Heckler & Koch HK417: Designated Marksman Rifle proven in combat

Eric Sof

HK417 has been proven in combat

The Heckler & Koch HK417 is a reliable and proven battle rifle favored by elite special operations units worldwide. It is the same rifle as the Heckler & Koch HK416, although it is being chambered in a larger caliber version. It is chambered for the 7.62×51mm NATO rifle cartridge.


Heckler & Koch HK417 is, in fact, a designated marksman rifle. It is designed and manufactured by Heckler & Koch in Germany. It is intended to serve as a support weapon and for where the penetrative power, stopping power, and range of the 5.56×45mm NATO HK416 would otherwise be insufficient.

The heavier-caliber round turns cover into concealment, reaches out farther, and knocks down what it hits. The HK417 battle rifle was developed for the designated marksman for whom penetration, distance, and accuracy were required. A 40-millimeter grenade launcher can be mounted beneath the rail system for added firepower.

It is a favorite rifle for many operators serving in most elite units worldwide, including DEVGRU, CAG, and other Tier 1 units. Besides them, it has been adopted for service by many armed forces, special forces, and police organizations worldwide, including the Bundeswehr, United States Joint Special Operations Command, the United States Army, and Russian Spetsnaz forces as FSB Alpha Group, and others.

A group of Delta Force operators armed with HK416 assault rifles hanging out from the Blackhawk
A group of Delta Force operators armed with HK416 assault rifles hanging out from the Blackhawk (Photo: XY)


I often like to say that the HK417 is an HK416 on steroids. The HK417 uses a short-stroke gas piston to operate the action, which is a good reliable system. That means that the rifle is gas-operated with a rotating bolt. Its internal design is almost the same as the HK416, although the receiver and working parts are enlarged to suit the larger 7.62×51mm cartridge. Its operating mechanism is similar to that implemented in Heckler & Koch G36.

The short-stroke piston may be more reliable than the original direct impingement operation of the AR-15 design because, unlike these weapons, it does not vent propellant gases directly into the receiver, which deposits carbon fouling onto the bolt mechanism as well as heating it. It comes as a selective-fire rifle for the military/law enforcement version, while the civilian is semi-auto only.

HK417 is designated as G27 in German Bundeswehr
HK417 is designated as G27 in German Bundeswehr (Photo: XY)

The early HK417 prototype used 20-round magazines from the Heckler & Koch G3 rifle family, which did not feature a bolt hold-open device. Later prototypes, however, switched to a polymer magazine with bolt hold-open. The magazine resembles an enlarged version of the G36’s transparent magazine, except without the pins for holding more than one magazine together.


Military and law enforcement

The HK417 models chambered for 7.62×51mm NATO available to the military and law enforcement market are:

HK417 12″ ‘Assaulter’: carbine with 304.8 mm (12 in) standard barrel
HK417 16″ ‘Recce’: “Recon” rifle with 406.4 mm (16 in) standard or accurized barrel
HK417 20″ ‘Sniper’: “full size” rifle with 508.0 mm (20 in) accurized barrel

HK417A2 version

It is an improved version of the basic HK417 version. The design of the receiver, barrel interface, gas port, and the bore axis alignment of the rifle has been further optimized to increase its accuracy and reliability. The German Army uses the HK417 A2 – 13″ with the designation G27.

HK-417A2 on the shooting range
HK-417A2 on the shooting range (Photo: XY)

As of 2013, the HK417A2 models chambered for 7.62×51mm NATO available to the military and law enforcement market are:

HK417A2 – 13″: carbine with 330.2 mm (13 in) barrel
HK417A2 – 16.5″: rifle with 419.1 mm (16.5 in) barrel
HK417A2 – 20″: “full size” rifle with 508.0 mm (20 in) barrel


The MR308 is a civilian variant of the HK417, introduced in 2007 alongside the MR223, a civilian HK416. It is a semi-automatic rifle with several “sporterized” features. At the 2009 SHOT Show, the two rifles were introduced to the American civilian market as the MR762 and MR556, respectively. Since then, both have been replaced by the improved MR762A1 and MR556A1.

Technical specifications

Manufacturer:Heckler & Koch GmbH, Oberndorf Am Neckar, Germany
Designed:the early 1990s
Type:Gas-operated short-stroke piston, rotating bolt
Caliber: 7.62×51mm NATO
Barrel:Assaulter: 305 mm (12.0 in)
Recce: 406 mm (16.0 in)
Sniper: 508 mm (20.0 in)
A2 13″: 330 mm (13.0 in)
A2 16.5″: 419 mm (16.5 in)
A2 20″: 508 mm (20.0 in)
Weight (empty):Assaulter: 3.87 kg (8.5 lb)
Recce: 4.05 kg (8.9 lb)
Sniper: 4.23 kg (9.3 lb)
A2 13″: 4.22 kg (9.3 lb)
A2 16.5″: 4.4 kg (9.7 lb)
A2 20″: 4.74 kg (10.4 lb)
Effective firing range:A2 13″: 400 m (437.4 yd)
A2 16.5″: 600 m (656.2 yd)
A2 20″: 800 m (874.9 yd)
Rate of fire:600 rounds per minute
Magazine capacity:10- or 20-round detachable box magazine

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