The German Defence Ministry has halted new orders of H&K’s G36 rifle. The Defense Ministry took the action after troops in Afghanistan complained that the H&K built rifles couldn’t hit their targets during prolonged firefights. It’s a serious problem; engagement distances in Afghanistan have tended to be much greater than originally envisioned when the rifle was designed. From the AFP (via ChannelNewsAsia) . . .
German troops in Afghanistan in recent years voiced concerns over the G36 automatic rifle made by Heckler & Koch, saying it became inaccurate when its barrel heated up in prolonged firefights.
The military initially blamed the use of unsuitable munitions, but the government auditing body the Bundesrechnungshof has now ordered a new investigation, reported the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
“It is important to avoid that the defence ministry invests up to 34 million euros ($46 million) in a rifle that may not meet the requirements of the troops,” the court was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
The G36 has been the German Army’s main battle rifle since 1997. H&K designed the gun as a replacement for the aging G3 platform (which used the much heavier 7.62 NATO rounds that were quickly going out of fashion in modern militaries).
Guns are typically sighted in during a slow-firing session, where the barrel remains relatively cool. As the barrel heats up, the uneven expansion of the barrel material causes the gun to shift and the bullet impacts to wander off target. During a prolonged engagement it wouldn’t be surprising for the accuracy of a firearm to diminish considerably, especially with the relatively thin barrel used in the G36.
This isn’t a new complaint; the first reports of the issue started surfacing in April of 2012. The claim was that after a couple hundred rounds the rifle became ineffective at ranges past 200 meters and almost completely useless past 300 meters. At the time H&K blamed the ammunition. The Ministry of Defense seemed content with that answer. However it now looks like yet another branch of the government has gotten wind of the situation and decided to step in.
Germany currently fields around 180,000 G36 rifles, with hundreds of thousands more in the hands of friendly militaries and law enforcement agencies around the world.