Gratuitous Gun Pic: FN-FAL

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.


  1. Can someone explain WHY there’re metric and inch versions? I can’t think of any other gun that’s like this. Even the magazines are different. Is one a slight evolution of the other like SETME to G3?

    1. When they adopted it, the UK and Australia were on Imperial units. Their machine tools were all calibrated in Imperial units. So they did a little rounding off.

  2. These days, in the USA, I’d tend toward an AR-pattern rifle in 7.62. Simply because of the product support. But the FAL has a rock-solid combat record.

  3. I’ve always been more of a fan of the HK 91/G3 for a 7.62 “perfectly reasonable civilian rifle”. Not only for the relatively light weight and exceptional build quality of the HK, but the egronomics.

  4. BM-59. Only the Italians would build a modified Garand that uses a mag with two vertical grooves on the inside of the front of the mag to keep each round perfectly aligned as it feeds.

  5. I’m still leaning towards an M14-like rifle, simply because the Garand is so superb and fits me so well, and the one M1-A I rented at a range felt similarly wonderful. But I still kick myself for not scraping together the money to buy some of the FAL parts kits that were so damn cheap years ago. The magazines were also pocket change back then, and I expect I’d like a FAL just fine.

  6. Springfield Armory Inc. imported a series of FAL’s from IMBEL in Brazil back in the 80’s-90’s, both in fixed stock and Para, and I was fortunate enough to snag one:
    The “full size” SAR-48 – and they are Metric, nor ‘Merican.
    It is sweet, but my M14SA is jealous.

  7. My love affair of the fn-fal is purely for nostalgic reasons. It makes a satisfying kathunk when you fire it and it’s a solid rifle.

    A modern version might be a joy to hold…

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