“So what?” you say. “It’s another AR. Yawn.”
Ah, but whose AR? It’s the CR 223, made by CG Haenel of Suhl, who once made the MKb42(h), which then became the MP43, MP44, and StG 44. The CR 223 is made for the European market, primarily for European governmental use; we’re not expecting to see them on these shores, but it’s always interesting to see a dormant trademark wake and shake itself back into relevance.
C.G. Haenel, the traditional manufacturer from Suhl, is now offering its own version of a semi-automatic rifle in the popular AR 15 standard. The Haenel CR223 in the .223 Rem. calibre is an indirect gas-pressure loader that is fully compatible with the basics of this class. For Key Account Manager Björn Dräger, the development is a step towards new rifle classes – at the same time the company is building on from old expertise. C.G. Haenel in Suhl developed the world’s first type 44 assault rifle in the 1940’s – a rifle that not only created this rifle class but also had a decisive influence on all subsequent constructions of the same type.
Note that there’s a hint in there of more AR-like developments to come from this revived company in the ancient gunmaking center of Suhl.
If you blow up the rifle picture, and look through the slots in the forend, the gas piston system seems to be a cousin of the HK 416’s. According to Eric B at TFB, Haenel is a subcontractor to HK for some parts.
The lower receiver appears to be milled from billet and is different from that of a 416. The rifle is also available in Simunitions “blue gun” and inert “red gun” training modes, and again per TFB, has just been adopted by the Hamburg, Germany, police. (Indeed, it was that TFB article that got us looking at Haenel).
Haenel also makes a very interesting sniper rifle, the RS8 (7.62 NATO, .300 WM) and RS9 (.338LM). The RS9 was selected as the G29 mid-range sniper rifle for the Bundeswehr this year.
This is the Compact version of the RS8, although all the RS rifles have a clear family resemblance.
It has its own action using a bolt with two flights of three lugs each.
That bolt deserves a fair amount of study. Look at the extractor, and also note the prominent gas-relief hole. The other end of the bolt shows an interesting low-profile safety and cocking (or is it loaded?) indicator:
If you look at the bolt from an industrial point of view, there are components of it that are expensive to make, and other parts that are made inexpensively. As much thought seems to have gone into the manufacture as into the design.
There are many variations (including an integrally suppressed one rifled for subsonic .308!), but the company seems to pride itself on a complete systems approach, delivering to the using agency a complete package from fully-accessorized hardware, to maintenance, to training.
C.G. Haenel traces its roots to 1840, when it was founded by Carl Gottlieb Haenel, a member of the (then, Royal) Prussian Rifle Commission. It made arms and bicycles. (A less odd combination than you might think. Many other companies did this in the 19th and 20th Centuries, like FN in Belgium). Haenel’s own firm made the rifle approved by that commission, and later the Imperial German Reichsrevolver, and during the First World War, the Mauser 98a rifle.
After the war, with military weapons production verboten, new engineer Hugo Schmeisser led the introduction of pocket pistols of his own design. Schmeisser came from a gun-making family; he had worked with his father Louis at Bergmann, where he became interested in automatic weapons, and his brother, also named Louis, became the sales executive of Haenel in the 1920s. Working intitially in secrecy, Hugo developed from the MP.18 the MP.28. Unable to produce machine pistols (submachine guns) for export under the terms of Versaillles, Haenel made a small quantity for the German Polizei (making the Hamburg cop sale some 80 years later particularly fitting) and arranged to have them mass-produced for the international market by Bayard of Belgium (which had long ties to Suhl).
The firm barely survived the Depression, but Hitler’s 1934 repudiation of the Treaty of Versailles lifted the crippling restrictions on both domestic military sales and arms exports. The military ordered vast quantities of weapons. (The common Haenel Waffenamt marking is fxo). Suhl was occupied by US forces in April 1945, and handed to the USSR in June. The Soviets removed the machinery, tools, and drawings from the plant as partial payment for the German destruction of much of European Russia.
Corporate history gets vague during the period of Soviet occupation, 1945-90, but what happened was that the Haenel trademarks were at one time in use by the West German Merkel firm, mostly on air guns, while the former Haenel plant became part of the “Ernst Thälmann” weapons factory complex, and in East Germany the Haenel trademark was used on some sporting arms, including different air guns.
In 2008, the Merkel group set up a new C.G. Haenel firm in Suhl, restoring its title, trademarks and lineage, and that’s the one producing these new firearms.