HK43: The 5.56mm “Paramilitary” Rifle

Before the H&K 90 series of rifles – the civilian semiautomatic versions – existed, there was the 40-series; the paramilitary rifles. Originally intended for German reservist purchase, the HK41 and HK43 were G3 and HK33 rifles made in semiautomatic only configuration. In the early 1970s, these were fairly easy for a German member of the armed forces to purchase, and keep at home for training or recreational shooting. They were also imported in small umbers into the US, with additional changes made to the receiver and bolt carrier to meet ATF standards for not being easily convertible into machine guns. By the mid 1970s, however, German laws changed, and the process to purchase on of these rifle in Germany became onerous enough that H&K dropped them from production. In their place came the HK 91 and 93 (as well as 94), more specifically designed to meet American import regulations – but identical to the 40 series in practical terms.

Thanks to Select Fire Weaponry of Waukesha, Wisconsin for loaning me this rare rifle to film!


  1. I once fired a Hk33, shorter barrel/pull out stock version… Didn’t fire it much, maybe two mags some semi, some full auto; I remember noting that it seemed more violent in regards recoil muzzle climb/flash etc than an Sa80… Which I assume now, knowing more about the operating systems of guns than then via here; was to with it being roller locked, so opening a bit quicker… And it being lighter with a shorter barrel.

    I wasn’t overly impressed but, I assume the idea behind it was a sort of Mp5 sized gun but with more anti body armour capability; I think.

        • Another gun I shot, was an Aksu in 5.45mm now that had a shorter barrel; than the 53 I think but that shot much better, so maybe it was the operating system overall in relation to both guns being quite small etc.

          • I really liked that gun. The best one at hitting though, was a .30 carbine in full auto M2 or M1 conversion; it didn’t even move, pulled trigger all rounds hit; empty. And of the big guns, M1 Garand I found that much better than an SLR although I assume you get used to it; that SLR was a shocker compared to an SA80 recoil wise.

          • Is the Garand a bit slower than an SLR at opening “Semi auto both” wonder if it was that… I know the SLR is not as above roller locked, but just thinking why it seemed much easier to shoot in 30.06…

          • “(…) roller locked(…)”
            Which weapon, which you mentioned is roller locked (NOT delayed) according to you?

    • I remain dubious of the proposition presented by roller-anything 5.56mm weapons. I don’t think anyone has implemented a full roller-locked 5.56mm, but… I don’t think they’ll do much better.

      I think you could easily do up a chart of all the various pressure curves and profiles, and then plot which mechanisms have been most successful within those ranges. The odds are going to be, I suspect, that 5.56mm does best with a gas-operated rotating bolt, and that the roller-delay mechanism should be confined to cartridges like the 7.92X33mm Kurz, ones with relatively low and slow pressure curves.

      I think you would want to graph things three-dimensionally… pressure rate as it develops, the speed and sharpness of it, and the projectile weight that those two things act upon. Then, look at what weapons operating systems have functioned best for those cartridges, and analyze from there. The high pressure, short/sharp shock pressure curves really need a fully locked mechanical breech, I think.

      Then, too… You need to somehow work in “how affordable are these mechanisms to produce” as well as looking at the reject rate for serial production. If I understand what went wrong with the CETME Modelo “L” properly, the root problem was that production was too expensive due to the reject rate on the parts, and that led to too many shortcuts being taken.

      You look at analyzing all of this stuff, you realize very quickly that there is a hell of a lot more that goes into these things than the average person might consider… Which is precisely how the assclowns running the L85 and L86 programs screwed the pooch. You want cheap production, you need to factor in a lot of things like “How experienced is my labor force?” and “Do we have the resources and depth of knowledge in the production facilities to execute this design?”

      A case in point is “roller-delay 5.56mm”, in that ain’t nobody outside HK’s gnomes managed to make those affordably. The Turks and the Pakistanis both abandoned production of their versions, once the tech support from HK evaporated. The ability to make those rifles apparently went away with the retirement of the labor force from the era when they were being built in Germany…

      • You could extend that down to the 7.62 x 25mm in the Vz52 service pistol. One I fired had a fairly sharp recoil compared to a TT33 in the same chambering firing the same lot of ammunition. I thought it might have made a decent “trail gun” if not for the recoil.

        Generally, the higher the breech pressure, the more likely you want a rotating bolt lockup in a rifle, or a Colt-Browning lockup in a pistol with much lower mass in the working parts. The Grant Hammond/Schwarzlose rotating bolt system in the original (and now remade) Auto-Mag is one of those odd side-alleys that works although it seems like it shouldn’t.

        Roller delay seems to work well in weapons in the 7.9 x 57 class, as long as you aren’t asking for gilt-edged accuracy. If you want that, you’d be best advised to get a manual, Mauser-type bolt-action put together by somebody who knew what they were doing.

        clear ether


      • 5.56 NATO / .223 Rem is a weird round. It’s enough to look at how much sensible it is to twist rate. Roller delay works very well with 7.62 NATO, with similar pressure.
        However, much comes to how much delay do you want.
        The 8mm Kurtz required a 1.4-1.5 kg bolt to be blowback operated. The roller delayed STG 45(m) had 45° inclined surface on the receiver and and 27° on the locking piece, for an acceleration of the bolt body relative to the bolt head of 3:1. The head weighted 120g and the body 360g (so the total bolt assembly had a pretty hefty weight of 480g). The bolt body had a resistance equivalent to 1080g (360×3) and the total equivalent weight of the bolt was 1.2kg. It lacked 200-300g, that was the contribute of the rollers using recoil energy to push the receiver rearward.
        Any delay mechanism that exchanges mass of the bolt for speed of a part of it seems to work well until 3:1 relative acceleration ratio. If you want a lighter bolt, you are in search of problems.

  2. The Garand is a bit heavier according to a quick search 9.5 vs 9lbs for the SLR might have been that; I do remember thinking though, that is much better… I wonder why. At the time I very little idea of operating systems etc. Higher pressure cartridge is it the 7.62 Nato than 30.06 maybe that also… Overall I only liked the M1 carbine the Garand and the Aksu; that was a wee monster for such a short gun, as far as I am aware 5.45 is similar to 5.56mm but it sort of did the M1 carbine (Auto) performance, if more quicker. I can distinctly remember grinning; as in I like that.

    • Or if not quicker, more violently/flash wise probably, but it hit really well; much more than the 53 which managed a few glances from a rattling fireball.

      Worst overall; a Romanian 7.62x39mm Ak with the foregrip and folding stock, full auto… That is not a Ppsh, in a conflict I may have hit in a wave attack of folk by accident; folk 200m behind.

      • 400m behind. That just went off on one, very violently all round; Extenuating circumstances, in it’s defence… Maybe the foregrip was a bit loose, loose enough to affect its performance but I doubt it. I don’t know who thought that would be able to match a Ppsh in full auto given the object of a gun must be to hit something.

          • It’s important that, to consider if you are arming folks… A Ppsh means more folk “Consripts” will be able to hit more. And hitting is the point.

            So I am sticking with my previous ascertion, Ppsh with 43 banana mag wells and folding cruciform bayonets would be the best gun.

            Make 10 million, see who’s wrong with conscript armies. Won’t be me.

          • Thats true an all, body armour; like a top attack missile tank missile. Well don’t fire at the armour then. No legs = Dead, or out.

          • The Ppsh is the gun to liberate mankind not the Ak. You can’t make modular guns to do all things, the best gun is one that will always hit. 200m You want a 7.62 x 25mm in you do you? No. No need for 5.45mm what for? Compared to what the Ppsh achieved in actual use. Nothing has changed, just aim low.

          • Some top tech wearing scar 15 weilding mofo, gets a 7.62x25mm in the thigh; no different than 43, give him another 29 in the nuts. And sell his shitty gun, to someone else who may belive in such nonsense.

          • “(…)5.45mm what for? (…)”
            According to×39-small-but-perfect-a-history-of-development/
            …designers were forced to seek a ‘golden middle’ between seemingly conflicting requirements for a new proposed cartridge. They were asked to reduce bullet dispersion and increased hit ratio. Achieving this would normally necessitate reduction of recoil impulse and cartridge power factor. They were also asked for the new cartridge to have increased penetration and lethality. This in turn would call for increase in bullet mass and cartridge power factor. Additionally researchers had to come up with new statistical variables such as ‘effective range’ and ‘hit probability’ to be able to perform objective comparisons.

          • Aye fair enough 5.45mm Cold war. 7.62x39mm not really being great in full auto like a M14 in Nato…

            But hot war, both are shit now; conscripts, Ppsh in my opinion is far better.

          • It will kick to much, not 7.62x25mm. Hit!

            Think about it, you actually shot them. Not theoretically busted armour or this that and the other, your 16 yr old shot them and now they are injured.


          • I’d be cautious in endorsing the Ppsh and the 7.62X25mm cartridge in this day and age. Things have changed from WWII, and where you could once put a dozen guys per T34, arm them with submachineguns, and send them off to battle in order to do good work against the enemy…? Today, that’s likely a really good recipe for getting them all slaughtered in very short order. Drones have changed the game, and so has the amount of firepower opposing infantry can lay down at longer ranges than those 7.62X25 rounds can reach… What sufficed against Germans armed with a WWII suite of weapons probably won’t fare at all well against today’s weapons complexes.

            Every weapon is a reflection of the era it was used in, and the forces that wielded it. Republican Roman legionaries going in up against Spanish tercios or Swiss pikemen might well have found themselves in a lot of trouble, their formations pulled apart by long spears and halberds that they couldn’t get past. While those short swords, heavy shields, and pilum spears worked a treat on the opponents they faced, odds are pretty good that they’d have found themselves having to make modifications to tactics and techniques, just as the later Imperial Romans had to do against the Dacians.

            A mass army given Ppsh 7.62X25mm-class weapons might do well, under modern conditions, but I’d expect some heavy, heavy casualties.

          • Kirk;

            Don’t forget, by Marius’ time the legendary pilum had been superseded by the plumbata, the original “Jart” or lawn dart. It could be thrown further than the pilum (about 30 yards vs 10-15) and still hit with lethal force. And a legionary could carry half-a-dozen “darts” for the weight of one pilum.

            Interestingly, the Ketchum hand grenade used in the American Civil War was about the size and weight of a plumbata, and even looked pretty much the same except for not having a point at the business end.

            In the end of course, the Romans wised up and made sure their auxiliaries included archers. Followed by the Byzantines going to heavy cavalry armed with composite bows.

            Battlefield evolution in action. You don’t evolve, you die.



          • @ Kirk

            Romans clashed many times with the Macedonian phalanx, that’s pretty comparable to the Swiss pikemen squares, down to the sarissa being a two-hands pike.

            In the first encounters, (Phirric wars), when the legionary system was very “fresh” (they had just adopted it, in the late Samnitic wars), and opposed to a capable commander, they had many problems.

            In the second round (Macedonian wars), when the legionaries were still not professionals, but the Romans had been “trained” by Hannibal, and learnt to use the maniples tactically, and not only as a meant to fight frontal battles on uneven terrain, they won with relative ease.

            In the last encounters (Mithridatic Wars), after the Marian reform, the Roman professionals won with ridicolous ease.

            The Tercio was another beast, due to the arquebuses.

  3. Off thread, but of interest.

    Google NSW manufacturer trials enhanced bolt system for M4 service rifles
    08 MARCH 2024|
    By: Robert Dougherty

    • Yeah, sorta worked. Still displays the em-dash, but the link contains the correct sequence of two en-dashs.

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