Heckler & Koch:
A Company History
July 31, 1811, his Majesty Friedrich I of Württemberg
signed a document establishing a royal weapons factory in the
Black Forest village of Oberndorf, Germany. The factory, employing
133 workers, opened for business in 1812.
fifty years later, in 1867, Wilhelm and Paul Mauser invented
a novel bolt system for breechloaders. This weapon was introduced
as the German infantry weapon M71 in 1871. In 1897, the royal
weapons factory became Waffenfabrik Mauser AG. The 20th century
saw the factory expanded and a new product line, an infantry
weapon model 98, was introduced. In 1945, the former royal
weapons factory was dismantled by French occupying forces.
Edmund Heckler, Theodor Koch and Alex Seidel, former Mauser
engineers, saved what they could from the ruins, thus laying
the foundation for what was to become Heckler & Koch.
and Koch GmbH (HK) was registered in December of 1949 and officially
opened for business in this historical center of German gun-making
enterprise in 1950. In the aftermath of World War II, the new
firm would eventually help rebuild a nation destroyed by war.
Founded in an engineering office of the former air-raid protection
of the Fire Brigade warehouse, HK’s early product line
featured parts and spares for household machines and bicycles.
However, this range of products was soon expanded to include
the design and manufacture of gauges and specialized tooling.
HK’s dedication to innovating and developing products
of the highest engineering and quality standards resulted in
the development of their first firearm, the G3. By 1959, the
G3 was the standard issue assault rifle for all German forces
by the Bundeswehr of the Federal Republic of Germany. The G3
used the unique delayed roller locked bolt system; an operating
system widely hailed today for its strength, reliability and
low recoil. Used by the military in more than fifty nations,
some three million G3’s have been produced to date.
in the mid-1960s, HK gained international prominence with the
design and manufacture of the 9 mm Machinenpistole 5 (MP5),
soon to become the world’s most popular submachine gun,
embraced by special operations forces worldwide. A variety
of models have been added over the past thirty years but the
MP5 remains the preeminent arm of its class.
during the 1960s, HK perfected the polygonal profile barrel.
Deemed superior to conventional "lands-and-grooves" rifling,
the polygonal bore profile effectively seals propellant gases
behind the bullet – increasing bullet velocity. An added
advantage to the polygonal profile barrel is that it will outlast
a "lands-and-grooves barrel" by thousands of rounds.
development also commanded the attention of HK designers and
engineers during these years. In 1969, a reworking of the delayed
roller locked bolt system was introduced in a pistol - the
P9S. Acclaimed for its accuracy, the P9S was officially embraced
elite military units, including the US Navy SEALS. However,
the most radical feature of the P9S was its design. The receiver
was designed using a newly developed high-tech plastic composite
called polymer, which molded around the steel frame. With the
development of another polymer framed HK handgun, the futuristic
VP70, these models predated by more than fifteen years the
introduction of polymer framed handguns by competing firms.
1976, Heckler & Koch, Inc., a U.S. company with headquarters
in Arlington, then Chantilly and finally Sterling, Virginia
was established to serve the needs of the U.S. military, law
enforcement and civilian markets.
the mid-1970's, HK received an order from the Federal Republic
of Germany, Ministry of Defense to develop a weapon system
utilizing "caseless ammunition" technology. The breakthrough
technology pioneered by HK on the G11 and Advanced Combat Rifle
was successfully tested throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s
but not adopted for reasons related to the end of the Cold
innovation continued and, in the late 1970's, the HK P7 was
introduced into the U.S. and international markets. The P7
was considered quite radical in design and technology, and
today it remains the fastest and most accurate production handgun
the 1980’s, the precision accuracy found on the HK91
and its related variants, the SR9T, the SR9TC and PSG1 enabled
target shooters to achieve performance unmatched in semi-automatic
renowned Universal Self-loading Pistol (USP) debuted in early
1990. Considered HK’s first pistol designed especially
for American shooters, the USP incorporates many traditional
handgun design elements with advanced materials and engineering
technology. Equally respected is the Mark 23, developed during
1990 for the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) using much
of the technology and engineering knowledge gained in creating
the USP. In 1997, the USP Compact joined the standard frame
USP line, winning plaudits for a full hand-grip and other user
innovations. The USP Compact has since been adopted by many
federal law enforcement agencies.
close of the 20th century clearly signaled that the innovation
and the technology which founders Heckler, Koch and Seidel
had established showed no sign of abating. 1999 marked the
first time since World War II that German soldiers were in
combat. Using the newly developed Heckler & Koch G36 5.56mm
rifle, German army units fought in support of human rights
and social justice during NATO’s ground deployment in
21st Century brought corporate changes to Heckler & Koch.
Though the product line remains the same, the ownership has
changed. BAE Systems sold Heckler & Koch to a group of
investors, two of whom have assisted with the growth of Heckler & Koch
for more than 20 years.
After only a few months of ownership, these individuals expressed their desire
to have Heckler & Koch products be manufactured in the United States
in addition to Germany. On October 14, 2003 HK's Ernst Mauch and Peter Simon
broke ground at the Columbus, Georgia site location with some of Columbus'
local government officials on hand, as the start of a new era in HK's ability
to provide the American military, police and civilian market with uncompromising
product availability, service and support for the 21st Century.