German Defense Minister Claims Government Official Tried To Cover Up G36’s Problems

Many of our readers have asked how the apparent flaws of the 20-year-old G36 rifle could have remained unknown for so long. The German Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen offers an explanation. DW reports:

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday confirmed in part an article published by “Spiegel Online,” which reported that a senior ministry official had written a letter to the military intelligence service MAD, asking it to try to find the source of leaks about the G36 assault rifle.

According to the report, the official wrote the letter on the urging of the manufacturer of the G36, Heckler & Koch, which feared media reports on the assault rifle’s shortcomings could damage its reputation. “Spiegel Online” cited a secret ministry file detailing how the company and the official suggested that the MAD could stop negative media reports about the G36, which has been the Bundeswehr’s main assault rifle.

It said the idea was for MAD to find the sources of leaks about the G36 while at the same time spying on the journalists behind the critical reports. It described articles published not just by “Spiegel Online, but also by the “taz” newspaper and the weekly “Die Zeit,” beginning in 2012 as an “untrue media campaign.”

However, the MAD, which among other things is responsible for counterintelligence and detection of “anti-constitutional activities” within the Bundeswehr, turned down the Defense Ministry official’s request, dismissing it as “absurd.”

Von der Leyen said she found it “very strange” that Heckler & Koch had approached the ministry about the issue and that it was “completely unacceptable” that the civil servant supported the initiative. She said while the official in question had been removed from his post, the fact that that things got as far as they did needed to be “further cleared up.”

According to “Spiegel Online,” though, the civil servant in question was not fired but merely transferred to another job.


We’ve been covering the G36 controversy closely, starting with an article back in 2012 when rumors first came up that the rifle had accuracy issues. We subsequently covered the issue, which came to a head last month with the German Defense Minister saying the rifle “had no future with the Bundeswehr”. Those articles are available here, here, here, here, here, and here. We also tested a G36 to see for ourselves if it had any accuracy issues, and we covered H&K’s statements on the controversy (which have subsequently become available in English on their website).

Just a couple days ago, DW also reported on the G36’s reported illegal sale to Mexican police units considered by the German government to be criminal organizations. We covered that issue as well briefly in early, and then late 2011.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • Anonymoose

    Should have stuck with the G3. :^)

    • Brody

      As much as the g3 is an awesome rifle, the models in service at the time of g36 adoption had pretty worn roller recesses, and would have to have been replaced anyway. The 5.56 version of the g3 may have been a better choice since tooling was already available at the time. But the Hk33 was rather finicky and didn’t over enough improvement over the g3. The g36 despite its supposed flaws is a much better gun when ergonomics and service life are concerned.

  • Chris22lr

    Sweet Jesus, why it’s still even news? G36 overheating and accuracy problems are known at least since early 2000s, when KSK reported issues they’ve encountered in Middle East. That’s when HuK and Bundeswehr started experiments with aluminum rails, steel reinforced handguards and (what KSK have adopted) Knight’s railed HGs (soon they’ve switched to HK416).

  • MPWS

    Politics left on side; what does it mean for future application of plastics in critical areas such as receivers in firearms? How does it reflect on current Beretta ARX160, if it does?

    • UnrepentantLib

      It appears from what I’ve read (mostly here) that the problem is that there was a change in the composition of the plastic. Rifles with the original material worked fine. But I think, fairly or unfairly, anyone using plastics in critical areas is going to have to bend over backwards now to prove that it’s not going to be a problem.

      • MPWS

        AFAIK problem can be apparently solved by creating a barrel bushing which is capable of withholding heat and its slow release. It’s kind of heat accumulator consisting of outer shell and inner fill which changes state. Cost and dimensions may be a problem however.
        In any case it is non -sensible to rely on polymer. At the end, in practical sense this is easy to modify be rail directly connected to bushing. Rail may be attached by screws. Germans disappointed me, big time.

  • Herr Wolf

    govt malfeasance? say it ain’t so

  • JumpIf NotZero

    Ah, the price people over at HKPro have been paying for SLR>G36 conversions… 😀

  • Allen Herd

    I firmly suspect that there isn’t a thing wrong with the G36. The issues reported occur when it’s used as a LMG – and it simply wasn’t designed for sustained continuous full auto fire. Kind of like the similar issues with the M4 that led to the adoption of the M27 (HK416).

    • Lance

      No the issues where with the M-4 but with the M-249 SAW, which the USMC largely with the IAR.

    • LCON

      perhaps this explains why MG36 vanished

    • Chi Wai Shum

      The problem is of course you cannot ‘really dictate how the weapon will be used in actual combat. It is just saying that there is nothing wrong with SA80 as long as you keep it as clean as new.

  • John

    Hey guys: when you retest the G36 you have, please make sure to load up 10 magazines and run them through as fast as possible in a single film. The accuracy problems apparently come up then, and don’t come up if you just let it cool down between takes.


  • Lance

    Think even by our own test at firearm blog this maybe more politics than reality on the G-36s performance. Overall this will bring the Germans to adopt the HK-416 which still uses the G-36s piston system but in a AR platform.

    • LCON

      I never Thought I would Agree with lance….



      If HK is in the doghouse I doubt that the German government is going to by the HK416. Unless HK cuts a no profit deal with HK for new rifles. My bet is Steyr, Beretta, and Colt Canada are preparing bids.

  • Kirill

    One of the principal reasons the issues with the G36 having gone unnoticed for so long was a combination of training and climate conditions. The German Armed Forces hadn’t seen combat since the second world war, and as such were never in a situation in which soldiers had to rapidly fire ammunition in a suppressive role while maneuvering, much less in the 35-40C weather of the Middle East, but rather the (relatively) cool German environment. Their training likely never had them firing on targets in a rapid manner, thus allowing the facilitation of cooling between firing.

    While I’m sure someone at some point ran a few magazines rapidly through the firearm, I question if they were attempting to accurately fire in this instance, or if it was chalked up to poor marksmanship. I have no doubt the Defense Minister and H&K attempted to hide the issue, but it can’t all be placed upon that.

    • Ripley

      I’m sure intense firefights are stock standard in any soldier training, steel or simfire, and German summer days can be hot. If that many guns lost their zero for decades there would be talk about it. If not then I think it is a fringe problem. Just equip oversea soldiers with a heavy barrel desert warfare version. HK should admit whatever they knew about the loopholes in the specifications, and the politicians should admit they made this into some political springboard. Neither will happen.

  • Christopher Edward Penta

    Oh WOW. Just went back to the 2012 article. Where did all those anti-AR pro-HK fanboys go? Hallo… wo bist du??

    • USMC03Vet

      I read the highest rated comment and had a good laugh.

  • Leonidas

    I think HK can get help from Beretta to solve heat problems. As far as know, there is no heat issue on ARX-160 assault rifle.

    • mig1nc

      The ARX is also lighter than the G36. The Italians must be laughing at their neighbors to the north.

  • Matt

    Interesting… They plan to expand their pistol line in the USA to compensate for declining military sales but not their rifle line because ‘assualt weapons’ (essentially). Sigh, why does that not surprise me

    • James

      What interesting Colt firearms under different situation Hk try this kind thing Hk want do now go civilian market save there company after arm forces contracts went away . How did Colt firearms do well some where round here story about how Colt fail so bad at that there on verge be closed down forever. So I well not be surprise if Hk expand handguns in US market fails all ready very crowd market with gun company’s make quality match there’s.