Heckler & Koch G36

Heckler & Koch G36

The H&K G36 rifle
Type Assault rifle
Light machine gun
Squad automatic weapon
Place of origin Germany
Service history
In service 1997–present
Used by 40+ countries (see Users)
Production history
Designer Heckler & Koch
Designed 1990–1995
Manufacturer Heckler & Koch
Santa Bárbara Sistemas
Produced 1996–present
Number built 176,000[2]
Variants See Variants
Weight G36: 3.63 kg (8.00 lb)
G36V: 3.33 kg (7.3 lb)
G36K: 3.30 kg (7.3 lb)
G36KV: 3.0 kg (6.6 lb)
G36C: 2.82 kg (6.2 lb)
MG36: 3.83 kg (8.4 lb)
MG36E: 3.50 kg (7.7 lb)
Length G36, G36V, MG36, MG36E: 999 mm (39.3 in) stock extracted / 758 mm (29.8 in) stock folded
G36K, G36KV: 860 mm (33.9 in) stock extended / 615 mm (24.2 in) stock folded
G36C: 720 mm (28.3 in) stock extended / 500 mm (19.7 in) stock folded
Barrel length G36, G36V, MG36, MG36E: 480 mm (18.9 in)
G36K, G36KV: 318 mm (12.5 in)
G36C: 228 mm (9.0 in)
Width 64 mm (2.5 in)
Height G36, G36K, MG36: 320 mm (12.6 in)
G36V, G36KV, MG36E: 285 mm (11.2 in)
G36C: 278 mm (10.9 in)

Cartridge 5.56×45mm NATO
Action Short-stroke piston, rotating bolt
Rate of fire 750 rounds/min cyclic
Muzzle velocity G36, G36V, MG36, MG36E: 920 m/s (3,018 ft/s)
G36K, G36KV: 850 m/s (2,788.7 ft/s)
Effective firing range 800 metres (870 yd), 200–600 m sight adjustment
Maximum firing range 2,860 metres (3,130 yd)
Feed system 30-round detachable box magazine or 100-round C-Mag drum magazine
Sights Reflex sight with 1× magnification, telescopic sight with 3× magnification (export version has a 1.5× magnified sight) and back-up fixed notch sight

The G36 is a 5.56×45mm assault rifle, designed in the early 1990s by Heckler & Koch in Germany as a replacement for the heavier 7.62mm G3 battle rifle.[3] It was accepted into service with the Bundeswehr in 1997, replacing the G3.[4] The G36 is gas-operated and feeds from a 30-round detachable box magazine or 100-round C-Mag drum magazine.[3]



Work on a successor for the venerable G3 rifle had been ongoing in Germany since the second half of the 1970s. These efforts resulted in the innovative 4.73mm G11 assault rifle (developed jointly by a group of companies led by H&K), that used caseless ammunition (designed by the Dynamit Nobel company). It had been predicted that this weapon would eventually replace the G3, therefore further development of H&K's series of firearms chambered for the 5.56×45mm NATO cartridge had been halted. Heckler & Koch, having no incentive to pursue a new 5.56 mm weapon system, was content with the export-oriented HK33 and G41 rifles. However, the G11 program came to an abrupt end when the Bundeswehr cancelled its procurement due to defence budget cuts after the unification of East and West Germany and H&K was acquired in 1991 by British Aerospace's Royal Ordnance division (known today as BAE Systems).

Increasing interest in Germany for a modern service rifle chambered for the NATO-standard 5.56 mm cartridge led H&K to offer the German armed forces the G41 rifle, which, too, was rejected. Design work was then initiated from the ground up on a modern 5.56 mm assault rifle designated "Project 50" or HK50.[4] The prototype was then trialed, where it was rated higher than the rival Austrian Steyr AUG system.[4] The final version of the G36 was completed in 1995. Production of the G36 began in 1996.


The HK50 rifle was selected for service and an initial order was placed for 33,000 rifles under the Bundeswehr designation Gewehr G36. The order also involved an option for a further 17,000 rifles. Deliveries were first made to the Bundeswehr's NATO Quick Reaction Force during the fourth quarter of 1997. The G36's production line began in early 1996.

In July 1998, it was announced that the G36 had been selected as the standard rifle for the Spanish Armed Forces, replacing the 5.56 mm CETME Model L and LC rifles.[5] Deliveries first took place at the end of 1999. These rifles are manufactured in Spain under license by General Dynamics Santa Bárbara Sistemas at the FACOR (Fábrica de Armas de la Coruña) facility, in Coruña, Galicia.

In addition, the rifle has been licensed for local production in Saudi Arabia.[6] The manufacturer in the country is the Military Industries Corporation.[7] Technology transfer was granted by Germany to Saudi Arabia on 30 June 2008[8][9] The first Saudi-made G36 was made at MIC's factory on 30 June 2009.[9] However, some components of their own G36s are supplied by Heckler & Koch.[8]

Design details

German Bundeswehr land force soldiers deployed with G36s
A German infantryman stands at the ready with his G36 during a practice exercise with US troops

The G36 is a selective-fire 5.56 mm assault rifle, firing from a closed rotary bolt. The G36 has a conventional layout and a modular component design. Common to all variants of the G36 family are: the receiver and buttstock assembly, bolt carrier group with bolt and the return mechanism and guide rod. The receiver contains the barrel, carry handle with integrated sights, trigger group with pistol grip, handguard and magazine socket.

The G36 employs a free-floating barrel (the barrel does not contact the handguard). The barrel is fastened to the receiver with a special nut, which can be removed with a wrench. The barrel is produced using a cold hammer forging process and features a chrome-lined bore with 6 right-hand grooves and a 1 in 178 mm (1:7 in) rifling twist rate. The barrel assembly consists of the gas block, a collar with a bayonet lug that is also used to launch rifle grenades and a slotted flash suppressor.

The weapon can be stripped and re-assembled without tools through a system of cross-pins similar to that used on earlier HK designs. For cleaning purposes, the G36 dismantles into the following groups: receiver housing, return mechanism, bolt carrier group and trigger group.


G36 Carbine with two magazines held together jungle style.
A standard German Bundeswehr G36 with bipod and a Beta C-Mag drum magazine

Fire selector

The fire and safety selector is ambidextrous and has controls on both sides of the receiver which took upon the design of the original G3 selector. Selector settings are described with letters: "S"—safe ("Sicher"), "E"—semi-automatic fire ("Einzelfeuer") and "F"—continuous fire ("Feuerstoß").[4] HK also offers several other trigger options, including the so-called "Marine" trigger group, with settings analogous to the standard trigger, but the selector positions have been illustrated with pictograms. A semi-automatic only trigger unit (lacks the "F" setting) is also available.


The G36 magazines

In the box magazine is room for 30 cartridges staggered (or double-stacked) on top of one another. The magazines are molded with shock resistant plastic, and are translucent allowing the user to see the ammunition. On the sides are studs which allow for the magazines to be attached next to each other, this way the operator can reload with less hassle. An empty G36 magazine weighs 127 grams (4.5 oz) and filled with 30 rounds 483 grams (17.0 oz). STANAGs cannot be loaded normally, but the G36 can use an adapter that will accept the STANAG magazine. Certain types of Beta C-Mags can also be used and are employed with the MG36 support variant.


The stock too is multifunctional; its ability to fold to the side, shortening the overall length of the weapon for use in tight areas. The rifle can also still fire with the stock collapsed. Also, it incorporates holes where assembly pins can be placed during weapon cleaning and maintenance.[4]


The G36 employs a large number of lightweight, corrosion-resistant synthetic materials in its design; the receiver housing, stock, trigger group (including the fire control selector and firing mechanism parts), magazine well, handguard and carry handle are all made of a carbon fiber-reinforced polyamide. The receiver has an integrated steel barrel trunnion (with locking recesses) and a nylon 66 steel reinforced receiver[10]


Dual combat sighting system ZF 3×4° as used on German G36A1 assault rifles
Optical sight reticle pattern (click for description)

The standard German Army versions of the G36 are equipped with a ZF 3×4° dual optical sight that combines a 3× magnified telescopic sight (with the main reticule designed for firing at 200 m and bullet drop compensation markings for: 200, 400, 600 and 800 m crosshairs and a range-finding scale) and an unmagnified reflex sight (calibrated for firing at 100 m) mounted on top of the telescopic sight.[4] The reflex sight is illuminated by ambient light during the day and uses battery powered illumination for use at night. Electric illumination is activated automatically by a built in photo sensor and can be manually activated to boost the brightness of the reticle in daytime low contrast situations.[11]

The export versions have a single telescopic sight with a 1.5× magnification and an aiming reticule fixed at 300 m. All rifles are adapted to use the Hensoldt NSA 80 third-generation night sight, which clamps into the G36 carry handle adapter in front of the optical sight housing and mates with the rifle's standard optical sight.[12] The sighting bridge also functions as a carrying handle and features auxiliary open sights molded on top of the handle that consist of a forward blade and rear notch, but these can only be used with the reflex sight removed, as in the G36V. The optical sight system is produced by Hensoldt AG (a subsidiary of Carl Zeiss AG).

Operating mechanism

U.S. Army soldiers crosstrain with G36s in Kosovo
Albanian soldier with G36 as part of EUFOR Althea in BiH

The G36 uses a short-stroke piston system[4] from which HK later developed the HK-416's impingement system. Unlike direct impingement, this system takes gas trailing the bullet to operate a piston instead of pushing directly on the bolt. The G36's bolt is operated by a cam that guides the bolt carrier by its respective cutout. Then when fully pushed forward 7 radial locking lugs fully enclose the chamber.

HK included several design features that are essential in modern military firearms. For example, the bolt locks back after the last round is spent (this can be deactivated), and at the front end of the trigger guard there is a bolt catch button. The cocking handle can be switched from either end, folds in, and unfolds from a spring[13][14] so the shooter need not unfold it by hand before firing. Another feature of it is that it doubles as the forward assist, which is used in the instance that the spent cartridge ejected but the next one did not properly extract and go into battery. In addition, the ejection port has a brass deflector to mitigate the amount of casings that may strike the face of left-handed operators. Instead of a dust cover which has the need to be flipped back up when the gun isn't in use, the bolt acts as the seal from dirt.


The rifle can be fitted with a 40 mm AG36 (AG—Anbau-Granatwerfer) under-barrel grenade launcher, which is a breech-loaded break-action weapon with a side-tilting barrel.

Standard equipment supplied with the G36 includes: spare magazines, a cleaning and maintenance kit, sling, speed-loading device and sometimes a modified AKM type II blade bayonets (many of which are left over in Germany from stocks of the former National People's Army).


In April 2012, reports surfaced that G36 rifles used in Afghanistan would overheat during prolonged firefights after several hundred rounds were fired. Overheating affected the accuracy of the G36, making it difficult to hit targets past 100 m, ineffective past 200 m, and incapable of effective fire past 300 meters. The G36 has been called unsuitable for long battles. HK said the rifle was not designed for sustained, continuous fire. German soldiers gave no negative feedback. Operational commanders advised allowing the weapon to cool between periods of rapid shooting.[15][16][17] In February 2014, the Federal Ministry of Defence announced that the overheating deficiencies of the G36 was not a result of weapon design, but of the ammunition. The manufacturer of the ammunition confirmed this,[18] although experts disagreed.[19]

A report by the Bundeswehr on 21 February 2014, revealed that the issues were not the fault of the rifle, but that one manufacturer of ammunition was making bullets with copper plated jackets that were too thin.[20][21]

On 22 June 2014, it was reported that Germany’s defense ministry has temporarily halted new orders worth €34 million over accuracy concerns for the rifle. The Bundeswehr consulted the Ernst Mach Institut and the Federal Criminal Police Office.[22][23]

On 30 March 2015, Minister of Defence Ursula von der Leyen told the Associate Press that the weight-saving design is the root of the issues.[24] This is based on a letter from Inspector General Volker Wieker advising the Stewards of Defence and Budget Committee of the Bundestag and the troops in advance of the publication of the report.[25][26]

The report was released by the Fraunhofer Ernst-Mach-Institut (EMI) and Wehrtechnischen Dienststelle 91 (WTD91) on 19 April 2015. According to the report, the observed hit rate drops down to 7% at 100 m when the temperature difference is 30 °C or above, whereas the Bundeswehr required a hit rate of 90%.[27][28]

On 22 April 2015, the German Minister of Defence announced that the G36 would be phased out due to these concerns.[29]


A G36KV as delivered to the Latvian Army. It is configured with a telescopic stock and a Picatinny sight rail
G36A2 with a Zeiss RSA reflex sight and an AG36 grenade launcher on display as part of Germany's IdZ modernization program

Sporting models

Based on the G36, Heckler & Koch also created the semi-automatic SL8 rifle and the straight-pull, bolt-action R8, which are offered to the civilian sport shooting markets. The SL8 is substantially different from the G36, it has a modified receiver and a thumbhole stock with a cheek rest, which is integral with the trigger group. The SL8 has a heavy profile, extended, 510 mm (20.1 in) barrel that does not have a flash hider or bayonet lug. The rifle uses a 10-round single-stack magazine and an extended top rail used to mount a wide variety of Picatinny-standard optics. Mounted to the rail are a set of iron sights with a hooded foresight and adjustable flip rear aperture. The SL8 can also mount the G36 carry handle and integrated sight assembly, after removing the mechanical iron sights. The SL8 has an unloaded weight of 4.3 kg, overall length of 980–1030 mm and a trigger rated at 20 N.

In November 2013, Heckler & Koch applied for permission from the German Government to sell a new civilian-legal version of the G36. Called the HK243 in Europe and the HK293 in America, it is more similar to the G36 assault rifle than previous civilian models. The main difference is the bolt is redesigned to not allow a conversion to fully automatic fire. It has quad picatinny rails and accepts STANAG magazines. Four different barrel lengths from 230 mm (9.1 in) to 480 mm (19 in) and four stock models (short fixed, long fixed and two adjustable) will be offered.[32]


Country Organization name Model Quantity Date Reference
 Albania Special Operations Battalion (Albania) G36C 350 2007
 Australia Australian Federal Police Specialist Response Group _ _ [33][34]
 Belgium Antwerp local police special squad BBT (Bijzondere Bijstandsteam) _ _ _ [35]
 Brazil Brazilian Federal Police G36K
_ _ [36]
 Canada Victoria Police Department G36 ~100 2004 [37]
 Croatia Croatian police special units _ 300 2004 [38][39]
Croatian Armed Forces contingents in international operations _ 550 2007
 Czech Republic Police of the Czech republic:
* URNA – Nationwide paramilitary SWAT unit
* KZJ – Regional SWAT units
* SPJ – Special riot units
* PMJ – Emergency motorized units
_ _ [40]
 Denmark Politiets Aktionsstyrke G36C _ _ [41][42]
 Egypt Used by special forces and police,
Some later to Libyan Jamahiriya, see below
_ 608+ 2003 [43]
 Estonia Estonian Special Operations Force G36K _ _ _
 Finland Finnish Border Guard G36C _ _ [44]
Finnish Police _ _
 France French Army G36E _ _ [45]
Groupes d'Intervention de la Police Nationale G36C _ _ [46][47]
Brigade Anti-criminalité (BAC) G36C, G36K 204 2016 [48][49][50]
 Germany Standard service rifle of the Bundeswehr G36A1
176,544 delivered, 166,619 in use _ [51][52][53]
Bundespolizei _ _ _ [54]
Greece special unites G36K/C/E/A _ _ [55]
 Hong Kong Special Duties Unit of the Hong Kong Police Force G36KV _ 2001 [56]
 Iceland National Police of Iceland and its special forces unit Víkingasveitin _ _ _ [57]
 Iraqi Kurdistan Peshmerga _ 8,000 supplied by Germany 2014 [58]
 Indonesia Komando Pasukan Khusus (Kopassus) special forces group of the Indonesian Army G36C _ _ [59]
Detasemen Jala Mangkara (Denjaka) tactical diver group of the Indonesian Navy G36V
_ _ [60]
 Italy NOCS team of the Italian Police G36C _ _ [61]
 Jordan Jordanian special forces 71st Special Battalion G36C _ _ [62][63]
 Kosovo Kosovo Security Force G36V 3500 2010 [64][65]
 Latvia Latvian Army, National Guard G36KV _ 2006 [66][67]
 Lebanon Lebanese Armed Forces, Internal Security Forces G36C3 250 2008 [68]
Libya Libyan Jamahiriya
Libya Libya (Anti-Gaddafi forces)
Unclear (unit based in Tripoli; special forces/Khamis Brigade?). Weapons are from a batch legally sold to Egypt in 2003. G36KV
Probably <600
2003–2005? [43][69][70]
Tripoli Brigade (looted from Bab al-Azizia arms store) 2011 [69]


 Lithuania Lithuanian Armed Forces G36KA4
_ 2017 (G36KA4M1)[74][75] [76]
 Malaysia Pasukan Khas Laut (PASKAL) Maritime Counter-Terrorism Forces of the Royal Malaysian Navy G36C, G36E
_ 2006 [77][78][79][80]
 Mauritius Standard service rifle of the Military of Mauritius G36A2
_ 2010
 Mexico Various Mexican law enforcement agencies use the G36, namely the Mexican Federal Police and many state and city police forces G36 Family _ _ [81]
 Mongolia Mongolian Armed Forces _ _ _ [82]
 Montenegro Military of Montenegro _ _ _ [83]
 Norway Norwegian Navy Kystjegerkommandoen G36KV2 _ 2001–2007 [66]
 Philippines Armed Forces of the Philippines

Presidential Security Group

_ _ [84]
 Poland BOA/SPAP special units of the Policja G36V
_ _ [85]
Biuro Ochrony Rządu (BOR) Government Protection Bureau G36C _ _ [86]
Jednostka Wojskowa Formoza naval unit of the Polish Special Forces G36KV3
_ 2006 [87]
 Portugal Portuguese Marines _ _ _ [66]
Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR) _ 200 _ [88]
Grupo de Operações Especiais (GOE) of the Polícia de Segurança Pública _ _ _ [89]
 Republic of China Special Forces G36C _ _ -
 Republic of Korea Korea Coast Guard SSAT (Special Sea Attack Team) _ 2007 [90]
 Romania 1st Special Operations Regiment (Romania) of the Romanian Army G36K
_ _ [91]
 Saudi Arabia Military of Saudi Arabia G36C _ _ [92]
 Serbia Special Brigade of the Serbian Army _ 2010 [93]
 Slovakia 5th Special Forces Regiment of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic G36 _ _ _
 Spain Spanish Armed Forces G36E
_ _ [66][94][95]
Unidad de Operaciones Especiales special group of Spanish Navy and Spanish Marines _ _ [96]
 Sweden National Task Force G36C _ _ [97]
Piketen _ _ [97]
Särskilda operationsgruppen G36K
_ _ [98]
 Thailand Naresuan 261 Counter-Terrorism Unit Special Operations Unit of the Royal Thai Police G36C
_ 2007 [99][100]
Royal Thai Army Infantry. G36K
_ _ [101]

[102] [103]

Royal Thai Navy SEALs Underwater Demolition Assault Unit (UDAU) Royal Thai Navy G36KV _ 2004 [104][105]
Royal Thai Marine Corps Amphibious Reconnaissance battalion Special operations forces (RECON) Royal Thai Navy G36C _ 2004 [106][107][108][109]
 Timor Leste Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste G36K _ _ [110]
 United Kingdom Special Air Service of the British Army. G36K
_ _ [111]
Bermuda Regiment G36C
_ _ [112]
Civil Nuclear Constabulary G36C _ _ [114]
Greater Manchester Police _ _ [114]
Kent Police _ _
Lancashire Constabulary _ _ [114]
Nottinghamshire Police _ _
Avon and Somerset Police _ _ [115]
Specialist Firearms Command, Metropolitan Police Service _ _ _ [116]
Police Service of Northern Ireland G36K
_ _ [114]
 United States United States Capitol Police _ _ _ [117]
Baltimore City Police Department _ _ _ [118]
 United Nations United Nations Department for Safety and Security G36V, G36KV, G36CV, MG36 _ _ _
Department of Peacekeeping Operations _ _ [119]
 Uruguay Uruguayan Army G36,
G36K, G36C
_ _
Uruguayan Navy G36E, G36V, AG G36 40 mm _ _


See also


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