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The Grandfather: G3

The G3
"Die Erste"
(The First)
Cal. 7.62 x 51 NATO


g3a3.jpg (17805 bytes)

Caliber Cyclic Rate Mag Capacity Modes of Fire Width (in/mm) Height (in/mm) Weight (lb/kg) bbl. length (in/mm) Overall
Length (in/mm)
7.62 x 51 600 5/20/30/50 S/F 2.28 8.26 9.70 17.71 40.38
7.62 x 51 600 5/20/30/50 S/F 57 210 4.4 450 1026

The G3 Automatic Rifle, standard bearer of the Deutsche Bundeswehr since Germany was again allowed to arm.  It is truly the firearm that put the fledgling arms maker on the map.  Just up the hill from famed gun maker, Mauser, the former Mauser engineers worked as a team to come up with a design that would supercede the G1, essentially an FN FAL rifle, since Fabrique Nationale in Belgium would not license Germany to produce it.  The wounds of World War II were still deep and open at the time, only five years after the end of the war.

Developmental History:

In the latter years of WWII, Mauser had been developing a selective fire assault rifle known as the StG.45(M).  Sturmgewehr is German for "Assault Rifle." The 'M' stood for Mauser, and the 45 indicated the year 1945, the year production was intended to start.  Only a few prototypes were available by then, and serious development did not continue until about 1950.

stg45.jpg (6220 bytes)



g3stg45strip.jpg (37122 bytes)
The StG.45(M) Field Stripped.  Notice the paternal similarity to the G3, especially in the roller locked bolt and trigger group, as well as the pushpin stock.

In 1950, the Spanish Army formulated a requirement for a modern select fire shoulder rifle.  Development began at the Centro de Estudios Tecnicos de Materiales Especiales, an agency of the Spanish government more commonly known as CETME.  CETME assembled a team of Spanish and German weapon designers.  The team included Ludwig Vorgrimmler, generally recognized as the inventor of the delayed roller locking system.  The breech mechanism of the StG.45 (M) was used as the basis for the new design.

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The CETME Prototype Rifle in 7.92mm.  The further paternal lineage is easy to see.


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The 7.62 x 51 CETME rifle.  Compare to G3 rifle below.

Prototypes of the new rifle were available for firing by 1952.  By 1954, the 7.62mm x 51 cartridge had been standardized by the then new NATO alliance.  The Spanish government approached Heckler & Koch for adaptation of the CETME rifle in this new caliber in 1954.  After about another five years of development, the West German Army adopted the new rifle in 1959, and gave it its new name, G3 or Gewehr 3.  As many as 50 nations have adopted the G3 as their standard infantry arm.  Though now superceded in Germany by the new G36, the G3 will continue to see service worldwide for some time to come.


g3old.jpg (27232 bytes)
Very early version of G3 rifle, assembled and field stripped.  Notice different rear sight and forearm.   Buttstock was made of wood.  The G3 versions are the only versions that do not follow the normal HK nomenclature with respect to A2 and A3 being fixed and retractable stocks, respectively.  The G3 has a wooden buttstock and a flip over sight unit.   The G3A1 has a folding stock that hinges to the left  and a flip over rear sight.  The G3A2 has a folding stock and a rotating rear sight.  The G3A3 has rotating rear sight and fixed stock.  The G3A4 has rotating rear sight and familiar retractable stock.  The G3A3 (or 4)Z means that the rifle is equipped with a telescopic sight.  'Z' stands for 'Zielfernrohr' or "Telescope."  I have not been able to find photographs of the G3 with original left folding stock.
g3oldstripped.jpg (24858 bytes)


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From top to bottom:  Standard G3A3, G3A3Z, G3A4.


g3retractold.jpg (54448 bytes)
The oldest HK manual that I own is from February, 1962.  It is an operational manual on the then three year old G3 rifle.  This is an interesting illustration of not only the new rifle but an old version of the retractable buttstock.


The modern G3 comes in two main size variants, the full size G3, with a 17.71 inch barrel, and the G3K or 'Kurz' with a 12.40 inch barrel.  All G3s suffer from heaviness and excessive recoil of the 7.62 x 51 cartridge in automatic fire.  Remember though that this gun comes from the same genre as the FAL and M14, when the new NATO round was standard, and rifles were being developed for it.  They together helped with the realization that in order to have an individually issued automatic rifle, that the cartridge had to be smaller to provide any hope of decent hit probability, not to mention that .308 rounds are simply much heavier in their magazines than that which succeeded them.


g3ka4.jpg (11147 bytes)
The G3KA4 with 12.4 inch barrel, smallest 7.62 x 51 caliber rifle that HK actually manufactures.  The HK51 has been confused as being the smallest, but is only a production of American Class II manufacturers.  Heckler & Koch does not make the HK51.


g3-g36.jpg (21193 bytes)
Like father and son:  G3 with G36, the heir to the throne.