There are few firearms manufacturers as respected and revered as Heckler & Koch. The company has been in business since 1949 when they started making machine tools, but it wasn’t until 1964 that they introduced their signature weapon: the MP5 submachine gun. Today, H&K is best known for its handguns, rifles, and shotguns; however, this article will focus solely on its handgun models.
The company’s first handgun was the P-38, which became standard equipment for German officers. It was retired from service in 1990 as newer designs took its place, but it remains a sought-after collector’s item and status symbol among firearms enthusiasts.
In 1976, H&K introduced their most famous firearm: the MP45 (known to civilians as the UMP). Since then, the pistol has been used by militaries worldwide, including Canada’s Special Forces, who adopted it in 1988. To date, there are more than 50 countries that use this design or versions of it.
One of H&K’s most popular handguns is the H&K P series of handguns. This series was the first H&K pistols to use polymer as part of the manufacturing process. The MP45 was polymer-framed, and in 1982 H&K introduced the VP70Z (a semi-automatic version of their earlier pistol), which was also polymer framed with a steel slide on top.
In 1985 they followed up with the USP line of pistols – designed specifically for military and law enforcement purposes where reliability is critical. They have been adopted by over 30 countries around the world, including Canada’s police forces, who switched from Smith & Wesson revolvers to HK’s USP pistols in 1988. To date, more than 500,000 units have been produced worldwide, making it one of Heckler & Koch’s most successful firearms models ever made.
The HK P2000 series of handguns is another popular model that has seen success among civilians and law enforcement alike. Introduced to the public in 2001, this firearm was an improved version of their older USP models with a design more akin to the Glock line. This firearm features polygonal rifling, which provides for accuracy and longevity when firing jacketed ammunition through it. The early model P2000 handguns did not have a manual safety or decock lever due to their manufacturing process, but later variants are equipped with these devices.
The HK45C or Compact model (alongside its full-sized counterpart) are some more modern models from Heckler & Koch that have seen significant success among both civilian shooters and law enforcement agencies alike. These guns marked their debut at the 2010 SHOT Show, where they won “Handgun Of The Year” awarded by the American Shooting Journal.
Another popular seller for HK has been the H&K P30 series of handguns, which is a full-size, improved version of the H&K P2000 series of pistols. Introduced in 2006, the P30 series also spawned off several variants, including the P30L (Longslide model) and the P30SK, a compact variant of the P30.
Heckler & Koch GmbH (HK; German pronunciation: [ˌhɛklɐ ʔʊnt ˈkɔx]) is a German defence manufacturing company that manufactures handguns, rifles, submachine guns, and grenade launchers. The company is located in Oberndorf am Neckar in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, and also has subsidiaries in the United Kingdom, France and the United States.
The Heckler & Koch Group comprises Heckler & Koch GmbH, Heckler & Koch Defense, NSAF Ltd., and Heckler & Koch France SAS. The company’s motto is “Keine Kompromisse!” (No Compromises!). HK provides firearms for many military and paramilitary units, including the SAS, KMar, the US Navy SEALs, Delta Force, HRT, Canada’s Joint Task Force 2, the German KSK and GSG 9, and many other counter-terrorist and hostage rescue teams.
Their products include the MP5, UMP submachine guns, the G3, HK417 battle rifles, the HK33, G36, HK416 assault rifles, the MG5, HK21 General-purpose machine guns, the MP7 personal defense weapon, the USP series of handguns, and the PSG1 sniper rifle. All HK firearms are named by a prefix and the official designation, with suffixes used for variants.
With the fall of Germany at the end of World War II, 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.
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.
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, which was based on the Spanish CETME rifle. The German government awarded Heckler & Koch the tender and by 1959 declared the G3 the standard rifle of the Bundeswehr. Later on in 1961, Heckler & Koch developed the 7.62×51mm 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 submachine gun. Two years later, the company introduced the 5.56×45mm HK33 assault rifle, a smaller version of the G3 battle rifle chambered in 5.56mm NATO.
The Werknummern system dates back to the first HK rifles. It uses two or three digits, and as such is also referred to as the “HK 3-digit system” Exceptions like the Heckler & Koch HK416 exist, but those are almost always for marketing reasons, and do actually have in-house designations that fit the system. For example, the HK416 (originally marketed as the HK M4 and HK M16) was intended to replace the M4 and M16, and so, the different models were amalgamated into simply the HK416, but internally was the HK333. The M320 Grenade Launcher Module is a designation assigned by the US military, the HK product name is the HK 269 and 279.
First digit: generation
- No digit = First generation
- 1 = Second generation
- 2 = Third generation
- 3 = Fourth generation
- 4 = Fifth generation
Second digit: form factor
- 1 = Magazine fed machine gun
- 2 = Belt fed machine gun
- 3 = Full sized rifle
- 4 = Semi-automatic military rifle
- 5 = Select fire carbine
- 6 = Shoulder fired standalone grenade launcher
- 7 = Underbarrel mounted grenade launcher
- 8 = Hunting and repeating weapons for civilian market
Third digit: caliber
- 1 – 7.62×51mm NATO
- 2 – 7.62×39mm
- 3 – 5.56×45mm NATO
- 4 – 9×19mm Parabellum/.40 S&W/.45 ACP
- 5 – .50 BMG
- 6 – HK 4.6×30mm
- 7 – .300 AAC Blackout
- 8 – 37mm Grenade
- 9 – 40 mm grenade
Format: Abbreviation = German Text (“English Text”)
- A = Ausführung (“version”)
- G = Gewehr (“rifle”)
- K = Either Kurz (“short”) for pistols and submachine guns or Karabiner (“Carbine”) for rifles and battle rifles.
- AG = Either stands for Anbau-Gerät (“attached device”) or Anbaugranatwerfer (“attached grenade launcher”)
- GMG = Grenade Machine Gun
- GMW = Granatmaschinenwaffe (automatic grenade launcher)
- MG = Maschinengewehr (Machine Gun)
- MP = Maschinenpistole (Machine Pistol)
- PSG = Präzisionsschützengewehr (“precision sharp shooter rifle”)
- PSP = Polizei-Selbstlade-Pistole (“police self-loading pistol”)
- SD = Schalldämpfer (“sound dampener”, “suppressor”); 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”)
- SK = Subkompakt (“sub compact”)
- SL = Selbstlader (“Autoloader”)
- UMP = Universal Machine Pistol
- UCP = Universal Combat Pistol
- USC = Universal Self-loading Carbine
- USP = Universale Selbstladepistole (“universal self-loading pistol”)
- VP = Volkspistole (“people’s pistol”)
- ZF = Zielfernrohr (“telescopic sight”)
Date and country codes
H&K uses a letter combination to represent the year a pistol is manufactured.
- A = 0
- B = 1
- C = 2
- D = 3
- E = 4
- F = 5
- G = 6
- H = 7
- I = 8
- K = 9
The letter J is not used as a date marker. If an H&K pistol has the letter combination of BH it was manufactured in 2017 or CA in 2020. The letter combination of DE represents manufacturing in the country of Germany. Pistols manufactured in Germany before 2008 and those produced at US facilities do not incorporate these letter combinations.
Source: H&K Gun Holsters
Adversary Holster (A-3)$64.99
Deluxe Full-Size Quick-Snap Holster (A-5)$84.99
Tuckable Adversary Holster (A-3A)$69.99
Dual Purpose Holster (A-2)$89.99
Paddle Holster (A-8)$74.99
Deluxe Thoroughbred Holster (A-1+)$89.99
Avenger Scabbard Holster (A-4)$79.99
Deluxe AIWB Holster$89.99
Deluxe Full-Size Quick-Snap with Thumb Break Holster (A-7)$94.99