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The G36 is a Germanmarker 5.56mm assault rifle, designed in the early 1990s by Heckler & Koch (H&K) and accepted into service with the Bundeswehr in 1997, replacing the 7.62mm G3 battle rifle.



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 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge had been halted. Heckler & Koch had no incentive to pursue a new 5.56mm weapon system, content with the export-oriented HK33 and G41 rifles. However, the G11 program came to an abrupt end when the Bundeswehr canceled its procurement due to defense budget cuts after the unification of Eastmarker and West Germanymarker and H&K was acquired in 1991 by British Aerospace's Royal Ordnance division (known today as BAE Systemsmarker).

Increasing interest in Germany for a modern service rifle chambered for the NATOmarker-standard 5.56mm 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 5.56mm assault rifle, designated "Project 50" or HK50. The prototype was then trialled, where it was rated higher than the rival Austrianmarker Steyr AUG system.


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 NATOmarker Quick Reaction Force during the third quarter of 1997.

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

Design details

The G36 is a selective fire 5.56mm 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.

A German infantryman stands at the ready with his G36 during a practice exercise with US troops.

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 disassembles into the following groups: receiver housing, return mechanism, bolt carrier group and trigger group.


The fire and safety selector is ambidextrous and has controls on both sides of the receiver; the selector settings are described with letters: “S” – safe ("Sicherheit"), “E” – semi-automatic fire ("Einzelfeuer") and “F” – continuous fire ("Feuerstoss"). The weapon safety disables the trigger when engaged. HK also offers several other trigger options, including the so-called “Navy” 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. An integrated, manual safety mechanism prevents accidental firing (this is an improved trigger group from the G3 rifle).

The G36 feeds from proprietary 30-round curved magazines with cartridges loaded in a staggered pattern. The magazines are molded from a high-strength translucent polymer and can be clipped together using built-in coupling studs into 2 or 3-magazine packs allowing up to five magazines to be carried side-by-side on the rifle ready for rapid magazine changes. The magazines are not compatible with NATOmarker-standard STANAG magazines, as introduced in the M16. However, the G36 can be used with Beta C-Mag drum magazines (produced by Beta Company), that have a 100-round cartridge capacity and are intended to be used primarily with the MG36 light support weapon.

The weapon is equipped with a side-folding skeletonized stock and a detachable folding bipod, which folds into recesses in the handguard. The G36 can be fired with the stock collapsed. The underside of the butt-stock has holes into which assembly pins can be placed during weapon cleaning and maintenance.

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 the reciprocating parts move on steel rails molded into the receiver (this feature was issued a US patent, number 5513461, authored by Helmut Weldle).


Dual combat sighting system ZF 3x4° as used on German G36A1 assault rifles.
Dual combat sighting system ZF 3x4° 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 3x4° dual optical sight that combines a 3x 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 red-dot sight (calibrated for firing at 200 m) mounted on top of the telescopic sight. The red dot sight is activated by ambient light during the day and requires battery power in a zero light environment.

The export versions have a single optical sight with a 1.5x 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. 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 red dot sight removed, as in the G36V. The optical sight system is produced by Hensoldt AG (a subsidiary of Carl Zeiss AG).

Operating mechanism

The G36 is a gas-operated weapon that uses burnt powder gases from the barrel, bled through a vent near the muzzle which transmits the gas thrust to the bolt carrier, providing automation to the moving assembly; it fires from a closed bolt position. The weapon uses a self-regulating spring-buffered short-stroke gas piston system (the rifle has no gas valve). The rotary bolt features 7 radial locking lugs and its rotation is controlled by a cam pin guided inside a camming guide cut-out in the bolt carrier. The bolt also houses a spring-loaded casing extractor and an ejector.

The bolt is automatically locked to the rear when the last round is expended, but the bolt catch can be deactivated. The bolt catch button is located at the forward end of the trigger guard. The spring-loaded folding cocking handle extends forward in line with the barrel of the rifle (it is located on top of the receiver, under the carry handle). It can be swung to either side of the receiver, depending on whether the user is right or left-handed and is locked when pressed inward. When locked at a perpendicular angle to the receiver, the handle can be used as a forward assist to force the bolt into battery, or to extract a stuck cartridge casing (the cocking handle's design is protected in the US by patent number 5821445, by Manfred Guhring).

Spent cartridge casings are ejected through a port located on the right side of the receiver. A brass deflector keeps cases from striking left-handed operators in the face. There is no ejection port cover as the bolt closes the ejection port to particulates when it is forward. The weapon features a hammer-type striking mechanism.


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 an AK-74 blade bayonet (many of which are left over in Germany from stocks of the former National People's Army).


  • G36E/V: Previously known as the G36E, it is the export version of the standard G36. The G36V has all of the characteristics of the standard rifle with the exception of the sight setup and bayonet mount. It is fitted with a 1.5x sight and lacks the integrated reflex sight; the bayonet mount is a standard NATO type. This version was produced for Spain.
  • MG36: (MG—Maschinengewehr or "machine gun") light machine gun version of the G36 equipped with a heavy barrel for increased heat and cook-off resistance. The MG36 and MG36E are no longer offered by H&K.

  • G36K: (K—kurz or "short") carbine variant with a shorter barrel (fitted with an open-type flash suppressor) and a shorter forend, which includes a bottom rail that can be used to attach tactical accessories, such as a UTL flashlight from the USP pistol. The carbine's barrel lacks the ability to launch rifle grenades and it will not support a bayonet. The weapon retained the ability to be used with the AG36 grenade launcher. G36Ks in service with German special forces are issued with a 100-round C-Mag drum. There are two variants of the G36K. The first and most commonly known has x3 scope/carry handle attached to the top. The second and highly preferred variant of the G36K is the one with the iron sights and rail(NO SCOPE INCLUDED). It allows for more customization of optics and is more portable than the other variant.
  • G36C: This subcarbine (C—compact) model is a further development of the G36K. It has a shorter barrel (than the G36K), and a four-prong open-type flash hider. The extremely short barrel forced designers to move the gas block closer to the muzzle end and reduce the length of the gas piston operating rod. The handguard and stock were also shortened and the fixed carry handle (with optics) was replaced with a carrying handle with an integrated MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rail. The dual optical sight found on the standard G36 and G36K models was replaced with a set of rail-mounted detachable iron sights that consist of a semi-shrouded front post and a flip-up rear sight with two apertures of different diameter. The short handguard has six accessory attachment points, one of which could be used for a vertical grip.

  • G36A2: This is an ordnance designation allocated to an upgraded variant of the G36 used by the German Army. The G36A2 is equipped with a quick-detachable Zeiss RSA reflex red dot sight mounted on a Picatinny rail that replaces the original red dot sight of the dual combat sighting system. The G36A2 upgrade kit also consists of a new handguard with three Picatinny rails and a handgrip with an integrated switch for operating an Oerlikon Contraves LLM01 laser light module.

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, 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 – 980-1030 mm and a trigger rated at 20 N.


A Latvian soldier with the G36KV/AG36 combination.
Montenegrin soldier holding G36.

See also



External links

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