April 1st, 2007

New High-Tech German Heavy BR Rifle

The “star” of the recent IWA Euro Shot Show was the impressive new ZT (Zero Twist) ‘Valkyrie’ Heavy Gun from Deutsche Waffenwerkes. Innovative in the extreme, the Valkyrie fires a fin-stabilized 400gr .338-caliber projectile through a smoothbore barrel. Chief Designer Paul Ührleggen explained: “we saw the benefits Mr. Tooley has achieved with assymetric stocks in reducing rifle torque. We concluded that, with fin-stabilization, we could run the bullet through a Zero-Twist barrel. With no rifling to spin the bullet, there is no torque at all. Another problem solved by German engineering.” Accuracy remains elusive however: “Sub-MOA performance is hard to achieve with such a radical rifle. There are many bugs to work out. But we plan to offer the Valkyrie with an iron-clad .338 MOA one-shot group guarantee”. At present, with a weight of 40 kilos, the Valkyrie can only compete in Heavy Gun class. However, Waffenwerkes has teamed with Glock to build an all-plastic 4-kilo sporter version of the Valkyrie–but more fine-tuning is needed. According to Mr. Ührleggen, “there have been some minor barrel melting issues.”

We asked Mr. Ührleggen how Waffenwerkes selected the name Valkyrie for the new gun. “Here at Waffenwerkes we are all fans of your American cinema, and especially the movie Apocalypse Now — you know the scene with the helicopters and the Wagner music–Dum da da dum dum, Dum da da DUM dum. That’s Die Walküre–the Ride of the Valkyries. (Play MUSIC). It seemed apropos. Plus we enjoy playing that music really loud when we shoot this rifle.”

One very high-tech component didn’t make it into production. Ührleggen explained: “We engineered a voice-activated trigger, but we found that this was affected by ambient noise. To our surprise, field testing revealed loud noises to be a problem at shooting matches. Also, our engineers could not agree on the voice-activation command. I personally favored ‘She Bangs’, but my colleagues are not pop music afficionados.”

The Valkyrie’s most remarkable feature is its optical guidance system. Optics engineer Horst Nichtfarze explains: “We learned from your American gun forums about problems with benchrest scopes not holding zero, so we concluded ‘why use a scope at all’? Borrowing smart-bomb technology, we have placed a tiny camera inside the ceramic nose of our bullets. This feeds to a rifle-mounted LCD screen so the shooter can literally see the bullet fly into the target. Since the projectile is fin-stabilized, we don’t have spin issues.” The fins are controlled by a joystick on the buttstock, so theoretically, one can steer the bullet to the target. Nichtfarze admitted, however, “we do have a little response time issue at short range”. The cost of the in-bullet camera was prohibitive until Nichtfarze stumbled on a solution: “My girlfriend had this old cell phone that was kaput. We salvaged the phone’s camera very easily. In Germany everyone throws away their phone after a year, so there is no shortage of teeny weeny video cameras to put in the bullets.”

Waffenwerkes’ Valkyrie .338 ZT is an engineering tour de force, setting new standards for innovation. But this level of technology doesn’t come cheap. The rifle retails for 8,000 Euros, about $10,647 US Dollars. Mr. Ührleggen conceded, “Sure it’s expensive, but I have to pay for my Porsche somehow.” In the months ahead, Deutsche Waffenwerkes also plans to release a “Tactical” version of the Valkyrie. Mr. Ührleggen noted, “we are very anxious to get the Tactical rifle to market. Priced at 14,000 Euros ($18,632 US), it will be called the RT (“Rambo Tactical”) edition and feature 15 linear feet of Picatinny rails, a 3″-diameter depleted uranium bolt knob, Digital Flecktarn Camo paint scheme, and an X-Box compatible LCD screen. Our marketing director, Tella Liezig, feels this will be the real money-maker.”