The G36 Controversy Intensifies

    The recent controversy surrounding the H&K G36 rifle (previous articles regarding on the subject available here, here, here, and here) may come to a head soon. The issue of a new Bundeswehr rifle was brought up recently in the German government. From (machine translated):

    Berlin (Reuters) – The future of the G36 as the standard assault rifle of the Bundeswehr is questioned due to technical failures.

    “The G36 apparently has a precision problem at high temperatures, but also in the hot shot state,” said Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Monday, citing initial assessments of experts who had examined, built by Heckler & Koch rifle after defect reports. In the coming days Inspector General Volker Wieker will issue a transfer, as the troops could continue to use the weapon and on which Ausrüstungsmix the soldiers should take in use. Once the final report of the expert vorliege, the Ministry will consider further consequences. “This includes the question of whether and to what extent the force must be fitted in the medium term with another assault rifle.”

    Inspector General Wieker advised the Stewards of Defence and Budget Committee of the Bundestag and the troops. According to the experts the accuracy inaccuracy in G36 was significantly greater than in the investigated comparison weapons, he told the soldiers. The G36 was thus clearly part of the problem – and not just the ammunition or other factors. The defects were observed with all tested types of ammunition and delivery charges.

    The investigations showed so clearly a “capability gap in a given scenario,” said Wieker. The problems träten at high temperatures, but also for hot shot weapons. For a transitional period, the rifle can be used in the opinion of the army but. The temperature problems are particularly severe for the troops, because to a large part of their missions in hot regions like Afghanistan, Mali and the Horn of Africa.Armed Forces patrols in Afghanistan, however, were equipped in the past, not only with the G36, but also with other guns like the older G3 or newer G28.

    The Green Verteidigungssexperte Tobias Lindner spoke of a worst-case scenario for the Bundeswehr. “Unlike other weapons systems relate to the problems with the G36 not only individual organizations, but almost all soldiers,” said Lindner. The list of disaster in the defense sector will thus longer a particularly sensitive point. Von der Leyen now must finally put other priorities. “While the Minister likes to talk about European drone programs or a new air defense system, show the problems of clothing and now the standard rifle G36 that there are massive problems in the armed forces in the simplest parts of the basic equipment,” criticized the Green Party.

    After some conflicting reports on defects in the G36 had ordered von der Leyen 2014 comprehensive examination of the rifle. The serviceability testing procedure, a committee of experts involved in the experts at the Fraunhofer Institute, the Federal Court and the Federal Armed Forces.”The final report is still pending, but so far available reviews are unequivocal direction,” said von der Leyen. It was good that now subject many facts on the table. “Well, from today’s perspective, that was stopped in close agreement with Parliament in the summer of 2014, all other G36 procurements,” added the CDU politician.

    The G36 had the older G3 replaced in the army from 1997 as a standard weapon. According to the German military and the armed forces of Spain, Latvia and Lithuania use the gun for this purpose. The G36-producer Heckler & Koch is highly leveraged and therefore is already under pressure.

    Heckler and Koch would not be deterred. They released not one, not two, but three press releases in response:


    Given the current situation of numerous undifferentiated negative reports regarding the G 36 assault rifle manufactured by Heckler & Koch, as the result of press statements by the Ministry of Defence and Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, we feel obliged to issue the following statement:

    Unfortunately, the current statements by the German Armed Forces about the G 36 rifle were first brought to the attention of Heckler & Koch through enquiries from the press. Despite several offers by Heckler & Koch to involve the extensive know-how of the company accumulated over many years, the German Armed Forces have not involved Heckler & Koch in the investigation.

    Quite to the contrary, the German Armed Forces have not communicated with Heckler & Koch for nearly six months regarding unsupported allegations regarding accuracy issues with the G 36 at high temperatures. The G 36, is acknowledged worldwide as a, technologically superior assault rifle. Unfortunately the German government did not afford an opportunity for Heckler & Koch to contribute correct information and facts that would have clarified and addressed any issues.

    The results being currently disseminated, diametrically contradict the extensive and elaborate testing conducted by Heckler & Koch, in view of emerging rumors regarding the accuracy of the weapon following prolonged firing or due to hot weather conditions, as well as those conducted by the Federal Office for Defence Technology and Procurement (BWB). These investigations have shown no relevant limitations in operational suitability if used correctly, nor are there any significant differences in these conditions in comparison with other assault rifles.

    No documents are available to Heckler & Koch regarding the current allegations, so  it is not currently possible to provide an urgently required factual investigation into these reported results. Therefore, Heckler & Koch can only state that the G 36 has consistently met, or exceeded any and all testing requirements specified by the German government, which includes an accuracy test, for all G 36’s delivered over the last 15 years and we have no reason to believe that the G 36 rifle is in any way an unsuitable assault rifle.


    Heckler & Koch would like to make the following comments with regard to the current negative reports on the G 36 rifle, in particular with regard to the current press statement by the Minister of Defence:

    We have been a reliable partner for the German Armed Forces for more than 50 years. The G 36 has been in use for nearly 20 years and has proven itself in more than 35 countries worldwide in numerous operations. We are dismayed by the statements issued during the past few days by the Ministry of Defence with regard to the G 36 rifle. In particular, we sincerely regret that ministry did not seek discussions with Heckler & Koch prior to the last public statement with far-reaching consequences for our technical reputation.

    Heckler & Koch would like to clarify the following points:

    1) All G 36 rifles of the German Armed Forces comply with the so-called “Technical Supply Specifications” as established by the German Armed Forces, which conclusively standardize and document the technical performance specifications of the G 36 rifle as part of the supply contract.

    2) Our compliance with the stated requirements of these specifications is independently confirmed by the quality control centre of the German Armed Forces with the acceptance of each of the 178,000 G 36 rifles used by the soldiers of the German Armed Forces. To date, there have been no defects noted and therefore, any discussions regarding warranty for defects are neither factual, nor appropriate.

    3) Press reports suggest that the German Armed Forces appear to have developed some new test criteria during the past 6 months, without consulting with, or including Heckler & Koch in the discussion of the new testing to be conducted or the results obtained.

    4) To date, no office within the German Armed Forces have contacted, or even informed, Heckler & Koch, of any issues where the G 36 has failed to meet its specifications, although the company has offered an open dialog at all times.

    5) Over the past few years, individual parties within the German Armed Forces have time and again claimed that new user scenarios had been developed from operations and it is in these scenarios that issues have been observed. Should this be the case, then these altered use scenarios may themselves be creating issues. As there are presently a number of indicators that the use parameters applicable to our product have been changed, arbitrarily, it is suggested that this is the area where a mutual dialog could best serve our forces and allies. Heckler & Koch remains ready and willing to engage in these discussions to resolve once and for all these reports and concerns.

    6) It is a fact that there is no standardized test method at NATO level, let alone an assessment criterion, for the accuracy of hand weapons:
    a) when overheated after repeated firing;
    b) at extremely high ambient temperatures;
    c) for extreme differences in ambient temperature or other climatic fluctuations; and
    d) during exposure to sun.

    7) To the knowledge of Heckler & Koch, these NATO-wide undefined criteria are also so far unknown at a national level in the German Armed Forces. The only exception being in the spring of 2012, when the so-called “Realistic Combat Firing Cycle” (EBZ) was standardized for the first time, and in which the G 36 rifle, once again, was proven to meet, or exceed, the specified accuracy requirements.

    8) Heckler & Koch is compelled to state that we were, at best, informed incompletely, always with delay, and as a rule not involved by the German Armed Forces in clarifying any of the recent issues claimed against the G 36 rifle, nor the investigations to substantiate them.

    The continued questioning of the technical suitability of the G 36 rifle stands in stark blatant contrast of the worldwide reality of G 36 operations over nearly 20 years.

    In the larger debate about the equipment of the German Armed Forces, the systematic proceedings against Heckler & Koch cannot be explained against this background, and we again request the right to have the opportunity to address any/all specific issues, by immediately conducting joint investigations, so that a fair and equitable conclusion can be reached. It is the right thing to do, for all concerned, and any continued reluctance to do so is not understood.


    In response to recent media reports in Germany, commenting on HK’s ability to meet it‘s interest and other financial obligations, the company is pleased to make the following statement:

    The liquidity status and financial performance of H&K is not only stable, but improving. In addition to it‘s own substantial cash reserves, H&K has available to it an undrawn line of credit of 30 million Euro, which will remain available through 2017. Additionally, the order book shows a promising trend in new orders resulting from submitted proposals and new products.

    H&K‘s operations remain unchanged, with neither a reduction of staff, nor a reduction of capacity utilization.

    H&K is looking forward to continued improvements in operational and financial performance in 2015 and to continuing to design and manufacture the world’s best small arms for the defense and security agencies of NATO and its allies.

    Much as H&K may protest against this, there is considerable evidence that the rifle suffers from a polymer barrel bearing. A gunsmith who requested to remain anonymous shared these images with TFB:


    This picture best illustrates the deformation that can occur The trunnion itself is made of steel, but rides entirely within a polymer cradle that is integral to the receiver. If the barrel is able to shift even a little in its cradle, the rifle will lose zero.


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    Below, one can see how the cradle interfaces with the sighting system:


    This clear plastic cutaway of the G36 illustrates the architecture of the rifle. A steel trunnion/barrel extension is permanently embedded within a polymer receiver. Attached to the polymer receiver is the optics mount/carry handle, without steel or aluminum reinforcement. Image source:



    This image of an HK 243 civilian variant of the G36 highlights the carry handle/sight attachment. Due to the contrasting finish, one can see that the sight mount is attached directly to the polymer receiver, itself attached to the rifle’s barrel. Under sustained fire, the polymer may deform and the sight may lose zero.

    If the Bundeswehr decides to replace the G36, it seems reasonable that they would purchase HK 416A5ss in replacement, as that rifle has already been type classified as G38 by the German government. That would be an unusual case of an AR-15 derivative replacing a second/third-generation 5.56mm rifle.

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    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. He can be reached via email at [email protected]