5.56 Timeline

The Heckler & Koch SLB 2000

By Luis Valdes

At the start of the 21st Century, Heckler & Koch introduced a new commercial hunting and target rifle to the shooting world. The Selbstladebüchse 2000; otherwise known and marketed as the SLB 2000 …

H&K designed the rifle from the ground up to be a modular platform; users could swap barrels, accessories, and chamberings without a need to re-sight at the range. All that was needed was one screw to disassemble the entire rifle! The HK05 Scope mount from the SL6 and SL7 series was supposed to work on the rifle.

The SLB 2000 was aimed at for the new 21st Century shooter; a great rifle for a replacement for what you couldn’t have during the Clinton Assault Weapons Ban and for the folks that lived across the pond in Europe.

First introduced to the North American Market in the Fall of 2000; HK stated through marketing materials that the rifle would be able to be chambered in the following with just a barrel change:

Planned release in October of 2000
.30-06 Springfield (only chambering released in the US)
7.92x57mm Mauser (8x57mm IS)
9.3x62mm Mauser
.300 Winchester Magnum

Planned release in 2001
6.5x55mm Swedish Mauser
7x64mm Brenneke
.308 Winchester

The SLB 2000 came from the factory with a two-round flush fit detachable box magazine . The company sold additional five and ten-round magazines as accessories through gun shops and parts vendors.

The rifle was released in .30-06 Springfield for the US as a factory option. Additional magazines were released for a very short period.

My personal SLB

The H&K SLB 2000 is a gas piston operated rifle with a polymer lower receiver housing. The upper receiver group is steel that has been CNC machined.

The magazine release is paddle inspired by what you’d find on a H&K USP pistol and the mags have that classic H&K G3 rock in place feel to it. The bolt carrier group is a fairly simple set up: rotating bolt head with interrupter threads to act as the locking lugs. It is reciprocating in design.

The safety is mounted on the back tang of the lower receiver group. It’s activated with simple up or down switch.

The SLB 2000 came from the factory with a robust set of iron sights. The length of pull and ability to shoulder is more than merely adequate. It isn’t a traditional long pull of a design like you find in your traditional American hunting rifles. It’s much easier to bring the gun to your shoulder for fast snap shooting at fleeing game –almost as if HK took design cues from their military products.

The rifle was a commercial flop for a number of reasons, price being the most obvious reason. H&K priced the SLB 2000 out of the market for the average gun buyer.

During the Clintonian “assault weapon” ban, buyers who wanted semi-auto rifles bought SKS Carbines, AKs, ARs, Mini-14s, FALs, and CETMEs. During the early 2000s everything listed (but the AR-15) was affordable. Like under $400 affordable.

The SLB 2000’s 10-round magazine retailed at $75 new. You could buy a thirty round pre-ban AR-15 magazine for $30 back then. A surplus pre-ban CETME/G3 mag was under $3.

Marketing was another problem.

The SLB was a finely crafted European designed semi-automatic hunting rifle — not the kind of firearm you’ll find at Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sears or Sports Authority. Selling an H&K hunting rifle in FFLs catering to higher end sporting gun buyers was always going to be a heavy lift.

In the end, the much hyped caliber swap — available on today’s Blaser rifles — was a damp squib. H&K never exported additional barrels. And the rifle was not a one-screw takedown. Nor did the older HK scope mount work on the SLB 2000.

The SLB 2000 went from being a revolutionary wünderwaffen to another run-of-the-mill commercial semi-auto to compete against guns like the Remington 7400 and Browning BAR.

HK did far better in Europe with it and even released the .308 Winchester and other short action chamberings and it sold like hot cakes! Selling very well in France, Germany, and Spain among some nations that allow civilian ownership of semi-automatic rifles.

They even released a police/target package and oh what I’d wish to bring one to the USA. It had a heavier target barrel. You could mount a flashhider or suppressor. It sported a polymer stock with adjustable comb, multiple bipod attachment points, an improved trigger, multiple QD sling points, and even a fabric shield for the mirage that forms when the barrel gets hot.

H&K eventually ended production, got out of the commercial hunting market altogether, and sold the design to a friendly competitor; Merkel Jagd- und Sportwaffen GmbH of Suhl, Germany.

The design is now sold under two different lines. The Merkel SR1 and the Haenel SLB 2000+. The Merkel branded rifle is a complete redesign of the SLB 2000 and many parts and accessories don’t cross over. The Haenel branded rifle is a one to one of the HK made rifle.

Merkel owns C.G. Haenel and both companies have been a subsidiary of the UAE company Caracal International since 2007. Though Merkel’s products are imported into the US market by Steyr Arms, Merkel has stated that they don’t see their rifle being sold here anytime soon. For a short period of time, Merkel marketed the SR1 in the US and it didn’t sell. All inventory was liquidated to CDNN and sold on the cheap back in 2008-2009. Haenel marked guns have never been brought to the US.

My SLB and post war Walther P38.

In the end, the SLB 2000 is from another time period. Where German Quality was abound in many products and not everything needed to be high speed low drag tactical. German quality of that era was exemplified in guns like SLB 2000 and this commercial Walther P38.

My SLB and Danish VAR Barreled M1 Garand at the range.

In today’s market; they wouldn’t sell. But as a tangible piece from a bygone era. Even one that was only sixteen years ago. It is a fine rifle to own, shoot, and enjoy.

Am I about to partake in cancel culture? Questioning the wisdom of Col. Jeff Cooper

By Luis Valdes

First and foremost, I want to say that I grew up reading the works of Col. Jeff Cooper and he was one of the founders of what is modern pistol craft. Without folks like him, we wouldn’t be where we are today. But even the Founders weren’t perfect.

Upon reading the article. It is clear that even in 1986, Col. Cooper was confused on the purpose of a DA/SA gun. It is not and never intended to be carried with a safety engaged. The safety is a decocker, something his beloved CZ-75 does not have and was a danger until B variants were made since a slip of the hammer while manually decocking the gun meant it could go off.

The entire mindset behind a gun like the Model 645 is that the gun is carried with the safety off and hammer down. The DA pull makes it better for the shooter to bring the gun into action. Something that famed German Gunsmith and Designer, L.W. Seecamp learned in WWII.

I respect Col. Cooper and I am a fan of the 1911. But even then he was outdated with his views on what a combat pistol should be.

It was becoming obvious even by the mid-1980s that the day of the 1911 was coming to an end. I clearly discussed how that was happening in HAVE YOU THANKED BILL CLINTON FOR THE 1911 MARKET YOU HAVE TODAY?

Guys like Cooper refused to see the day of the GLOCK (tupperware was how it put it) or the DA/SA  (crunchandticker was what he called them) as the future.

Cooper was what I’d like to call a Gravel Belly. He was one of the folks with the antiquated belief that a lone soldier can command a large chunk of ground with a rifle doing 1,000 yard shots from the prone at enemy soldiers. Back in WWII, that was proven false and it was proven false in Korea and Vietnam. 
Sure, for John Q Public, a 1911 is still viable as a home defense weapon for your average scenario just as a Mossberg 500 or even a Remington Beals 1858 is capable.

And while Cooper and others laid the foundations of the modernistic shooting we have today. A number of his contemporaries were able to adapt and learn. Cooper was pretty much a curmudgeon stuck in his ways and refused to admit or more importantly, accept the inevitable change that was coming.

Look at how he reviewed the Ruger Mini-14.

Now, we know I have a soft spot for the Mini-14.( No, we didn’t. If we did ,we would never have associated with you – Shawn) But even I know that the AR-15 is its superior. Yet Cooper didn’t think so. Why? The Mini-14 was familiar to him because he was wedded to the idea of wood and blued steel.
The idea that even in 1975, the Mini-14 was the better rifle than the Colt SP1 Rifle or Carbine is laughable.

A while back; Mike Seeklanders of American Warrior Society podcasts had an interview with Ken Hackathorn. Hackathorn was talking about his early days with Cooper at Gunsite. Cooper hated everything that wasn’t a 1911, except the CZ-75. Hackathorn basically said woe be upon you if you showed up with a Hi Power or *gasp* a revolver. Hackathorn also talked about the Yaqui holster that Cooper loved to always carry. He stated that Milt Sparks absolutely hated to make it but did so just for Cooper and the fact that his fans bought anything Cooper pushed and that meant business for Milt Sparks.
I hear from others that they believe that gun reviewers back then gave forgotten reviewers honest opinions in gun magazines back then and they claim that nothing negative seems to get printed today. If a writer doesn’t mention reliability in a modern day article, they just assume the gun was unreliable. If they don’t mention accuracy, they assume the gun was inaccurate. 
The truth is, it was the same deal back then. They did bad reviews back then too. Cooper was mostly an outlier in the industry. People read Cooper’s works because they liked the ramblings of an curmudgeonly old codger. It is much like John Wayne. He couldn’t act worth a damn. But people liked John Wayne because he played John Wayne.

Gun Rags were called Gun Rags because the vast majority of reviews were simply shills and paid by the company that sent in the gun for review. They’d send buffed and fluffed guns to the reviewers for positive articles and they also bought ad space in the periodicals to make the publishers put pressure on the editors to make sure articles were favorable.

On well, that’s my rant. 
Enjoy the blast from the past articles.

I’m gonna have to say a few words on Luis’ last point here. I get sent a lot of stuff for review, guns included of course. Companies do not send me or any other writer I know “buffed and fluffed” demos for review. You get what you get and most of the time it’s after 5 other writer’s got done with it. No one I deal with has ever pressured me for a good review. Including advertisers. I’m sure it happens but if it does no one I’ve talked to will admit it. Some gun companies have told me there are a few big name writers who are infamous across the industry for not returning T&E guns and not paying for them though. The only reason they still send them to these few guys is because they are in the big name gun rags and they figure its worth the loss in money to have the gun get coverage in the rags. A couple of popular big name gun-tubers are notorious assholes too and I can personally vouch for that myself . Lastly Louis is completely wrong about the M1911 but not everyone is perfect I suppose.