Many of you have rejoiced upon the successful importation and sale of HK “licensed” roller-locks. We even did the same, because it meant more guns to customize, and more customers buying the accessories we design. But just like with dogs and royalty, the purest of bloodlines does not always lead to a winner.
One of our customers was interested having us clean up a recently acquired SP89 “clone” from one of these Licensed manufacturers ( we will not mention them by name, as this is not an in-depth review or a smear campaign.)
He sent us some pictures to illustrate the problems:
The first issue was a misalignment between the rear sight base, Claw mount tab, and front sight. For those not familiar with the normal configuration of these guns, the hand guard, charging handle, rear sight, and front night sight are aftermarket, they do not come with the gun.
The next set of issues related to the barrel. It is not correctly timed, and the tri lugs were out of spec, and wouldn’t allow a silencer to be mounted.
Now, to be fair; we have boogered up some guns over the years. We do a pretty good job most of the time however, which is why we offer a lifetime warranty with our guns. however, these issues are more than just a goof-up; they are indicative of the following conclusions:
– The production of these guns is incredibly rushed. Correctly welding the rear sight base and claw mount tab are fairly easy tasks, and require a minimal amount of extra time in order to do right. Correctly timing the barrel is a little more involved, but should also be very easily done since a full scale production facility is not going to be pressing these in on a $20 harbor freight press. Frankly, we see better work from home builders doing just that.
–The factory personnel have little experience or knowledge of what they are building. An incorrectly timed barrel does not have much to do with the function of firearm; it is an aesthetic issue. A misaligned claw mount tab however makes mounting the claw mount, and therefore optics impossible. The customer had tried several different models, all with no success. This is more than just a matter of a few thousands of an inch, it is so crooked that no mount will seat. Cutting corners on purely aesthetic details is still not acceptable, but someone with experience and understanding of what these guns are expected to do would at least insure that the gun will function as intended.
Factory Warranty Repair for poor magazine fit
The picture above further demonstrates the complete lack of pride taken regarding these guns. The customer returned their gun to the factory citing issues with magazine wobble. The solution appears to be crushing or hammering the front of the magazine well to improve the fit. No fixturing or care appears to have been used in this repair.
–There are tolerance or machining issues. The issue of incorrectly machined silencer lugs is not something that can be blamed on entry level labor. Machining is not a position someone off the streets can pick up. The principles and knowledge required to do even poor quality work is fairly weighty, and the interface between the barrel and suppressor is an incredibly tight fit; There is little room for error greater than a few thousands of an inch. Assuming that CNC machines are being used, labor skill being the cause is almost outrageous, due to the necessary knowledge to even turn such a machine on. This issue could be caused by several things, and none of them are a “best case scenario.”
The first possibility is that the specifications for the part are incorrect i.e. wrong tolerance or dimension, which would be classified as a design issue in reliability engineering. Being that these are from HK licensed facilities, and HK designed the component (which works quite well,) this seems very unlikely. However, given the age at when these specifications were devised, it is possible that revisions have taken place, and not communicated to the manufacturer.
The next possibility is that the dimensions are correct, but the equipment is not capable of achieving the necessary precision.
Which possibility is responsible is not something that can be identified without first hand knowledge. But HK’s tri-lugs work, so a design issue does seem to be more remote. There is also one other possibility; everything is correct, but an uncontrollable factor, like a broken end mill that wasn’t immediately noticed, caused the problem. This is a rare occurrence, but one that happens in even the best shops. However testing the function of the tri-lugs could be easily done with a fixture, and would add almost no additional time. Which leads us to the final conclusion:
– There are no or drastically inadequate Quality Control measures. We are willing to accept that other countries have different resources, and skilled labor is fairly rare. Pressing a barrel, and even welding are fairly meningeal tasks, and almost anyone could be quickly trained to do these. That is not to infer that welding is easy, it is a very technical and involved trade, and in some instances, an art form. But getting someone to run a single straight bead when the machine, methods, and technical details are already addressed can be achieved fairly easily.
Even taking labor issues into account, the Quality Control issue is still apparent. these glaringly obvious issues should have been picked up by inspectors at the factory, or by stateside personnel prior to sending this out to a dealer. Technically, it should also have been identified by the firearms dealer, but these guns are not nearly as common as the normal “Glock and AR-15” Stock and trade they are accustomed to.
This leads to yet another set of possibilities:
There could be inspections of every gun coming off the line (unlikely,) but appearance is not an inspectable item.
There could be random or batch inspections, and this one just slipped through the cracks.
There could be no quality control whatsoever, and the only people that see this gun before its shipped out are the people making it.
Again, clearly deducing the causes for these issues is simply not possible from the very small test sample (1 to be exact.) The amount of issues in this one sample however are fairly alarming. We have seen samples from this manufacturer previously, and the barrel timing issue was observed then as well.
Aside from these issues, there are even more factors to consider about these guns; the tooling and blueprints for these guns were some of the earliest produced by Germany. The “current” design has had several changes big enough to be considered as different generations. Some of these design changes were major revisions to address functioning and reliability issues.
HK’s licensing agreement clearly stated that firearms were not to be exported from their respective country of origin. The gun’s arrival here in the state would appear to violate that agreement, but no published legal action means some sort of loophole was found. This kind of maneuvering guarantees that there is no support available; no revisions, no replacement of tooling, and no engineers to identify and solve production issues. This is made especially clear by the fact that there is no mention of HK or reference to their license from any of the companies in question. They may not be able to prove breach of contract, but they can protect their intellectual property and trademarks.
The last issue only applies to a small group, but its worth mentioning. These guns are not compatible with registered sears or trigger packs, and can not be fired on full-auto. Making the necessary changes to the gun is also out of the question; as the BATFE would most likely consider these changes to be as gravely as manufacturing a machine gun without a license.
These flaws lead to even more questions; what else is wrong? Those familiar with the specifics of these guns know how things like poor trunnion alignment, bolt gap, and trigger pack location can impact function and reliability. These are tasks that even original factory fixtures won’t fix, if they didn’t prevent the relatively simple problems seen here.
We know our guns are not cheap. The lengths we go to insure quality make that all but impossible. There is some rumor about the possibility of a domestic option, but buying guns can be an emotional, impulsive, and impatient endeavor, and waiting to see what the market bares may not be in the cards for you. Some of you are also not nearly as critical as we are, and that is O.K. This is not only our job but our passion, and the pursuit of perfection creates a very discerning eye. But purchasing these imported “clones” should be done with full understanding of what you are getting; it is not identical to the brand, and virtue based solely on pedigree is what causes dogs with bad hips and inbred royalty ( just a polite jab at our British friends; GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.)
Firearms are tools; either they are good or bad. The name on your shirt doesn’t make it a good gun, you do.