-served weapons, different rates of fire may be more useful. The electronic fire control can be easily set for any rate up to the maximum.”

These rates, however, would have to be verified by the Army through thorough testing and evaluation.

Too Good To Be True?

No update on the L5 rifle review has been released since it entered the lab and testing of the Army. But, we could safely assume that it is still ongoing.

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While it is truly a marvel, the L5 rifle has several concerns regarding its specifications and features that need to be verified, such as its firing rate and velocity; whether it could withstand both dry, heat environments and cold, damp climates; the maximum firring pace before it overheats; to name a few. Some experts and enthusiasts also raise questions about malfunctions, but Grier addressed this in the same interview mentioned earlier. Accordingly, he explained, “[f]ailure to fire will be of little consequence since you’re going to eject that chamber quickly anyway. If a barrel becomes inoperable due to some sort of fault, the fire control can simply skip that barrel, allowing the shooter to still fire 75, 50, or 25 percent of their rounds, depending on how many barrels are affected.”

Questions on whether it could accommodate special accessories for special operations forces are also on the table.

Nonetheless, until the Army’s official evaluation findings are released, all claims of the L5 rifle’s promising features remain unsubstantiated. So, for now, all we can do is sit tight and wait.