By Friedrich Seiltgen

The FAL, French for “Fusil Automatique Léger” (Light Automatic Rifle), produced by Fabrique Nationale (FN) in Herstal, Belgium has been in service since 1953 in more than 90 countries.

The original design of the FAL started in 1946 and was the brainchild of Belgian weapons designer Diedonne Joseph Saive. Saive was quite talented and designed the FN Model 49, as well as modifying some of John Browning’s designs. In 1921, FN engineer John browning was asked to design a 9mm pistol with a 15- round magazine. Browning passed as he felt his 1911 with a 7-round magazine was sufficient. It was Browning’s assistant Saive who then took on the task. When Saive created his magazine design, Browning then joined the project, and the high-capacity 9mm was born!

Germany initially adopted the FAL in 1956, naming it Gewehr 1. While FN would sell Germany the rifle, it would not grant Germany a manufacturing license. FN did not trust the Germans, as only 11 years had passed since the end of World War II, and politics played a big role in the decision. Germany then cancelled procurement of the FAL and went with the Spanish CETME coalition, which would later become the G3. Had FN given Germany a manufacturing license, the G3 might not have come to fruition. Given that other HK products, such as the MP5, used the same roller delayed blowback operating system, history could have been quite different!

Caliber: 7.62 X 51 NATO
Operating system: Gas operated, Tilting Breech Block
Muzzle Velocity: 2,700 FPS
Rate of Fire: 700 RPM
Weight: 9.5 pounds
Length: 43“
Barrel length: 21”
Total production: 7+ million

One of the features on the FAL is a user-adjustable gas system that allows the gunner to tune the rifle to specific cartridge needs. It also allows you to “pump up the volume” when the rifle is dirty, and you can’t clean it right now!

To adjust the gas system, it’s recommended to start with the gas regulator at position 7, shooting one round, and turning the gas regulator back one click, and repeating the operation until the rifle stops cycling. At that point, move the gas regulator back two clicks. Shooters are also advised to switch from commercial ammo, which has softer brass, to harder military ammo if cycling issues are a problem.
The rifle is designated the L1A1 in Great Britain and Australia. One big difference in British FALs is that they are measured in imperial units (inches), whereas all others are metric units.

The FAL is a well-crafted weapon and uses a milled receiver. This, of course, increases production time and costs. Most other battle rifles utilize stamped receivers which lower costs. The FAL was used by both sides during the Falklands War, with Argentinian produced metric FALs and Inch Rifles used by Great Britain!
FALs are available in the United States from several importers, but if you’re looking for American made, and you should when possible, check out DSA arms. They are innovators in the production of the FAL and accessories. DSA has been in business since 1987, and they make several versions of the FAL.

Friedrich Seiltgen is a retired Master Police Officer with 20 years of service with the Orlando Police Department. He is currently a part-Ttime policer officer with the Starke, Florida Police Department. He conducts training in Lone Wolf Terrorism, Firearms, First Aid, Active Shooter Response, and Law Enforcement Vehicle Operations in Florida. His writing has appeared in The Counter Terrorist Magazine, Homeland Security Today and The Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International. Contact him at