One of the most popular battle rifles in use during the Cold War the FN-FAL (Fabrique Nationale/Fusil Automatique Leger, translated as “Light Automatic Rifle”). The FAL in 7.62 NATO was one of the most commonly used rifles in history, seeing service in over 90 countries. It almost replaced the M1 Garand in US arsenals, but as the rest of our NATO allies went with a
variant of the FAL, the United States went with the M14. Because of this 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”. As a result, many variants were built and someone new to this platform may think, “which one is right for me?”
Before West Germany issued all things by HK, they issued a FAL rife to the Bundeswehr known as the G1 (Gewehr 1). The G1 outwardly resembles most other FALs and has pressed metal hand guard identical to the ones used on the Austrian Stg. 58. These hand guards are a bit slimmer than their wood or plastic counterparts used on other variants. The rifle has unique horizontal lines running the whole length and the barrel featured a distinctive flash hider secured by a lug on the barrel that is unique to this model.
A metal bayonet is often found on the G1 and it is one of the few light profile variants to have this feature. These kits are metric pattern and use metric parts, receivers and magazines. Although it was not the Germans' standard rifle for very long, the G1 represents a key time in the history of the battle rifle.
Some FALs offer a different challenge to the builders and shooters of these classic rifles and the Australian L1A1 personifies this. These rifles were built by British manufactured tooling on the inch pattern as opposed to the metric at their highly renowned Lithgow Arsenal. The furniture is all wood and shows character due to its usage.
The L1A1 has seen combat in numerous conflicts during the Cold War and were Australia’s official rifle during the Vietnam War. Building a rifle with one of these kits produces a piece of history that you can hold in your hand.
As for the challenges we mentioned in choosing this rifle; it is the use of inch pattern parts instead of metric. Most FAL parts will interchange despite their country of origin or the tool pattern used to build them with two exceptions: the butt stock and the magazine.
Presumably you will want to retain the original butt stock, however finding inch pattern magazines may be problematic or just a bit more expensive than the metric counterparts.
IMBEL (Indústria de Material Bélico do Brasil or “War Material Industry of Brazil”) FAL rifles were manufactured in Brazil under license from Belgium and our kits include an original “like new” barrel and bayonet.
Condition-wise they probably look the newest of the three kits and sport plastic hand guards, butt stocks and pistol grips. The reason for this is that they are still current issue in Brazil with many units.
These kits are the types preferred by shooters who want a newer looking rifle without the old school wood or metal furniture.
Building a FAL
The building of a FAL is a little more complicated than building an AR or an AK. This has to do with barrel installation on the upper receiver as it must be properly timed and head spaced. Then the locking shoulder has to be adjusted.
Beyond that part, it is simply a matter of installing the parts as you would after field stripping the rifle.
Our number one choice for a straight-up FAL build is the IMBEL kit. If you are looking for a fine representative of this unique family of rifles that makes a great shooter, this is probably the one to go with.
Then again, we like historical arms and the L1A1 most certainly fits that role, easily. Our only issue is that of finding a complete set of inch-pattern magazines. Yes, you can always build on a metric receiver but that makes the rifle less accurate from a collecting perspective.
The G1 is our most expensive kit, but this is due to their rarity. If you like German weapons in your collection, you almost have to have one.
Beyond these needs or wants, we recommend picking up the kit that is most visually appealing to you as a shooter and collector.