When it comes to the .45 ACP platforms, I’m not a fan of compacts or subcompacts, so that leaves me particularly fond of full frame handguns for that particular round. I gladly admit I have a taste for Heckler & Koch’s designs, quality, and engineering. I’ve been fortunate not to be concerned with the bottom line in terms of cost, with that comes the benefit of looking at higher-tier handguns, and fending off legions of 1911 fans who would love to get me to join them in their corner.
The Heckler & Koch Mark 23 is like quintessential Teutonic icon that we should only expect from our friends in Germany. Developed from 1991-1995 for the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Offensive Handgun Weapons System (OHWS) program for an offensive handgun platform ideal for close quarters battle (CQB) using .45 ACP +P ammunition. Heckler & Koch first delivered the Mark 23 in 1996 after it completed the three-phase OHWS program vetting and award in 1995. In the end, SOCOM adopted a handgun that exceeded the Mean Rounds Between Failure (MBRF) tests of 2,000 rounds. The Mark 23 averaged 6,027 MRBF, and reached 15,122 MRBF – at the 20,000 round mark, the only part that needed replacement was the barrel O-ring. According to Heckler & Koch’s website, it is currently fielded by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Within the SOCOM community, the Mark 23 is the big brother to the Sig Sauer P226 Mark 25 (9mm Luger).
So what has attracted me to the Mark 23? I think the mystique of the platform, combined with my desire for a true full frame .45 ACP. For years I’ve eyed this particular handgun, one that has absolutely no purpose for concealed carry, and is probably more handgun than the typical American can appreciate. Because of the quality and engineering that Heckler & Koch invested into the Mark 23 given the testing and evaluation development for SOCOM, it is not a typical handgun by any stretch of the imagination. Perhaps because it is coined as an “offensive handgun” it changes the discussion, and for me as well. I want a handgun that operates in all conditions, one that does not fail.
After what I think has been about 22-24 hours of involved research on the Mark 23, I’ve decided it will be the next addition to my collection. I’ve handled this platform on three different occasions and each time, I have to force myself to say no and leave immediately – those days are over with. It offers options I simply can’t get from other handguns in my collection, in particular it allows for routine engagement of targets at 50+ meters which you simply can’t do with normal sized handguns, let alone compacts. Both the OHWS standards and the reviews on the Mark 23 have shown that not only will the Mark 23 engage perfectly at 25+ meters, it will easily put do 2-inch groups, and has an effective firing range of 50 meters. The Mark 23 is capable of sub .5-inch groups at 25 meters, and can routinely hit man-sized targets at the 150 meter mark. If you’re like me and actually looking for a handgun that is meant to be shot at the 50 meter mark, this is it.
So you may be asking, why such a big handgun, and why buy something so heavy. The truth of it is that that the Mark 23 was designed to be large and heavy to greatly reduce the recoil and retain accuracy as an offensive, not defensive handgun. The reality is that the Mark 23 is expensive, running somewhere around the $2000-$2,200 price point. Regardless, it has a spot reserved in my safe.