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The H&K Mark 23: thoughts and observations

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by Dragonfly, Jan 25, 2020.

  1. Dragonfly

    Dragonfly Member

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    I picked up this 14-year-old but still in good shape pistol this week, and even though I owned one in the past I thought it was a good time for a fresh look. First—a little history. This pistol was designed by Heckler & Koch in the early 1990s in response to the United States Special Operations Command’s (US SOCOM) Offensive Handgun Weapon System (OHWS) competition. The intention was to deliver a handgun that could be used as a primary weapon in place of a rifle, not just one intended for defensive or secondary use like the M9. As part of the reliability testing, the pistol went through a 30,000 round endurance test using +P .45ACP ammunition, and the completed package delivered in 1996 included a suppressor and laser aiming module.

    Now, onto my version (no suppressor or LAM, unfortunately). The only real differences between the civilian “Mark 23” and the military “MK 23” are the finish and roll marks on the slide. It’s for sure a big pistol (you’ll see it jokingly referred to as a “crew served pistol”) but let’s have a closer look.

    Here it size-wise with my 4” GP100, which most people wouldn’t consider to be an overly large handgun.
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    And here are the weights of the two guns—the GP100 actually is a smidge lighter.
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    Trigger reach in DA mode is a little bit of a stretch for me, but no worse than my Beretta 92F.
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    The Beretta’s grip is actually a bit thicker, too.
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    So, no question it’s big gun, but manageably so. Now, let’s have a closer look at the pistol itself.

    At it’s heart, it’s a basic polymer-framed Browning-style tilting barrel design, not one of H&K’s more unique designs like the P7 or P9S. The rear sight is a sturdy steel sight with two dots.
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    And the front is similarly robust. The sights are elevated to allow for their use when a suppressor is mounted
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    Somewhat usually, the barrel is chrome-lined.
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    The front of the grip has aggressive checkering, and in this picture you can also see the typical H&K paddle-style magazine release (it’s ambidextrous) and the nicely grooved trigger. H&K’s mag release is the my all-time favourite (my Walther P99 has a similar one). I can easily reach it with my trigger finger without changing my grip. The DA trigger is really heavy, like maybe 12 pounds or more, due to the strong hammer spring, but the SA pull, while still a little on the heavy side, is nice and crisp with just a bit of overtravel.
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    You can see the threaded hole in the front of the trigger guard for the LAM, as well as its non-standard mounting groove on the frame.
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    There’s an unusual control on the left side of the frame. In front of the smallish 1911-style safety there’s a separate decocker. Apparently this is because the original design requirement was to have both. The decocker does allow for the pistol to be decocked more quietly than a slide-mounted safety like the Beretta 92, which just drops the hammer.
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    The larger size of the Mark 23 detracted from using it as a more defensive pistol, and as response H&K developed the USP line of pistols for more conventional usage. You can see the family resemblance with my USP .40.
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    Here are the barrels and recoil assemblies. Near the front of the Mark 23 barrel you can see its green rubber o-ring, which helps center the barrel in the slide, supposedly contributing to increased accuracy.
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    There’s a dramatic difference, too, in the internal parts. Look at that robust ejector! The braided spring is the trigger bar spring
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    I’m a big fan of H&K’s classic pistols and this was the last one I was missing. I’m looking forward to taking it out!
     
  2. cslinger

    cslinger Member

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    It’s such a cool gun for its mythos and a great suppressor host but holy hell put next to any other of its HK brethren it’s like a caricature. I recently saw one in the case next to a P30 and the P30 looked like a sub compact. That’s a full size P30 not an SK.

    Every time I see one or handle one all I can think is “Excuuuuseee me......while I whip this out!”

    Shoot it in good health.
     
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  3. CoalTrain49

    CoalTrain49 Member

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    HK has designed some pretty interesting stuff for the military. I've always had this feeling that the civilian market just surfs the military bow wave. This pistol would be the result of HK's trolling for military contracts. I'm all for that as these are some very nice pistols even if they don't get purchased by civilians that often. I've been a fan since the 80's when I bought a used HK4 at a gun show.

    Thanks for write up.
     
  4. Reinz

    Reinz Member

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    I love most HK stuff, but could never get aboard the USP train.

    If I’m going to carry a pistol that large I might as well have a Desert Eagle. I do realize the SOCOM has a different purpose from the other USP’s and is a cool gun.

    Never could understand why the USP’s had to be so large; it’s not necessary as evidenced by many other polymer guns.

    Excellent write up by the OP.
     
  5. 460Shooter

    460Shooter Member

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    I dig it. Everything about The Mark 23 seems very deliberate and purpose driven. I love it’s brutaly utilitarian nature.
     
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  6. CoalTrain49

    CoalTrain49 Member

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    The HK45 is the new improved version, very ergonomic. I wanted a USP for a very long time but when it came down to buying a USP or HK45, I bought an HK45. My hands just aren't big enough to fit a USP. I wear XL gloves too.
     
  7. CaptHank

    CaptHank Member

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    I'm also a fan of the H&K's. This is my 2nd USP-45. I couldn't find a M23 at a good price, so I brought a threaded barrel for the Osprey Suppressor, then a Vortex Red Dot. The standard front sight wasn't high enough with the suppressor installed.

    Stryker+.JPG
     
  8. psyopspec

    psyopspec Member

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    Fantastic writeup and pics! Thank you for taking the time to share.
     
  9. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Member

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    That pretty well summarizes my feelings on the Mk 23. If it were chambered in 10mm Magnum and held 18-20 rounds, it might appeal to me, but as a 12 shot .45, nope. My RP45 holds 3 more rounds in a normal sized, more ergonomic handgun that cost less than a replacement barrel for a Mk 23.

    HK makes quality firearms, but none of their models represent a good value. To me, they fall on the wrong side of "does it cost more because it's better or is it perceived as better because it costs more?", and the fanboyism is as off-putting to me as HK's attitude toward civilian gun ownership.

    But to each his own, and I don't begrudge anyone who chooses to buy something like the Mk 23 if they enjoy it and feel the price is fair.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2020
  10. Spats McGee

    Spats McGee Moderator Staff Member

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    My initial impression is that if you run out of ammo, it would make a serviceable impact weapon. Or you could play baseball with it. Or use it as a tent pole .....

    Not that I wouldn't love a day at the range with one, mind you.
     
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  11. ApacheCoTodd

    ApacheCoTodd Member

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    Absolutely LOATHED them when they hit the Arms Room.

    We took them out to proof them for Team use and simply could not find a reason to ever draw them in the future.

    For .45, we had other, lighter/smaller options.

    For suppression, see above.

    For accuracy - they never stood-out to warrant the size.

    Complete frikken cinema-SqEAL driven boondoggle from our points of view.

    In my drive to have one of each, closest legal to issued Service weapons from my career, this HK is the one that I am most immune to ever even holding again.

    And that, is from a guy who was backed into carrying a Madsen-POS-50 at one time.:evil:

    Todd.
     
  12. Gordon
    • Contributing Member

    Gordon Contributing Member

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    I think the trigger guard has reason to be so large. I dig the huge ejector. Gun is almost large enough to have been integral reflex suppressed without being much bigger. For the purpose I arrived at a Para P 14 , slightly modified with threaded barrel and almost all USGI AMU parts that would fit. That said no doubt the MK 23 would be more robust strapped onto a diver emerging from the water.
     
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  13. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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    Tough crowd. Congrats to the OP and thanks for the great pics and impressions!
     
  14. tommy.duncan

    tommy.duncan Member

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    Great Post!!

    I have wanted one of those pistols for about 25 years!!
     
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  15. Dragonfly

    Dragonfly Member

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    Thanks! I welcome all comments pro or con, especially from folks with first-hand experience. It's all good!
     
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  16. C0untZer0

    C0untZer0 Member

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    If I had only one shot at an assailant I would want to shoot him with a Winchester 45 ACP +P 230gr. Ranger T-Series RA45TP out of an H&K Mark 23. :)
     
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  17. tarosean

    tarosean Member

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    Always wanted one just never pulled the trigger. eventually I will pick one up.
     
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  18. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Member

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    Do you think the ammunition is somehow more effective because of the firing weapon's pedigree? Life is not an XBOX game. In the real world, suppressed weapons have the same range and power as unsuppressed, and a slug from a Mk 23 is no more lethal than the same one fired from a 1911, a Glock or a Hi Point.

    The more important question is, if you had only one shot, why would you chose any handgun?
     
  19. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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    Good grief can we just be happy for the guy? Why does everyone feel the need to start an argument about everything?
    I guess I need a break from the internet
     
  20. PO2Hammer

    PO2Hammer Member

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    Great review, cool gun.
    Shot one once, the most surprising thing is how light they are for their size.
    I have it's descendant, the USP 45 (ducks for cover).
    Big, accurate, reliable, fun.
     
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  21. surferdaddy

    surferdaddy Member

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    I love collecting military arms. No reason really other than the history and the way they make me feel. I started my journey with “military issue” with my MK25. I love this thing. Bedside blaster for me.

    Very cool HK, I will someday probably score one.
    -Surfer
     
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  22. Dave T

    Dave T Member

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    Dragonfly, you are to be commended on the quality of your photography. Your pictures are some of the best I've seen for a more technical presentation like this.

    Dave
     
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  23. Dragonfly

    Dragonfly Member

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    Thanks! Other than the comparison pictures with my Beretta all others were taken on my back deck on Saturday. The high, bright overcast and plenty of fresh snow down made for a very nice, even light.
     
  24. Master Blaster

    Master Blaster Member

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    I have a USP Elite that I really like. It's pretty big but not as big as the Mk 23. About 18 years ago a member of my club bought the Mk 23 kit, it came in a fancy bag with a fake suppressor. It was huge I shot a few rounds out of it and it shot ok it soaked up the recoil of the .45 rounds we were shooting. If I recall they cost $1800 bucks new back then.
     
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  25. Gordon
    • Contributing Member

    Gordon Contributing Member

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    The MK 23 was touted as an " offensive" pistol. Handguns are touted as defensive weapons among the " trained" who realize their shortfalls in combat situations. To me an " offensive " pistol use is to hunt down enemy at short range and have an edge , somehow and suppressed certainly helps , along with major caliber and a substantial ammo capacity. Of course accuracy is Paramount with Reliability. Concealability not so much. I think the Gun was an early stab at it and is fairly good at the job. Like I said , it could almost have been integral suppessed at that size.
     
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