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Heckler & Koch

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Heckler & Koch GmbH
Company typePrivate (GmbH)
Founded28 December 1949; 74 years ago (28 December 1949)
Area served
Key people
Rainer Runte (Chairman)
ProductsFirearms, weapons
RevenueIncrease 305.1 million (2022)[1]
Increase €46.23 million (2022)[1]
Increase €50.639 million (2022)[1]
Total assetsIncrease €328.194 million (2022)[1]
Total equity
  • Decrease €70.313 million (2022)
  • €85.251 million (2021)
Number of employees
1,131 (end 2022)

Heckler & Koch GmbH (HK or H&K; German pronunciation: [ˌhɛklɐ ʔʊnt ˈkɔx]) is a German firearms manufacturer that produces handguns, rifles, submachine guns, and grenade launchers. The company is located in Oberndorf am Neckar, Baden-Württemberg, and also has subsidiaries in the United Kingdom, France, and the United States.

Heckler & Koch was founded in 1949 by former Mauser engineers Edmund Heckler, Theodor Koch, and Alex Seidel, who founded the company out of the shuttered Mauser factory in Oberndorf.[2] The company initially produced machine tool and metal parts until 1956 when, in response to a Bundeswehr contract for a new service rifle, HK developed the Heckler & Koch G3. The success of the G3 rifle prompted HK to transition to the defense industry. HK was briefly owned by Royal Ordnance from 1991 to 2002, and is currently part of the Heckler & Koch Group, comprising Heckler & Koch GmbH, Heckler & Koch Defense, NSAF Ltd., and Heckler & Koch France SAS. The company's motto is "Keine Kompromisse!" (No Compromises!).[3]


An early-production G3 rifle, Heckler & Koch's first firearm, photographed by the United States Army Ordnance Corps in January 1961

With the fall of Nazi Germany and the following Allied occupation of Germany, Oberndorf came under French control, and the entire Waffenfabrik Mauser AG factory was dismantled by French occupying forces. All factory records were destroyed on orders of the local French Army commander. In 1948, three former Mauser engineers, Edmund Heckler, Theodor Koch, and Alex Seidel, saved what they could from the factory and used what they salvaged to start a machine tool plant in the vacant factory that became known as the Engineering Office Heckler & Co.[4][5]

On December 28, 1949, the Engineering Office Heckler & Co. changed its name and was registered officially as Heckler & Koch GmbH. Initially the new company manufactured machine tools, bicycle and sewing machine parts, gauges, and other precision parts.[6]

In 1956, Heckler & Koch responded to the West German government's tender for a new infantry rifle for the Bundeswehr with the proposal of the G3 battle rifle, based on the Spanish CETME Model 58 rifle and developed in cooperation with CETME.[4][5] The German government awarded Heckler & Koch the tender and in 1959 declared the G3 the standard rifle of the Bundeswehr.[7][8] Later in 1961, Heckler & Koch developed the 7.62×51mm HK21 general-purpose machine gun, based on the G3.[9]

In 1966, Heckler & Koch introduced the HK54 machine pistol, which eventually launched in 1969 as the MP5 submachine gun.[10] Two years later, the company introduced the HK33 assault rifle, a smaller version of the G3 chambered in 5.56×45mm NATO.[11][12]


In 1974, Heckler & Koch diversified into two more areas, HK Defense and Law Enforcement Technology and HK Hunting and Sports Firearms. Since then HK has designed and manufactured more than 100 different types of firearms and devices for the world's military and law enforcement organizations as well as sports shooters and hunters.[13]

In 1990, Heckler & Koch completed two decades of development of their revolutionary caseless weapon system and produced prototypes of the G11 rifle. The company also produced prototypes of the G41 assault rifle intended for the Bundeswehr. Due to the international political climate at the time (East and West Germany uniting and defense budget cuts) the company was unable to secure funded contracts from the German government to support production of either weapon system and became financially vulnerable. The next year, Heckler & Koch was sold to British Aerospace's Royal Ordnance division.[3]

During 1994 and 1995, the German government awarded Heckler & Koch contracts for producing an updated standard assault rifle and updated standard sidearm for the Bundeswehr. Heckler & Koch developed and produced the Project HK50, a lightweight carbon fiber assault rifle, which became the G36 assault rifle. In addition, Heckler & Koch produced the P8 pistol, derived from its USP handguns produced since 1989. The USP was adopted as the standard sidearm of the Bundeswehr in 1994, and the G36 was adopted as their standard-issue rifle in 1995.[14]

As the result of a 1999 merger between British Aerospace and Marconi Electronic Systems, Heckler & Koch was owned by the resulting BAE Systems; it was contracted to refurbish the British Army's SA80 rifles (which had been built by Royal Ordnance)[15] This contract entailed a modification program to the SA80 series of rifles to address a number of reliability issues with the design. 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, HK Beteiligungs GmbH's business organization restructured as Heckler & Koch Jagd und Sportwaffen GmbH (HKJS), and its business was separated into the two business areas similar to the 1974 business mission areas: Defense, and Law Enforcement and Sporting Firearms.

In 2004, Heckler & Koch was awarded a major handgun contract for the United States Department of Homeland Security, worth a potential $26.2 million for up to 65,000 handguns.[16] This contract ranks as the single largest handgun procurement contract in U.S. law enforcement history.[17]

Heckler & Koch facility in Oberndorf am Neckar

HK was contracted by the United States Army to produce the kinetic energy subsystem[18] (see: kinetic projectiles or kinetic energy penetrator) of the Objective Individual Combat Weapon, a planned replacement for the M16 rifle/M203 grenade launcher combination. The OICW was designed to fire 5.56 mm rounds 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 an AR-15/M4 carbine variant, marketed as the HK416.[19] HK replaced the direct impingement system used by the Stoner design on the original M16 with a short-stroke piston operating system. The civilian models are named the MR223 and, in the U.S., the MR556A1.[20]

In 2007, United States Secretary of the Army Pete Geren agreed to hold a "dust chamber" test pitting the M4 against the Heckler & Koch HK416 and XM8, as well as the rival FN SCAR design. The Heckler & Koch XM8 and FN SCAR had the fewest failures in the test, closely followed by the HK416, while the M4 had by far the most.[21] In 2007, the Norwegian Army became the first to field the HK416 as a standard-issue rifle.[22]

HK sells its pistols in the United States to both law enforcement and civilian markets, through its HK USA subsidiary. The company has locations in Virginia, New Hampshire, and Georgia.


The MP7 personal defense weapon, UMP submachine gun, and G36C assault rifle, firearms developed by Heckler & Koch at the turn of the 21st century.

Heckler & Koch has produced a variety of firearms including the G3, HK21, MP5, HK4, HK33, HK69, VP70, PSG1, USP, G36, MG4, UMP, MP7, and HK416, which have become some of the most iconic and widely adopted firearms in the world, used by dozens of militaries, police forces, and paramilitaries worldwide. Many of its prototype weapons, including the G11, HK CAWS, XM29 OICW, and XM8, have also become recognizable. HK firearms use blowback operation, short-recoil, roller-delayed blowback, gas-delayed blowback, and short-stroke piston gas operation. HK is responsible for several innovations in firearms, such as the use of polymers in weapon designs, modern polygonal rifling, the feasibility of high-velocity caseless ammunition in prototype service rifles, and integral rails for handgun attachments.[23]

HK naming system[edit]

The name of the MP5A5 is derived from the HK naming system:
MP (Maschinenpistole)
5 (Selective fire carbine)
A5 (Model 5)

Heckler & Koch products use an internal naming system, consisting of an abbreviation and a two- or three-digit Werknummern designation popularly referred to as the "HK 3-digit system".[24][25] Each letter and digit is assigned a specific meaning outlined in the convention to make them easier to identify and differentiate by name.

The HK naming convention is not a fixed convention, but rather a guideline, and not all HK products follow it; this is typically done for marketing purposes or quirks in the weapon's development or intended role. For instance, the HK416 does not use a proper abbreviation ("HK" does not mean anything specific), nor does it use proper digits (the HK416 was originally two models, the "HK M4" and "HK M16", that were later amalgamated into the HK416); using the 3-digit system, the standard HK416 would likely be referred to as the G333. Such products tend to have proper internal designations anyway; the HK416 is internally referred to as the HK333.


Most HK products have a prefix of between one and three letters, corresponding to a word or term in German (though some refer to English terms instead, with no German equivalent). Several were only used for a single model, such as the "Universal" weapons (UMP, UCP, USC, USP). Some abbreviations are used as a suffix to designate specific variants.

Letter German meaning English equivalent Placement Designation Example
HK N/A Heckler & Koch Prefix Basic prefix for HK products with no specific meaning. HK417
A Ausführung Model

Variant Version

Suffix Variants of existing designs. "G3" refers to the original G3 rifle with a wooden handguard and fixed stock; "G3A1" refers to the G3 variant with a wooden handguard and a retractable stock; "G3A2" refers to the G3 variant with a plastic handguard and fixed stock; etc.
G Gewehr Rifle Prefix Rifles, primarily those intended to be issued as service rifles. G41
K Kurz Short Suffix Compact, shortened variants of handguns and submachine guns. P9K
Karabiner Carbine Carbine variants of rifles. G36K
C N/A Compact Suffix Compact, shortened variants of rifles. G36C
AG Anbau-Gerät Attached Device Prefix Weapon attachments, primarily underbarrel grenade launchers. AG-C/EGLM
Anbaugranatwerfer Attached Grenade Launcher
GMG N/A Grenade Machine Gun Full name Automatic grenade launchers. GMG/GMW
GMW Granatmaschinenwaffe Automatic Grenade Launcher
MG Maschinengewehr Machine Gun Prefix Machine guns and squad automatic weapons. MG4
MP Maschinenpistole Machine Pistol

Submachine Gun

Prefix Submachine guns, machine pistols, and personal defense weapons. MP5
MSG Militärisches Scharfschützengewehr Military Sharpshooting Rifle Prefix Sharpshooting rifles designed specifically for military use. MSG90
PSG Präzisionsschützengewehr Precision Sharpshooter Rifle Prefix Sharpshooting rifles in general. PSG1
PSP Polizei-Selbstlade-Pistole Police Self-Loading Pistol Full name Self-loading handguns designed specifically for law enforcement use. PSP
SD Schalldämpfer Sound Dampener


Suffix Weapon variants that are integrally-suppressed or designed to be used with a suppressor. MP5SD (for integrally-suppressed weapons)

USP9 SD (for weapons with an extended threaded barrel intended for suppressors)

SG Scharfschützengewehr Sharpshooters Rifle Suffix Weapon variants designed for sharpshooting. G3SG/1
SK Subkompakt Subcompact Suffix Extra-compact variants of handguns, usually for concealed carry. P2000 SK
SL Selbstlader Autoloader Prefix Self-loading semi-automatic firearms, usually rifles, intended for hunting and the civilian market. SL8
UMP N/A Universal Machine Pistol Prefix A specific submachine gun intended to replace the MP5 as a universal-role submachine gun. UMP
UCP N/A Universal Combat Pistol Prefix A specific handgun intended to be the companion sidearm to the MP7. UCP
USC N/A Universal Self-Loading Carbine Prefix The semi-automatic civilian market variant of the UMP submachine gun. USC
USP Universale Selbstladepistole Universal Self-Loading Pistol Prefix A specific handgun designed for the American civilian market. USP
VP Volkspistole People's Pistol Prefix Handguns, usually polymer-framed, intended for the civilian market. VP70
ZF Zielfernrohr Telescopic Sight Postfix Weapon variants not necessarily intended for sharpshooting that come with a telescopic sight and claw mount. G3A3ZF
Prefix Telescopic sight models, typically those produced in cooperation with Hensoldt. ZF 6x42 PSG1

Werknummern designations[edit]

The Werknummern designation system assigns two or three digits that correspond to the product's technical specifics. These are placed after (or if a suffix, before) the abbreviation, and denote the generation, form factor, and caliber or munition of the weapon.

Digit Number Meaning
First None First generation
1 Second generation
2 Third generation
3 Fourth generation
4 Fifth generation
Digit Number Meaning
Second 1 Magazine-fed machine gun
2 Belt-fed machine gun
3 Full-size rifle
4 Semi-automatic military carbine
5 Selective fire carbine
6 Shoulder-fired standalone grenade launcher
7 Underbarrel firearm-mounted grenade launcher
8 Hunting rifles and repeaters
Digit Number Meaning
Third 1 7.62×51mm NATO
2 7.62×39mm
3 5.56×45mm NATO
4 Handgun cartridges

9×19mm Parabellum, .40 S&W .45 ACP, etc.

5 .50 BMG
6 HK 4.6×30mm
7 .300 AAC Blackout
8 37 mm grenade
9 40 mm grenade

Date code[edit]

The date code is a two-letter combination used to specify the year a weapon was manufactured in. These are not part of the product's name, but are printed for identification directly on the weapon itself. They are only used on handguns.[26]

Letter Number Examples
A 0 AF05 – 2005
B 1
C 2
D 3 BG16 – 2016
E 4
F 5
G 6
H 7 CE24 – 2024
I 8
K 9
The letter J is not used as a date code.

Heckler & Koch handguns produced at HK's German facilities are marked with "DE", Germany's ISO 3166-1 code. Handguns manufactured in HK facilities outside Germany, or those produced in Germany before 2008, do not have the DE marking.

Trigger group[edit]

The "Navy 3-Round Burst" trigger group on an MP5, set to "safe".

Heckler & Koch long arms mostly follow a set of shared trigger group standards for selective fire and safety, with corresponding markings and pictograms.[27]

Type Positions Settings Location
SEF 3-position Safe (Sicher), semi-automatic (Einzelfeuer), full automatic (Feuerstoß) Left-side
0-1-20 3-position Safe, semi-automatic, full automatic Left-side
SE / 0-1 2-position Safe, semi-automatic Ambidextrous
Navy 3-position Safe, semi-automatic, full automatic Ambidextrous
Navy 3-Round Burst 4-position Safe, semi-automatic, 3-round burst, full automatic Ambidextrous
Navy 2-Round Burst 4-position Safe, semi-automatic, 2-round burst, full automatic Ambidextrous
Setting Marking system
Number Letter Pictogram Pictogram image
Safe White "0" White "S" Bullet symbol inside closed rectangle with an "X" through it
Semi-automatic Red "1" Red "E" Bullet symbol inside closed rectangle
Burst fire Red "2" or "3" Red "2" or "3" 2 or 3 bullet symbols in a horizontal line inside a closed rectangle
Full automatic Red "30" Red "F" 7 bullet symbols in a horizontal line inside a closed rectangle


H&K has been accused of shipping small arms to conflict regions such as Bosnia[28] and Nepal,[29] and has licensed its weapons for production by governments with poor human rights records such as Sudan, Thailand and Myanmar.[30] It has been argued that the company effectively evaded EU export restrictions when these licensees sold HK weapons to conflict zones including Indonesia,[31] Sri Lanka[32] and Sierra Leone.[29]

According to the newspaper Stuttgarter Nachrichten (31 August 2011), as well as the state broadcaster ARD, a large stockpile of G36 assault rifles fell into rebel hands during the August 2011 attack on Muammar Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli. It is unclear how many were exported to Libya and by whom.[33]

Illegal arms sales to Mexico[edit]

On 11 December 2011, federal, state and local Mexican police officers used battle rifles to fire on Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College students and peasant organizations to disperse a blockade on Mexican Federal Highway 95D, resulting in the deaths of students Jorge Alexis Herrera and Gabriel Echeverría de Jesús. According to media reports, 7.62×51mm NATO round casings were found at the scene, matching those used by H&K G3 rifles.[34]

In Iguala and Cocula, corrupt police officers and cartelmen are known to have used H&K G36 rifles during the 2014 Iguala mass kidnapping on 26–27 September 2013. At least six teaching students were murdered by cartelmen and corrupt local police, and 43 others are missing and presumed dead. Other than the six identified persons, no other bodies have been found, and they are believed to have been incinerated.[35]

As a result of efforts by civil society and human rights organizations in Mexico and Germany,[35] H&K and two of its former employees were brought before the Provincial Court of Stuttgart. After ten months of trial, on 21 February 2019, the court convicted them of illegally selling arms to Mexican governmental institutions which failed to acknowledge their due observance of human rights.[36][35] The two former employees (sales manager Sahlmann and administrative employee Beuter) had been found to have used fraudulent permits in the sale of 4,700 rifles and large quantities of ammunition. H&K was issued a fine of 3.7 million euros, and the two men received suspended sentences of 17 and 22 months. The spokesman of the Presidency of the Republic of Mexico, Jesús Ramírez Cuevas, said that the amount of the fine should go to the victims and their families.

On 30 March 2021, Germany's Federal Court of Justice (BGH) upheld the lower court's decision, finding that H&K employees knowingly falsified information on the nature and destination of arms sold by the company in order to attain federal export licenses.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "H&K AG Group Accounts 2021" (PDF). Heckler & Koch.
  2. ^ Knight, Ben (14 May 2018). "How a German gunmaker became one of the world's deadliest". DW. Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 22 June 2024. Local legend says that Edmund Heckler, an engineer at Mauser — which supplied thousands of rifles to Hitler's armies from a factory in Oberndorf — founded the company after hiding Mauser machinery from Allied forces tasked with demilitarizing Germany.
  3. ^ a b "www.heckler-koch.de". www.heckler-koch.de. Retrieved 2014-03-17.
  4. ^ a b Lee, Jerry (2011). Standard Catalog of Rifles & Shotguns. Iola, Wisconsin: Gun Digest Books. p. 1143. ISBN 978-1-4402-3014-1.
  5. ^ a b Lee, Jerry (2013). The Official Gun Digest Book of Guns & Prices 2013. Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications. p. 490. ISBN 978-1-4402-3543-6.
  6. ^ Firearms: An Illustrated History. DK Publishing/ Smithsonian Institution. 2014. p. 256. ISBN 978-1-4654-3089-2.
  7. ^ Schwing, Ned (5 November 2005). Standard Catalog of Military Firearms: The Collector's Price and Reference Guide. Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications. p. 174. ISBN 0-87349-902-6.
  8. ^ Tilstra, Russell C. (21 March 2014). "HK G3". The Battle Rifle: Development and Use Since World War II. McFarland. pp. 38–50. ISBN 978-1-4766-1564-6.
  9. ^ Cutshaw, Charles Q. (28 February 2011). Tactical Small Arms of the 21st Century: A Complete Guide to Small Arms From Around the World. Iola, Wisconsin: Gun Digest Books. p. 368. ISBN 978-1-4402-2482-9.
  10. ^ Musgrave, Daniel D.; Oliver, Smith Hempstone (1971). German Machineguns. MOR Associates. p. 345.
  11. ^ Gander, Terry J. (1995). Hogg, Ian V. (ed.). Jane's Infantry Weapons 1995/1996 (21 ed.). Jane's Information Group.
  12. ^ Willbanks, James H. (1 January 2004). Machine Guns: An Illustrated History of Their Impact. ABC-CLIO. p. 138. ISBN 978-1-85109-480-6.
  13. ^ Shideler, Dan (2009). The Gun Digest Book of Modern Gun Values: The Shooter's Guide to Guns 1900–Present. Iola, Wisconsin: Gun Digest Books. pp. 322–326. ISBN 978-0-89689-824-0.
  14. ^ Heckler & Koch Global. "Pistole P8". Retrieved 2008-07-28.
  15. ^ "British Army Website information page on the SA80 A2 rifle". Archived from the original on 28 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-28.
  16. ^ "Industry arms Homeland Security". Shooting Industry. 2004. Archived from the original on 2012-07-07. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  17. ^ "HK Australia website". Archived from the original on 19 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  18. ^ "The Gun Source - HK". Archived from the original on 22 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  19. ^ "Modern Firearms". Archived from the original on 2006-06-19. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  20. ^ "Heckler & Koch :: Product Overview | MR223A3 - 16.5"".
  21. ^ "Defence Technology Website". Archived from the original on 2008-08-28. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
  22. ^ Bentzrød, Sveinung Berg (April 13, 2007). "Arvtageren til AG-3". Aftenposten.no. Archived from the original on February 12, 2009. Retrieved 2007-06-16.
  23. ^ Hogg, Ian V.; Weeks, John (1992). Pistols of the World: The Definitive Illustrated Guide to the World's Pistols and Revolvers. DBI Books. p. 161. ISBN 978-0-87349-128-0.
  24. ^ "HK new 3 digit rifle nomenclature/naming system". HKPRO Forums. Retrieved 2022-02-27.
  25. ^ "Heckler & Koch :: HK433: Heckler & Koch's vierte Sturmgewehrfamilie setzt neue Maßstäbe". www.heckler-koch.com. Retrieved 2022-02-27.
  26. ^ "Date Codes on H&K Pistols". H&K. H&K USA. Retrieved 26 October 2020.
  27. ^ "H&K LOWER ID GUIDE". Small Arms Review. October 1997. Retrieved 2024-04-28.
  28. ^ Abel, Peter, "Manufacturing Trends: Globalising the Source" in Lumpe, Lora (ed.) (2000), Running Guns: The Global Black Market in Small Arms, London: Zed Books.
  29. ^ a b A Catalogue of Failures: G8 Arms Exports and Human Rights Violations (2003-05-19) Archived 2015-02-10 at the Wayback Machine, Amnesty International.
  30. ^ Out of Control – The loopholes in UK controls on the arms trade (1998–12) Archived 2006-10-19 at the Wayback Machine, Oxfam GB.
  31. ^ Wright, Steve (2001-01), "A Legal Trade in Death", Le Monde Diplomatique.
  32. ^ "Undermining Global Security: the European Union's arms exports" (2004-02-01) Archived 2007-10-31 at the Wayback Machine, Amnesty International.
  33. ^ "Libyan rebels use German weapons". The Local. Germany. 31 August 2011. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  34. ^ Ocampo, Sergio (2011-12-13). "Matan policías a dos estudiantes al desalojar un bloqueo carretero (Police kills two students dislodging a road blockade)". www.jornada.com.mx (in Mexican Spanish). Retrieved 2019-02-25.
  35. ^ a b c "Heckler & Koch Fined $4.2 Million Over Assault Rifle Sales In Mexico". NPR.org. 2019-02-19. Retrieved 2019-02-25.
  36. ^ "Heckler & Koch fined €3.7 million over illegal arms sales to Mexico | DW | 21.02.2019". DW.COM. Retrieved 2019-02-25.
  37. ^ Welle (www.dw.com), Deutsche. "Germany fines Heckler & Koch for illegal arms sales to Mexico | DW | 30.03.2021". DW.COM. Retrieved 2021-03-31.

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