By:Hawk For this month I am going to cover what I consider one of the all time great "assault rifles", the Fabrique Nationale, Fusil Automatique Leger. The weapon is usually just known as the FAL for short. When the U.S. pressured our NATO allies into accepting the 7.62 NATO (308) cartridge, the weapon of choice for over 90 countries was the FAL. Balance this against the fact that only 2 countries adopted the M-14, the U.S. and Nationalist China (Taiwan).
The FAL basically comes in two main models. The first is the original metric based FAL as invented by Fabrique Nationale in Belgium. The second is the inch pattern that was utilized by Great Britian and the Commwealth Countries such as Canada and Australia.
There are many other models that are based on these two main models. Three of which are significatly different are the Israeli, which is basically a metric FAL, but with a different thread pattern on the barrel. The Israeli FAL also utilizes a charging handle which is also a bolt forward assist.
The Indian FAL is proof that a great design can be screwed up. Only use one of these if there are no rocks available to pick up and throw.
The third model is the one most of us will encounter. It is the hybrid models that were assembled by various manufacturors here in the U.S. These can either be inch or metric pattern guns with the receivers made to take the metric pattern magazines. While they make FAL purist cringe and shudder, they are my favorites. They can be the basis of a fine weapon that mirrors the make-up of America. My favorite FAL is a prime example, basically English (inch pattern), Canadian (top cover), Austrian (magazines), German (gas piston), Israeli (handguards), and American (rear sight).
The reason that the FAL was so sucessful are multitude. I will try to list just a few of the reasons.
The first reason and I think the foremost is the adjustable gas system the FAL employs. This feature enables the weapon to utilize a wide variety of ammunition without stoppages. It is also useful in that it may be adjusted in battle to keep firing when other rifles have quit from fouling.
The second reason is the fact that the weapon is VERY easily field stripped for clearing and cleaning with no small parts or pins to lose easily. The way the weapon breaks down also allows for cleaning from the breech end so there is less chance to harm the crown of the barrel, and thus affecting accuracy.
Te third reason is the availability of cheap well made metric magazines. While we are all aware that most good 308 magazines start at $40 and go up from there, good well made metric magazines are available as I write this for as little as $6 a piece. While on magazines, stay away from the 30 rounders. The only ones I have found that work reliably are the English ones that were made for both the FAL and the 7.62 BREN Gun. Currently they sell for $85 each. For the same $85 you can get 12 good used 20 round magazines and that adds up to 240 rounds ready against 30 rounds. Spare parts are currently plentiful and cheap, but like all military rifle parts prices are rising.
As with all weapons, different users had different needs. This is especially true with the FAL. With over 90 countries using it with all having their own requirements, it has provided the American FAL user with literally a world of different parts to choose from.
Modifications I would make and the parts I would use are as follows. First and foremost is the charging handle. While most people love the sleek look the folding handle gives the FAL, it was designed for paratroops. Most would be better served with the straight one or better yet the Israeli one that doubles as a forward bolt assist. The folding handle is hard to grab quickly, and in a fire fight the folder heats up very quickly and will burn your fingers if more than one magazine is fired rapidly. The second modification is to the rear sight. The stock rear sight is a peep style and comes in two heights to match the gas block and front sight height. It also comes in folding and non-folding varieties. I personally like the non-folder with the DSA hooded arpature. Windage adjustments are accomplished with two opposing screws in the rear sight itself. These screws come plain and serrated under the head. While both work, the serrated screws give you "click adjustments". The hooded arpature and the serrated screws gives one a rear sight almost as good as the rear sight found on the M-14. The most versitile of the gas pistons are the Austrian and the German ones. They are drilled and tapped, enabling them to be used as a short cleaning rod. These pistons can be used in all FAL's except the Israeli ones.
While the FAL's do not equal Match grade M-14's in accuracy, they do benefit greatly when scoped. The best of the scope mounts is the one from DSA which is in the middle of the price range for scope mounts for the FAL. This is a case where the most expensive, is not the best made.
FAL users are a fiercely loyal group, but like most gun owners are very helpful. More information on this wonderful weapon can be found at The FAL FILES site at http://www.geocities.com/Area51/1234/index.html
Do I like the FAL? Good enough to trade away a new HK 91. Trick is though, I got two very good FAL's with 20 magazines for each and enough ammo to feed both for a WHILE.
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