Company of the Week

Heckler and Koch GmbH

The Founders & Selected Company Produce

Edmund Heckler:

Born in 1906, Edmund Heckler was fortunate enough to grow up in Baden-Wurttemburg, fourteen miles from modern Switzerland. A state which already lay claim to the great Mauser firearms company. Heckler undertook his apprenticeship at the company’s manufacturing heart in Oberndorf – in the north of the southern state. From 1925 Heckler abandoned manual labour, for the studious halls of the Wurttemberg State Higher Mechanical Engineering School in Esslingen east of the capital – Stuttgart. Subsequently he went on to work for the Hugo Schneider company near Leipzig at Paunsdorf in northern Saxony. A company specializing in producing gas lamps among other things, before switching to military equipment during World War One. The switch made the company into a major German supplier of ammunition, to the German Imperial Armies. Producing copious amounts of 7.92mm M/88 Mauser rounds, for the Imperial Army’s Mauser rifles.

Theodor Koch:

Theodor Koch, was born a year before Heckler, near the same Stuttgart where Heckler would one day attend school. After leaving his Zuffenhausen home, he trained as a precision mechanic – a specialist in building micro mechanisms used within things such as clocks. The practitioners of precision mechanics, thus require an understanding of miniaturized components, capable of withstanding immense pressure, with high accuracy as towards their measuring system. An emphasis on high degrees of standardization, within the 1% margin rule is the result. Consequently, these individuals tend to be very precise, careful, and capable of manufacturing intensely small objects to work to an enth degree of accuracy. Perfect skills for pre-war small arms engineering and in 1924, Koch entered the Mauser company only a year after Heckler at its main manufacturing plant in Oberndorft. The coming of the Third Reich in the early thirties, propelled the company and Koch to the forefront of German infantry weapons design. Becoming a serious player in the global arms trade, as supplies to allies and semi-allied neutrals increased throughout the conflict. He would aid the fabrication of the Wehrmacht’s fighting materials until 1945, whence the factory would pass into French hands.

Alex Seidel:

The youngest and most enigmatic of the three founders, Seidel was born in 1909 – the son of Chief Master Weapons Manufacture at Mauser AG: Paul Seidel. The same as Heckler, he completed his apprenticeship at Mauser from 1927 – 28. In 1932 he began his tertiary education at the same establishment as Hecker, at the Wurttemberg State Higher School of Mechanical Engineering. Seidel, like Koch became a company man to the core working there until 1945. Aside from this surface biography, his mentions are few and far between yet his legacy as a founding member of this now globally renowned company, should not be forgot.

Company History 1945 – 2002

On the 11th of February 1945 at the Yalta Conference, held to discuss the partitioning of Germany, a part of the defeated nation was promised to Paris. The agreement to this concession, a request from a power who had actually lost the war, was indulged only at the insistence of Charles De Gaulle. The zone was only to be granted, on condition that they be territories pre-liberated by the allies and France would have no triumph or publicized endorsement. Likely so that the Germans did not feel as if France had been unjustly presented as a victorious partner, when all Germans remembered her drastic defeat in 1940. The previously fluid French territorial guarantee, was later settled definitively at Potsdam on the 17th of July 1945. Potsdam, in contrast to Yalta had been called primarily to discuss the end of the War in Asia, but the division of Germany clumsily intruded on proceedings. The outcome of the laborious western issues, confirmed that the land granted to the Provisional Government of France sitting in Paris, would be composed of the Free State of Württemberg and the Republic of Baden. On the 26th of July 1945 the French advanced into their territories, having been evacuated by American troops on their way further into the German interior. The Direction de L’Enseignement Francais en Allemagne was then founded to administer the area. One of those states, the Free State of Württemberg, was a moderate parliamentary republic arising from the German Revolution post-1918, until its absorption into Nazi Germany through the Gleichschaltung of 1933. Coincidentally, aside from its quintessentially French liberal origins, the lands were also home to the Third Reich’s largest small arms manufacturer – Mauser. A company founded on the border between Württemberg and Munich, in the second half of the 19th century.

The capitulation of the city, merely forty miles north of Mauser’s central factory in Oberndorf, made sure that the company’s main facility would quickly be occupied.

On 31st of March 1945, the French Army entered Baden-Württemberg through the Franco-German border town of Germersheim. Just under a month later, on the 21st of April the former capital of the medieval state – Stuttgart, was captured by the French 1st Army. The capitulation of the city, merely forty miles north of Mauser’s central factory in Oberndorf, made sure that the company’s main facility would quickly be occupied. After a brief period in which the company’s equipment, was used to pump out firearms and ammunition for the industry starved French military ensued. The period ended when the $23 billion worth of machinery and manufacturing real estate demanded by the allies, in the wake of Germany’s defeat, began to be exacted. The industrial repatriation project would continue for five years in the west, continuing until 1950. The east, under the steel fist of the USSR, fuelled by the unanswered for nightmares of 1941 – 45, took an even harsher view not halting the dissection of German industry in the east until 1953. Once in control of Mauser’s facilities, General de Lattre de Tassigny began to follow the reparation directives with anxious exhilaration. The French fury, led to a rather overzealous erasure process within the factories – with 60% of Mauser real estate being demolished. Interestingly, the French 1st Army also burnt the company’s books. Although the rationale for this is lost to history but perhaps executed to prevent auditors from drafting a precise list of factory contents. With a view to engaging in personal looting for de Lattre’s personal gain.

While Mauser would later survive as a purely hunting & sports rifle producer, the military arm would be repurposed for the use of Heckler and Koch. A process which began on the 28th of December 1949, with the salvaged warehouses into which Heckler, Koch and Seidel moved post-War being listed s Heckler & Koch Gmbh. A name change from the interim company name of Engineering Office Heckler & Co. The new company, reluctant to chafe against the demilitarized post-45’ climate within the former Third Reich, decided to distance itself from weaponry. Machine tools, bikes, sewing machines, gauges and other precision parts were made instead. When the company returned to weapons manufacturing in 1956, it would do so from the Oberndorf site which had been such a core part of their Mauser forebears. Soon after the war’s close, the company re-entered the defence market with the G3 battle rifle. A firearm, based off of Spain’s CETME rifle, designed by the country’s state military developer with which it shares a name. From then, the company has continued to stay at the cutting edge of weaponry, but its most interesting contributions have been in the realm of Personal Defence Weapons (PDW’s). A blow to the company’s progressive reputation building, however, was dealt through the woeful performance of the 1996 forged G36C ‘Assault Rifle’. The weapon was immediately shown to be inadequate under battlefield conditions. German infantry in Afghanistan, reported multiple faults throughout their deployment in the first decade of the 21st century. A trend of inadequacy culminating in the 2010 tactical defeat of the Bundeswehr against a technically inferior Taliban warband. Leading to the deaths of several soldiers, as their weapons seized up during an intense gun battle. The cause: an overheating barrel. The scenario had been the result of bending metals which in firearms is lethal. The engineering of weaponry requires precise manipulation, the very tight, extremely accurate measurements that are integrated into any weapons system, must be retained as they were when they left the factory. If any molestation of these calibrations is effected, then weapon jamming and even more dangerous, cooking-off can occur. In the case of jamming, NATO’s standard 5.56mm round is precisely tailored to the standardized measurements present in all NATO approved weaponry. Any change in the barrel, or feed, or indeed any other component renders the round impotent, due to it no longer fitting down the barrel properly seriously impairing ballistic performance. On the second issue, cooking-off i.e. the premature explosion of a round due to intolerable heat exposure, often caused by changes to the gun’s feature’s leading to over pressurized chambers – presents an extraordinary danger. The G36C in Afghanistan, proved itself incapable of enduring the basic micro-changes which occur in an active battlefield, as such Heckler and Koch’s reputation among first-rate armies decline significantly.

The G36C, is fortunately far more effective in the hands of Police and Private Security forces, which it graces with a greater frequency than among the world’s professional soldiery. The weapon thrives within low intensity mission parameters such as close protection or deterrence. The revelation of this dichotomy between failed wartime weapon and acceptable law enforcement/bodyguarding performance, speaks to the company’s exceptional reputation within the realm of PDWs. The first of these was 1969’s widely acclaimed and utilized MP5. A particular favourite among the world’s special forces until the turn of the century. In 1989, the company’s latest PDW entry came in the form of the 9mm parabellum round firing, Universale Selbstaldepistole (USP). A weapon which has become ubiquitous in the near-three decades of standardized use among security forces the world over. Outside of its prestigious PDW arm, Heckler and Koch has not hesitated to attempt at innovation. One of these attempts, came in the form of the HK G11. A weapon which attempted to advance the cause of caseless ammunition, but was largely limited by the technology of the time – being shown to the public in the mid-1970s.

Since its creation the company has undergone two profound changes to its internal structure. 1974 saw the firm halved into two distinct areas: HK Defence and Law Enforcement Technology and HK Hunting and Sports Firearms. The second change was an ambitious 1999 merger between British Aerospace and Marconi Electronic Systems forming BAE Systems whereupon HK was purchase by BAE. The stay within the British defence conglomerate did not last long and in 2002, the mega-company sold Heckler & Koch back to a consortium of German investors forming the HK Beteiligungs GmbH holding company. Under that name, the separate firms: one for the civil market and one of the military market, were built and the modern company was formed.

Heckler & Koch Product Line

Personal Defence Weaponry (PDW)

Heckler & Koch           
Universal Service Pistol (USP)
– 1993 built, short recoil operated, double action, 15-round box magazine                                 fed, 9 x 19mm Parabellum round firing, semi-automatic

Heckler & Koch Mark 23 – 1991 built, short recoil operated, 12-round box magazine fed,
                                            .45 ACP round firing, semi-automatic pistol

Heckler & Koch P2000 – 2001 built, short recoil operated, 13-round box magazine fed,
                                         9 x 19mm round firing, semi-automatic pistol

Heckler & Koch P30 – 2006 built, short recoil operated, 15-round box magazine fed,
                                        9 x 19mm round firing, semi-automatic pistol

Heckler & Koch HK45 – 2006 built, short recoil operated, 10-round box magazine fed, .45
                                          ACP round firing, semi-automatic pistol

Heckler & Koch VP9 – 2014 built, short recoil operated, 15 – 20 round box magazine fed,
                                        9 x 19mm Parabellum round firing, semi-automatic pistol

Heckler & Koch MP7 – 2001 built, gas operated, short stroke piston, 20 – 40 round box
                                         magazine fed, 4.6 x 30mm HK PDW round firing, fully automatic
                                         Personal Defence Weapon

Heckler & Koch Universal – 2000 built, blowback w/closed bolt, 30-round curved or straight  
Machine Pistol (UMP)          box magazine fed, 9 x 19mm Parabellum round firing,
                                              submachine gun

Heckler & Koch MP5 – 1966 built, roller-delayed blowback w/closed bolt, 15 – 50 round box
                                      magazine fed, 9 x19mm Parabellum round firing, submachine gun

Assault Rifles

Heckler & Koch Gewehr 36 (G36) – 1996 built, gas operated, short stroke piston, 30
                                                                box magazine fed, 5.56 x 45mm NATO round firing,
                                                                fully automatic assault rifle

Model 27 Infantry Automatic Rifle – 2008 built, gas operated, 30-round box magazine fed,
                                                                 5.56 x 45mm NATO round firing, assault rifle


Heckler & Koch 4.6 x 30mm Round – 2001 built, 4.65mm, rimless, bottlenecked, 447 – 540  
                                                                  joule imparting round, capable of a velocity range of
                                                                  600 – 735 m/s