At this year’s MSPO, Polish manufacture HS Product presented the new Croatian Assault Rifle. Apart from pistols (in the US sold as Springfield XD) little was known about rifle manufacturing at HS Product. We were shown two models, both full length army assault rifles, the earlier VHS-1 and the current VHS-2.
Basic overview (note we did not have a chance to shoot these guns but here are my thoughts on their design):
VHS – 1:
- Bullpup design
- Polymer body
- cal. 5.56×45
- Charging handle similar to that of a H&K G36, swing to right/left and pull back to charge the weapon. Unfortunately the free space between the gun and the upper carry handle/optic assembly is insufficient for the comfortable operation of the charging handle.
- Tappet type closed gas system operated (much like the FN SCAR)
- Selector/safety switch located in front of the trigger, bolt-catch release lever located in the upper part of the pistol grip to be operated with the thumb.
- Red-dot optic – VERY small objective, awkward for fast target acquisition.
- Balance is rather poor for a bullpup with the gun being front heavy. A 40mm GL only adds to the problem.
VHS – 2:
- Bullpup design
- Polymer body – the polymer used on this version does not inspire confidence.
- cal. 5.56×45
- Access to the charging handle is obstructed even further with the change of the upper carry handle to a rail assembly. Bad idea if you ask me.
- Tappet type closed gas system operated (much like the FN SCAR).
- Selector/safety switch located above the pistol grip to be operated with the thumb.
- Bolt-catch release has been moved to the rear behind the magazine well, as on for example the IWI Tavor. However, this is not a button and you have to slide a knob parallel to the axis of the bore in order to release the bolt. Awkward and hard to do as the mechanism packs a lot of tension.
- Red-dot optic – same thing as on the VHS-1 but a rail mounted version. Still a VERY small objective, awkward for fast target acquisition.
- Adjustable cheek piece.
- Ambidextrous extraction port.
- This gun is also quite front heavy.
I do not have an issue with bullpup guns as long as their design has been well thought through and they prove to be reliable. The guns reviewed here do not meet my expectations. Some of their design concepts are just too awkward for me to call them “Rifles designed for combat”. If you don’t care about how long it takes to reload the gun or your not worried about having your hand stuck inside the handguard while charging the weapon, I say go for it. It might just prove to be a very reliable and accurate target rifle but, a serious fighter this one is not.
Of the two, I prefer the VHS-1. I feel like the VHS-2 is a sort of hybrid where people tried to forcibly implement the design concepts and standards of today’s modern assault rifle. Some things are best kept as they were. Word has it that the U.S Department of Defense is not worried about these design flaws, and has already filed an order for 500 VHS-2 rifles for testing.