The German Army takes the next step towards a new assault rifle

Eric B
by Eric B
Germany. Country Rifle, photo by: Chummerz.

Since the late 1990s, the Heckler & Koch G36 is the standard rifle of the German Bundeswehr.

Already in the 2nd quarter of 2017 it was made official that the Bundeswehr were going to procure roughly 120 000 assault rifles with accessories, to replace the G36.

In total the order value was estimated to about 245 Million Euros (about 270 Million USD), and according to the initial plan the contract should have been signed already in the first half of 2019.

Bundeswehr im Bild

Neither SIG Sauer (with the SIG MCX) nor Rheinmetall / Steyr (with their new RS556) participated in the selection process for numerous reasons. What we know is that ITAR was one of the issues for SIG Sauer: ( ITAR: SIG Sauer is Out. Withdraws from the German tender.)

Most of the procuring process is cloaked in secrecy (due to legal reasons in the contract, between the buyer and the suppliers), but it is more or less a known fact that C.G. Haenel and Heckler & Koch are still on board with their models: MK556, HK416 and HK43 3 respectively.

Haenel have submitted a second generation of their MK556, according to this source.

Haenel MK556. Photo from C.G: Haenel.

In October 2018, it was announced that none of the submitted firearms met the required criterias. ( Source) The manufacturers were then granted a period until February 2019 to rectify any problems.

Chancellor Angela Merkel visits the Multinational Rapid NATO Response Force, the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), in Munster, on 20.05.2019. Bundeswehr / Sebastian Wilke

Problems with weight and penetration requirements

It is a bit ironic, as the German Special Forces Command (Kommando Spezialkräfte, KSK) of the German Army and the Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine of the German Navy are already using the HK416.

The HK416 has also recently been approved by the French Army, to replace the FAMAS. It is also used by the Norwegians. ( Heckler & Koch supplies more HK416 Assault Rifles to the Norwegian Armed Forces)

If the Special Forces are using it, is it not good enough for the regular army? Or is the regular army too strict in its procurement process and requirement?

Heckler & Koch HK416. Photo from H&K.

A central role in the procurement is that the required maximum weight is only 3.6 kg. (7.9 lb)

There are no specifications in the tender about which caliber the new rifle should have. And there are rumors that the requirements of the Bundeswehr in terms of penetrating power can only be met with a 7.62×51 mm NATO (or similar).

But is there really a 7.62 mm rifle out there that weighs that little? I think not, so it could be that the technical requirements are too strict.

If the weight requirements are relaxed, Heckler & Koch could compete with their HK417. This type of rifle is also already in use in Germany as the model G27/G28.

Heckler & Koch HK417. Photo from H&K.

If the penetration requirements are relaxed, Heckler & Koch could compete with the HK416.

We can only assume that Haenel did not submit a 7.62 mm rifle to the tender, but they recently released their CR308 model (in 7.62×51 mm). If you read TFB on a regular basis you’ll remember TFB were the first to write about this new rifle. ( New Haenel Defense CR308 at EnforceTac & IWA 2018)

Haenel CR308. Picture by C.G. Haenel.

For obvious reasons, manufacturers like Haenel and Heckler & Koch want to sell what is already developed and available. The buyers, in this case the “ Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support” (in German abbreviated BAAINBw) want to buy the best and newest, to make the purchase as future-proof as possible.

Somewhere, somehow these worlds have to meet, but now it seem they have collided. At some point perhaps it’s time to realize that you cannot get 7.62 mm penetration from a MP5-sized packaged?

From Graphica Mechanica we have the beautiful poster below, with the following description and short history lesson.

Guten tag, today we are taking a look at the modern service rifles of Germany from 1959 to the present. You can get the poster or sticker here:

The rifle shown are from bottom to top:

1. G3 Rifle (1959), modified and domestically produced variant of the CETME

2. G3A2 Rifle (1962), G3 with a rotating drum diopter sight

3. G3A3 Rifle (1964), updated version with, among other things, polymer furniture

4. G36 Rifle (1997), new assault rifle replacing the G3 as the standard issue service rifle

5. G36A2 Rifle (2000s), modernization of the G36, including picatinny rail and modified sight set up

6. G36A3 Rifle (2010s), further modernization of the G36 platform with more rail, different stock and the integrated optic/carrying handle being replaced with a Hensoldt optic unit. These are not yet universal issue in the Bundeswehr.

(The poster was updated at a later stage, so the Gewehr 1 (Sturmgewehr) was not included in the text.)

“Modern Service Rifles – Federal Republic of Germany. 1956 – Present”
From Graphica Mechanica, used with permission. "Modern Service Rifles - Federal Republic of Germany. 1956 - Present"

If you like it, you can order the poster here. (I think the price was very fair, and would suit any gun room.)

Germany′s new assault rifle

So, which rifle will be on top of this list to replace the HK G36? At this moment just a few people know for sure, and they’re not talking.

How the second test phase has proceded is not known, but when the German magazine ES&T requested information from the BAAINBw about the progress they were informed that “according to the current timetable, a final procurement decision based on the approval of the German Bundestag in the second quarter of 2020 can be expected.” ( Source)

Bundeswehr im Bild

In other words, and with a delay of more than a year, this most likely means that the procurement decision for the new Bundeswehr assault rifle system is expected in the second quarter of 2020, and that at least one of the rifles has passed the technical tests.

Exciting times. As soon as we know more we will let you know. Until then we can only contemplate and you are very welcome to use the comments section below and let us know which rifle you think they are going to chose.

Sources: Graphica Mechanica, Björn Müller (, ES&T (Jan-Phillipp Weisswange & Waldemar Geiger). Pictures: Heckler & Koch, C.G. Haenel. Bundeswehr im Bild. Country Rifle.

Eric B
Eric B

Ex-Arctic Ranger. Competitive practical shooter and hunter with a European focus. Always ready to increase my collection of modern semi-automatics, optics, thermals and suppressors. TCCC Certified. Occasionaly seen in a 6x6 Bug Out Vehicle, always with a big smile.

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2 of 54 comments
  • USMC03Vet USMC03Vet on Oct 15, 2019

    Germany military always has the most expensive mil cosplay.

  • Ptrog Ptrog on Oct 15, 2019

    i imagine they know they are paying too much for heavy furniture and that is what they want removed.