Ordnance Notes -- by Bob Stoner GMCM(SW) Ret.
Heckler and Koch Gewehr 3 (G3) 7.62mm Rifle
G3 rifle with scope in the configuration used
by Navy SEALs. (SEAL G3s did not have optical sights.)
One of the more common 7.62mm NATO
main battle rifles is the H&K G3. The G3 has been produced in numerous countries
and has served or serves with many armies, special operations forces, and police
organizations. The story of the G3 goes back to World War 2.
The Germans were the first to introduce
the world to the Sturm Gewehr (StG) or assault rifle concept. They fielded numerous
guns in their 7.92x33mm (7.92mm kurz or short) caliber. The most common were
the MP43 and MP44 series of rifles. At the time the war ended in Europe, Dr.
Vollmer and some other technicians at Mauser were working on the StG45 which
employed a radically different locking system than that used by the MP43 and
MP44. Dr. Vollmer and some of his technicians left Germany for Spain to continue
development of the StG45.
The Spaniards were looking for a
modern replacement for their bolt-action auser rifles, however they wanted a
rifle with more range than the 7.92x33mm cartridge offered. In 1948 the Special
Materials Technical Studies Center (CETME) was established to pursue development
of the rifle and cartridge. By 1949 a prototype rifle was produced and by 1952
the new CETME rifle was being demonstrated in Spain and Germany.
While the Spaniards were working
on the CETME, the Germans were trying to rebuild their country after its devastation
in World War 2. In 1949 the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created
and a new German army (Bundeswehr) was reborn. The Bundeswehr was originally
equipped with ex-American weapons, but the Germans wanted a new rifle with advanced
capabilities. The Germans contracted for a new rifle, the Gewehr 1 (G1) with
the Belgian firm of Fabrique Nationale in Liege, Belgium. FN delivered 100,000
G1 rifles to Germany to arm the Bundeswehr, but negotiations for a licensing
agreement to produce the rifle in Germany fell through. In 1957 both Germany
and Spain adopted the CETME; in Germany the rifle was known as the G3 and in
Spain as the CETME. Getting the rifle into production resulted in the first
of a series of Spanish-German joint-development accords between Heckler and
Koch and CETME.
At first, the rifle was produced
in two calibers: the 7.62mm NATO for Germany and the 7.62mm CETME. The later
Spanish cartridge was identical in size and shape to the German round, except
for a reduced powder charge. Both German and Spanish guns were marked with the
CETME logo until 1961, when it was dropped from the German gun. In 1964 the
Spaniards standardized their CETME rifles to fire the 7.62mm NATO cartridge.
The G3 and CETME rifles are quite similar in appearance but there are subtle
differences in construction and finish between them. Most striking is the German
use of plastics for the butt stock, pistol grip and forearm; the Spanish preferred
to use the more traditional wood. German guns are have a black epoxy finish,
while Spanish guns have a Parkerized (manganese phosphate) finish. Both countries
developed several versions of the G3/CETME in various calibers. H&K in Germany
really pushed the concept of the roller-locked breech for various guns. It designed
whole families of weapons using the concept that have been marketed world wide.
The weapon chosen by Navy SEALs for
operations in Viet Nam was the German-produced G3. The G3 is unique among the
weapons standardized by NATO during the 1950s as having the roller-locked breech
mechanism and fluted chamber. The receiver of the G3 is a stamping. The barrel
is pinned into a trunnion block (containing the locking recesses for the bolt
rollers) and the trunnion is welded into the receiver stamping. The bolt of
the G3 is composed of two parts: the bolt head which contains the bolt locking
rollers and the bolt carrier which contains the firing pin and locking cam.
The cocking lever for the G3 is housed in a tube above the barrel. The cocking
lever is located on the left side of the tube near the front sight. When the
cocking lever is extended, the bolt carrier is moved back to release the bolt
rollers (this requires some effort) before the lever can be pulled fully to
the rear to load/clear the rifle.
Operation: when the bolt chambers
a cartridge, the bolt head (with locking rollers retracted) enters the trunnion
block. The following bolt carrier loses and the locking cam extends the bolt
rollers to extend into their locking recesses in the trunnion block. When the
firing pin fires the cartridge, the rollers hold the bolt locked into the trunnion
block until the pressure drops to acceptable levels. The G3 uses a fluted chamber
to float the cartridge case on propellant gases to prevent the case from sticking
to the sides of the chamber. Once the pressure drops to a safe level, the bolt
carrier moves back, the locking cam retracts, and the bolt rollers move into
the bolt head (unlock). Extraction and ejection of the fired case from a G3
is very positive and violent. Fired cases will typically show blackened, longitudinal
scorch marks around the diameter of the case and a dent where the case has hit
the edge of the ejection port. The G3 is a select fire rifle and is very simple
to maintain in the field. The rifle is easily fitted with a quick-detachable
telescopic sight for special missions.
Caliber: 7.62x51mm NATO
Length -- 40.4 inches
Barrel -- 17.8 inches
Magazine -- 20 rounds
Weight (empty) -- 9.7 lbs.
Max. Effective Range -- 550 yards (limited by diopter sight)
|G3 receiver section diagram shows the rifle ready to
fire with the bolt rollers locked.
||G3 receiver section diagram shows the rifle after firing
with the bolt rollers retracted
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