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Heckler & Koch GmbH (HK)
Type GmbH, Private company
Industry Defense
Founded 1949
Headquarters Oberndorf am Neckar, Germany
Key people Edmund Heckler, Theodor Koch, Alex Seidel, founders
Products Firearms, weapons
Employees 600 (2011)
Website (USA)

Heckler & Koch GmbH (HK) (German pronunciation: [ˈhɛklɐʔʊntˈkɔx][1]) is a German defense manufacturing company that manufactures handguns, assault rifles, submachine guns, and grenade launchers. The Heckler & Koch Group comprises Heckler & Koch GmbH, Heckler & Koch Defense, NSAF Ltd., and Heckler & Koch France SAS.

Their products include the MP5 SMG, the G3 battle rifle, the HK33, G36, HK416 assault rifles, the Heckler & Koch HK21 general-purpose machine gun, the MP7 PDW, the UMP SMG, the USP series of handguns, and the high-precision PSG1 sniper rifle. All firearms made by HK are named by a prefix and the official designation, with suffixes used for variants.

HK has a history of innovation in firearms, such as the use of polymers in weapon designs and the use of an integral rail for flashlights on handguns. HK also developed modern polygonal rifling, noted for its high accuracy, increased muzzle velocity and barrel life. Not all of its technologically ambitious designs have translated into commercially successful products (for instance, the advanced but now abandoned G11 assault rifle, which fired caseless high-velocity ammunition). HK produces small arms ranging from handguns to machine guns and grenade launchers. In its extensive product range, HK has used the following operating systems for small arms: blowback operation, short-recoil, roller-delayed blowback, gas-delayed blowback, and gas operation.


The Heckler & Koch company history begins with Friedrich I of Württemberg signing a document on July 31, 1811. The document ordered several independent workshops to combine and establish a royal weapons factory in the Black Forest village of Oberndorf am Neckar. This factory began production on November 6, 1812 as the "Königlich-Württembergische Gewehrfabrik" (translated, Royal Württemberg Rifle Factory).

During Peter Paul Mauser's enlistment in an artillery regiment, he gained personal knowledge over the strengths and weaknesses of Nicholas Dreyse's Zündnadelgewehr roughly translated to needle gun. Peter Paul Mauser returned to Oberndorf from active duty to work for his father, gunsmith Franz Andreas Mauser, and several of his twelve older brothers at the Regal Württemberg Rifle Factory.

In 1866, Peter Paul Mauser (handling development and manufacture aspects) and his brother Wilhelm Mauser (handling financial and marketing aspects) had worked together on developing and marketing an improved variant of the Dreyse needle gun to address issues with gas blowback and accidental discharge potential while the bolt was being closed.

By 1867, Peter Paul Mauser developed an improved turn bolt action rifle, which was eventually adopted by the German Army in 1871 as the 'Gewehr 71' (Infantry Weapon Model 71). Mauser's improved design is still the foundation of turn bolt action rifles created since its inception. Peter Paul Mauser continued to innovate and produced the Mauser Gewehr magazine-rifle in 1897 in direct response to the then ongoing conflict with France and its Lebel Rifle (first mass-produced magazine-rifle).

In 1897, the Royal Württemberg Rifle Factory became the Waffenfabrik Mauser AG and after several innovations from Peter Paul Mauser, introduced the 'Gewehr 98' (Infantry Weapon Model 98) in 1898.

With the fall of Germany at the end of World War II, Oberndorf came under French control, and the entire factory was dismantled by French occupying forces. All records in the Waffenfabrik Mauser AG factory were destroyed on orders of the local US Army commander. In 1948, former Mauser engineers, Edmund Heckler, Theodor Koch, and Alex Seidel all saved what they could from the factory during the dismantling and used what they salvaged to start the Engineering Office Heckler & Co. in Oberndorf.

On December 28, 1949, the Engineering Office Heckler & Co. changed its name and was registered officially as Heckler & Koch GmbH.

Initially the company manufactured machine tools, bicycle and sewing machine parts, gauges and other precision parts.

In 1956, Heckler & Koch responded to the West German Government's tender for a new infantry rifle for the Bundeswehr (German Federal Army) with the proposal of the G3 battle rifle. The introduction of the G3 battle rifle was a milestone in modern rifle engineering. The German Government awarded Heckler & Koch this tender and by 1959, declared the G3 battle rifle as the standard rifle of the Bundeswehr.

In 1961, Heckler & Koch developed the 7.62x51mm HK21 general-purpose machine gun, based on the G3 battle rifle.

In 1966, Heckler & Koch introduced the HK54 machine pistol, which eventually launched in 1969 as the MP5 machine pistol.

In 1968, Heckler & Koch introduced the 5.56x45mm HK33 assault rifle, which is a smaller version of the G3 battle rifle.[2]

In 1974, Heckler & Koch diversified into the following two business areas:

  1. HK Defense and Law Enforcement Technology
  2. HK Hunting and Sports Firearms

Since then HK has designed and manufactured more than one hundred different types of firearms and devices for the world's military and law enforcement organizations. In 1990, Heckler & Koch finalized over two decades of development with their revolutionary case-less weapon system and produces prototypes of the HK G11. In addition, the company produces prototypes for the HK G41 assault rifle intended for the Bundeswehr. Due to the international political climate at that time (East and West Germany uniting and defense budget cuts) the company is unable to secure funded contracts from the German Government to support production of either weapon system and this results in the company becoming financially vulnerable.

In 1991, the Heckler & Koch company was sold to the BAe's Royal Ordnance division.[3]

During 1994 and 1995, the German Government awards the Heckler & Koch company with contracts for producing an updated standard assault rifle and updated standard sidearm for the Bundeswehr. As a result, Heckler & Koch developed and produced the Project HK50, a lightweight carbon fiber–reinforced polymer assault rifle, which became the HK G36 assault rifle. In addition, Heckler & Koch produced the HK P8 derived as a variant based upon its Universale Selbstladepistole (USP) series of handguns (already in development since 1989). In 1994, the Bundeswehr begins to adopt the HK P8 handgun as the standard issue handgun for its troops.

In 1997, the Bundeswehr adopts the HK G36 assault rifle as the standard issue assault rifle for its troops.

In 1999, Heckler & Koch is owned by BAE Systems as a result of a merger between BAe and MES.

In 2000, Heckler & Koch was contracted to refurbish the SA80 rifle for the British Army.[4] This contract entailed a modification programme to the SA80 series of rifles to address a number of reliability issues with the SA80.

In 2002, BAE Systems restructured and sold Heckler & Koch to a group of private investors, who created the German group holding company (HK Beteiligungs-GmbH).

In 2003, the HK Beteiligungs GmbH group's business organization is restructured and its business is separated into the following two business areas (similar to its 1974 business mission areas):

  1. Defense and Law Enforcement
  2. Sporting Firearms

On July 1, 2003, Heckler & Koch Jagd und Sportwaffen GmbH (HKJS) started its operations.

In 2004, Heckler & Koch was awarded a major handgun contract for the DHS, worth a potential $26.2 million for up to 65,000 handguns.[5] This contract ranks as the single largest handgun procurement contract in US law enforcement history.[6]

Heckler & Koch facility in Oberndorf am Neckar.

The company is located in Oberndorf in the state of Baden-Württemberg, and also has subsidiaries in the United Kingdom, France and the United States. The company motto is "Keine Kompromisse!" (No Compromises!).[3] HK provides firearms for many military and paramilitary units, like the Special Air Service, U.S. Navy SEALs, Delta Force, FBI HRT, the German KSK and GSG 9 and many other counter-terrorist and hostage rescue teams.[7][8][9]

HK was contracted by the U.S. Army to produce the kinetic energy subsystem[10] (see: kinetic projectiles or kinetic energy penetrator) of the Objective Individual Combat Weapon, a planned replacement for the M16/M203 grenade launcher combination. The OICW was designed to fire 5.56 mm bullets and 25 mm grenades. The kinetic energy component was also developed separately as the XM8, though both the OICW and XM8 are now indefinitely suspended.

Heckler & Koch developed a Colt M4 variant, marketed as the HK416.[11] HK replaced the direct impingement system used by the Stoner design on the original M16 platform with a short-stroke piston operating system. At this date, there is no indication that the rifle will be adopted by the United States Armed Forces. However, the elite Delta Force and other special operations units have fielded the HK416 in combat,[12] and Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has called for a "free and open competition" to determine whether the army should buy the HK416 or continue to purchase more M4 carbines.[13] Incoming Secretary of the Army Pete Geren agreed in July 2007 to hold a "dust chamber" test, pitting the M4 against HK's HK416 and XM8, as well as the rival Fabrique Nationale's SOF Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) design. Coburn had threatened to stop Geren’s Senate confirmation if he did not agree to the test.[14] The HK XM8 and FN SCAR had the fewest failures in the test, closely followed by the HK416, while the M4 had by far the most.[15] In 2007, the Norwegian Army became the first to field the HK416 as a standard issue rifle.[16]

HK sells its pistols in the United States to both law enforcement and civilian markets. The company has locations in Virginia, New Hampshire, and Georgia. Many HK civilian rifles that were briefly sold in the United States now have a high value on the secondary market.

The UK headquarters of HK are based within the Easter Park Industrial Estate Nottingham.

HK abbreviations

Format: Abbreviation = German Text ("English Text")

  • A = Ausführung ("version")[17]
  • G = Gewehr ("rifle")[18]
  • K = Either Kurz ("short") for pistols and submachine guns or Karabiner ("Carbine") for rifles and assault rifles.[19]
  • AG = Either stands for Anbau-Gerät ("attached device") or Anbaugranatwerfer ("attached grenade launcher")
  • GMG = Granatmaschinengewehr ("grenade machine gun")[20]
  • GMW = Granatmaschinenwerfer (automatic grenade launcher)[21]
  • MG = Maschinengewehr ("machine gun") [20]
  • MP = Maschinenpistole ("submachine gun" or "machine pistol")[22]
  • PSG = Präzisionsschützengewehr ("precision sharp shooter rifle")[23]
  • PSP = Polizei-Selbstlade-Pistole ("police self-loading pistol")[24]
  • SD = Schalldämpfer ("sound dampener", "suppressor");[25] In the case of the MP5 having an integral suppressor, in the case of the USP, an extended threaded barrel for attaching a suppressor.
  • SG = Scharfschützengewehr ("sharpshooters rifle") [26]
  • SL = Selbstlader ("Autoloader") [27]
  • UMP = Universale Maschinenpistole ("universal machine pistol")[28]
  • UCP = Universal Combat Pistol
  • USC = Universal Self-loading Carbine
  • USP = Universale Selbstladepistole ("universal self-loading pistol")[29]
  • ZF = Zielfernrohr ("telescopic sight")[30]

See also


  1. HKPro - How do you correctly pronounce "Koch?"
  2. Gander, Terry J.; Hogg, Ian V. Jane's Infantry Weapons 1995/1996. Jane's Information Group; 21 edition (May 1995)
  3. 3.0 3.1
  4. "British Army Website information page on the SA80 A2 rifle". Retrieved 2008-08-28. 
  5. "Industry arms Homeland Security". Shooting Industry. 2004. Archived from the original on 2012-07-07. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  6. "HK Australia website". Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  7. "UnOfficial SAS Website". Retrieved 2008-08-28. 
  8. "Unofficial US Navy Seals Website". Archived from the original on 2008-01-04. Retrieved 2008-08-28. 
  9. "US Special Forces Unofficial website". Retrieved 2008-08-28. 
  10. "The Gun Source - HK". Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  11. "Modern Firearms". Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  12. Cox, Matthew (March 1, 2007). "Better than M4, but you can't have one". Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  13. Lowe, Christian (April 30, 2007). "Senator Tells Army to Reconsider M4".,13319,133962,00.html. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  14. "M4 to face new rifles in dust-chamber test". 
  15. "Defence Technology Website". Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  16. Bentzrød, Sveinung Berg (April 13, 2007). "Arvtageren til AG-3". Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  17. HKPro - definition of 'A' designation
  18. Translation : gewehr
  19. Translation : karabiner
  20. 20.0 20.1 Translation : maschinengewehr
  21. Translation : werfer
  22. Translation : maschinenpistole
  23. Translation : präzisions-schützen-gewehr
  24. Translation: P7 Pistol Wikipedia entry
  25. Translation : schalldämpfer
  26. Translation : schützen-Gewehr
  27. Translation : Selbstlader
  28. Translation : universal-maschinenpistole
  29. Translation : universal-selbstladepistole
  30. Translation : Zielfernrohr

External links

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