For decades, German arms giant Heckler & Koch has served as the gold standard for military and civilian weapons manufacturing — building revolutionary and oftentimes game-changing rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, submachine guns and pistols for a variety of customers including special operations forces, conventional infantry units and law enforcement agencies.

After a lackluster 2018, reports indicate that H&K is now struggling to keep its head above water, with the hopes that boosting sales in FY2019 buys the company at least another year to come out of the red and fix the situation it’s in.

The Tactical Wire recently reported that German business journals have already predicted the end for what was once one of the most powerful arms manufacturers in the world.

In fact, the situation is so bad that, as The Firearm Blog reported just last month, H&K employees jointly voted to increase weekly work hours without paid overtime, as well as nixed a one-off payment of 400 Euros per head for the month of July, so as to provide their beleaguered company some form of relief.

A member of SEAL Team 8 wielding the iconic H&K MP5 submachine gun (US Navy photo by Milton Savage)
A member of SEAL Team 8 wielding the iconic H&K MP5 submachine gun (US Navy photo by Milton Savage)

H&K’s financial woes stem primarily from diminishing sales, so much so that FY2018 would have seen the company tank had it not been for “two bridging loans from an unnamed major shareholder.”

As the company’s preexisting contracts with various international buyers are fulfilled, it has faced immeasurable difficulty generating new large-scale contracts with any of its products.

According to Neue Zürcher Zeitung, after KPMG conducted an audit of H&K in 2018, it was forced to insert a red flag warning that: “the lack of liquidity endangers the continued existence of Heckler & Koch." KPMG went on to state that the only way H&K would survive going forward is to generate a considerable bump in revenue over previous years, or face bankruptcy.

Earlier this year, H&K completed production and delivery of the M27 IAR (a derivative of the HK416) to the US Marine Corps. However, contracts with countries in the process of revamping their small arms arsenals, such as Portugal, have failed to materialize with these countries opting for weapons from other manufacturers.

2019 has also seen the imposition of a multi-million dollar fine on H&K by a German court after it was discovered that the company violated Germany’s War Weapons Control Act through the illegal sales of rifles to Mexican states affected considerably by drug-trade violence.

German soldiers armed with the G36 (left) and P8 (right) during a training exercise. Both weapons are Heckler & Koch products. (USAF photo by Maria Lorente)
German soldiers armed with the G36 (left) and P8 (right) during a training exercise. Both weapons are Heckler & Koch products. (USAF photo by Maria Lorente)

H&K’s hopes more than likely rest in securing a massive contract yet to be tendered by the German government for the long-term replacement of the German army’s G36 assault rifles, another H&K product though one which didn’t necessarily live up to the next-generation hype that earlier surrounded it.

Whether or not H&K will win the contract is a completely different question altogether, as it’s also standard German defense procurement procedure to take into account the fiscal health and economic well being of the companies which have bid for larger contracts... and that’s not looking too good for H&K.

It should also be noted that H&K is currently in the process of reequipping the French army with HK416 rifles to replace the FAMAS bullpup rifle platform with an overall mass order of over 93,000 units. The Norwegian government also contracted the company to supply HK416s to the Norwegian Armed Forces earlier this year.

However, that might not be enough to save H&K.

Should H&K lose out on the German G36 replacement contract, this could spell the end for the 71 year-old German small arms producer, and a potentially new beginning for a restructured company in its place.