Do It (Kind Of) Yourself: HK G36 Rifle

CJS_0979

H&K has never made a true G36 rifle available to civilians in the USA mostly due to import regulations and what I assume would be a lack of demand (lets face it, your average consumer is happy with one of the many AR variants that have taken over the semi-automatic 5.56 rifle market). However in the 90’s to comply with the 1989 import ban on foreign “assault weapons” and the now expired 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, H&K came up with an idea to market a new sporting rifle known as the SL8 that was a cousin of the G36. The rifle functioned via the same operating system but looked a whole lot less scary and a whole lot more like an old IBM computer keyboard:

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While H&K did finally offer the gun in black, the fact remained that even though the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban expired, the ’89 ban persists to this day. The now discontinued SL8 was never a big seller due in part to its high price tag and the fact that it is a neutered version of a neat rifle, but the HK community (an especially crafty bunch) found a way to turn this horse designed by committee into what they wanted: a G36 rifle.

Now I bought an SL8 on September 17th, 2011 for the price of $1600 new in the box from my favorite local gun shop. I knew immediately that the rifle would be converted, so I never even shot the gun in stock SL8 form. Here she is the day I got her laid out across my garage floor:

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The conversion is among the most complex gunsmithing projects I had ever undertaken, as it requires a significant amount of plastic welding (a skill I lack both the know-how and tools to perform) and so the hardest part is converting to take double stack magazines and welding on a g36 rear receiver stub. The SL8 has a section of the receiver indented so as to prevent the insertion of the double stacks. Also, the sl8 bolt head has a slanted lug so that it will not feed from double stacks, so you need a g36 bolt.

To start the process I ordered:
G36 Bolt Head- US HDPS Manufacture
G36 30 Round Mags
HK G36 High Capacity Mag Well- Black
Stock Block For HK SL8 Conversions (to shoot it before I did the rear of the receiver)
G36 Rear Stock Axle Pin For SL8 To G36 Stock Conversion
G36 FBI (0,1,) Lower HK German New
G36 Recoil assembly
G36 & HK SL8 Sight Rail With Front & Rear Sights
HK G36, G36K Full Size Folding Stock

These parts ran me $1,284.59.

Also, I will need a number of 922r compliance parts, which will include-
US made Sear
US made Trigger
US made Floor plates for magazines
US made Piston
US made Op Rod
US made Bolt Head
US made Flash Hider

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Yes, 922r sucks and this bundle of parts cost me $424.64.

But wait, there is more you have to spend if you want that authentic look!

I just had to have the Hensoldt dual optic!

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Which after shipping ran me another $709.99.

Once you have your gun and the parts you can start converting to the best of your ability. The first step is to swap your SL8 trigger group over to your G36 lower using your 922r parts. You can do this at home with your hands and a drill press (you need to drill a hole to accommodate the SL8 FCG).

This took me and my friend CJ about 2 hours in my garage, as the SL8’s FCG has parts that neither of us had ever seen before. You can see a breakdown of the trigger group here:

http://alpinetek.netfirms.com/guns/SL8/breakdown/

Basically strip your SL8 lower of its FCG, drill a hole on your new lower, and swap the parts over. This sounds simple, but I swear that a lot of profanity was involved and 3 or four hands were needed constantly. Not to mention those lovely 922r parts got to be put in.

That day I also milled out the magazine well to accept double-stack magazines. This is not my photo, but it is more of less how you do it:

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I then put the HDPS stock block to use by aligning a g36 stock and punching in an axle pin, and I threw it together for a quick look see. At this point here is how she looked:

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This was about as far as I could take it myself, so I had to outsource the next few steps to a professional. TPM Outfitters located in Carrolton, Texas are a business by me that specialize in H&K products. I did not know that they existed before I had started on this project, but I conscripted them to turn my barrel down, thread it, and get the plastic welding done (something they outsourced to a gentleman they know).

The following is a series of photographs depicting how the plastic welding is done on these guns. First, the magwell cut is reinforced by the placement of a metal bar:

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The bar is then covered and laser engraved with authentic g36 markings:

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Now here is the scary part. The rear of the SL8 must be cut off and a g36 receiver stub must be put in its place:

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The stub and the SL8 receiver are not simply plastic welded together either; a steel bar is put in-between the two for strength:

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The two sections are then brought together and then welded:

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After proper welding you are left with this:

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And of course the markings that formerly said “SL8″ are refinished with g36 markings:

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The next step is to mill this nub on your SL8 carrier off so that it will clear the new g36 receiver stub:

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Alas after two years of working on this project on and off, I finally got to pick up the gun and assemble it. As I held the product in my hands for the first time It seemed like I had a whole new rifle. I ditched the stock block and the original sight rail I bought and bam, suddenly I felt like I had a real G36 rifle in my hands:

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g36

rifle

Also for giggles, I just had to get a suppressor adapter and throw my Gemtech G5 on it!

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can

And there she is; A project two years in the making is finally completed and is perhaps the most unique gun in my collection. I have put maybe 500 rounds of both m193 ball and M855 ammunition through it without a stoppage and it turns some heads at every range it goes to. Most people ask “what is that thing?” while others ask “how the hell did you get that?”. I have yet to have anyone know it started life as an SL8 approach me and ask about the conversion.

So there you have it, a civilian G36 in the USA. It isn’t impossible, but it isn’t easy either. Now if this is something you have considered, let me tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good:

  • Shoots great! Very reliable and the trigger is very good
  • The dual optic is very neat and has a built in range finder and a nice reticle
  • Very low recoil impulse
  • Fully ambidextrous
  • Light for its size and barrel length
  • Feels very solid for a plastic gun
  • Turns heads and generates traffic
  • Fine asset to any collection

The Bad:

  • The eye relief and FOV on the dual optic are terrible!
  • The battery for the red dot is proprietary
  • The unique recoil impulse has two stages akin to a SCAR (odd to describe but very weird)
  • Magazines are proprietary and can be expensive (albeit Magpul now makes g36 mags)
  • It isn’t and will never be a real G36 rifle

The Ugly:

  • The price tag. I have about $4500 into this gun
  • Time to completion; This project has taken me two years to complete due to turnaround times and parts acquisition

So that is that. If you have any more questions please feel free to ask me and I will answer them to them to the best of my ability in the comments!


Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog who was born and raised in Texas with years of experience in hunting, shooting competitions, and general collecting. A degree in History from Baylor University has contributed to his love of both early and modern firearms technology, but Alex is most fond of machine guns and other NFA toys. Alex also owns a firearm manufacturing business licensed to produce title I and II weapons.
You can reach Alex at [email protected].


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  • Me not you

    Looks great!

  • AnoSynum

    Despite all the haters out there, I can’t help but feel like there’s a slow change in attitude in H&K (maybe a generational thing, maybe economic). After all, the civilian versions of the HK416/417 were quick to follow their military brothers with no attempt to de-militarize the look.

    Of course we’ll have to wait for the next proprietary H&K design to see if this was just an exception for the AR15 market.

    • HSR47

      I’d say that the HK416/417 aren’t good indicators of any sort of mindset change at HK. The semi-auto only versions were released in the U.S. at about the same time as the final death of the idea of the ‘civilian spec’ AR15.

      When Colt original released the AR15 onto the U.S. civilian market, they modified the original design to require larger pins for the fire control group (to prevent the installation of M16 trigger components), modified the position and size of the pivot pin, they also specified that material be removed from the bottom rear of the bolt carrier (to remove the material that trips the autosear in an M16), and when buffer-tube mounted adjustable stocks became popular, they specified a larger-diameter tube.

      The first two changes died first, and the market has been working to kill the other two for most of the last decade. HK obviously saw this, and understood that trying to build rifles that didn’t have parts commonality with their military firearms was idiotic, as it would significantly increase manufacturing costs, and it would make them less desirable in the civilian market.

      It doesn’t really give any insight into the mindset of HK management though, because the market was already established when they entered it. Anyone can make an AR15; Nobody but HK can make a G36.

  • Harald Hansen

    I must be the only person in the world who thinks the light grey plastic furniture on the SL-8 looks OK. :D
    But interesting article; thanks for posting!

  • Kevin

    Cutting the plastic made me tear up

  • Spade

    There are rumors on HKPro of a US made G36 based on conversations at the NRA show.

    • FourString

      If they ever release one, that’s would move to the top of my list, definitely. Just something indescribably cool about owning a G36, even more so than the newest crop of modern rifles. Part of it might be the decades of its relative exoticism though I don’t care I still want one

  • Alexander

    The SL8 is a nice rifle, I would never cut mine up like that. Part of the reason is that mine isn’t one of those neutered US Import versions. Besides that I just like the heavy barrel and sporting thumbhole stock.

  • TLW

    Excellent job on the conversion, it turned out very nice. Why cant HK make the G36 in the US? They would sell tons of them, and they must have a factory somewhere for the HK416. By the way, where did you get the hensoldt optic?

    • Alex C.

      Thank you for the kind words TLW! But I bought the optic from HK Parts a while back. HK could make a domestic copy of the G36 here in the US at their new stateside factory, but said place is tied up making hk416 rifles and m27 rifles for their mew government contract. HK chases commercial business simply because their is more money in it.

      • Gunzyo

        Funny that you replied to comments regarding the optic, but you have failed to respond to Dakota (Joe) or Tom in regards to their questions about you not giving them credit for using their photos in your article. Do you not give credit when you use outside resources for your work, is that not stealing?Pretty lame if you ask me..

  • Longrangebob

    HORY SHEET! THATS AWESOME!

  • dp

    Pretty good (and very technical) effort for “age of imperialism” graduate. Now he actually defeated (kind of) German imperialism!

  • Aaron

    An incredible journey to complete a dream Alex! Having had the opportunity to shoot real G36’s I can agree with the “good, the bad, and the ugly”. They are incredible rifles to shoot (as most of H&K products are), with light recoil and great accuracy. However, the “G36″ definitely has some draw backs. The sight issue is right on, not to mention bore-to-sight offset problems at close range work. And the proprietary batteries and parts are a pain. In addition, the ability to add lights or other accessories that can make the rifle work in darkness leaves a lot to be desired.

    Thanks for the look into rebuilds, especially all the plastic welding – very cool! I just can’t see dropping $4500 to do this though, when I could buy several really nice firearms for that price.

  • Raoul O’Shaugnessy

    Don’t the original model markings (“SL8″) have to stay on it to be ATF compliant?

    I found a gun shop in ID that had a bunch of semi-auto only G36E police trade ins. Trouble was, since the receivers were identical to the full-auto G36 they were still considered Class III. I asked the guy what he was gonna do with ‘em. He said if he could only sell them to LE, they were $1300..but if he could get ATF to change the paperwork on them so they were as transferable as a regular AR-15 then the price jumped to $20k. Took lotsa pictures and at least those were free.

    • Alex C.

      Yes the sl8 plate is still welded into the rear of the receiver. This is an ATF approved conversion!

  • FrontierProject

    your table is blocking your door…

  • Erik in Texas

    I did a conversion long ago, before specialists had refined the technique. I still have the bolt and the old sight rail still around my house. Is there a market for these parts? I use the sight rail for a backscratcher…

    • Bull

      http://i.imgur.com/DnTztDN.jpg
      Sure. but dont expect to fetch top dollar for it :-P

      • Komrad

        What is that and where do I buy one?

        • Shooter13

          built by some dude, obviously not a commercial product. forgot where
          the link was. saved it at one point as I to wanted one. or at least to
          build.

          from what the builder said, it turned out pretty well,
          although i think it took quite a bit of work. definitely will do once i
          get some things taken care of.

        • Morris Smith Jr.

          Dakota tactical does the conversion

  • Nmate

    Now all you need to do is stamp it an turn it into a G36K. By that I mean the K, not the C. Some people get them mixed up.

    • Alex C.

      Naw, Ill keep this gun nice and title I. I have enough money in this damn thing!

  • Manu

    you could have saved yourself a lot of work and money,
    here you go:
    http://www.sl-8.de/html/klappschaft.html

    • TerminalBRD

      He used a similar stock block initially. However, it doesn’t have the correct G36 proportions as the more expansive modification does.

      Does it work? Yup. Does it look right? No.

      • manu

        well you’re right, it’s not exactly a g36 then.
        But for me it would be close enough, considering that I would have to cut a sl8 into pieces otherwise.

        • Book of Gerg

          Eh… I used a similar block on mine at first after going through that same logic. It added lots of weight to an already heavy rifle (the stock barrel on the SL8 is nothing to scoff at). It stretched the LOP to its ergonomic limits, and in the end, it just didn’t look right.

          There are other stock options that some fabricators have come up with that don’t involve cutting the frame, but usually, you lose the ability to fold the stock.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mhudspeth6m Mark Hudspeth

    Very well done, but wow, that’s an intense and expensive project. Kudos to you!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Zius-Patagus/747170900 Zius Patagus

    Cool story bro..

  • KestrelBike

    The other “Bad” is that all of the plastic cutting and welding will never retain the strength that the original had, steel bars or not. However, G36 beggars can’t be choosers! Nice!

    • David

      Plastic welding is very very different to metal welding. I work for an IP management company that deals with a lot of technical patents and trade secrets. I’m guessing if this was done right they used a sonic welder. Sonic welding of plastic doesn’t need to use a filler material, it literally uses ultrasonic frequency to meld the two parts. As a result, the end product ought to be about as strong as if it were one solid piece to begin with. The steel bracket no doubt makes sure of this, and also probably acts as a guide/anchor for the welding process.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Pierangelo-Tendas/100001810563746 Pierangelo Tendas

    Much easier here in Europe. The Heckler&Koch SL8 sold are automatically compatible with G36-style folding stocks with pistol grip, as well as with the G36 magazines and Zeiss-Hensoldt carrying handle with optics. All you need is to remove a couple of pins and replace the factory parts with the ones you purchase aftermarket. It’s a ten minutes work.

    • Alex C.

      Unfortunately relocating to Europe would be a more expensive endeavor than building this gun here in Texas :(

      • Ripley

        When Texas secedes from the US it could join the EU ;)

  • Suburban

    So that’s how it’s done?

    If I decide that I want a G36, it will probably be an airsoft copy. I don’t think I could ever talk myself into spending over $4000 for a semi-auto 5.56mm clone. It’s really cool, but . . . damn! That’s a lotta money!

  • Thomas Gomez

    Awesome job Alex!!!

  • GlockLove

    This is called Sticking it to the man !!!! mr Gov don’t wanna allow us to import it… Fine were just build one (as long as it doesn’t break any laws tho) lol nobody wants the GMen knocking on there door over a broken seer now do they

  • Mike

    Hey Alex, who did the plastic welding for you? I have a stock block conversion but the welding looks awesome and is more true to form of a real G36. I’d love to get that done to mine. Thanks and great article!

  • dylan

    How did you do the refinished g36 stamp?

  • Anthony

    Good concept, but is join got become irrelevant with the new HK 243 carbine/assault rifle/whatever

  • Dakota Tactical

    Most of those photos (and the work) belong to us, Dakota Tactical. It is etiquette, if I am not mistaken, to give proper credit.

    • Sam F

      This.

  • Chuck Griffiths

    Where’s the credit for photos and work provided by Joe Stopiello???

  • Kyle

    Dakota Tactical does some nice work. You shouldnt steal photos and make people believe that is your work. Thats a good way to become uncredible in any field or hobby.

  • Tom

    Alex C., Are the photos yours? Did you even do the work or just steal someone else’s work.