FN FAL, STG58, L1A1 - whichever you choose or want to call it - is the right arm of the free world. This is the most kick-but battle rifle/assault rifle there has ever been. They're tough, reliable, adjustable - and can shoot an honest 800 - 1000 yds, sorry AR guys, but the Colt space guns are just hotrod rimfires.
To home build an FAL variant is not too big a deal but there are details that seem to get a bit deeper than you get assembling an AR variant. You MUST have a proper reciever vice block and wrench to set, time and tighten the barrel. I won't even get into the details of barrel mounting here, just trust that there are very specific steps and procedures. Head spacing can be a bit of a pain without the proper tools to measure with - and a good selection of shoulder pins. Again, not a real difficult deal unless you're ill prepared starting into it.
Bottom line, you can build a really nice FAL for about the same money as an AR. Too long and heavy? No problem, build a shorter one, just like you would an AR. However, you gotta remember that FAL's shoot considerably more bullet that an AR (unless it's a 180 !) so a short one can be a hand full - but not unmanagable in semi auto configuration. Face it, any short select fire rifle chambered in 7.62X51 takes a big 'ol boy to hold it down in spray-n-pray gear!
Some certain FAL's got a bad rep from some shoddy work by some of the post ban rifle sweat shops. There is a certain range of Century Arms FAL's that I watch for in the pawn shops though. They built some early ones with funky stocks and no muzz breaks, but there was a range of them from around mid 99 through 01 that were built on Imbel recievers. Sort of a bastage FAL - they are L1A1's - which are most widly in service as "inch" pattern rifles, but the recievers are metric pattern. This is actually not a bad thing - again, another FAL point of knowledge to learn - the differences between metric and inch pattern rifles - - - - - - BUT, less I digress - those certain Centuries had some basic problems but they are easily fixed fairly cheaply. This is one suggestion that I give a lot if you don't have the big bucks for an Arizona Response Systemsor DSA rifle, and don't want to jump into a complete reciever build up - find one of the Century's with the Imbel reciever, replace the gas piston unless it's been done (SIDEBAR - they went through a period installing these really crappy 2 piece gas pistond trying to save a buck and some wouldn't even work right out of the box) A one piece gas piston can be had for under 50 bones. The other problem was crappy triggers. 90 bucks for a complete DS Arms trigger set and that's fixed. DO NOT dink around with the springwork in an FAL with the idea of "doing a trigger job". FAL's have a magical assortment of calibrated springsets that all work together. the preload of one is figured by the pre stress on the last and - basically if you replace one, change 'em all and do so with a known matched set - like from Wolff. It's easy to render the trigger mechanism and operation dangerous with just a small amount of kitchen table gunsmithing. Going the Century/Imbel route is a quick affordable way into a nice FAL. Some of the newer ones seem OK, at least they started using decent gas pistons, but they are making their own recievers so I'm a bit cautious about that? If you just absolutly want to start from a reciever, then the first step is education and toolage. Read the steps and guidlines for assembling a basic FAL - the Gunplumber's guide from ARS is about the best compilation of info there is, get a good reciever wrench and barrel wrench, get in a selection of breeching washers (read the book) and shoulder pins (ditto), a set of headspace guages * FOR 7.62X51 NATO, THIS IS NOT A .308 !!!!!!!!!!! .308's will work but it's aggravating, better to have the proper tool for whatcher doin! AND, don't get cheep when it's reciever time. DSA is great but I think Imbels are just as good. Imbel was an FN contract builder/ manufacturer in Brazil ( remember - the guys that make "Good 'ol "UhMurricun" Springfield 1911's!? ok, so it's south America, it's still America right? sez so on da map??) where wuz I - - - OH YEAH, Hesse or Century recievers - probably not the best idea, Enterprise Arms are OK - - - - an original Belgium pre-ban FAL reciever for 200 bucks - yeah right, if anyone ever finds that'n please pick me one up if they have more than one and I'll gladly pay you double as well as pick up the shipping.
OH YEAH, forgot to address this one, it'll come up within a few posts - "FAL's are big and heavy and the ammo weighs so much more than the .223 and - - - - -
Yes Skippy they are heavy and they have big heavy bullets and they do have a bit more recoil than a varmint load (.223) So ruck up and deal withit. You want firepower, distance, and reliability, get a real battle rifle (not to down M1A's/M14's here, them and Hk's are neck-n-neck my next favorites, but compared to the 14 the FAL's operating system is a bit more - modern.) Otherwise if you want an EBR (evil black rifle) to pop cans with and look cool at the range knowing in your heart your backside will never have to depend on your weapon's capabilities, reliability, and range in a SHTF situation - day after day after day after day - without much care and luvvin, go on back to the AR parts section in the catalog and continue as you were, sorry to have taken so much of your valuble time here.
There ya go TC, there's the short, condensed version
My G3 is cool, but if I had to do it all over again I may have rather gone for a FAL. I'm trying my darndest to get my G3 to get a decent grouping, but as soon as I get a good group, I decide I need to "improve" the scope setup and I keep doing something that screws it up. Should I get a FAL, my G3 will become more of a marksman rifle, well, it kind of already is in that category. That or I'll trade it for a custom made carbine version with folding stock after the ban dies (can't have BattleRifleG3 without a G3, even being without the original G3 is a wild concept.) Until then I'll blast with my AK and shoot paper with my soon to be AR-15.
Before i step on toes here, i love the FAL and it's 7.62, but been thinking here. BRG, seeing as you are the engineering/building mad scientist here, have a question for ya. Ever consider a big bore FAL? Say in the .458 to .50 caliber range, keeping all other major components (like magazines) standard. I know range would suffer, but seeing some of the other ideas you've had...
I'm learning new things by the day. I know a heck of a lot more of what it would take to build a FAL in a new round then when I posted this thread. And I know even more of what's out there that I don't know yet. If I did such a thing on a FAL, it would probably be in the likes of 358 Winchester or 375-08. The former of which has been done before.
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