The Bundeswehr has selected the MK 556 by C.G. Haenel as the successor to the G36 rifle currently in use by the German federal defense force. The decision comes as a surprise, as many industry leaders were in the running against the lesser-known Haenel.
The German army is looking for up to 120,000 new rifles to replace their Heckler & Koch G36 rifles adopted in 1997. Heckler & Koch was a front-runner in this procurement competition, having submitted both the HK416 and HK433 rifles for consideration.
Other prominent competitors included SIG Sauer, and Rheinmetall and Steyr Arms in a joint collaboration. Heckler & Koch issued a statement following the decision to move forward with Haenel.
“Subject to an extensive legal review, we regret this decision,” said CEO Jens Bodo Koch. “At the same time, we are absolutely convinced of the quality of both the HK416 and the HK433. This quality was also confirmed to us by the Bundeswehr within the framework of the tender.”
He also said that Heckler & Koch isn’t worried about competitors with their current catalog, and stressed that the company would investigate any legal avenues available to them in order to pursue this contract.
Both companies call Germany home, although C.G. Haenel is part of a global consortium currently headed by Caracal International. Heckler & Koch, which has a recent history of monetary troubles, was recently propped up by Luxembourg-based CDE, a financial holding group.
The G36, which was a forward-thinking design when it was adopted, is starting to show its age. Critics have said that the rifle is prone to overheating, sensitive to ammunition and suffers a shifting point of aim.
The Bundeswehr made the decision to phase out the G36 in 2015. While Heckler & Koch and the other competitors may try to overturn this decision, for now it looks like the German army is getting the Haenel Defence MK 556.
The MK 556 is an M16/M4-style assault rifle chambered for 5.56 NATO that uses an adjustable short-stroke piston system. It has a free-floating semi-modular quick-detach handguard with fixed 12- and 6-o’clock NATO-standard accessory rails and modular rails on each side.
It has a 6-position adjustable M4-style buttstock, ergonomic pistol grip, and an ambidextrous selector and oversize control levers. Haenel produces the MK 556 with barrels from 10.5 inches to 16 inches long and it comes with an A2-style flash hider by default, with a flattop upper receiver and flip-up backup iron sights.
The MK 556 weighs between 7.4 and 7.9 pounds depending on the barrel length and handguard. Obviously, with an order of this size, the German army will be able to get rifles in any configuration or configurations they want.
C.G. Haenel is headquartered and operated in Suhl, Germany. The company was founded in 1840 and produced many of Hugo Schmeisser’s iconic firearms including the Sturmgewehr 44. It currently produces the G29 sniper rifle in use by select German forces.