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Heckler & Koch has been under fire recently in Germany for their G36 rifles. Soldiers in the field have been complaining about the terrible accuracy they are seeing during sustained firefights, and the complaints have been so persuasive that the German government stopped buying them altogether. A proper solution to the issue hasn’t been found yet, but there’s some circumstantial evidence to support the idea that Germany is about to switch from the G36 to the newly designated G38 — otherwise known as the HK416 . . .

From a German gun blog:

The assault rifle HK416A5 made ​​by Heckler & Koch now runs under the German procurement official designation G38. The Bundeswehr cataloger recently took the version with 11 “pipe (279 mm) under the short name G38c in their overviews on. Background: A federal agency has already obtained this version of the weapon.

The move would make sense. The armed forces of Europe have been using wildly different firearms for decades, but most seem to have standardized around the STANAG M-16 style magazine for interoperability. One of the only countries to shun that ammo-sharing capability is Germany, which has stuck with their rocking G36 magazine design (pun intended).

The accuracy issues seen with the G36 might be just the excuse that the boys in Berlin have been looking for to switch over to the HK416 platform and join the rest of Europe in STANAG compatibility. Especially since joint military operations seems to be a permanent fixture for peacekeeping and military action for the foreseeable future, being able to play nicely with your allies would be a definite benefit.

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  1. The German government determined there wasn’t anything wrong with the G36 and blamed the ammunition used. I don’t think they are in a hurry to replace them. Just because a federal agency adopted the rifle and it got assigned a number does not say much as far as it replacing the G36, especially considering they have nearly identical capabilities.

    Also, there is no STANAG magazine.

    • Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t someone mention that the malfunction was due to the barrel sagging in the polymer trunnion when too the rifle was overheated? If I remember correctly, that’s why the MG36 never really worked properly. If that’s the case, then the G38 handily solves that problem, but it’s still a half-measure; ideally a solution to having to fire that many rounds from an assault rifle should be found for the Bundeswehr soldier.

    • Except there is STANAG mags. You may personally call it whatever you want but the standard M16 mag is compatable with several different rifles and thus the standard mag of the NATO alliance. This fact is not arguable.

      • Do you know what a STANAG is? It is a formal document binding member nations to use certain equipment or material. There is a STANAG for different ammunition, rocket propellent, explosives, etc. but they never ratified one for a magazine. There is no STANAG magazine.

        • So? That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, it is as mentioned the defacto standard magazine for western nations regardless of what’s on paper.

        • Maybe not de jure, but de facto. I thought I read somewhere that they were originally going to have an officially STANAG magazine, but talks or agreements didn’t occur for some reason. But just for practicality, there is unnofficially a STANAG magazine in NATO, with some exceptions of course.

  2. What is the impetus for the super short (11 inch in this case) barrels? Sure, that short barrel is more maneuverable when clearing a building. But how many buildings do modern day infantry expect to clear?

    Those short barrels and increased maneuverability come at a cost: significantly decreased muzzle velocity, decreased long range accuracy, seriously decreased “stopping power” at long ranges, and increased muzzle blast. If I were in infantry, I would want a 16 inch barrel.

    • I’m not an expert, nor do I play one on TV, but from what I’ve gathered, it’s the trend towards blindly accepting whatever the spec-ops forces use, without stopping to consider why it is they use it. I personally think HK should be developing a bullpup system, or that an alternative caliber should be pursued, but such measures are unpopular at best, and unfeasible at the worst. So, it seems the near future is in SBR-styled carbines. The picture could simply be coincidental though; a glance at HKs website indicates the 416A5 (read, G38) is available with 11″, 14.5″, 16″, and 20″ barrels, meaning the pictured rifle is likely a G38c.

    • Short barrel accuracy is not relevant when using optics.

      Loss of muzzle velocity with a cartridge that depends on velocity to do damage is an issue though.

    • Short barrels make life easier not just in a cqb or mout enviroment, but also when operating in vehicles. I’m in the infantry, and I’ll gladly keep my M4 rather than have an M16.

        • There are several different prototype/production folding stocks for AR designs. The problem is that the rifle cannot be fired while the stock is folded, because the stock contains the buffer tube.

      • M4 has a 16 inch barrel. M16 has a 20″ barrel, someone on the infantry aught to know that, I do, I was. The issue here is the extreme shortness of 11 inches. That effects round capability quite a bit.

        • If you have the experience you claim, then you should know that the M4 does not have a 16″ barrel, it has a 14.5″ barrel.

        • No it doesn’t you wanna be. It’s a 14.5 inch barrel with a 1.5 inch muzzle break making the overall barrel 16 inches. Try again.

        • Good job showing you have no idea what you’re talking about. A) it’s spelled muzzle brake. B) Gun barrel: “A tube, usually metal, through which a controlled explosion or rapid expansion of gases are released in order to propel a projectile out of the end at a high velocity.” A flash hider or muzzle brake does not control the explosion or increase velocity. It is not a barrel (legal definitions of permanently attached muzzle devices with regards to the NFA notwithstanding).

        • The A2 flash suppressor has two holes/vents in the top and zero at the bottom. You could argue it is some form of muzzle brake since it does reduce climb.

          Pedantics man strikes again.

        • Good job showing me you’ve never served and your a punk ass. You simply stated the definition of a barrel, whoopty freakin do, how many dudes you ever see rolling around without the muzzle BREAK on?

        • What he’s getting at is that neither the A2 flash hider (Nor any flash hider or suppressor that I am aware of) has ANY ability to further accelerate a bullet, nor can it further impart spin to the projectile with rifling. In fact, if the flash hider COULD do these things, it would cease to function as a flash hider, as the propellant gases would not be cooled, dissipated, or stoicheometrically rearranged; thus, it would not diminish muzzle flash. What you’re referring to is a length measured for the purpose of determining ‘concealibility’, while the OPs point refers to barrel length as far as altering the ballistics of the round is concerned.

          TL;DR, a flash hider is not a barrel.

        • @The Brotherhood of Steel: If you are going to call someone a punk ass because they don’t agree with you and then posit that they did not serve in the military because they disagree with you over the semantics of what constitutes measured barrel length, then I would prefer that you keep the fact that you served to yourself because it is making the rest of us look bad.

          Also, a flash hider is not a barrel.

        • For the love of God! It’s a brake. BRAKE! not break.

          regarding barrel length: M4 has 14.5 inch barrel with 1.5 inch flash hider. This means that ballistically it has a 14.5 inch barrel while in regards to manoeuvrability it has a 16 inch barrel.

        • Sometimes a pedant, more often than not a punk ass, and usually right. Better to be a punk ass than a dumb ass.

        • @Charles5, what? You got a problem with name calling? What are you a girl scout? He is a punkass because he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. Just because you can list the definition of a barrel off of Wikipedia doesn’t make you right.

        • Oh right, nothing at all. Except for the fact you don’t know how long an M4 barrel is and can’t tell the difference between breaking your muzzle and braking it, absolutely nothing.

        • @The Brotherhood of Steel: I actually had you figured for a girl scout since name calling is what I would expect from a little girl.

      • Barrel length aside, the 5.56 lacks sufficient penetration to be effective in an urban environment. You need somehting like a 300BLK at a minimum.

        • Does it? Maybe you should notify the guys from Barnes, they’ll want to know that all their R&D is vaporware.

        • Penetration has never been a problem with the 5.56 NATO ammo in general. In fact a bigger problem tends to be that at closer ranges/clearing buildings the round over penetrates the human body without dumping enough energy to completely stop the target in one round. This is made up for by multiple shots as a coarse of training. Let’s face it, it still does a butt load of damage if placed around the vitals and someone hit in the torso area by this round does not tend to have a lot of useful fight left in them.

          Still there are better rounds for short range stopping power. The 300Blk is one of those rounds. The other problem with the 5.56 is the stopping power beyond 500 meters. At those ranges good hits to the vitals becomes more important but are harder to pull off. Now realistically the vast majority of soldier aren’t engaging targets at this range with any real hope for good effect with something like an M4. DMR/SPR are more apt for such things and I have always contended that those should be chambered in 7.62.

          For general issue rifles the 5.56 is fine. It isn’t perfect at any one thing really but it does a hell of a job at performing fairly well in most situations. If you are a soldier, that is the sort of thing you usually need unless you are on a dedicated mission where you will only deal with a given range, target type and penetration requirements. As I recall from my own time in uniform, that sort of stuff wasn’t exactly a given on any particular day.

          I do however wonder what the effect of the ever decreasing barrel length means for the performance of the 55 grain, 62 grain and 77 grain ammo. No one had 11 inch barrels in mind when this ammo was designed as far as I know.

      • If the military wants firearms for close quarters and urban combat, then why not go with a large caliber like .45 ACP in a short-barreled (12 inch) carbine? That would provide plenty of “stopping power” and lots of rounds per magazine in a short, maneuverable package. Not that I want to be in front of either one, but I have to imagine a .45 caliber, 230 grain bullet striking someone at 1100 fps or so is going to stop a person more reliably than a .223 caliber, 62 grain bullet striking someone at 2300 fps or so. (At the lower speeds .223 bullets do not fragment or tumble and basically just poke small holes.)

        The only drawback that I can see is .45 ACP does not have enough velocity to penetrate ballistic vests. For that you need velocity (2000+ fps or so?) and you need long barrels to get higher velocities. I am rapidly thinking that 7.62 x 39mm, 300BLK, or even .308 is making a lot more sense … even with a 12 or 14 inch barrel.

        • Since the case on the .45 ACP is a bit larger in diameter than the 5.56, you would actually have less capacity within the same magazine dimension. Also, I still think the 5.56 out of a 12 inch barrel would beat the .45 ACP out of an 12 inch barrel.

        • 7.62x39mm (or 300 BLK if you are tacticool operator) beats both out of a 12 inch barrel. Actually it is the best barrel length for the cartridge. You lose 5%-6.7% velocity from 16 to 12 inches of barrel.

    • Modern day infantry clears more buildings now than in the past, the conventional style of warfare out in the wilderness is not obsolete by any means, but with the terrorists of today they hide among the population.

    • I could not agree more.

      The 5.56 is a small round, basically a .22 with a ton more powder behind it. That said if its going faster than 2600-2700 FPS, the round will enter a soft target and after about 3-5 inches fragment and ruble, creating one hell of a wound.

      Once the speed drops below those numbers the effect lessons and rather quickly you have a .22 round. The fragmentation will stop first but still tumble to some degree. However after enough speed decrees the tumble will even stop.

      To your point, just look up some ballistics charts for the M193 and the M855.

      Off the top of my head I believe that a 16inch barrel will properly work (frag and tumble)for a M193 out to 150 yards and out to 100 yards for M855 (green tip). Dropping down to the M4 14.5inch barrel you take another 50 yards off of those numbers for the round to work properly.

      I can only imagine that an 11inch is pretty much a .22 rifle much past 25 yards. Great for CQB/House clearing ranges if you need something small to maneuver. The blast (noise/flash) is going to be killer, especially indoors.

      • The world doesn’t end at M193 and M855. There is also Mk262, with its longer range and much lower fragmentation threshold, and then of course Mk318 SOST, which doesn’t depend on fragmentation to deliver the punch at all, and expands reliably even out of 8 inch barrels out to 100 yards.

    • Current production 416’s come with barrel lengths 10.4″ – 20″

      The G36 comes with barrels from 9″ – 20″

      The switch is not happening so they can have shorter barrels.

      • For one thing, just because there is a G36 version with a 8″ barrel doesn’t mean that they actually need one. Their primary variant (vanilla G36) has a 19″ barrel, and I doubt that they will make that a requirement. More likely they’ll just standardize on the usual 16″ for main assault rifle, and this compact variant for anyone else who needs one.

        In any case, making the barrel shorter or longer is a fairly trivial affair, especially in a piston driven gun.

  3. Well keep in mind an 11 inch rifle will not be the main assault rifle for the army. This is likely meant for some special forces or security agency. Now there will have to be a solution to the G36 problem eventually, and the 416 is a possible candidate, but as of yet there is nothing to support this. You are reading to much into this.

    By the way, the problem with the G36 is most likely with the polymer trunnion, but Bundeswehr (and HK, understandably) still blame the ammunition. Only apparently, the “Federal Audit Office” didn’t believe it, and little came of it since. I wonder how they’ll find a solution that finally solves the heat problem, yet allows them to keep their reputation.

    • If that’s the issue, can’t they redesign the trunnion and make it metal then retrofit the existing G36 rifles?

      I know nothing about the platform, so I’m genuinely curious.

      • Making the trunnion out of metal would require a radical redesign of both the rifle, and the moulds from which the receiver is made; this would be VERY costly. While it might be possible to modify the moulds to allow for a metal trunnion, the amount of R&D time and money makes the HK416 a more attractive option, especially considering HKs current financial state. All this being said, this particular armchair general doesn’t necessarily think the design is at fault; after all, HK didn’t design the G36 with large volumes of fire in mind. Dumping an entire combat load (or near enough to) of ammunition through the rifle is above and beyond what the system was designed to do. I personally would think the problem could be solved by issuing a greater amount of LMG type weapons, which are designed to give the volumes of fire that the G36 suffers under, leaving the assault rifle for more precise work.

        • The problem with G36 was discovered in actual combat use in Afghanistan. If the rifle wasn’t designed to handle such loads, yet these loads are called for in a combat situation in practice, then the rifle is not designed for combat, period.

        • It’s worth keeping in mind that the G36 was designed in a different era of firearms engineering, where the reality of real-world ammunition consumption was yet to be truly learned. The G36 family functions excellently in roles where its high accuracy, durability, and reliability are the measures of its worth; such as special operations use, or law-enforcement.

          That being said, this doesn’t excuse its allegedly poor performance as an infantry rifle. It is quite likely that a more heat-resistant design, such as the G38, is simply better suited to standard issue on the front line.

  4. I believe the article states the G38c with 11″ barrel was acquired by a German federal agency. I would hazard to guess a law enforcement one. An 11″ barrel doesn’t make a hill of beans difference at room distance.

    The G38, full size, has not been acquired yet for the Bundeswehr, but has received an official designation of G38. Which leads to all of our wild speculation, fan boi-ism.

    (P.S. for all you former “Infantry” types that might have forgotten, the M16A2E4/M16A4 barrel is 20 inch. The M4A1 is 14.5. Please have your facts correct before you enlighten us with yer war stories. Derp.)

      • Barrel length does not traditionally include muzzle brake. In any case, even if it did, then the figure of 20″ that you quoted for M16 is also incorrect.

      • First off, it’s brake. Second. The issued M4 has a flash hider which has some effects of a compensator becase of it’s closed bottom. Brakes control reward and felt recoil and comps help control muzzle rise. Third, it is indeed 14.5 inches. Feel free to attack me too, like you did everybody else who is correct. Cut your losses and shut up, BoS.

      • ARMY TM 9-1005-319-23&P / AIR FORCE TO 11W3-5-5-42 / NAVY SW370-BU-MMI-010 lists the barrel lengths as:

        Carbine: 14.5″
        Rifle: 20″

        Barrel with compensator:

        Carbine: 15.5″
        Rifle: 21″

        End of story.

        (the A2 “flash hider” which the military calls a “compensator” is actually only 1″ long, hence why BCM makes the 1.5″ long A2X for pinning 14.5″ barrels to 16″ OAL)

    • The HK416 isn’t an M4.

      Though I do agree it is a bit boring with the same black rifle everywhere. The Beretta ARX-160 looks interesting to me, especially with the 7.62×39 conversion.

  5. I don’t know why the Germans are even debating this issue. They could issue mop handles to their infantry for all that they’re going to use them in actual battle and save a bunch of money.

      • When I read the German domestic press reporting on the Bundeswehr’s involvement in Afghanistan, it is clear that their political leadership has no appetite for actual combat operations. The German public’s perception of what the Bundeswehr does in deployments is that of “peacekeepers” and “meals on wheels.” When they started taking combat KIA’s in increasing numbers starting about six years ago, the German public’s support for foreign deployments started going down, down, and down.

        The German military command changed their ROE in 2009 so that they could finally fire upon hostiles before the Germans were getting shot up – and this caused political controversy in Germany, with declining public support for any involvement in Afghanistan.

        The future, as I see it, is for the Bundeswehr to be doing jack-all in actual combat operations. They’re going to go through the motions in training, but they’re going to do basically nothing of substance in combat because the German public and their politicians want (in polling I’ve read recently, by about 2-to-1) no involvement or deployment of their military to hot spots in the middle east, Africa and other places where the EU or the US are directing force.

        For that reason, whatever small arms they’re carrying now are probably more than good enough for parade ground duty at home.

        • From some of the articles I have read, you may be right. I just sort of wonder how far Putin will drive into Europe with Neville Chamberlain in the White House.

        • Putin doesn’t have to drive into Europe. Russia has a valve on their natural gas pipelines running to western Europe.

          At some point, the Russians can just “interrupt” the flow of natural gas going down those pipelines, and western Europe (and especially Germany) will buckle quickly. No shots fired, no tanks rolled, nothing.

          Merkel knows this – because she’s been leading Germany down the road to huge energy dependence upon Russia in both natural gas and oil.

        • You’re saying they don’t need a rifle upgrade because is unlikely they’ll need to use it?

          The irony of seeing that opinion on this website cracks me up : )

    • The retard-strength comments are always hilariously full of fail: good for a chuckle, then a groan, then a slowly-building contempt for all of society.

      I’m not sure which is more entertaining/irritating. On the one hand, you have the mall ninjas who consider a “high-risk environment” to be a room with women in it, and who pontificate about which boutique caliber or weapon is “the best for the military;” On the other, behold the illiterate mouth-breathers with alleged service experience who show up to wow us with their hard-won (and demonstrably inaccurate) technical knowledge. Unfortunately, these two groups, when taken together, seem to represent about 90% of the commenting population of TTAG’s vaunted “intelligentsia.”

      To the former: you don’t know what you’re talking about. Shut up. To the latter: you don’t know what you’re talking about. Shut up, and get out of my Army.


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