By Chris Laliberte
I don’t know how many of you out there married your first love right out of high school. If you didn’t, and if your first love wasn’t an HK, then you may not know just how deep the guilt goes when you finally cheat on your HK93 for the first time. Even now, all these years later, my love affair with the HK 9-series of assault rifles over and done, I don’t know if I can speak of it. But I need to back up a little, all the way back to middle school. See, there was MP5 . . .
Ah, MP5. What did I know? I was so young, so full of Rainbow Six, how was I to know that MP5 was off limits—that I could never attain a fully select-fire carbine so long as I lived in the states of Washington and California. But nothing—I mean NOTHING—could compare to her beauty. She was so—amazing. Compact, light, so intuitive it just felt like pointing. Look at the X, and that’s where the bullet went. I was in love instantly.
And so when her little sister HK94 came around—well, a close cousin actually, by Special Weapons, with the real-deal 8” barrel with a fake can pinned on—I didn’t know the difference. And I bought her, my first gun. We were so good together. She told me all about her father, “German Engineering,” and all I could do was gaze in wonder at her. . .engineering. The roller cam bolt, the diopter sights, that beautiful sweep of her slim 30 round mag with the paddle release.
So I dallied in pistol caliber carbine land for quite a while. Like Peter Pan, I thought I’d never grow up. But, we always grow up. And soon, HK94 began to seem, well…young. Small. A little boring. Not at all so exciting or outgoing as her older sister, HK93. And then there was 91—she was a senior, no WAY I was going to get anywhere with her. But 93, she and I got it ON! Accuracy at long distance! Rifle ballistics. Muzzle velocity. Scope mount! Now we’re talking. And actually, it wasn’t too long before I’d grown up to the Battle Rifle, HK91.
It seems like the first love always lasts until you actually get a chance to go out and see that the world is…well, a big place. With lots of other guns in it. In my case, it was my exploration of Hi Power Match shooting. I can still hear the laughter (ok, the muffled snickers) that first time I showed up with my 91. No one ever told me! It has iron sights, what’s wrong? I didn’t know anything about a “free floating barrel” or about ergonomics.
Ding never did a mag change in Rainbow Six. How was I to know that having to manipulate the paddle with your left hand and remove the magazine meant that you couldn’t go get another magazine until you physically removed the old one, and then figured out what to do with it? Oh, and you know, you’re not born knowing about an “open bolt.” That’s learned, that knowledge that if the bolt holds open after the last round, you save like a full minute not having to pull the bolt back and lock it, then close the bolt again with a concussive whack after changing the mag. Yup, not inherent knowledge. And HK, she never tells you.
Match after match of watching my brother’s scores improve (he was dating a Garand, then M1a), and noticing that every single other person who wasn’t a WWII vet was shooting some version of the AR and scoring WAY higher than me, I finally began to consider that inconceivable possibility.
And then it happened. Some friendly old guy, totally oblivious to the palpably awkward tension of this young couple in love, just wants to be nice and says “here, wanna give my AR a try?” It was so weird. At the end of a string of just six rounds, with my brother spotting at 200 yards (in kind of an amazed voice: “another 9 ring”), I looked over at 91 and was stunned. She looked…well, old. Plain. Just kind of frumpy.
I may have cleaned her up, after that last time. I’m pretty sure I did. And I did hang on to her for a good long while—investment value and all. But honestly, I was done with slow mag changes, and with side-mounted sling attachment points welded directly onto the barrel that cause the force of the recoil to pull the sling (remember, Hi Power Match shooting) and barrel down and to the left on every shot. I got an AR and never looked back.
It’s hard now to even imagine having to lock the bolt back every time I finish a mag. Say what? German idiocy is what that is. Honestly now, I did go a little overboard getting into the efficiency of the AR mechanics on mag changes and malfunctions (thanks Travis). Who could blame me? I had some catching up to do after my years behind the diopter.
Now, with my B.A.D lever, I cringe when I see AR shooters take that extra hiccup to hit the bolt release with their left thumb on a mag change, or switch hands to lock the charging handle back on a malfunction. I thought the XCR and the ACR, with their integrated ambi bolt release and their forward charging handle would take the world by storm as the ultimate in hyper-efficient weapons manipulations. But I’ve got both, and I still like my straight-up ARs better.
The XCR’s stock tube is lower relative to the top rail so my cheek weld is all wonky, and the charging handle slide is too long so it hits your sling where it attaches at the rear of the receiver and sometimes messes up your ability to lock the bolt back on a malfunction. And the ACR is just such a heavy bitch with a FAT forend, and seems to kind of roll around rather than just kick back nice and straight. Something about the recoiling mass not going back into the stock tube and in close, right at your shoulder, means regaining the sight picture is just a hair slower. So accessorized AR still keeps me coming back for more.
But really, for you romantics out there, the story does have a happy ending. Perhaps you all noticed—HK had a total makeover, did herself up all like the AR (though she likes to play up that piston thing) and now you can’t really tell the difference—though she put on a little weight. So yeah, we kind of got back together, after all that. Sometimes, people really can change!