Germany Buys H&K121 Samples For $55,000 Each

Picture courtesy of Jan-P. Weisswange

Picture courtesy of Jan-P. Weisswange

The Bundeswehr plan on eventually buying more than 12,000 H&K121 (or MG5 as they will be known) for a up to $318 million. Visier reports that the budget committee of the Bundestag (parliament) has just approved funding to purchase 65 proof samples of the H&K 121 for testing and evaluation. The cost was $3.6 million (approx. $55,000 each) and includes including spare parts and tooling (and probably also training and support).

If the H&K121 passes all acceptance tests successfully, H&K will be awarded a contact for 7,114 machine guns for a price of $157 million. This works out to be about $22,000 per machine gun. If all goes well they will then purchase the rest of them.

For anyone who keeps on eye on military procurement, this pricing it not all that surprising. But as a friend said to me “H&K: the mercedes of machine guns”.

Picture courtesy of Jan-P. Weisswange

Many thanks Axel for the tip.

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Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.



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  • Ryan

    Does it go “cha-ching” when it fires too? Can’t remember the movie that is from…

    Joking aside, I’d love to try one out!

    • MrDakka

      That scene is from Lord of War

  • M.

    Because you suck and we hate you

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      Lets stop using that worn out old saying.

      • Sam F

        SERIOUSLY. Its played, its old, and no one cares. You’re not clever for saying it anymore.

        • Greg

          Ditto

    • Samuel Suggs

      thats not really aplicacable here a better exsperession would be “we made this gun in the most exspensive way possible so please pay us an unreasonable amount of money to also teach your soligers how to field strip it and then do nothing else but also sell you overpriced spare parts and to fix the parts we designed to break thanks for the money you such and we hate you”

    • AnoSynum

      Herp derp, HK sucks amirite?

      Seriously, I wonder how many of you whiners have actually dealt with HK customer service recently.

      • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

        Probably very few—–Internet rumors abound!

    • hami

      When was the last time you contacted Hk customer service? And how exactly did they slight you?

      • Alex C.

        I called them to ask for a free rifle to destroy in testing. They had a new one at my dealer in a week.

  • Samuel Suggs

    Um why would they get all that from HK? I smell greased palms :)

  • Joe Schmoe

    Seems like a rather poor “upgrade” on the face of it.

    1)- It is still very heavy compared to the new 7.62mm MG’s around (like the NG7 or Mk48).

    2)- Only a 50 round ammo container!?

    3)- No semi capability

    All that for a pretty obscene price. For comparison, a Negev costed in 1996 (brand new entering service) $5,000. The NG7 version is probably around the same price. How the heck can this weapon be justified for four times that amount?

    • Michael Pham

      I agree, I don’t really understand what the MG121 brings to the table other than magical teutonic engineering. While military procurement is so byzantine in most countries that the price may be misleading, the MG4 and MG5 seem to be borne entirely out of a desire to keep the German army using German weapons; it achieves nothing that the Minimi or FN MAG or MK48 hasn’t already, decades prior.

    • anon

      Light, reliable, accurate. Pick two.

      It’s not hard to cut down on mass. But judging by the foreign sales of lightweight machines guns like the Negev and Ultimax 100, then it’s hard to make a lightweight machine gun that doesn’t suck.

      • Joe Schmoe

        How often do militaries replace their 7.62 MG’s? In addition, it’s a hard selling justifying almost any 7.62 MG with their boutique prices (North of $7,000, NG7 among them) when you can simply get a reliable and proven FN MAG for around $1,350-$2,500.

    • Arnold Scwarzannager

      mk 48? you kidding right?
      ng7? ok you can preffer them in zone.

    • AnoSynum

      The MG3 needs replacing. It’s a storied weapons system, no doubt, but the guns in the German arsenal are growing dangerously dated and many are only kept running by the skill of the unit armourers. They used to have a reputation for almost never jamming – watch some newer videos of that gun and you’ll see that time has taken its toll on them.

      The HK121 has an innovative new recoil reduction system, it has three rates of fire and it feeds off that belt like there’s no tomorrow. And it comes in FDE. That alone doubles the price tag ;).

      I realize that hating HK makes some of you guys’s jimmies jiggle, but this is undeserved. It seems unless HK reinvents firearms technology as we know it, you guys will just relish in bitching. The German army is in need of a new GPMG, HK provides an excellent option, end of story.

      And you know what? Just like with the HK416 & the MP7, something tells me that it won’t be long before you’ll see this gun in the hands of people who use the systems for more than plinking at the range and playing at militia.

      • jamezb

        Great jigglin’ jimmies Batman!…LOL very nice :)

  • jamezb

    Looks bulky to this kid…like someone slapped a pistol grip on the bottom of a 1919A4..The ammo pack is dinky and its positioning adds to the overall height of what…12″..14″…at mid receiver… while limiting firepower! This is better than the M240 in what way?

    • floppyscience

      “This is better than the M240 in what way?”

      It’s tan, says HK on the receiver, and costs three times as much as an M240B, therefore it’s better.

      I don’t pretend to understand HK’s manly teutonic operator ways, I just throw money at them hoping they’ll make the good stuff available to civilians.

  • Mr Mxyzptlk

    To people saying the ammo pack is too small, I think a 50 round ammo
    pack is pretty standard for a 7.62mm machine gun. Any larger than that
    and it becomes too heavy and large to be practical on a weapon that is
    being carried around. Besides, for sustained fire you would be using
    loose belts or feeding from a rucksack. What they have managed to do
    rather poorly in this case is the interface between the bag and the gun,
    with the bracket being nearly as tall as the bag itself. The original
    H&K method was a round metal drum that fitted flush underneath the
    gun and was much lower profile, don’t know how they have gone so wrong since that.

    • Joe Schmoe

      While I don’t want to say the exact amount, we carried far more in our M-240 pouches which really helped provide a sustained amount of fire in a fight, I know this from first hand experience where the amount of rounds in the M-240 helped deter a secondary attack after the initial one we were under got under control.

  • Geoff a well known Skeptic

    Can anyone source a spec and requirement? I note it has no optic mounted, but that is often a separate contract. Sights have a shorter life span and changing tech at the moment. It seems to have a standard rail. Geoff Who has not great love for H&K I missed the .380/.22 version of the HK-4, but I have been told the frame broke regularly.

  • Alex C.

    There are a lot of misconceptions and wrong assumptions in the comments. First, $55,000 is the sample cost of a few guns and the unit cost of the HK121 will decrease as production increases (as stated at first down to $22,000). Second, lol at everyone pointing out the 50 round ammo container as being a limit. This is a belt fed using the German DM6 disintegrating link (backwards compatible with regular M13 links) so you can use standard 250 round cans when on a hard mount or on the ground. Also as for the rate of rife it has three different settings; 600, 700, and 800 which is neat. Also lol at someone pointing out that a GPMP has no semi automatic setting. This is seriously extremely rare for a GPMG and goes against its purpose (I mean for God’s sake they fire from an open bolt). All in all I am excited about hearing how well this thing runs (they say it can pull a 250 round belt suspended in air!).

    • mikee

      Agreed Alex. What no one has mentioned is that the HK 121 is virtually recoil free in .308 as HK have developed a successful recoil balance apparatus that virtually eliminates all felt recoil. Other than the Russian N94 rifle, no other potentially mass produced weapon, let alone a GPMG has succeeded in reducing felt recoil other than through mass. If this HK technology is successful, a new bar would be raised in MG technology.

      • big daddy

        The gun can be fired single shot with some trigger discipline. Even in the tripod mount which has a separate trigger mechanism. The price will come down and that initial price might include many things like training and start up for manuals and procedures. There’s more to procurement than just the weapon itself. Also extra parts and barrels, tools so many things it’s mind-boggling and expensive. One reason many countries do not get new weapon systems or wait is not because of the weapon cost but everything that goes with it including training and retraining. Even complete changes in tactics. If it does what it says it does in the field it is a step forward for the infantry using the GPMG. H&K has been producing MAGS/M240s and this looks like an evolution from it. The German Army too found out that the 5.56mm is NOT a very good SAW or GPMG round. It is a light round and heavier hitting ammunition is needed in real combat situations. The MG3 is not a very good infantry weapon these days and the LMG they had just does not hit hard enough.

        • Joe Schmoe

          Which is fine and dandy, but when you have a Negev that was also newly inducted for around ~$7,000 (inflation adjusted) with all those requisites as well; what capability does this weapon offer for over three times the price? And that is already in boutique territory. A brand new FN MAG costs around $1,350-$2,500. An Mk48 costs $10,723 (with all prerequisites).

          This is nothing more than a milking of the taxpayer.

          • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

            Having extra gas setting can be a life saving feature. Spend some time in a sandy environment and you have the option of opening up the amount of gas to overcome the sand and crud that sticks to it.

          • Joe Schmoe

            I understand and fully appreciate the value of gas settings in a sandy environment :) . The Negev has three gas settings as well (though two cyclic rates) and I remember the MAG having several settings as well.

            I should have been more clear in my statement in referring to the cyclic gas settings, not the gas settings themselves.

        • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

          Good points. In fact on the trigger discipline I’ve shot the MaDuece enough getting of a single shot isn’t that hard anymore.

      • Jay

        Mike, Aircraft cannons had more advanced recoil reduction systems for almost a hundred years. And if you are at it, look at the Ultimax machinegun. It’s been around for a long time.

        • mikee

          Jay, now you’ve really opened a can of worms!!

  • Twistlock

    I’d love to see how it compares to this!

    http://spartanat.com/2013/07/mg3-goes-zukunft/

    A modernized MG3, i guess it would be way cheaper, but HK rather sells new guns than modernizing the existing…

    • J.T.

      While a modernized MG3 would be just an effective weapon and cost the German taxpayers less, they probably are dishing out all this money to HK for a reason. HK is damn near bankrupt and I doubt the German government wants to lose their country’s largest arms manufacturer and exporter.

      • Ripley

        The MG3 is just a bullet spitter and not as carefully designed as this system. Just check out the H&K promo videos on youtube. Or the RatedRR Shot Show interview http://youtu.be/ad4HUcin0AE Shut up and take my money! I believe H&K was in financial trouble because the German government left H&K with all the R&D and then just stalled it.

  • Cuban Pete

    I’d stick with the well-proven, reliable, and idiot proof MG3.

    • jamezb

      Good call…If it ain’t broke…

      • AnoSynum

        Except they are broken. The guns in the German arsenal are 40 – 50 years old and Rheinmetall doesn’t produce new ones or spare parts for them. Furthermore, while the weapon might’ve been ground breaking in the 30s and 40s, ergonomically it is way behind more contemporary designs. They’re a bitch to lug around on the battlefield.

        • jamezb

          Being as the MG42/MG3 was designed for ease and economy of manufacture, during wartime no less, even if a new production and assembly line had to be built, I would imagine they could build new MG3′s for a great deal less than 55K per unit. A new production and assembly line had to be created for this new HK gun anyway.

          Modernizations of the MG3 design such as a reduced bbl. length and fluted barrels, replacement of the steel bipod with a titanium unit, and the addition of rails, – perhaps even a polymer bbl. heat shield unit and lighter buttstock- could be incorporated more easily as modifications of an existing design than off the drawing board on a new weapon.

          As to lugging the weight of the MG3, as I just stated there are ways it could be made much lighter, In issues of sheer BULK, the MG3 is a very slim package compared to the enormous receiver on the HK.

          Yes, the MG42/MG3 an ammo hog when run “wide open” in long sweeping bursts, but it’s high ROF was a powerful psychological deterrent to those on the wrong end of the barrel. This deterrent factor is no less effective today. It has been proven that effective trigger control can tame its ROF and keep it quite competitive.

          As far as lugging tons of 7.62 on your back, battlefield resupply has made quantum leaps since the days when a soldier’s ammo supply might have to last him many days as was the case in the fading past, so this is not as huge an issue as it would have been years ago.

          I’m sure the HK is a fine MG, but is it $55,000 fine? I really have my doubts..

        • mikee

          To the best of my knowledge, German manufacture of the MG3 ceased decades ago. Only Turkey and Iran still manufactures them. NATO users of MG3′s source parts from Turkey.

    • big daddy

      Did you ever fire one? Did you ever use one in a combat zone? They are old and all need to be replaced, do you want to have to rely on a 40-60 year old weapon that has been rebuilt many times? And I mean rely on with your life? MG3s eat ammo, would you want to carry a few extra hundred round on your back for it?

  • RocketScientist

    “If the H&K121 passes all acceptance tests successfully…”

    Not to be pendantic (ok… to be extremely pedantic) but you probably mean ‘qualification testing’ not ‘acceptance testing’. In the world of test, qual test is proof testing of a new design/product. This is usually very high-level (almost to the point of destruction) and uses up a considerable amount of the service life of the product. It is done to one exemplar unit that is not used in service afterwards (it is considered too damaged after qual test). It is intended to prove that the design/concept is robust and will withstand the rigors of its service life/environment. Acceptance testing is testing done once a product line has been ‘qualified’, usually done to every example of a product (or maybe a specified percentage of products) and is a much lower level of test, does not use up much of the product’s service life, and is meant more as a screening process to eliminate any gross defects in assembly/manufacture, as opposed to minor flaws in the concept/design of the product. Units exposed to acceptance testing are still put into service afterwards usually.

  • Lance

    Looks like H&K copied the FNs MAG MG. Funny how they look all too much alike. I still like the MG-3 good machine gun and it like its WW2 cousin cannot be matched in rate of fire.

  • gunslinger

    i thought HK was having problems with money. Unless this is a “stealth” government bailout?

    • Greg Bell

      This is what I am thinking. The price is probably a reflection of (1) HK was told to make this thing, so now they are being paid for their work, and (2) Germany needs a domestic firearms manufacturer and a contract like this will help keep them afloat.

  • Brilliantrocket

    Ich will!

    • 032125

      ich will eure Energie Ich will, ich will eure Hände sehen Ich will in Beifall untergehen

  • 032125

    This has probably already been noted, but last week H&K GMBH announces money problems, and now the state is buying rifles way over market value? This is surely a case of the state propping up a flagging company.

    • Ripley

      H&K has invested in R&D for a long time to win this contract. Maybe went a little too all-in.

  • Frosty_The_White_Man

    Is that $22,000 per MG or $22,000 per MG and triplicate spare parts?

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      It depends how the contract was written. The last one I saw was inclusive on the gun, parts, armorer training etc. Usually someplace in the contract it’s all broken down.
      If they buy the number they are considering the price will decrease considerably.

  • PR

    Everyone is talking about the gun, but I’d like to know what camouflage that guy is wearing.
    It looks like a German version of A-TACS.

    • AnoSynum

      Hyde Definition PenCott Camouflage. GreenZone variant.

      British company, I believe. Not easy to find, even harder to pay for.

  • TangledThorns

    Look out France?

    • SUPERSOAKER

      lol

  • Brandon

    And we thought the MR556 was expensive….

  • MrSatyre

    Not trying to be a troll or anything, but I though the Germans were massively cutting back on all their military branches’ budgets. Are their existing machine guns really that bad to require this changeover, or did they discover new funds somewhere?

    • AnoSynum

      The MG3s are way beyond their lifespan. The only reason they’re still usable is because there was such a huge arsenal of them from which the armourers could cannibalize parts to keep the rest of them going. The guns were produced in the 60s and 70s and there haven’t been any replacement parts made for them since.

      There was supposed to be a replacement in the early 90s, but the end of the Cold War and the resultant budget cuts put an end to that. At this point, many of them are a single jam-fest. A new MG is overdue.

      Interesting thing to see will be how long the MG5 (the military designation of the HK121) will last. The German army bought 120,000 MG3s back in the 60s – they’re buying 12,000 MG5s – there won’t be much of an arsenal for the armourers to cannibalize if the guns are meant to stay around for as long as the MG3 did.

  • Dr. Zarkov

    I wonder how many PKM’s an army could buy for the price of one MG5? Not that i’m saying the Bundeswehr should acquire Russian MG’s… but price wise. And i would bet it’ll work just as fine for far less money. Hell, they even make it in 7.62 NATO (Bulgaria, Poland, Romania etc.) Battle proven? Hell yeah…

  • MOG

    Don’t they just make guns anymore? This Star Wars replica crap is getting boring. (Thanks, I needed to get that off my chest, or, from under my armpit, somehow, or, other). That MG looks three stories tall, stamped metal stacked, that ain’t a magazine, it’s an elevator.