Great write up James!
Over the years I have made a point to put together write ups on attendance of selected H&K Armorer Courses. I think these are great ways for the fans to see behind the closed doors at the excellent training provided and to learn a bit more about the specific weapons; the history and function, along with unique photos.
As I approached this week, where I made the trip to complete recertification on the roller delayed rifles, I realized that I had not previously posted a write up on this course/these weapons, so this seems overdue and I hope you will enjoy it.
Being that I had already completed this training and have the opportunity, through my business, to work on many of these regularly, I did not "need" to come back up, but this specific course was unique. First, last fall, when Bob (the Director of Training and Technical Services) discussed this course, which would entail a wide range of the legacy HK rifle products, I knew it would be worth the trip. The resident knowledge on these legacy rifles is rapidly disappearing, so I jump at any chance to soak as much as I can up and document it.
Second, my friend and college classmate, Tommy, was attending and I knew we'd have a blast.
Lastly, of course it beats a day at real "work" and who really needs much of an excuse to spend two days with H&K? So, I loaded up, caught a flight and made my way up to Ashburn again.
Arriving the afternoon before the training began, I took a long run to stretch out my legs after being crammed in the aircraft and made a detour by the familiar location.
The next morning training began and Tommy and I were pleased to see that there was only one other student. I was even more excited to see that it was Clay, who I had met last year while attending the grenade launcher courses. Great guy, with and extensive background in weapons and also Marine Alumni, so enough said.
Small classes are always best, as they allow the instruction to move more rapidly, while allowing plenty of time for you to get extra "reps in" on specific disassembly/reassembly tasks, as well as going off on numerous historical tangents. I've been known to instigate many of the latter.
The most radical change for this class was the classroom itself. Over the winter, H&K had restructured their office location, reconsolidating on one end of the building. This involved, among other things, moving the training classroom; no small task. Much kudos to Bob, as the end result is a better set up than before.
While walking around the classroom, I noticed the latest H&K product, trademark tissues.
After catching up, and finding out what our goals were for the training, Bob wheeled in the gun rack with the rifles we would be working on over the next two days. We were all pleased to see several HK53s, two HK33s, a HK33K, two G3s and a G3K. We spent day one completely focused on the HK53, with both SEF/0,1,25 and Navy Trigger groups.
Disassembly and reassembly focused on the unique differences between it and the more familiar MP5 series. I always enjoy watching Bob's presentations. I learn something new each time, as he injects developmental history throughout, while displaying insightful techniques of his own design that you won't find in the manuals. Over the years, I've been able to incorporate many of these techniques into my own; several especially helpful when the rare and expensive H&K specific tooling is not available.
Beyond the trigger groups and bolt groups, we covered sight work, bolt gap inspections, magazine releases, charging handles/supports and flash hiders; everything short of replacing the barrels. For the bolt gap inspection specifically, we delved much deeper into the process and specifications for range and modification than I had previously been exposed. Great stuff.
I couldn't help but laugh and take a photo of one of a couple of times when Tommy "broke it" and had to call in Bob to help him sort the issue out. I've been there a couple times myself.
It's surprising how fast the day went by, but after we wrapped up, Tommy and I had the great pleasure to join Bob and Jim Schatz (our own G3Kurz) for dinner. It was wonderful to catch up and hear about all the great work Jim is doing in firearms advancement. This is truly exciting stuff that is helping to force our design and procurement back into forefront, to regain the advantage we have lost to our enemies. Then Tommy and I just sat back and soaked in all of the stories of the glory days and some of the more difficult times with H&K. Besides laughing our asses off at several hilarious stories, I really came away with not just a greater appreciation for the products the company has produced over the years, but more importantly, the quality of those employees who have worked within the company, in the US, Germany and beyond. Champions; so many passionate and selfless ambassadors, committed to making it work, often despite many challenges against them. These guys need to write a book before all this "behind the scenes" history is lost forever.
Day two found us back in the new training classroom, with Bob handing out the HK33s and HK33K. We covered the background of the weapons in detail and then ran through a quick disassembly and reassembly of the weapons; made quicker with all the practice we had the previous day on the HK53s.
These weapons were unique for several reasons. First, Bob had pulled them from storage, where they had sat unmolested for many years. The HK33K I was working on had a new finish and I did my very best to not create any blemishes on it during the disassembly and reassembly process. More interesting though, the two HK33s were Enfield rifles, engraved with "EN", signifying that though made in West Germany, they had been assembled in England. What we had deduced was that though the receivers had been built in Oberndorf, the barrels, with a unique British proof mark, had been installed in England. Most likely, the original 1/12" twist barrels they had left the factory with, had been swapped for the current 1/7" twist barrels at that later date in England. Here is a photo of that barrel marking.
We also worked through several of the accessories for the rifles, like the light bipod, scope mounts and my favorite, the bayonet attachment, which unlike most rifles, mounts on top of the barrel instead of beneath. This means that you can mount a bayonet and a grenade launcher at the same time. What more could a Marine want?
Next we moved on to the G3 and G3K. With so many years of production, there was lots to discuss here. This included over 1 million produced in Germany. At the high point, H&K was pumping out 10,000 per month. Crazy! With all of the overseas production (more than 12 countries officially licensed) of the weapon through the decades, the estimate is north of 8 million produced.
The one G3 I was working on was an A3 model from 1974, marked "FS" on the receiver, which represents the German abbreviation for "Free Floating" referring to the barrel. From the first production in 1959 until 1964, the sight tower and cocking tube were actually welded together on the A1 and A2 variants. Obviously, this led to accuracy concerns, so from 1964 on, that welding was eliminated in the G3 and that marking was placed on the receivers to delineate those weapons from the earlier productions. Because all other roller delayed rifles that followed the G3 came after that date, they also incorporated the free floating barrel design, but the designation marking on the receivers did not carry over. This also provided another great opportunity to pour over all of the many associated markings on parts and receivers to discuss the real meaning behind so many, to detail much more in depth than found in any of the previous documents I have studied.
I can't forget to discuss the tooling/special equipment. Some of these items are just as impressive in design as the weapons they are designed to support. Tasks that otherwise would involve two sets of hands, lots of cursing and a large magnet and your body on all fours, searching for a spring that launched across the room, are completed with ease. Besides the flash hider removal tool, I really enjoyed utilizing the G3 bolt cutaway model. This earlier example, that I had not seen before, is very helpful, for those new to training, at describing the 8 step cycle of operations for the rifle and the delayed roller locking bolt system.
Before we wrapped up the G3 work, Bob brought out my favorite accessory for use with it and the other 7.62mm magazine-fed derivatives; the G8 50 round drum. A true masterpiece of design and craftsmanship, this example specifically also shares a clever back story. Look closely at the photo and see if you can figure it out.
Apparently, when these came into the US, during the high capacity magazine ban, the US restrictive markings were absent and H&K contracted a company in CT to have the markings added. You can imagine how pissed off Jim was when he received the misspelled results.
Next, the MP5 and MP5K-N were brought out and we covered the new MLI hand guard and scope mount. I'm a fan of both.
At my request, Bob also provided a demonstration of the A3 stock disassembly and reassembly. Even with the expensive and task-specific tools, this proved to be a challenging and frustrating process and reaffirmed the theory I subscribed to before he even began, "a man's got to know his limitations". As expensive as these stocks are, you're better off buying a new one then trying to refurbish one yourself.
We wrapped up the training with an added bonus. Bob brought out a MSG90A1 and after a background and briefing, gave me the opportunity to work on the bolt group and trigger group; a rare opportunity indeed.
Besides the ejector being different than that of the G3, the entire bolt is also different. It incorporates a more resilient extractor and extractor spring design; the clear weakness in the other roller delayed rifles. The rollers are also redesigned, with their "half moon" resemblance, along with the weapon specific locking piece; both parts are titanium. The entire bolt heads are also serialized to the receivers.
The trigger group, of which the trigger pack itself is the same as on the PSG1, is another masterpiece of German design. Clearly noticeable in the photo below of the complete disassembly, is the large counterweight at the top of the trigger. The use of a different and lighter catch spring and sear spring, along with a unique "finger" which interacts between the hammer and sear, result in a very light and crisp trigger pull. The fact that this trigger pack can be modified, by simply swapping out the ejector lever, for use in the other roller delayed rifles, makes it a great option for those owning the civilian product line rifles and looking for the maximum accuracy potential.
Once all the training was complete, we retired to the Gray Room; a routine I never get tired of. Each time I have the opportunity to visit, I find something new as well and a ready excuse to further explore old favorites. If you've never experienced it, my best advice is to go in with a plan ahead of time. If you don't already know which weapons you want to focus on, it truly becomes sensory overload and you'll just stumble around with your mouth gapped open.
This time I chose to focus on the G11 section. You won't find a larger display in the United States for this program then here, especially one that you can lay your hands on and the more I study this, the more intrigued I become.
I'm also a huge fan of the HK416C and its unique internal design features. I'm truly saddened that this program was also shelved and that, as of yet, I've still not been able to add one to my collection; "So you're saying there's a chance".
I also took careful notice of the latest addition to the Gray Room, a G3K, brought up from storage in Columbus, and outfitted with a Navy Trigger Group with Extended Selector Lever, dual magazine clamp and the rare, Knights Armament Company rail system. Very cool and capable.
Clearly, for those reading this, the value of this training cannot be overstated. Bob should receive (and does from me) great praise for its success. He's a wealth of knowledge on the company history and the weapons themselves. His patient, calm and supporting style of instruction and supervision aids in students progression, even during more challenging tasks or when Tommy "broke it" again. For me though, his ability to describe not just the steps to take something apart or put it back together, but at the same time to explain the functionality of those parts, really connects with me and allows the assimilation of the skill to take place.
So, with many thanks to Bob, Tommy and Clay, as well as Jim, this course and visit proved exciting and insightful and I soaked up every bit of it. If you are one of the lucky few who are able to enroll in any of the Heckler and Koch Armorer Courses, I highly recommend the commitment.
Looking forward to the next new course to be added to the 2017 schedule: MG4 and MG5 (hint, hint, Bob).
Great write up James!
"Not by strength by guile"
T36KERA1 / STEYR AUG / IWI X95 / AR15 / HK VP9 / HK P2000 / Glock 43 / Walther "HK" MP5 A5
Love the G3K at the end, I envy you for all the training you worked for. Thanks for the write up!
Spent most of my tax return on Hk parts, booze and ammo....the rest I just wasted
Excellent write up indeed. Thanks James.
Awesome write up and information as always, Major.
NRA Chief Range Safety Officer
"In einer Welt aus Kompromissen, einige Männer machen keine".
"We bleed hk red!"
In my defense, every time I had to enlist Bob's help because I broke it, I'm convinced this was because the parts were out of spec ;) at least that's what I was telling myself.
Great write up as always James. Had a blast with you and Clay.
HK Certified UMP and VP9 Armorer
Thanks for the share, cool history and love learning the fine details. We appreciate the effort you put in to putting this together
Still can't believe they let us each have a caseless ammo round for the G11.
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HK Certified UMP and VP9 Armorer
Great write-up, James. Sounds like you and Tommy had a great time.
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"In your work space!"
HK VP9 Tactical
HK USPc LEM 9mm
Awesome write-up, especially on the MSG90A1--- thanks for the data contribution, as well!!!