Wednesday, October 5, 2022
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Heckler & Koch HK417 AEG

The HK416’s Big German Sister, Helga.

Review: Heckler & Koch HK417 AEG

Words: Tom Harris of
Photos: Walter Sidas and Dave Baks

Elegance. Grace. Precision stopping power. That last one only works if the other guy calls his hit. The Elite Force HK417 AEG has all those ingredients and more. A favorite among favorites in my collection, this rifle brings me equally great joy both to review and to take out on the field. Easily considered an integral part of Elite Force’s flagship Heckler & Koch line of high-quality airsoft products, the Heckler & Koch HK417 is a head-turner. Whether it’s heads in the staging area who are amazed by its awe-inspiring glory, or heads on the field who now have to turn around and head back to their re-spawn point because you just no-scoped their face! Boom. COD reference. Check. Please keep reading. I promise I won’t do that again, at least for the next few paragraphs.

WHO MAKES IT: Elite Force, by way of VFC. Licensed by UMAREX USA
MODEL: Heckler & Koch HK417
TYPE: Designated marksman rifle (DMR)
WHO IT’S FOR: Winners only. Losers need not apply
HOW MUCH: $454.99
FPS: 430-450 FPS, w/.20g BBs
APPEARANCE: This rifle has serious “whip appeal”

I expect nothing less than the best from Elite Force an VFC. Naturally they continue their tradition of excellence and winning with this rifle. Performance is outstanding. As it should be.

STAR-RATING: 5 out of 5

Review: Heckler & Koch HK417 AEG

+ Outstanding build quality
+ High quality materials used
+ You’ll experience a sudden flourish of Facebook friend requests upon purchase**
+ This rifle has a commanding presence at the field
+ Great for that DEVGRU marksman impression/kit
+ Proof-of-purchase grants the owner a pre-qual into the BUD/S program**
+ Extended range, although the extra velocity could be a con if your field doesn’t allow guns over 400 FPS
+ Functional bolt release, holds back the faux bolt to make hop-up adjustment easier with one-hand
+ Aiming not required**
+ Mid-capacity magazines feature a translucent casing and was made to look like there are real 7.62mm rounds inside the mag. High attention to detail
+ Upgradeable, internally and externally
+ Looks really good when held at “high ready” #gmrpls
+ Plenty of “rail estate” to attaches optics and accessories
+ Outer barrel has 14mm Counter Clockwise (CCW) threading for attaching your favorite mock suppressors (see my article in THIS issue on the ultra-sexy AAC SCAR-H 7.62 Silencer I use on mine).
+ The oversized, signature HK416/417 pistol grip is textured for added control and very comfortable

– Pretty heavy for an AR-style rifle, eat your Wheaties
– Doesn’t enhance your IQ
– The magazines are huge and storage solutions for your kit (e.g. mag pouches) are extremely limited
– Gearbox may not be compatible with all aftermarket pistons. I use MadBull pistons, which will work but I had trouble with a Modify piston (The piston is slightly too long)
– Buffer tube is larger than a standard size tube, preventing the ability to use a different stock (although I’m not sure why you’d want to)
– Gearbox may not be compatible with all aftermarket MOSFET trigger systems out there. Extreme Fire MOSFETs, however, will work just fine
– Downgrading the spring to reduce velocity may be required before you can play with this gun at your local field

(**Not really.)


RAIL INTEGRATED SYSTEM (RIS): Monolithic upper plus a quad rail
STOCK: 6-Position, retractable HK Stock
BODY: Full metal
GRIP: Textured, HK polymer grip
MAGAZINE: Polymer, 140-round mid-capacity magazine with faux bullet rounds visible through the opaque case for added realism (translation: it looks just like the real one)
SLING ATTACHMENTS: Frontend loops and ambidextrous rear attachment points on the stock
SIGHTS: Fixed front post; adjustable turret-style rear sight

MOTOR: Long-type, standard AEG motor
GEARS: Spring-loaded, self-shimming standard ratio steel gears
BEARINGS/BUSHINGS: 8mm steel bushings
WIRING HARNESS: The switch sits in a proprietary housing outside of the gearbox, wired to the rear
PISTON AND HEAD: Standard VFC clear plastic piston with a steel tooth, metal piston head
SPRING: M130 spring for added velocity and range
SPRING GUIDE: Metal with bearing to relieve unnecessary torque on the spring
INNER BARREL: Roughly 300mm in length, standard-bore diameter

Elite Force .20 & .25 BB’s
Duratrax Onyx 235 Charger

Review: Heckler & Koch HK417 AEG
This is a tear down of the sturdy VFC internals.

The Heckler & Koch HK417 has the kind of body that I’d stay up late at night to look at photos of on the internet once my wife goes to bed: thick and curvy, just my type. I’ve never really been one for skinny guns. With its body being well-assembled and almost entirely composed of metal, the HK417 easily qualifies as a “hard body” in my book, which is hardly a bad thing!

Review: Heckler & Koch HK417 AEG
Unique HK417 stock with quarter-turn battery access. Stick LiPos and crane-style batteries are the best fit.

While it utilizes the same standard Version 2 internal parts, VFC went with a slightly different design for the HK417’s gearbox. I’ve read some retailers describe it as a “Version 2.2” gearbox. The primary difference is the trigger switch, which sits in a separate housing attached to, but outside of, the gearbox itself. It still uses the same principles and concepts of a regular Version 2 trigger switch though, but you’ll need to purchase one specific for the HK417 if you should come across the need to replace yours. While it will take aftermarket pistons, should you feel the need or desire to upgrade yours, be mindful of the overall length of the piston with the piston head attached. I found that Modify pistons were just a few millimeters too long and would cause the gearbox to lock up because the gears couldn’t pull the piston back far enough to clear the final gear and release the piston back to battery. I ended up going with a standard, green MadBull piston with a full metal rack of teeth. The pistol grip/motor housing seems like it may be a bit picky about what motors you can use. If you don’t want to stick with the stock motor that comes with the gun, I’d recommend having a Dremel rotary tool within arms-reach, in case your chosen motor is a bit too long for the grip and you need to remove a bit of material from the motor grip plate. I ran into this issue when I installed my Guarder Infinite Torque-Up Motor, which is just two or three millimeters too long for the grip, so it got shoved a bit too far up into the gearbox without modifying the grip plate. Keep in mind if you modify your gun, you run the risk of voiding that beautiful one-year Umarex warranty. Some players will leave their guns stock for the year and then once it expires, then take the gun apart and mess with it since the warranty has expired anyway.

Review: Heckler & Koch HK417 AEG
Shown here is the hop up unit after the fake bolt has been pulled back.

As I already mentioned, the trigger housing is unique to this particular rifle, so some MOSFET systems, which include a component that replaces the original trigger switch, will not work for the HK417. If you want to run a MOSFET, I would recommend the Extreme Fire flagship models. Make sure you know what you’re doing in this area. Installation is somewhat technical in nature and you need to have some solid tech-work hours under your belt to ensure you install everything correctly and put everything back together properly to avoid blowing up your MOSFET, as I’ve unfortunately done in the past. Most of the good units go for AT LEAST $90, so they’re not exactly super cheap to replace.

I like the hop-up in the HK417 because of the large, perpendicular rotary dial that clicks into each position as you turn it. This helps stability and reduces the need to readjust your hop-up frequently. The inner barrel is fairly standard, but it gets the job done. I’m currently testing out a 363mm Magic Box Miracle Barrel in my HK417, available from The barrel sticks out just a bit farther than the end of the stock outer barrel and flash hider, but since I run a mock suppressor on mine, I’ve got plenty of wiggle room.

Review: Heckler & Koch HK417 AEG

Big guns need to be fed big meals on big hardware. The Elite Force HK417 AEG is no different. The magazines are the largest, non-box magazine-type that I’ve ever dealt with. Most standard .308 mag pouches won’t fly. If the pouch doesn’t specifically identify its purpose as housing an HK417 mag, don’t buy it. There are a few options that ARE available, one being the LBT HK417 double magazine insert for the kangaroo pouches on their vests. Check the LBT website. No, I’m not going to look it up for you. Blue Force Gear makes single and double Ten Speed shingles specifically for the HK417. HSGI tacos will technically fit, however, having personally tested this option, I can tell you that it’s not ideal. Since I have a plate carrier with a built-in kangaroo pouch, I opted for the custom route. I commissioned the guys at Next Level Tactical (check them out on Facebook) to make me a molded kydex sheath insert for three HK417 mags. I personally feel like this is the best option, but you’ll need to have that kangaroo pouch on your kit for this to work. [Include photo of my kit from NLT with insert installed.]

To be honest, I’m not going to get all excited and rave about the performance. I already had high expectations for this gun. Not just because of the price tag, but because I know what VFC and Elite Force are capable of and I expect nothing less than the best from them. Naturally, they continue their tradition of excellence and winning with this rifle. Performance is outstanding. As it should be. The self-shimming gears make a big difference, I think. I also noted the shot-to-shot consistency while I was testing the HK417 on the chronograph. Speaking of which, here’s a ten-shot sample of the results I got with mine right out of the box, or in other words, before any modifications to performance were implemented. Testing was performed with Elite Force .20g BBs. Elite Force BBs are the only way to fly.
436.4 FPS
440.8 FPS
432.5 FPS
442.7 FPS
441.0 FPS
444.6 FPS
438.7 FPS
440.2 FPS
435.9 FPS
436.5 FPS

So that’s pretty good for something without any Teflon tape sealed up in the right spots.

Review: Heckler & Koch HK417 AEG
A look down the unique set of HK-style sights sitting atop the monolithic top rail.

One thing I love about VFC AEGs is the smooth cycling they do on full auto. Instead of that painful slapping sound most AEGs make, the VFC AEGs I’ve used or seen firsthand make more of a soft, “thud” sound. Does this have any real effect on the performance? Not that I can prove, but I still like it and felt the need to tell you about it. The bottom line about performance in the Elite Force HK417 is that you’re going to be able to take it out to the field and have a good freakin’ time with it. It’s a beast on several levels.

Sometimes I feel like I should be more critical of the guns I review just to show that I’m not biased, but in this case, there’s just not a whole lot to be critical of. It’s a fantastic gun from end to end. Are there a few super minor things I don’t like about it? Sure. I don’t like the two giant bolts that stick out from the right side of the railed front end. You can’t really attach any accessories on that section of the rail (e.g. rail covers) because of those bolts. I’m not crazy about the motor that comes with the gun, but it was pretty easy to swap out. Overall, however, I’ve got nothing but positive vibes to send downrange with this gun. It’s definitely a special piece and, as previously stated, a favorite among favorites in my humble collection. Obviously, I’ve got five on it. Five stars, that is. Elite Force and VFC brought their A-game to the dance and now they get to go home with the prom queen.

HK/Elite Force