NATIONALE FUSIL AUTOMATIQUE LEGER (FAL) FN's Fusil Automatique
Leger was one of the basic NATO caliber weapons to emerge from the "rifle
controversy" of the 1950s. Designers at FN began work on a self loading
rifle before World War II; Dieudonne J. Saive was the principal engineer
when the German army invaded Belgium. In 1940, he and several of his associates
went to the UK where they continued their work on the ritle at the Royal
Small Arms Factory, Entield. After the war, the rifle was manufactured
at FN. Designated the ABL (Armee Belge - Belgisch Leger) and SAFN (Saive
Automatique, FN), it was produced in 7mm, .30-06 and 7.92 calibers. Building
upon his experience with the SAFN, Saive designed a prototype assault rifle
that tired the 7.92 x 33mm Kurz cartridge. Demonstrated early in 1948,
these early FALs were very close to being in concept ideal assault rifles.
The short cartridge with its moderate recoil permitted the construction
of a compact and relatively light weapon. These initial models were subsequently
replaced by prototypes chambered for the British .280 (7mm) cartridge.
Two variants of the .280 FAL were developed- a bull pup design and one
conventionally stocked. When the US Army rejected the UK cartridge, Saive
and Ernest Vervier redesigned the FAL to fire the American experimental
7.62 x 51 mm cartridge.
During this evolution in design, the rifle gained weight and grew in length. The American, British and Canadian armies dropped the full automatic fire requirement because the weapon was no longer controllable when fired automatically. As ultimately adopted by more than 50 nations, the basic ritle is essentially an advanced semiautomatic rifle with a 20-shot magazine. The heavy barrelled version adopted by several countries as a light squad automatic weapon, replacing older weapons such as the BREN, is neither an assault rifle nor a good light machine gun. Australia's L2A1 heavy barrel FAL, used by several Commonwealth nations, has a "bang, bang, jam" phenomena. Instead of automatic fire, it fires two rounds, and then experiences a failure to feed.
Despite its shortcomings (length, weight and recoil), the FAL has been an exceedingly popular weapon. Once the British discovered that the US Army did not like the E.M.2 Rifle but that there were some American officers who thought the FAL was a good weapon, the British became strong proponents of the FAL. The Belgian weapon was tested extensively by the NATO armies between 1951 and 1956. Two experimental lots of the FAL were manufactured in the United States-Harrington & Richardson (500) and High Standard (13). While the US Army ultimately adopted its own design, the 7.62 x Simm M14 Rifle, instead of the foreign FAL, the Belgian rifle has seen wide use throughout the world and has been produced in larger quantities than any other NATO caliber rifle since 1945.
Identification of FALs can be puzzling. Several modifications can aid in determining the origin of particular FALs. The West German G-1,the Austrian StG58 and the Dutch FAL all have a lightweight, folding metal bipod as part of their metal forestock; the British L1 Al and the Indian Ishapore rifles, capable of semiautomatic fire only, have zigzag dirt clearance cuts in the bolt carriers, folding operating handles and enlarged magazine catches and selectors. In addition, the FAL is found with or without flash suppressors, with different types of bolt covers and with forearms of different styles. It is often difficult to identify the original purchaser of a FAL unless the rifle is stamped with an identifying seal or crest.
The FN FAL is also called: the SLR, for self-loading rifle; L1-Al, by the UK and some Commonwealth nations; the Gewehr 1, by the Bundeswehr (West Germany); the Sturmgewehr 58, by the Austrians; the Cl-Al, by the Canadians; and the lA SL, by the Indian Army.
COUNTRIES USING THE FN FAL IN THEIR ARMED FORCES (WITH DATE OF ADOPTION) Abu Dhabi, 1965 Argentina (Fabrica Militar, Rosano), 1955 Australia (Commonwealth, Small Arms Factory, Lithgow) Austria* (Steyr-Daimler-Puch), 1958 (obsolete 1980) Bahrein, 1968 Bangladesh Barbados ~ (Fabrique Nationale Liege), 1954 Bolivia, 1978 Botswana, 1978 Brazil (Fabrica de Itajuba), 1964 Burundi, 1963 Cambodia, Khmer Republic (obsolete) Cameroon, 1968 Canada (Canadian Arsenals Ltd.), 1953 Chile*, 1960 Congo, Republic of, 1956 Cuba, 1959 Dominican Republic, 1959 Dubai, 1969 Ecuador, 1960 Gambia Germany-Federal Republic, 1956 (obsolete 1959) Greece, 1965 (obsolete) Guyana Haiti, 1968 Honduras, 1969 India (Ishapore), 1963 Indonesia, 1958 Ireland (Eire), 1961 Israel (Israeli Military Industries) Jamaica Jordan Kenya, 1966 Kuwait, 1957 Lebanon, 1956 Lesotho, 1971 Liberia, 1963 Libyan Arab Republic, 1955 Luxembourg, 1956 Madagascar Malawi, 1974 Malaysia Mauritania, 1980 Mexico, 1968 (obsolete 1980) Morocco, 1963 Mozambique, 1959 Muscat and Oman, 1960 Nepal Netherlands, 1961 New Zealand Niger, 1964 Nigeria, 1967 Pakistan, 1977 Panama, 1961 Paraguay, 1956 Peru, 1958 Portugal, 1961 Qatar, 1956 Ras Al Kahimah Rhodesia, 1961 Rwanda, 1963 St. Kitts, 1969 St. Lucia, 1963 St. Vincent, 1968 Saui Arabia, 1960 (obsolete) Sharjah, 1975 Sierra Leone, 1968 Singapore, Republic of South Africa, Republic of (Pretoria), 1960 Sultanate de Raas, 1968 Syria, 1956 Tanzania, 1966 Thailand, 1961 Tunisia, 1967 Ummal Qiwain, 1975 United Kingdom*(BAS and RSAF Enfield), 1954 Upper Volta, 1975 Venezuela, 1954
*indicates domestic production
More detailed information on the FAL can be found in the following series by R. Blake Stevens: Stevens, R. Blake. North American FALs: NATO's Search for a Standard Rifle (Toronto: Collector Grade Publications, 1979).
Stevens, R. Blake. UK and Commonwealth FALs (Toronto: Col lector Grade Publications, 1980).
Stevens, R. Blake and Jean E. Van Rutten. The Metric FAL: The Free World's Right Arm (Toronto: Collector Grade Publications, 1981).
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