The long saga of the German Army and their continual disappointment in the Heckler & Koch G36 rifle may finally be at an end. After months of reports about the astoundingly bad accuracy of the G36 when it gets hot (which is any time except for the five minutes around midnight in Afghanistan, it seems) the German army has made the decision to stop fielding the G36 rifle and replace it with something better. This much we already knew. Our suspicion was that the replacement would be the HK 416, a rifle in the same caliber as the G36. but more in line with the Stoner derivatives in use by every other modern nation. According to one report, though, the German army has apparently gone with…the HK417? . . .
Junior Defence Minister Katrin Suder decided to spend €18 million on 600 new rifles and 600 new machine guns for frontline soldiers to replace some of the defective weapons, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Friday.
The army will take delivery of the full number of HK417 rifles, a type already in use with some special forces units, by mid-2016.
There’s a major difference between the HK416 (our suspected replacement) and the HK417 (the reported replacement), and that’s caliber. While the 416 uses standard magazines that fit everything from the American M16 to the Israeli Tavor and the same 5.56 NATO ammunition as everyone else, the HK417 is chambered in 7.62 NATO and uses proprietary magazines. That means no swapping magazines with your battle buddies, no leeching off the ammo supply of others in a pinch, and a relatively limited magazine capacity (20 rounds compared to 30 in the HK 416).
I’m betting that this is a reporting error instead of actual fact. I have no doubt that one of H&K’s modern rifle variants will be the successor to the G36 (and might help H&K get out of bankruptcy since the Germans will need a ton of new guns all of a sudden), but I sincerely doubt that the HK417 is the rifle of choice. The training required to accustom soldiers to the new gun, combined with the supply chain changes to switch to a new caliber for the main battle rifle, is so daunting as to make the change practically unthinkable. In addition, this would be the first modern nation to swap back to a full power .30 caliber cartridge after having moved to the intermediate .22 caliber round when all the other cool kids were doing it.
This sounds more like a European reporter who knows as little about firearms as I know about WWE wrestling getting two very similar models mixed up. Naturally we will keep you up to date.