Not to be confused with the Heckler & Koch HK36.
The Heckler & Koch G36 (short for Gewehr 36) is a German assault rifle manufactured by Heckler & Koch since 1996. It is the standard service rifle of the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) and replaced the aging 1950s-era G3. Heckler and Koch originally began developing the G36 when the Bundeswehr made a request for a rifle in the light of the cancellation of the G11 and G41. It was originally called the HK50 in the early and mid 1990s. The G36 was adopted by the Bundeswehr in 1997 and phased out in 2015 due to issues with accuracy after sustained fire. Unless upgraded, the rifle would be replaced by the HK417 or the RS556 due to accuracy issues in certain conditions not present on the HK417.
The G36 was a step away by Heckler and Koch from the G3's design, which was the basis of almost all previous weapons made by the company. It is made almost entirely of reinforced polymers, with steel inserts where appropriate. It features a short stroke gas piston operating system, with the actuator rod located above the barrel, square-shaped bolt carrier, the typical rotating bolt with 7 locking lugs, a bolt carrier that rides on a single guide rod with the return spring around it, an ejection window that is located at the right side of the receiver, a spent cases deflector to propel the ejected cases away from the face of the left-handed shooter, a gas block that is fitted with the self-adjustable gas valve that expels all the used gases forward away from the shooter, and a charging handle that is attached to the top of the bolt carrier and can be rotated to the left or to the right. When not in use, the charging handle aligns itself with the axis of the weapon under the pressure of its spring, and reciprocates with the bolt group at the top of the receiver.
All major parts are assembled on the receiver using the cross-pins, so the rifle can be disassembled and reassembled back without any tools. The standard fire control group features semi-automatic, two round burst, and full auto. The ambidextrous fire selector lever also serves as a safety switch. The G36 is fed from a 30-round box magazine which is made from clear plastic. All magazines have special studs on their sides, so two or three magazines can be clipped together for faster reloading. The magazine housings of the G36 are made as separate parts, so the G36 can be easily adjusted to the various magazine interfaces. By the standard, the magazine release catch is located just behind the magazine rather than on the side of the magazine housing. The side-folding, sturdy skeletonized buttstock is standard on all G36 rifles. It folds to the right side and does not interfere with rifle operation when folded. The standard sighting equipment of the G36 consists of the TWO scopes - one 3.5X telescope sight below, with the second 1X red-dot sight above it. The sights are completely independent, with the former suitable for long range accurate shooting, and the latter suitable for the fast target acquisition at the short ranges. Both sights are built into the plastic carrying handle. The export versions of the G36 are available with the single 1.5X telescope sight, with the emergency open sights molded into the top of the carrying handle. The subcompact G36C version is available with the integral Picatinny-type scope and accessory rail instead of the carrying handle and standard sights.
There are many variants of the G36 and it is used by many different military organizations. Even Britain, who have been in the habit of using only British-made weapons and vehicles, were considering replacing the L85A1 with the G36, if the A2 upgrade was unsuccessful. Spain adopted the G36E in 1999 as its standard infantry rifle. The Mexican 'FX-05 Xiuhcoatl' (fireserpent) series of assault rifles are externally similar to the G36 series, to the point of Heckler & Koch filing a lawsuit; however, it was dropped once H&K realized they are internally very different.
The G36C (Compact) is the compact variant of the G36. It features a very compact frame and a 228 mm (~8-inch) barrel. It is very useful for CQB, as it packs the power of the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge into a very small weapon. This rifle, unlike the others, does not feature an export variant, and does not feature an optic; instead, it features aperture iron sights. It comes standard with a rail that can mount aftermarket optics. Production began in January 2001.
The G36E (Export) is the export variant of the standard G36. The main difference is the lack of dual optics (the original G36 is equipped with a holographic sight and a 3x magnification telescopic sight), which is what the standard G36 is equipped with; the G36E only has a single optic, with 1.5x magnification. Like the G36, it features a 480 mm (19-inch) barrel.
The G36KE (Karabiner, Export) is the export variant of the G36K. Like the G36E, it features a 1.5x magnification optic; otherwise, it is identical to the G36K.
The MG36E is the export variant of the MG36. Like the G36E, it features a 1.5x magnification optic; otherwise, it is identical to the MG36. The MG36E was cancelled as well, after the Bundeswehr rejected the standard MG36.
The G36K (Karabiner) is the carbine variant of the G36. It features a shorter frame than the standard G36 and a 318 mm (~12.5-inch) barrel. It features the same dual optic system as the standard G36 (A holographic sight and a 3x magnification telescopic sight). Production began in 1997.
The MG36 is the squad automatic weapon variant of the G36, and would be classified as a light machine gun. It features a 480 mm (19-inch) barrel, a bipod, and uses a double drum magazine with a capacity of 100 rounds. Unlike most light machine guns, the MG36 fires from a closed bolt. The MG36 features a 3.5x magnification optic. The Bundeswehr concluded that it offered no significant advantages, rejecting it. Instead, the Bundeswehr uses a standard G36 w/ bipod and heavy barrel, with the 100-round Beta-C magazine. The MG36 was introduced in 1995 and was never in production, in 1996 the standard G36 went in mass production.
The civilian variant of the G36. The barrel is slightly longer than the standard G36, at 510 mm (20 inches), and it features iron sights; however, it is capable of accepting optics. It generally comes with 10-round magazines, but can be used with the standard G36 magazines. Production began in 1998 and ended in 2011, and they are not mentioned on the HK website.
Starting in 2014, Heckler and Koch introduced a new series of sporting rifles, known as the HK 243 S SAR & HK 243 S TAR. These are new versions of the SL-8 that have been modified to look as close as possible to the G36. They use most of the G36 accessories, and they can use the same high capacity magazines of the G36, as well the NATO STANAG/M-16 magazines, via an adapter. The S TAR model uses a handguard covered in rails, for the accommodation of tactical components, such as support grips; bipods; lasers and scopes; same thing for the carrying handle. The S SAR rifle's barrel comes with a muzzle cover to protect the threads, which can be fitted with the G36 flash hider; the S TAR model already comes with its flash hider. For compliance with gun laws in Germany, the HK 243 S SAR & S TAR were altered in such a way, that full auto/ military parts from the G36 cannot be used in this weapon. Sales are currently restricted to countries where para-military, sporting weapons are sold, such as Germany; Switzerland; Italy and Eastern Europe. They cannot be sold in the United States. However, plans are underway to set up local production in the States, by Heckler & Koch USA, to allow the sale of semi-auto G36/ HK 243 S SAR/HK243 S TAR look-a-likes.
Originally intended to be manufactured by late 2015; however, a change in the direction of the U.S. branch of Heckler & Koch resulted in the cancellation of the proposed manufacture of the G36. As of today, it remains unknown if the HK 243 SAR and S TAR rifles will ever be imported.
The G36KV is an export variant of the G36 which externally resembles the G36C. It is manufactured for Latvia; the Latvian Army asked H&K to produce a weapon to complement the G3.
The G36KV is also used in Albania to phase out the G3s, Zastavas, and AKs, and in other countries.
The G36KV has a Picatinny rail mount and a telescopic stock not seen in the G36 and its variants. The bayonet it uses is the same bayonet that the AKM uses.
The G36A11 is the newest variant of the G36 family of weapons. Developed from the G36KV, it features a new type of stock, which its adjustable and foldable; a new handguard with mountain rails, and a rail base with flip-up sights, where the original sight and mount used to be. These same components can be used to upgrade existing G36 rifles, as well the civilian HK 243 rifles.
The G36A2 is a updated variant of the G36 that is going to be used for the remaining G36 assault rifles that haven't been phased out. It will be equipped with both a telescopic and a red dot sight. It have a updated barrel to allow sustained fire as well as a LLM01 laser module. This will make the G36 suitable as a new modular assault rifle system for the Bundeswehr in the future.
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- Afghanistan War
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- 2008 Russian-Georgian War
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- H&K G11
- H&K G41
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- Heckler & Koch XM8