Speculation is driven by wonder, or perhaps demand – right? When it comes to Heckler & Koch’s (HK) stable of firearms, the last couple of years have been bittersweet. HK has, for as long as I can recall, taken the highest path in terms of product development, engineering standards, and quality. This takes nothing away from great manufacturers like fellow European heavyweights, Sig Sauer and Fabrique Nationale Herstal (FNH). Unless you’ve been living on the moon since the end of World War II, it’s hard to deny the near-perfection that HK presents to the military, law enforcement, and civilian markets – hence why HK carries the epic stigma. Theseguys started in 1949, and it seems they have endured mergers, alignments, rebuilding, buy-outs, scrutiny, and like their products - they seem to prefer enduring harsh conditions in a completely reliable and fashionable manner.
We’ve recently seen the release of the striker fired VP9 and VP40 platforms, with an entry into the market that equates to a hurricane. They have been competitively priced, offer outstanding all-around features and a grip and trigger combination that feels something like the way you hear your favorite band. Quietly yet welcomed was the release of the P30 SK, the updated sub-compact in 9mm, essentially replacing the P2000 SK. For those who want a premium AR platform, HK has committed to the MR556 and MR762 rifles, both produced domestically in the U.S.
To the disapproval of many, HK stopped offering the SL8-6 rifle – a 5.56x45 NATO civilianized version of the G36, and the USC – 45 ACP version of the UMP. While lacking 'tactical' appeal from the factory (thumbhole stock and crowned muzzle) these two platforms are popular as they have the capability to be retrofitted to become semi-automatic versions of the G36 and UMP with relative ease. After some extensive research, it seems that the removal of the SL8-6 and USC from HK’s catalog has more to do with recent German export laws and restrictions that HK’s desires.
Calculated Dreaming and Open Predictions
So where does all this leave HK’s loyal buyers, prospective buyers, critics, and all the rest who just like to dream or wonder? What is HK up to next? As a disclaimer, we have to disclose that we have no inside information that we're claiming to share, we're just clearly putting thoughts to article if you will. However we are making some predictions based on what we see as a move by HK in Germany and HK USA that appeases the consumer and broadens their catalog. HK’s re-approach to the striker fired handgun market is telling, and with the price point and success, it surely has been overwhelming to those watching. By reducing the price point into the $600-$700 range from the $1000+ range, HK opened up a completely different part of the vibrant civilian market.
Here we go…
Seeing as HK still has the primary focus of building platforms for the military and law enforcement, it makes sense to keep a focus on the popular rifle and handgun cartridges of 7.62x51 NATO (.308 WIN), 5.56x45 NATO (.223 REM), 45 ACP, .40 S&W, and 9mm Luger – all of which they’ve maintained for years. Will it go with .380 or 10mm? Not likely, however...
The .357 Sig
There are those in the law enforcement and civilian markets that prefer the .357 Sig, and rightfully so as it is an outstanding cartridge, but with very few platforms on the market compared to its 9mm and .40 S&W counterparts. HK previously made the USP compact and P2000 SK in .357 Sig on a limited basis. Perhaps HK will continue a limited offering of the .357 Sig in the VP (VP357?) or P30 (in .357 Sig), conceivably a little more available than just special order for law enforcement. Much like FNH's 5.7x28mm, the .357 Sig can be a slightly more expensive cartridge to accommodate for, thus the limited appeal among law enforcement professionals and civilians.
Updated USP platforms, or complete retirement?
The USP is probably the one handgun line that has kept HK on the map in recent decades, or if nothing else the true polymer handgun that meets the mark very well for those who like Single/Double Action handguns (SA/DA). Seeing as the USP line, combined with the P2000 inspired the P30 and HK45, and the features are either outdated (accessory rail) or duplicative outright, will HK retire this line in the next year or two, probably not. Given the current popularity of the USP line and the number of law enforcement and military contracts that incorporate various USPs around the globe, the USP line is still and will probably remain the standard bearer for HK for atleast the next couple years.
Where does the P2000 fit in?
The P2000 is surely a fine handgun, and that being said it did influence the HK45 and P30. Now the P2000 and P2000 SK are in a tricky spot, they are not the robust and popular USP line, and not the modernized HK45 and P30, so will they finally meet their fate and be discontinued, or will they remain on the roster as legacy platforms in the HK catalog?
Can you retire a monster?
Born from the U.S. Special Operations Command's Offensive Handgun Weapon System (OHWS) contract, the Mark 23 "SOCOM" is purely German and excellence in firearms engineering. The Mark 23 has a long and tested history; it is respected, revered, and criticized all the same. The Mark 23 goes beyond 'full framed', it is an extra large platform, it has no utility as a concealed handgun, and bulky to carry otherwise. The Mark 23s dimensions alone make it destined for limited use and appeal. While size is a consideration, accuracy and reliability are another thing. The Mark 23 is match grade, built to endure the harshest conditions, and as accurate as one can ask for. Perhaps the Mark 23 goes through a slight 'cosmetic' upgrade, with new 1913 accessory rail and color options, or perhaps HK will pull the plug altogether? Assuming they are not currently in production for existing military and law enforcement contracts and have seen minimal reward in terms of civilian appeal. It should be noted that Mark 23s are currenly leaving Germany with 2015 production codes.
The undeniable success of the VP line of handguns in 9mm and .40 S&W has left a void for those who want a striker fired 45 ACP, presumptively the VP45. Just like the VP9 and VP40, the VP45 should be derived from the HK45, using the same classic (near perfect) grip, assume it would take the HK45 magazine, however the utilization of the larger capacity USP 45 magazine would be a nice move.
Compact and sub-compact options for the VP line
With the standard size (full size) platforms on the market, it would be ideal to expand to the line into the area of compact and sub-compact striker fired handguns. In 9mm, a VP9 SK – think P30 SK and the same for the VP40 and hypothetical VP45. This would expand options for concealed carry – further opening up HK’s market share.
Can the VP line go tactical?
Both the USP and HK45/P30 lines have a tactical ‘fitting’ that allows for the utilization of sound suppressors and alternate sighting options. These would be welcome on the VP line as well and offer tactical options to those who do not prefer, or seek SA/DA handguns. What seems like an effortless retrofit may require convincing and further business development by HK as it would hypothetically aim to bring the VP line into the miliary and law enforcement arena to compete with the ever-popular striker fired handguns from Glock.
HK certainly has multiple avenues it can and will go down, however we can’t help but suggest a few additional platforms and options that would be welcome. Perhaps the option for factory LEM and competition/match grade triggers on a wider range of handguns. Second, color options in black, flat dark earth, OD green, and tan – perhaps even more polished chrome or nickel finishes (for collectors). Third, holographic mount option on tactical model platforms (see FNH FNX 45 Tactical). Forth, a long slide option on the VP line and the HK45. Lastly, and a far-cry would be a civilian variant of the MP7A1 in a rifle/carbine or pistol option. This is based on the 4.6x30mm cartridge being a natural competitor to the 5.7x28mm FN cartridge – FNH fielding the PS90 and FiveSeven on the civilian market. Can and will HK ever find utility in popularizing this cartridge, and how much would it cost those in the civilian market?
German vs. U.S. production
HK has a massive plant in Oberndorf, Germany. In the U.S. it has facilities in Columbus, Georgia and Newington, New Hampshire. The company also has offices in Ashburn, Virginia. The HK45 is already made in the U.S. but perhaps HK could move the production of the SL8-6 and USC to the U.S. in order to continue production, even the MP5 and G3 in more attractive configurations? One would suspect that if HK decided to put a variant of the MP7A1 on the U.S. civilian market, it would be of domestic manufacture. There are more complicating factors of course, the German government has a strong grip on HK's exportation of firearms via various laws, much like out ITAR regulations and U.S. Code - this includes the technology associted with HK's development. Moreover. U.S. import laws are not kind either, so even if German controls were eased or rectified, does that give HK the incentives that it needs to invest in U.S. manufacturing on a full-scale in the near-term?
For all the things that we desire to see from HK, the one thing they cannot surrender is the unparalleled design, manufacture and reliability that they offer. HK has the ability to make calculated risks given their place in the market, and the name they’ve built. As revered as HK is by some, it does have a number of critics who take every opportunity to find faults with marketing and prices. At the end of the day, all we can do is speculate. It would be a treat to know what HK is plotting in their board room, but seeing as that is as likely as obtaining the keys to the nuclear arsenal, we'll hae to wait for press releases and Shot Show 2016 and HK's press releases.