The West German firm of Heckler & Koch has introduced a new rifle to their line
of ultra-reliable weaponry. The PSG 1 Counter-Sniper Rifle is designed to fill the
need for a semiautomatic precision sniping piece for use by antiterrorist units and
law-enforcement special-weapons teams.
Many of today's terrorist confrontations require the long-range specialist to
engage more than one target in a very tight time frame. The traditional bolt-action
guns have been the mainstay of most snipers, but today's terror tactics often force
the sniper to take out several opponents in rapid succession in order to save a
hostage's life or up the odds for insertion teams to enter a building or penetrate an
Peter Senich's book, The German Sniper (Paladin Press, 1982), recounts several
intriguing interviews with the most successful German snipers in WWII. Their
discussions of range, armament and tactics led to some interesting conclusions.
Most riflemen would have preferred a semiautomatic weapon if the rifle's precision
were comparable and the weapon virtually jam-proof. Body movement while
operating the bolt increased the probability of detection, and greater time between
shots made it difficult to address multiple targets rapidly.
With today's increased accuracy capabilities, it appears the time is right for a precise,
semiautomatic sniper rifle.
The PSG 1 is, to say the least, impressive in appearance and performance. The rifle
looks as though it came straight from Star Wars. Its 25.5-inch bull barrel, .875-inches
in diameter at the muzzle, tapers straight back into the semiauto receiver where it
meets the H&K roller-locked bolt assembly. The receiver features a forward assist
not found on the 91 or 93 model firearms.
A Hensoldt Wetzlar telescopic sight is bolted to a mount welded atop the receiver.
As has become typical of H&K, attention to detail, durability and foolproofness is
exemplified by the easy-to-read, easy-access adjustment controls. Numbered from
100 through 600 meters in 100-meter increments, the elevation offers fast
compensation for projectile trajectory once the range has been estimated.
Today's counterterrorist marksman must face targets that are often only partly visible.
In such cases, in-scope range finders which depend on the total view of the target
are useless. Range determination is an art in itself, and whether an external device or
shooter judgment is employed, the Hensoldt Wetzlar scope offers minimal
Whatever method used, the shooter not wishing to employ hold-over at extreme
range needs only to click the elevation to the appropriate distance, hold dead on, and
drop the hammer. The elevation adjustment is also marked in a separate set of yellow
marks for close-range shooting in the event the sniper is faced with the exception
rather than the rule. Ten through 75 yards are marked, making the .308's trajectory a
matter of dialing in the numbers.
The scope is equipped with a light, collapsible rubber block to be used in solid
contact with the shooter's eyebrow, and the forward lens carries a rubber cap for
protection against the elements. Exposing the left side of the telescopic sight will
reveal a rubber-coated activator button which illuminates the crosshairs for low-light
shooting. Tuning this unit will increase or decrease cross-hair intensity. Once the
button is depressed, the crosshairs stay illuminated for approximately two minutes; then
the unit turns itself off. The battery pack powering it is located beside the control, and
access may be gained easily with a coin or screwdriver. The impressive clarity, design
and precision manufacture of the scope is typical of German craftsmanship.
I took the PSG 1 out to the range for testing. At first I felt that the gun should
have been capable of far greater accuracy during rapid-fire sequences - but I found
that the shooter must learn how to hold the rifle. Pressure placed on wrong parts of
the stock, or inconsistent pressure, will cause group variation. Obviously, handloads
would have performed better, but even with Federal Match ammo, the out-of-the-box
PSG 1 consistently shot less than one minute of angle.
But I was not satisfied with this method of evaluation - this rifle is built for action.
Since I couldn't get to Grenada or Lebanon for some serious combat testing, I figured
that the next best thing would be to take it in the field hunting. A call to Omega Hunts,
Ltd., (P.O. Box 1647, Boulder, CO 80306), put me 10,000 feet up in Colorado's Sangre De
Cristo Mountains pursuing Odocoileinus Hemonius - the magnificent mule deer.
Even though it was intended to be used as a position weapon, the 18-pound PSG 1
does, fortunately, come with a sling. And boy, did I use it! Many of us remember the
BAR man who carried some 20-odd pounds of gun across many a mile of hard-earned
real estate. No one, however, can truly appreciate this man's task until he's actually
walked a few days with that much gun.
Camp was already pitched at the 10,000-foot level with wall tents, great food and all
the comforts of home. In addition to helpful, friendly guides and cook, all the
necessities a hunter needs to support his dawn-'til-dusk search for game was provided.
Glassing canyons, thickly wooded hillsides and small openings in trees (the Colorado
folk call them parks) becomes an almost comfortable experience when one has a rifle
capable of hitting nearly anything visible. Although quick response in close cover
becomes laborious, it is more than offset by the gun's accuracy. This "anti-stalk" (or
"ridge gun," as my friends began to call it) seemed especially suited to open-terrain
After hunting the first two days and glassing only does, I spotted a buck carefully
picking his way down a ravine. The first shot followed the crosshairs to its mark
behind the shoulder and staggered him. But he regained his footing, wheeled and
started away. The instantaneous follow-up shot brought him down. The two shots
struck within inches of each other. I might have missed had I taken the time to work
the action on a bolt gun.
Muzzle blast and rearward movement of the gun are major contributors to close
misses, but anticipation of recoil is always a factor. The PSG 1 is a chore to carry; it
becomes a dream to shoot once in position. Recoil is negligible, and the weapon really
stays on target.
Assault rifles and hunting rifles have traditionally been used with little, if any, attention
to personalized gun fit. The average grunt cannot have his rifle fitted to him. H&K has incorporated an ingenious adjustable stock into the PSG 1. This stock features a
spring-loaded adjustable cheek rest to regulate comb height of the rifle and a
variable-length stock which will allow the gun to be fitted to virtually any physique.
An adjustable pistol grip on the fire-control handle allows the shooter to fit the
ergonomic wooden handle to the size of his hand, enhancing precise control.
A collapsible tripod is included in the case. This well-made unit allows the shooter to
crank up elevation, swivel laterally, and cant right and left for comfort and stability.
Also included are a cleaning rod, brush for optical sights, screwdriver for adjustments,
stock adjustment tool, carry strap and magazines.
If there has been one point all H&K lovers agree on, it's the need to eliminate some
of the inherent trigger resistance. Those of us who own and shoot H&K rifles already
will be pleasantly surprised with the great progress made on the PSG 1's trigger. The
beautiful 3.5-pound-pull trigger will not allow full auto, yet presents the shooter with
a real rifleman's trigger. Perhaps the best news of all is the rumor that these trigger
units drop right into the 91 and that H&K will bring them in if the demand is there.