Wednesday, November 28, 2012

More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About The Soviet Makarov & Other 9x18mms

by Mishaco 11-24-2012

Barely a decade ago, a person could hardly walk into a gun shop, and not put eyes on at least a few old communist pistols, chambered for the 9x18mm cartridge. Some were real Makarovs and others were not. Some came in as new guns, while others as used military surplus. All though were simple, reliable, little guns, steeped in 20th century design and history.

Today these pistols are encountered less and less often, especially the earlier ones like the original PM and the unique PA-63. As a result, they are also talked about less. Many of you may in fact only really be aware of the Czech Vz.82, which has become a popular CCW piece in recent years; but there are many old communist designs firing the snappy little cartridge. It has been nearly 3 years since I have done any kind of Makarov Thread, and that one wasn't very detailed or comprehensive anyway. So feeling that I have ignored and neglected some of my longtime favorite firearms for long enough, here we go....

"More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About The Soviet Makarov & Other 9x18mm Pistols"

History & Development:
In 1945, immediately after the end of the Great Patriotic War, the General Staff of the Soviet Red Army announced it would be holding trials to select a new standard issue service sidearm. Since the early 1930s, the Red Army had been equipped with both the Tokarev TT33 automatic and the older Nagant M1895 revolver. Both pistols were durable, reliable, and inexpensive to produce, however each had its own shortcomings and flaws. The new service pistol would need to fulfill several requirements.

First it had to be an automatic/self-loading design, chambered for either a 9mm or 7.65mm diameter bullet. Next, it had to be more compact and more accurate than the TT33; while remaining at least as reliable, durable, and easy to maintain in the field. It must have a manually operated safety catch. As with Red Army firearms before it, the new design would be best received if it used a minimum number of parts, was easy to train soldiers with, and would be well suited for mass production. The initial round of trials were held in 1947.

(A prototype Makarov built in 1947; picture from

In 1949, after three years of planning and one-off prototypes, the Izhevsk Mechanical FActory began limited production of a trials pistol developed by Nikolay Fyodorovich Makarov. Makarov's design would later be designated as the Pistolet Makarova, and I do not think it is a spoiler to say that ultimately, it won the trials to become the new Soviet issue firearm.
The PM pistol was a simple straight blow-back design with a double/single action trigger, manual safety, and compact dimensions. It fired the 9x18mm cartridge, also designated as the 'PM' round. Both pistol and cartridge were heavily influenced by pre-war Nazi German designs.
The pistol itself strongly resembled the Walther PP or PPK. It was larger than the PPK, but had a shorter slide and barrel than the PP. It used a similar double/single action trigger system, along with the same style of slide mounted decocker safety. The PM even field stripped with the same procedure as the PPK. Still, Makarov did make some noteworthy changes to the original pattern. Generally speaking, he simplified the design. The PM consisted of fewer parts than the PPK, and tolerances were not required to be nearly as exacting and tight. The magazine release was changed from a button type located on the upper left side of the frame; to a latch type located on the heel of the grip. Though the Walther did feature a last-round bolt hold open, it did not have an external slide release lever. Makarov incorporated such a lever into his own design. Like the Walther, the Makarov used a wrap-around bakelite grip. However, the PM grip was made from a single piece, with a lanyard staple on the left side. It was attached to the frame via a single square shaped screw.

(A very early production PM manufactured in 1949; picture from

The 9x18mm PM cartridge itself was developed by Syomin. It was based on a pre-war 9x18mm experimental German cartridge, named '9mm Ultra.' The idea behind both cartridges was to have the most powerful round possible, which could safely be fired out of a straight-blowback system. Both nations saw the system as possibly advantageous as it allowed for a fixed barrel, which would be more inhereently accurate. It was also more reliable and easier to manufacture. Both 9x18mm cartridges were marginally more powerful than 9x17mm Kurz (9mm Short aka 9mm Browning, aka .380 ACP), with the 9x18mm PM round being slightly more powerful than 9x18mm Ultra. The 9x18mm PM bullet itself had an actual diameter of 9.2mm and was designed to be a short to medium range self-defense round. At these ranges, it was actually more effective at imparting its energy into a target than the older 7.62x25mm TT cartridge, which was a notorious over-penetrator. Postwar Soviet military doctrine recognized that the personal sidearm was of limited value on the modern battlefield. Its only real use was as a short range defensive weapon. These attitudes greatly shaped the Makarov PM design.

The Actual Makarov PM & PMM Pistols:

(A 1971 standard issue Soviet Makarov; picture from

(A standard military issue PM produced in Bulgaria in the 1980s.)

The Makarov PM was officially declared the winner of the Army trials in 1948 and the go-ahead was given to further refine and perfect the design by the General Staff. Following several minor but important changes, the PM entered into full-scale production at the Izhevsk factory in 1951. However, the pistol was never given a very high priority in Soviet Russia. It was perceived as a peacetime weapon with limited battlefield utility. Instead, first the AK47 and later the AKM were given importance. Soviet doctrine at the time did not even embrace the traditional submachinegun; instead relying on so-called assault rifles.

Nevertheless, by the late 1950s, thousands of PM pistols were being produced every year, with the numbers increasing throughout the following decades. The pistol was so easy to produce and inexpensive, that even with a low production priority enough PMs had been built by the early 1960s, that they had mostly completely replaced older pistols in the Red Army. Enough were available in fact, that starting in the 1960s, Russian militia (police) also began to be issued the new pistols.
The pistol was a masterpiece in simplicity and durability. It consisted of only 27 parts, with most parts performing 2 or even 3 functions. It was built of all steel, except for the single piece bakelite grip, so there was little that could actually go wrong or break during normal use. Initially the free floating firing pin was a cause of concern to some, as they feared it could possibly lead to accidental discharges, in the form of slam-fires. Makarov himself insisted this was unlikely, pointing out that the light firing pin simply did not have enough mass to set off a primer, unless struck by the pistol's hammer. In the end, the firing pin gave few if any problems to its military and police users.
The PM remained virtually unaltered in design throughout its production life, however the manufacturing techniques used to create some of its parts were updated and modernized. Beginning in the late 1970s, some parts which had previously been machined, started to be made from investment castings. During the 1980s, some parts were further simplified. For example, some Russian Makarovs were built with stamped slide release levers. These changes made the pistols easier to manufacture and assemble, as well as saving on resources.

(Another military issue PM; this one made in East Germany in 1960.)

The Makarov Pm was officially adopted by 12 nations, including Russia itself. Most Russian PMs were built by izhevsk, with a smaller number by Tula. It was manufactured in three other communist nations. Starting around 1958, the Ernst Thaelmann Factory in East Germany (DDR) began Makarov production, which lasted for many years. It was designated as the Pistole.M by that nation's armed forces. Next, communist China started making its own Type 59 Makarov pistols, which were exported under the Norinco brand. Type 59 production lasted at least until the 1990s, and could possibly even be ongoing today. The last nation to begin domestic Makarov manufacturing was Bulgaria, which didn't commence full-scale production until the late 1970s. Arsenal (BG) was the primary production facility and the pistol was simply known as the PM by the Bulgarian military and police. Bulgarian Makarov production seems to have ended roughly around the turn of the millennium. Finally, some Makarov pistols were built for export sales in post-Unification Germany, during the 1990s. Under the Simson-Suhl name, a private company bought up surplus parts and tooling from the former DDR state, and recommenced PM production for a brief time. These pistols were basically identical to earlier DDR PMs, except that they had a safety system which was slightly modified. The new safety lever did not lock the slide when engaged; allowing it to be retracted.

(A military/police PMM; picture from

Revisiting the Makarov in Russia, in 1990 a team at Izhevsk released the Pistolet Makarova Modifitsirovanny (Pistol Makarov Modified). The PMM was an updated and somewhat modernized design, which was intended to address some of the original PM's shortcomings. By the end of the 1980s, the Soviet Army was starting to look towards replacing its solid, but dated pistol. Izhevsk was hoping that the PMM would be an acceptable update and replacement of the older design.
The PMM used the same trigger system, control layout, and field strip procedure as the PM, so it was felt it would be quite easy to transition soldiers over to the new model. It was also just as simple and durable as before; however, rather than feeding from a single stack 8 round magazine, the PMM could feed from newly developed 12 round double stack magazines. This meant that the magazine well had to be widened, and thus the grip too would be 'fatter.' An interesting feature of the new design was that it could also feed reliably from original single stack magazines, of which the Soviet Army had large stock piles. Because of the grip's new dimensions, the lanyard staple had to be relocated from the left side, to the rear base of the grip. The PMM retained the same single piece grip though, still attached by a single screw.

The PMM also fired an updated cartridge, named 9x18mm PMM. This new loading featured a lighter bullet and an increased powder charge. Izhevsk claimed this combination could deliver up to 25% greater energy, compared to the traditional 9x18mm PM loading. To insure reliable extraction with the hotter round, the PMM's chamber was fluted. Even with ammunition though, the new Makarov pistol was backwards compatible. It was able to fire the standard PM cartridge reliably and safely.
Izhevsk designed the PMM to have some clear advantages over the PM, but kept many of the same parts and made sure it was compatible with older hardware. Unfortunately for the PMM and its developers, before extensive trials could be held to select Russia's next standard issue sidearm, the communist government fell in 1991. The new democratic Russian government and military wanted to move away from traditional communist symbols and technology, at least as far as was practical. So by the time the Russian Federation Army was ready to continue the trials, it had already decided to adopt a firearm capable of firing the NATO standard 9x19mm round. Also, while the PMM was an improvement over the PM, it simply wasn't enough of one to warrant the expenses and time that would have been required for its adoption. In the end, the modernized Makarov would not be purchased by the Russian military. It only found limited commercial success with some police agencies who had thousands of 9mm PM rounds and spare parts, in Russia and other former communist nations. It was also exported to the USA for a brief time in slightly modified form, but the USA's 1994 Assault Weapons Ban greatly hurt the pistol's marketability.

(A commercial IJ70-18AH with PMM grips)

Starting in the 1980s and lasting through the 1990s, several variants of the Makarov PM were offered by Russia for commercial sales, most notably to the civilian shooting public in the USA. The IJ70 series (IJ as a Latinised abbreviation of Izhevsk) was marketed under the IMEZ and Baikal trademarks. All of the Russian commercial Makarovs imported into the USA had adjustable target sights. These sights were added to the pistols to qualify them as 'sporting' under the American 1968 GCA. Pistols could either be chambered for the standard 9x18mm PM or the 9x17mm Short (.380) round. Most were of the standard configuration, but several 'high capacity' double stack models in both calibers were also imported. These double stack Makarovs borrowed heavily from the PMM design. Prior to the enactment of the AWB in September of 1994, these pistols came with 12 round magazines and afterward, with ones modified to hold only 10 rounds. IJ70 production lasted for only a handful of years and was over before the millennium.

The FEG RK-59, R-61, & PA-63 Series:

(An SMC-918, a commercial version of the R-61 police pistol)

The first nation to adopt a unique domestic handgun design, which was chambered for the 9x18mm PM cartridge was that of Hungary. The Hungarian factory of FEG has had a long history of manufacturing Walther type pistols stretching back to the period immediately following World War II. As an interesting side note, FEG became so efficient at making simple blowback firearms, that when Carl Walther GMBH of Ulm, Germany decided to release the PPK/e for the European market, it selected FEG to be its official licensed production facility. Anyway, back to the story.

In the late 1940s, FEG began offering the M48, a near exact clone of the Walther PP pistol. The M48 was chambered for the 7.65mm cartridge, which was very popular with European police and even some militaries for many decades. The pistol had both a steel slide and frame, along with a PP style double/single action trigger and decocker safety lever. The M48 was purchased in relatively large numbers by various Hungarian police agencies.

After the Soviet Army adopted the Makarov PM pistol, many individuals in both the Hungarian police and military became intrigued by its cartridge, which was significantly more powerful than what the M48 was chambered for. The police though, were not impressed by the Russian pistol itself. They wanted something that was both smaller and lighter, but that could still handle the zippy PM round.

In 1958, the national Hungarian police ordered FEG to develop a new pistol. It was to be similar in design and layout to the M48, but capable of safely firing the 9x18mm cartridge. It also needed to be compact and lightweight for comfortable all-day carry. Given a rather difficult order, FEG nevertheless prooved itself more than capable of meeting its customers' needs.

In 1959, the first Hungarian pistols chambered for the PM cartridge were sent to select police units for field testing and evaluation. The new design was named the RK-59. It was only slightly larger than the Walther PPK, with a 3.4" barrel, and held 6 rounds of ammunition. It featured a PPK style magazine release and internal slide hold open. Its decocker safety lever operated the same as the Walther's, however it had an improved firing pin safety. Unless the trigger was fully pulled to the rear, the firing pin was physically tilted out of alignment with the hammer, making accidental discharges highly unlikely. Interestingly, Walther itself would begin installing a very similar safety system in its police pistols starting in the 1970s. The RK-59's most innovative feature though was its frame. While the slide was made of blued steel, the frame was made of an aluminum alloy, which was left in the white, giving the pistol a two-tone look. The alloy frame allowed the RK to way under 20 oz; quite light for a late 1950s handgun. It used dual flat checkered grip panels, made of plastic, which were very slim. Initially, the new pistol was very well received by the police. It met or exceeded all of their requirements. It was very compact, easy to carry and conceal, and as powerful as a small handgun could realistically be expected to be. However, it had one very serious design flaw.
The RK-59's ultra-modern (for its time), frame was made almost exclusively of aluminum. While it was certainly much lighter than steel, it simply was not nearly as durable. It was soon discovered that the pistol had a relatively short service life. After a few thousand rounds had been fired through the pistol, the frame would start to show signs of stress, which could ultimately lead to cracking and splitting. Obviously, FEG wanted its pistols to last for more than 3,000-5,000 rounds, so the design team went to work trying to strengthen the frame, while not incurring additional weight. It took over a year's worth of trial and error, but eventually it was discovered that adding 0.1% titanium to the alloy would allow the frame to withstand repeated and prolonged firing. The compact design was re-released as the R-61, with the improved frame. Some sources seem to indicate that the R-61 had a longer barrel than the RK-59, however this does not appear to be the case. The R-61 had the same dimensions as its predecessor. It also used the same magazines. The R-61 is often referred to as the 'police pistol,' and indeed most were issued to Hungarian law enforcement. Some though were accepted into military service for ranking officers and specialized troops who needed a backup sidearm. The R-61 proved to be durable enough for normal use and FEG continued to offer it until the early 1990s.

(A later production military PA-63)

  Witnessingthe success of the R-61, and feeling its Tokarev TT33 pistols were rapidly becoming dated, the Hungarian military also ordered a pistol from FEG, which was tailored to its own needs. The military wanted the same lightweight frame, Walther pattern, firing the 9x18mm round; but wanted it to be somewhat larger. In other-words, while the police wanted a PPK sized handgun for concealment, the military wanted a Makarov PM or Walther PP sized sidearm for duty carry. So for the military, FEG developed the PA-63. The PA had an extended slide, with 3.9" barrel. It was given a more comfortable grip, which was extended slightly and had a more curved back-strap. Due to the longer grip, the PA-63's magazine could hold 7 rounds, compared to the R-61's 6. The R-61 could feed from PA magazines, however the reverse was not possible. The PA also had an extended beaver tail, to protect the shooter from 'hammer bite.' In all other ways, the two designs were the same and were produced concurrently. Originally, the PA used the same flat sided grips as the earlier guns, but later examples featured a slight thumb rest on the left grip panel to aid with aimed fire. The PA-63 was primarily used by military officers, though some police did purchase it as well. Most pistols were produced with a two-tone finish. FEG did make some with black anodized frames, primarily for commercial export sales. PA-63 production lasted into the late 1980s. It is still issued today to some Hungarian officers, but it is being slowly phased out of service.

FEG also offered commercial versions of the pistols in the series for export sales. Many were brought into the USA during the 1980s and 1990s. Normally, these pistols would have an all-black finish, with a blued steel slide and anodized alloy frame. A variant of the PA-63 chambered for the 9mm Short (.380) round was marketed under the name AP-9. Another version chambered for the 7.65mm (.32) round and with a steel frame was sold as the AP-7. Commercial versions of the R-61 were also offered as the SMC-918 in 9x18mm and the SMC-380 in 9mm Short. The SMC has the distinction of being the smallest handgun ever allowed for importation into the USA, after the passage of the 1968 GCA. It is tall enough by 0.1" to be considered 'sporting.'

The Radom P-64 & P-83 Pistols:

(An original pattern P-64 made in 1972, with the round hammer)

The next nation to adopt a handgun for the 9x18mm PM Makarov cartridge was Poland. As with the Hungarians, the Polish were interested in the cartridge itself, but not the Soviet pistol design that went along with it. So beginning in the late 1950s, a large and diverse team at the Radom factory started developing a pistol based around the PM cartridge.

By 1961, a functional prototype of the Polish 9x18mm PM pistol was entered into extensive military trials and testing. The pistol was often referred to as the 'CZAK' which was an acronym made by taking the first letter from the last names of the lead designers of the team from Radom. The pistol's parts were made entirely of steel, most of which were machined/milled rather than stamped. It had a traditional double/single action trigger, with slide mounted decocker safety. So mechanically it was like other 9x18mm PM pistols. It was smaller than the Makarov PM, but slightly larger than the FEG R-61. It had an internal slide hold open, with no external release lever. The magazine release was located on the heel of the grip, inside a recessed part of the grip panels. The magazines themselves held 6 rounds and featured a prominant finger rest. The pistol had a unique safety system. When the safety was engaged, the trigger was completely disconnected from the internal lock-work. This system also meant that the pistol's slide could be racked while the weapon was set to safe. One could not do this with the Makarov PM.

The pistol was officially accepted into Polish military service as the Pistolet wz. 1964 in 1965. The P-64 has become known for a very decent single action trigger pull, but for a truly horrific double action one. Originally though, this was not the case. Shortly after initial adoption, the extra heavy hammer spring was incorporated into the design, after the standard weight spring failed to ignite an unacceptably high percentage of cartridge primers, during military testing. The reason for this was that the Polish Army wanted to be able to use the same 9x18mm ammunition in both their handgun and submachinegun. The primers on the 9x18mm cartridges were made extra hard, because if they were not, the PM-63 SMG would occasionally set them off when the operator did not want it to do so. Thus the P-64 ended up with a very stiff and heavy double action trigger.

The pistol would remain in production throughout the 1970s. Many were not satisfied with the design. It was too small for some military applications (though it was well suited for police use), had a limited ammunition capacity, was more expensive to produce than the Soviet Makarov, and of course the heavy double action trigger was not appreciated by virtually everyone. Throughout the 1970s, several competing designs were put forth, but none gained traction. The P-64 continued to be the standard sidearm used by most of the Polish military and police. In the early 1970s, the design was slightly updated with a larger hammer which was easier to cock. The internal lock-work and safety system were also tweaked, to make the pistol more drop safe. It would not be until the mid 1980s, that an improved Polish 9mm Makarov pistol would finally enter into mass production.

(A Polish military P-83 Wanad manufactured in 1991.)

In the late 1970s, two 9x18mm pistols were being evaluated by the Polish military: the P-78A and the P-78B. The P-78B, designed primarily by Ryszard Chelmicki and Marian Gryszkiewicz and named the 'Wanad' (eagle), would eventually be selected for further development. The Wanad addressed virtually all of the shortcomings of the P-64. It was larger; with a longer barrel and slide, and with an extended grip. Thanks to the new grip, the Makarov PM style single stack magazine could hold 8 cartridges. The Wanad was also more comfortable to operate and fire. It had a good single action trigger and a smooth double action. Most of the controls were over-sized and had aggressive ribbing for easier manipulation. These included: trigger, hammer, and magazine release. The new pistol featured an external slide release and more convenient takedown procedure. Rather than a hinged trigger guard like on the P-64, PA-63, and PM; the Wanad had a latch inside the trigger guard which could be pulled down and then the slide lifted off the frame. The same style of decocker safety was used, however a tilting firing pin, much like the FEG design, insured that accidental discharges would not be an issue. The Wanad also addressed cost and production concerns. It was made virtually entirely from steel stampings, rather than forgings.

After years of testing and minor improvements, the P-78B Wanad was officially adopted as the Pistolet wz. 1983, in 1983. It was manufactured at the Radom factory, so the quality of workmanship was very high. Even though the pistol was designed to be inexpensive to make, it still ended up being a solid, durable, accurate, reliable firearm. The P-83 became the standard issue sidearm for the Polish military and for many police agencies. Some police though did keep their older P-64s, as they appreciated their small size and ability to be easily concealed. The P-83 is still used today in the Army, but as with other 9x18mm service pistols, it is slowly being phased out in favor of a newer design in 9x19mm NATO.

A small number of commercial P-83s were imported into the USA under the model name 'Eagle.' These pistols were similar to Polish military ones, but had a spur type hammer and differently shaped trigger guard. A commercial version of the P-64 was never released in the West though.

the CZ Vz.82 Pistol:

(A military issue Vz.82 manufactured in 1985)

One of the last nations to officially adopt the 9x18mm PM cartridge was that of Czechoslovakia. It did so under increasing pressure from the Soviet Union, who very much wanted the nation to conform to the standards used by the rest of the Warsaw Pact Alliance. Through the 1970s and into the 1980s, the Czech military was primarily equipped with the 7.62x25mm TT chambered Vz.52 pistol. The pistol was a domestic design, however it was originally to be chambered for the 9x19mm Parabellum round. Again, Soviet pressure forced the Czechs to adopt the TT cartridge in the early 1950s. As for the various Czech police agencies, they were armed with a range of pistols from the Vz.52, to the Vz.50 and Vz.70 in 7.65mm. It should be noted that while the Czechs were reluctant to adopt yet another Soviet caliber, that the Vz.52 proved itself less than ideal only a short time after its adoption. As a result, the military had been wanting a newer pistol for decades, but the funding was not available.

Around 1980, work was underway to create a next generation handgun, capable of firing the PM cartridge. The design team at Ceská zbrojovka was lead by Augustin Necas, with many other engineers and designers making important contributions. By 1982, the pistol was ready for field trials. It was almost immediately adopted as the Vzor.82, however the design continued to be refined and did not actually enter into full-scale production until 1984.

Though the Vz.82 was about the same size as the Soviet Makarov, had a double/single action trigger, and used a straight blowback operating system; in nearly every other way, it was a totally unique design, even firing a somewhat unique cartridge. The Vz's barrel was chrome lined naturally, but what made it unique in the world of communist pistols was its polygonal rifling. A short time later, Glock would make the rifling pattern world famous, but CZ used it first in its 9mm PM pistol. Another interesting fact is that the Vz.82 was the first sidearm to be adopted by any military with both an ambidextrous magazine release and manual safety catch. Only the external slide release lever was not ambidextrous. The pistol had a wide trigger and large hammer spur, which combined with a smooth double action, and a light single action trigger, made the pistol comfortable for the operator to fire. Finally, nearly a decade before Izhevsk's PMM, CZ's pistol fed from 12 round double stack magazines. To accommodate the larger magazines, the Vz.82 was somewhat thicker than the standard Makarov PM, but in length and height the two designs are virtually the same.

As to the round designed by Sellier and Bellot to be used in the pistol, it too was designated simply 9mm (9x18mm) Cartridge Vzor.82. Here again, a similarity can be observed between Izhevsk's and CZ's efforts. S&B manufactured the bullet for the Vz.82 cartridge by compressing iron powder. The bullet was lighter than that commonly used in the PM cartridge; and it was backed by an increased powder charge. Its designers claimed the Vz cartridge was up to 20% more powerful than the standard Soviet loading. Also, due to its construction, the bullet would fragment upon impact with a solid body, which insured it would not over penetrate and waste energy. CZ's Vz.82 pistol was designed specifically to take advantage of the S&B cartridge, however it was still capable of firing and cycling the standard 9x18mm PM loading.

By the late 1980s, the Vz.82 pistol and cartridge began to see widespread issuance throughout both the Czech military and police forces. While its true the initial reasons for adopting the 9x18mm round came from Russia, as with most all of their firearms, the Czechs took as much of an independent approach to the new firearm as was realistically possible for a Warsaw Pact nation to take. In the end, a handgun that was superior to its predecessors in almost every way was created. It was more durable and reliable than the Vz.52, while also being cheaper and easier to mass produce. Compared to the Vz.50/70, the Vz.82 fired a much more powerful round and had nearly twice the ammunition capacity. All while not really any more costly or time consuming to manufacture. CZ also offered a commercial line based on their military model. It was named CZ-83 by the company and was virtually the same as the Vz.82, except for different markings and the lack of a lanyard ring. Also, it had a somewhat smaller trigger guard. The CZ-83 could be purchased in the original 9x18mm PM caliber, 9x17mm Short (.380), or even in 7.65mm (.32 Auto in the USA). Magazine capacities were 12, 13, and 15 rounds respectively for the different chamberings. The CZ-83 was imported into the USA in limited numbers, with most chambered for the 9mm Short round.

Obviously, the communist government fell from power just after the pistol had fully entered into service. With so much time and energy already dedicated to its development, the new democratic Czech state decided to keep the Vz.82 in front line service for at least a decade longer. It is still in service today with some, though others have traded in their 9x18mm pistols for even newer and more powerful sidearms.

General Features & Performance For All Pistols;
Operating System: Simple straight (aka direct) blowback
Trigger Type: Double/Single Action
Safety System: Manual safety lever (passive firing pin block found in some models)
Sights: Fixed blade front, drift adjustable notch rear
Optimum Range: 15 to 25 m
Effective Practical Range: Out To 50 m
Bore: Chromelined
Cartridge: 9x18mm PM (aka Makarov)
Muzzle velocity: 315 m/s (for standard PM cartridge, from standard barrel length)
305 m/s (for standard PM cartridge, from shorter barrel length)
400 m/s (for S&B Vz.82 cartridge)
430 m/s (for Izhevsk PMM cartridge)

Makarov PM;
Manufacturer: Izhevsk Mechanical Plant & Tula Arms Factory (USSR/Russia), Ernst Thaelmann (Germany), Arsenal (Bulgaria), various Norinco factories (China)
Weight: 730 g (26 oz)
Length: 161.5 mm (6.34 in)
Barrel length: 93.5 mm (3.83 in)
Height: 124 mm (4.9 in)
Width: 29.4 mm (1.16 in)
Magazine Capacity: 8 rds

Makarov PMM;
Manufacturer: Izhevsk Mechanical Plant
Weight: 760 g (27 oz)
Length: 165 mm (6.34 in)
Barrel length: 93.5 mm (3.83 in)
Height: 124 mm (4.9 in) (with lanyard ring)
Width: 38 mm (1.5 in) (can vary depending on grip style)
Magazine Capacity: 12 rds (also 8 rds)

Manufacturer: FEG Smallarms Factory
Weight: 595 g (21.0 oz)
Length: 175 mm (6.9 in)
Barrel length: 100 mm (3.9 in)
Height: 121 mm (4.8 in)
Width: 32 mm (1.26 in) (with flat grip panel)
Magazine Capacity: 7 rds

Manufacturer: FEG Smallarms Factory
Weight: 535 g (19.0 oz)
Length: 158 mm (6.2 in)
Barrel length: 88 mm (3.4 in)
Height: 102 mm (4.1 in)
Width: 32 mm (1.26 in) (with flat grip panel)
Magazine Capacity: 6 rds

Manufacturer: Lucznik Arms Factory, Radom
Weight: 620 g (22 oz)
Length: 160 mm (6.3 in)
Barrel length: 84.6 mm (3.3 in)
Height: 117 mm (4.6 in)
Width: 26 mm (1.05 in)
Magazine Capacity: 6 rds

Manufacturer: Lucznik Arms Factory, Radom
Weight: 730 g (26 oz)
Length: 165 mm (6.5 in)
Barrel length: 90 mm (3.5 in)
Height: 125 mm (4.9 in)
Width: 30 mm (1.2 in)
Magazine Capacity: 8 rds

Manufacturer: Ceská zbrojovka (CZ)
Weight: 800 g (28 oz)
Length: 172 mm (6.8 in)
Barrel length: 97 mm (3.8 in)
Height: 127 mm (5.0 in)
Width: 36 mm (1.4 in)
Magazine Capacity: 12 rds

Importation Of Surplus 9x18mm pistols Into The USA:
In addition to the newly manufactured commercial pistols imported into the USA primarily by Russia, Hungary, and China; there have been many waves of surplus military and police guns chambered for the 9x18mm round brought into the USA. During the 1990s, FEG PA-63s were brought in in large numbers, as were East German Makarov PMs. The PA-63s began to dry up around 2002-2004, with the last major import wave in 2006. Originally they were very affordable at less than $100, but their prices have slowly climbed since. In the early to mid 1990s, Century imported a small batch of surplus RK-59 pistols, numbering only about 3,000. These quickly were bought up by collectors. Due note that an RK should be treated as a collectable; not a shooter. Some individuals in the USA have reported firing thousands of rounds through theirs, however the pistol was rapidly discontinued for a very real reason. Also there are plenty of other small pistols out there for shooting, why risk damaging a unique collectable? A few R-61s have also been imported here and there since the mid 1990s, though the majority were re-barreled by the importer (or possibly by FEG on request) to fire .380. It was thought that the more common caliber would make the pistols sell better. As a result, today R-61s still in the original caliber bring significantly more than those in .380. All of these pistols will be marked '9mm M' on the slide, but a re-barreled pistol will have "9mm Short' stamped on the chamber.

As for the DDR PMs, they were commonly available, though at a notably higher price of $200-$250, until around 2005, with major importation having ended a year or two earlier.
Around the turn of the millenium, Bulgarian Makarov PMs also hit the market in large numbers. With these, some Soviet Russian PMs also 'snuck' in. The Bulgarian PM could easily be found in most gun shops in 2000-2002 for under $100, but then importation was halted suddenly. More recently it has resumed, however the pistols have been over $200 since 2008-2009.
Next to come in were the Radom P-64s, which began to appear in roughly 2002. These pistols have been quite steady for the last decade and their prices have remained under $200 for the most part. When they first came in, they were $150, which made them nearly twice the cost of a Bulgarian PM.
In 2005, the first Vz.82 pistols were imported from the Czech Republic. Two things allowed for their availability. First enough Czech military and police units had surplussed their pistols to make large scale importation feasible, and the 1994 AWB sunset in October of 2004. Without the AWB around, the pistols could be brought in with their original high-capacity magazines, which made things much easier for the importers and made the pistols more desirable to civilian shooters. When they first came in, Vz.82s were $250-$300, so their prices have actually dropped over the past 7 years. They are still easily found today, however overseas supplies are starting to get low.
Finally, one of the last surplus 9x18mm pistols to be imported into the USA was the Radom P-83 Wanad. The first military P-83s were imported in 2009. Prior to this time, true Polish military P-83s were very rare and commanded a price of $500 and up. Since importation began, their prices have remained more or less stable at $250, give or take a few bucks.

What is the value of a Makarov in the USA today?
Honestly, as much or as little as people are willing to pay. Still we can rely on a few guidelines....
1) Russian Military - the most valuable PM and lately I've seen some people asking $750 and up for ones in nice shape with correct magazine(s).
2) Russian Commercial PM (single stack) - While good guns, these do not command a very high price right now. Say $200-$300 depending on condition.
3) Russian Commercial PM (double stack) - These still do not command a premium today, but are worth more than the single stacks. $250-$325 with factory 10 rd mag, $300-$400 with factory 12 rd mag, and $150-$250 with aftermarket mag.
4) East German PM - because of their generally excellent fit and finish, these bring good money on today's market. You are looking at $300 for a rough example, $400 for a good one, and $500 for a near-mint DDR PM.
5) Chinese Norinco Type 59 - Due to their relative rarity, Chinese Makarovs do bring a decent amount today. They are about on par with the East Germans. $350 for a well used example, to $500 or even more for a as-new one.
6) Bulgarian Makarov PM - These are among the best values in 9x18 guns. Though not nearly as cheap as they once were, Bulgie Maks are well made and authentic military issue. So if you want something just like a true Soviet Makarov, but are unwilling to pay well over $500 for a damn PM, look into a Bulgie. They start out at $200 for a rough example and climb to about $300 for a nice one.
7) Hungarian FEG PA-63 - Once these were about as cheap as a surplus 9x18mm could be, but importation has ended and prices are going up. With luck, one might still find one for under $200, but it seems like $250 to $350 is a more common asking price range today.
8) Hungarian FEG RK-59 & R-61 - only a few thousands of these pistols were imported by Century about 20 years ago, so the supply is very fixed. The RK-59s are valued as collectables, while the R-61s are good shooters and even CCW pieces. Its hard to find either one in decent shape for under $300 these days, with $350-$400 being a more common price for a nice example.
9) Hungarian FEG SMC - SMC - importation has also ended, but more of these commercial compacts were imported than the original surplus ones. The SMCs start out at $250 and go up to $350 or so. If you want an FEG 9x18mm that is PPK sized, but can't find a R-61, you should look for an SMC-918. The two pistols are identical except for markings and the frame's finish.
10) Polish P-64 - these are still available as current surplus, so as a result can be had for $200 or less right now. Recent reports do seem to indicate however, that P-64 supplies are getting low.
11) Polish P-83 Wanad - these are also available as current surplus and can be found for between $250 and $300.
12) Czech Vz.82 - once very rare in the USA, these hit the market 7 years ago and are still going strong. They can be found for $200 in decent to $250 in nice condition.

Magazines & Holsters:
> If a pistol comes with a spare mag, of course that increases its value. PM mags are common still, as are ones for the P-64, PA-63, and Vz.82. However, magazines for the P83 are in somewhat limited supply, so they usually sell for more. The RK-59, R-61, and SMC-918 all accept the same magazines, and these magazines are uncommon to rare today. Finally, factory mags for the Russian double stack Makarov are rare and worth well over $50 for a 10 rounder and 12 rounders can go for as much as $100. Aftermarket PMM type mags such as Pro-Mag are not at all very highly thought of though and should probably be avoided if possible.

(2 styles of 8 rd PM magazines)

(P-64 and P-83 Magazines)

(PA-63 and R-61/SMC-918 magazines)

(Both early 2 piece body, and later solid body double stack PMM magazines)

(An earlier production Vz.82 with the milled floorplate)

> Many surplus 9x18mm pistols might come with a military or police issue holster. Virtually all holsters specifically designed for one of these pistols and issued by a military, will be of a flap style made of brown or black leather. The holster will hold a spare magazine and may or may not hold a cleaning rod too. Most common are the standard Makarov PM holsters from Bulgaria, East Germany, and Russia. A few types of holster for the Vz.82 have been imported, including the ambidextrous military pattern and more traditional police type. Hungarian holsters for the PA-63 are not exactly common, but can be found with a bit of looking. The smaller police holsters for the RK-59 and R-61 are rather rare though. Compact holsters in both black and brown, and with and without metal loops, have come in for the P-64. More recently, ones for the P-83 have also appeared. None of these holsters are high-dollar items, but do add $10-$30 to a pistol's value generally speaking. Cleaning rods and lanyard ropes are usually considered as bonuses, as neither are normally worth more than $5 when separated from the rest of the package.

(A standard PM holster made in Bulgaria)

(A Polish military P-64 holster)

(A Hungarian military PA-63 holster)

(A Russian holster designed for the PMM pistol and spare high cap magazine)

Pros & Cons Of The Designs:
Here is a list of some of the advantages and disadvantages of each of the 9x18 designs talked about in this thread. Perhaps this information can help someone choose which (if any) 9x18mm is best for them?
1) Makarov PM; designed as a backup self-defense weapon and intended primarily for NCOs and other military personnel.
Pros -
> Its the original and parts are easy to find, including magazines
> Its all steel construction and simple design make it highly durable and low maintenance.
> It has an external slide release lever.
> It can handle virtually every type and kind of 9x18mm PM ammunition out there.
Cons -
> The trigger pull in DA is unremarkable to heavy, depending on the individual pistol.
> Some Americans dislike its heel mounted magazine release.
> Though it is rather compact, it is not light by most standards.
2) FEG PA-63; designed to meet requirements set forth by the Hungarian People's Army for a medium sized duty sidearm.
Pros -
> The alloy frame allows this pistol to be quite light for its size.
> It has a very dependable safety system.
> It has a 1911 style button magazine release, which many prefer.
Cons -
> Some 9x18mm loadings out there do not cycle reliably in the PA. Especially those with slightly longer bullets.
> It is actually the longest 9x18mm pistol, so not ideal for concealment.
> It does not have a slide release lever.
> Its ammunition capacity is somewhat limited.
3) FEG R-61; Designed expressly as a sidearm for Hungarian police officers.
Pros -
> This is a very small pistol in all dimensions: length, height, and width.
> This is a very light pistol, especially for one built entirely of metal.
> It has a 1911 style magazine release, again some prefer this.
Cons -
> Due to its small size and light weight, this pistol can have excessive felt recoil.
> It does not have a slide release lever.
> Its ammunition capacity is quite limited.
> Some replacement parts are not easy to find, including magazines, grips, and springs.
4) Radom P-64; Designed to be used along side the PM-63 SMG and as a backup military sidearm.
Pros -
> This pistol is very well made with excellent fit and finish.
> It is very compact and easy to conceal.
> Thanks to its all steel construction, it is quite durable.
> The SA trigger is quite good for a 9x18mm pistol.
Cons -
> The DA trigger is simply the worst I've ever found on a pistol.
> It is quite heavy for its size.
> It is not especially comfortable to fire because of its small grip.
> It does not have a slide release lever.
> It has a heel mounted magazine catch.
> It has the smallest sights found on any 9x18mm; good for holster draw, not so good for aiming.
> These pistols were made with tight chambers, so some ammunition out there will not cycle reliably in them.
> Its ammunition capacity is quite limited.
> Pistols with the original round hammer are rather difficult to cock one handed.
> There are reports of the pistol discharging if dropped onto its hammer. This is more likely with the original lock-work pattern.
5) Radom P-83; Designed to address multiple complaints made by POlish army officers about the P-64.
Pros -
> As with most things Radom, it is very well made, even though it is mostly built from stampings.
> Its controls are over-sized for easy manipulation.
> Its trigger pull in both DA and SA is quite nice for a 9x18mm pistol.
> It has an external slide release lever.
> It has a very dependable safety system.
> Its takedown procedure is easier than other 9x18mm pistols.
Cons -
> Its mostly all stamped construction might not appeal to some.
> It has a heel mounted magazine catch.
> Its ammunition capacity is not particularly impressive for a 1980s pistol.
6) CZ Vz.82; Designed under Soviet pressure and also to replace the mostly disappointing Vz.52.
Pros -
> Generally speaking, this pistol has the best DA and SA trigger pulls in the 9x18mm world.
> It has the highest ammunition capacity of any of the guns.
> It has both ambidextrous magazine and safety catches.
> It has an external slide release, though it is not ambidextrous.
> It has a large spur hammer for easy one handed manipulation.
> It has the largest sights of any of the 9x18mm pistols, and they normaly are marked with high-visibility paint.
> It has an easier takedown procedure.
Cons -
> It has a 1911 style thumb safety, that can only be engaged when the hammer is cocked.
> It lacks a decocker, making going from SA to DA with a loaded chamber somewhat risky.
> Its paint type finish is not especially durable and wears off quite easily.
> It is heavier than the other 9x18mm pistols.
> It is also taller and wider than the other pistols, though still reasonably compact.
> It is more mechanically complex than the other 9x18mm pistols, which makes detailed stripping harder, and could possibly lead to problems.

Makarov Q&A:
There is a goodly bit of confusion surrounding these pistols by civilians in the USA today. Here are some common questions and misconceptions....
Q) Is there such a thing as a Polish, Hungarian, Romanian, or Czech Makarov?
A) No, the only nations to make true Makarov PMs were as listed earlier: Russia, East Germany (Germany after Unification also), China, and Bulgaria. All other pistols are unique designs whose parts do not interchange with those of the real Makarov. The PA-63 and P-64 are no more 'Makarovs' than a SiG Sauer P220 in .45 ACP is a Colt Model 1911A1. What links the pistols in this thread is their common caliber. They can't even share magazines.
Q) Is it Vz.82 or CZ-82, or does it even matter?
A) It is Vz.82 and it does matter as technically CZ never made a pistol named CZ-82; rather the commercial model was called the CZ-83.
Q) Of the true Makarov pistols, which is the best?
A) Most sources agree that the East German guns consistently have the nicest fit and finish. Most sources also agree that the Chinese guns generally have the poorest fit and finish, mostly because of their thin salt-bluing. Now between Russian and Bulgarian military, neither is clearly superior. Both nations could make a damn nice pistol, but both also had their off days. Russian Commercial pistols are generally thought to have poorer finishes than military pistols though.
Q) Can I fire......?
A) Just stop right there. Only put 9x18mm Makarov PM in a gun marked 9mm M and .380 in one marked 9mm Short. You absolutely should not fire 9x19mm Parabellum or even 9x18mm Ultra/Police in any of these pistols. Full stop, end of story, period.
Q) Since they look virtually the same, will Makarov PM and P-83 Wanad magazines interchange?
A) No sorry, though they look the same, they are just dimensionally different enough that neither magazine will fit in the other pistol. Bad news for P-83 owners I know.
Q) Are actual Makarov Pm pistols from the different nations/manufacturers parts compatible?
A) Generally speaking yes they are. Russia, Bulgaria, East Germany, and China all used the same tooling and blueprints to produce their pistols. Magazines for sure are interchangeable, though there are slight differences in them from time to time.
Q) Can I (legally) remove the thumb rest target grips from my Bulgarian or East German Makarov?
A) Yes, it is not a violation of any Federal law to remove those grips and install original military grips. The thumb rest grips were added to give the pistol enough 'points' for importation under the 1968 GCA, but once the pistol is in the USA and in private hands, it doesn't matter.
Q) Can I erase/buff out the ugly import marking on my pistol?
A) Absolutely not. It is a Federal crime to deface or obscure an importer's marking, sorry.
Q) What can I do to make the import mark less noticeable and apparent?
A) It is acceptable and not forbidden to colour the marking, say with a product such as Cold Blue. It helps a goodly bit, or so I am told.
Q) Are replacement springs from makers such as Wolf a good idea?
A) If you plan to fire your 9x18mm frequently, they are a great idea. Just be sure to get the exact spring set for your pistol. I just mean, PA-63s need PA-63 springs and springs designed specifically for the Makarov PM should not be installed or used in any other model.
Q) Are any of these surplus 9x18mm pistols good conceal & carry pieces?
A) Honestly? No not really. True some are quite small and they do pack a decent punch, but just remember you have a firearm that was manufactured as many as 50 years ago by a communist factory. These pistols were designed for military use, not civilian carry. Also many saw decades of moderate to heavy use and handling. In other words, I am just not sure its wise to trust ones life to a well used pistol with an unknown past. Back when 9x18mms were under $100, alright maybe they were a decent alternative for someone who really couldn't afored anything better. Today though they are over $200 and for just a bit more a person can purchase a factory new pistol with warrenty, designed specifically for modern CCW duty. Just my 2 cents of course, but think about it.
Q) Which 9x18mm Pistols are considered C&R by the BATF?
A) Original Russian military, East German military, Polish P-64, and Czech military Vz.82s. The Bulgarian and Chinese PMs are not C&R. Neither are the Hungarian PA-63, R-61, SMC-918, or the P-83 Wanad.
Q) Do you realise its insane to have the Vz.82 C&R, but not the PA-63 or Bulgie PM?
A) Yes I sure do, but its also kind of awesome if you have a C&R license and want a Vz.82.
Q) In all of this boringly and pointlessly long post, about a pistol i hardly care about; you barely talk about how these shoot. How accurate are each of the pistols and how are the sights?
A) Hell if i really know, why don't you ask someone with eyes?
Q) Why do you like the Makarov and the other 9x18mm pistols so much? They seem kind of plain and boring to me.
A) I am interested in Russian and Cold War history. I am interested in firearms. I like how they feel and shoot...Alright, ok the truth is when i discovered i loved guns I was a broke ass college sophomore. I couldn't really afford anything even half way nice, but thanks to great luck, I discovered guns right in the middle of the 'Golden Age' of Milsurp (1990-2005 CA) and several 9x18mm pistols were on the market at the time for less than what most people spend today to fill up their gas tanks twice (or once if you drive something really huge). So every few months, i'd save up and go to a local shop that specialized in milsurp and military firearms and see what they had for under $100, or $200 if I'd had a birthday recently. So several of my pistols have followed me around for over a decade and have a goodly bit of personal value. That and old communist firearms really are neat.
The pistols pictured in this write-up are mine, except for the 4 pictures from ModernFirearms. The oldest I've had for 12 years; the newest for just a week. I feel my collection is complete, though I'd not say no to a Soviet PM or RK-59.

I am sure I have made some mistakes too as most of what is above came from my own demented mind, with some names, dates, and measurements taken from Wikipedia and other sites. Still, i think the read (did you actually read it? you better have done, i spent hours typing it) gives a respectable enough overview of the Makarov PM and other pistols based around its 9mm PM cartridge.

Seriously though, for those of you who did read through and are posting to contribute your own information, pictures, or stories; thank you. I do this because i enjoy it, but it is nice to know my energies haven't been wasted. It would be nice to see a rekindling of interest for the Makarov too. After all, thousands upon thousands of these pistols are in the USA today, with still more being imported right now. Also the ammunition is actually pretty easy to find, and quite inexpensive to boot. Just saying you could do worse than to get a 9x18mm as your next handgun.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


by Mishaco

It has been some time since we've had an FN FAL thread in here, and I thought why not do another? There is so much information out there on the FAL that I am not going to try and rehash it all here. For those wanting more detail, check out all of the posts over on FALFiles or pick up one of the many books out there written about this awesome weapons system. I myself am interested in the FAL as a Cold War era battle rifle. I know DSA makes some modern and inovative variants today, but while they are well executed, they do not excite me. I love the forged steel and wood look of the original FALs. I also like the sleak all-black look of the later rifles from the 1970s. The American M14 and the German G3 get a lot of attention today, but for many back in the 1950s and 1960s, the FN FAL was their first choice for a standard issue main battle rifle. So lets look briefly at the 'Right Arm Of The Free World' and then share some pictures and build stories.

History & Development:

(Early FN FAL Prototype in .280 British)
The Fusil Automatique Léger or "Light Automatic Rifle" was the brainchild of successful Belgian smallarms inventor Dieudonné Saive. Development on the core operating system actually had begun before the outbreak of the Second World War, but of course the Nazi German invasion of Belgium in 1940, haulted Saive's development program. After the war though, work commenced again and soon a working prototype had been created.
In 1947, an early version of the FAL was unvailed, chambered for the German 7.92x33mm Kurz intermediate cartridge. The next year, the British military evaluated the new weapon and were generally impressed with its performance. They did however suggest that it be rechambered to fire their own .280 caliber automatic rifle cartridge. They also asked FN to develop a bullpup version, which while built, was never well received by anyone.
In 1949, FN and Saive began marketing the FN SAFN49 self-loading battle rifle. The FN49 used the same gas system and tilting bolt, which would later be found in all FALs. However, unlike the FAL, the FN49 was a traditional wooden stocked infantry rifle, with a fixed 10 round magazine, and was limited to semi-automatic fire only. Basically it was an interum offering to raise capital for FN, until the FAL was ready for commercial sales. The FN49 was originally chambered in 7.62x63mm (.30-06), and 8mm and 7mm Mauser. Later some would be reworked to fire 7.62x51mm NATO in the late 1950s. It was a good rifle but a bit conservative and dated by the standards of the time. The FAL though, was anything but conservative for its day. It quicly drew the attentions of other militaries.
Starting around 1950, the US military also examined the FAL and expressed a strong interest in adopting it. The US too wanted it in their own cartridge; the .30 T65 Light Rifle round, which would later become 7.62mm NATO.
In 1951, FN saw that the British military was heavily favouring its own Enfield M2 bullpup design over their FAL, so it decided to agree to build the FAL for the American cartridge. FN also offered to allow the USA to license build the FAL royalty free, as a token of thanks for its part in the liberation of Belgium in WWII. A short time later, the British did indeed select the M2 over the FAL, and it appeared at the time that the USA would adopt the FN rifle to replace the M1 Garand, for its next general issue infantry rifle. However, politics would soon step in and theFAL's future would radically change.
In 1952, a new government would come into power in Britan and the decision to adopt the M2 and its .280 caliber cartridge would be reversed. Instead, it would declare its new standard issue rifle to be the FAL and agreed to adopt the American .30 T65 round. Over in the USA, the FAL was entering into trials as the T48 and was competing against the T47 and T44. It was thought that the T48 would be adopted as Britan and America had previously reached an agreement. The idea was to have a standard cartridge and rifle for all NATO member states and these were to be the .30 T65 to appease America and for it to be fired out of the FAL to satisfy Britan and Europe.
Well everyone else held up their end of the agreement, but the USA ended up selecting the T44 as the M14 and passing over the T48 FAL. Simply put it was a case of politics and national pride. Too many Americans just couldn't accept a foreign designed weapons system. The excuse was given that the T44/M14 would be easier to produce as already existing tooling for the M1 Garand could be utilized. However, this claim prooved to be false, as all new tooling had to be acquired. The M14 was adopted in 1957, and it was such an excellent rifle that by 1962, many in the military were already looking to replace it. Because America went with the conservative M14, over the modern FAL; it would later adopt the futuristic M16 in a knee-jerk reaction. Also keep in mind that both Belgium and Britan wanted the FAL in an intermediate caliber and it was the USA that insisted that it be in a full power round.
At any rate, the FAL's future was alive and well in both Europe and among the Common Wealth nations. In 1953, the Allied Rifle Committee established the FAL as the standard rifle for NATO members, along with designating the .30 Light Rifle cartridge as 7.62x51mm NATO. This committee also suggested several upgrades and improvements to the rifle, which some users would adopt, while others would not. FN was happy to customize the platform to suit individual militaries' needs, as long as their requirements were feasible.
In 1954, the Canadian military was the first to adopt the FAL as its standard issue rifle, as the C1. The initial order was for 2,000 weapons and additional magazines and accessories. The C1 featured many of the improvements suggested by the Allied Rifle Committee. A short time later, both Britan and Australia would follow suit, adopting a very similar model as the L1A1. These rifles would become known as 'inch' pattern FALs.
In 1955, Argentina adopted a version of the FAL, which would later be called a 'metric' pattern. The first Argentinian FALs were manufactured by FN, but later FM would begin domestic manufacturing. During the same year, the young nation of Israel would also adopt a slightly modified version, to replace a large assortment of bolt action rifles then in frontline service. IMI in Israel would never create complete rifles, but would make most other parts during the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1956, the West German Boarder Guards would purchase a variant of the FAL designated as the Gewehr1 or G1. The G1 was a metric pattern and all were manufactured by FN in Belgium. Later, the new West German Army would also place an order for more G1s; however, this business relationship would be short lived. W. Germany wanted to purchase a manufacturing license, and FN refused. As a result, the Germans turned to the Spanish designed CETME rifle, and adopted it as the G3 in 1959. A short time later G1 rifles were surplused and sold off, mainly to Turkey. If FN had allowed Germany to build their own G1 rifles, the FAL's biggest competitor would have never come to global prominance. Also in the same year, the Belgian military itself would officially adopt the FAL as its standard issue infantry rifle.
In 1958, Austria would adopt a version of the FAL, which was very much like the G1, but with a different muzzle device. It would be designated as the STG.58, with the original rifles built by FN. Later ones though would be made by Steyr in Austria. Throughout 1958 and 1959, many more nations would adopt the FAL. So by the 1960s, it was becoming a very common rifle all around the world.
Interestingly, in 1961 Ishapor of India began building a variant of the FAL as the 1A. This rifle was created by reverse engineering the British L1A1. It was not a licensed produced FAL and was thus technically illegal. It blended both metric and inch pattern features and was not fully parts compatable with other FALs.
In 1964, the Brazilian military would adopt the standard metric FAL as the Modello 964. A short time later, the Imbel factory would start manufacturing the model domestically. Likewise, ARMSCOR of South Africa would also begin standard metric FAL production as the R1, for its nation's military. Many R1s would illegally be sent to Rhodesia where they saw extensive combat in countless brush wars.
By the 1970s, approximately 93 militaries were using or had used some variant of the FAL. It was manufactured by over a dozen factories, including those in Belgium, Britan, Canada, Australia, Austria, Argentina, Venezuela, and the United States (by both H&R and High-Standard). More First World nations used the FAL than any other single rifle, including the CETME, HK G3, Armalite AR10, and Springfield M14. Only the Russian AK47/AKM saw more widespread use.

the FAL LAR Light Rifle:

(Late style FAL manufactured by Imbel of Brazil)
The original, standard light automatic rifle or FAL LAR was the most common and widespread version used by the majority of militaries. It had a 21" long lightweight barrel and could be had with either wooden or polymer furniture. Some LARs were select fire, while others were limited to semi-auto only by means of a different selector. FN designated this model as the 50.00. Many changes were introduced to the design overtime. For example, the original LAR had a lug located midway down the barrel, and a bare muzzle crown without flash hider. The lug was used to mount a blade bayonet with a flash hider as an intregral part. The lug was also used when mounting the grenade launching assembly. Later though FN began threading the end of the barrel and mounting a combination device. This device acted as a flash hider, bayonet lug, and grenade launcher.
Three types of upper receiver were found on FN produced rifles. The original Type I had many lightening cuts and cosmetic finishing. IN 1962, the Type II was introduced primarily for fully automatic rifles. This type had a thicker area in the rear, which lent the receiver more strength. In 1973, the Type III was introduced. This receiver did away with most of the lightening cuts and some of the cosmetic finishing. The goal of the Type III was to lower the production time and costs. Later still, FN went from a forged receiver, to one that was investment cast.
The West German variant of the FAL, designated as the Gew.1 or G1 had some interesting features. It was requested with sights which were 3mm shorter than those found on earlier rifles. This style would later be copied by most other metric designs. The G1 had a quick detach muzzle device which could be swapped from a flash hider, to a blank fire adapter rapidly. It used a wooden buttstock and stamped sheet metal handguards, which were slightly slimmer than FN's standard wood or polymer units. Finally, the German FAL had a light bipod which folded nearly flush into the forearm. All G1s were produced in Belgium by FN, using German user customizations.

(Austrian STG.58 manufactured by Steyr)
When Austria adopted the FAL as the STG.58 in 1958, it used the German pattern too. The STG.58 also featured the folding light bipod, metal handguards, and shorter sights. Original rifles from FN had wooden stocks, but later Steyr produced examples had lightweight polymer buttstocks with thick rubber recoil pads. The STG.58 differed from the g1 though by its muzzle device. The Austrian rifle had a Stoll combination flash hider and grenade launching unit. It was not setup to accept any type of bayonet.
The nation of Israel was another large purchaser of FAL rifles. Though IMI never manufactured complete rifles or receivers, it did eventually make most other parts, including gasblocks, furniture, and bolt groups. Israel adopted a relatively early version and it was commonly called the Romat. The Romat used an early lugged barrel, original tall sights, and other early features. FN produced gasblocks had open 'ears' while IMI ones had a unique closed angular look to them. One important change that Israel made to the design was to adopt an improved and stronger wooden handguard, with reinforcing metal grills on the end. The Romat's selector was also different from those found on other metric FALs, and most rifles had a forward assist button as part of the charging handle. Some were select fire, while others were fitted with modified selectors, which only allowed for semi-automatic operation. Overtime, Romats were modernized and upgraded. For example, Israel did adopt the FN short combination muzzle device along with the threaded barrel. Romats were first used in limited numbers during the Suez Crisis in 1956, and were in widespread use by the 1967 Six Day War. They were also heavily used during the Yom Kippur War. Israel put the FAL to more use than most other nations, at least outside of Africa.

the FALO Automatic Rifle:
The Fusil Automatique Lourd or FALO was a heavy duety version of the FAL, intended as a light machinegun or squad automatic weapon. It featured a 21" long heavy barrel, extended birdcage flash hider, heavy folding bipod, thicker handguards, stronger carry handle, and longer range 700 meter rear sights. It could be had in two versions. The 50.41 had a plastic nylon buttstock, and the 50.42 had a wooden stock with flip-up metal buttplate which could be used as a shoulder rest. The FALO was issued with extended 30 round box magazines, but could also feed from the LAR's 20 rounders. It was not a particularly popular model, with only Belgium and Argentina fielding it in any real numbers.
Israel also purchased several thousands of FALO rifles from FN, naming them the Makleon. This variant was very similar to the original Belgian model, except for featuring enlarged versions of the Israeli Romat handguards. All Makleons were the wood 50.42 version, with heavy folding metal bipod. They all featured forward assist buttons and birdcage flashhiders. As squad support weapons, they had 3 position selectors, which allowed for fully automatic fire. Most seemed to have been used with standard 20 round magazines.

the FAL Para Carbine:

(A 50.63 FAL Para manufactured by FN)
FN produced several carbine versions of the FAL, under the 'Para' designation. The 50.61 had a standard LAR upper with 21" barrel; and a lower receiver with a right side folding metallic skeletonized buttstock. Next, the 50.62 was released, and it was identical to the 50.61 except for having a shortened 18" barrel. This size was chosen as it did notably decrease the FAL's length, while still allowing for good performance of the 7.62mm NATO cartridge. The 50.63 was developed especially to fit the needs of Belgian paratroopers. It had a 18" barrel and side folding stock, same as the 50.62, but also featured a folding charging handle, redesigned takedown lever, and lacked a carry handle. Finally, the 50.64 was offered. All of the previous Para models, while being more compact than the standard FAL weren't any lighter. In fact the 50.61 was actually heavier due to its robust folding stock mechanism. The 50.64 attempted to address this by having an aluminium alloy lower receiver. Aside from having the 50.63's folding charging handle, it was identical to the 50.61 with its 21" barrel and carry handle.
As with the standard FAL, the Para design too was altered over the years. The original models had a fixed rear peep sight for 200 meters with relatively small sight protector 'ears.' In the late 1960s, FN developed a new style of rear sight with an L-type flip peep with 150m and 250m settings. This sight also had larger and stronger ears. The takedown lever was also altered. The Para's side mounted sling swivel interfered with the original vertical type takedown lever, so a horizontal type began to be used. Interestingly, this style also carried over to the standard LAR. In the late 1970s, the folding stock received an additional locking latch. Before, to fold the stock, the user just had to press down and rotate. The new latch added an additional step, which required a button to be pressed before the stock could be folded. This method might have been more secure, but it greatly complicated things and was not a popular design change.

the Common Wealth FAL:

(An L1A1 SLR manufactured in Britan)
The Common Wealth FAL variants, often called 'inch patterns' today were produced by Great Britan, Canada, and Australia. Basically these FALs were built using the improvements and upgrades suggested by the Allied Stearring/Rifle Committee. In many external and cosmetic ways, inch pattern FALs differ greatly from their metric cousins; but internally they are virtually the same rifles.
In Britan, the FAL was produced as the L1A1 by Royal Small Arms Factory Enfield, Birmingham Small Arms, Royal Ordnance Factory, and ROF Fazakerley. It featured a 21" long standard weight barrel, unique lightening cut receiver, folding rear sight, enlarged carry handle, folding charging handle, redesigned magazine release, folding trigger guard, and birdcage flash hider with intregral bayonet lug. Early L1A1s had a 5 slot hider, while later ones had a 3 slot. The change was made as the 3 slot version was stronger. Early rifles were built with wooden furniture, with a metal buttplate with a storage compartment for cleaning gear. Later ones shipped with black polymer furniture, with a pebble grain texture. This style of furniture did not have a storage compartment and had a synthetic buttplate. Most L1A1s had their automatic last-round bolt hold open levers modified into a manually activated bolt hold open.
In Canada the FAL was manufactured under license by Canadian ARsenals Ltd as the C1, and later as the slightly modified C1A1. The C1 was similar to the British L1A1, except it had a unique rotating disc type rear sight and open topped dustcover. This dustcover allowed the c1 to be reloaded via stripper clips. Its furniture was slightly different in design from the L1A1 also. The C1A1 was a product improved version, with different receiver lightening cuts, redesigned carry handle, and modified furniture. Canada also fielded a heavy barreled version of the C1, as the C2 and later C2A1. This automatic rifle was a counterpart to the FN FALO and was used as a squad support weapon. Still it had some unique features. Most interestingly, its heavy bipod also incorporated the rifle's handguards. It had a swept back carry handle and dustcover mounted tangent rear sight. The C2 and C2A1 were issued with 30 round magazines.

(A Canadian C2 squad support automatic rifle)
In Australia the FAL was built by Lithgow, using the L1A1 designation. Australian L1A1s were virtually the same as the British versions, except for slightly differently shaped handguards and a green plastic carry handle rather than wood or black plastic. Unlike Britan though, Australia did field a heavy barreled FALO variant under the L2A1 designation. The L2A1 was very similar to the C2. In fact, Lithgow imported dustcovers with rear sight mounts on them from Canada to use on their L2A1s.

Civilian Legal FALs In The USA:
The first FALs in the USA, at least in any numbers, were the T48 trials rifles. 500 were produced by H&R, while others came from High Standard and FN. As this was before the close of the machinegun registry, some of these rifles were legally purchased by private owners and are today transferable machineguns. Still, relatively few exist, with an even smaller number ever for sale.
The first semi-auto FALs to be offered in America were the so-called 'G Series.' These were West German contract G1s converted to semi-auto by Parker-Hale Ltd. of England, and imported by Browning Arms Co. of the USA. 1,836 were imported during the early 1960s, before the ATF declared them as illegal machineguns, as they had receivers which were once select fire capable. However, in 1972, a Federal court ruling overturned the ATF's opinion and said that the already imported G Series FALs were legal for civilians to own and ruled them as standard semi-auto Title I long rifles. No more were allowed in though, only the ones already in the nation were given this 'grandfathered' status. Today G Series FALs are highly collectable and desirable.
During the 1970s, FN designed semi-auto only, civilian legal versions of their FAL for the American market, and others. The first FN FALs were brought into the USA around 1977, under the 'LAR' or Light Automatic Rifle designation. FN exported 3 variations: a standard 50.00 type, a heavy barreled 50.42 type, and a Para 50.63 version. These rifles were high quality, but they did exhibit some manufacturing shortcuts and cost savings measures. Remember by this time, FN was having to compete with other firearms which were simply cheaper to build than the FAL, such as the HK G3/91, Colt M16/SP1, and soon Chinese stamped AK clones would also appear. The LAR used a Type III receiver, which was investment cast. Furthermore, the gas plug did not have the letter markings to show opened or closed, and the gas adjustment knob did not have numbers painted on it. These were just small ways that FN tried to keep costs down, but still the LAR was quite an expensive rifle for its day, costing much more than an SP1 AR15, and even a Springfield M1A. As a result, they weren't especially great sellers.
Springfield Armory saw that the FAL could be more successful on the American sporting market, if only its price could be brought down. As a result the company released its own variant under the SAR48 label in 1985. Indeed, at under $600, the SAR48 was much cheaper than the FN LAR, and was competitive with other .308s like the HK91 and Springfield's own M1A. The SAR48 was manufactured by Imbel in Brazil, a licensed FAL production facility. It was very similar to the FN LAR too, being a metric design on a Type III receiver, with black polymer furniture. Interestingly, the Imbel receiver was still forged rather than investment cast. The SAR48 came in 2 models: a standard with a 21" barrel and fixed stock, and a Para with a 18" barrel and sidefolding skeletonized stock. The standard model could be had with an optional quick detachable light bipod, similar to that found on the STG.58 military rifle. The rifle was much more successful than the FN offering as it was several hundred dollars cheaper, while still being of comparable quality. Afterall, FN themselves setup Imbel's FAL production lines.
Sometime later, Springfield imported Type III upper receivers from Imbel, and used them to build up Makleon FALO parts sets imported directly from Israel. These builds were marketed under the SAR48 Match name, and were all Israeli parts, except for the Brazilian receiver. They had all of the features of the original military rifle, including a heavy 21" long barrel, birdcage flash hider, heavy bipod, and original Israeli wooden furniture.
In 1987, a company named Onyx reached an agreement with Stuchner Brothers Limited of Israel, to import completed semi-auto Romat and Makleon FALs. SBL took unfinished FN receiver forgings and finished them. Then they used them to build rifles from demilled standard and heavy barreled rifles. Once completed, Onyx handled the importation into the USA. These rifles, while on dedicated semi-auto only upper receivers, were all Israeli, complete with the Star of David on their uppers. They were of top quality and were priced inline with the Springfields. However, Onyx went out of business in 1988.
Thankfully, another company called Armscor picked up were Onyx left off and continued to import SBL rifles, until the FAL was banned from importation by name in 1989, as part of new restrictions signed by then President George H. Bush. There is no difference between Onyx and Armscor SBL guns, except for the different importer's mark and a different serial number scheme.
Viewing the success of other FAL type rifle importers, Pedro Belli of Florida began importing complete semi-auto rifles from Argentina, built by FM. These rifles were also of the same quality as the others and were offered as either standard metric or short Para models. FM was another licensed producer of FALs established by FN.
The vast majority of semi FALs imported into the USA before 1989 were of the metric pattern. In fact, only 158 semi Australian L1A1As built by Lithgow were brought in by Joe Poyer, in 1987. Their run was cut short as in 1988, Lithgow haulted all FAL production, to focus on the then new F88 Austeyr AUG variant. So there are very few true preban inch type FALs in the USA today. A true shame too, as the semi-autos made by Lithgow are very good looking and solidly built guns.
After the 1989 law, which banned the importation of many semi-auto rifles with military features, including the FAL and all of its variants, most importers just gave up. However, Springfield Armory did not abandon the SAR48. Instead, it reworked the design into the SAR4800. The SAR4800 was still imported from Brazil and all of its parts were Imbel, including the receivers, but the flash hider device was deleted and the military stock and pistol grip were replaced with a single piece thumbhole stock unit. These changes made the rifle 'sporting' under the new rules and thus legal for importation. Springfield brought the SAR4800 in from 1990 through around 1995, and it was offered in both the original .308 caliber and .223 Rem. Many of these rifles were later converted back into a military configuration by private individuals, though without 6 to 7 American made parts, these conversions would technically be illegal under 922(r).
Also during the 1990s, companies such as Century Arms International and Entreprise Arms began building FAL Sporters from demilled military rifle kits, using newly manufactured American semi-auto upper receivers. The first runs of these rifles had thumbhole stocks like the SAR4800, but later companies started adding enough US made parts that they could build their weapons with pistol grips and military stocks. However, bayonet lugs and flash hiders were still not possible, as the Assault Weapons Ban signed into law by President Clinton, prohibited such features on civilian weapons.
In 2004, the AWB was allowed to sunset, so for the first time in over 15 years, FALs could be built with all of their military features, except of course select fire. Then though in 2005, President George W. Bush allowed the ATF to reclassify parts sets, to not allow them to be sold with their original foreign made barrels intact. This had the result of making home builds much more difficult for many, and also required such companies as Century who were still building FAL Sporters from kits, to source American made barrels. This of course meant that prices had to be increased to cover the additional parts and labor.
In 2000, DS Arms purchased plans, tooling, and parts from Steyr of Austria, to produce milspec quality FALs for the American market. DSA has manufactured both semi-auto and select fire versions, in several patterns. They have done a basic LAR clone as the SA58, STG.58 builds using their own receivers and original Steyr parts, Imbel FAL builds using many original Brazilian parts, and several Classic/Collector models such as a G1 clone and a faux T48. They have done their standard SA58 with 21", 18", and 16" barrels, as well as with either a fixed or folding stock. They also do a shortened gas system version with folding stock and either a 16" civilian legal barrel, or a 13" or 11" barrel for law enforcement. All upper receivers manufactured by DSA are original FN specification and are forged; not investment cast. They offer Type I, Type II, Type III, and British style receivers.
In the past few years, Century has reintroduced their own line of FAL Sporters, after taking a few years break. Up until recently they offered a G1 Sporter built from original WEst German contract parts using a cast Type I receiver and American made 21" barrel; as well as, an L1A1 Sporter built from late model British kits using the same US made barrel and slightly different inch pattern upper. Its worth noting that while these newer Century FAL models are more costly than their earlier offerings, they seem to consistantly be of higher quality and more reliable. Unfortunately in 2012, both lines have been again discontinued as the company has run out of military parts sets to build off of.

Specifications & Operation:
From Wikipedia

Designer(s): Dieudonné Saive, Ernest Vervier
Designed: 1947–1953
Manufacturer: Fabrique Nationale (FN)
Produced: 1953–present
Number built: 2,000,000+

Weight FAL 50.00: 4.3 kg (9.48 lb)
FAL 50.61: 3.90 kg (8.6 lb)
FAL 50.63: 3.79 kg (8.4 lb)
FAL 50.41: 5.95 kg (13.1 lb)

Length FAL 50.00 (fixed stock): 1,090 mm (43 in)
FAL 50.61 (stock extended): 1,095 mm (43.1 in)
FAL 50.61 (stock folded): 845 mm (33.3 in)
FAL 50.63 (stock extended): 998 mm (39.3 in)
FAL 50.63 (stock folded): 748 mm (29.4 in)
FAL 50.41 (fixed stock): 1,125 mm (44.3 in)

Barrel length FAL 50.00: 533 mm (21.0 in)
FAL 50.61: 533 mm (21.0 in)
FAL 50.63: 436 mm (17.2 in)
FAL 50.41: 533 mm (21.0 in)

Cartridge: 7.62×51mm NATO
Action: Gas-operated, tilting breechblock
Rate of fire: 650–700 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity: FAL 50.00: 840 m/s (2,756 ft/s)
FAL 50.61: 840 m/s (2,755.9 ft/s)
FAL 50.63: 810 m/s (2,657.5 ft/s)
FAL 50.41: 840 m/s (2,755.9 ft/s)

Effective range: 400–600 m sight adjustments
Feed system: 20 or 30-round detachable box magazine.
Sights: Aperture rear sight, post front sight; sight radius:
FAL 50.00, FAL 50.41: 553 mm (21.8 in)
FAL 50.61, FAL 50.63: 549 mm (21.6 in)

Here is a good summary of the FAL's operation that I copied from a 1983 article which appeared in Soldier of Fortune.

"The FAL's operating sequence can be briefly described as follows. After the projectile passes the gas port in the top of the barrel, some of the gas is diverted into the gas cylinder where it expands and drives the short-stroke piston back, which in turn strikes the face of the bolt carrier. This carrier moves independently to the rear about a 1/4 inch, during which time the chamber pressure has dropped to a safe level.
After this free movement, the carrier's unlocking cam moves under the bolt lug and raises the rear portion of the bolt out of the locking recess in the bottom of the receiver. The bolt and its carrier now travel back, compressing the recoil spring. The extractor withdraws the fired case, holding it on the bolt face until it hits the fixed ejector and is propelled out of the rifle through the ejection port.
The recoil spring drives the carrier and bolt forward, stripping the top cartridge out of the magazine and driving it into the chamber. The bolt stops and the carrier continues forward a short distance until its locking cam rides over the bolt, forcing and holding the bolt down into the recess at the bottom of the receiver. "

Users of the FAL:
At least 93 militaries from around the world officially issued some variant of the FAL. Here is an incomplete list of its users;
Abu Dhabi India Panama
Argentina Indonesia Paraguay
Australia Ireland Peru
Austria Israel Portugal
Bahrain Jamaica Qatar
Bangladesh Jordan Ras Al Kahimah
Barbados Kenya Rhodesia
Belgium Kuwait Rwanda
Bolivia Lebanon St. Kitts
Botswana Lesotho St. Lucia
Brazil Liberia St. Vincent
Burundi Libya Saudi Arabia
Cambodia Luxembourg Sharjah
Cameroon Madagascar Sierra Leone
Canada Malawi Singapore
Chile Malaysia South Africa
Congo Mauritania Sultanate de Raas
Cuba Mexico Syria
Dominican Republic Morocco Tanzania
Dubal Mozambique Thailand
Ecuador Muscat and Oman Tunisia
Gambia Nepal Ummal Qiwain
Germany Netherlands United Kingdom
Greece New Zealand Upper Volta
Guyana Niger Venezuela
Haiti Nigeria
Honduras Pakistan

My FALs:
These are my FALs. I currently have 6 of them: 3 preban imports and 3 USA kit guns. All are in 7.62mm/.308 and I like all of them a great deal. Next to my Romanian SAR1 AK, an FAL was my first military pattern semi-automatic rifle.

Coonin/DCI Austrian STG.58;

This was my very first FAL, and one I built from a kit, with much help from a friend. I purchased an 'Excellent' condition Austrian STG.58 kit with barrel in 2003-2004, during the AWB. As soon as the AWB sunset in late 2004, i finished up the build. It is on a Dan Coonin (DCI) Type I investment cast upper receiver. It is a very good receiver and the original barrel timed in perfectly. It went together easily, which is a benefit of using a nice kit and an in-spec receiver. Actually the original rifle this kit was made from was one of the FN contract rifles, though the buttstock and pistol grip are later Steyr arsenal added parts. The rifle shoots great too.

Hesse British L1A1 SLR;

After building and enjoying my metric STG.58, i wanted an inch pattern FAL to go along with it. I found a decent and more importantly, complete British L1A1 kit in the Spring of 2005. I wanted it to be all correct inch pattern and at that time, the only maker of semi-auto inch receivers in the USA was Hesse. I took a chance and bought one, and got pretty lucky. My Hesse came in pretty straight and in-spec. It required minor modification to fit and function as it should. My kit had an original L1A1 barrel, so i had to find the right sized headspace washer for it and that part took longer than anything else with this build. Still, in the end it turned out just fine and has a real been-there look to it and is a solid example of an inch pattern FAL. It does take inch mags and does have a British cleaning kit in the stock. Its as correct as i could reasonably make it on a budget. I would like to find one more inch pattern to go with it. Maybe a Canadian C1 or Australian L2A1?

DSA SA58 Para Carbine;

After finishing up my two builds, I thought I was done with new FALs, and indeed it was a couple of years before i found this DSA Para. I picked it up used, but in great shape in 2007. It is a factory DSA carbine with Type I upper, DSA Para lower, and originally it had an STG58 barrel assembly which had been cut down to 18". I changed out the metal handguards for polymer FN types, removed the bipod, and put on a proper Belgian short combo flash hider. Later still i removed the carry handle and replaced it with a true FN spacer ring used on 50.63 carbines. Finally, i added a metric type folding charging handle. I do have a British mag release on it as i like the style and find it easier to use. This one is probably my shooter FAL; it or my STG.58. It has been 100% reliable, unlike some Para clones out there. DSA did a great job with this one. The original reason i wanted a folding stock FAL was to have its unique recoil system. Its a pretty complex arrangement in the upper receiver with 3 springs and a couple different guides and spacers. Its a very creative solution to the recoil tube issue to allow the FAL to have a folding stock. The CAR15 could have taken a pointer or two from the FAL Para.

Springfield Armory Imbel SAR48 LAR;

Not only was this SAR48 my first preban FAL, it was my first preban anything rifle. I was in my friend Marty's shop doing some gun project or other and I just happened to call our friend Jeff who runs a gunshop. I was just phoning to see what was new and to my amazement, he said he had an FAL SAR48 come in. I thought at first he had a thumbhole stocked SAR4800, but no it was the real-deal. I immediately asked Marty for 2 things: a ride to the store and a short-term loan to buy the Imbel. It was priced very fairly, but still money was pretty tight for me back then. I ended up trading him my IMI MOdel A Uzi for the SAR48, and have never regreted it once. As you can see the Imbel is in good shape but its a shooter. When I got it, it did not have the Brazilian quick detach bipod, but i added it just last year. Its all original and very reliable and well built. It has an Imbel cleaning kit in the pistol grip even. Its a very close clone of a late model FN FAL.

Springfield Armory Imbel SAR48 Match FALO;

This one has a long story behind it and is actually my second Israeli Makleon/FALO type rifle. My first one i bought used from a man and woman who were having to sell off some of their guns because she was ill. Nice couple and he actually sent me the rifle to examine and test, without me putting a single dollar down on it. Thats a huge leap of faith and something rare in today's world. Of course i promptly paid him when i received the rifle. It was an Israeli heavy barrel kit built on a DSA Type I receiver. It came with a test cartridge and paperwork saying that DSA had assembled the upper and tested for headspace and all that. So it was a good build and worked great. Just as an aside, i sent those two a gift from Russia as i went over there a few months after we did the deal. So i had that one and a bit later my father found an FAL in a local paper. That rifle was this Springfield SAR48 Match. He bought it and kept it for a while, but ended up trading it in last year for something else; i think it was a SCAR 17s? Anyway, i didn't need two, so i found the DSA a good new home. This SAR48 Match is also a good shooter and has many original FN parts such as the front sight base. Its very similar to the FN FALO, except for the unique Israeli handguards and selector lever. The lever does rotate into the 3rd position, but it has been made into a second safety. Since this is a preban, it has no American made parts. The Makleon parts are a mix of original FN contract and IMI replacement. The Type III Imbel receiver is forged and i think looks very good on a heavy SAW type FAL. Its a beefier receiver than a Type I for sure.

Armscorp SBL Israeli FAL;

This is my most recent FAL, and honestly is the reason I decided to do another FAL thread at this time. I wanted this FAL for 2 reasons: as an Israeli lightbarrel to go with my Israeli heavybarrel, and as an example piece for my collection of an early pattern FN FAL. My Imbel SAR48 serves well as an example piece of a late model afterall. You can see the bare barrel with muzzle crown and bayonet lug midway down the barrel. It has the earlier type of tall sights and has early Israeli wooden handguards. I was happy to see it also has both handguard spacers. Heavy barrels only had one, but most Light barrels in military service had two originally. The Type I upper receiver was manufactured by SBL in Israel and is a great early uni-brow feedramp type. The lower receiver is 2nd generation with horizontal takedown lever and Type B buttstock. There are many IMI parts too such as the unique cast gasblock and single piece carry handle. In otherwords, this is an honest Israeli military mutt that saw years of service and at least 2 rebuilds. I like the early barrel assembly for sure and its just a great feeling rifle. It has the semi-auto only 2 position selector commonly found on Romat light barrels in IDF service. Right now it has an incorrect charging handle, which many SBL guns came with. The handle is for a heavy barrel and i have a correct light barrel handle coming to me soon. I just want this one to be as right as i can make it. I might even put a vertical takedown lever in the lower later.