H&K and Backwards Bullets: The Real Story

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It is no secret that I am an unrepentant H&K-aholic. Over the years I have collected just about every one of their roller locked long guns, a ton of their pistols dating back to the HK4 and VP70z, and even a few modern implements that required quite a bit of effort to get ahold of. That being said, you can’t be an H&K guy without catching flak from your peers in the gun community regarding either “because you suck, and we hate you”, or the infamous “backwards bullet” fiasco. Well, most assuredly H&K does not hate you (albeit they certainly hate import regulations dating back the the 1989 ban on the importation of foreign military-style long guns into the US) but the backwards bullet catalog is an unquestionable blunder… and yes, these are real catalogs, not some photoshopped joke that went mainstream:

I have managed to collect three of these catalogs over the years; One I bought from an independent seller on eBay and the other two I bought from an unnamed former H&K employee. To clear up the internet lore and fiction surrounding this printed blunder, I made sure to ask the man exactly what the story was on the infamous inverted bullets. Anyways, said employee was at the 2004 SHOT Show and the catalogs got shipped directly from the printer to the show. Obviously the photographer Heckler & Koch had chosen was not a gun guy, as the most inexperienced shooters can probably figure out after looking at a magazine loaded backwards that something just isn’t right. Hilariously nobody at SHOT noticed, and the H&K booth was soon set up with their new products, some swag, and these catalogs to hand out and showcase their wares. An unknown number of these made it into the hands of attendees until someone (not an H&K employee) mentioned that the bright and shiny stack of glossy catalogs featured a spectacular blunder. It could have just been a typo somewhere in the middle of the slickly printed pages or even something out of whack in a photo somewhere near the end…. but no. This magnificent failure was featured right on the cover of their catalog at their booth at one of the worlds largest small arms expos. To add insult to injury, the old H&K slogan is featured prominently to the right of the backwards bullet.

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The aforementioned H&K employee estimated that no more than a few hundred made it out before the order came down to destroy the remaining boxes of catalogs (not throw away, but destroy mind you so as to prevent “profiteers” from digging them out of the trash either to sell or slander H&K with). The corrected catalog is much less interesting by the way, as everything is the same except the bullets in the magazine have been oriented correctly. All in all, it is hard to estimate how many of these catalogs have survived (who knows how many SHOT Show attendees kept theirs as I know I usually throw away most of my swag from conventions and shows) but I have heard anywhere from as low as fifty to as high as 300 or so. Regardless, after searching the internet I have only come across one image of one catalog that someone has taken that keeps getting circulated so I assume if there were a bunch of these out there then there would be a few more digital images. Combining that with the fact that these three are the only ones I have ever seen for sale in five years or so and I think the number of survivors is low. However that doesn’t matter does it? Once you put something out there like this in the digital era then the damage is done.

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The backwards bullets are not a photoshop or some H&K-hater’s concoction, but a very real gaffe that somehow made its way into circulation and will forever haunt Hecker and Koch. Shame really, within this printed blooper shows some good old-fashioned H&K products that make me yearn for the past.

Oh how I wish I could walk into any gun store in the USA and buy a new, unfired P7 variant!

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Oh how I wish I could walk into any gun store in the USA and buy a new, unfired P7 variant!

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And of course the back of the catalog shows the 2004 H&K pistol lineup.

So that’s it, the real story behind the backwards bullets. Next time you see an enthusiastic poster on a message board who has taken photos of their Heckler and Koch firearm with the bullets inserted backwards, you will know exactly why!

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Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog who was born and raised in Texas with years of experience in hunting, shooting competitions, and general collecting. A degree in History from Baylor University has contributed to his love of both early and modern firearms technology, but Alex is most fond of machine guns and other NFA toys.
You can reach Alex at alex.capps@thefirearmblog.com.


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