What goes around, comes around. I first read about the German-made Heckler & Koch (HK) PSG1 (Präzisionsschützengewehr; “precision marksman rifle”) semiautomatic sniper rifle in the Phoenix Force action-adventure novel series (itself a spinoff from the Mack Bolan/The Executioner action-adventure book series) back in 1988 when I was an 8th grader at Walter Reed Middle School; my classmates found it amusing that I could actually pronounce “Präzisionsschützengewehr” correctly. Now, 35 years later, I have the honor and privilege of writing about this sniper rifle for 19FortyFive. Life is good.
]Having already penned articles on HK’s pistols — the P7 9mm “squeeze-cocker” gun that I personally own, and the P2000 LEM .40 S&W that I carried on-duty for three years as a U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) Officer – and submachine guns (the legendary MP5 9mm SMG), I reckon a writeup on an HK rifle is a logical progression.
Spawned by a Tragedy
It was a heinous terrorist crime that led to the design of the PSG1: the Munich Massacre, i.e. the incident wherein the Black September terrorist group abducted and murdered 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany. As noted by James Doubek in a September 2022 article for NPR discussing the 50th anniversary of that horrific tragedy, commenting more specifically on the botched rescue attempt:
“Plan B was to use snipers to kill the hostage-takers as they emerged from the helicopters and tried to board the plane. But the police had no expert snipers and no proper equipment. And they didn’t know how many Black September members were in the group…’The attempt to pick off these commandos turned out to be an absolute fiasco,’ [Professor David Clay] Large says. ‘They ended up shooting five of them, five of the eight commandos, but not before the commandos then killed in cold blood all of the remaining nine hostages.’…A West German policeman was also killed in the exchange of gunfire. Three of the Black September members escaped but were soon captured.”
(Don’t get me started on Prof, Large’s use of “commandos” instead of “terrorists” in describing the Black September scumbags; that’s Berserk, er, Berkeley types for ya.)
From there, the R&D folks at HK set out to design a sniper rifle that would ensure that German antiterrorist personnel would never again be lacking proper tools for the trade, thus embodying the company’s proud slogan of the 1980s and 1990s: “In A World Of Compromise, Some Men Don’t.”
So it was that very same year that the HK PSG1 went into production. As the manufacturer’s official info page states: “The PSG1A1 (7.62 mm x 51 mm), HK’s preeminent precision marksman’s rifle, is designed to deliver surgically accurate multiple shots to distant targets. It uses the famous HK delayed roller locked bolt system pioneered on the HK G3 and accepts 5 or 20-round G3 magazines… A 25.6 inch (650 mm) heavyweight polygonal rifled barrel is free-floating and cold-hammer forged for accuracy and long service life (15,000+ rounds). The PSG1 has a strengthened receiver to minimize torque and has a forward assist device for silent loading…The PSG1A1 has a crisp three-pound trigger pull and adjustable trigger shoe.”
Other specifications include an overall length of 48.4 inches, a width of 2.3 inches, a height of 10.2 inches (including the telescopic sight), and a weight of 15.87 pounds.
Outside of Germany, among the many elite units that adopted the PSG1 were the Indian Organisation for Counter Terrorist Operations (OCTOPUS), Japan’s Special Assault Team, and the South African Special Forces Brigade (“Recces”).
Experts’ Shooting Impressions
More than one gun writer, from Eric Sof at Spec Ops Magazine to Melvin Ewing at Sniper Central, state that the PSG1 is the most accurate semiauto rifle in the world. Mr. Ewing elaborates: “The PSG-1 has become the standard that the others must meet. The accuracy standard that all PSG-1’s must meet is 50 rounds of match ammo into an 80mm (3.14″) circle at 300m. (1 MOA). Keep in mind this is 50 rounds, not a 3 shot group.”
There are some downsides, however: the rifle’s action ejects empty brass a distance of roughly 10 meters, which can compromise a position, and also makes it more of a challenge to police that brass to prevent leaving a target identifier; in addition, the gun can only be fitted with the Hensoldt 6×42 scope, which is only set up to be used out to 600 meters, which is the start of the optimal engagement range for military snipers but not necessarily for civilian police snipers.
Want Your Own?
Good luck with that. Are you a multimillionaire? To quote Melvin Ewing again, “[M]ost agencies cannot afford the price tag (about $15,000 USD on the used market), which is why it usually shows up in only the most elite units.” Rock Island Auction recently sold one for $20,700.00…but if you act fast, you can get in on a bid on a PSG1 on RIA’s Lot #597, described as “Rare Heckler & Koch PSG1 Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle with Scope, Case, and Accessories;” auction date is 19 May 2023, with an Estimated Price of $20K-$30K.
Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.