During the Cold War
the FAL was adopted by many countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO), with the notable exception of the United States. It is one of the most widely used rifles in history, having been used by more than 90 countries.
Because of its prevalence and widespread usage among the militaries
of many NATO and first world
countries during the Cold War, it received the title "The right arm of the Free World
In 1946, the first FAL prototype was completed. It was designed to fire the intermediate 7.92×33mm Kurz
cartridge developed and used by the forces of Germany
during World War II
(with the Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle
). After testing this prototype in 1948, the British Army
urged FN to build additional prototypes, including one in bullpup
configuration, chambered for their new .280 British
[7x43mm] caliber intermediate cartridge.
After evaluating the single bullpup prototype, FN decided to return instead to their original, conventional design for future production.
In 1950, the United Kingdom presented the redesigned FN rifle and the British EM-2
, both in .280 British calibre, to the United States for comparison testing against the favoured United States Army
design of the time—Earle Harvey's T25.
It was hoped that a common cartridge and rifle could be standardized for issue to the armies of all NATO member countries. After this testing was completed, U.S. Army officials suggested that FN should redesign their rifle to fire the U.S. prototype ".30 Light Rifle" cartridge. FN decided to hedge their bets with the U.S., and in 1951 even made a deal that the U.S. could produce FALs royalty-free, given that the UK appeared to be favouring their own EM-2.
This decision appeared to be correct when the British Army decided to adopt the EM-2 (as Rifle No.9 Mk1) and .280 British cartridge.
This decision was later rescinded after the Labour Party
lost the 1951 General Election and Winston Churchill
returned as Prime Minister. It is believed[by whom?]
that there was a quid pro quo
agreement between Churchill and U.S. President Harry Truman
in 1952 that the British accept the .30 Light Rifle cartridge as NATO standard in return for the U.S. acceptance of the FN FAL as NATO standard.
The .30 Light Rifle cartridge was in fact later standardized as the 7.62 mm NATO; however, the U.S. insisted on continued rifle tests. The FAL chambered for the .30 Light Rifle went up against the redesigned T25 (now redesignated as the T47), and an M1 Garand
variant, the T44. Eventually, the T44 won, becoming the M14
. However, in the meantime, most other NATO countries were evaluating and selecting the FAL.
FN created what is possibly the classic post-war battle rifle
. Formally introduced by its designer Dieudonné Saive
in 1951, and produced two years later, it has been described as the "Right Arm of the Free World."
The FAL battle rifle has its Warsaw Pact
counterpart in the AKM
, each being fielded by dozens of countries and produced in many of them. A few, such as Israel and South Africa, manufactured and issued both designs at various times. Unlike the Soviet AKM assault rifle, the FAL utilized a heavier full-power rifle cartridge
L1A1 British FAL variant field stripped.
The FAL operates by means of a gas-operatedaction
very similar to that of the Russian SVT-40
. The gas system is driven by a short-stroke, spring-loaded piston housed above the barrel
, and the locking mechanism is what is known as a tilting breechblock
. To lock, it drops down into a solid shoulder of metal in the heavy receiver
much like the bolts
of the Russian SKS carbine
and French MAS-49
series of semi-automatic rifles. The gas system is fitted with a gas regulator behind the front sight base, allowing adjustment of the gas system in response to environmental conditions. The piston system can be bypassed completely, using the gas plug, to allow for the firing of rifle grenades
and manual operation.
The FAL's magazine capacity ranges from five to 30 rounds, with most magazines holding 20 rounds. In fixed stock
versions of the FAL, the recoil
spring is housed in the stock, while in folding-stock versions it is housed in the receiver cover, necessitating a slightly different receiver cover, recoil spring, and bolt carrier, and a modified lower receiver for the stock.
For field stripping the FAL can be opened. During opening the rifle rotates around a two piece pivot lock and pin assembly located between the trigger guard and magazine well to give access to the action and piston system. This opening method causes a suboptimal iron sight line as the rear sight element is mounted on the lower receiver and the front sight element of the sight line is mounted on the upper receiver/barrel and hence are fixed to two different movable subassemblies. The sight radius for the FAL 50.00 and FAL 50.41 models is 553 mm (21.8 in) and for the 50.61 and FAL 50.63 models 549 mm (21.6 in).
FAL rifles have also been manufactured in both light and heavy-barrel configurations, with the heavy barrel intended for automatic fire as a section or squad light support weapon. Most heavy barrel FALs are equipped with bipods
, although some light barrel models were equipped with bipods, such as the Austrian StG58 and the German G1, and a bipod was later made available as an accessory.
Among other 7.62×51mm NATO battle rifles at the time, the FN FAL had relatively light recoil, due to the user-adjustable gas system being able to be tuned via a regulator in fore-end of the rifle, which allowed for excess gas which would simply increase recoil to bleed off. The regulator is an adjustable gas port opening that adjusts the rifle to function reliably with various propellant and projectile specific pressure behavior, making the FAL not ammunition specific. In fully automatic mode, however, the shooter receives considerable abuse from recoil, and the weapon climbs off-target quickly, making automatic fire only of marginal effectiveness.
Many military forces using the FAL eventually eliminated full-automatic firearms training in the light-barrel FAL.
Depending on the variant and the country of adoption, the FAL was issued as either semi-automatic
only or select-fire
(capable of both semi-automatic and fully automatic firing modes).
LAR 50.41 & 50.42 (FAL HBAR & FALO)
- Also known as FALO as an abbreviation from the French Fusil Automatique Lourd;
- Heavy barrel for sustained fire with a 30-round magazine as a squad automatic weapon;
- Known in Canada as the C2A1, it was their primary squad automatic weapon until it was phased out during the 1980s in favor of the C9, which has better accuracy and higher ammunition capacity than the C2;
- Known to the Australian Army as the L2A1, it was their primary squad automatic weapon in the 1960s however was generally disliked and replaced by the F89 Minimi in the late 1980s. The L2A1 or 'heavy barrel' FAL was used by several Commonwealth nations and was found to frequently experience a failure to feed after firing two rounds from a full magazine when in automatic mode. The L2A1 heavy barrel FALs were seen by most users as an inferior replacement to the previous Bren gun which was favoured for reliability before replacement.
- The 50.41 is fitted with a synthetic buttstock, while the 50.42's buttstock is made from wood.
FAL 50.61 variant.
Folding-stock, standard 533 mm (21.0 in) barrel length.
Folding-stock, shorter 458 mm (18.03 inch) barrel, paratrooper
version and folding stock.
Folding-stock, shorter 436 mm (17.16 inch) barrel, paratrooper version, folding charging handle. This shorter version was requested by Belgian paratroopers. The upper receiver was not cut for a carry handle, the charging handle on the 50.63 was a folding model similar to the L1A1 rifles, which allowed the folded-stock rifle to fit through the doorway of their C-119 Flying Boxcar
when worn horizontally across the chest.
Folding-stock, standard 533 mm (21.0 in) barrel length, 'Hiduminium
' aluminium alloy lower receiver.
- FN Universal Carbine (1947): An early FAL prototype chambered for the 7.92×33mm Kurz round. The 7.92mm Kurz round was used as a placeholder for the future mid-range cartridges being developed by Britain and the United States at the time.
- FAL .280 Experimental Automatic Carbine, Long Model (1951): A FAL variant chambered for the experimental .280 British (7×43mm) round. It was designed for a competition at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Aberdeen, Maryland. Although the EM-2 "bullpup" did well, American observers protested that the small-bore .280-caliber round lacked the power and range of a medium-bore .30-caliber round. British observers in return claimed the experimental American .30-caliber T65 round (7.62×51mm) was too powerful to control in automatic fire. Britain was forced to abandon the promising .280 round and adopt the American-designed .30-caliber T65 as the 7.62×51mm NATO cartridge. The EM-2 couldn't be rechambered for the longer and more powerful cartridge and the Americans didn't yet have a working service rifle of their own. Britain and Canada adopted the Belgian 7.62mm FN FAL instead as the L1 Self-Loading Rifle (SLR).
- FAL .280 Experimental Automatic Carbine, Short Model (1951): A bullpup-frame version of the FAL chambered in .280 British designed to compete with the British EM-1 and EM-2 bullpup rifles. It also was demonstrated at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds tests, but was never put into full production.
The Sturmgewehr 58
58) is a selective fire
(semi-automatic and fully automatic) battle rifle. The first 20,000 were manufactured by Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre
-Herstal Belgique, but later the StG58 was manufactured under licence by Steyr-Daimler-Puch
(now Steyr Mannlicher
), and was formerly the standard rifle of the Österreichisches Bundesheer
(Austrian Federal Army). It is essentially a user-customized version of the FAL and is still in use, mainly as a drill weapon in the Austrian forces. It was selected in a 1958 competition, beating the Spanish CETME
and American Armalite AR-10
Most StG 58s featured a folding bipod, and differ from the FAL by using a plastic stock
rather than wood in order to reduce weight in the later production rifles (although some of the early FN-built production rifles did come with wooden stocks). The rifle can be distinguished from its Belgian and Argentine counterparts by its combination flash suppressor
and grenade launcher
. The foregrip was a two-part steel pressing.
Steyr-built StG 58s had a hammer forged barrel that was considered to be the best barrel fitted to any FAL. Some StG58s had modifications made to the fire mode selector so that the fully automatic option was removed, leaving the selector with only safe and single-shot positions. The StG 58 was replaced by the Steyr AUG
(designated StG 77) in 1977, although the StG 58 served with many units as the primary service rifle through the mid-1980s.
A semi-automatic, twin-barrel variant chambered in the 5.56mm "Duplex" round during Project SALVO
. This weapon was designed by Stefan Kenneth Janson who previously designed the EM-2 rifle
DSA SA58 FAL
American company DSA (David Selvaggio Arms) manufactures a copy of the FAL called the DSA SA58 FAL that is made with the same Steyr-Daimler-Puch production line equipment as the StG-58. It comes with a 406 mm (16 in), 457 mm (18 in) or 533 mm (21 in) barrel, an aluminum-alloy
lower receiver, and improved Glass-filledNylon
furniture. Civilian clients are limited only to semi-automatic configuration, but military and law enforcement clients can procure select-fire configuration that is capable of firing in full auto with cyclic rate
of fire of around 650–750 rounds per minute. The SA58 FAL can use any metric-measurement FAL magazines, which come in 5, 10-, 20-, or 30-round capacities.
- The SA58 OSW (Operational Specialist Weapon) is an assault-carbine variant of the paratrooper model of the FAL. It has a side-folding Enhanced PARA polymer stock, shorter 279 mm (11 inch) or 330 mm (13 inch) barrel and an optional full-auto setting.
- The SA58 CTC (Compact Tactical Carbine) is a carbine variant of the paratrooper model of the FAL. It has a side-folding Enhanced PARA polymer stock, shorter 413 mm (16.25 inch) barrel and an optional full-auto setting. Overall Length: 927 mm (36.5 inches) Weight: 3.74 kg (8.25 lbs).
- The SA58 SPR (Special Purpose Rifle) is a semi-automatic only configured variant that was submitted for the U.S. Army SASS rifle trials. It features a 19-inch fluted barrel, 10-round magazine and an upgraded speed trigger.
- The SA58 DMR (Designated Marksman Rifle) is a semi-automatic only variant that features a 16.25 inch fluted heavy barrel.
- The SA58 Pistol is a semi-automatic only variant that features an 8-inch barrel, intended for the U.S. civilian market.
A modern Para-style FAL.
The FAL has been used by over 90 countries, and some seven million have been produced.
The FAL was originally made by Fabrique Nationale de Herstal
(FN) in Liège, Belgium, but it has also been made under license in fifteen countries.
As of August 2006, new examples were still being produced by at least four different manufacturers worldwide.
A distinct sub-family was the Commonwealth inch-dimensioned versions that were manufactured in the United Kingdom and Australia (as the L1A1 Self Loading Rifle or SLR), and in Canada as the C1. The standard metric-dimensioned FAL was manufactured in South Africa (where it was known as the R1
), Brazil, Israel, Austria and Argentina. Both the SLR and FAL were also produced without license by India.
The Dutch company Armtech
built the L1A1 SAS
, an assault-carbine variant of the L1A1 with a barrel length of 290mm (11.4 inches).
This was similar to short-barreled L1A1 carbines used by the ANZAC forces in Vietnam.
Mexico assembled FN-made components into complete rifles at its national arsenal in Mexico City
. The FAL was also exported to many other countries, such as Venezuela
, where a small-arms industry produces some basically unchanged variants, as well as ammunition. By modern standards, one disadvantage of the FAL is the amount of work which goes into machining the complex receiver, bolt and bolt carrier. Some theorized that the movement of the tilting bolt mechanism tends to return differently with each shot, affecting inherent accuracy of the weapon, but this has been proven to be false. The FAL's receiver is machined, while most other modern military rifles use quicker stamping or casting techniques. Modern FALs have many improvements over those produced by FN and others in the mid-20th-century.
The Argentine Armed Forces officially adopted the FN FAL in 1955, but the first FN made examples did not arrive in Argentina until the autumn of 1958. Subsequently, in 1960, licensed production of FALs began and continued until the mid-to-late 1990s, when production ceased. In 2010, a project to modernize all existing FAL and to produce an unknown number of them was approved. This project was called FAL M5.
Argentine FALs were produced by the government-owned arsenal FM (Fabricaciones Militares) at the Fábrica Militar de Armas Portátiles "Domingo Matheu" (FMAP "DM") in Rosario
. The acronym "FAL" was kept, its translation being "Fusil Automático Liviano", (Light Automatic Rifle). Production weapons included "Standard" and "Para" (folding buttstock) versions. Military rifles were produced with the full auto fire option. The rifles were usually known as the FM FAL, for the "Fabricaciones Militares" brand name (FN and FM have a long-standing licensing and manufacturing agreement). A heavy barrel version, known as the FAP
(Fusil Automático Pesado
, or heavy automatic rifle) was also produced for the armed forces, to be used as a squad automatic weapon. The Argentine 'heavy barrel' FAL, also used by several other nations, was found to frequently experience a failure to feed after firing two rounds from a full magazine when in automatic mode.
A version of the FALMP III chambered in the 5.56×45mm NATO
cartridge was developed in the early 1980s. It used M16 type magazines but one version called the FALMP III 5.56mm Type 2 used Steyr AUG
magazines. The FARA 83
(Fusil Automático República Argentina) was to replace the Argentine military's FAL rifles. The design borrowed features from the FAL such as the gas system and folding stock. It seems to have been also influenced to some degree by other rifles (the Beretta AR70/223, M16, and the Galil
). An estimated quantity of between 2,500 and 3,000 examples were produced for field testing, but military spending cuts killed the project in the mid-1980s.
There was also a semi-automatic–only version, the FSL
, intended for the civilian market. Legislation changes in 1995 (namely, the enactment of Presidential Decree Nº 64/95
) imposed a de facto
ban on "semi-automatic assault weapons". Today, it can take up to two years to obtain a permit for the ownership of an FSL. The FSL was offered with full or folding stocks, plastic furniture and orthoptic sights.
Argentine soldiers armed with FAL during the Falklands War (1982).
Argentine FALs saw action during the Falklands War (Falklands-Malvinas/South Atlantic War), and in different peacekeeping operations such as in Cyprus and the former Yugoslavia. Rosario-made FALs are known to have been exported to Bolivia (in 1971),
Croatia (during the wars in former Yugoslavia during the 1990s), Honduras,
Nigeria (this is unconfirmed, most Nigerian FALs are from FN in Belgium or are British-made L1A1s), Peru,
Deactivated Argentinean FALs from the many thousands captured during the Falklands War are used by UK forces as part of the soldier's load on some training courses run over public land in the UK.
The Argentine Marine Corps
, a branch of the Argentine Navy, has replaced the FN/FM FAL in front line units, adopting the U.S. M16A2. The Argentine Army has expressed its desire to acquire at least 1,500 new rifles chambered for the 5.56×45mm NATO SS109/U.S. M855 (.223 Remington) cartridge, to be used primarily by its peacekeeping troops on overseas deployments.
The US Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA) secretly purchased several thousand Argentine FAL rifles in 1981, which were supplied to the Nicaraguan Contras
rebel group. These rifles have since appeared throughout Central America in use with other organizations.
These rifles are currently being modernized to a new standard, the FAL M5 (or FAL V), which uses polymer parts to reduce weight, and has Picatinny rails
and optic mounts for carrying accessories, that created these variants:
- FAMTD: Fusil Argentino Modelo Tirador Destacado - Cañón Pesado (Argentine Designated Marksman Rifle - Heavy Barrel), DMR variant. It has a range of 650 meters.
- FAMTD: Fusil Argentino Modelo Tirador Destacado - Cañón Liviano (Argentine Designated Marksman Rifle - Light Barrel), It has a light bipod, a telescopic sight (10 × 50) with coupling for night vision, a new top-mount system for the application cited above and a cylinder head with cheekrest.
- FAMA: Fusil Argentino Modelo Asalto (Argentine Assault Rifle Model), this is the assault rifle version, using 7.62mm ammunition. It has a rate of fire of 700 rounds per minute, and it has a total length of 591 mm. Able to incorporate holographic sights, laser flashlight, tactical grip or a 40mm grenade launcher..
- FAMCa: Fusil Argentino Modelo Carabina (Argentine Rifle Carbine Model), this is the carbine variant.
Brazilian Army conscripts using the FAL in Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul.
Brazil took delivery of a small quantity of FN-made FAL rifles for evaluation as early as 1954. Troop field testing was performed with FN made FALs between 1958 and 1962. Then, in 1964, Brazil officially adopted the rifle, designating the rifle M964 for 1964. Licensed production started shortly thereafter at the Indústria de Material Bélico do Brasil
(IMBEL), in Itajubá
in the state of Minas Gerais
. The folding stock version was designated M964A1. By the late 1980s/early 1990s, IMBEL had manufactured some 200,000 M964 rifles. Later Brazilian made FALs have Type 3, hammer forged receivers. Early FN made FALs for Brazil are typical FN 1964 models with Type 1 or Type 2 receivers, plastic stock, handguard, and pistol grip, 22 mm cylindrical flash hider for grenade launching, and plastic model "D" carrying handle. Brazilian-made FALs are thought to have been exported to Uruguay. A heavy barrel version, known as the FAP (Fuzil Automático Pesado, or heavy automatic rifle) was also produced for the armed forces, to be used as a squad automatic weapon.
Brazil's planned service weapon was a development of the FAL in 5.56×45mm. Known as the MD-2 and MD-3 assault rifles, it was also manufactured by IMBEL. The first prototype, the MD-1, came out around 1983. In 1985, the MD-2 was presented and adopted by the Military Police
. Its new 5.56×45mm NATO chambering aside, the MD-2/MD-3 is still very similar to the FAL and externally resembles it, changes include a change in the locking system, which was replaced by an M16-type rotating bolt. The MD-2 and MD-3 use STANAG magazines
, but have different buttstocks. The MD-2 features an FN 50.63 'para' side-folding stock, while the MD-3 uses the same fixed polymer stock of the standard FAL.
However, Brazil's current service weapon is a Brazilian FAL-based assault rifle in 5.56×45mm and 7.62×51mm versions, with Assault Rifle and Carbine variants, including a Sniper and CQB rifle, called the IA2
, also produced by IMBEL.
Along with the IA2, MD-2 and MD-3 assault rifles, Brazil produces the M964A1/Pelopes (Special Operations Platoon), with an 11" barrel, 3-point sling and a Picatinny rail
with a tactical flashlight
Brazilian Army officially used the FAP (Fuzil Automático Pesado
, or heavy automatic rifle) as its squad automatic weapon until 2013/2014, when the FN Minimi
was adopted to replace it. The Marine Corps and Air Force also adopted the Minimi to replace the FAP.
IMBEL also produced a semi-automatic version of the FAL for Springfield Armory, Inc.
(not to be confused with the US military Springfield Armory), which was marketed in the US as the SAR-48 (standard model) and SAR-4800 (made after 1989 with some military features removed to comply with new legislation), starting in the mid-1980s. IMBEL-made receivers have been much in demand among American gunsmiths building FALs from "parts kits."
IMBEL in 2014 offered the FAL in 9 versions:
- M964, the standard length semi-auto and full auto.
- M964 MD1, short barrel semi-auto and full auto.
- M964 MD2, standard length semi-auto only.
- M964 MD3, short barrel semi-auto only.
- M964A1, folding stock standard barrel semi-auto and full auto.
- M964A1 MD1, folding stock short barrel semi-auto and full auto.
- M964A1 MD2, folding stock standard barrel semi-auto only.
- M964A1 MD3, folding stock short barrel semi-auto only.
- M964A1/Pelopes, short barrel semi-auto and full auto with Picatinny rail.
Two West German cadets on a joint exercise in 1960. West Germany used the FN FAL designated as G1.
The first German FALs were from an order placed in late 1955 or early 1956, for several thousand FN FAL so-called "Canada" models with wood furniture and the prong flash hider. These weapons were intended for the Bundesgrenzschutz
(border guard) and not the newly formed Bundeswehr
(army), which at the time used M1 Garands and M1/M2 carbines. In November 1956, however, West Germany
ordered 100,000 additional FALs, designated the G1, for the army. FN made the rifles between April 1957 and May 1958. The G1 user modifications included light metal handguards and an integral folding bipod, similarly to the Austrian version.
Neither Germany nor Austria adopted the heavy-barreled FAL, instead using the MG3
(the modernized MG42
) as its general purpose machine gun
The Germans were satisfied with the FAL and wished to produce it under license.
The Belgians, however, refused. Being subject to two German occupations in the space of two generations (1914-1918
), the Belgians insisted on the Germans purchasing only FN-made FALs.
Under the German occupation during World War II, FN was taken over by the major German arms manufacturer Deutsche Waffen- und Munitionsfabriken
(DWM), its directors arrested, and the assembly lines run by slave labour
after only 10% of the Belgian factory workers showed up when ordered to do so.
After the Normandy landings
, the Germans stripped the FN factories of everything useful and sent it back to augment German industries, destroying what they couldn't carry.
FN tried to recoup its losses immediately after liberation near the end of 1944 by refurbishing Allied weapons and producing cheap, easily produced spare parts such as tank tracks.
To make matters worse, the Germans tried to destroy the FN factory with V1 flying bombs
, achieving two direct hits.
The memories of the Nazi occupation were still far too fresh in 1956.
Based on political and economical considerations, but also national pride,
the Germans aimed at a weapon they could produce domestically and turned their sights to the Spanish CETME Modelo 58
Working with the Germans, the Spanish adopted the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge, and a slightly modified version of the CETME went on to be manufactured in West Germany
by Heckler & Koch
(H&K) as the G3
rifle, beginning production in 1959. The G3 would become the second most popular battle rifle in the Free World, "used by some 50 nations and license-manufactured in a dozen".
Without the G3, the FAL may have completely dominated the militaries of the West during the Cold War.
The G1 featured a pressed metal handguard identical to the ones used on the Austrian Stg. 58, as well as the Dutch and Greek FALs, this being slightly slimmer than the standard wood or plastic handguards, and featuring horizontal lines running almost their entire length. G1s were also fitted with a unique removable prong flash hider, adding another external distinction. Of note is the fact that the G1 was the first FAL variant with the 3mm lower sights specifically requested by Germany, previous versions having the taller Commonwealth-type sights also seen on Israeli models. The German FAL had access to high quality Hensoldt Optische Werk F-series scopes with Zeiss-equivalent optics; having 4x magnification, with a 24mm (0.94 in) objective lens.
Israeli Heavy Barrel FAL. Note the hinged butt plate.
After the 1948 Arab–Israeli War
, the Israeli Defense Forces
(IDF) had to overcome several logistics problems
which were a result of the wide variety of old firearms that were in service, such as the German Mauser Kar 98k
and some British Lee–Enfield
rifles. In 1955 the IDF adopted the IMI
submachine gun and the FN FAL in order to standardize their infantry armament;
with the FAL being designated Rov've Mitta'enn
or Romat (רומ"ט),
abbreviation of "Self-Loading Rifle". The FAL version ordered by the IDF came in two basic variants, both regular and heavy-barrel (squad automatic rifle/ light machine gun), and were chambered in 7.62mm NATO. The Israeli heavy barrel FAL (or FALO) was designatedthe Makle'a Kal
, or Makleon
having a standard handguard improved with a perforated metal sleeve around the heavy barrel, and a wooden handguard with a heat shield.
The folding bipod being directly attached to the barrel.
The Israeli Makleon was fed by a 20-round magazine.
Analysing the Israeli campaign of 1956 in the Sinai, during the Suez Crisis
, Brigadier General SLA Marshall noted of the Makleon:
"By Israeli training practice, when the light machine guns are used as fire base to cover the forward movement of the rest of the section, they should not operate at more than two hundred yards' [183m] maximum range from the target. To cut that distance by half is considered better. In the attack, LMGs are rated as highly expendable items and are shoved far front. When the section rushes the enemy position under cover of the LMG fire, one rifleman stays behind to protect the gunners."
Marshall also notes the advantage of both rifle and LMG ammunition being interchangeable, with the squad carrying sixty 20-round magazines, with 1,200 rounds in total.
The Israeli FALs were originally produced as selective-fire rifles, though later light-barrel rifle versions were altered to semi-automatic fire only.
The first rifles were Belgian-made, with Israel later licence-producing the weapons and its magazines.
The Israeli models are recognizable by a distinctive handguard with a forward perforated sheet metal section. Israeli-made magazines were made in the same FN standard of steel, finished with durable black enamel paint, and bearing two Hebrew characters stamped into the metal on one side.
The IDF always emphasized the used of rifle grenades, integrating its usage into their doctrine of night assaults.
Approaching enemy positions within rifle-grenade range, initiating the assault with a volley of grenades onto the enemy positions intended to stun and suppress the defenders, while being immediately followed by the infantry assault while the enemy was shaken.
"Israel's infantry prefers the rifle-fired antitank grenade to the bazooka for shock effect on a group or bunker. At night, if the section should run into an ambush, the grenadier fires, and all the others rush straight in, not firing".
Initially, Israel manufactured a copy of the Energa rifle grenade, that would be surpassed by more recent designs still in production.
Of particular note is the BT/AT 52
an IMI version of the BT rifle grenade derived from the earlier MA/AT 52 model. It can be fired both from 5.56mm and 7.62mm weapons, which share the same-diameter muzzle device, with a maximum range of 300m (328yd) from 7.62mm guns. The BT/AT 52 is often seen in photographs with the FAL.
The Israeli FAL first saw action in relatively small quantities during the Suez Crisis
of 1956, being the standard issue rifle in the Six-Day War
in June 1967, the War of Attrition
of 1967–1970. During the Yom Kippur War
of October 1973, the FAL was still in front-line service as the standard Israeli rifle, though increasing criticism eventually led to the phasing-out of the weapon. Israeli forces were primarily mechanized in nature; the long, heavy FAL slowed deployment drills, and proved exceedingly difficult to maneuver within the confines of a vehicle.
Additionally, Israeli forces experienced occasional jamming of the FAL due to heavy sand and dust ingress endemic to Middle Eastern desert warfare. With the soldiers traveling in open-topped halftracks in fast-paced operations, with tank tracks filling the air with clouds of dust filled with fine grit, soldiers would jump from the half-tracks to hit the sand, finding the rifles filthy at the moment of contact.
In such lightning-fast mobile warfare, the men would hardly have time to eat, sleep or clean their rifles.
Though the IDF evaluated a few modified FAL rifles with 'sand clearance' slots in the bolt carrier and receiver (which were already part of the Commonwealth L1A1/C1A1 design), malfunction rates did not significantly improve.
The Israeli FAL was eventually replaced from 1972 onwards
by the M16
and in 1974 by the Galil
The FAL remained in production in Israel into the 1980s.
During the colonial war in Angola, Guine and Mozambique (the Ultramar War
), the FAL was used by the Portuguese alongside the HK G3
and the AR10
. In Portuguese service, the FN FAL was designated Espingarda Automática 7,62mm FN m/962
. Those were Belgian-made FN FAL and German G1 rifles, and they became favoured by special forces units such as the Caçadores Especiais
army reservists on patrol with South African R1s.
During the Rhodesian Bush War
, security forces fitted some standard FNs with customised flash suppressors
to reduce recoil on fully automatic fire. Rhodesian Security Forces seldom ever used the FN on automatic fire and were trained to use a "double tap" on semi-automatic in combat, as automatic fire was considered a total waste of ammunition. However, a few soldiers rejected these devices, which they claimed upset the balance of their weapons during close action.
In this theatre, the FN was generally considered superior to the Soviet Kalashnikovs
carbines carried by communist-backed PF
Trade sanctions and the gradual erosion of South African support in the 1970s led to serious part shortages.
Consequently, shipments of G3
rifles were accepted from Portugal, although the security forces considered these less reliable than the FAL and relegated them to static troops.
Following Robert Mugabe
's ascension to power in 1980, Rhodesia's remaining FNs were passed on to Zimbabwe
, its successor state.
To simplify maintenance and logistics, the weapon initially remained a standard service rifle in the Zimbabwe Defence Forces
. It was anticipated that more 7.62mm NATO ammunition would be imported to cover existing shortages, but a sabotage action carried out against the old Rhodesian Army stockpiles negated this factor. Zimbabwe promptly supplemented its surviving inventory with Soviet and North Korean
The FAL was produced under licence
in South Africa by Lyttleton Engineering Works
, where it is known as the R1. After a competition between the German G3
rifle, the Armalite AR-10
, and the FN FAL, the South African Defence Force
adopted three main variants of the FAL: a rifle with the designation R1, a "lightweight" variant of the FN FAL 50.64 with folding butt, fabricated locally under the designation R2, and a model designed for police use not capable of automatic fire under the designation R3.
(200,000 were destroyed in UN-sponsored "Operation Mouflon" in 2001). A number of other variants of the R1 were built, the R1 HB, which had a heavy barrel and bipod, the R1 Sniper, which could be fitted with a scope and the R1 Para Carbine, which used a Single Point IR sight and had a shorter barrel.
R1 was standard issue in the SADF until the introduction of the R4
in the early 1980s. Still used by the SANDF as a designated marksman rifle. The first South African-produced rifle, serial numbered 200001, was presented to the then Prime Minister, Dr Hendrik Verwoerd
, by Armscor and is now on view at the South African National Museum of Military History
Syria adopted the FN FAL in 1956. 12,000 rifles were bought in 1957.
The Syrian state produced 7.62×51mm cartridges
and is reported to have acquired FALs from other sources. During the Syrian Civil War
, FALs from various sources, including Israel, were used by governmental forces, rebels, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
and Kurdish forces
The Syrian Arab Army
and loyalist paramilitary forces used it as a designated marksman rifle.
At the end of 2012, the use of .308 Winchester
cartridges may have caused these FALs to malfunction, thus reducing the popularity of the weapon.
Following World War II and the establishment of the NATO alliance, there was pressure to adopt a standard rifle, alliance-wide. The FAL was originally designed to handle intermediate cartridges, but in an attempt to secure US favor for the rifle, the FAL was redesigned to use the newly developed 7.62×51mm NATO cartridge. The US tested several variants of the FAL to replace the M1 Garand. These rifles were tested against the T44, essentially an updated version of the basic Garand design.
Despite the T44 and T48 showing performing similarly in trials,
the T44 was, for several reasons, selected and the US formally adopted the T44 as the M14 service rifle
Century Arms FN-FAL rifle built from an L1A1
During the late 1980s and 1990s, many countries decommissioned the FAL from their armories and sold them en masse
to United States importers as surplus. The rifles were imported to the United States as fully automatic guns. Once in the U.S., the FALs were "de-militarized" (upper receiver destroyed) to eliminate the rifles' character as an automatic rifle, as stipulated by the Gun Control Act of 1968
(GCA 68 currently prohibits the importation of foreign-made full-automatic rifles prior to the enactment of the Gun Control Act; semiautomatic versions of the same firearm were legal to import until the Semiautomatic Assault Rifle Ban of 1989). Thousands of the resulting "parts kits" were sold at generally low prices ($90 – $250) to hobbyists. The hobbyists rebuilt the parts kits to legal and functional semi-automatic rifles on new semi-automatic upper receivers. FAL rifles are still commercially available from a few domestic firms in semi-auto configuration: Enterprise Arms, DSArms, and Century International Arms
. Century Arms created a semi-automatic version L1A1 with an IMBEL
upper receiver and surplus British Enfield
inch-pattern parts, while DSArms used Steyr-style metric-pattern FAL designs (this standard-metric difference means the Century Arms and DSArms firearms are not made from fully interchangeable batches of parts).
Venezuela placed an order for 5,000 FN-made FAL rifles in 1954, in the 7x49.15mm Optimum 2 caliber;
, also known as 7mm Liviano or 7mm Venezuelan, is essentially a 7×57mm
round shortened to intermediate length and closer to being a true intermediate round than the 7.62x51mm NATO.
This unusual caliber was jointly developed by Venezuelan and Belgian engineers motivated by a global move towards intermediate calibers. The Venezuelans, who had been exclusively using the 7×57mm round in their light and medium weapons since the turn of the 20th century, felt it was a perfect platform on which to base a calibre tailored to the particular rigours of the Venezuelan terrain. Eventually the plan was dropped despite having ordered millions of rounds and thousands of weapons on this caliber. As the Cold War escalated, the military command felt it necessary to align with NATO on geopolitical grounds despite not being a member, resulting in the adoption of the 7.62×51mm NATO cartridge. The 5,000 rifles of the first batch were rebarrelled to 7.62×51mm.
When marching victoriously into Havana in 1959, Fidel Castro was carrying an FN-made Venezuelan FAL in 7mm Liviano.
Until recently, the FAL was the main service rifle of the Venezuelan army, made under license by CAVIM
Venezuela has bought 100,000 AK-103
assault rifles from Russia in order to replace the old FALs.
Although the full shipment arrived by the end of 2006, the FAL will remain in service with the Venezuelan Reserve Forces and the Territorial Guard.
Irish soldier armed with a heavily upgraded FAL, used as a sniper support weapon.
Dutch FN FAL being carried by a marine.
Dutch FAL with an infrared light and scope on exhibit at the Legermuseum
- Austria: Produced under license. StG 58 variants used by the Austrian Army from 1958 until 1977. Replaced by Steyr AUG.
- Belgium: Used by the Belgian Army from 1956 until 1995. Replaced by FN FNC.
- Botswana Being replaced as of 2017 with the SAR 21.
- Croatia: Used during the Croatian War of Independence, often called "Falovka".
- Cuba: Used during the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
- Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: Used in unknown quantities by Special Operations Unit (Serbia).
- Israel: Produced under license as the 'lightened' ROMAT M1953. Used by the Israeli Army from 1955 until 1972. Officially replaced by IMI Galil and M16.
- Luxembourg: Used Belgian FALs from 1957 to 1996, replaced by Steyr AUG.
- Netherlands: The Royal Netherlands Army adopted the rifle with a bipod and in semi-automatic form, in 1961. In service it was called Het licht automatisch geweer, but usually known as the 'FAL'. The rifles had unique sights (hooded at the front) and the German style sheet metal front handguard. A sniper version, Geweer Lange Afstand, was also used standard with a scope of Dutch origin produced by the Artillerie Inrichtingen, and without the bipod. The scope was designated Kijker Richt Recht AI 62. The heavy-barrel FAL 50.42 version was also adopted later as a squad automatic weapon as the Het zwaar automatisch geweer.
- Portugal: In 1960, the Army issued quantities of light-barrel FN and West German G1 FAL rifles to several of its elite commando forces, including the Companhias de Caçadores Especiais (Special Hunter [Ranger] companies). The latter often expressed a preference for the lighter FAL over the Portuguese-manufactured version of the H&K G3 rifle when on ambush or patrol.
- Rhodesia: Bought as surplus from Germany and South Africa, because of trade embargo in the country in the 1960s and 1970s.
- United Kingdom: used some Belgian-made FN FALs
- West Germany: Used by the German Army from 1956 until the early 1960s. Replaced by the Heckler & Koch G3.
In the more than 60 years of use worldwide, the FAL has seen use in conflicts all over the world. During the Falklands War
, the FN FAL was used by both sides. The FAL was used by the Argentine armed forces and the L1A1 Self Loading Rifle (SLR), a semi-automatic only version of the FAL, was used by the armed forces of the UK and other Commonwealth nations.
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