Black and white photo of a man, a horse and a G3

The HK Licensees: The True Right Arm of the Free World? PART 1

The FN FAL is often referred to as “The Right Arm of the Free World.” If one examines the NATO table of organization and equipment from the 1950s through the 1990s, this title seems difficult to dispute on the surface. However, the Heckler and Koch G3, and its more ubiquitous little brother, the MP5, can be found everywhere the FAL is and was and, frankly, beyond. The simple fact is, the roller-delayed system was the foundation for a more robust, more reliable firearm that functioned from Norway to Germany to the Middle East, to the Belgian Congo and to Central and South America, without requiring modifications to accommodate for harsh climates. The G3 is so robust that it is still being produced for active service in some of the most demanding and unforgiving environments on the planet. The G3 is the West’s AK: It is iconic because it works. As such, HK has issued many licenses over the years. Here is a brief rundown of some of the places HK designs have been produced under license.

GREECE: Hellenic Arms Industry produced HK licensed products for Greece. Sadly, Hellenic Arms is now mostly defunct due to Greece’s economic trauma, but its G3s are still found in active service all over Greece. The company has also exported G3s, although not to the extent of the other contractors.

PORTUGAL: FMP (Fabrica Militar de Portugal) is another longtime producer of the G3 under license from HK. Many of FMP’s HK products were exported over the years, especially to Africa. Additionally, Portugal’s active involvement in Africa led to its FMP-produced G3s being selected for active service in Africa’s variety of harsh climates, where its ubiquity rivaled, if it didn’t exceed, the FN FAL. FMP G3s were found in service with practically everyone in Africa at one time or another, from Rhodesia’s legendary Selous Scouts and Grey’s Scouts to virtually every guerrilla movement south of the Sahara.

MEXICO: Surprising to some, Mexico is a longtime HK licensee as well. Scandals aside, a variety of HK products have been and are still produced in Mexico by SEDENA (Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional). Mexico has a long history of relations with Germany and German arms manufacturers, which continued to flourish after World War II. The Mexican military and police use HK products extensively in their brave and ceaseless struggle against crime. Unfortunately, many of those products, including some directly from Germany, have illicitly found their way into the hands of the cartels.

SAUDI ARABIA: The Al Kharj Arsenal in Saudi Arabia is another longtime HK licensee. Outside the relative luxury of the large cities, Saudi offers some of the harshest conditions on earth, combining scorching heat with talcum-fine sand, which finds its way into every crack and crevice on man, beast, and firearm. There is a simple reason why HK-design firearms, as opposed to other platforms, are produced there: they work in unforgiving environments.

NORWAY: On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Saudi Arabia, the Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk of Norway produced the G3 for the Norwegian military. What Saudi is to sand and heat, Norway is to ice and cold. Much of Norway’s territory is north of the arctic circle. The most effective testimony to the robustness and reliability of the G3, and roller-delayed designs in general, has to be that countries in the two harshest environments on the planet (arctic and desert) regularly operate them, and produced them without modifications to the original design. If you can take a rifle from Norway to Saudi Arabia and not have to do anything special to get it to function, you have reliability by design.

4 thoughts on “The HK Licensees: The True Right Arm of the Free World? PART 1”

  1. Have owned both. I enjoy both. Both are good rifles. FN FAL shoots softer on my shoulder and is probably more comfortable than HK91/G3 ergonomically . However, ask me which I would prefer to take into battle, especially in a hostile climate … HK91/G3. Ask me which one I still see in photos around the world still on active duty … HK91/G3. Ask me which one has cheaper and more available mags … LOL. Waiting for MKE and Zenith to bring back the HK91/G3 variation.

  2. I have been a shooter, competitor and instructor for nearly 30 years. the HK 91 and SP89 with registered sears were my first firearms that I started with. After tens of thousands of rounds thru them I am very pleased with there durability and longevity of there accuracy. I really like this article. most of it I had knowledge of , but it was good to see it put together in this article.
    The grey color on the font. I had to change my settings on my computer to make it easier to read.

  3. Like all Heavy caliber round rifles, the FN FAL is worthless in full auto mode but for fall back suppression fire. The same is true for the Ak-47 and M-4. None of them have true accuracy in full auto mode at short or long distance. However, the FN FAL fitted with good scope, in semi auto mode with a good operator on the trigger is Deadly at 300 to 450 yards no question. The weapon is Great, all weather combat proven and reliable. Will shoot farther, but most contacts are closer. The improvement needed is the weight of the weapon. While the rounds are a little heavy, the barrel could be fluted, stock, upper and lower components lightened, how this could be done I don’t know I’m not a Gunsmith or weapon’s designer, but I’m sure a pound or 2 could be dropped in some way. Even a 30 round mag ( adding 10 more rounds ) instead of 20 would only increase the weight by 1/2 lb. at the most after factoring in a 1 to 2 lb. weight cut, thus giving you a 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 lb. weapon compared to a almost 9 lb. weapon. I also think shorting the barrel length to 16 inches would be a help with QCB and adding built in recoil pad to the stock. I am sure most folks will think I’m all wrong here, but look at the benefits this would offer Special Forces, #0 rounds, all weather conditions, under 9 lbs., scope mountable, .308 caliber, harder hitting than the .223/.556 or the 7.62 by 39. Yes we all agree it’s heavier ammo to carry, but US Soldiers did it during WW II, so well trained Special Forces should be able to do the same in 2018. Just my opinion……….WDMJS !

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