Underdog Haenel Lands German Army Contract, Heckler & Koch Responds

The German army is moving forward with C.G. Haenel for their G36 replacement. (Photo: Bundeswehr/Andrea Bienert)

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 German army selected the Haenel MK 556 to replace the G36. (Photo: C.G. Haenel)

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.

See Also: Heckler & Koch HK433–Possible Future Military Rifle

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.

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About the author: Max Slowik is a writer with over a dozen years of experience and is a lifelong shooter. He has unwavering support for the Second Amendment and the human right to self-defense. Like Thomas Paine, he’s a journalist by profession and a propagandist by inclination.

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  • J September 18, 2020, 10:28 pm

    “Assault rifle” or “Assault weapon” are made up terms with origins of the terms has being attributed to legislators, gun control groups and the media. The term assault rifle is generally attributed to Adolf Hitler when he used the German word Sturmgewehr that translates to “assault rifle”. The term “Assault weapon” was used by Josh Sugarmann, a gun-control activist and Violence Policy Center (gun control advocacy and educational group) founder, in his 1988 study titled “Assault Weapons and Accessories in America” and along with his 2 anti-firearms books “National Rifle Association: Money, Firepower & Fear” (1992) and “Every Handgun is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns” (2000). The Democrats used the term in their Federal Assault Weapons Ban that went mainstream when it passed in 1994.

    Even the US Army and other branches of the military do not call their rifles an “assault rifle” or “assault weapon”. Take a look a the technical manual for the M16A2 and M4 by the US Army, TM 9-1005-319-10, ARMY TM 9-1005-319-23&P/AIR FORCE TO 11 W3-5-5-42, Technical Manual for 5.56MM, M16A2, M4 and M4A1, and Carbine, and also these FM 3-22.9 RIFLE MARKSMANSHIP M16-/M4-SERIES WEAPONS, and other FMs and TMs by the US Army. None of these military branches call rifles by the made up terms “Assault rifle” or “Assault weapon”.

    • Big Al 45 September 30, 2020, 11:46 am

      Technically, ‘sturm’ translates to ‘storm’, and the Germans used what they called ‘Storm troops” in the First World War.
      So, they have a long history using that term.
      How it got to ‘assault’ is of interest, as ‘assault’ in German is Angriff.
      So I would agree it is pretty much a made up term, although it is easy to go from ‘storm’ (as in to storm a position) to ‘assault’.
      But then, who among us who has read Orwell’s ‘1984’, and who has also studied the ‘Little Red Book’, as well as Goebbels ‘On the power of propaganda’ aren’t familiar with propaganda and it’s influence?
      It wasn’t an accident, it was VERY deliberate.

  • Don September 18, 2020, 8:33 pm

    This new rifle seems to be a very wise choice. The AR family continues to perform what is needed from a military rifle.

  • Mike in a Truck September 18, 2020, 1:36 pm

    Sigh…..Good thing nobody elected me Grand Poobah of everything great and small. I would offer them a choice : the M14 battle rifle or the FN FAL battle rifle. In 7.62mm. There- am I not gracious and benevolent? Of course I am.And while I’m in a good mood you have your choice of pistols- as long as it’s a 1911A1 pattern.OK Ok stop whining you can select a HiPower pattern as an alternate. Now- fall in, 20 mile forced march.MOVE OUT!

    • Mauser6863 September 18, 2020, 7:06 pm

      NAW, you got it all wrong. The Army needs to go back and re-adopt the real 45 Colt SAA and the breech loading trapdoor. Maybe some Henry repeating rifles for special ops.

      If you’re going to go “Full Dinosaur”, have the courage to go all the way. Heck the Brown Bess worked and created the United States and was the longest serving long arm in history. Heck the M14 was in front line rifle squads for less time an the 30-40 Krag.

    • Don September 18, 2020, 8:25 pm

      Why would you recommend the disasterous M14 and the obsolescent FAL? The M14 was a problem rifle, discontinued quickly after continuing problems in the manufacture and in the field. The FAL was very unreliable in desert climates. Both are big rifles. Compared to a good carbine they are just too big for general issue. One would think that the M14 would have earned its reputation as a problem gun and its very short service life. The replacement M16 family would has shown that big guns don’t have much of a place anymore. Keep the 7.62mm rifles built on an AR-pattern as DMRs. Keep the time proven 5.56mm carbines for general issue.

    • Don September 18, 2020, 8:35 pm

      You need to join the 21st century. There are many modern 9mm pistols that are much better than the M1911 and BHP. Just from a users perspective, a Glock 17 outperforms both of the old timers.

    • Big Al 45 September 30, 2020, 11:55 am

      Wow! You are so 1950’s. Gonna wage Trench Warfare too? How about Piston Engine Planes?
      Hey, the hell with Chobham Armor, who needs it?
      As pointed out, this IS the 21st Century, and I bet YOU have a cell phone.
      Gonna trade that for a SCR 536 ‘Handie Talkie”?

  • Texas Twostep September 18, 2020, 8:14 am

    Does anyone else find it interesting that they are replacing the G36 with basically a heavily updated M4? G36 was supposed to be a model platform and part of a new generation of rifles, yet it is being replaced by a design with with a heavy amount of DNA from the 1960s M-16.

    • Mauser6863 September 18, 2020, 7:02 pm

      So, first off, I hate H&K, cause they Hate me and the vast majority of gun owners. Just like Colt, they decided to live and die by military contracts. Big Mistake = BK, over and over again.

      The H&K G36 is a good platform. The only fault I am aware of is a shift in zero, when the gun gets how. InrangeTV has traced this issue to the optics mounts being polymer, rather than steel. So simple fix, if they wanted to do a Mk2 version. Same goes for moving over to Mlok for the forend.

      Most of the G36 rifles and carbines in actual use are equipped with ACOGs or EoTech optics. In addition, H&K offers a magwell to use standard M4/M16 magazines.

      Likley the guns are worn out, so the Army, want a new platform. That “NEW” seems to equal a piston driven M4/M16 is quite funny to me. Both the Beretta ARX and the CZ BREN 2 should have been considered. Guess it makes sense as the G36 is just an update AR18/AR180,

    • Don September 18, 2020, 8:26 pm

      The M16 family is the most battle proven rifle in existance. It is superior to the AK pattern rifles.

      • Mauser6863 September 19, 2020, 2:00 pm

        The rifle that C.G. Haenel is going to produce is a version of the Caracal CAR816, which like the H&K 416,is the result of an M16/M4 and a AR18/AR180 having a baby.

        Since almost all modern designs seem to be based on the AR19/AR180 gas system, this is no surprise.

  • Jim Parker September 18, 2020, 7:32 am

    I’m betting the new Haenel can be produced at lower cost than the carbine it replaces. Armies in the western nations continue to scale back their investments.

  • Ron Y September 18, 2020, 6:14 am

    Please provide proof as assault rifle was a made up media term. I believe you are wrong and the first poster is correct.

    • Don September 18, 2020, 8:30 pm

      The MODERN deffinition of “assault rifle” is a fiction of the media. But the “storm rifle” of WW2 is the root of what we call assault rifles. Carbines, that are select-fire and using an intermediate cartridge. MODERN media generated deffinitions include semi-auto variants.

  • J September 17, 2020, 12:39 pm

    Why do we play on the words produced by anti-2nd Amendment groups by saying “assault rifle” like this statement in the article “The MK 556 is an M16/M4-style assault rifle chambered for 5.56 NATO…” There is no such thing as an “assault rifle” in the military or civilian world. We are justifying the words “assault rifle” to further the crazy left media and anti-2nd Amendment groups to push their agenda. Why can’t we say instead what the rifle really is like this, The MK 556 is an M16/M4-style “military” or “select fire” rifle chambered for 5.56 NATO. We just perpetuate the use of the words “assault rifle” to make the public see this as a more dangerous rifle than any other firearm. Help these writers use the correct wording and stop using the words “assault rifle”. Good going for C.G. Haenel for getting a big contract.

    • S.H. Blannelberry September 17, 2020, 1:25 pm

      You’re wrong. “Assault rifle” is a real thing. “Assault weapon” on the other hand is a politicized term created by anti-gunners. Thank you for commenting, though.

      • perlcat September 18, 2020, 4:22 am

        Judging by the comments referring to odd ducks like “AK15 machine guns” I’ve read in many places, I don’t think the gun grabbers get hung up on little things like terminology, facts, logic, or sanity. I asked one woman why she was incapable of pasting that term into google so she could sound like less of an idiot, but never got a reply. Possibly she was still trying to decide what bathroom to use, or what kind of a tree she would be if she was a tree.

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