Heckler & Koch was founded in 1949 by Alex Seidel, Edmund Heckler and Theodor Koch. The company was established in the old Mauser arms factory in Oberndorf. The factory had been emptied by the French after World War II as provisional compensation for war damage they had suffered.With the fall of Germany at the end of World War II, Oberndorf came under French control, and the entire Waffenfabrik Mauser AG factory was dismantled by French occupying forces. All factory records were destroyed on orders of the local French Army commander. In 1948, three former Mauser engineers, Edmund Heckler, Theodor Koch, and Alex Seidel, saved what they could from the factory and used what they salvaged to start a machine tool plant in the vacant factory that became known as the Engineering Office Heckler & Co.
On December 28, 1949, the Engineering Office Heckler & Co. changed its name and was registered officially as Heckler & Koch GmbH. Initially the new company manufactured machine tools, bicycle and sewing machine parts, gauges and other precision parts.
In 1956, Heckler & Koch responded to the West German government's tender for a new infantry rifle for the Bundeswehr (German Federal Army) with the proposal of the G3 battle rifle which was based on the Spanish CETME rifle. The German government awarded Heckler & Koch the tender and by 1959 declared the G3 the standard rifle of the Bundeswehr. In 1961, Heckler & Koch developed the 7.62×51mm HK21 general-purpose machine gun based on the G3 battle rifle.
In 1966, Heckler & Koch introduced the HK54 machine pistol, which eventually launched in 1969 as the MP5 machine pistol Two years later, the company introduced the 5.56×45mm HK33 assault rifle, a smaller version of the G3 battle rifle chambered in 5.56mm NATO.
In 1974, Heckler & Koch diversified into two more areas, HK Defense and Law Enforcement Technology and HK Hunting and Sports Firearms. Since then HK has designed and manufactured more than 100 different types of firearms and devices for the world's military and law enforcement organizations as well as sports shooters and hunters.
In 1990, Heckler & Koch completed two decades of development of their revolutionary caseless weapon system and produced prototypes of the HK G11. The company also produced prototypes of the HK G41 military rifle intended for the Bundeswehr. Due to the international political climate at the time (East and West Germany uniting and defense budget cuts) the company was unable to secure funded contracts from the German government to support production of either weapon system and became financially vulnerable. The next year, Heckler & Koch was sold to British Aerospace’s Royal Ordnance division.
During 1994 and 1995, the German government awarded Heckler & Koch contracts for producing an updated standard assault rifle and updated standard sidearm for the Bundeswehr. Heckler & Koch developed and produced the Project HK50, a lightweight carbon fiber-reinforced polymer assault rifle, which became the HK G36 assault rifle. In addition, Heckler & Koch produced the HK P8 derived as a variant of its Universale Selbstladepistole (USP) series of handguns (which had been in production since 1989). The P8 was adopted as the standard handgun for the Bundeswehr in 1994 and the G36 in 1995.
As the result of a 1999 merger between British Aerospace and Marconi Electronic Systems, Heckler & Koch was owned by the resulting BAE Systems; it was contracted to refurbish the British Army’s SA80 rifles (which had been built by Royal Ordnance) This contract entailed a modification programme to the SA80 series of rifles to address a number of reliability issues with the SA80. It was during this time that HK developed the SA80 Maritime Magazine.
In 2002, BAE Systems restructured and sold Heckler & Koch to a group of private investors, who created the German group holding company HK Beteiligungs GmbH.
In 2003, HK Beteiligungs GmbH's business organization restructured as Heckler & Koch Jagd und Sportwaffen GmbH (HKJS) and its business was separated into the two business areas similar to the 1974 business mission areas, Defense and Law Enforcement and Sporting Firearms.
In 2004, Heckler & Koch was awarded a major handgun contract for theU.S. Department of Homeland Security, worth a potential $26.2 million for up to 65,000 handguns. This contract ranks as the single largest handgun procurement contract in US law enforcement history.
HK was contracted by the United States Army to produce the kinetic energy subsystem of the Objective Individual Combat Weapon, a planned replacement for theM16/M203 grenade launcher combination. The OICW was designed to fire 5.56 mm bullets and 25 mm grenades. The kinetic energy component was also developed separately as the XM8, though both the OICW and XM8 are now indefinitely suspended.
Heckler & Koch developed a Colt M4 carbine variant, marketed as the HK416. HK replaced the direct impingement system used by the Stoner design on the original M16 with a short-stroke piston operating system.
The United States Army’s Delta Force at the request of R&D NCO Larry Vickers, collaborated with the German arms maker Heckler and Koch to develop the new carbine in the early 1990s. During development, Heckler & Koch capitalized on experience gained developing the Bundeswehr’s Heckler and Koch G36 assault rifle, the U.S. Army's XM8 rifle project (cancelled in 2005) and the modernization of the British Armed Forces SA80 small arms family. The project was originally called the Heckler and Koch M4, but this was changed in response to a trademark infringement suit filed by Colt Defense.
Delta Force replaced its M4s with the HK416 in 2004, after tests revealed that the piston operating system significantly reduces malfunctions while increasing the life of parts. The HK416 has been tested by the United States military and is in use with some law enforcement agencies. It has been adopted as the standard rifle of the Norwegian Armed Forces (2008) and the French Armed Forces (2017) and is used by many special operations units worldwide.
A modified variant underwent testing by the United States Marine Corps as the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. After the Marine Corps Operational Test & Evaluation Activity supervised a round of testing at MCAGCC Twenty Nine Palms, Fort McCoy, and Camp Shelby (for dust, cold-weather, and hot-weather conditions, respectively). As of March 2012, fielding of 452 IARs had been completed of 4,748 ordered. Five infantry battalions: 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.; First Battalion, 3rd Marines, out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii; 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.; and 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, out of Fort Devens, Mass. have deployed the weapon. In December 2017, the Marine Corps revealed a decision to equip every Marine in an infantry squad with the M27.
On 1 April 2016, the Army announced it had awarded Heckler and Koch a contract with a maximum value of $44.5 million as winner of the competition to replace the KAC M110. The weapon selected was not specified, but was likely the HKG28, H&K is to produce 3,643 rifles. A goal of the effort was to give snipers a weapon that didn't "stick out" as a sniper rifle; with a suppressor, the M110 is 46.5 in (1,180 mm), 13 in (330 mm) longer than the M4 carbine and 7 in (180 mm) longer than the M16A4 rifle. A minimum of 30 CSASS units will be used for production qualification testing and operational testing over 24 months. H&K later confirmed that a modified G28 had indeed been selected as the CSASS rifle. The G28 is nearly 6 cm (2.5 in) shorter and 1.3 kg (3 lb) lighter than the M110 (unloaded and without a suppressor) and will cost about $12,000 per rifle. In May 2018, the U.S. Marine Corps will begin receiving the CSASS, also to replace the M110.
As of July 2019 Heckler & Koch Defense was gearing up to deliver between 5,000 and 6,000 complete rifle systems to the U.S. Army, which plans to deploy them as M110A1 Squad Designated Marksman Rifles (SDMR). The new HK rifle is a variant of the 7.62 NATO-chambered G28/HK417.
Under terms of the agreement, the rifles, which are manufactured by HK in Oberndorf, Germany, will begin to arrive at the HK-USA facility in Columbus, GA, early next year. There, the company will install scopes and mounts purchased by the Army under a separate agreement. Additionally, HK-USA staff will kit the rifles with accessories from a dozen other U.S.-based manufacturers to round out the complete SDMR weapon system. Spare parts, support and training will also be provided by Heckler & Koch.
This award, combined with several other military contracts, further solidifies Heckler & Koch’s position as one of the world leaders in small arms development and manufacturing. The company recently completed delivery of slightly more than 14,000 M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles to the U.S. Marine Corps. Roughly half of the 5.56 NATO-chambered replacements for the M4 have been already been issued and the 16-inch barrel improves effective range by between 100 and 150 meters. The M38 version, designed for use as a squad-designated marksman rifle by the branch, is topped with a 2.5-8x36 mm Leupold TS-30A2 Mark 4 MR/T riflescope.
Last year the U.S. Army began fielding Heckler & Koch G28Es for use as its Squad Designated Marksman Rifle, or more officially the Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System. The 7.62 NATO-chambered firearm is tailored to defeat body armor at distances out to 600 meters.