Nestled in the hills overlooking the Neckar Valley and the famous Black Forrest of Baden, Heckler & Koch is far from showing its age. This modern factory in Oberndorf hums along with 450 employees working three shifts and turning out some of the most desired firearms available on the market today.
In 2019, another 85 employees will join the company ranks when the venerable arms maker opens a 50,000 square foot factory in Columbus, Ga., bringing a new era to HK’s already storied past.
“HK’s new U.S. factory will make use of advanced manufacturing technologies and will be staffed by German and American engineers and technicians,” said Francisco Hidalgo, CEO of HK-USA. “The HK products will maintain the same level of quality and reliability that the consumer has grown to expect from HK. Our company motto is and will remain ‘No Compromise’.”
Doug Hamlin demonstrates the HK MP7 SMG chambered in 4.6 x 30 mm at the HK test range at the factory.
Originally founded in 1948 by three former Mauser employees, HK got its initial start in making spare parts for sewing machines. As the political landscape in Germany settled down in the 1950’s, and the new German army began to take shape, HK won a contract to supply the new service rifle to the Army, the venerable CETME, laying the foundation for the G3 series of rifles. Branching out into pistol design and manufacture led to further developments that resulted in the HK 4 semi-automatic pistol, a worthy successor to its close cousin, the Mauser HSc. By 1964, the company was firmly established as an arms manufacturer of considerable note.
The display guns at the HK booth received a great deal of attention and very little rest during the three-day IWA Show in Nuremberg, Germany.
Fast forward to 2017 and HK-USA CEO Francisco Hidalgo and HK Technician Oliver Fader take us on a tour of the HK booth at IWA. Everything in the company’s sales inventory is on the floor for the 45,000 visitors to finger fondle and drool over. They all seem to be at the HK booth at the same time and it’s not hard to guess why, it’s not every day a civilian in Germany, or most anywhere in Europe, can just walk into a gun shop and shoulder the state-of-the-art in modern military hardware.
The next day we found ourselves at the HK factory in Oberndorf, just above the river valley floor from where the Mauser factory plied its trade for 75 years before the fortunes of war and the French occupying army put a temporary end to arms making in the valley region.
Pictured left is HK’s flagship pistol, the SFP9, which is currently a favorite of USN Seal Teams, and this SFP bears the highly desirable Seal Team logo. Pictured right is the HK 417 in 7.62x51 (.308), also known in the German Army as the G28, which has seen use in combat with Australian and U.S. Special Forces.
The factory is a state-of-the-art facility that is very busy fulfilling German, French and American military contracts. On the pistol line, we could see that the SFP9 is today’s star célèbre and is available in half a dozen variants and configurations. Sharing the SFP9’s spotlight in the military rifle department, the HK 416 is the classy German edition of the Colt M16/M4 series of 5.56 mm service rifles. Both were a privilege to shoot on the factory’s test range under the guidance of Manuel Kehle, one of HK’s expert technicians.
A visit to the fabled Grey Room, where one of everything is on display, rounded out a memorable visit to southwest Germany. HK’s future looks strong if the hum of the factory floor is to be any indicator.