The HK G36 Rifle
by Kim Foster
HECKLER & KOCH is known for manufacturing rifles, pistols and submachine guns that are used by military and law enforcement personnel around the world. They also provide training for military, law enforcement and qualified civilians through their International Training Division.
During the summer of 2000 I attended an HK Tactical Rifle course in Columbia, Mo. It was five days of excellent training. We did double taps, body armor drills, multiple targets, full auto, malfunction clearing, room entries, night shooting and a lot of other fun stuff. We also did some penetration and deflection tests on various types of glass.
The International Training Division will supply HK firearms for their classes at the student's option. I used their new G36 .223 cal. assault rifle. It has a polymer receiver, a sturdy polymer folding stock and free floating handguard. The civilian, semi auto version of the G36 is sold as the SL8.
The G36 is gas operated, using a piston so that no gas fouling is directed into the action. The receiver is made of polymer. The pistol grip/trigger mechanism, magazine well and handguard are easily removed by four push pins for field stripping and cleaning. Unlike AR type weapons the HK push pins come completely out of the receiver, so care must be taken not to lose them. The folding stock has four holes in it to hold the pins during field stripping. This modular design makes replacement of broken parts very simple. Barrel length can be 12.5 or 18.9 inches, rate of twist is 1 in 7 inches. Weight is a little over seven pounds, empty.
I'm not a fan of side folding stocks, but I must admit, the G36 stock operated smoothly and locked rigidly into place. The cocking lever is positioned on top of the receiver and is ambidextrous. The cocking lever reciprocates with the bolt so you want to make sure your fingers are forward, on the handguard. The safety is also ambidextrous. It's position and function is identical to AR type rifles. The magazine release is the "AK" flapper style, located at the rear of the magazine well. The trigger pull was somewhat mushy, but broke cleanly and was acceptable.
Except for zeroing the sights, we didn't do any accuracy testing. The instructors said the rifle would shoot two to three inch groups at 100 yards. After shooting 2,000 rounds through the rifle, at ranges out to 150 yards, I'd say that was about right. The magazines held 30 rounds and were made from a clear polymer, so you could tell at a glance how many rounds were left in the magazine. There are locking tabs on the sides of the mags, enabling two or more magazines to be stuck together. This made magazine changes very quick, however having the weight of more than two magazines hanging out of the gun makes it very muzzle heavy and thus fatiguing during range drills. Recoil was mild, equivalent to an M16.
HK offers several sighting systems for the G36. The one I used was the Dual Sight System. Consisting of a 3.5X scope with a circle pattern reticule, and above that a Red Dot sight. The scope and dot zero independently. We concentrated on using the scope. Since most of our shooting was under 50 yards, however, the 3.5X had too narrow a field of view for practical applications. Shooting at night, the scope didn't gather much light; it was difficult see the reticule or the target clearly unless you used a very bright light.
Reliability was decent but not perfect. I had a double feed malfunction once a day for the first 3 days. On day four, the cocking lever broke off, requiring replacement of the bolt assembly. Other than that, I had no problems or malfunctions.
Overall, I liked the G36. All the student weapons had seen a lot of use but were still functional. I attribute the malfunctions I had to a worn extractor.
I also enjoyed the course. For me, one of the advantages of the HK training was being able to shoot a weapon I was not familiar with. The staff was knowledgeable, professional and easy to talk to. The curriculum was fast paced with not much down time. I highly recommend HK classes and plan to take another course from them in the future.
Author and his Colt HBAR pictured below in photo taken a few years ago.
copyright 2003 by the author, all rights reserved.