FN FAL (Battle rifle)


FGM Brigadier
Castelar, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina.
The “Right Arm of the Free World,” the FAL earned that moniker during a half-century serving some 90 nations, in more than 30 conflicts.

Name a war, revolution, or revolt during the Cold War that involved the British Commonwealth, Western European nations or their allies and you found the Fabrique Nationale FAL in the hands of the soldiers fighting the battles. No wonder the FAL earned its nickname and became a symbol of the struggle against Communism.

Starting immediately after World War II, FN produced two million copies of the Fusil Automatique Léger—or Light Automatic Rifle. More than 90 nations adopted the weapon. At one time, the FAL was even the official rifle of most NATO countries.

Some versions

The FN (Fabrique Nationale) FAL (Fusil Automatique Léger—Light Automatic Rifle) is a self-loading battle rifle, usually with selective-fire capability when so enabled. It is gas-operated and magazine fed, with a breech that locks via a tilting bolt. It became one of the most widely used rifles in history because of its reliability, ergonomic handling and combat accuracy. Although production of the FAL has almost always been in 7.62x51mm NATO, the first prototype was made in 7.92×33, the WW II German round, and exemplars were made in different trial configurations for the .280 British intermediate round, plus a run of 3,000 in 7x49mm.

It was produced in the millions by more than a dozen countries. It still is a frontline battle rifle for some, and is fighting in Syria today.

One of the most famous examples of the FAL’s ubiquity was during the 1982 Falklands War. The Argentine army carried the full-auto version of the FAL. British troops had the semi-auto L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle version.

After capturing argentine troops, British infantry and Royal Marines often walked over to the stack of Argentine weapons and retrieved the full-auto FALs.

The first prototype FAL was demonstrated to Belgian and British military observers in 1948. By 1950 it was described in FN product brochures, but not contemplated in 7.62x51mm NATO. After the United States convinced NATO allies that the 7.62x51mm (various loadings, based on the T65 case) was the best choice, FN redesigned the FAL for this round.

In thanks for liberating Belgium, Allied nations were offered royalty-free FAL licenses. The U.S. Army procured 3000 samples of the “T48” plus 200 heavy-barreled “T48E1s.” A trial run of 500 was made at H&R to ensure this “metric” design would work in inches, and 13 were made by High Standard. The T48 was tested against the T47, British EM2, and the T44 (M14). The tests favored the T44, and the Army adopted it. NATO accepted the T65 cartridge but most adopted the FAL. The rest is history.

As any design made in, or to the specifications of, some 90 countries, the variations seen in FAL production can only be delineated in a large book. It’s a fascinating study in military arms, however, even if we examine only the noteworthy differences between the main variants produced among the major players.
In any guise, the FN FAL is the classic post-war battle rifle.

FN FAL (full disassembly and operation)