FN-FAL – the Predecessor of Modern Assault Rifles


The FN FAL (Fusil Automatique Leger — Light Automatic Rifle) is one of the most famous and widespread military rifle designs of the XX century. Developed by the Belgian Fabrique Nationale company, it was used by some 70 or even more countries, and was manufactured in at least 10 countries. At the present time the service days of the most FAL rifles are gone, but it is still used in some parts of the world.


The history of the FAL began circa 1946, when FN began to develop a new assault rifle, chambered for German 7.92x33mm Kurz intermediate cartridge. The design team was lead by Dieudonne Saive, who at the same time worked at the battle rifle, chambered for “old time” full-power rifle cartridges, which latter became the SAFN-49. It is not thus surprising that both rifles are mechanically quite similar.


However, post-war pressure for a more powerful cartridge produced the compromise 7.62mm x 51 (.308 Winchester), which could easily be manufactured on machines producing the .30 caliber service cartridge. The new more powerful round was selected as the NATO standard.

FN rebuilt their rifle to fit the new cartridge and created what is possibly the classic post-war battle rifle. Tough, reliable, and accurate, the new design promptly cornered the market, selling to armed forces in more than 90 countries around the world including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, India, Israel, Libya, Peru, Singapore and the UK. All FALs share the reliability that solid construction and attention to detail creates. Most are also capable of automatic fire.


In 1951, FN even made a deal with the U.S. that they could produce the FAL royalty-free in the U.S. This decision appeared to be correct when the British unilaterally decided to adopt the EM-2 and .280 British cartridge in the very same month. This decision was later rescinded after the Labour Party was ousted from control of Parliament and Winston Churchill returned as Prime Minister. It is believed that there was a quid-pro-quo agreement between Churchill and U.S. President Harry Truman in 1952 that the British accept the .30 Light Rifle cartridge as NATO standard in return for U.S. acceptance of the FN FAL as NATO standard. The .30 Light Rifle cartridge was in fact later standardized as the 7.62 mm NATO; however, the U.S. insisted on continued rifle tests. The FAL chambered for the .30 Light Rifle went up against the redesigned T25 (now redesignated as the T47), and an M1 Garand variant, the T44. Eventually, the T44 won out, becoming the M14. However, in the mean time, most other NATO countries were evaluating and selecting the FAL.


The FAL assault rifle has its Warsaw Pact counterpart in the AK-47, each being fielded by dozens of countries and produced in many of them. A few, such as Israel and South Africa, manufactured and issued both designs at various times. Unlike the Russian AK-47 assault rifle, the FAL utilized a heavier full-power rifle cartridge. In the West, FAL’s primary competitor was the German Heckler & Koch G3.

Description and Specifications

The FN FAL is a gas operated, selective fire or semi-automatic only, magazine fed rifle. It uses short piston stroke gas system with gas piston located above the barrel and having its own return spring. After the shot is fired, the gas piston makes a quick tap to the bolt carrier and then returns back, and the rest of the reloading cycle is commenced by the inertia of bolt group. The gas system is fitted with gas regulator so it could be easily adjusted for various environment conditions, or cut off completely so rifle grenades could be safely launched from the barrel. The locking system uses bolt carrier with separate bolt that locks the barrel by tipping its rear part into the recess in the receiver floor.The receivers initially were machined from the forged steel blocks, and in 1973 FN began to manufacture investment cast receivers to decrease production costs.

Many manufactures, however, stuck to the machined receivers. The trigger housing with pistol grip is hinged to the receiver behind the magazine well and could be swung down to open action for maintenance and disassembly. The recoil spring is housed in the butt of the rifle in fixed butt configurations or in the receiver cover in folding butt configurations, so the folding butt versions require a slightly different bolt carrier, receiver cover and a recoils spring. The cocking handle is located at the left side of the receiver and does not move when gun is fired. It could be folding or non-folding, depending on the country of origin.

The safety-fire selector switch is located at the trigger housing, above the triggerguard. It can have two (on semi-automatic) or three (on select-fire rifles) positions. The firing mechanism is hammer fired and use single sear for both semi-automatic or full automatic fire. Barrel is equipped with long flash hider which also serves as a rifle grenade launcher. Design of flash hider may differs slightly from country to country.


The furniture of the FAL also can differ — it could be made from wood, plastic of various colors or metal (folding buttstocks, metallic handguards on some models). Some models, such as Austrian Stg.58 or Brazilian LAR were fitted with light bipods as a standard. Almost all heavy barrel versions also were fitted with bipods of various design. Sights usually are of hooded post front and adjustable diopter rear types, but can differ in details and markings. Almost all FAL rifles are equipped with sling swivels and most of rifles are fitted with bayonet lugs.

  • Caliber: 7.62 mm / .308 in
  • Cartridge: 7.62 ? 51 mm NATO
  • Weight: 8.8 lb / 4.0 kg empty
  • Effective range: 656 yd / 600 m
  • In service: 1953 – present


Fabrique Nationale (FN).

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8 Responses to “FN-FAL – the Predecessor of Modern Assault Rifles”

  1. c’est tjr avec plaisir que je lis des articles sur le fal et son inventeur (mon gand oncle -le fr?re de mon grand p?re)-petite qustion pour tester votre savoir – pourquoi la baionnette fix?e sur le fal ?tait-elle munie d’un ressort !!

  2. this gun is fucking raw ass hell nigga

  3. ur all dumb retards

  4. hmm the fal is okay i just think maybe they should make a automatic version

  5. On full auto it pulls high right immediately. It’s a round with a big hit power, but maintaining this rifle is a absolute PITA. The gas vent clogs quickly and just try getting that recoil spring in again without the proper service tools…

  6. where is the deagle on December 30th, 2010 at 2:41 am

    the Fal works so leave it be,if you are a good shooter you could kill them in less then 3 shots of course :)

  7. The fal shoots beautifully on full auto. You just have to know how much counter force to apply, and use the right stance. True, replacing the recoil spring can be a PITA! All in all, it’s a good gun, and you certainly don’t want to be at the business end of this motha!!

  8. Best battle rifle of all. And if you doubt me, I got history to prove it. It was adopted by more than 90 countries which includes Argentina, Brazil and the whole Commonwealth. It was licensed made in the UK,Canada,USA(By DSA Arms),Brazil,Argentina,etc. It could have been better if FN Herstal stayed using the German 7.92 X 33mm Kurz which would make it an assault rifle instead of a battle rifle. Still it is an excellent battle rifle