CLARIFICATION: Recent Bundeswehr HK417 Purchase Is Supplementary

An Australian soldier with an issue HK417 rifle.

An Australian soldier with an issue HK417 rifle.

On Saturday, I reported that the Bundeswehr has purchased 600 HK417/G27P rifles and 600 MG4 machine guns to replace/supplement G36 rifles on the front lines. The initial run of German language-articles, especially when translated, appeared to say that these purchases were the initial buy in a program to replace the G36, which is not the case. Unfortunately, my reporting did nothing to clarify that these purchases are supplementary to the G36 fleet – similar to the purchase of the HK417 by the Australian Army, and 7.62mm LMT MWS rifles by nations like the UK and New Zealand – not the Bundeswehr’s first steps towards an all-7.62 fleet of rifles.

The Bundeswehr helped clarify the purpose of the purchase in a recent article. Hognose of WeaponsMan graciously translates for us:

After the failure of the G6 assault rifle, the Bundeswehr sent 1200 rifles of another type into action overseas. The G36 is back in the headlines again.

After all the trouble over the assault rifle G36 the Bundeswehr is sending 1200 rifles of other types into operations overseas. This comprises 600 each rifles of types G 27P and MG4, said a spokesman for the Defense Ministry to the news agency AFP.

The spokesman made these comments in a report in the Süddeutschen Zeitung. He said it was not about a replacement for the G36, rather much more an “optimization of the weapons mix.”

The Bundeswehr has approximately 170,000 examples of the G 36. After years of criticism and assorted,sometimes contradictory, reports, Federal Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (of the CDU party) revealed at the end of March (2015) massive problems with the accuracy of the G36 in high ambient temperatures or with many shots fired rapidly.

The manufacturer, Heckler & Koch, disputes the deficiency. And, despite the dispute over the G36, the firm got the nod for the additional rifles for deployed forces. According to a press release from the Ministry, the purchase decision was made by State Secretary for Armament Katrin Suder.

The G27P and MG4 are already used in the Bundeswehr. According to a Ministry statement, the G27P is still still awaiting some precision tests, but it’s expected that the rifle will be able to be deployed by the second half of 2016.

The Ministry also has ordered 600 machine guns of type MG4. Acquisition of all these small arms should cost about €18 million. They’ll be paid for in “a regular annual financial authorization.”

It’s always the highest priority of my writing to accurately reflect the facts of everything I report on, and your comments on the original article made it very clear that I misled many of you to believe that the HK417 would be a new standard or interim standard Bundeswehr rifle, hence the reason for this post.

Mea culpa!



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 can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • HenryV

    Boo!

  • Esh325

    At this point I’d be very surprised if the HK416 didn’t replace all G36’s in inventory. I suspect perhaps they could simply buy a modified hk416 that takes g36 magazines to reduce the price of an already costly replacement.

    • Tom

      In general magazine compatibility is one of the lowest costs you have. Replacing rifles means new racks, new training for armourers, new parts etc etc.

      If the Germans are that cheese off with HK then I can see them being reluctant to splash out the money on 416s. The cheapest (non HK) option would be to have another company say Rheinmetall design an aluminium upper receiver that allowed the rest of the G36s (barrels, sights, stocks and trigger packs) to be used as parts kits. So basically you keep the G36 but use an aluminium receiver which will not suffer from the over heating problem. Of course doing so would be a pretty terrible blow for HK but then the Germans do not seem to have any special love for their arms industry,

      • lowell houser

        It’s not just the receiver, the barrel is also too thin.

        As for the “supplemental” use, what that means is that the grunts will get 417s since they have the most chance of needing a working rifle, everyone else will have to make do.

        • I suspect the Bundeswehr has more than 600 grunts.

    • jameskac

      I thought for the life of me the G36 could take STANAG magazines. Apparently they cannot. Seems kind of silly.

      Perhaps H&K would be willing to donate the mags as a goodwill gesture after the G36?

      • alari

        You have to change the magwell and then you can use the STANAG magazines.

    • I doubt they will. The 416 is too expensive.

      • Joshua

        They are expensive. Like $2,500 to $3,000 a rifle expensive.

    • Ben

      Less or more expensive than milling/extruding 170,000 aluminium G36 upper receivers? That would be a lot simpler.

      • Chi Wai Shum

        I see you still do not understand how bean counters work.

        • Leonidas

          Please someone explain it!

          Why don’t they change G36 upper receiver with an aluminium one. Easiest and cheapest way. But any technical difficulty?

  • Seburo

    BundeswehrSince they didn’t have HK417s and MG4s before this point. This makes one guess that the Bundeswehr were using an outdated battle doctrine that had their soldiers using G36ss when LMGs and DMR would have performed better.

    • Chi Wai Shum

      I thought G28 was selected as DMR.

      • Seburo

        Apparently they didn’t have enough G28s. As many units still use G3s.

  • Kivaari

    How many German soldiers are serving overseas in combat roles? A few thousand? 600 rifles is not many rifles. Same for the machineguns. A third will probably stay in reserve, even overseas, to replace damaged rifles. In my NG company we had a 100% supply of M16A1s.
    125 total, with H&Rs and only 5 Colt’s, The Colts were never issued. We had poles of older night vision gear, several TOW systems, (6) M2, (2) M3A1, (36) M1911A1, (15) M60 (first pattern) . In the field most were left behind. It was difficult to find .45 ball ammo for guard duty. Then only a couple of us could use the .45. We scraped up 5 rounds of 5.56mm.

  • nadnerbus

    I know the chances of the Germans buying anything not domestically made is about nil, but I really think the cheapest, easiest fix is to just go M4 /C7. Doesn’t matter who they bought from, it would be economical, effective, and fully mature and ready to go. Similar manual of arms, at least compared to a bullpup, lighter weight, compatibility with allies, etc.

    Plus, it would give the Stoner haters a stroke, which always amuses me.

    • Joshua

      Won’t happen. They will always buy H&K.

    • n0truscotsman

      I want to see HK design a DI/traditional stoner version of the 416 and market it as another ‘improvement’, leading to its adoption by Germany and France.

    • Seburo

      Most people who think also tend to say afterwards “Than replace 5.56 with 300 blk” like most mall ninjas.

  • Jose

    One option for the G 36 is to re-issue the heavy barrels and install special attachments to keep the barrel steady during heavy fire. After all, HK developed the MG-36; basically a G 36 with a heavy barrel, which unfortunately, was rejected. And, the plastic handguards should be retrofitted with heat shields, so they can provide protection from overheating. Finally, it’s time that the German Government start out to set up a program to hire up other manufacturers, to produce components and parts, to supplement HK’s weapons production.

    To my knowledge, there are three German companies making AR-15 clones, and one, Schwaben Arms, who’s manufacturing the original, roller locking, Heckler und Koch weapons, plus the Uzi semi-autos; G1/FAL; and even the Kar-98K! Diversification, everybody?!

  • Pugnose

    Reporting is when you report news from the source. Referencing is copying news from other news outlets. Don’t mix the two up.