German assault rifles Heckler & Koch HK33, G41 and HK53

PANAGYURISHTE, (BM) – The successful design and worldwide recognition of the G 3 assault rifle allowed the designers from Heckler & Koch to build on their success by creating a series of rifles and machine guns based on this weapon.

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In the early 1970s. The firm developed two automatic rifles for different cartridges: the NK 32 model – for Soviet M 43 cartridges of 7.62 × 39 mm caliber, and a more compact and light modification of the NK 33 – for standard NATO 5.56 × 45 mm cartridges. Naturally, both rifles were structurally converted to the appropriate ammunition for the NK G 3 rifle with automatic equipment based on the use of the recoil energy of the roller shutter.

The weapon under the Soviet patron turned out to be a dead-end direction of the company’s development, but the HK 33 model, officially presented on the market in 1976, quite successfully supplemented the Heckler & Koch model range. However, although this weapon is characterized as high-quality and reliable, nevertheless its commercial success is far from the success of the G 3 rifle, which is associated with not the best accuracy of the battle.

Thus, it is known that during firing the German rifle demonstrated the worst accuracy results in comparison with the American automatic rifles “Armalite” AR-15 and AR-18. Nevertheless, lighter and more compact than the G 3, the HK 33 rifles, which also have less recoil, were supplied in fairly large quantities to the police, special forces and auxiliary army units in Germany and Switzerland.

Along with the NK 33 A 2 model with a stationary plastic butt, other 5.56 mm automatic rifles were manufactured:

  • HK 33 A 3 – long-barreled with a telescopic metal shoulder rest instead of a stock;
  • HK 33 KA 1 – carbine – shortened version of A3 with a telescopic stop and a short barrel;
  • The HK 33 SG 1 is a sniper (the least common) variant of the rifle, which differs from the basic design of the HK 33 by the presence of an optical sight, bipods and a modified firing mechanism.

In September 1979, the German armed forces received, for testing, 18 automatic rifles of the new model G 41 from Heckler & Koch, designed for firing 5.56 × 45 mm NATO cartridges.

The appearance of the new weapon was due to the not too lively reaction of the German military to the previous development of Heckler & Koch engineers – the 5.56 mm HK 33 assault rifle.

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In fact, the new model was a modification of the HK 33, more adapted to NATO standards in order to conquer not only the German market, but also to interest foreign partners.

The new model was distinguished from the HK 33 rifle (aka modified G 3) by a number of design features:

  • the magazine receiver is unified according to NATO standards for the use of the American M 16 rifle magazines;
  • the design of the volumetric receiver plate with a triangular cross-section was also borrowed from American weapons;
  • a limiter for automatic firing in bursts of 3 shots was introduced into the design of the weapon;
  • the design of the barrel was changed: its channel acquired the form of a hexagon to enable more effective use of the most common SS 109 and M 193 cartridges in NATO armies.

The rest of the weapon was a proven G3 with an automatic mechanism based on the use of the energy of the recoil of a semi-free roller shutter.

The company “Heckler & Koch” organized the serial production of modifications of the G 41 rifle. In addition to the basic model G 41 A 1 with a plastic stock, the G 41 A 2 modification with a metal telescopic shoulder rest was produced, as well as the G 41 K carbine, which was a variant of the G 41 A model. 2 with a short barrel.

Like all rifles from Heckler & Koch, the G 41 was a reliable and well-made weapon, but repeated the fate of the other 5.56 mm HK 33 weapon, which had little success in the market. A number of G 41 rifles and carbines were purchased by the Bundeswehr and special government agencies. However, in general, before the appearance of the G 36 assault rifle with a design different from all of the above samples, the Heckler & Koch GmbH company had practically no success on the weapon market for reduced cartridges.

The great commercial success of the MP 5 submachine guns allowed the Heckler & Koch GmbH company in the early 1980s. to introduce a new type of weapon to the market – the HK 53 rifle.

Read more: German Heckler & Koch assault rifle – HK416 [review]

Structurally (and purely outwardly), the weapon was a hybrid of the MP 5 and NK 33 automatic rifles.

According to the principle of operation, the NK 53 rifle was similar to the aforementioned weapon: the action of its automation was based on the use of the recoil energy of a roller shutter.

As ammunition for this weapon, standard NATO cartridges of 5.56 × 45 mm are used, the rifle was equipped with magazines from the HK 33, and many other parts (in particular, the telescopic shoulder rest and sighting device) were borrowed from this model.

Actually, the HK 53 model is closer in design to the HK 33 than to the MP 5, and is an even more “cut” modification of the shortened HK 33 KA 1 carbine. This was the last attempt of a West German company to “break” into the 5.56 mm weapon market.

If the two previous models – HK 33 and G 41 – can be called assault rifles, as Western experts understand this term, then the HK 53 model is a classic submachine gun for a rifle cartridge with a barrel shortened to the size of a submachine gun. This makes the weapon compact and effective during close combat and special operations, but completely unsuitable for general army use in accordance with the methods of infantry combat in the armies of NATO countries.

In accordance with this, the main purpose of the HK 53 rifle was to arm the police and other law enforcement and special services in Germany. Indeed, for some time, in the interests of these departments, purchases of HK 53 rifles were carried out, which were in service along with the Heckler & Koch MP 5 submachine guns.

However, the last weapon for the police was much more suitable, since it was much lighter and more compact than HK 53, and was more comfortable for concealed carry. In addition, 5.56 mm army ammunition quite often had extra power for police (and often counter-terrorist) operations, which threatened to injure hostages or random citizens if criminals were hit right through.

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This determined the not too impressive commercial success of the HK 53 rifles in the arms market. In addition to Germany, HK 53 was supplied in small quantities to equip the army and police in several countries in Europe and Asia. After the appearance of more advanced models of police weapons – the G 36 K carbines of the same company “Heckler & Koch” – the production of the HK 53 was curtailed.


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