Heckler & Koch: The Gray Room, Part II

posted on July 22, 2020
Watch our American Rifleman TV video above to learn about Heckler & Koch’s Gray Room and the designs that established the German-based firearm manufacturer.

The Heckler & Koch VP9 polymer-framed striker-fired handgun.
The Heckler & Koch VP9 polymer-framed striker-fired handgun.

Continuing at Heckler & Koch's U.S. Headquarters in Ashburn, VA., the Gray Room holds not only H&K's past, but its current development history as well. An example is the new polymer-framed striker-fired handgun, the VP9 series. The VP9 was designed with market trends centered around striker-fired handguns in mind along with improvements to the trigger and other useful features. 

A cutaway view of the internals of the H&K VP9.
A cutaway view of the internals of the H&K VP9.

Some of the other noteworthy features of the VP9 series include multiple options for the interchangeable back-strap and side panels on the grip. Another is the inclusion of extended tabs at the rear of the slide that allow better grasp when manipulating the slide. 

H&K's first handgun, the HK4.
H&K's first handgun, the HK4.

Heckler and Koch's very first handgun was designed in the 1960s as a pocket pistol, the HK4. It was designated as the HK4 because it was offered in four different calibers. In the 1970s H&K developed further unique handgun designs like the P9S, which uses the same roller-delayed-blowback system as the MP5 submachine gun and chambered in 9 mm Luger and .45 ACP. Another development from the same time includes the striker-fired H&K P7 chambered in 9 mm Luger, which utilizes a unique gas-retarded blowback system along with a cocking lever on the front face of the grip.  

The H&K P7 handgun with its unique cocking lever on the grip.
The H&K P7 handgun with its unique cocking lever on the grip.

One of the most notable handgun developed by H&K during the 1970s is the striker-fired VP70 series chambered in 9 mm Luger, which is one of the first polymer-framed handguns produced. The VP70 came in two models, with a semi automatic only VP70Z for the civilian market and the select-fire VP70M for the military market. The VP70M features a detachable stock with a hinged recoil pad and storage compartment inside. This allows the stock to act as a holster for the VP70M similar to the Mauser C96 pistol.

A side view of the H&K VP70 polymer-framed handgun.
A side view of the H&K VP70 polymer-framed handgun.

When connected to the VP70M by the attachment tabs at the back of the pistol, the stock has a selector that allows it to fire in either semi automatic or three-round burst. In three-round burst the VP70M has a high rate of fire. The selector must be in semi automatic during the attachment and removal of the stock. Later in the 1990s H&K developed the USP family of handguns centered around military requirements along with the Mk 23 handgun for U.S. SOCOM.        

The connection points on the H&K VP70M and its stock.
The connection points on the H&K VP70M and its stock.

One of the other H&K developments in the Gray Room used by the U.S. Military is the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. Essentially a modified H&K 416 short-stroke-gas-piston carbine, the M27 was adopted by the United States Marine Corps in 2011 with the intended roll as a squad support and designated marksman rifle.

The 416 series chambered in 5.56x45 mm NATO is in use by several different militaries and agencies, with seven different major build standards. The diversity in the 416 series exemplifies H&K's design and manufacturing prowess, showcased by the manufacturing history held within the Grey Room.

American Rifleman's Joe Kurtenbach takes a close look at the H&K M27 IAR.
American Rifleman's Joe Kurtenbach takes a close look at the H&K M27 IAR.

Follow along with American Rifleman’s visit to Heckler & Koch’s Grey Room to learn more about the company’s manufacturing history. See the first part of our Gray Room visit here.

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