FN-FAL belgian.jpeg
A standard FAL made by FN
TypeBattle rifle
Place of originBelgium
Service history
In service1954–present
Used by90+ countries (See Users)
WarsSee Conflicts
Production history
DesignerDieudonné Saive
Ernest Vervier
No. built2,000,000+[1]
VariantsSee Variants
Specifications (FAL 50)
  • FAL 50.00: 4.3 kg (9.48 lb)
  • FAL 50.61: 3.90 kg (8.6 lb)
  • FAL 50.62: 3.85 kg (8.5 lb)
  • FAL 50.63: 3.79 kg (8.4 lb)
  • FAL 50.41: 5.95 kg (13.1 lb)
  • FAL 50.00 (fixed stock): 1,090 mm (43 in)
  • FAL 50.61 (stock extended): 1,095 mm (43.1 in)
  • FAL 50.61 (stock folded): 845 mm (33.3 in)
  • FAL 50.62 (stock extended): 1,020 mm (40.2 in)
  • FAL 50.62 (stock folded): 770 mm (30.3 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 50.62: 458 mm (18.0 in)
  • FAL 50.63: 436 mm (17.2 in)
  • FAL 50.41: 533 mm (21.0 in)

Cartridge7.62x51 NATO
.280 British[2]
ActionGas-operated, tilting breechblock[2]
Rate of fire700 rounds/min (fully automatic), variable (semi-automatic)
Muzzle velocity
  • FAL 50.00, 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 firing range
  • FAL 50.00: 600 m
  • FAL 50.63: 300 m
Feed system20- or 30-round detachable box magazine. 50-round drum magazines are also available.[3]
SightsAperture rear sight, post front sight; sight radius:

The FAL (French: Fusil Automatique Léger, English: Light Automatic Rifle) is a battle rifle designed by Belgian small arms designers Dieudonné Saive and Ernest Vervier and manufactured by FN Herstal.

During the Cold War the FAL was adopted by many countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), with the notable exception of the United States. It is one of the most widely used rifles in history, having been used by more than 90 countries.[4] Because of its prevalence and widespread usage among the militaries of many NATO and first world countries during the Cold War it was given the title "The right arm of the Free World".[2]

It is chambered for the 7.62×51mm NATO cartridge (although originally designed for the .280 British intermediate cartridge). The British Commonwealth variant of the FAL was redesigned from FN's SI metrical FAL into British imperial units and was produced under licence as the L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle.


In 1946, the first FAL prototype was completed. It was designed to fire the intermediate 7.92×33mm Kurz cartridge developed and used by the forces of Germany during World War II (with the Sturmgewehr 44 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 [7x43mm] caliber intermediate cartridge.[5] After evaluating the single bullpup prototype, FN decided to return instead to their original, conventional design for future production.[5]

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.[6] 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., and in 1951 even made a deal that the U.S. could produce FALs royalty-free, given that the UK appeared to be favouring their own EM-2.

This decision appeared to be correct when the British Army decided to adopt the EM-2 (as Rifle No.9 Mk1) and .280 British cartridge.[5] This decision was later rescinded after the Labour Party lost the 1951 General Election and Winston Churchill returned as Prime Minister. It is believed[by whom?] 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 the 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, 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 Dieudonné Saive and Ernest Vervier in 1951, and produced two years later, it has been described as the "Right Arm of the Free World."[7] The FAL battle rifle has its Warsaw Pact counterpart in the AKM, 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 Soviet AKM assault rifle, the FAL utilized a heavier full-power rifle cartridge.

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