So You Want To Buy A HK91/G3 Rifle...
I was asked to do this topic some time ago in order to provide guidance to those who might be looking for one so they know what to look for and what to avoid. My problem in putting it together was to not simply write "Buy a preban HK 91 original and be done with it." The reality is there really aren't the same kind of options like there are with FALs and AKs where you have a variety of quality options to choose from. But there are a few so I will do my best.
I have been shooting .308 Hk rifles from the time I was about 13 and I think I currently own about 20 or so including pre89 semi auto imports of HK and HK contract rifle, select fire HK and HK contract rifles that are conversions and a few factory original select fire HK rifles and HK contract rifles.
Here are a few.
Ok, first things first, I will be discussing four categories of rifles.
1. Factory original - These are HKs made in Germany, or in the case of CETME rifles those made in Spain.
2. Contract rifles - These are rifles made in HK contract factories set up by HK, using HK tooling.
3. Builds - These are rifles built in the US using HK or HK contract receivers and mostly HK or HK contract parts with enough US parts for 922r compliance.
4. Clones - These are aftermarket copies of rifles using non HK receivers and often using non HK parts.
I'm not going to get into the history and development of the HK rifle, that could easily result in a four page post and the information is already out there. Here are the books you want to read.
Full Circle: A Treatise on Roller Locking by Blake Stevens
The official history of the Oberndorf company Heckler & Koch by Manfred Kersten
Small Arms of the World by Edward Clinton Ezell
I will also confine this topic to the subject of semi auto rifles. I will not be discussing pre 86 dealer sample, pre 68 transferable imports or any other "from the factory" select fire .308 rifles. I will also not be discussing semi auto rifles in the context of pre 86 Title II conversions.
Obviously factory original rifles are your best option. But they are also the most desirable on most expensive option in most cases. The HK 91 (9 representing the 90 series of semi auto imports and the 1 denoting the .308 caliber) is basically a semi auto copy of the HK G3 (Gewehr 3) select fire military rifle. There have been a few versions from the early rare 1962 G3 semi imports, to the HK41 (40 series being the original semi auto classification used by HK) up to the 91 series and the later "sporter" post ban models.
The HK 91 differs from the G3 in the following ways:
1. Has a clip and pin trigger group that sits on a receiver shelf rather than a swing down trigger group that attaches with a push pin. Trigger group also usually has a block on the selector preventing movement to the third position (steel trigger groups).
2. Has a trigger box mechanism specifically set up for semi auto function only.
3. Has a milled slot in the bolt carrier that will not engage a sear catch.
4. Has the grenade launching rings removed from the barrel.
5. Bayonet mount has been removed.
6. Lacks a paddle magazine release.
7. Has a black (early imports are blue / gray) enamel finish rather than the green / gray parkerized finish encountered on most military G3 rifles.
But other than those differences they are essentially the same in performance and function.
For factory original rifles you have a few options.
The HK91 (Oberndorf manufacture) imported from 1974 until 1989. Post 89 "sporter" import versions include the HK911, SR9. SR9T, SR9 TC. The sporter models are basically variations of thumbhole stock rifles.
The Springfield SAR3/8 - Hellenic Arms (EBO) Greek HK contract imported by Springfield (beware there are many post 89 clones sold as SAR 8s which are NOT HK contracts but US clones). Pre89 versions include the SAR 3 and a SAR 8 (overstamp). Post 89 "sporter" versions are the SAR 8 with thumbhole stock and fake flash hider pressed on the barrel.
US clone versions of the Springfield SAR 8 have aluminum receivers with a integral top scope rail and are marked Federal, not EBO Greece.
The FMP G3S - Portuguese HK contract rifles imported by PARS. Post 89 imports such as the XG3S have clipped off flash hiders and are usually found in a thumbhole stock configuration.
CETME "sport" models - Spanish rifles imported by MARS that were a forerunner to the HK rifles. Thus these are factory original rifles and not an HK contract rifle. Primarily different with respect to rear sight configuration, safety setup, bayonet mount and issued magazine.
Like the Springfield SAR 8 there are many US clone versions of the CETME, factory original rifles are marked Made in Spain.
Any of the above HK or HK contract rifles would be a quality and reliable firearm. HK contracts generally sell for less than HK factory rifles. Ironically HK factory "sporter" imports now command prices higher than HK 91 rifles due to rarity.
In addition to the above factory original and HK contract rifles there are many builds done in the US. Semi auto HK contract receivers were imported during the 1990s from Portugal. There were two importers Interport Delta, UT (receivers marked Portugal) and Century Arms (Receivers marked Indep/Portugal). These were usually built using one of the surplus HK or FMP parts kits that flooded the market in the late 90s. Condition of kits ranged from New/Excellent condition to Fair/Poor. The resulting rifle would depend upon the quality of the parts kit used and the competence of the gunsmith who did the build.
Most of these were built during the Clinton Semi Auto ban and can be identified by permanently mounted muzzle brakes for compliance. 922r compliance parts were generally low quality and were usually manufactured by Special Weapons, FAC, CAI or Heese. Nearly all of them were built with factory original barrels (except for Special Weapons SW3 rifles) and if the build is a quality one the brake can usually be removed and replaced with a flash hide and better grade 922r compliance parts substituted. That said, these rifles can be a gamble and builds, like the parts kits used, ranged from excellent to poor.
There are also reports of Portuguese sporter rifles which were brought it by Inter Ordnance (and a few other importers) who then added 922r compliance parts to make them legal semi autos. You have to be very careful with such claims. Century Arms for example offered a Portuguese "import rifle" that was nothing more than a low grade kit build on one of their imported receivers. It can be exceptionally difficult to distinguish a rifle that was imported and brought into compliance from an imported bare receiver that was built into a compliance rifle.
US clones are rifles using non factory and non contract receivers. For the most part these are not made to HK spec and most clone parts are also not HK spec. The quality has improved since they were first introduced in the late 90s. That said they are still the most problematic of all the HK type rifles. For customers looking for cheap HK rifles in the $500 range I usually recommend they give me $200 to let me hit them with a metal folding chair for 5 minutes and it will be the same frustration as owning a HK clone rifle for a lot less money.
The exception to the rule are the JLD/PTR rifles. These almost qualify as US contract rifles since they purchased the tooling and presses from FMP (Portuguese HK contract factory). The problem is they don't produce a correct contract rifle but their own version of the HK contract rifle. These differences are usually intended to improve inherent accuracy and things like that. The problem is there is a cost to using non spec parts and early JLD guns were notorious for function issues as a result. From many accounts things have greatly improved but I don't have any first hand information to support that assessment.
Other .308 HK clones from Century Arms, Federal Arms, Special Weapons are all consistently problematic and should be avoided.
Sadly, unlike AKs and FALs there is no "just as good as the original" currently available option. There is a currently imported MKE (Turkish Contract) .308 rifle but it has severe configuration changes to make it importable such as a modified magazine well to accept a 10 round ONLY magazine and a trigger group that is attached to the buttstock. You could correct this with 922r compliance but the gunsmithing would be bit too involved for most people and you could buy an early contract rifle for the same money invested.
Last edited by SteyrAUG; 04-11-11 at 23:23.
It's hard to be a ACLU hating, philosophically Libertarian, socially liberal, fiscally conservative, scientifically grounded, agnostic, porn admiring gun owner who believes in self determination.
Chuck, we miss ya man.