Heckler and Koch PSG1

Heckler and Koch PSG1 on tripod
Heckler and Koch PSG1 on tripod (Photo: XY)

The Heckler and Koch PSG1 sniper rifle has been developed to satisfy the current demand from military and police authorities for a high-precision weapon for snipers and skilled marksmen. In fact, the PSG1 is a very high-end sniper rifle designed with police and counter-terrorist uses in mind, and while an excellent weapon, it is slightly on the heavy side for something a soldier would want to lug around in the field.

It was introduced into the service in 1972, shortly after the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics, as the answer to the West German police units’ needs. At that time, they lacked the precision shooting capability to effectively neutralize the terrorists to prevent the hostages from being killed. Heckler & Koch was then commissioned to create a high-accuracy, large-magazine capacity, semi-automatic rifle for law enforcement and military use.

Design

It uses the standard basic breech mechanism in which a bolt is a two-part unit, and a roller-locking system delays its opening. In this way, the PSG1’s operation is already familiar to most service personnel, and its repair and maintenance present no fresh problems. It is also considered a heavily modified G3 rifle (in a mechanical manner).

Heckler and Koch PSG1 sniper rifle chambered in .308 Winchester
Heckler and Koch PSG1 sniper rifle chambered in .308 Winchester (Photo: XY)

To suit it to its specialist role, some modifications have been made. The bolt system has been designed so that its closing action, when loading and cocking, is almost silent; the trigger is adjustable for its breakpoint and width; the abruptly-contoured stock is adjustable for length and the height of the check-piece; there is a T-rail underneath the fore-end which permits the mounting of a hand-stop, a sling or even a light bipod or tripod; and the weapon is equipped with a telescope sight as standard.

Heckler and Koch PSG1 bolt
Heckler and Koch PSG1 bolt (Photo: XY)

This has been carefully designed to suit the weapon and is unusual in that adjustments for elevation and azimuth are made by the internal optical system’s movement, giving a high degree of precision; one click of either adjustment will move the bullet strike 1 cm at 100 m range.

The Heckler & Koch PSG1 is heavy but well balanced, and it shoots extremely accurately; 10 shots in a two-inch circle at 300 yards is well within its capabilities, though as with any other precision weapon, it is best to test it with several makes of ammunition and bullet weights to find the one which suits it best.

Versions

Since its introduction into the service, PSG1 was developed in two major variants:

  • PSG1 (PSG1A1, PSG1A2)
  • MSG90 (MSG90A1, MSG90A2)

MSG90

The MSG90 is a militarized variant of the PSG1 that is both strengthened and lightened while less expensive. Compared to the PSG1, which is regarded as a pure sniper rifle, the MSG90 can fill a designated marksman rifle’s role.

A militarized version of the PSG1: Heckler and Koch MSG90
A militarized version of the PSG1: Heckler and Koch MSG90 (Photo: XY)

There is a military version of PSG1, the MSG90, that is lighter and more rugged is evidence that the PSG1 isn’t an ideal military weapon, or at least, wasn’t designed to be. However, apart from its weight, in the hands of troops with specialized sniper training, I have little doubt it would be a very effective weapon.

It’s chambering in 7,62x51mm might preclude it from use at very long ranges that might be better served by cartridges like .338.

The main difference between PSG1 and MSG90 is in trigger packs. The MSG90 uses a modified version of the pushpin trigger packs of Heckler & Koch roller-locked select-fire assault rifles. The biggest advantage of the MSG90 over the PSG1 is a threaded barrel capable of attaching a suppressor.

Variants

Since it was introduced into the service, the MSG90 had two variants:

  • MSG90A1
  • MSG90A2

Users

The rifle Heckler and Koch PSG1 (and the military version MGS90) were sold worldwide and gained great success. It is still in use as a prime sniper rifle for many military and law enforcement units worldwide, including the most famous ones as the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta (Delta Force) and FBI HRT.

User Experience

It served well as a dedicated sniper rifle but is probably too heavy and fragile to make a great choice as a designated marksman’s rifle on a squad level. It is also an extremely expensive rifle, meaning you could probably get at least half a dozen DMRs of perfectly adequate quality for the cost of a single PSG1. Cost is always something the needs to be kept in mind for military procurement (occasionally even for the US Military), so you could definitely do better in that regard.

Technical specifications: PSG1A1

Manufacturer:Heckler & Koch GmbH, Oberndorf Am Neckar, Germany
Designed:1968
Service:1972 – present
Type:semi-automatic, delayed blowback, magazine
Caliber: .308 Winchester (7.62 mm NATO)
Barrel:25.6 in (650 mm)
Weight (empty):15.8 lbs (7.2 kg)
Effective firing range:1,000 m (3,281 ft)
Rate of fire:
Magazine capacity:5, 10, or 20-round detachable box magazine. 50 round drum also compatible
Sights:Hensoldt ZF 6×42 PSG1 telescopic sight with an illuminated reticle
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