Originally developed and manufactured by Rheinmetall (and later parts manufactured by H&K) the Bundeswehr’s MG3 has been in service since the 1960s. Its design is essentially an improved MG42 chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO. It retains that distinctive MG42 aesthetic many gun enthusiasts love, along with the MG42’s reliability and ease of use (and, as some might argue, its far to high rate of fire). But 50 years later it is showing its age, being bigger, heavier than 21st century machine guns built with polymer and modern alloys (not to mention covered in picatinny rails). The HK121 is being adopted as the future Bundeswehr machine gun, but it will be a very long time before budgets allow enough to be procured to retire the 10,000s (100,000?) MG3 machine guns in service. Enter the MG3KWS (“Kampfwertsteigerung” or “Combat Improvements”), an upgraded version of the MG3 being developed by Rheinmetall and Tactics Group. Dr. Jan-Phillipp Weisswange, a Lieutenant Colonel of the German Army Reserve, was kind enough to share information and photos of the MG3KWS with us.
A modernization kit will allow existing MG3 inventory to be upgraded to the MG3KWS. It adds picatinny rails for optics and accessories, an adjustable stock, improved sling and a very nifty fore grip that doubles as a carry handle.
An improved safety and adjustable rate of fire mechanism is also in development. The venerable MG3 is not giving up the ghost just yet!
UPDATE: It is worth mentioning that the Bundeswehr has also developed its own upgrade kit for the MG3 named the Ergänzungssatz Optik/Optronik.