Croatia appeared on the world scene as an infantry weapon manufacturer when it introduced a very successful pistol HS2000 (Croatian Self-Fire 2000), made by the company “HS Produkt”. The success of this gun was established when it was purchased by several famous police forces in the United States under the name “XD Extreme”. A few years ago, this company presented its new product, an assault rifle VHS that has quite a unique technical solution.
Plans for the developme nt of the Croatian assault rifle were together set by the foundation of the
company and the deve lopment of the pistol, in the early nineties. Zastava M-70 and other Kalashnikov models were significantly present in the Croatian armed forces. The plan was to replace them with a new product. The first prototype of the new rifle resembled the AK-47 in an upgraded bullpup version, caliber 7,62.
The weapon got its name Alan APS 95, but it was soon dropped because of its high price as well as logistical problems. At that time, it used NATO cal. 5,56x45mm, which was quite a challenge to Croatia and considering existing stocks 7,62x39mm, at a very low price on the world gun market, there was no excuse from the economic point of view. APS95 mostly looks like Israeli Galil, but it had a different cover and adjusting butt. It’s equipped with an integrated optical pointer in the carrying foot, similar to Steyr Aug and German G36. In the mid-90s, it was tested with a similar product, a so-called delayed lock. Neither solution gave satisfactory results.
Finally, they developed something called assault rifle VHS. Prototypes were manufactured and intensive testing started. They wanted this project to set its roots deeply, of course, they needed the help of the Croatian army who would become users of this new arming process. Entering NATO meant caliber 5,56mm which immediately replaced the so-called eastern products. HS Produkt got to its proper target. VHS underwent several transformations during its development process, employing several existing weapons, such as Israeli Tavor, G36… At the end, they got a rifle which definitely resembled the French FAMAS.
An important document for the development of VHS was a cooperation contract signed between MORH and HS Produkt on April 13th, 2007. It didn’t take long before a new and intensive research began. It was officially presented on November 24th, same year, on the Karlovac shooting range: in front of a public, they tested 40 rifles in two versions: one with a short and one with a long barrel. Testing implied that the rifle was undergoing the most extreme weather conditions, high and low temperatures, water, sand, mechanical impact, frequent shootings. In all the above situations it proved as a very reliable weapon. It was meant to be very functional and to fit the soldier perfectly. VHS rifle passed severe examinations and it satisfied all the requested criteria of OSRH and NATO as well. The contract was signed and this weapon was introduced in the Croatian Army.
HS PRODUCT VHS 5,56×45 MM
Assault Rifle Type VHS is projected strictly for military and police use, against enemy live force and light armored vehicles. The design of VHS Rifle uses the Bullpup principle in which the action and magazine are located behind the trigger and alongside the shooter’s face, so there is no wasted space for the butt stock as in conventional designs. This permits a shorter firearm length for the same barrel length. The result is saving the weight of the weapon and increasing handiness for the soldier who becomes important in confined spaces, during transportation or combat in urban environments.
In comparison to other assault rifles the Assault Rifle Type, VHS is up to 25% shorter in length while at the same time its efficiency by muzzle velocity is 10% higher. Assault rifle VHS is manufactured in two sub-types: VHS-D1 which represents the longest version (765mm) and VHS-K1 which is the shortest version (675mm). Assault rifle VHS is a gas operated weapon that uses direct impingement gas system and hot powder gases are taken from the bore to gradually slow down the bolt opening. On the cap’s moving, gases get compressed and act as an ‘airbag’, slowly stopping the cap in a front position that, of course, goes back to a front position. This is an excellent solution that enables light jerk comparing to other assault rifles. Similar systems can be found on the machine gun Ultimax100 from Singapore, which Croatia had among its weapon range. This solution can give a contribution so as the VHS caliber 7,62×51 (.308) appears at a day light; because rifles of this caliber are more requested on the worlds market since .223 is ineffective in many situations.
ASSEMBLING, EVEN FOR THE MOST DEMANDING ONES
The grip is set under a convenient angle, in accordance to the barrel’s axis; the trigger cover can be easily reached even with gloves. In front of the trigger, on the upper side there’s a shooting regulator which is very innovative, it turns around a small axis and can be turned on “JAMMED” (front position of the wheel),”SINGLE FIRE’ (wheel on the right),”BURST FIRE” (wheel on the left).This is a somewhat unusual but interesting solution because the regulator can be easily used by lefties. VSH cartridge cases can be thrown out on both sides, i.e. it fits left handed users, and the opening for letting out casings is far on the rear part of the weapon: typical for bullpup design.
On the rifle’s body, a distinctive ‘bridge’ is being extended used for weapon carry, but functions as a carrier of the optical pointer made by Institute “Rudjer Boskovic” from Zagreb. This pointer is integrated into the upper handle that is the optical carrier. It has an optical magnifying power of 1,5x and so called red-dot technology. The rifle can also use two separate optical pointers, set in series, one with a magnifying power of 4x, and the other with the red dot of 1,5x magnifying ability. This rifle can also support attachment of eight Picatinny rails, which is far beyond necessary even for the most demanding ones.
There can be placed all sorts of battery flashes from optical up to laser ones, and all other kinds of pointers, accessory handles…The rifle itself can be disassembled in a very easy way, and as within many modern weapons, those assembly parts are held with many security ‘pin-ups’. Right below the pointer’s handle-carrier, there’s a pawl of the cap that is easily stretched up and down, and when the pawl is in the back position, it goes back. It is made in ambidextrous performance and the lever of the pawl can be twisted both ways. The head of the ammunition magazine has a practical solution, so that inserting a magazine runs smoothly and without any pinning so that construction itself enables simple insertion even in low light conditions.
It is interesting that this rifle uses NATO cartridge standard magazines of 20 to 30 rounds, manufactured in the black transparent polymer of high hardness. It enables permanent visual control of the cartridge resources, the same ones used for a rifle M16/M4 (STANAG standard). As an accessory part of the rifle, a hand grenade launcher calibre 40mm could be placed, which is being inserted in two moves below the front part of the rifle. The same launcher with a simple help of a handle and a telescopic butt can become an independent weapon. Grenade launcher pointer is placed with a help of Picatinny rails, at any side of the rifle, the same if the launcher works independently.
When it comes to equipment, we can mention feet, also made of polymer, attached to Picatinny rails. They can overleaf, depending on the shooter’s needs they can be made into two lengths – shorter and longer (when they overleaf). The butt is made for military intentions. The upper line of the facepiece completely follows the axis of the barrel, and in the inner part besides the moving parts, there’s a special mechanism for easing the weapon’s jerk at the moment of shooting. For close hand-to-hand combat, Assault Rifle Type VHS may be equipped by a multipurpose knife which, mounted on the rifle, becomes a bayonet and combined with knife case derivates into barbed wire scissors. Those are the bayonets manufactured by AREX Slovenia. The rifle itself is easy to handle. The first sensation for anyone shooting this weapon for the first time is that the trigger runs smoothly, and there’s almost no jerk at all. At 100 meters in a standard shooting target R-50, hits are being concentrated in an incredibly small set. During the fire bursts and shooting, in brief, bursts, the rifle is perfectly controlled and there’s no bounce as with the AK -47 and similar weapons from the past.
According to some required knowledge, there’s an interest in this rifle from Venezuela, Kuwait and the Philippines, however, it was allegedly lost at bidding in Albania from the German G36. Croatian assault rifle VHS was sold at the United States’ market, to some parts of the States’ Army. It could be seen in action in Iraq because several hundreds of pieces were sold, some time ago to the Iraqi army.