Sunday, April 3, 2011

Personal Critical Review of Firearms - The HK SL7 rifle

The HK SL7 rifle/carbine.


The above photograph is of an HK SL7

I could not help myself and had to photograph the rifle on top of several of my flecktarn tent shelters. You will see this pattern often when I photograph items for this blog, flecktarn makes such a nice background.

Personal - The HK SL7 rifle is one of my all time personal favorite firearms. It has that old world wood stock and solid heft that are part of my "collector weaknesses". The HK SL7 rifle is a heavy full wooden stocked rifle in the same tradition as the M1, SVT40, M14, and FN49. The rifle is however basically a civilian rifle designed specifically for non-military civilian and police use.

Carbine in length, with an excellent balance, the SL7 is likely a contender for best auto-loading game stalking or horse mounted, deer and elk rifle ever produced. The short rifle while a bit heavy at 81/2 pounds points naturally, like a well made shotgun, the above photographed rifle was originally added to the collection for hunting elk.

Most examples of this rifle I have owned and have seen have exceptionally beautiful wood. A high quality wood was used in the stocks. I have seen burl, tiger stripe, and spalting, all are wood flaws but make the wood interesting and attractive. Some tiger-stripe is evident in the above photo. Sadly HK chose to cover this model's wood with some sort of urethane or clear coating (the above example was refinished with hand rubbed oil and wax).

Function - Reliable function on par with the M1 and FN 49. This rifle has an open top cover that is rail and screw tightened to the receiver in a was similar to the SKS carbine. The top cover has a relatively small ejection opening with has no cover it could collect dirt and sand. It may outwardly resemble a large SKS or even the FN 49 but like the HK 91 it has no gas system but rather a modified version of the delayed blowback system. The trigger of this rifle is excellent with a crisp break.

Design flaws - This rifle was at best a haphazard design based on the HK91, I can only say that it must have been an afterthought at best for HK. Almost as if HK management came to the design team and said "we need a rifle to follow our stupid European gun laws but shoots like the G3. Something we can turn into a hunting or training rifle" and it would seem the design team put a couple of newbie designers on the project.

Reasons to think that the SL7 (and this entire series) was designed haphazard or a "throw together:

1. Screw/track held top cover, not a quick on off, the top cover requires a metric allen wrench to remove, this takes a long time to unscrew.

2. No mechanical bolt/recoil buffer, the bolt slams into the rear of the machined receiver with only a pathetic little rubber/plastic piece in the rear of the action.

3. Safety on-off disconnect, the fire to safe condition mechanical lever is on the side of the rifle above and forward so far out of the way as to indicate that this was not designed, but was but rather placed there because the trigger housing and hammer dictated that placement.

4. Bolt charging handle on the right hand side is easy to break because it is complex with delicate parts requiring a special lever imbedded inside to break the bolt head from the locking position.

5. The trigger group of this rifle is overly complicated and cannot be modified or worked on.

6. The attachment for optics is placed on top of the removable receiver cover. The locking holes in the cover are designed for a proprietary detachable scope base, the original scope base seems to be more rare than the rifle, I was never satisfied with the return-to-zero capabilities. The excessive violence of the bolt moving inside of the action causes all but the best scope mounts to slip under the scope causing drift, this was a reoccurring problem I always had with this series of rifles.

7. The very small ejection port can become an issue as it works well with fired cases the small opening tends to block loaded rounds from positive ejection because the tips of the bullets tend to hit inside the port.

This rifle uses a proprietary detachable 3 or 10 round magazine that feeds .308/7.62, the design is robust but is limited to 10 rounds and is prohibitively expensive. The excessive ejection force and bolt movement (similar to the HK 91/G3) also will tend to force the casing to hit the rear of the receiver and bounce away leaving scratches and brass residue on the cover.

Quality - Very high quality machined construction, HK civilian guns are some of best in first world production.

Caliber/Ammunition - While the SL7 was produced in .308 other rifles of the series were capable of having alternative calibers available (many never were produced). The .308 is an accurate and effective cartridge. Some will find the full power rifle cartridge excessive in recoil but this short carbine is heavy enough to negate some of that recoil.

Use - Accuracy is excellent, with polygonal rifling and a fixed delayed blowback action all sitting on solid machined steel this rifle series is capable of sub MOA with quality ammunition. The SL7 uses an extremely expensive detachable proprietary magazine that is almost impossible to find.

Current production - None, there are no current produced rifles of this model and spare parts are few and rare. All the rifles of this model in circulation are part of the "collectable" market and sought after by collectors causing high prices.

I consider this rifle a third tier choice for the role of MBR, high price, no current production, and expensive rare magazines and spare parts are of primary concern and definite deal breaker. A solid, excellent, accurate, well made rifle (with a few flaws) that could be a multi-generational family heirloom but is difficult to find and maintain due to extreme rarity.


"HK. because you’re a civilian, ergo, you suck. And we hate you."

This is painfully true when looking at the replacement of this fine civilian rifle with the utter flop the HK SLB 2000 of course making the HKSL7 with a real buffer and able to take G3 magazines and I would still have that rifle you see above.


  1. I own one and I have many magazines. My Dad was smart enough to buy them with the Rifle back in 1980's when a man could buy a rifle that day and take er home. To fire her is really an experience, heavy old fashion firearm. Accurate as any fine rifle can be, been in the family since new. Cost the ol man under 800 bucks with the scope, mount and mags. Hardly leaves her place, anticipate no breaks or scratches for a long time to come. Heirloom for sure, not many in this family. The review is pretty hard, but this rifle will be a prize always.

  2. I try and be hard on the rifles I do like, I loved the SL7, but in the end it just did not fit the desired role it should play.