Place of origin Belgium
In service 1954–1970s
Used by See Users
Wars Indonesian Confrontation
Cambodian Civil War
Portuguese Colonial War
South African Border War
Northern Ireland Troubles
Rhodesian Bush War
Sierra Leone Civil War
Yom Kippur War
Rwandan Civil War
Designer Dieudonné Saive, Ernest Vervier
Manufacturer Fabrique Nationale (FN)
Number built 2,000,000+
Variants See Variants
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 (42.9 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 7.62x51mm 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 200–600 m sight adjustments
Feed system 20 or 30-round detachable box magazine
Sights Aperture rear sight, post front sight
553 mm (21.8 in) sight radius (FAL 50.00, FAL 50.41)
549 mm (21.6 in) sight radius (FAL 50.61, FAL 50.63)
The Fusil Automatique Léger ("Light Automatic Rifle") or FAL is a self-loading, selective fire battle rifle produced by the Belgian armaments manufacturer Fabrique Nationale de Herstal (FN). During the Cold War it was adopted by many North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries, with the notable exception of the United States. It is one of the most widely used rifles in history, having been used by over 90 countries.
The FAL was predominantly chambered for the 7.62x51mm NATO round, and because of its prevalence and widespread use among the armed forces of many NATO countries during the Cold War it was nicknamed "The right arm of the Free World".
In 1947, the first FN FAL prototype was completed. It was designed to fire the intermediate 7.92x33mm Kurz cartridge developed and used by the forces of Nazi Germany during World War II (see StG44 assault rifle). After testing this prototype in 1948, the British Army urged FN to build additional prototypes, including one in bullpup configuration, chambered for their new .280 British caliber intermediate cartridge. After evaluating the single bullpup prototype, FN decided to return instead to their original, conventional design for future production.
In 1950, the United Kingdom presented the redesigned FN rifle and the British EM-2, both in .280 British calibre, to the United States for comparison testing against the favoured United States Army design of the time - Earle Harvey's T25. It was hoped that a common cartridge and rifle could be standardized for issue to the armies of all NATO member countries. After this testing was completed, U.S. Army officials suggested that FN should redesign their rifle to fire the U.S. prototype '.30 Light Rifle' cartridge. FN decided to hedge their bets with the U.S., given that the UK appeared to be favouring their own EM-2.
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 Army decided to adopt the EM-2 and .280 British cartridge in the very same month. This decision was later rescinded after the Labour Party lost the General Election, 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 meantime, most other NATO countries were evaluating and selecting the FAL.
FN created what is possibly the classic post-war battle rifle. Formally introduced by its designers Dieudonne Saive and Ernest Vervier in 1951, and produced two years later, it has been described as the "Right arm of the Free World." The FAL battle 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.
The FAL operates by means of a gas-operated action very similar to that of the Russian SVT-40. The gas system is driven by a short-stroke, spring-loaded piston housed above the barrel, and the locking mechanism is what is known as a tilting breechblock. To lock, it drops down into a solid shoulder of metal in the heavy receiver much like the bolts of the Russian SKS carbine and French MAS-49 series of semi-automatic rifles. The gas system is fitted with a gas regulator behind the front sight base, allowing adjustment of the gas system in response to environmental conditions, and can be closed completely to allow for the firing of rifle grenades. The FAL's magazine capacity ranges from 5 to 30 rounds, with most magazines holding 20 rounds. In fixed stock versions of the FAL, the recoil spring is housed in the stock, while in folding-stock versions it is housed in the receiver cover, necessitating a slightly different receiver cover, recoil spring, and bolt carrier, and a modified lower receiver for the stock.
FAL rifles have also been manufactured in both light and heavy-barrel configurations, with the heavy barrel intended for automatic fire as a section or squad light support weapon. Most heavy barrel FALs are equipped with bipods, although some light barrel models were equipped with bipods, such as the Austrian StG58 and the German G1, and a bipod was later made available as an accessory.
Among other 7.62x51mm NATO battle rifles at the time, the FN FAL had relatively light recoil, due to the gas system being able to be tuned via regulator in fore-end of the rifle, which allowed for excess gas which would simply increase recoil to bleed off. In fully-automatic mode, however, the shooter receives considerable abuse from recoil, and the weapon climbs off-target quickly, making automatic fire only of marginal effectiveness. Many military forces using the FAL eventually eliminated full-automatic firearms training in the light-barrel FAL
FN Production Variants
LAR 50.41 & 50.42
Also known as FALO as an abbreviation from the French Fusil Automatique Lourd;
Heavy barrel for sustained fire with 30-round magazine as a squad automatic weapon;
Known in Canada as the C2A1, it was their primary squad automatic weapon until it was phased out during the 1980s in favor of the C9, which has better accuracy and better ammunition capacity than the C2;
Known to the Australian Army as the L2A1, it was replaced by the FN Minimi. The L2A1 or 'heavy barrel' FAL was used by several Commonwealth nations and was found to frequently experience a failure to feed after firing two rounds from a full magazine when in automatic mode.
The 50.41 is fitted with a plastic buttstock, while the 50.42's buttstock is made from wood.
Folding-stock, standard barrel length.
Folding-stock, shorter 458 mm barrel, paratrooper version and folding charging handle.
Folding-stock, shorter 406 mm barrel, paratrooper version, folding charging handle. This shorter version was requested by Belgian paratroopers. This allowed the folded-stock rifle to fit through the doorway of their C-119 Flying Boxcar when worn horizontally across the chest.
The FAL 50.64 variant.Folding-stock, standard barrel length, 'Hiduminium' aluminum alloy lower receiver, upper receiver was not cut for a carry handle, the charging handle on the 50.64 was a folding model similar to the L1A1 rifles.
Folding-stock, shorter 330 mm barrel, paratrooper version.
Other FN Variants
FAL.280 Experimental Rifle
FAL Universal Carbine
FAL Bullpup 1951
SASDutch company Armtech built the L1A1 SAS, a shortened variant of the L1A1 with a barrel length of 290 mm