The Mark 23 was the predecessor to Heckler & Koch's USP series of handguns. It is chambered for the popular .45 ACP cartridge and has a 12+1 round capacity. The SOCOM variant is a "weapon system" rather than just a pistol; the system includes the weapon itself, the AN/PEQ-6 Laser Aiming Module (LAM) manufactured by Insight Technology, and the large suppressor produced by Knight's Armament Company. Weapons manufactured for military use have "MK23 USSOCOM" engraved on the slide; total production of the SOCOM version was a little under 2,000 units. Heckler & Koch officially discontinued production of the Mark 23 in July 2010.
The Mk 23 was built to conform to very stringent accuracy and reliability requirements set by the US SOCOM (Special Operations COMmand). While it met the accuracy and reliability goals, operators in the field despised the Mark 23 for its poor ergonomics, enormous size and heavy weight (the weapon is a foot and a half long with the suppressor fitted and the full system weighs five pounds, as much as an unloaded MP5 or three loaded 9mm Glocks); they tended to never be checked out, and most in SOCOM service spent peaceful careers sitting in armory gun racks, ultimately being replaced by the smaller and lighter USP Tactical. American troops have nicknamed the Mk 23 "The World's Only Crew-Served Pistol." A conversation between Nastasha Romanenko and Solid Snake during the Shadow Moses Incident, had Nastasha comment on this, saying that "some find it a little heavy and hard to use."
The Mk 23 SOCOM was procured by ex-FOXHOUND operative Solid Snake during the Shadow Moses Incident. He later used the pistol to perform the mercy-killing of the heavily wounded Sniper Wolf. SOCOM pistols also saw use with the Next-Generation Special Forces, during the time of FOXHOUND's revolt.
During the Big Shell Incident of 2009, a SOCOM pistol was given to Raiden by Snake. He later uses it to attack Dead Cell commander Fortune, to little effect, before using it to shoot her comrade Vamp in the forehead, after the bullets deflect away from her. He later used it on Vamp himself during their encounter at the purification chamber, while on his way to rescue Emma Emmerich. However, Vamp effortlessly dodged all the bullets save for one, which grazed him on the cheek, as Raiden's skull suit interfered with his ability to predict Raiden's movements based on his musculature. Raiden was also in possession of a SOCOM in 2014, during the events of the Guns of the Patriots Incident, and in 2018 in Africa, but retired it after sustaining grievous injuries during the latter.
Behind the scenes
The SOCOM presented in the Metal Gear series is in fact the Phase II model handgun submitted for trials in the USSOCOM Offensive Handgun Weapon System (OHWS) competition around the later part of 1991, and not the actual production model of the Mk 23 Mod 0 (or Mark 23 - civilian version). The sound suppressor used, however, was the actual Knight's Armament Company model that was adopted for the weapon system. A picture of both the SOCOM and USP can be found in this old advertisement from Heckler & Koch.
The Mk 23 Mod 0 kit as issued by the U.S. Navy included the Heckler & Koch Mk 23 handgun, two .45 ACP caliber twelve-round magazines, an AN/PEQ-6 (the Insight Technologies LAM-400 - this 'law enforcement only' model includes an infrared (IR) illuminator and laser alongside a visible light and laser), and a Knight's Armament Corp. Mk 23 .45 Cal. Sound Suppressor. Other accessories like holsters, magazine pouches, suppressor pouches, left handed LAM models, etc. were also available.
The MK23/Mark 23 is extremely accurate, often touted as a match grade weapon. In addition to its accuracy it is also considered to be highly reliable in numerous environments, easily dealing with extreme temperatures and other things like dust, sand, and water. The weapon was the basis for the USP design, and many of the stress tests and design features implemented into the USP were the same as those done for the benefit of the MK23/Mark 23. As well, the MK23/Mark 23 was designed to be familiar to those who were intimate with the 1911 design, sharing a similar control scheme and layout, as well as a similar take-down process. Because of that design element, the MK23/Mark 23 is seen by some to have been made for the US market, and indeed was more of conventional endeavor for Heckler & Koch. Certainly a departure from other, more radical or revolutionary weapon concepts produced by the company prior to the MK23/Mark 23 and the USP.
For some, it could be said that the MK23/Mark 23 reperesented a first step in what has now become the current family of HK pistols. While the handgun was itself not generally well-received, the benefits have been long lasting. Iconic to many long-time fans of Metal Gear Solid, the real weapon has had its own lasting legacy.
Metal Gear Solid and The Twin Snakes
The first gun found in Metal Gear Solid, it is often considered Snake's trademark weapon, despite the fact that he does not once use it during Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. It can be completely missed fairly easily, though is available several times.
The cutscene in which Snake meets a disguised Meryl Silverburgh will play out differently depending on whether the SOCOM is in his possession: he either aims it toward her after she ambushes him, or simply moves the barrel of her rifle aside. A suppressor can be found in the Tank Hangar.
According to Yoji Shinkawa's commentary in The Art of Metal Gear Solid 1.5, it was included into the game because of its visual appeal and chambering in .45 ammunition. A Shinkawa illustration of Snake wielding the weapon superimposed over a 3D render of the pistol was the first public image of the game printed on gaming magazines. In the same book, he acknowledges the changes made to the weapon during the development of Metal Gear Solid, and speaks of the prototype as his favorite version.
The SOCOM also appears in the Nintendo GameCube remake for Metal Gear Solid, The Twin Snakes. Its role is mostly the same, although it is instead found on the truckbed behind a box rather than underneath the truck, and it can be equipped with a suppressor (due to including gameplay elements from Metal Gear Solid 2). In addition, the description was taken nearly ad-verbatim from Metal Gear Solid 2.
- ".45 handgun. Press A Button to aim, release to fire. 12 rounds per magazine. Can attach suppressor."
- ―SOCOM description in Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
The SOCOM pistol is obtained by Raiden during the Plant Chapter of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, after meeting Iroquois Pliskin in the Strut B transformer room. A suppressor for the weapon can be located in the Strut F warehouse.
Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus
- "An assault pistol developed at the request of U.S. Special Operations Command. It packs high knockdown power with its 45 caliber ammo, and its laser-aiming module and detachable suppressor give it the flexibility to excel in a wide variety of combat situations. The trigger mechanism is double action, but it can be carried around with the hammer in cocked and locked position, enabling the user to fire with precision on the very first shot. Holds 12 rounds."
- ―Mk 23 description in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Snake finds another SOCOM pistol when revisiting Shadow Moses Island in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Highlighting the nostalgia of the act, it is sitting under the same truck on the helipad from Metal Gear Solid that the SOCOM was originally in. If Snake points the gun, he remarks "just like old times," gaining one of the "nostalgia" Drebin Point bonuses. The SOCOM's suppressor is also found in the same room in the Tank Hangar.
Although Raiden does not utilize his holstered SOCOM pistol in the story itself, he does use it in Metal Gear Online. An in-holster SOCOM can be seen in the prologue of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and on the DLC MGS4 Raiden model. Along with the Standard Body skin, which is the same skin used in the prologue, just with some minor alterations for the gameplay of the main story, such as the alternate sheath, alternate HF blades, and the ACE retracts for when not in a boss fight or when not using AR mode.
Metal Gear Solid Mobile
- ".45 handgun. Press the action key to fire."
- ―SOCOM description in Metal Gear Solid Mobile
- Metal Gear Solid
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
- Metal Gear Acid
- Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus
- Metal Gear Solid Mobile
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl (cannot be used, only seen in its holster)
- Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (as above)
Notes and references
- ^ Metal Gear Solid, Konami Computer Entertainment Japan (1998).
In the scene where Snake discovers the corpses of an NGSF unit tasked with guarding Hal Emmerich, one of the bodies can be seen with a SOCOM.
- ^ Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Konami Computer Entertainment Japan (2001).
The SOCOM suppressor stored in the Big Shell implies that the gun itself may have been procured on-site by Snake.
- ^ 
- ^ The Art of Metal Gear Solid 1.5, Konami (2004), page 066.
This was the first illustration to appear on a magazine cover. I was happy when it did (I didn't create the SOCOM pistol CG.) The SOCOM pistol was used in the game simply because it looks COOL — period. It's big, very square, and looks great in polygons. Its being 45 caliber is also important. However, time went by while the game was being developed, and the design of the pistol adopted by the US.SOCOM turned out different. I believe the prototype looks so much better!