Like their Common Market fellow members, the Germans and the Italians, the Belgians have a long and distinguished history of firearms manufacturing.

This is especially true of their FN FNC assault rifle, in 5.56x45 NATO.

The FN FNC was designed by Fabrique Nationale in 1976, and this reliable Belgian assault rifle has been manufactured by Fabrique Nationale de Herstal, Bofors Ordnance (Sweden) and PT Pindad (Indonesia). The FNC is a gas-operated and selective-fire meld of the American-made M-16 and the Soviet-made AK-47.

It grew out of the FNC 76 prototype, which in turn can trace its origins back to the Belgian CAL rifle. The FNC comes in a carbine length (the Short Model 7000) and a Standard Rifle Model 2000 model. With the stock extended, it measures 39.25 inches in length; with the butt stock folded, it is slightly more than 30.5 inches.

The standard FNC weighs slightly less than 8.5 pounds with an empty, 30-round STANAG magazine. It is capable of cycling 700 rounds per minute of NATO 5.56x45mm ammunition, traveling downrange at more than 3,000 feet per second.

Although it comes with 820-foot (250 meter) and 1,312-foot (400-meter) sight adjustments, its top-end range is greater than 1,500 feet (approximately 450 yards).

The FNC fires rifle grenades: raise the grenade sights, and the weapon's gas cutoff blocks gas to the action, allowing for rifle grenades to be launched downrange.

The FNC has a two-part receiver (stamped steel-aluminum) held together by a pair of cross pins, that makes disassembly and maintenance a breeze. Its upper receiver is stamped steel and the lower receiver and magazine well are an aluminum alloy.

The weapon's flash suppressor doubles as a grenade launcher, and the FNC features a four-position selector switch: safe, single shot, full auto and three-round burst.

FNC options include a folding metal and plastic butt stock (folds to the right side), a plastic pistol and front grip, sling swivels and a bayonet adapter for the U.S. M7A1 bayonet. After the last round is fired, the action remains in the open position.

Special night sights and telescopic scopes can be added for greater accuracy.