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Heckler & Koch (HK) Mk 23 SOCOM .45 ACP Pistol Range Review: A Great Gun or Not?

HK MK23. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
HK MK23. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

“In A World of Compromise, Some Don’t.” This was the proud slogan of the German gunmaker Heckler & Kock (HK) and its American subsidiary HK USA, and the company certainly backed up that boast via its products and the top-dollar government contracts from military and police units around the globe.

Thus you have the MP5 9mm submachine gun, which became THE most widely-issued SMG to counterterrorist units around the world. Thus you have the P7 9mm semiautomatic pistol, adopted by police departments such as New Jersey State Police, Utah Highway Patrol, and Navajo Nation Police. Thus you have the P2000 LEM pistol, issued to law enforcement agencies such as U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP).

Arguably the biggest splash that HK made in terms of winning government contracts was in 1996 when the Mk 23 traditional double-action (TDA) semiauto pistol in .45 ACP was chosen as the handgun for U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). A live-fire range report was conducted to complement the previous review of the Mk 23.

A Quick Review: HK Mk 23 History and Specifications

As noted in a previous writeup, “Development of the Mk 23 actually began in 1991 as spokespersons from the special operations community identified the need for an ‘Offensive Handgun Weapons System—Special Operations Peculiar.’ As noted by the manufacturer’s official info page: “During testing, MK 23 pistols met the most stringent operational and accuracy requirements ever demanded of a combat handgun. Endurance testing demonstrated a service life of over 30,000 rounds of +P ammunition.”

Specifications include a barrel length of 5.87 inches, an overall length of 9.65 inches, a width of 1.54 inches, a height of 5.9 inches, an empty weight of 2.43 pounds, and a fully loaded weight of  3.2 lbs. The standard magazine capacity is 12+1 rounds. 

The gun also has a feature that, to my knowledge, is only offered by one other TDA pistol series, that being the Taurus PT-92 and PT-100: a frame-mounted safety that (1) allows cocked-and-locked carry just like either a single-action (SA) autopistol such as the M1911 and Browning Hi-Power as well as the TDA CZ-75; but also (2) enables one to decock the pistol without having to do the SA auto/CZ-75 method of carefully lowering the hammer under thumb pressure whilst pulling the trigger. The difference is, on the Taurus, it’s a single-piece three-position lever, while with the SOCOM gun, the safety and the decocker are separate from one another. 

My Own Personal Shooting Impressions of the Mk 23

Gotta love pleasant surprises, especially when they come in twofers. For me, Part one of that twofer was learning of the existence of a recently opened new gun range in my neck of the woods, specifically the highly impressive new XCAL indoor shooting range facility in Ashburn, Virginia. The second part of that twofer was learning that XCAL had a Mk 23 available for rental. I’ve fired my fair share of HK firearms, from the MP5 (thanks to the submachine gun rental ranges in Vegas) to the P7 (I personally own a PSP version) to the P2000 LEM .40 S&W (issued to me when I was a CBP Officer from 2006 to 2009), but never in my wildest imagination did I ever expect to see a Mk 23 at a civilian rental range.

This was way too good an opportunity to pass up, so this past weekend I decided to test-fire the pistol, purchasing 50 rounds of PMC Bronze 230-grain full metal jacket (FMJ) “hardball” and a GunFun Targets Inc. Thug 2 paper target to go with it; the Thug 2 is basically the same as the ICE-QT target, only without the B-27-style bullseye scoring rings and instead using a green circle and rectangle for the optimal centers of the (paper) bad guy’s head and chest, the secondary strike areas of the head and torso are colored in orange, and the least desirable periphery of the target in white. I divvied the accuracy test into 25 rounds of head shots at 7 yards followed by 25 yards of torso shots at 25 yards, fired from my preferred Classic Weaver Stance. 

Wow, nice shooter. The trigger in DA mode was lengthy but still smooth, and pleasantly crisp in single action. Ergonomics were comfy in spite of the bulk inherent to a double-stack largebore pistol. Slide stop/slide release and magazine were both easy to manipulate and reminded me of the P2000 in size and appearance; however, while both controls are completely ambidextrous on the P2000 LEM, this is only true of the mag release on the LEM. In addition, while the safety catch is ambidextrous, the decocker isn’t.

Thanks to the pistol’s bulk, recoil felt more like that of a 9mm than a .45 ACP.

Accuracy? At 7 yards the gun chewed out the between-the-eyes part of the bad guy’s head with only one round straying into the orange part of the face. But even that one was a nostril shot that would’ve made life miserable for a real-life dirtbag. At 25 yards, three rounds strayed into the orange; one middle-right, one low-left, one middle-left. The rest were delightfully centered in the green. 

Reliability was flawless, as one would expect from an HK firearm.  

Want Your Own Mk 23?

True Gun Value states that “A HK MK 23 pistol is currently worth an average price of $1,993.04 new and $1,770.64 used. The 12-month average price is $1,999.69 new and $1,770.64 used..” Omaha Outdoors currently has ten specimens listed, at a price range of $2,499.00 to $2,799.00. Guns.Com has four; one at $2,049.99, one at $2,399.99, and two at $2,499.00. Last but not least, Cabela’s has one with an asking price of $2,499.00. All of these listings make True Gun Value’s quoted numbers sound a bit too good to be true.

Christian D. Orr is a Senior Defense Editor for 19FortyFive. He has 34 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. 

Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).