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.