So now that the Gummint has admitted that small-caliber guns are not “military” equipment, I think it’s time to look at a couple decent “civilian” rifles, which I will do here, and again over the next few days or so.
Everyone has written or is writing about the Usual Suspects (AR-15, AK-47 etc.), so I’ll look at what I think are viable alternatives.
Here, for example, is the SA-58 line in the manly 7.62x52mm NATO caliber from DSArms:
This should trigger all sorts of memories among men Of A Certain Age who served with it as the FN-FAL in various European armies during the mid-20th century period. As the L1A1 it was the rifle of choice in the British and Commonwealth armies and as the R1, it was the standard-issue rifle during my time in the Seffrican Army (SADF). While my particular rifle was an absolute pig (shot-out barrel and a quirky mag release, to name but two “features”), that shouldn’t prevent anyone from getting one now.
And any gun designed by Dieudonné Saive (he of the improved Browning High Power design) should always be afforded a respectful hearing.
The biggest knock against the FN was its unreliability in dusty conditions (it’s the main reason the Israelis dumped it in favor of the Galil), although it should be said that later versions performed much better in this regard. (For an overview of the FN-FAL, go here.)
As far as I’m concerned, its main problem is its weight — as I recall, mine (with a 21″ barrel, don’t ask) weighed in at just under 6kg (13lbs) unloaded — but I see that DSA has got their modern version down to a far more manageable 8.25lbs, which is good news.
You can get it still lighter with some versions, but then the lighter frame doesn’t handle the 7.62’s recoil as well. Newton will not be denied. Here’s what we’re talking about:
I’m not a big fan of the collapsible (“paratrooper”) stock, but I will grant that this feature allows for easier storage and carrying. You may want to invest in a shoulder pad, however, if you’re going to have an extended range session with this puppy.
The FN-FAL doesn’t compete with the AR-15 much, because it’s more of a rifle for wide-open spaces, as opposed to short-range urban activities where it’s disadvantaged compared to its smaller counterparts. I do think, though, that it’s a better rifle than Stoner’s AR-10 because it handles recoil better.
The only thing you need to know about the SA-58 is that it’s based on the “metric dimension” of the Steyr version, so it can’t use parts from “inch-dimensioned” variants common in the U.S. and Canada.
Would I take an SA-58 today over an AR-15? If it was the shorter-barreled Combat Tactical Carbine (CTC) version, in a heartbeat. (And I should also note that it’s a bear to make the basic FN tacti-cool, but the CTC makes it easy.)
Would I take an SA-58 over an AK47? Probably not — unless I was facing the prospect of open-country (ergo longer-range) shooting. Then, I believe the 7.62x51mm cartridge is a much better choice than the shorter 7.62x39mm, and I’d forego the CTC for the 18″-barreled fixed-stock option, and just pump iron for a few weeks first so I could handle the extra weight [sigh].
As always, comments are welcome.