Letter Re: Advice on FN FAL Rifles

Good Morning Jim,
I have been a dedicated reader of your site since almost the beginning and am (finally) mailing my 10 Cent Challenge [voluntary subscription payment] today.

My weapons of choice have always been [Model] 1911 pistols and AK variants. I have long lists of reasons for those choices, but that is a discussion for another day.

I am now thinking of buying a FN FAL and have no idea where to start. I know that FN FALs are your battle rifle of choice, and I understand your reasons. Can you help me (and your other readers, I’m sure) with the following questions:

1. Are FN FALs being made today?
2. If they are in current production, who is manufacturing them? (Do they have a web site?)
3. What should a person expect to pay for an FN FAL? New? Used?
4. Anything a person should be on the lookout for when shopping for an FN FAL?

Thank you for your help. I look forward to your responses, and I bet some other readers will find this info helpful too. Thank you! – Nick in Indy

JWR Replies: In answer to your questions, yes, FALs are still being made, but they are no longer being made in Belgium by FN. The FN-built FAL rifles are considered the benchmark of quality, and bring a premium price. Most of the FALs on the market in the US these days are “parts kits” gun, assembled with used military parts and newly-manufactured semi-auto receivers. (These receivers have an ejector block that cannot accept the full automatic sear.) The quality of these rifles varies widely. A few are assembled by people that shouldn’t be trusted mounting car tires, much less headspacing a rifle. Therefore, I recommend that you buy a FAL only from a reputable, well-known manufacturer, or that you acquire your own receiver and parts set, and have it custom built by a gunsmith such as CGW (one of our advertisers) or Arizona Response Systems. The U.S. “factory” maker that I recommend is DSA. They make umpteen FAL variants.
I also recommend the rifles that were formerly made by Springfield Armory (the pre-ban SAR-48 and the post-ban SAR-4800.)
For spare parts and accessories, I recommend Gun Parts Guy.

Prices for pre-ban and post ban FALs vary considerably. Typical post-ban FALs from parts kits range from $500 to $1,100. A top-of-the-line post-ban built by DSA can be 1,000 to $1,800 depending on specifications. Pre-ban FN FALs range from $1,400 for a typical used SAR-48 or Argentine FM-LSR, to $3,200 for a like-new pre-ban folding stock (“Para”) FAL made by FN of Belgium.

Again, look for a FAL from a well-known maker. Be advised that under section 922(r) of the US Code, all post-ban semi-auto rifles must have seven US-made parts. It is beyond the scope of this letter to explain all of the details of that regulation here. Refer to the Legal Forum at The FAL Files Forums for more on the section 922(r) requirements. Suffice it to say that some home builder omit the seven US-made parts. This is just one more reason to only buy a rifle built by a “name” gunsmith or manufacturer. They do all of their FAL “builds” in compliance with section 922(r).
For any used rifle or any rifle that was built with a used parts kit, pay particular attention to the bore condition before you make the purchase.

For more about both metric and L1A1 (“inch pattern”) rifles, first read my brief FAQ on FALs and L1A1s and then spend some time working your way through the archives at The FAL Files. There, you will learn about the various models, makers, accessories, spare parts, and so forth. The FAL Files Discussion Forums are a great place to learn even more. The folks there are happy to answer questions from “newbies” to the FAL fraternity.

My personal preference is for L1A1 inch pattern FAL variants. They are more sturdy than metric guns, and less prone to jamming when dirty. They are also the most versatile in terms of accepting magazines. (An inch rifle can accept either inch or metric FAL magazines, but a metric FAL can only accept metric magazines–not inch!) We have five L1A1s here at the ranch, all built on pre-ban receivers. Three of them were built by Rich Saunders of CGW. Rich does fantastic work. Our other two are SAR-48s that were rebuilt to inch specifications (with their receivers re-cut to accept both inch magazines and folding charging handles) by T. Mark Graham of Arizona Response Systems.