German Army G36 automatic rifle with Zeiss RSA-S Reflex Sight and 40-mm grenade launcher.
Firm on ... wreckage!
It all began with the fact that in 1945 French troops destroyed the Mauser arms factory. However, its chief engineers Edmund Heckler, Theodor Koch and Alex Seidel managed to save something from the wreckage, and this was the beginning of the arms company they created, registered in the winter of 1949 under the name Heckler und Koch GmbH. However, at first, no one even thought of letting out weapons on it. The company made sewing machines, measuring instruments and just ordinary tools and much more. Only in 1956, when the Bundeswehr needed a new weapon, the company's engineers offered the army men the G3 rifle. In 1959, she entered service and thus the military career of H&K began. The original G3 was not in fact. Its semi-free breech system was borrowed from one of the developments of the Mauser company. However, it was she who for many years became the hallmark of the H&K company, and was used both in the G3 automatic rifles and in the MP-5 submachine guns.
Norwegian rifle AG-3 caliber 7,62 mm. Essentially G3. Right view
Failure with the G11 rifle
Almost immediately after this, H&K specialists began to develop a unique G3 rifle to replace the G11, designed to use caseless cartridges of 4,7 mm caliber, with a cut-off when firing 3 shots, so that the recoil would act on the shooter only after all three bullets had left would be the bore. There were many unusual solutions in the rifle. For example, three 50-charge magazines were located on its receiver at once, although the cartridges were fed from only one. The work progressed with great difficulty, but by 1990 the G11 was fully developed and even put into service. However, it almost immediately fell a "victim of politics", because at that time the Berlin Wall fell, and NATO decided to unify ammunition for small arms.
G11 rifle. Right view
Put away, take a closer look!
All this hurt the company. She was on the verge of bankruptcy and was bought by the British arms concern Royal Ordnance. However, in 2002, the British again sold it to private investors Heckler and Koch Beteiligungs GmbH. A year later, the company split. One unit began to produce military weapons, and the other sports and hunting. In addition, she has a branch in the United States in Arlington, Virginia. The latter was a necessary measure, since under US law the purchase of weapons by government agencies and the army can only be carried out by national manufacturers who pay taxes to the federal and state budgets at the place of registration. This was done because the American small arms market turned out to be more priority for the company than all others. In addition, while in the United States, the company found it easier to fulfill all the requirements of the tactical and technical tasks of the American army.
New time, new songs!
Meanwhile, already in the 90 year, in all the armies of the leading countries of the world, there was a transition to weapons under low-pulse cartridges, and only Germany, which had once been ahead of the rest in this direction, was now trailing in the tail with its 7,62 × 51 mm NATO cartridge. Which, by the way, has long required the transition to the 5,56-mm caliber, and the 7,62 × 51 mm cartridge was recommended to be kept only for unified machine guns and sniper rifles.
Swedish Ak-4 - Another G3 Option
In addition, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the military doctrine of the FRG itself changed dramatically. Now the priorities of the Bundeswehr are peacekeeping and anti-terrorism operations, the fight against international drug trafficking and arms smuggling, sometimes in difficult and difficult geographical conditions. The bulky and heavy G3 didn’t do much for this, and of course, fire in bursts with such a powerful cartridge from it turned out to be ineffective.
A purely physical one was added to moral aging - the old rifles simply worked out their entire resources and they urgently needed to be replaced! With the finances of the Bundeswehr in the early 90-ies it was not very good, so we decided not to develop new weapons, but to hold a competition to select the best available weapons. As a result, a group of representatives of the Air Force and Navy selected 10 models of machine guns and 7 models of light machine guns, of which the Austrian Steyr AUG and the German HK50 turned out to be the best. The internal designation of the rifle was G36, and now its commission finally took it away.
AR-18 in German
The most interesting thing is that the design of the new rifle actually repeated the American AR-1963 company ArmaLite, created back in 18. In fact, it was a simplified clone of AR-15 / M-16, which also used a gas piston, instead of directly diverting gases to the valve, but the U.S. Army chose an earlier model, and refused a later one. And although this rifle was also produced, in particular in England and Japan, it did not find much popularity, except that it was lit up among the IRA terrorists and in the movie “Terminator”.
Rifle AR-180 - one of the options AR-18
According to the same principle, that is, with the use of automation with a short stroke of the piston, which has its own spring, the German G36 was arranged. Experts noted the comfortable nature of firing from this rifle, excellent ergonomics (you can control the rifle with both your left and right hands) and good characteristics with regard to accuracy of fire. A transparent plastic store made it possible to control the ammunition consumption, and the butt was able to be folded, which was not achieved in the case of the M-16 rifle.
The rifle was adopted and German units began to use it in Afghanistan. And only then it became clear that with prolonged shooting the rifle overheats so that it is no longer possible to use it. Even if its heating was not too large, its accuracy still drops dramatically, cleaning its piston group is difficult, and the trigger is simply impossible. In addition, the plastic stores cracked in the cold, and the rifle itself was heavier, albeit not by much, of our AK-74.
As a result, already in March 2015, both the German Ministry of Defense and the government were forced to admit that the G36 did not live up to expectations, and in April it was decided to completely withdraw from service all the 167 000 G36 rifles fired by that time. So another clone of the American rifle AR-15 suffered a crushing fiasco.
Zigzag of Luck
But then the company quickly drew conclusions and managed to rectify the situation. A new HK416 assault rifle was created, but already based on the AR-15 rifle itself and very similar to the American M4 carbine. With the same T-shaped cocking handle, but with a gas engine with a short stroke of the gas piston. The devil is in the details, and in this case, preserving as a whole all the main details of the system, the Germans went through minor alterations and improvements. They increased the survivability of the barrel, which is done by cold forging, improved the operation of the piston group, and the new machine stopped overheating (as did the M4), or rather, let’s say so - the heat from firing became acceptable. True, I had to abandon the butt, leaning to the right. Therefore, the HK416 had to put all the same multi-position telescopic stock similar to what was previously on the M4.
Meanwhile, the US military decided that the assault rifles based on the M-16 \ AR-15 no longer meet all the requirements of modern combat. Moreover, the system has completely exhausted the possibilities of modernization. As is customary, a competition for new designs was announced. And according to its results, the US Marine Corps just chose the NK 416 rifle (the American designation M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR)). The fact is that the US Marine Corps does not obey the army and decides what to shoot its fighters from.
HK416N Norwegian Army
It was decided to purchase 50 M814 automatic rifles, which were to be produced by Heckler & Koch. The rearmament process began a year ago, so the company can be congratulated on its success. She also went into service with the Norwegian special forces, which, of course, speaks of her rather high combat characteristics. However, experts say that the NK27, although it surpasses the M-416 in reliability, still falls short of the Kalashnikov assault rifle. Moreover, the rifles FN FNC, FN SCAR and Sig Sauer 16 have a higher rate. So the Norwegians complain that in winter temperatures typical for Norway, it happens to fail. Increased dustiness also harms it and leads to failures, although there are fewer of them than under the same conditions for the M550, and cleaning a new sample is much easier.
NK416F-S Army of France. Author photo
Here we see the same rifle, but also show pockets for shops and a “super” glove in the upper right corner of the photo
But the greatest success awaited the German company in Europe, where Heckler & Koch managed to win a tender for the supply of new assault rifles for the French army. It featured the HK416F rifle, which competed with samples from Beretta, Sig Sauer, HS Produkt and FN Herstal and was able to outperform its competitors. As a result, it was accepted into service and its massive deliveries began.
HK416A5 is a shorter version. Author photo
The 416 mm HK5,56F model, designed to replace the old FAMAS, exists in two versions (with a long and a short barrel), and it will take about 400 thousand units of new "equipment" to completely replace it, plus American order, so in this case, Heckler & Koch worked very, very effectively. In addition, the new model also includes all kinds of accessories for it, civilian models, which will immediately follow to the market, following the main army models, so that the profit, in the end, and a very considerable company is guaranteed. However, the German quality is inherent in the AR-15 rifle and other German firms, but more on that in the continuation of this material.
HK417 is distinguished only by the caliber 7,62-mm and the fact that it is used by snipers. Author photo
R. S. It is very rare that you prepare some material, and the information for it literally floats into your hands. In this case, I was lucky to be in Paris on the 14 of July and attend the celebration of the capture of the Bastille. For this reason, the Museum of the Army had an exposition of modern weapons of the army of the French Republic, starting with the Mirage fighter, drones and BA, and ending with its modern gunner. These photos were also taken there, and most importantly, they managed to hold all these rifles in their hands and talk with those who represented them. “Our FAMAS is out of date!” - an officer at the stand told me. "But ... what about the traditions of the French rifle school ... the prestige of the nation ..." "We take the best, but where it comes from, today it does not matter." Here is an opinion, yes! However, it is convenient to hold the rifle in your hands (not heavy and very handy), although due to the abundance of angles on the Picatinny rails the forend is not too comfortable to hold. But in those gloves that are shown in the upper photo, this inconvenience is most likely not felt.
But this photo is very funny. Although it is strictly forbidden to take photographs of the French army, and all attempts to persuade them to stop them are in the bud, I still managed to beg this to be taken with my granddaughter. Well ... he couldn’t refuse such a blonde, and as a result we see a photo of a soldier in full outfit for security missions in an urban environment. Moreover, his rifle is still old - FAMAS, although many of the soldiers who patrolled Paris on 14 in July already had brand new HK416
To be continued ...