SHORT ROUNDS — The “Other” Assault Rifles, Part 1
There Are More Sides To This Coin
These days, a (rational) person within the United States who hears the term “assault rifle” will likely think automatically of one of two weapons: the AR-15 or the AK-47 or one of those weapons derivatives. Both are, in fact, not “technically” assault rifles, as the models the vast majority of Americans can access are not capable of selective fire, but humans are visual creatures, so that’s an issue we can leave aside for the time being.
There are, obviously, a vast array of “other” assault rifles that have been made since World War 2, but the vast majority of those were either based in some fashion on the AR- or AK- platforms, or never really achieved widespread adoption. Today, we’ll look at one that did…and still does.
This article is the first of two parts.
The first “assault rifle” (or “battle rifle”, if you prefer that term) to come along after World War 2 was the “FAL” (Fusil Automatique Léger), known simply as the “FAL“, made by Fabrique Nationale Herstal, Belgium, and was designed primarily by Dieudonné Saive, one-time assistant to legendary arms designer John Browning. Introduced in 1951 and completed in 1953, the FAL rapidly became one of the baseline standards of Western and Western-aligned military forces, so much so, that it became known as the “Right Hand of the Free World“, eventually being adopted at some level by some 90 nations (recall that the number of recognized nations as of press time is 216).
Using a short-stroke gas piston system, the FAL offered a soldier twenty rounds of “full power” 7.62x51mm ammunition in a reasonably lightweight (for the time) package. Despite some reliability issues in desert and arctic climates, the FAL was a serious contender against what became the M-14 rifle in the US military’s service rifle trials of the mid-1950’s; that rather shoddy affair is the subject for a later rant. (The other contender in that trial, the AR-10, was the father of the AR-15/M-16.)
Despite the United States not adopting it, the FAL went on to be adopted by so many countries, it ended up on both (or all) sides in conflicts all over the world, most notably in the Falklands War of 1982.
Although now approaching its 70th year, the FAL remains in action around the world, fighting on
battlefields as diverse as Syria and Bolivia. This is one of those tools that humanity has made that, for good or ill, will not go quietly into the night…nor should it.
Rifles are tools – nothing more. They are no different from hammers or saws…or computers and pencils. They are just tools. It is what is done with those tools that defines “good” or “evil”, “right” or “wrong”. Learn about these tools, even if you never have need or cause to use them. They are important. They matter.