Communique: Current media reports regarding the G36 assault rifle

Recent articles in the German media (first and foremost „Spiegel Online“ of April 1st, 2012) suggest that the G36 assault rifle developed and manufactured by Heckler & Koch GmbH, Oberndorf (“HK”) is either of limited use or worse, not suitable for continuous fire fights or burst fire applications. Moreover the reports claim the dispersion of the G36 would be disproportionately high when the weapon has reached high temperatures from continuous fire.

HK considers these latest media reports part of a complex slur campaign against the company which commenced two years ago.  So far this campaign coerced several authorities with regards to accusations of antitrust infringements and violation of export regulations.

Now for the first time the media suggests that the technical reputation and the quality of the products of HK are inferior. Media reports provide the impression HK supplies products which are of limited use or not suitable for combat. In addition, colluding parties are intentionally trying to place the fighting forces of the German Army in Afghanistan in context with this matter.

Given the fact that soldiers of the German armed forces and allied military forces risk their lives every single day, misguided and factually wrong reports appear cynical and in bad taste.

HK makes the following statement:

1.) The G36 assault rifle is the standard rifle of the German armed forces and more than 30 allied nations. Over the past 15 years the German armed forces alone have received 180,000 G36 units. Every single rifle was manufactured, inspected and delivered to the German armed forces under the supervision of the military quality control department of the procurement authority.

2.) The Technical Terms of Delivery (“TTD”) for the G36 rifle as issued by the Office for Defense Technology and Procurement which is a part of the contract terms between HK and the German authorities, include an accuracy test which was documented and passed by every rifle delivered. The TTD does not contain any test or inspection criteria, requiring a specified accuracy performance when the barrel is extremely hot from firing several hundred rounds. As a result the G36 rifles were delivered as specified. Claiming that the G36 rifle has “defects” with regards to the accuracy performance is therefore illegal and will be pursued by HK with legal means.

3.) Until today there has not been a single official complaint by the German armed forces in relation to the accuracy of the G36 when shot whilst the barrel is hot. Neither is HK aware of any intentions of the German armed forces to file such a complaint.

4.) Over more than 10 years of missions by the German armed forces in Afghanistan, HK has obtained not a single complaint by members of the troops in combat regarding the accuracy of the G36 rifle when shot whilst hot.

5.) The TTD do not contain any test or inspection criteria which require an accuracy test when the barrel is extremely hot. Due to physical reasons – and therefore independent from any manufacturer –at high rates of fire or extreme firing cycles the accuracy changes which means the dispersion of every small arm increases.

Therefore it comes as no surprise, that the corresponding NATO manual of proof and inspection “AC225/D14” does not prescribe a test procedure for an accuracy test for a hot weapon, even more so that the passing of such a non-existent test would be a requirement for the adoption of an assault rifle in a NATO member state. In addition for more than 60 years of manufacturing for governments HK does not know of any customer, who has implemented such a test criteria. The phenomenon of increased dispersion of a hot weapon has been well known since at least the late 19th century and with this in mind, it is surprising to observe that so called weapon-technology experts make an issue of it.

6.) If media reports refer to current investigations of the G36 rifle by the German armed forces, HK hereby confirms that it neither possesses the necessary documents which would support this, nor does HK know on which internal legal basis the German armed forces has conducted these investigations. In fact, HK has to act on the assumption that such information was provided to the media by individuals within the German armed forces in written or oral form but at least incomplete and with question of its legality.

7.) The “operator’s manual” referred to in the media reports, stating that the weapon has to be cooled down to a warm temperature after firing 150 rounds, can only be the official service bulletin for the G36 rifle (issued by the German armed forces), which has been in circulation for more than 15 years. The number of 150 rounds derives from the fact that every G36 rifle is supplied with five 30-round magazines (a total of 150 cartridges) and soldiers are equipped with these five magazines.

8.) The G36 is an assault rifle with single fire mode and burst fire mode. The G36 – like all assault rifles worldwide – is intended to be used primarily in single fire mode or in short bursts. The instruction for soldiers to avoid firing full auto or long bursts is not intended to preserve the G36 rifle. This can be traced back to the fact that in burst fire mode – due to the recoil of the weapon – the gun cannot be used accurately, resulting in waste of ammunition. As an example in August 2008 several French soldiers in Afghanistan were killed at the end of a firefight with Taliban forces that had lasted for several hours, because the French soldiers simply ran out of ammunition. To conserve ammunition, and especially to avoid useless expenditure of ammunition full auto mode must be kept to a minimum, in the event that the troops are in continuous combat or need to maintain the position in the event support from heavier weapons will be delayed or not arrive at all, e. g. to avoid collateral damages by bombs or artillery.

9.) The G36 is an assault rifle and not a marksman rifle but for an assault rifle it shows a surprisingly high degree of accuracy. Independent of this, firing a weapon in full auto mode – especially at distances of more than 100 meters - significantly increases the risk of collateral damages amongst civilians due to the recoil-related increased dispersion, and can therefore result in criminal prosecution due to for example injury or involuntary manslaughter caused by negligence. For combat distances beyond 300 meters the German armed forces recently acquired so called Designated Marksman Rifles (DMRs) type G3ZF-DMR and G28 which feature the higher-performance 7.62 mm NATO caliber. In addition and as far as HK is aware, for the German armed forces it is common code of practice to utilize weapons in 5.56 mm NATO caliber (such as the G36 rifle) for combat distances up to a maximum of 300 meters. Thus discussing the performance of the G36 at distances of more than 300 meters appears ambiguous in several respects.

10.) In emergency situations the G36 rifle can even be used as a magazine-fed light machine gun and was used as such by the German armed forces under the designation MG36 until the adoption of the belt-fed MG4. In at least one incident the G36 has replaced an MG4, which was disabled due to enemy action in a battle in Afghanistan and was used in this role successfully. Today, by tactical definition, the G36 is used by the German armed forces exclusively as an assault rifle, since it is magazine fed, whereas machine guns like the MG3 and the MG4 are belt fed, have higher ammunition capacity and are therefore used exclusively in their tactical role as “sustained fire weapons” within the infantry group.

11.) As far as performance or hit probabilities of the G36 assault rifle at combat distances of up to 300 meters is concerned, for basic physical reasons, statements should always be phrased against the parameters of ammunition type, number of rounds fired and firing cycle. The statement of rounds fired without at the same time specifying the firing cycle (proportion of single and burst fire against a defined time period, in which the rounds were fired) fails from a technical standpoint and is meaningless in a combat tactical sense, since it misses any technical comparability.

12.) Regardless of these facts, discussing the accuracy performance of an assault rifle after firing several hundred rounds in a short period of time is pointless. The heat flickering off the gun barrel (“mirage effect”) is so strong that optically acquiring a target accurately is more than questionable to impossible.

13.) Countless German and allied soldiers owe their lives to the G36 assault rifle and the whole product range of Heckler & Koch. Users all over the world, even under adverse conditions have enormous and fully justified trust in the performance of Heckler & Koch products.

Heckler & Koch is part of the western security infrastructure, especially of NATO- and NATO-allied nations. Every day at Heckler & Koch more than 700 women and men do their very best on the basis of what is technically feasible, to provide products to people that trust their lives to Heckler & Koch weapons and expect maximum functional reliability and accuracy even under most adverse field conditions.

Oberndorf/Neckar, April 3, 2012

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