The G36 (Gewehr 36) is a German-made assault rifle manufactured by Heckler and Koch. It is the primary rifle of the Bundeswehr (German Army) and replaced the aging 1950s-era G3. Heckler und 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 HK-50 project. It was adopted by the Bundeswehr in 1995.
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.
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 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).
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 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.
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 Spain to phase out their CETMEs, 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.