Did Hecker & Koch hit a home run with the USC Pistol Caliber Carbine, or is it a dud? Inquiring minds want to know, and as always, you’ve come to the right place for answers. We’re going to dig up the dirt and let you know what’s up. Merely the fact that you’re reading this marks you as an intelligent, discriminating reader.
Heckler & Koch
We won’t go into the fine details of H&K’s history, as it’s pretty much a household name among the gun community by this point. For most of us, when we think of HK, we realize that the weapon in question will be dripping with quality. They’ve been in operation for well over a half century and they’re synonymous with very high quality.
They made a massive splash on the world stage when SAS operators stormed the Iranian Embassy in London during the early 1980s to rescue hostages. Ever since people saw the special operators wielding H&K MP-5 submachineguns, they’ve been obsessed with H&K. And for good reason.
These days, it can be difficult to keep up with new weapons releases, given the myriad of designs that manufacturers are cranking out at record pace. As such, we’re going to give a quick rundown of the USC (Universal Self-Loading Carbine) as far as specifications are concerned. After all, people like to know what they’re working with.
The first detail that some folks are going to enjoy is the caliber, which happens to be .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol). But wait, you say, this is a German weapon! What gives?! They always use the 9mm! Well, apparently, the Germans decided to go all-American with this one in the caliber department. Our guess is that they wanted to appeal to the American market, and what better way to do that than to go with the hard-hitting .45 ACP cartridge? Hell, it’s more American than baseball and apple pie combined! Not to mention, it tends to hit hard and solve problems, so there’s that.
The carbine sports a 16-inch barrel, again aimed at the civilian market. The overall length is 35.43″ with a height of 9.75″.
Weight is a handy 6.13 pounds, so it’s not a heavyweight. Readers may have noticed that this carbine is a derivative of H&K’s UMP submachine gun. The operating system is a simple, blowback design. The barrel is cold hammer forged.
A Rant About Materials
Much of this weapon is constructed of polymers, which keep the weight down and have proven to be very durable. Let me interject for a moment here in regard to this: while it’s durable and lightweight, polymer, to me, seems so…cold. And I’m being hypocritical here because I have polymer handguns and I like them, they strike me as being “normal.” But when we are talking about a carbine or SMG-clone, I prefer the MP-5’s mostly metal construction. I acknowledge that I’m being “old-school” in my preferences, and they are just that – preferences. It doesn’t mean that I’m right or wrong, it’s just my opinion. Because from all accounts, this carbine works very well, and so the polymer is very functional.
Years ago, I got to play with a UMP. Our Hostage Rescue Team guys used them and I was able to try one out. It worked great and was efficient, but to me, it lacked warmth and life. My opinion was that it felt more like a piece of balsa wood than a real firearm. Perhaps that’s a slightly exaggerated opinion of it, but it gets the point across. Again, just my opinion.
Yes, I’m being super-critical here, but it’s an H&K, so it’s only fair. H&K is the nee plus of weaponry, and they can take it, they’ve got Big Boy pants. Lest you think I’m being overly critical, I’m an H&K fanboy, so just simmer down.
The skeletonized buttstock features a rubberized cheek rest as well as a rubber recoil pad. Not that there’s going to be much recoil in a .45 caliber carbine.
Some shooters don’t really care for the thumb-hole type stock, instead preferring the UMP’s standard pistol grip. From what I can gather, H&K had to go with the thumbhole because of import red tape, so it’s really not their fault.
Trigger pull is crisp, but on the heavier side, and can exceed nine pounds in some cases, which is fairly heavy.
The cocking lever is located on the left side of the forward handguard, just like many other H&K weapons. It can be locked to the rear like the others, as well.
The bolt is heavy and solidly made. That brings good news and bad news. It’s very durable, which is good. On the other hand, that heavy and solid weight causes an odd recoil impulse. It makes the recoil of the little carbine seem more pronounced than it really ought to be. With the rest of the weapon being made largely from polymer, the bolt recoiling can seem sort of magnified, for lack of a better term. It throws the balance off. It’s not a huge deal, but shooters are noticing this phenomenon.
Despite that, I’ve spoken with other shooters who don’t mind the recoil at all and state that it’s fairly light. Overall, the recoil doesn’t really bother most people.,
The carbine’s lightweight design and short length mean that it swings from target to target at close range quickly and efficiently. The aperture sight picks targets up quickly, so several can be engaged in short order.
The front sight is the typical HK post with a hood. It works well, but past 50 or so yards, the sight is thick enough that it will begin to cover smaller targets. Pinpoint precision is not the order of the day here at longer ranges with open sights. In all fairness, though, the carbine is intended for personal defense. It’ll easily shoot minute-of-bad-guy and is more than accurate enough.
However, those who mount optics on the USC have noted very impressive accuracy with the little carbine. Smacking tin cans at 50 yards is child’s play. I’d wager that, even at 100 yards and a little beyond, the USC would be more than accurate enough.
The great thing we’ve all come to expect from H&K is the reliability that is legendary with their products. The USC is no different, feeding all types of .45 ACP ammo smoothly and reliably. It’s really no surprise, given the carbine’s pedigree. I haven’t heard any bad reports about the reliability, so that’s a good thing.
There are points on the receiver to mount Picatinny rails so users can attach all manner of optics, lasers, lights, missile systems, and a partridge in a pear tree.
The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation. The safety and selector is ambidextrous. To make it easy to operate while wearing gloves, the trigger guard is oversized.
As expected, the magazines are polymer. And they hold ten rounds. As far as I’m aware, in order to use UMP magazines in the USC, modifications would need to be made, with a number of shops doing conversions.
However, there are aftermarket magazines available that hold more than 10 rounds for the USC.
It’s unfortunate that H&K did not cater to the US Civilian market by offering standard capacity magazines, instead choosing to go for the neutered variety.
Street price is usually found between $1,500 and $1,600, so it’s not an inexpensive proposition.
For those who simply have to have a UMP clone, there are companies that will convert your USC for you. With the conversion, your USC will also be able to use standard UMP magazines and it will have the pistol grip without the thumbhole stock. I’m given to understand that a lot of shooters are taking advantage of these conversions and are happy with the results. Obviously, though, those will be additional expenses to an already substantial price tag.
Heckler & Koch has done a fair job approximating the UMP with their USC carbine. Import restrictions mandated the thumbhole stock, so it’s really not H&K’s fault in that department, they did the best that they could.
It delivers accurate, fast fire to targets at defensive ranges. And it does it while looking fairly cool and high-tech.
The ability to add optics or other sighting systems is a boon for speed and accuracy. A low-power optic or red dot will add to the speed and accuracy of the carbine, increasing its efficiency.
Is it a great Pistol Caliber Carbine or a blunder?
Our verdict is that the USC is a great Pistol Caliber Carbine.