The 5.56x45mm Heckler & Koch G36, Germany’s regular battle rifle, entered service with the Bundeswehr in 1995, gradually replacing the venerable H&K G3 assault rifle, after the German ministry of defence had rejected H&K’s earlier two offerings, the G11 and the G3-derived G41. Variants have since been adopted by the Spanish armed forces, as well as several law enforcement organizations. The G36 is probably the first totally new firearm in the last two decades (other than the Austrian Steyr AUG) to receive worldwide acclaim as well as commercial contracts. The world’s most popular and widely used battle rifles are almost all derivatives of older weapons; case in point being the Kalashnikov and M16 families, as well as the H&K roller-delayed G3 series. Britain’s L85 was the first brand new service rifle to arrive on the scene after the desert of the 1970s, however its initial lack of hardiness and overcomplication of design (interestingly the same criticisms leveled at the M16 in the 1960s) scuttled any chance of commercial success.
(L/R) G36E export model with 1.5-power scope, G36K carbine with dual scopes & folding stock, G36C commando version with open sights (courtesy world.guns.ru)
Unlike the AUG and the L85, the G36 goes against the grain of recent bullpup rifle design, and is configured more conventionally, with the ammunition box magazine seated in front of the pistol grip and trigger. It also departs from H&K’s long tradition of roller-delayed firing systems, the rifle being a conventional gas-operated weapon.
A sure sign of the G36’s impact on the public’s popular imagination has been its success in the entertainment industry. So far, the G36 or its variants have appeared in no less than twenty-one movies, six TV series, and eight games, making its screen debut in 2001’s Tomb Raider.
Firearms have always featured heavily in popular entertainment, particularly war and action movies, and Hollywood has always had its darlings — the M1928 and M1 Tommy Guns of the pre- and post-World War Two movies, the Ingram M10 and M60 GPMG of the ’70s and ’80s, the M16 and MP5 of the ’90s — with the G36 now joining this glorified armoury. Interestingly, the Kalashnikov family, the world’s most widely-used modern firearm, has never hit the big time, at least not in Hollywood, most probably due to its lack of sophistication and high-tech appeal.
(Clockwise from left) Latvian soldier fires a G36KV fitted with Picatinny rail and AG36 grenade launcher during a live-fire exercise at Ad Diwaniyah in Iraq, 3-power optical sight topped with red-dot sight, optical sight recticle pattern (Wikipedia)
The G36 certainly isn’t lacking in appeal. With its receiver and external parts constructed of reinforced polymers and steel inserts, the major components are all assembled on the receiver using the cross-pins, enabling the rifle to be taken apart and put together without any additional tools. Like the older Steyr AUG, the G36 has a box mag of tranparent plastic that lets the user see at a glance how much more ammo he has. This feature makes the weapon even more popular with Hollywood and its ammo-crunching producers. The fact that the magazine boxes can be clipped together using integral studs hasn’t gone unnoticed either, and this feature was showcased in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines on a specially modified G36K. No more messy tape to bother with. While the G36’s standard mag capacity is thirty rounds, like most battle rifles, the M36 squad automatic weapon (SAW) version of the G36 comes with twin 100-round Beta-C drum mags which can also be used on the G36. No more inconvenient pauses to switch mags; literally hundreds of baddies can be wasted in one go. For the gadget-loving public, the G36 comes not with just one optical sighting system, but two! — a 3.5-power scope built into the carrying handle, and a non-magnifying red dot sight above it. The 3.5-power scope can be used for longer range shooting, while the other sight comes into used in close combat or urban situations. Export models of the G36 comes with only a single 1.5-power scope and emergency open sights built into the carrying handle, while the G36C Commando version can mount a variety of scopes on the Picatinny rail that replaces the carrying handle. The standard G36 can also mount the H&K AG36 40-mm grenade launcher, and appeared kitted out with it in Matrix Reloaded, Resident Evil, and Stealth. Interestingly, in an era when most new entrants into the assault rifle field don’t bother with bayonets, Heckler & Koch has added this ancient weapon to the G36’s arsenal. The standard G36 bayonet is the AK-74-type of East German Army vintage.
(1) Soldiers in V for Vendetta (2) Taye Digg’s Brandt with a G36E in Equilibrium (3) Misnamed G36 in STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl (4) Simon Pegg with a G36C as Sgt Nicholas Angel in Hot Fuzz (5) Terrorist with G36C in Live Free or Die Hard (6) Weyland mercenary with a G36K in Alien vs Predator (7) Martin Lawrence as Burnett in Bad boys II fires a G36C (8) Elizabeth Rodriguez carries a G36C as Gina Calabrese in Miami Vice (9) Colin Salmon as JD Salinas with an AG36-mounted G36K in Resident Evil (10) John Barrowman’s Capt Jack Harkness with two G36Cs in Doctor Who (11) G36C in Battlefield 2 (12) Lycan armed with a G36K in Underworld (13) The G36’s debut in Tomb Raider as a K model in the hands of an Illuminati Special Operative (all pix courtesy the Internet Movie Firearms Database)
If this isn’t sexy enough for Hollywood, the G36 is all set to go into supermodel-mode as it enters the running for the US Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW) project which started in 1986, and is aimed at developing a new multi-purpose battle rifle for the US armed forces. The OICW project, along with the Objective Personal Defensive Weapon (OPDW) and Objective Crew-Served Weapon (OCSW) projects, is a result of the Small Arms Master Plan (SAMP) paper which called for an objective family of infantry weapons that would combine both traditional bullet-firing capabilities with high-explosive ordnance in a single weapon. In Hollywood terms, a gun that can kill people and blow shit up at the same time. H&K’s entry to this project was in the form of the XM-29 SABR/OICW system, which is based on the G36. A typical early model of this weapon combined a 5.56-mm automatic rifle combined with a mag-fed 20-mm semi-auto grenade launcher. Yes, Hollywood loves it, and though they can’t get their hands on it yet, a disguised G36K did appear as an OICW in the hands of Col Moon in the Bond movie Die Another Day. The OICW programme is as yet ongoing, and promises even more futuristic weapons to feed Hollywood, with some models firing grenades with preset ranges to explode prior to contact, and others including a target acquisition / fire control system (TA/FCS) that combines day and night vision capabilities, laser rangefinding unit, and ballistic computer. It is used to find the targets in any light and weather conditions, determine the range to the target, calculate and display the aiming data, and arm the rounds. We can only hope that there’s a director and writer somewhere scheming up a movie for this weapon.
(L/R) The Alliant Systems/H&K XM-29 SABR/OICW (courtesy world.guns.ru) and the disguised G36K that played it in Die Another Day (Dan Shea)