The Haenel MK 556 will reportedly become Germany's next military rifle.

The German Defense Ministry announced this week the selection of the Haenel MK 556 as its next duty rifle, replacing the long-held HK G36. The move, reported by multiple outlets, sends a rifle based on the American M16 series, produced by a German manufacturer.

Germany Adopts Haenel MK 556

In April 2018, we reported on two finalists for contract: Heckler & Koch’s HK433 and Haenel’s MK556. The latter surprisingly won the contract. The Haenel MK 556 functions as a fully automatic rifle. It operates from an indirect gas piston system. Several German police forces and other law enforcement agencies in other countries already use a semi-auto version, dubbed the CR223, according to The Drive.

Meanwhile, the decision ends a long, historic run from HK as the country’s defense provider. Both the HK416 and HK433 failed to win the bid.

“Subject to an extensive legal review, we regret this decision,” Heckler & Koch’s CEO Jens Bodo Koch said in a statement. “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. With our products, we do not need to fear any competitors.” Koch added that the firm would now “examine the legality of the decision in detail and examine all judicial opportunities.”

The program to replace the G36, System Sturmgewehr, calls for up to 120,000 new rifles, reported The Drive. The tender also called for first shipment of rifles by third quarter of 2020.

HK Criticisms

According to The Drive, the program also sought to answer extensive criticism levied against the G36, dating back to introduction in the mid-1990s. Faults include problems when operating hot and rapid temperature changes. The list also noted dissatisfaction with the rifle operating with dust, heat, haze or crosswinds.

The System Sturmgewehr called for a new rifle, in either 5.56×45 NATO or 7.62×51 NATO, reported The Drive. It required interchangeable long- and short-barrel versions of the rifle. Requirements include ambidextrous controls, a maximum weight of 7.9 pounds and a housing lifetime of at least 30,000 rounds. Accessories required included bayonet, silencer, drum magazine and bipod.

Though many Americans might not know the name, Haenel dates back to 1840 in Suhl, Germany, a traditional small arms manufacturing area. It manufactured Kalashnikov rifles, operating as VEB Fahrzeug for the GDR during the Cold War, according to The Drive. In 2008 it finally resumed its historic name, now operating as part of the famed Merkel Group, now a component of Tawazun Holding, based in the United Arab Emirates.

Now the company’s MK 556 scores a big win with the German military. A gas piston design, the MK 556 reportedly met System Sturmgewehr requirements “somewhat better” than rival submissions from HK. For more information, visit

Haenel MK 556 Specs

  • Caliber: 5.56 x 45mm
  • Overall Length: 16 “- 923mm / 838mm 14.5“ – 883mm / 798mm 12.5 “- 812mm / 748mm 10.5“ – 781mm / 696mm
  • Shoulder Rest: Modified M4 push shoulder rests, length adjustable in 6 positions
  • Gas Take-Off: With adjustable gas take-off
  • Muzzle Shock Absorber: A2 standard (further options on request)
  • Barrel Length: 16 “/ 408mm – 7” 14.5 “/ 368mm – 7” 12.5 “/ 318mm – 7” 10.5 “/ 266mm – 7”
  • Handguard: With two NAR and two KeyMod rails, can be removed without tools
  • Overall Weight: 16 “- approx. 3.6 kg 14.5” – approx. 3.5 kg 12.5 “- approx. 3.4 kg 10.5” – approx. 3.35 kg
  • Trigger: Direct trigger with a trigger weight of 3,200 g
  • Magazine Capacity: 30 rounds
  • Safety: Firing pin safety, safety lever can be operated on both sides, 0 ° / 60 ° / 120 ° or 0 ° / 90 ° / 180 °
  • Visor: Mechanical folding visor
  • Colors: Sand (similar to RAL 8000), olive green (RAL 7013) or black. Other colors on request.

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