Heckler und Koch


World of Heckler & Koch


The Submachine Guns

The standard by which all others are judged.
Cal. 9mm x 19 NATO

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It is simply an opinion, but one shared by the majority of tactical teams at all levels in the United States.  You can sense it the first time that you fire one.  The MP5 is the culmination of countless efforts to blend reliability, controllability and firepower into a small package.   With the MP5, that design objective has been achieved.   The MP5 is that by which all other designs are judged.

Appearing in countless movies of late, it does not have the catchy name of some guns that have been demonized by the press and some politicians, who quake in fear at the mere mention of names like 'Uzi' or 'Tec 9' or 'MAC 10.'  Your average street criminal might not know what to call the greatest submachine gun ever designed.  Chances are, if you laid one down next to a Tec 9 and asked the criminal to choose one, he might opt for the Tec.   So much for good taste.  There are many photographs of the MP5.  I will share some of my favorites with you here.  Just for the record, many published articles designate the MP5 as thus: "MP-5."  Not correct.  There is no hyphen. 


Caliber Cyclic Rate Mag Capacity Mode of Fire Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lb.) bbl. length (in.) Overall
Length (in.)
9mm x 19 800 15/30/40 S/2/3/F 1.96 8.26 5.59 8.85 26.77


MP5 Timeline
From "Project 64" by Frank W. James

1964:  HK designer Tilo Möller, Manfred Guhring, Georg Seidl and Helmut Baureuter start design work on "Project 64" --the beginning of the MP5.

1966:  The first production MP5 is officially introduced, but by mid-1966, the German Border Police adopt the MP5.   Also the first foreign sale was to the Swiss Procurement Department for Arms when the Swiss Police adopt the MP5.

1968:  The first blank-firing attachments made for the MP5.

1971:  First series of modifications and improvements made to the MP5: 
  • Serrations removed from bolt group.
  • Trigger pull lightened for improved accuracy
  • Bolt carrier shortened from previous long extension carrier
  • Ejection port lengthened (front to back) and a piece riveted to the rear portion to lower the profile and improve case ejection.
1972:  Radius changed on chamber from 2mm to 2.5 mm for improved feeding.

1973:  The synthetic trigger housing was strengthened with glass fiber.

  • The pistol grip changed from the closed, glued on end cap to the hollow open design extant even today.
  • The shape of the buttplate is changed from convex to concave
  • The scope mounting points are added to the top of the stamped steel receiver for use with the HK quick-detach scope mounting system.
  • The R3/3 sling system is introduced.
1974:  The first prototype for the MP5SD is designed and built

1975:  A new cocking lever is designed for the MP5

1976:  The MP5K or Kurz model is developed at the request of a South American sales representative of HK.

1977:  A special lacquer coating is developed for increased corrosion resistance on guns sold for export.

1978:  Testing begins on the special MP5K firing briefcase.

1978:  The rubber buffer is added to the retractable sliding buttstock.

1978:  Extensive environmental testing iis completed on the new retractable buttstock.

1978:  The tropical or "Export" forearm is tested.

1978:  Testing of the new MP5 extractor spring completed.

1979:  New MP5 Extractor spring introduced.  For identity purposes, it is copper colored.

1980:  Bushings in the rear of the MP5 receiver are strengthened by a different welding process.

1982:  A new three round burst trigger group with four settings and a polymer housing is introduced.

1983:  A special locked bolt version of the MP5SD is tested.

1984:  The MP5PT is introduced.  Designed specifically for use solely with Dynamit Nobel's plastic training ammo, it cannot fire live ammunition.

1985:  Comparison testing conducted between the standard MP5SD and different versions of the SMGI, SMGII and MP2000.

1988:  The "Maritim" MP5 is introduced.  The Maritim is a special MP5 designed for a saltwater environment.  It features special corrosion resistant coatings and finishes.

1988:  Chamber flutes are installed by an EDM process, instead of broaching.  Additionally, the number of chamber flutes is increased from 12 to 16.

1989:  The height of the ejector is raised by .5 mm.

1989:  The SP89 is introduced.

1989:  Manufacture of the retractable buttstock is changed, with the buttplate being molded onto the buttstock metal.

1990:  A special "SEF" trigger group is introduced that "locks out" the full auto function.  Full auto fire is achieved when the right end of the safety lever is depressed, to allow the safety/selector lever to the full auto setting.

1991:  Improvements made to the bolt head and chamber face.  Also the contact moment was changed on the ejector in relation to the bolt group.

1991:  The roller holder is changed from the flat plate to a spring or wire type holder previously seen on the HK23E.

1991:  Angle on the locking piece for the MP5SD is changed from 120 degrees to 115 degrees.

1991:  The PDW folding stock is developed by HK Inc. in the U.S. for personal defense and VIP protection details.  When fitted to the MP5K, it allows the short MP5K to be fired from the shoulder, greatly enhancing accuracy.

1992:  The MP5 in 10mm Auto and .40 S&W is introduced.

1999:  The MP5F is developed and introduced.

2000:  The MP5/10 and MP5/40 are discontinued.


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GSG-9 Operator with the ideal accessory for riding "subgun."  A port made for the muzzle of the MP5 to discourage car pursuits.  One would think that accuracy would be much higher as such.  MP5A3 with SEF trigger group, slimline forearm and early straight mags with double mag clamp.


GSG-9 is the German military antiterrorist wing of the Federal German Border Guard.  They were formed after the debacle of the 1972 Munich Olympics, where the German police were completely unprepared for such a contingency.  In German, the Federal Border Guard is called the Bundesgrenzschutz.  The special regiment of elite commandos that form GSG-9 is called Border Group-9 or Grenzschutzgruppe 9.  As you might well imagine, they are a rather large customer of their home weapons factory, Heckler & Koch.


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Another day of Boooorrrrring training for the GSG-9.  MP5A2 being fired at moving sled pulling target car from moving helicopter.  Again?  Do I have to?  Note brass deflector.

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Sgt. Linda Shepard, Reno, NV SWAT takes aim with the MP5A4 and Laser Products 628 forend light.  The A4 designation is for a fixed stock and three shot burst trigger group.


mp5proto.jpg (31016 bytes) The gun on the left is an HK54, the first actual MP5 to be built under what came to be known as Project 64, named for the year the program began.  Several differences to the modern MP5 are visible.  The location and type of the rear sight, the type of front sight, no lugs on the barrel, the early magazine and magazine well, the size of the ejection port.  The SEF trigger group is still the most widely used on the HK series.
At right is a second prototype of the MP5 called the MP64.  There was no HK64 as such.  This gun features an experimental pin and groove arrangement for the fastening of the trigger group to the gun.   As you know, this was dropped  for the pushpin arrangement that we are all familiar with. mp5proto2.jpg (36727 bytes)


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Progression of muzzles from earliest to the present.  Most noticeable is the cuts in the top for recoil compensation, and the evolution of the front sight to its current hooded form and three lug barrel for the attachment of different muzzle devices.


Mid-1980s ad that appeared in police trade magazines and related firearms magazines for the MP5 Submachine gun.  This ad combined two of the more well known HK slogans from the 80s.  Note that the fingers are on the triggers as it had not yet become common practice to train finger off trigger (Rule 3) or be photographed that way.


The newest variant of the MP5 is called the MP5F.  F in this case stands for 'French.'  You will see why in a moment.  Though hard to improve upon the basic design of the MP5, the engineers at HK strived to do so because of a potential contract for 35,000 MP5s, some to be built in France under license.  The primary reason for the internal modifications that will be outlined here is the French desire to use extremely hot 9mm ammunition that is nearly proof load specification.

The changes to the MP5F are subtle and not always noticeable to even the trained observer.  Externally, the primary difference is in the new buttstock that has a two inch thick rubber buttpad,  a sling loop on the right side of the stock for left handed shooters and a one inch increase in length of the forks.

To compliment the ambidextrous sling loop on the new MP5F fork is the dual front sling bolts, a natural addition that has been mostly addressed with the ambidextrous sling and bolts long available as MP5 accessories.

Internal changes to the MP5F include the following:  Improvement of the locking roller holder even beyond the newer wire roller holder, to a third model that is not retrofittable to earlier existing bolt heads.  The three are pictured below.

From left to right:  Standard holder that breaks frequently, new wire holder that seldom breaks, and the newest MP5F holder that must have special MP5F bolt head to fit.
Another internal modification is to the firing pin spring, another part that was prone to breakage, albeit after several thousand rounds.  The new spring is of multi-strand wire and thicker.  A comparison is below, with the standard MP5 firing pin spring above it.

In another move toward strengthening the MP5F for the high power French +P+ loads, the cocking handle was redesigned to help it stay forward during firing.  Pictured below, the MP5F cocking lever is above, standard below.

The MP5F is proof that when you thought the MP5 could not be improved upon, the engineers at HK never fail to take it one step further.

This information on the MP5F came from Small Arms Review, the leading publication for the reporting on innovation and cutting edge firearms design.  They can be contacted by clicking on their name above.  If you have not seen SAR, you owe it to yourself to have a look.


Range Rounds Position Fire Mode Reps Total Rounds Time
50m 2 Kneeling Semiauto 3 6 3.0 sec
50m 2 Prone Semiauto 2 4 3.0 sec
25m 2 Standing Semiauto 3 6 2.0 sec
25m 2 Kneeling Semiauto 2 4 2.0 sec
25m 4 Standing Semi/Reload Drill 1 4 8.0 sec
15m 2 Standing Semiauto 3 6 1.5 sec
10m 3 Standing Fullauto 2 6 1.5 sec
7m 4 Standing Fullauto 2 8 2.0 sec
5m 3 Standing Fullauto 2 6 1.5 sec
  Total Rounds: 50  

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The MP5K Series
Little Brother to the MP5

Cal. 9mm x 19


The MP5K, a Maschinenpistole in the purest sense of the word.  'K' in German stands for Kurz, or 'short.'  Introduced in 1976, the MP5K was designed at the request of HK South American sales rep, who saw a market for dignitary protection and increased firepower in a small package.

The K saw relatively insignificant sales compared to the full size MP5.   That is until the advent of a shoulder stock addition and a new variant name called PDW in 1991.  PDW stands for Personal Defense Weapon.  The PDW shoulder stock is manufactured for HK by Choate, and the stocks are applied to the K models in the United States.   With the new shoulder stock, sales of the PDW soared, mainly due to the new controllability of the MP5K.  It was now on a par with the full size MP5 in controllability.

One other difference of the PDW over the K model is the threaded three lug barrel reminiscent of the MP5 series.  Now sound suppressors could be fitted to the K in addition to any other MP5 muzzle accessory.

No description of the K would be complete without mention of the briefcase.  One of the hottest setups for collectors, the briefcase has limited applications for VIP protection, other than being very discreet.   Difficult to fire accurately, the briefcase can easily put bullet holes into the calf of the firer, should he decide to fire the K on full auto while holding the case normally.  Can you picture it?

Caliber Cyclic Rate Mag Capacity Modes of Fire Width (in/mm) Height (in/mm) Weight (lb/kg) bbl. length (in/mm) Overall
Length (in/mm)
9mm x 19 900 15/30/40 S2/3/F 1.96 8.26 4.40 4.5 12.80
9mm x 19 900 15/30/40 S/2/3/F 50 210 2 115 325

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First prototype of the MP5K, produced in 1976.  The first version of the foregrip was made of wood, and was subsequently reduced in size to aid in concealability.  This foregrip was made from wood.


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First prototype MP5K, serial number 0001, manufacturing date of 1976.


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MP5KA4.  The designation is for a standard K model with three round burst trigger group.  Another variant with only a small post front sight and no rear sight is called the MP5KA1.   With a burst group on the KA1, it becomes an MP5KA5.


mp5ka5.jpg (24721 bytes) The MP5KA5 with obsolete aiming point projector.  Without the burst group, the gun would be designated MP5KA1.   Notice lack of rear sight and small post front sight.

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Mark Kunnath from HK International Training Division demonstrates proper technique for getting the most potential accuracy and safety from firing the briefcase.

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Rarely seen "bag" for carrying the MP5K inconspicuously.  Like the briefcase, it can be fired while inside the bag, by inserting the hand and gripping the gun normally.  The only apparent example of this bag that I know of is in the Grey Room at HK/Sterling. 

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The MP5/10 & MP5/40
The First MP5s of a different Caliber
Cal. 10mm Auto/.40 S&W

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The MP5/10 was the first attempt by HK to manufacture the MP5 in a more powerful caliber than 9mm.  10mm Auto, also called the Centimeter, is one hot caliber.  At the time of the request for this new caliber, the FBI was hot on this cartridge, since the .40 Smith & Wesson had not yet been invented.  It was the FBI that provided the substantial financial motivation for HK to retool for the more powerful caliber.  FBI has about 1,400 of these MP5s in inventory, but aside from them, the 10mm MP5 has been eclipsed by the sale of the much more popular MP5/40.

In a concession to American preference, a bolt hold open device was added.  The model above was photographed with the early translucent magazines reminiscent of the new G36 series magazines.  MP5/10 and MP5/40 magazines are now light blue polymer, or flat black, and are not transparent.

HKPRO is a big fan of Tom Clancy, who is a big fan of HK.  I was so disappointed when reading Rainbow Six, and Clancy's referral to the MP5/10 as the MP-10.  It is still correctly called the MP5 or MP5/10, not MP-10 as in Rainbow Six.  A small price to pay for the greatness of Clancy's work.   Likewise, the MP5/40 is often referred to incorrectly as the MP-40.  That is the name of a WWII era German submachine gun of completely different lineage.  

UPDATE:  These guns are now discontinued, but will be supported with parts and service.  The advent of the UMP has supplanted the market for these guns, and it will be available at least in .40 caliber in addition to .45 but probably not 10mm, due to the direction of the market away from this caliber.


Caliber Cyclic Rate Mag Capacity Mode of Fire Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lb.) bbl. length (in.) Overall
Length (in.)
.40 S&W 800 30 S/2/3/F 1.96 8.26 5.88 8.85 26.77
Caliber Cyclic Rate Mag Capacity Mode of Fire Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lb.) bbl. length (in.) Overall
Length (in.)
10mm Auto 800 30 S/2/3/F 1.96 8.26 5.88 8.85 26.77


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Detail of the MP5/10 bolt hold open device.  Ask and ye shall receive.  The FBI wanted last round bolt hold open.  Order more than 1000 MP5s, and HK will do what you want too!

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Early MP5/10 Magazines were translucent, and had studs for attaching the magazines together without a magazine clamp.  This idea was abandoned on the 10mm and .40 cal guns, but remains on the G36 magazines.

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MP5/10 early prototype with unusual grey finish, and three round burst trigger group with unusual alpha markings.

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The "Silent" Type
Cal. 9mm x 19 NATO

Schalldämpfer.  This German word is the only differentiation given to the 'silent' cousin of the world's most popular submachine gun.  Literally translated as "Sound Dampened,"  the MP5SD has a large number of fans all over the world, as well as detractors.  "Silencers" as they are commonly called, both in legal definitions for their regulation by the National Firearms Act of 1934, and in popular vernacular do not actually do what their name suggests.  Sound suppressed or even dampened is a much better way to describe what actually occurs when a firearm is discharged with one on the muzzle. But they are, with the exception of .22 caliber suppressed guns, far from silent.

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How would one describe what an SD sounds like being fired?  Many gun rags that are available over the counter describe them as being so silent that only the bolt opening and closing is audible.  That is pure pablum.  Sound suppressed firearms are relatively loud, but suppressed .22 pistols and rifles are very quiet.  Most all can be fired without hearing protection, but the key to what the suppressor does, in layman's terms, is to make a gunshot sound like something other than a gunshot.  This is an accurate description: They do not sound like gunshots.  More like a pneumatic staple gun.  As sound suppression systems go, the SD is one of the more quiet available.  The SD suppressor is to my knowledge, the only sound suppressor actually manufactured by HK.  HK markets many others, primarily by Knight's Armament Co. and Brügger &Thomet of Switzerland (for the new UMP.)

Key to the uniqueness of the SD suppressor is that it is coupled with a barrel that has 30 2.5 mm ports in it to drop supersonic bullets to subsonic velocity for even greater noise reduction.  It is often confused, but shooting subsonic bullets in an MP5SD is a definite no-no for what is described in ballistic performance as the world's most expensive .380.   The average reduction in velocity is 200 feet per second.  You can thus see why subsonic is not a good idea, apart from the unreliability that you are introducing the gun as well.  Supersonic always for the SD, but subsonic is in order for all the other muzzle mounted suppressors marketed by or manufactured for, HK submachine guns.

Caliber Cyclic Rate Mag Capacity Modes of Fire Width (in/mm) Height (in/mm) Weight (lb/kg) bbl. length (in/mm) Overall
Length (in/mm)
9mm x 19 800 15/30/40 S2/3/F 2.36 8.26 6.83 5.73 30.42
9mm x 19 800 15/30/40 S/2/3/F 60 210 3.10 146 780


Reno, Nevada tactical officer with MP5SD5.  The '5' refers to the fixed stock combined with three shot burst trigger group.  The SD series is the only series that does not use the 'A' before the version number.  Incorrect would be MP5SDA5.  

It is a good picture, but again stance is bladed, not current technique being taught by HK International Training Division.  In pointing things like this out, I do not wish to sound critical of the officer or anyone that the photos catch doing it.  I merely wish to educate the reader on the subtleties of proper technique.


Another Reno, Nevada SWAT officer with MP5SD2 or SD5, depending on the trigger group, which is not visible here.  Most of these officers are using the double magazine clamp, which makes for the fastest reload in the West, but 60 rounds makes the gun quite heavy.  SDs are also very muzzle heavy because of the suppressor.


Business end of the MP5SD


Guy in camouflage "gets some" with the MP5SD3.  (SEF trigger group and retractable stock.)  I had to publish this photo, because he is doing it all wrong by pure technique standards, to the point of exaggeration.  the right elbow is held at a forced high angle, weight is back on heels and body is bladed.  The elbow is the most curious, sure to catch on any obstacle that comes in his way.  Someone somewhere gave him some bad advice on form..


The MP5SD is a sought after piece among American Class III firearms collectors.  The gun is currently in the $8000-9000 range, with two $200 tax stamps being necessary for the gun and removable suppressor.  This of course refers to transferable conversions, just like non- suppressed conversions of the HK94.  American law enforcement agencies will pay in the area of $1900 for an SD.

MP5SD prototype.  The SD project began in 1974.  Many of the 'waffle' type magazines like the one shown here are marked with 'SD' on them.  The straight 30 round magazines are reliable with ball ammunition, but reportedly were less than perfect with modern hollowpoints.  Thus the design change to curved.


MP5SD first prototype, (below) with modern production version above.


Detail of the SD suppressor internals.  Suppressor experts have said that this design is crude by today's standards, but still highly effective.  The suppressor is sealed at the factory and is not strippable like this.


Earlier, I said that there are detractors of the SD.  Primarily they fall into those who feel that the ports in the barrel drop ballistic performance too much, and those who argue that the SD is more prone to malfunction.  I take no sides here, merely to inform, but the SD definitely will start to malfunction much sooner than a standard MP5, due to the amount of fouling that the suppressor forces back into the action.

MP5SD4.  (Burst group combined with A1 buttcap)


GSG9 operator from early 80's with MP5SD2 and scope.


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The UMP 
Cal. 45 ACP/.40 S&W
9mm x 19

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Striking photo of UMP45 being fired with the new Surefire M900 Vertical Foregrip.  Photo by Paul Kim.


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Newest on the HK scene is the UMP Submachine Gun.  Little brother to the G36 in design, the UMP is the latest attempt by HK to produce more affordable, yet still sophisticated weapons designs.  The UMP is in the $850 area for Law Enforcement.  The folding stock and largely plastic frame and internal parts rely heavily on G36 design.  UMP stands for Universal Machinenpistole, a name inspired undoubtedly by the USP series.

The gun features a straight blowback design that fires from a closed bolt for excellent first shot accuracy.  The gun is currently available with an ambidextrous 'Navy' trigger group featuring safe-semi-full automatic fire, and plans are for a safe-semi-two shot burst only and semi automatic only groups as well.

The magazines that are available hold 10 or 25 rounds of 45 ACP ammunition.  Advertised cyclic rates are 580 rpm with 230 grain ball, and 700 rpm with 185 grain +P ammunition.

In .40 caliber and 9mm, the UMP magazines hold 30 rounds.  The .40 caliber UMP is for sale in the United States.  At this writing, it is unknown if/when the 9mm model will be imported into the U.S.

One of the greatest features of the largely polymer design is the weight, or lack of it.  The UMP only weighs 4.63 pounds empty!

Caliber Cyclic Rate Mag Capacity Mode of Fire Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lb.) bbl. length (in.) Overall
Length (in.)
9mm x 19 600 30 S/2/F 2.5 10.94 4.63 7.87 27.17
9mm x 19 600 30 S/2/F 63.5 278 2.10 200 600
.40 S&W 600 30 S/2/F 2.5 11.93 4.63 7.87 27.17
.40 S&W 600 30 S/2/F 63.5 303 2.10 200 600
.45 ACP 600 25 S/2/F 2.5 12.83 4.93 7.87 27.17
.45 ACP 600 25 S/2/F 63.5 326 2.20 200 600

The newest UMP, in 9mm x 19.  Note curved magazine.


UMP in 9mm showing hard points for mounting Weaver rails.  There has been some speculation that the introduction of the 9mm UMP signals an end to the world standard MP5.

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The UMP is capable of mounting accessories with new integrated rail system that will soon be available for the roller locked HK guns.  Shown here is the new Brϋgger and Thomet suppressor, manufactured in Switzerland and featuring the new quick mount that uses the newly designed muzzle flange on the UMP barrel.  Gone is the three lug design of the MP5 series.

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umpboltopen.jpg (4866 bytes) The bolt on the UMP locks open after the last round is fired, in keeping with the American desire for this feature.

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The Automatic Rifles

The G3
"Die Erste"
(The First)
Cal. 7.62 x 51 NATO

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Caliber Cyclic Rate Mag Capacity Modes of Fire Width (in/mm) Height (in/mm) Weight (lb/kg) bbl. length (in/mm) Overall
Length (in/mm)
7.62 x 51 600 5/20/30/50 S/F 2.28 8.26 9.70 17.71 40.38
7.62 x 51 600 5/20/30/50 S/F 57 210 4.4 450 1026

The G3 Automatic Rifle, standard bearer of the Deutsche Bundeswehr since Germany was again allowed to arm.  It is truly the firearm that put the fledgling arms maker on the map.  Just up the hill from famed gun maker, Mauser, the former Mauser engineers worked as a team to come up with a design that would supercede the G1, essentially an FN FAL rifle, since Fabrique Nationale in Belgium would not license Germany to produce it.  The wounds of World War II were still deep and open at the time, only five years after the end of the war.

Developmental History:

In the latter years of WWII, Mauser had been developing a selective fire assault rifle known as the StG.45(M).  Sturmgewehr is German for "Assault Rifle." The 'M' stood for Mauser, and the 45 indicated the year 1945, the year production was intended to start.  Only a few prototypes were available by then, and serious development did not continue until about 1950.

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The StG.45(M) Field Stripped.  Notice the paternal similarity to the G3, especially in the roller locked bolt and trigger group, as well as the pushpin stock.

In 1950, the Spanish Army formulated a requirement for a modern select fire shoulder rifle.  Development began at the Centro de Estudios Tecnicos de Materiales Especiales, an agency of the Spanish government more commonly known as CETME.  CETME assembled a team of Spanish and German weapon designers.  The team included Ludwig Vorgrimmler, generally recognized as the inventor of the delayed roller locking system.  The breech mechanism of the StG.45 (M) was used as the basis for the new design.

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The CETME Prototype Rifle in 7.92mm.  The further paternal lineage is easy to see.


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The 7.62 x 51 CETME rifle.  Compare to G3 rifle below.

Prototypes of the new rifle were available for firing by 1952.  By 1954, the 7.62mm x 51 cartridge had been standardized by the then new NATO alliance.  The Spanish government approached Heckler & Koch for adaptation of the CETME rifle in this new caliber in 1954.  After about another five years of development, the West German Army adopted the new rifle in 1959, and gave it its new name, G3 or Gewehr 3.  As many as 50 nations have adopted the G3 as their standard infantry arm.  Though now superceded in Germany by the new G36, the G3 will continue to see service worldwide for some time to come.


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Very early version of G3 rifle, assembled and field stripped.  Notice different rear sight and forearm.   Buttstock was made of wood.  The G3 versions are the only versions that do not follow the normal HK nomenclature with respect to A2 and A3 being fixed and retractable stocks, respectively.  The G3 has a wooden buttstock and a flip over sight unit.   The G3A1 has a folding stock that hinges to the left  and a flip over rear sight.  The G3A2 has a folding stock and a rotating rear sight.  The G3A3 has rotating rear sight and fixed stock.  The G3A4 has rotating rear sight and familiar retractable stock.  The G3A3 (or 4)Z means that the rifle is equipped with a telescopic sight.  'Z' stands for 'Zielfernrohr' or "Telescope."  I have not been able to find photographs of the G3 with original left folding stock.
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From top to bottom:  Standard G3A3, G3A3Z, G3A4.


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The oldest HK manual that I own is from February, 1962.  It is an operational manual on the then three year old G3 rifle.  This is an interesting illustration of not only the new rifle but an old version of the retractable buttstock.


The modern G3 comes in two main size variants, the full size G3, with a 17.71 inch barrel, and the G3K or 'Kurz' with a 12.40 inch barrel.  All G3s suffer from heaviness and excessive recoil of the 7.62 x 51 cartridge in automatic fire.  Remember though that this gun comes from the same genre as the FAL and M14, when the new NATO round was standard, and rifles were being developed for it.  They together helped with the realization that in order to have an individually issued automatic rifle, that the cartridge had to be smaller to provide any hope of decent hit probability, not to mention that .308 rounds are simply much heavier in their magazines than that which succeeded them.


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The G3KA4 with 12.4 inch barrel, smallest 7.62 x 51 caliber rifle that HK actually manufactures.  The HK51 has been confused as being the smallest, but is only a production of American Class II manufacturers.  Heckler & Koch does not make the HK51.


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Like father and son:  G3 with G36, the heir to the throne.

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The HK32 Series
They really exist
Cal. 7.62 x 39

Anyone who collects HK literature knows that the HK32 series in 7.62 x 39 has always existed on paper.  Collectors argued that there were never really any built, at least none that had been imported into the United States.  Now you know that not to be true.  The example above has a serial number of 3323.  But curiously, the caliber has been hand etched on the mag well, like you would expect to see on a prototype.  The date reads '6/66.'  Real operating guns are displayed for the first time here.   These are built from the HK factory, and the fact that American Class II manufacturer Bill Fleming converted some HK91s to this caliber hardly counts from an historical perspective for the HK purist. 


HK32KA3 that shows the unmistakable curve of the 7.62 x 39 magazine reminiscent of the AK-47 series. 


Prototype HK32 with flash hider cut into barrel, ventilated wooden forearm and early G3 buttstock with double rear pushpins.

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The HK33E
Caliber 5.56mm x 45 NATO

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The HK33E is the first 5.56x45 caliber rifle to use the delayed roller lock bolt first perfected in the G3.  The 33 is a downsized G3 made for the smaller cartridge.  In semiautomatic only form for American consumption, (at least until 1989,) it is known as the HK93, with a precursor model produced for a short time called the HK43.  Most common with steel 25 round magazines, 40 round aluminum magazines are plentiful, but more recently, steel 30 round magazines have been introduced by HK for the Law Enforcement and Military market.  The magazines for this rifle are extremely durable, and will usually function quite well after having been run over by a vehicle.

Most common variants are the HK33A2 and A3, almost universal terms for the description of the fixed and retractable stock versions of most all HK weapons, with the odd exception of the G3.  The G3A3 is fixed stock, and the G3A4 is the retractable version.  See the G3 page for explanation.

Another German lesson though, the "A" in A2 and A3 or A4 and A5 for that matter stands for "Ausfuhrung" or "version" in English.


Caliber Cyclic Rate Mag Capacity Modes of Fire Width (in/mm) Height (in/mm) Weight (lb/kg) bbl. length (in/mm) Overall
Length (in.mm)
.223 Remington 750 20/25/30/40 S/3/F 2.28 8.26 8.40 18.89 36.20
5.56 x 45 750 20/25/30/40 S/3/F 58 210 3.8 480 920




HK33EA2 with factory 25 round magazine and 0-1-25 trigger group.


HK33KEA3 with factory 30 round magazine, three round burst trigger group and newer style A3 buttstock.  (Concave buttplate like MP5 series, rather than convex like G3A4 series.)


HK33E-TGS.  This is the designation that HK uses to describe a weapon equipped with the add-on HK79 40mm grenade launcher.  TGS stands for "Tactical Group Support."  The trigger for the HK79 is the button on the middle left of the launcher receiver just above the barrel.   This setup would only be outdone in weight by the G3-TGS. 

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The HK53
Rifle Power in a Submachine Gun Package

Caliber 5.56mm x 45 NATO

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Rifle power in a submachine gun package, the HK53.  It is truly neither rifle, nor submachine gun, but a strange mixture of both.  A submachine gun is defined as a select fire weapon, fired from the shoulder using a pistol cartridge.  However, with only an 8.3 inch barrel, the HK53 hardly qualifies as a rifle.  The HK53 fills the void where pistol cartridge submachine guns like the MP5 or MP5/10 and MP5/40 may not be suitable against armored suspects.

Many parts of the HK53 are interchangeable with the MP5, they are so similar in size.  The example above shows us the newer style  concave buttplate that until recently was only reserved for the MP5 series.  It is now available for the 33 and 53 series.  The forks are slightly longer on this model than for the MP5 series.  The four prong flash hider seen here is now standard.  It does much more to suppress the flash from this short barreled weapon than did the more standard flash hider seen on the 33 and G3. 

There is also a frangible ammunition adapter offered as an option that provides the necessary back pressure to cycle the HK53 reliably with very light .223 caliber frangible ammunition that is now available for entry situations where deep penetration is more undesirable.  This may prove somewhat unnecessary, since the national trend of adopting .223 caliber firearms for tactical entry is proving that there is generally less ancillary penetration of  conventional .223 caliber projectiles than even pistol caliber submachine guns.

Caliber Cyclic Rate Mag Capacity Modes of Fire Width (in/mm) Height (in/mm) Weight (lb/kg) bbl. length (in/mm) Overall
Length (in/mm)
5.56 x 45 700 20/25/30/40 S/2/3/F 2.05 8.26 5.96 8.31 29.72
5.56 x 45 700 20/25/30/40 S/2/3/F 52 210 3.00 211 755


The HK53A3 with older style convex A3 buttstock and 25 round steel magazine.  The versatile Hensoldt 4X scope is seen here with the HK NATO STANAG mount.  (STANAG--NATO STANdardization AGreement)

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HK53A3 with old Hensoldt Aiming Point Projector, a bulky C cell sighting system that is totally obsolete now.  Several examples are available in the U.S., usually commanding high prices for collectors.


HK53 firing port weapon for use on tanks and armored personnel carriers.  It is called the HK53 MICV.  Very rare variant!


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HK Law Enforcement brochure photo from mid-1990s (predating the current full color catalogs) that shows the frangible ammunition adapter on the HK53A3.  It allows very lightweight frangible bullets to be fired from the HK53 with sufficient recoil impulse to cycle the gun in all modes of fire.  It is one of only a few photos of the adapter in HK sales literature.


Heckler & Koch promotional photo with HK53A3, 30 round steel magazine, three round burst trigger group.  This is undoubtedly an HK employee, name unknown, wearing standard issue German camouflage. 


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Cover of recent issue of SWAT magazine featuring HK53.  Pose is completely incorrect  technique.   Bladed stance, center of gravity not forward, feet at 45 degree angle.  This is more like a traditional rifle shooting stance. 

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The HK G41
NATO Contender, Now Out Of Production.
Cal. 5.56 x 45

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The HK G41.  Truly a great rifle, and an excellent attempt on the part of Heckler & Koch to produce the next generation of military rifle for Germany, but it was not to be.  The engineers took the best of all NATO standards for a battle rifle, and incorporated them into the G41.  Features such as 1:7 twist rifling for the stabilization of the NATO standard SS109 62 grain projectile, a forward assist, a carrying handle, a bolt that locked open on the last round fired, and in the most overt desire to win over the M16 users, the ability of the rifle to accept actual M16 magazines. 

Only available with a three round burst trigger group, (in HK vernacular a three round burst group is also capable of full automatic fire.  (See page on trigger groups)  The gun was to be everything an M16 lover wanted, but in a more robust package, featuring the time tested roller locking design.

I suspect the one thing that killed the G41 more than any other factor was price.  Where the M16 could be procured world wide for a song, the G41 was being priced in the U.S. at $1700.00 per copy for law enforcement.   That would buy more than a few M16s.  Though heavier, the G41 is a truly great rifle, capable of anything the M16 series is.   As most know by now, the G41 was cancelled, and the HK50, better known as the G36 was adopted as the new Bundeswehr service rifle for the foreseeable future.

Somewhat rare for collectors, there are reportedly only three Pre 1986 dealer samples of the gun in the United States, and one is being touted as the only pre 86 dealer sample on a Florida tactical website, and priced at more than $10,000.

There are two main variants of the G41:  The G41 rifle and G41K carbine.  The only difference is barrel length, 450 mm v. 380 mm.  (17.72 in. v. 14.96 in.)  Both were available with either fixed or retractable stocks.  A third but not true variant was the G41TGS, which added an HK79 forearm mounted 40mm grenade launcher.

Caliber Cyclic Rate Mag Capacity Modes of Fire Width (in/mm) Height (in/mm) Weight (lb/kg) bbl. length (in/mm) Overall
Length (in.mm)
5.56 x 45 850 20/30 S/3/F 2.83 8.43 9.70 17.72/14.96(K) 39.25
5.56 x 45 850 20/30 S/3/F 79 214 4.4 450/380 997


g41bayo.jpg (32355 bytes) G41A2 with fixed bayonet, sling, and 4 power scope.  As is the case with the HK21and 23 series, and MSG90 sniper rifle, the G41 has the newer scope mount from HK.  The three round burst group does not have a front pushpin, like most HK select fire weapons, and is like the 21 and 23 series in that respect.


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Close up of forward assist, ejection port cover, carrying handle, M16 magazine, and unique way the front of the G41 trigger group fits into the receiver.  This is not to be confused with the attachment point for HK90 series firearms.  They are not the same.


g41kwoods.jpg (16456 bytes) Here and below, our friend Herr Günter Schäfer takes aim against imaginary enemies in HK G41 promotional literature. The rifle to the left is the G41KA3, and below is the G41A2.
This photograph also appears in black and white on the back cover of Duncan Long's book, "HK Assault Rifle Systems." g41woods.jpg (34141 bytes)


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The G41TGS with add on ladder grenade sight.  The HK79 is covered in greater detail on the HK79 page.   It is fired by pushing the button on the left side, visible directly under the cocking handle.


g4179rt.jpg (36224 bytes) G41TGS with different sighting system from the simpler ladder sight shown above.  Notice the upper and lower pushpins on the rear of the G41, a departure from the lower only rear pushpins of most roller locked HKs, with the exception of the MP5K series.

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The G36 Series
Cal. 5.56mm x 45 NATO

HKPRO EXCLUSIVE:  G36K with new 40mm grenade launcher called the AG36The launcher opens to the side.  At the time this photo was first published, I shamelessly hailed it as a "World Exlcusive."


G36 as compared to the father of all HK rifles, the G3.


It has often been said by weapons experts that there are very few new developments on the small arms horizon that are truly revolutionary; that we have reached a plateau.  Though the G11 project is dead, and was certainly a harbinger of what is possible over the horizon, the G36 is a combination of old and new, tried and true that when combined makes for the further refinement of the small arms maker's art.  Instead of starting from scratch with totally new design, the engineers at HK, led by the young and rising star Ernst Mauch, through the early years of the 1990s made what was internally called the HK50.  It now carries the Bundeswehr designation G36.

A first departure from the signature HK operating system, roller delayed blowback, the G36 is gas operated.

Caliber Cyclic Rate Mag Capacity Modes of Fire Width (in/mm) Height (in/mm) Weight (lb/kg) bbl. length (in/mm) Overall
Length (in/mm)
5.56 x 45 750 30/100 S/2/F 2.44 12.6 7.28 18.90 39.29
5.56 x 45 750 30/100 S/2/F 64 320 3.60 480 998
Caliber Cyclic Rate Mag Capacity Modes of Fire Width (in/mm) Height (in/mm) Weight (lb/kg) bbl. length (in/mm) Overall
Length (in/mm)
5.56 x 45 750 30/100 S/2/F 2.44 12.6 6.62 12.52 33.78
5.56 x 45 750 30/100 S/2/F 64 320 3.30 320 860
Caliber Cyclic Rate Mag Capacity Modes of Fire Width (in/mm) Height (in/mm) Weight (lb/kg) bbl. length (in/mm) Overall
Length (in/mm)
5.56 x 45 750 30/100 S/2/F 2.44 11.02 6.28 8.98 28.27
5.56 x 45 750 30/100 S/2/F 60 280 2.80 228 720


They borrowed from other tried and proven designs.  There is the short gas piston reminiscent of the Kalashnikov and FAL designs.   The rotating bolt of the M16 series.  The bolt carrier of the AR18.  The folding stock of the FAL and SIG 550 series.  But in the newest refinement of the gunmaker's art with respect to military rifles, the extensive use of polymer throughout the rifle makes it lighter and more corrosion resistant; two qualities essential to the soldier.

The G36 is a reliable rifle, much more so than the M16 series.  Though hard core M16 and AR-15 aficionados will have a difficult time accepting what they might describe derisively as 'Euro-Trash,' there is no denying the fact that the G36 rarely, if ever, jams.  The most desirable departure from the M16 design is the fact that the gas used to operate the action is vented in the forearm, and not blown back into the action like the 'exhaust pipe' of the M16 gas tube.  The G36 jams so rarely that HK has said that they have a G36K that has been fired more than 25,000 rounds without cleaning and no failures.  I defy an M16 to duplicate that.

Though it would be doubtful that the G36 would ever replace the M16 for the U.S. military, it is taking off in the U.S. law enforcement community.  Why not?  Quality is in high demand.


In these two company promotional photographs, the G36 is demonstrated in the assault rifle role and the light machine gun role.  With bipod and 30 round translucent magazine, the 'soldier' models the rifle for prospective buyers.  Get that finger off the trigger! g36woods2.jpg (41743 bytes)
g36woods.jpg (42582 bytes) The MG36 with American Beta Co. CMAG double 100 round drum in the light machine gun role.  HK apparently opted for this in lieu of a drum design of their own, or belt feeding.


MG36 with Beta CMAG 100 round drum magazine in the Light Machine Gun role.


The G36 stripped into its component parts.  The entire rifle can be stripped in less than a minute without tools using the time tested pushpin design.


Cutaway of G36/SL8 gas piston showing gas port in barrel, vent and op rod.


The May, 1996 Issue of Deutsches Waffen-Journal (German Weapons Journal)  The header for the G36 says:   "Brandneu-- H&K Sturmgewehr für die Bundeswehr"  Brand New-- H&K Assault Rifle for the Army

The G36 is a very light rifle.  It is surprising how light it is when you first pick it up.  As stated above, most all parts of the rifle, with the exception of the barrel, bolt assembly and the internal rails are polymer.   The G36 is available with either a dual sighting system (Pictured) or with a single 1.5 power reticle.  The dual system has a red dot sight above a 3.5 power reticle.   This red dot sight is battery powered, but with a sliding window on top of the sight, ambient light can be used during the day for battery conservation.



The design of the gun allows the night vision sight to be mounted and used with the existing optics without rezeroing.


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Zeiss/Hensoldt NSA 80 passive night vision device with periscope reticle made for dropping right onto carry handle of G36.  Reportedly in the $7000 U.S. range, a quality German night scope for the G36 that requires no re-zeroing after installation.


Above:  The G36K with single reticle 1.5X weaponsight.   Note four prong flash hider reminiscent of the HK53 series.  Very effective at mitigating muzzle flash. What is not obvious from this photo is the rough pistol sights that can be used at close range instead of the reticle.  They are molded into the carrying handle.  These sights cannot be used on the gun below, which has the optional red dot sight piggybacked on the handle.  It blocks the rough open sights.
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One of the most promising aspects of the G36 system is the cost.  The G36 series costs roughly $950 for the basic rifle to U.S. LE agencies.  This is significantly less than the roller locked rifles which start at about $1200.  Dual optical sighted models are about $400 more.


G36 Bolt and Carrier.   This picture above might as well have been pulled from a rifle that has had 5000 rounds shot.  This is what the bolt carrier will look like.  The gun just does not get dirty.  A huge attraction for even die hard M16 fans, whose greatest design flaw is that the gas used to operate the rifle is vented directly back into the receiver and to the working parts.  Not so with the G36.  The forearm is where the gas is vented.


HK's U.S. Law Enforcement Catalog lists a number of accessories for the G36 system.  Interestingly, though not surprisingly, the USP Universal Tactical Light fits perfectly on the forend of the G36.  Too bad for collectors, the G36 will be the hard piece to add to the HK collection!

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The G36C "Compact"
Cal 5.56mm x 45 NATO

Update:  1/21/01:  The G36C is now in production, and available to American law enforcement beginning in February, 2001.  Suggested LE price is in the $1100 range.  HKPRO was first to break the news of the G36C, with these first photos above and below, in May, 2000.

Although I am not satisfied with the quality of these photographs, you still for the first time ever will get a detailed look at the latest in the G36 series, the G36C.  The "C" stands for "Compact."  It originally stood for "Commando," but Colt had trademarked that name for their CAR15 variant with the 11.5 inch barrel.   With a roughly eight inch barrel, the Commando has several changes that make this gun more appropriate for entry than the G36K, namely the open sights.  The only drawback to the excellent optics on the G36 series appear to be for entry, even the red dot and its elevated position seem less than ideal.

Other noticeable changes include a shorter buttstock, a shorter four prong flash hider, shortened gas piston and obviously shorter handguard.  All other features of the G36 series are retained.

The open sights have been borrowed from the UMP submachine gun, and the shortened rail making its first appearance on the G36C is sure to become a hit with SL8 variant rifle owners.  They will no doubt appreciate the cleaner lines of this sight rail as compared to the conventional SL8 sights which go all the way to the end of the rifle, and point up in the air.

What is as yet undetermined is if this package will be offered as a retrofit kit for existing departmental G36Ks.  An attractive option, it seems to go against HK's preference for selling entire guns, rather than conversion kits.

You saw this breaking HK news first at HKPRO!

Caliber Cyclic Rate Mag Capacity Modes of Fire Width (in/mm) Height (in/mm) Weight (lb/kg) bbl. length (in/mm) Overall
Length (in/mm)
5.56 x 45 750 30/100 S/2/F 2.44 9.72 6.28 8.98 28.27
5.56 x 45 750 30/100 S/2/F 60 280 2.80 228 720


G36K on top, and G36C.  Notice the shortened buttstock.


Detail of the muzzle, showing gas tube and shorter four prong flash hider.  Still very effective.


The gas piston actually protrudes from the forend.

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The Machine Guns

The HK21E Belt Fed Machine Gun
Caliber 7.62 x 51 NATO


Jim Schatz of HK demonstrates the belt pulling ability of the HK21E.  Don't try this at home!


The HK21E is HKs mainstay belt fed machine gun.  It has undergone several product improvements over the years.  It began life in 1961 as the HK21, then in 1974, the HK21A1, and now the HK21E, as such in production since the early 80s..  "E" stands simply for Export.  Using the same roller locked bolt as most of the other HK automatic firearms, the HK21E features a quick change barrel that can be pulled and replaced in seconds without gloves.  The gun also features a bolt forward assist, fully adjustable sights to 1200 meters, an adjustable bipod, carrying handle and three shot burst trigger group.  It can be mounted on a tripod, as seen below.  The belt box in the photograph below holds 100 rounds of belted .308 (7.62 x 51) ammunition.  This gun in its latest iteration, improved over the HK21 and HK21A1, has been in series production since 1976.
Caliber Cyclic Rate Mag Capacity Modes of Fire Width (in/mm) Height (in/mm) Weight (lb/kg) bbl. length (in/mm) Overall
Length (in.mm)
7.62 x 51 850 Belt/20/50 S/3/F 5.24 8.26 20.50 17.72/22.05 44.88
7.62 x 51 850 Belt/20/50 S/3/F 133 210 9.3 450/560 1140

A rare variant of the HK21 tripod with shock absorbing mount.  The HK21 tripod is one of the rarest accessories in private hands in America, with only a few known specimens.  I don't believe that there are any of these particular shock absorbing mounts in private hands in America.  The version below is the more common version.  In German these are called Feldlafetten, or field mounts.

HK21E on more commonly seen tripod, Model 1102.  This tripod, though rare, is in possession in private hands in America.  It has the ability to accept the periscope optic that the firer can use to sight targets without head exposure.

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The HK21E has a magazine adapter kit that installs easily in a short amount of time.  Doing this makes the designation of the gun HK11E.  Nothing changes on the gun, but the internal dating code of Heckler & Koch makes this the correct designation.  This is one of those accessories where you wonder what wisdom there is going from a belt to a 20 round box.  The overriding consideration might be weight, but the bulk of the weight is in the gun, not the belt.


First cousin to the HK21E is the HK11E when the belt fed machine gun is fitted with the accessory box magazine adapter.

Left side view.  Shown is the 17.7 inch barrel and magazine adaptor.  Standard G3 magazines can now be used.


Conversion kits used to change the HK21E to the HK11E and back.  Belt feed unit and bolt carrier assembly are on the left, and the box feed conversion is on the right.  A different strength mainspring is also necessary.


Barrel for firing blank cartridges that allows the gun to cycle normally


HK21E with 4X telescopic sight, and three round burst trigger group.  This is the only trigger group offered on 21s exported to the U.S.  The "E" in HK21E stands for "Export."

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The HK23E Belt Fed Machine Gun
Cal. 5.56mm x 45 NATO

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The HK23E is the little brother to the HK21E.   In 5.56 x 45 caliber, (.223 Remington), the then called HK21A1 was a contender for the Squad Automatic Weapon trials hosted by the U.S. military when they sought to add a smaller lighter weapon in 5.56 at the squad level.  It featured full caliber conversion from 7.62 x 51 to 5.56 x 45 in minutes without tools. Designated for these tests as the XM262, the HK21A1 lost out to the FN Minimi, now designated by the military as the M249 SAW. (Squad Automatic Weapon)

After the HK21A1 was improved and renamed the HK21E, the same was done for the 5.56 version.  It was renamed the HK23E.

The HK23E with standard three round burst trigger group, 100 round belt box and bipod.   Visible from this angle is the carrying handle, forward assist and barrel changing handle. Also shown is the older style non-adjustable bipod.


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The HK23E with tripod model 1102.  Mount for periscope optic is present as well.  Optic itself is not shown.


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Very interesting variant of the HK23,  referred to as the HK73.  It features what has been described as a linkless feed system that holds a box similar in shape to a linked belt box, but as you can see in this photo, clearly different.  It is said to hold 150 rounds of 5.56 ammunition, and is loaded with stripper clips. 


Detailed photo of the HK73 linkless feed magazine.  150 round capacity.


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The MG43
Newest Belt Fed
5.56mm x 45 NATO

102,000 round torture test at the Yuma Proving Grounds, Yuma, Arizona


The MG43 fires from an open bolt, and the very simple camming bolt is shown here.


These are some of the only photographs emerging in reference to the new  HK MG43 belt fed 5.56mm x 45 machine gun.  Heckler & Koch unveiled the new machine gun at the Defense Systems and Equipment International Convention in London, September 11-14, 2001.

Photos two, three and four are from the June, 2002 edition of Small Arms Review, reprinted here courtesy of Dan Shea, author and photographer of their article on the MG43. More photos to come soon!

The new gun is reportedly still in the early testing stages and is gas operated with a rotary bolt.  Also among the features are safe/full auto only, reminiscent of the M249 SAW and other adopted designs that do not feature select fire capability.  The gun has quick change barrels and a "very strong" belt feeding system.  The use of gas operation and rotary bolt seems to indicate that the MG43 is further progression of the G36 series, though this gun is not touted as a member of the G36 family.

The brochure states that the gun has a folding buttstock and a cyclic rate of 750 rpm.  It does not have a semi auto selector position, which is a first for HK.

Sand and extreme conditions test have already been undertaken at the Yuma proving ground in Arizona, after which a barrel handguard is to be finalized.  The gun is also reportedly to be developed in 7.62mm x 51 NATO as well.   It is not yet known how the designation MG43 came to be.  More information to come as it becomes available.  Count on HKPRO for your leading edge inside the world of HK!

Caliber Cyclic Rate Mag Capacity Modes of Fire Width (in/mm) Height (in/mm) Weight (lb/kg) bbl. length (in/mm) Overall
Length (in.mm)
5.56 x 45 750 Belt Safe/Full 3.54 9.84 18.85 18.9 41.34
5.56 x45 750 Belt Safe/Full 90 250 8.55 480 1050

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The Grande Launchers

Single Shot Grenade Launcher
Cal. 40 mm x 46


A relative newcomer to the American theatrical market, the HK69 has been a mainstay grenade launcher for the European NATO community for some time now.  The HK69 made its debut in cinema with the release of "Ronin" starring Robert DeNiro in 1998.  With a breaktop action and ladder rear sight, the HK69 has a retractable shoulder stock and external hammer.  Rarely seen in America due to the caliber conflict with U.S. Law Enforcement, (40mm v. 37mm), the HK69 is plentiful in Europe.
Caliber Capacity Mode of Fire Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lb.) bbl. length (in.) Overall
Length (in.)
40 x 46 1 Manual 2.25 8.00 5.77 14.00 28.90

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40mm ammunition that the HK69 is capable of handling.  The HK69 can handle them all.  The HK69 is a rarity in American policing, because U.S. Law Enforcement agencies have more or less standardized to 37mm, a caliber that is not offered by HK.   The round above that would most ruin your day is the silver tip/green base in the middle right.  The two most visible letters on it may not be apparent to you.  They are "HE," for High Explosive.


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First prototype of the HK69.  This was attached as is to the forearm of a G3 for the first attempt at the G3-TGS.  What looks like sights on top are the attachment points for the G3.   This of course was later abandoned for the dedicated HK79.  See HK79 page for more information.


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Günter Schäfer preparing to "thump" an imaginary enemy with the HK69.

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Germany's Version of the M203
Cal. 40mm x 46

Norwegian soldier with Norwegian AG3-F1 with HK79 grenade launcher.  The AG3-F1 is the Norwegian designation for the HK G3A4.  This setup would also be called the G3-TGS by HK internally, with TGS standing for Tactical Group System.

American Soldiers who are issued an M16 rifle with underbarrel grenade launchers are given the M203.  It has a barrel that slides forward for the insertion of the round.  The HK79 is the German counterpart to the M203, and mounts on the G3, HK33 and the now defunct G41 rifle.   When the HK79 was added, each of these rifles had the 'TGS' suffix added to their name.  It stands for 'Tactical Group System.' 

The HK79 is a finely made grenade launcher, but you would expect that from HK.  The only real downsides to what is a lack of popularity of them, at least on this side of the ocean, is weight and price.  A G3 rifle, already heavy in its own right, is fit only for Arnold Schwarzenegger at more than nine pounds, empty!  Add the HK79, some full 20 round .308 magazines, and you can see that the average soldier would wear out quickly. 

The HK79 is expensive, at more than $1400 U.S.   There are not many in inventory in American police departments, even for the few that use 40mm over the more ubiquitous 37mm.

Caliber Capacity Mode of Fire Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lb.) bbl. length (in.) Overall
Length (in.)
40 x 46 1 Manual 2.68 5.71 3.68 11.02 13.78


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HK G3-TGS with HK79 Grenade Launcher.  Add on ladder sight is mounted on rear scope mount bracket.   This would be one heavy combination.


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The HK79 is loaded by tilting down the barrel.  This allows much longer specialty munitions to be used than those that the M203 can handle.


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Closeup of the HK79.   The trigger is on the side, directly below the cocking handle of the G3.  The cocking lever is directly in front of the G3 magazine, and looks like the cocking handle of the M16 rifle.  Below is the barrel opening mechanism.

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How unfair for our "soldier" on the left.  He not only has to lug the G3-TGS around, but has to carry some extra belts for Herr Schäfer as well!


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HK79 mounted on out of production G41A3 rifle.


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HK79 mounted on HK33 rifle.

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The AG36
Cal. 40mm x 46

Spanish soldier with Spanish made G36 and AG36 grenade launcher

The AG36 rifle mounted grenade launcher is the latest addition to the G36 rifle system.  This launcher is to the G36 series what the very heavy HK79 is to the G3/HK33/G41 to form the TGS or Tactical Group System as HK named the combination.  Like the G36, polymer is used along with high strength aluminum for light weight.  The AG36 fires most all 40mm x 46 low impulse projectiles from less lethal foam rounds to High Explosive "say goodnight" rounds.

AG is an abbreviation for Anbaugranatwerfer (ahn-bow graNAHT verfur) German for "attached grenade launcher"  AG36 flows naturally with the addition of 36 at the end for the primary weapon it is designed to enhance.  The photo at right was the first ever on the Internet of the then prototype unit.  I immodestly called it a 'World Exclusive' at the time.  It makes the G36K a serious total package.

The AG36 swings out laterally for loading, and this facilitates many different sizes of rounds for whatever purpose is appropriate at the time.  A separate pistol grip and safe/fire system are present as well.  Sales literature says that the AG36 can also be mounted to the M16 and Diemaco C7 and C8 assault rifles. (Canadian M16A2 and CAR).

Caliber Cyclic Rate  Capacity Modes of Fire Weight (lb.) Width (in.) bbl. length (in.) Overall
Length (in.)
40mm x 46 NA 1 S/F 3.30 3.50 11 13.90

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The Future

THE OICW: Objective Individual Combat Weapon
The M29

The Next Step?

Cal. 5.56mm x 45/20mm


Latest photo available of the OICW (being fired,) and it appears from the shell casing that this is a working version, at least for target practice or promotional photos.

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The next generation on the battlefield is here.  It is called the OICW, or Objective Individual Combat Weapon, and HK is right there on the cutting edge with the development of the actual weapons platform that will perhaps take U.S and NATO soldiers into the next Century.

Very basically, the U.S. military wanted a weapon system that mates a conventional rifle with a 20mm "cannon" that is capable of delivering a special munition that can be user set to explode with an airburst at user determined and programmable ranges.  What looks like an M16 underneath should give you pause to look closer.  It is a variant of the HK G36K, with an M16 magazine adapter!  This is something that HK promises for the conventional G36 series as well.  The selector switch and the flash hider are the G36K variant giveaway.

Proof once again that when the military needs something on the cutting edge, HK is the logical choice.  A bargain price for the military?  $10,000 to $12,000 each, and $25-$30 a pop for the 20mm ammunition.   The military plans an initial order of 45,000 units, and for them to be fielded with special units by 2009.  The U.S. Military has given the OICW the designation M29.

First concept model of the OICW, February, 1994.


February, 1996:  The first firing model of the OICW.

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Three different 20mm ammunition types for the OICW.  From Left to Right:  Bursting munition, High Explosive, Target Practice.


High Explosive 20mm round with illustration of the internal circuitry necessary for distance programmable detonation.

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The Sniper Rifles

The Top of the Line

Cal. 7.62 x 51 NATO

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The PSG1 (Präzisionsscharfschützengewehr 1) Precision Sniper Rifle. This appears to be the standard by which other semi-automatic sniper rifles are measured. Ringing up at roughly $10,000 U.S. when they were still importable, the PSG-1 is a rifle system that if in your HK collection would rank you with the best.

Sporting a 25.6 inch cold hammer forged polygonal rifled barrel, the PSG1 has a strengthened receiver to minimize torque, the famous (and heavy) PSG1 fully adjustable buttstock, and a clip on trigger group with wooden handle adjustable for hand size. The gun comes as a package in an aluminum case as pictured below. The Garbini tripod is the final accessory, though many also came with a bipod.

For optics, the PSG1 uses a permanently mounted Hensoldt 6 x 42 with lighted ranging reticle for distances to 600 m. This gun is not for the slight of build. The rifle weighs nearly 18 lbs. It is sometimes incorrectly mentioned that the PSG1 was featured in the movie Sniper, being carried by Billy Zane. It is not. Can anyone tell HKPRO the first US action movie to feature the PSG1? Not too hard I would think.  Maybe you can get it right:  What is the correctly identified rifle used by Billy Zane in the movie "Sniper"?


Caliber Cyclic Rate Mag Capacity Modes of Fire Width (in/mm) Height (in/mm) Weight (lb/kg) bbl. length (in/mm) Overall
Length (in/mm)
7.62 x 51 NA 5/20 Semi 2.32 10.16 17.86 25.60 44.88
7.62 x 51 NA 5/20 Semi 59 258 8.10 650 1208


PSG1 Prototype with wood furniture, and improvised scope mount.  Still a pushpin receiver at this point.


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Visible from right side is the forward assist or silent bolt closure device, standard on most HK precision rifles.   Also present is the Garbini tripod, cumbersome I would think.  A standard bipod would be more useful.


psg1gsg9.jpg (35648 bytes) GSG9 Sniper with PSG1 and rather antiquated communications headset by today's standards.  This photo is close to 13 years old.  It comes from the book GSG9, German Response to Terrorism.   It is out of print.


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Former HK employee and son of former HK president Jim Woods, Jeff Woods mans the PSG1 while former employee Chris Staub acts as observer.   This photo was taken on the roof of the Sterling, VA facility for a catalog photo.   Staub is now a young deputy with the Loudoun County Sheriffs Department, the county where Sterling, Virginia is located.   Barely visible straight above the front of the trigger guard is white lettering.  This says, "HK T&E Only."  HK has an extensive demo and T&E program for police agencies wishing to try their firearms before purchasing them.

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The HK MSG90
Precision Semi-Auto Sniper
Cal. 7.62 x 51 NATO

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The MSG90 is a sniper rifle that was designed and introduced relatively recently.  A close relative of the PSG1 and descendant of the G3, the MSG90 was designed as a lower cost alternative to the PSG1.   Many have often wondered if the MSG90 is ownable by civilians.  It is not, for a simple reason.  You can see from the above photo that the trigger group of the MSG is attached with a front push pin, like most of the automatic firearms from HK.  This precludes it from civilian sale.  The PSG1 has a shelf and clip on trigger group, like the HK 90 series rifles imported until 1989.

The abbreviation MSG stands for "Militärisches Scharfschützen Gewehr" in German or Military Marksman Rifle in English.  "90" is for the year of initial production.

The MSG90 features a PSG1 trigger group, with light 3 lb. trigger pull, stock adjustable for height and pull, though smaller and lighter than the PSG1 buttstock.   Also, unlike the PSG, the scope mount is removable and the rifle can be purchased with or without the standard scope offered by HK.  It features a newer scope mount that is found on only a few of the HK rifles, as compared to the more conventional claw mounts.   You will find this mount on the MSG90, the HK21E and 23E and the now out of production G41 series.  The muzzle of the barrel features a weight to aid in the harmonic stabilization of barrel whip for enhanced accuracy.

Caliber Cyclic Rate Mag Capacity Modes of Fire Width (in/mm) Height (in/mm) Weight (lb/kg) bbl. length (in/mm) Overall
Length (in/mm)
7.62 x 51 NA 5/20 Semi 2.56 10.23 14.11 23.62 45.87
7.62 x 51 NA 5/20 Semi 65 260 6.40 600 1165


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MSG90 from right.   Visible is the ambidextrous safety lever and forward assist that HK markets as a silent bolt closing device.  This is probably more accurate, since HK firearms rarely get so dirty that the bolt won't close.  To silently close the bolt rather than using the famous "HK slap," the shooter would ride the cocking handle all the way forward, then use the forward assist to get the bolt group into battery.  It would be much quieter that way.

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msg90butt.jpg (20659 bytes) Detail of the fully adjustable buttstock.  This buttstock is attractive to HK collectors for several reasons.  The stock is fully compatible with the HK91 series, and weighs and costs less than the PSG1 Buttstock.


Herr Günter Schäfer  in promotional pose with the MSG90 likely somewhere in the woods surrounding the Oberndorf plant. msgwoods.jpg (38855 bytes)


The newest variant of the MSG90 is called the MSG90A1.  Originally the MSG90-DMR for Designated Marksman Rifle, this newest version was commissioned by the United States Marine Corps in 1997.  They took delivery of six prototype rifles in 1998.  The DMR program is intended to be deployed by designated marksmen within Marine Corp Security Force and FAST teams.  The gun was ultimately not considered by the Marines because it is not retrofittable to .300 Win Mag caliber.

The MSG90A1 is now made for the U.S. Department of Defense.  The only differences from it and the standard MSG90 are the threaded barrel and flash hider, (which will also accept a sound suppressor) and open sight capability.  The rear iron sight is the 1200 meter variety, as on the HK21E and 23E series machine guns.  The scope must be removed to use the open sights however.  The A1 also has an improved MSG90 buttstock with rubber buttpad, indexing lines on the buttpad and cheekpieces.  The photograph below is an MSG90-DMR and is from the Grey Room tour at HK.  The DMR was the transition between the standard MSG90 and the newest production MSG90A1s.

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The HK33SG1

HK33 Sniper Variant

Cal. 5.56 x 45 NATO

The 33SG1 is a sniper enhanced variant of the HK33 rifle.  The barrels are hand picked for accuracy, and the standard buttstock has a slightly adjustable cheekpiece, as is the case with the G3SG1.   The only difference in these two rifles is the caliber.

The HK33SG/1 The SG stands for  Scharfschützengewehr or sharp-shooting rifle.  Actual interpretation would be "marksman's rifle." It also has the set trigger group like its big brother, the G3SG/1.


Close up of the G3SG/1 Set trigger group.  This is identical to the 33SG/1 trigger group, and could be exchanged between the two rifles simply by swapping the ejector. The button behind the trigger is used to "set" the trigger when in semi auto mode, and allows the gun to then be fired with a trigger pull of about one lb.


Rare G3 Sniper Variant for the Bundeswehr

Cal. 7.62 x 51 NATO

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The MSG3 is a rare variant of the G3 rifle that was made expressly for the Deutsche Bundeswehr (German Army)  The most noticeable difference is the long barrel. (23.35 inches)  It retains several characteristics of the G3 rifle, namely the standard G3 forearm and bipod, the open sights of a standard G3 rifle, and the receiver is not strengthened with welded rails over the channels where a retractable buttstock would ride, like the MSG90 or PSG1.

The MSG3 retains the  PSG1 trigger group, with light 3 lb. trigger pull, in a housing attached with a front pushpin, the MSG90 stock adjustable for height and pull.  It features the  newer scope mount that is found on only a few of the HK rifles, as compared to the more conventional claw mounts, though the claw mounting points remain on the receiver.   Quite interestingly though, this newer scope mount does not allow the use of the open sights with the mount in place, as is the case with the more conventional claw mount.  To use the open sights, the scope would need to be removed. 

The last visible difference is the enhanced cocking handle found on the G41, the HK beltfeds and the MSG90.  This is a popular add on to an HK91 or 93.  A competent gunsmith can adapt this cocking handle to fit your HK91 or 93.  It requires milling the handguard slightly to accommodate it, but when done correctly, is more aesthetic and easier on the hands.


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MSG3 from right.    Visible is an integral brass deflector, quite different from the add on ejection port buffers popular with shooters who reload for the HK91 and don't like the dented cases or having to look for them in Norway after a session of shooting.

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.30 caliber SL8 Variant

Caliber 7.62 x 37

HKPRO presents the first look at the latest from the engineering team at Heckler & Koch.  The SL9 SD is a .30 caliber variant of the SL8 civilian legal sporting rifle, and a further foray for the Oberndorf team into the experimentation with proprietary new calibers.

This new caliber, metric designation 7.62 x 37 is a cartridge designed to be subsonic from the muzzle, and specs indicate an aural signature in the area of 100dB!

The SL9 SD retains the primary mechanism of the smaller caliber SL8, with a sound suppressor or in the German, Schalldämpfer (SD) manufactured by the Swiss firm Brugger and Thomet.

Also like the SL8, the SL9SD retains the 10 round capacity, and appears from the photo to have some type of advanced trigger for precision, as evidenced by the trigger shoe.  Black in color unlike their more civilian friendly cousins, the SL9SD also sports a G36K forearm, and American made Harris bipod.  For pure aesthetics, it could use the shorter G36C sight rails, as the long SL8 rail serves no purpose at the front end of the rifle.

Overall length:  1150 mm/45.28 in.
Overall height with scope:  270mm/10.63 in.
Total width:  58mm/2.29 in.
Weight with suppressor:  4.60 kg./10.14 lb.

While this will surely instigate breathless anticipation of an SL8 variant in this caliber, there has been no such information from HK at this time, and should not be inferred.

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                     Quelle: http://www.hkpro.com/


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