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. And here are the weights of the two guns—the GP100 actually is a smidge lighter. Trigger reach in DA mode is a little bit of a stretch for me, but no worse than my Beretta 92F. The Beretta’s grip is actually a bit thicker, too. 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. And the front is similarly robust. The sights are elevated to allow for their use when a suppressor is mounted Somewhat usually, the barrel is chrome-lined. 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. 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. . 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. 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. 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. There’s a dramatic difference, too, in the internal parts. Look at that robust ejector! The braided spring is the trigger bar spring 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!