Forward Defense Munitions L5 Caseless Ammo 5-Bore Rifle

Forward Defense Munitions L5

SHOT Show’s NEXT area is an exhibit hall for start-ups and small companies. It’s always full of interesting products and fresh ideas, and Forward Defense Munitions certainly had something unique to show off . . .

The L5 uses charge block ammunition that’s fed left-to-right through an action very light on moving parts. Instead of individual rounds in individual cases, the projectile, powder, and primer are contained in a charge block of five shots.

In effect, each shot (or “charge”) is inside of its own chamber and the chambers get ejected out the side of the rifle when the charge block is expended. The idea is to take the heat with it, resulting in a rifle that always has a cool chamber regardless of how rapidly it’s dumping ammo downrange.

And fire rapidly, it can. The L5 can fire rounds one-at-a-time, in semi-auto or full-auto, or can volley fire all five rounds in a charge block simultaneously. It can do that once per trigger pull or, in full-auto volley fire mode, hold the trigger down and it fires all five charges, cycles in a new block, fires all five charges, repeat repeat in rapid succession.

Continue feeding individual charge blocks or stacks of charge blocks in the left side to lay down unending suppressive fire.

Well, almost unending. The electromagnetic action will fire about 15,000 rounds on a single charge.

I don’t know if there’s a buyer for it, but I do know it’s unique and interesting! TTAG will attempt to borrow one if that becomes a possibility as FD Munitions finalizes the design.


  1. avatar ATFAgentBob says:

    very interesting… Might have to wait and see if they release a civilian version.

    1. avatar anonymoose says:

      It probably wouldn’t be that hard to reprogram it to go full-auto if they did.

      1. avatar ATFAgentBob says:

        shhhh don’t tell them that!

      2. avatar Dog of War says:

        I seem to there being a special regulation against electrically driven actions. Given that they can easily be switched over to full auto, much like how open bolt actions are regulated because they’re so easy to change over to full auto.

  2. avatar TruthTellers says:

    So, instead of a brass case that’s small, light, reloadable, etc. they’re using a block of metal and multiple barrels? This is dumb.

    1. avatar BLoving says:

      I see no reason it wouldn’t be reloadable. The Remington Etronix cartridges were reloadable and they used electronic primers too.
      The biggest turn off I see is the five-round modules instead of loose rounds; might tick some folks off and make others happy. Very bulky but then ammo of any type takes up space and weight. This might have potential for emplaced gun positions that would not require mobility.
      I just like the innovation of it and hope they can work out any bugs because… progress… and guns.

  3. avatar No one of consequence says:

    Reminds me of MetalStorm.

    1. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

      This very much, seems fit for a super specialized role like MS is. Also this is reloadable where MS is not, IIRC.

      1. avatar No one of consequence says:

        Metalstorm was, if I remember, reloadable in the sense that individual tubes (holding 5-10 or so rounds) could be swapped out of the box. Or did you mean the individual tube couldn’t be reloaded? That I don’t know … but I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t be. Of course you might need a little more than a typical bench reloading setup to do it…

  4. avatar SigLifeSailor says:

    This isn’t very practical, but I love the potential. Imagine loading up your gun not with a magazine, but with a supply of the projectiles themselves and a separate supply of propellant and primers, and being able to “dial in” a load for a given task. Subsonic? Sure, just dial it back some. Long range? Crank the bastard. This seems like a step in the right direction, but then again, I’m a sucker for innovation for its own sake.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      Now I like that idea!

      Kind of a look-back to the Girandoni air rifle, but using compressed gas (hydrogen?) in the stock-tank as propellant. Piezoelectric ignition like those crappy trigger-lighters…

      1. avatar 16V says:

        You’re smart, let’s actually think this through (unlike some conman selling a hypeloop, or an electric car cash furnace, or a solar cash furnace…) 😉

        Hydrogen is a tiny molecule, it leaks through almost any seal. Not to mention it has horrible specific energy compared to propane, natty gas, or gasoline, not to mention high ignition temperature, etc.

        Hydrogen as a propellant? Works if it’s liquid…

        Don’t get me wrong, the fact is hydrogen via solar hydrolysis/thermal cracking will be the only mass-market option 50 years from now, assuming that civilization still exists. Which is highly unlikely.

        1. avatar Geoff PR says:

          “…let’s actually think this through (unlike some conman selling a hypeloop,…”

          Or a rocket that flies back to where it was was launched and lands, to be used again instaid ingloriously dumped in the ocean as *very* expensive scrap never to be recovered?

          Yeah, that’s a *joke* of an idea…

          Anyways, you’re right on the brutally difficult problem of keeping H2 bottled up, it loves to “fly and be free” (RIP Robin Williams).

          A major spill outdoors is no problem. Indoors, *problem* (BOOM).

          But you seriously got me thinking on another purely military use of gasses – as naval artillery propellant. Visualize this, now – a shell chambered in a 16-inch gun. Instead of bags of powder, an injector of sorts to ‘squirt’ liquefied air into the chamber. The *massive* thermal mass of the gun and projectile flashes it back to its original 600-to1 gas-liquid ratio propelling the shell.

          OK, that needs work too, shelve it for now.

          On a serious note, Tesla is doomed to fail, the ‘Hyper is currently just amusing, but the US gov. is *very* pleased with the investment in SpaceX. They are now charging ‘Uncle Sam’ *one-third* what ‘Big Rocket’ United Launch Alliance charges for a lift to orbit. That bet NASA made is paying off. And later this year we won’t be reliant on ‘Mother Russia’ for a manned seat to the station. That ain’t insignificant. They have teething issues, same as all the others. Heard about AirianneSpace’s embarrassing launch failure a day or so back? Got it int orbit, proper altitude, 20 *degrees* in the wrong direction. OOPS.

          The so-called reliable Proton M? Blown a couple up recently, and in *spectacular* fashion, launched one that tried to fly to the center of the earth after a (woman, no kidding) ‘technician’ installed the booster’s attitude indicator *upside down*. Actually had to do some grinding to get it to fit. It was designed to be installed one way :

        2. avatar GunDoc says:

          Interesting. And also flat-out wrong.

          Internal combustion, fueled by gasoline and diesel, will still be cheap and abundant 200 years from now.

          And barring a CME (Carrington Event), bolide strike, or super caldera eruption, Civilization will still be ticking along a thousand years from now.

          And even given one of those calamities, the likelihood of civilization going tits up is still low, given the current population and redundancy.

          Remember- The Club of Rome is a globalist/Leftist propaganda tool.

        3. avatar MeRp says:

          Hydrogen as a propellant for relatively mundane naval cannon is entirely possible for nuclear vessels; they have abundant electricity that they could use to crack water; then they could use the resultant hydrogen and oxygen to blast projectiles across the sea (or even as fuel for rockets/missiles). Effectively they’d be simply using the hydrogen/oxygen as a storage medium for the electric energy that has been converted from nuclear energy.

        4. avatar 16V says:

          Yes, let’s talk about rockets that are designed to carry enough fuel to lift off, and set back down. Let’s talk about the efficiencies of that, shall we?

          Space X is nothing but what JPL guys talked about doing in the bar 20 years ago, ‘if only they didn’t have to follow all those crazy rules’. I will give him credit, Musk is the greatest conman the world has ever seen…

      2. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

        Liquid propellant variable charge firearms/artillery is an old (several decades) idea. I remember folks talking about it at Ft Sill back in the ’80s too.

  5. avatar Geoff PR says:

    Caseless ammo is gonna have to be as compact and waterproof as possible to be be considered a military advantage. The grunt has got to be able to hump it. And keep the gun running in a filthy, nasty, sandbox.

    At this point, the only way I it happening is some type of propellant internal to the projectile, but that’s gonna mess with the projectile’s sectional density. Not to mention the problem of center-of-gravity changing mid-flight as propellant burns. Unless they use the shuttle SRB model of combustion. All of it *way* above my pay grade.

    Knock yourself out, guys. Best luck to ya…

  6. avatar Felix says:

    Instead of one expensive barrel and chamber, you’ve got 5 expensive barrels, with all their weight, plus a zillion chambers. Instead of, say, 7 30-rounders, you’ll have to carry 210 chambers. The weight alone would be a huge problem, plus how much does a block of 5 chambers cost? I’ve never been in combat, but I imagine there’s some pressure to bring back empty magazines. It would be an order or two of magnitude more with these expensive blocks.

    On the plus side, there is that heat they mention, though that also makes it so much more difficult to collect spent blocks. I wonder how often that 5-at-once would actually be useful? And barrels get hot too; I once shot a Mosin-Nagant 60 times in half an hour and could not hold it by anything but the sling. Doesn’t seem to me that these barrels would be much cooler, even if only cycled individually 1/5 as often and having the spent chambers take away some of their heat.

    But cool thinking outside the box. Whether or not its goes anywhere, they are at least thinking differently.

  7. avatar Michael says:


  8. avatar Sid says:

    Needs work.

  9. avatar Hannibal says:

    Sorta Mass-Effecty

    Heat is the bane of caseless ammo for practical purposes and this doesn’t seem to really solve the issues. Sure, it deals with the heat but the bulk kinda makes a mess of it. Might as well use caseless ammo in a bolt action platform. Or use regular rounds.

    Still I like seeing stuff like this. It’s been a long time since there was a major innovation in small arms.

  10. avatar Ian says:

    Reminds me of the old blackpowder harmonica rifles.

    1. avatar Andrew Lias says:

      Pretty much what I was thinking.

      Overall this one’s gonna be getting presented by Ian’s grand kid in a few decades. I think calling it “caseless” is a misrepresentation as much as calling a “tround” caseless is.

    2. avatar Pete says:

      Exactly a harmonica rifle. However, old harmonica guns were actuated manually.

  11. avatar Alan Esworthy says:

    Very interesting…once I got over my initial disappointment when it became clear that “5 Bore” didn’t refer to gauge.

  12. avatar Dog of War says:

    Very cool. I love it when gun makers try something truly new, instead of just everyone’s version of a Glock, 1911, or CZ.

    But that said I think the gun would be better if it had one barrel and an ammunition block that moves. It would probably be lighter in the long run and you could have a much tight group than a barrel that moves with each shot.

  13. avatar Anonymous says:

    Meh. I see some interesting concepts here, but not very practical ones.

  14. avatar Kevin C says:

    I am interested in thetruthaboutrockets! TTAR for the stars.

    1. avatar Dog of War says:

      Now that is a flat out impressive bit of engineering. I can how it would have some problems, but I can’t see why people havn’t been trying out new designs like this.

  15. avatar borg says:

    Does this meet the legal definition of full auto? If so it would be illegal for civilians to own it since it is post 1986. If a court were to rule the post 1986 ban as unconstitutional then it could help drive down prices as more full autos would be made and sold

  16. avatar James69 says:

    Guns in space!!!!! Yeah!!!

    Wasn’t there a gun in Metro 2033 like this??

  17. This is definitely a step backwards in time.
    It’s like the old “pepperbox” guns from the 1800s that had multiple, heavy, bulky barrels to achieve the same effect as a revolver that used only one barrel and a cylinder.
    Actually, it’s more like the “volley guns” that were invented even earlier, in 1339 A.D. and used in the 15th century!
    See Wikipedia’s entry on “volley guns” which says:

    “The Ribauldequin was a medieval version of the volley gun. It had its barrels set up in parallel. This early version was first employed during the Hundred Years’ War by the army of Edward III of England, in 1339. Later on, the late Swiss army employed it.

    Multi-barreled artillery pieces continued in use during the 16th and 17th century. A double-barreled cannon called Elizabeth-Henry, named after Charles I’s youngest children,[2] was used by the Cavaliers during the English Civil War and fired 2oz charges. It could also fire grapeshot. The barrels were wrapped in leather to prevent rusting.

    On the continent, 16th century Aragon developed a 15-barrel volley gun; German and Polish gunsmiths invented handheld multi-barrel guns. These were sometimes combination sword and axe pistols such as Henry VIII’s Walking Staff, a 3-barreled gun and battle mace. Henry VIII also owned a multi-barreled German wheel lock rifle capable of firing a superimposed charge.[3]”


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