This is intended for people interested in the subject of military guns and their ammunition, with emphasis on automatic weapons.
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I seem to recall Spain spent the extra money for the "more temperature extremes tolerant" version of the G36. HK offered that version to the German government, but they didn't want to spend the money.
I recall a similar rumor, that a different polymer was used in the Spanish and Export G36's. Another variation of the rumor was that Spain simply built a better, no expense spared, G36 at their Spanish factory.
It all seems weird that there would even be a cheaper grade of plastic option used in the receiver vs simply using the best plastic all the time.
Using a lower grade plastic for the stock and handguard and magwell, whatevs. But the receiver that holds the barrel? Its hard for me to imagine that was a thing.
Heres what a TFB commentator had to say:
After the German G36 issue was made public the Spanish Army conducted its own tests on the Spanish G36 rifles, which had been manufactured at the public Spanish firearms factory (Fábrica de Armas de La Coruña). A task force was appointed by the Army to make the analysis, and they replicated the German tests which conditions were already of public domain. They didn't find the shifting effect. Some army units also conducted their own individual tests, since the claim of the zero shifting was of high concern. They found no problem. My two cents: The Spanish factory strictly followed the original G36 polymer specifications by HK, while others may have cut some corners.
Yet another comment mentions the G36's used by Germany were fine, and the issue was actually caused by a faulty run of ammo with jackets that were too thin.
Since Spain and Lithuania are not having issues with their G36's, it seems like ammo would be the more likely culprit, but who knows at this point.
I'd say having the aluminum receiver + new barrel + modular STANAG magwell offered by Steyr would be a good 'mid life upgrade' regardless, especially if paired with a MLOK handguard and lowered picatinny top rail.
Especially if they use a 16" barrel vs the standard 18.9". Shave a little weight and length off the rifle and make it a bit handier. Or use a 16" barrel that is the same weight as the 18.9", so that its beefier at the base allowing more rigidity / thermal resistance ala M4A1/HK416.
Here is Steyr's official 'G62' G36 Upgrade page:
-Magwell that allows AR15/Stanag mags
-New relatively low aluminum picatinny rail
Notably their upgrade page makes no mention of the Wilcox Fusion system.
In France, most of our elite police forces (GIGN, RAID, BRI...) are equiped with the G36, manufactured at the Oberndorf factory by HK, and we also never managed to replicate the "thermal drift" found by the German Army.
The story I was been told was that when the CBC group acquired MEN, they "rationalized" the procurement process of the tin plated steel jacket used to manufacture the DM11 ammo (among other) for the German Army and used some jackets with too thick tin plating.
Tin is a metal with a pretty low temperature melting point (~230°C) and was fooling the barrel of the G36, producing the "thermal drift" found only by the German army, because other forces using the G36 are probably using 5.56 mm ammo with gliding (copper alloy) metal jacket...
Oh there's a part that makes it even weirder still.
There was a short time where the g36 was practically the go to gun for American swat teams...
That is until they stopped holding zero and etc and then one department paid someone to saw a couple open and see what was going on.
Needless to say, when he sawed the first couple apart he found that the trunnions were basically melty and remelted messes.
And then more departments sent a couple guns in. The same thing was found again!
And then in the space of a couple years you didn't see american swat teams running g36's anymore...
Now the interesting thing about that is that HK didn't want those guns getting out into the public market or being resold so the same guy got paid by many many departments to render the guns inoperable once they decided to stop using them.
Being a curious sort this guy cut all the guns he demilled open at the trunnions and at one point the pictures of what he found were available online a few places.
What did he find?
Stacks and stacks of barrel to receiver interfaces that had melted remelted flowed and became internally misshapen!
So either HK was selling american swat teams all the QC reject guns, or maybe the reason some armies don't seem to find this issue is because their accuracy standards aren't nearly what american swat team accuracy standards are. At which point those g36's in various armies that "don't have a problem with them" could very well be just as thermally beaten mangled and misshapen internally but because their accuracy standards are different etc it's escaping detection.
Another thing to keep in mind is that militaries can do fun things like decide to change the "service life requirements" and allowable sustained fire rates in order to be able to look you in the eye and say oh there's no problem here. (We know for a fact the German army did the second one quite a few years ago during GWOT so I don't see why the first would be off limits either)
And another thing to keep in mind is that the g36 was designed to be amazingly cheap to manufacture/the receiver isn't expected or designed to outlive the factory barrel!
What you get when you combine all this is a situation where when the rifle can't hold even most armies lax accuracy standards is a situation where very cheap guns just get wrote off as having reached end of life and replaced. And since the guns are cheap(especially if you're harvesting all the other parts and just essentially buying new barreled uppers or etc) it would be nigh on impossible to prove one way or the other without a much more complete information pool than people would give you access to!
The one thing this guy pointed out WRT the entire situation was that when he got the guns to demil they were still functional and safe to fire. They just couldn't hold a zero or etc to save their lives.
Regardless of what various groups are saying in an effort to cover their asses, I've seen the pictures of entire stacks of these receivers with obviously continuously melted remelted and etc trunnions. They definitely exist, and it's the only pool of guns that have been systematically sawed open to be examined we have. In some ways I have to give the Germans props for blaming it on the ammo.
That said, as we've seen in another case recently, as a gun manufacturer when in doubt blame it on the ammo is pretty much how you can successfully avoid responsibility for your fuckups.
Blaming it on the ammo is a gun company favorite for avoiding responsibility.
I have been told that story: Fábrica de Armas de La Coruña retained the original polymer composition of G36 design, while G36 built for Bundeswehr used a different, cheaper one. Who knows. After that, zero losing and shifting effect were derived for just one contested report and a few events in which finding a culprit was just too convenient.
But I agree with what you point out: how much can be saved with changing polymer formula?
Maybe the problem that launched the replacement problem was highly exaggerated, to the point that it didn't justify rationally all the fuss
I don't believe that local american swat have higher accuracy standards that elite Spanish units like GAR, BOEL, etc. And they use G36, although with external modifications such as low profile rails. But no metallic receiver AFAIK
Last year I witnessed a presentation by someone with first hand experience in the testing that resulted from the alleged G36 behaviour. It involved about a dozen different rifle types (sorry, the makes were not identified).
The basic result was that all rifle types using a polymer housing suffered moving zero problems when becoming hot. Some more, some less. The only real cure was to use a metal housing/receiver. Even under most severe conditions, it was not possible to replicate some of the results reported from Afghanistan. In particular, it was found that the condition of one "burned" G36 returned from Afghanistan could only be replicated by exclusively firing a very large number of blanks using a blank firing adapter in a very short time. So much for the reliability of some of the reports (and returned items) from the field.
The tin coating, he admitted, was botched by Bundeswehr, who failed to clearly specify its thickness. DAG and MEN chose what their engineers considered appropriate. MEN had the bad luck to choose a much thicker layer that in the end turned out to have a very negative effect in hot barrels. The aim is to get rid of the bullet coating entirely by additives to the propellant (needed to make up for the lack of lead in modern reduced-pollution primers).
On this forum, as already mentioned in this thread, a very respectable contributor offered as explanation a change to a cheaper polymer quality for G36 wandering zero problems. In view of the Spanish experience (no problems with high quality polymer) and the addiction of industry to cut corners, I consider this a very plausible explanation. On the other hand, Bundeswehr says they tested G36s from several lots and did not find any difference.
You might be surprised at what american swat team standards are. They operate in a constrained environment where, in theory, the only person it's acceptable to put bullets into is the perpetrators.
At that time at least they took this pretty seriously.
I can say for sure, because Ive spoken with the guy who did the receiver explorations for the American guns, that at least that batch definitely had very real issues. TBH this wouldn't be anywhere near the first time a gun company knowingly fobbed off lesser guns in one way or another on clients that weren't big important ones.
I also just flat don't buy that somehow the Ernst Mach institute had it out for HK either!
Their findings were damning in very specific and believable ways. (Btw they also showed that to a certain degree the polymer formulation could definitely make it worse but even the "right formulation" could and did induce the issues in all of them!)
My bet is that certain militaries have found ways to "live with the issues" some of which I've suggested but that doesn't change the fact that the issues are real.
I talked to a couple people about this earlier and there might be some ways to sorta make it easier to live with the issues without a redesign or etc but at most they're a band aid on a problem that can't really be fixed outside of just doing a metal receiver.
It doesn't mean other designs heavily using polymer couldn't or wouldn't do ok because it's possible to do things better.
As a first gen (for the west) polymer architecture design it shouldn't be terribly surprising that they didn't get it right.
What's shocking strange laughable and frustrating is how so many people who should know better have made a flawed and unfit for purpose gun the hill they're willing to die on.
It wasn't a good gun, and HK is an extremely flawed company who chose to litigate and PR propaganda their way out of an engineering issue.
Yet people are choosing to learn every wrong lesson possible from it...
Yet another explanation that turned up for zero shift:
Pretty much across the board, a metal receiver with a metal picatinny rail mounted to the metal receiver, seems like a solid way to address the problem. And even if there is no problem, such a system would likely still be more accurate and durable.