In this article I will try to answer a question that several of my students and colleagues have asked. Which should they choose if the choice was between the HK-33 and the SIG 556. That was not an easy question as I really like the HK system. I carried it into harm's way many times and have no complaints.
The V-93/53 series that is produced by Vector has worked very well for us as rifles, as well as a product to sell. But I am also extremely impressed with the SIG system. It is everything we tried to do with the AK platform, but it comes that way from the factory. I will do my best to set those personal preferences aside and truly be objective in comparing the 5.56 versions of these weapon families. Here goes.
Operationally, both rifles work perfectly, and are as accurate as an assault rifle should be. Some misinformed like to complain about ergonomics, whatever that is. Any new mechanism will feel strange. Spend enough time with it and it will feel fine. The controls on both rifles are different, but learning them is a non-issue for anyone with discipline and drive. The HK has its own manipulation
methods. While the charging handles are different, the safeties of both rifles are very similar, and similar to the M4/FAL type safety. The charging handle of the SIG is very simple to use and very much like an AK. if you have been running an AK, the SIG will be a very easy transition. Not as much as the HK which will require a longer learning curve. I will swallow hard and say the SIG is easier to use than the HK-33.
Toughness and ruggedness. I'd not venture to guess which rifle is "tougher". I recall a student showing me an AK that he had received via private sector carrier. It was a kit built by a famous maker back in the day when fine rifles could be had for $700. This rifle had been obviously unpacked in transit and swung into a tree Mark McGuire style.
The receiver and barrel were bent and it was trashed. Yes, the rifle was eventually replaced by the carrier but that is not the point. The point is that a rifle is intended to shoot accurately and reliably, and not intended to be abused.
Any rifle can be foolishly abused for the entertainment of internet readers that never intend to buy anything but a used WASR10. And as the story indicates, even an AK can be swung into a tree and broken.
Perhaps a better indicator of service is if the rifle has been in service successfully. Both the HK and
SIG have, and continue to be in service with armies and police forces around the world. That area is a tie.
Is the M4 magazine as tough as the HK magazine? No, I don't think anyone wants to make that argument. But the HK magazines cost up to ten times as much as a G.I. M4 magazine. Nothing is free it seems. You can have a super tough magazine at between $30 - 80, or a reasonably tough magazine (TSD's Mag-15 fits that bill) for $15. Any commercially viable rifle platform in .223 should take M4 magazines, and in that realm, the SIG out distances the HK very quickly.
Another point is that the V-93s are made of surplus parts. I have two of these rifles and they are excellent...but they are still made of surplus parts. The SIG, on the other hand is new...all new, with a lifetime warranty for the original owner. There is much advantage in the "new" of the SIG.
Optics capability is an important issue. It is 2012, and few real deal guys will choose iron sights over a suitable optic. The HK-33 can mount an optic, but with a degree of drama. The rifle should come with a picatinny rail on the receiver, as the SIG does...but such is not the case. It can be added of course, but it would be better if that was already there. Optics mounting capability goes to the SIG.
Objectively it looks like the SIG is winning. So now we look at price. For a long time we have been saying, and truthfully so, that the niggardliness of the AK market has stifled that platform's growth in the USA. The other side of the coin is that there is a reasonable price for quality as well.
Today, an entry level rifle of any quality will begin at about a grand. But the more one gets to, and
past, the two grand mark with a rifle, he invites comparisons with the SCAR and other Tier One systems. So there is the matter of value as well.
The HK-33/V-93 as it comes will cost $1400 with a folding stock and slightly less with a fixed stock. Magazines will cost between $40-$80. And if one wants to mount an optic, it will cost approximately $150 to have a picatinny rail mounted to the receiver.
The SIG 556 will cost $1300 with folding stock, and scope rail included. And we already discussed the magazines the buyer probably already has in his possession. Based on all of these points, I have to say what is evident and obvious.
In the 5.56x45 caliber, the SIG556 is a better choice than the HK-33/V-93 - as they are currently. And one would seem to follow the same logic with the 7.62x39 choice between the PTR-32 and the 556R.
However, although this article is about the 5.56 rifles, we need to mention this and get ahead of the inevitable question on the .308. The choice is very clearly in favor of HK and the PTR-91 when we move up into the world of the 7.62x51/.308.