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The Heckler & Koch G36 weapon system comes now a long way: first launched halfway through the 1990s at the end of a lenghty development process, the 5.56x45mm NATO caliber G36 assault rifle was conceived as a replacement for the aging 7.62x51mm caliber G3 battle rifle which back then was still a standard issue for the Bundeswehr (the German Federal Armed Forces) and for countless Armies around the globe. Although being based upon an old ArmaLite AR18-style short-stroke piston system − not exactly a state-of-the-art working system, as it was conceived in the 1960s, but definitely one of the most reliable ever! − the Heckler & Koch G36 has since been regarded as the first example of the current generation of standard infantry rifles.
As of today, the G36 assault weapon system has been accepted for limited issue or full scale adoption by the Armed Forces of well over 30 Countries, as well as by countless Police forces and other law enforcement organizations worldwide. With Heckler & Koch now producing the HK-416, the G36 is no longer the latest HK-branded assault rifle; but being the HK-416 basically a reinterpretation of the M4 carbine, the G36 can still be regarded as the last assault rifle to have been fully conceived in-house by Heckler & Koch. It's no wonder if the German company is still manufacturing and selling it by the numbers.
At the 2014 edition of the EUROSATORY expo in Paris, Heckler & Koch showcased a few odd set-ups of the G36 system, which may be regarded as the "latest twist" of an otherwise tried-and-true system. The new variations, which are available as factory rifles or as a retrofit for existing models, improve the overall ergonomics and versatility of the G36 platform; these include a full-lenght top Picatinny rail for optics or backup iron sights replacing the standard G36-type carrying handle with built-in optical sight; a machined aluminium KeyMod handguard that provides multiple attachment points for Picatinny rail portions, allowing a more comfortable placement of accessories; a fully adjustable polymer stock, also featuring a cheekpiece, conceived by Heckler & Koch as a part of the G36 upgrade plan for the German Infantierist der Zukunft ("Future Infantryman") program; and a RAL8000 brown-green finish, currently used by the German Armed Forces as a sort of "universal camo" for its small arms.
It was also very interested to note how the showcased G36C carbine variant featured a replacement magazine well that allowed to use both Heckler & Koch's proprietary G36-type translucent polymer magazines and any STANAG 4179 (M16/M4-type) magazine, with a free-fall release button. This feature itself is not new: the modular magwell allowing the use of NATO standard magazines has been part of Heckler & Koch's catalogue of optionals and accessories for the G36 weapon system ever since 1997. It has since been very seldom seen though, as users quickly found out how HK's proprietary polymer magazines proved to be more reliable than STANAG magazines in most, if not all, environments and theatres of operations.