As in many modern weapon systems, including the G36 series, extensive use of polymers and high-strength aluminium in the AG36 launcher contributes to its low mass and high durability. It is capable of firing almost all 40x46mm grenade rounds, including plastic training cartridges, flexible baton rounds, CS gas, and oleoresin capsicum (OC, the same chemical used in pepper spray) gas cartridges, white phosphorus, and HE ammunition. Once attached, the AG36 does not affect the accuracy of the rifle or its handling and operating functions. The AG36 is a part of Germany's Infantryman of the future program.
The AG36 is a single-shot weapon with a break-action steel barrel and unlike its American counterpart, the M203, the AG36 swings out laterally for loading, allowing for the use of longer rounds when necessary, e.g. baton or flare rounds. When open, the breech is on the left. For installation, the rifle's existing barrel handguard is removed and replaced by the AG36. The weapon has a trigger group with a manual safety lever and a pistol grip for ease of handling. Aiming is accomplished using standard ladder sights, which are located on the left side of the launcher body and folded down when not in use.
Due to its modular design, the launcher can be readily adapted to other rifles, such as the M16-series and the Diemaco C7 and C8.
The L17A1 and L123A2 UGL (Under-slung Grenade Launcher) are the under-barrel 40 mm grenade launchers used by the British Army in conjunction with the L85A2 rifle (L123A2 UGL), and in small numbers with the L119A1 carbine used by United Kingdom Special Forces and the Pathfinder Platoon (L17A1 UGL). It is designed and built by Heckler & Koch and is a modified variant of the AG36. The UGL was first deployed during Operation Telic in 2003. The UGL replaced the muzzle-launched Rifle Grenade General Service. One UGL is issued per fireteam within infantry battalions.
A further version of the AG36 is the Heckler & Koch AG-C/EGLM.