Copyright 2001-2007, by James Wesley, Rawles
In response to innumerable postings querying
makers of FN/FALs and L1A1s and accessories, here a brief
summary of answers to some FAQs. For more details on the
FN/FAL, L1A1, and variants, I highly recommend the three
volume FAL Series by R. Blake Stevens. It is expensive,
($110 USD) but a great reference. It is available from
Discount Gun Books. Their phone # is (800) 266-5251.
Another great source of information is the FAL Files web site: http://www.fnfal.com Check it out!
The best collectibility/investment value in a
FAL is in
either in an original Belgian made FN/FAL (the earlier the
better), or a true L1A1 built in a Commonwealth country on an
original Commonwealth inch pattern receiver. (Such as the
Joe Poyer semi-auto Australian L1A1s that were imported in the
late 1980s.) In the eyes of serious collectors, parts guns--
no matter how nice they are--don't count. If it wasn't actually
BUILT in a Commonwealth arsenal on a Commonwealth receiver,
its just another parts gun. The only exception would be an L1A1
parts gun using a commonwealth parts set built on one of the scarce "Lithgow L1A1A"
receivers brought in by "Eden Imports", just before the 1989 ban. Less than 600 of
these receivers were imported. One of these receivers is currently worth more than $1,800,
regardless of the configuration in which it was assembled. (Just due to the scarcity of the receivers.)
Joe Poyer kindly e-mailed me the following
on his now
famous small group of Australian L1A1As:
"The deal was made directly with and the brand new rifles were shipped directly from the Small Arms Facility at Lithgow NSW between Sept 1987 and mid 1989 when the Federal ban on "assault rifles" went into effect. A total of 158 rifles were imported and serial numbers range from SAF83005 (which I kept) to SAF830166. S/N's 830039 and 830103 were never received and 830041 was not sold. The original asking price (Adv. in Guns & Ammo) was $1550.00 They can be identified by my address: 'Joe Poyer's Antique Firearms, 380 S. Tustin Avenue, Orange CA 92669' on the receiver. The stocks were Australian coachwood and were finished with a clear lacquer finish rather than the cresote treatment military stocks received."
From a practical standpoint, the profusion of parts guns and "Century" sporters generally function fine, have decent accuracy, and are relatively inexpensive. However, they can hardly be considered investment pieces. It is noteworthy that there is starting to be marginal collectibility in the pre-ban Argentine, Brazilian (Springfield Armory SAR-48s/4800s), STG-58s, and Israeli FALs. Rifles that were imported into the U.S. before the thumbhole stock and flash-hider restriction stupidity began are already considerably more valuable than the later emasculated rifles. Since the supply of the earlier style rifles is essentially frozen, this price spread is expected to increase in the future.
Telling "inch" from "metric":
Metric magazines have a small front locking lug (1/4 inch wide) that is merely punched out of the body of the magazine. Metric magazines also have a slim floorplate that is NOT wider than the body of the magazine. In contrast, inch pattern (British Commonwealth) magazines have a relatively large and beefy (1/2 inch wide) front locking lug that is brazed onto the front of the magazine. They can also be distinguished by their floorplates, which are wider than the magazine body, and have a "button" release on the bottom.
Metric magazine are fairly hard to tell apart, since nearly all were made on Belgian (FN) made tooling. Most are painted in black enamel. Here are some distinguishing characteristics:
Original Belgian magazines have black enamel painted steel bodies and brightly blued followers. They are generally wrapped in clear plastic five packs. These are generally considered the most desirable metric magazines.
Some West German (G1) metric magazines were made of aluminum. There are a couple of follower design variations, and several generational differences in anodizing methods. Like most anodized gun parts, these magazines show wear very quickly. However, they are the lightest-weight FAL magazines available.
Argentine and Brazilian metric magazines look just like Belgian magazines, except that they have zinc phosphate coated followers.
Special note of clarification on Phosphate
"Parkerizing" is like "Xerox" or "Frigidaire"--it is a trade name. The process of phosphating metal is commonly called "Parkerizing" because the Parker family
designed and owns the patent (now Parker-Am-Chem). Zinc phosphate is a type of
phosphate that is usually gray. Manganese Phosphate is usually black. Both processes (as well as iron phosphate and others) can be purchased under the "Parkerizing" name or under or the brands like Keykote from Allied Kelite.
Austrian metric magazines are entirely zinc phosphate coated. They are currently available from D.S. Arms.
Most Israeli made magazines look just like Argentine of Brazilian magazines (black enamel painted bodies and gray followers) except that they have two Hebrew characters in an oval cartouche stamped in the side of the magazine, near the bottom. Some Israeli FN/FAL magazines are gray parkerized. Israeli magazines are generally found wrapped in brown waxed paper tied up in twine. They are packed either four or five to a bundle.
Inch pattern magazines are even more difficult to tell apart. When you buy unmarked inch magazines, they are probably either Australian or Canadian. Inch magazines stamped with part numbers, production years, and/or a "broad arrow" proof mark are generally British.
To clear up the perennial confusion on inch
metric magazines: If your rifle is an *early* Century
("CAI") Sporter, then it can accept only METRIC magazines, not inch
The early Century Sporters were basically an inch pattern parts kit
on a metric receiver--not a C1A1 inch pattern receiver. The
CAI receivers have an "inch" magazine cut and the cut for the
cocking handle, as well as the grooves
for the legs on the rear of the dust-cover.
Austrian Stg-58 rifles accept metric
Belgian FN rifles accept metric magazines, only
Israeli FN rifles accept metric magazines, only
Brazilian FN (SAR-48/SAR-4800) rifles accept metric magazines, only
Argentine FN (FM-LSR) rifles take metric magazines, only
Australian L1A1 rifles will accept inch OR
British L1A1 rifles will accept inch OR metric magazines
Canadian C1A1 rifles will accept inch OR metric magazines
Indian ("RFI -Ishapore") 1A1 rifles will accept inch OR metric magazines
(Note the exception to the above listing is that even though the receivers for early production Century L1A1 Sporters are made in Canada, they were inch L1A1 kits built on METRIC receivers, and hence accept only metric magazines. The later CAI Sporters will accept either metric or inch magazines.)
The general rule is that inch pattern
can accept EITHER inch OR metric
magazines. However, when they are used in an inch gun, metric magazines do wobble a bit. This is because the front locking lug doesn't engage. They normally work fine, however.
PARTING UP A FN/FAL OR L1A1:
Putting together L1A1s from parts kits seems
have been the national sport fronm around 1993 to 2004. Sadly,
supply of parts kits has dried up. I see dozens of "parts" guns at
gun shows. Most were built using British inch pattern parts kits
assembled on metric receivers. Most recently, Entreprise
inch receivers have become predominant. Metric parts kits were
relatively scarce, and British surplus inch pattern parts kits with
pebble grain plastic stock furniture were fairly common. In just
the past couple of years, this situation has reversed! There are
still a few metric kits on te market but the Inch kits have completely
dried dried up. However, if you look around at gun shows you can still
find British surplus L1A1 parts kits for under $400. (I should have
50 or more of them when there was a glut back in 1994, and they dipped
down to $129 per kit! Oh well, 20/20 hindsight...) Entreprise
has made large numbers of receivers, most of them inch pattern.
Their phone # is (818) 962-8712. Note: There have been some complaints by gunsmiths about some batches of the Entreprise receivers not meeting dimensional specs, so beware.
The biggest supplier of metric receivers (and barreled metric receivers) in the U.S. is D.S. Arms. They are currently best known for their rifles made with Austrian military surplus STG-58 parts kits. Similar rifles are made by Arizona Response Systems. Both of these manufacturers do excellent work with these kits. One interesting note: Because these two makers include a specified number of U.S. made parts, they are not considered "imported" rifles per ATF rulings. Therefore they can legally assemble and sell them with traditional pistol-grip style stocks rather than with the bogus-looking thumbhole stocks.
Important caveat!!!: Unless you have access to the key U.S.-made parts, if you part up your own FAL, L1A1, or STG-58 on a new receiver using the original (pistol grip) stock, you might be considered in violation of some bureaucratic federal regulation. So be safe! If you have an STG-58, L1A1, or FAL kit, send it to DSA or ARS for assembly. Not only wil they do the headspacing correctly, but they will also use the U.S. made parts to keep you legal.
The phone # for D.S. Arms is (708) 223-4770. Or see: http://www.dsarms.com/ This firm is owned by Dave Selvaggio. I've done business with Dave for many years. He very reputable, his merchandise is top notch, and his prices are reasonable. The web address for Arizona Response Systems is http://www.arizonaresponsesystems.com/
Note: I have no financial interest in either of these firms. My recommendations are based solely on my satisfaction as a customer.
There are only two minor problems with
up a L1A1 (or C1 series) on a metric receiver. The first is that
you have to notch the folding charging handle (to match the metric
configuration), or if you want to be crude, just grind the inside of it
flat (like Century did on its early Sporters.). The second problem is
you will be limited to using only metric magazines. BTW, if you
a metric receiver and have any inch pattern magazines, they can be
to metric configuration with a bit of judicious grinding to
the front locking lug. However, due to their current scarcity and higher price, (not to mention the fact that you would be ruining the eventual collectibility of original Commonwealth magazines), you are better off swapping your inch magazines at a gun show for metric magazines. You can generally swap them straight across or even at a 3 for 2 ratio, depending on how hungry a dealer is for inch magazines.
Barreling and headspacing are the only difficult tasks in parting up a FN/FAL or L1A1. Make sure the barreling and headspacing is done by someone who has worked with FALs before! It is tricky, since on L1A1s there are two different parts that need be included, and they come in a range of dimensions: breeching rings (a washer with an I.D. the same as your barrel thread's O.D.-this is used to get the front sight to "index" at the 12-o-clock position), and locking shoulders (the little oval shaped block that crosses the receiver). BTW, there is no equivalent to a breeching ring with a metric parts kit. On metric guns there are only locking shoulders. The metric guns have a longer shoulder, and the shoulder must be machined to set proper index.
If you are uncertain of your skills and/or don't have a full set of dimensional parts to choose from and the proper gauges, get qualified help!
One gunsmith that I can highly recommend is to T. Mark Graham of Arizona Response Systems. His web page at: http://www.arizonaresponsesystems.com/ You might also seek recommendations from D.S. Arms.
I also highly recommend Century Gun Works in
Nevada. (Not to be confused with Century Arms!)
Kevin Adams from New Zealand contributed the following on L1A1 headspacing:
The breeching washers Numbered 1 - 8 are used
in the fitting of the
barrel to the receiver only, to ensure that the barrel is aligned
correctly when it is tightened up on the fixture (thus the front sight
Regarding the "Shoulder, Locking" there are 60
different sizes in
four ranges : 1 - 15
1.1 - 15.1
1.2 - 15.2
1.3 - 15.3
The above sizes are also shown in some publications in this format:
1 - 15
1/1 - 15/1
1/2 - 15/2
1/3 - 15/3
The correct fixture (workshop machine)for
The Fixture, Assembly Shoulder Locking Rifle
M.M. L1 A1 and
Automatic L2 A1 (4933-66-015-2852)
The gauging and the working out of the correct
range to use is an in-depth
process, and should only be done by someone with experience
in this area. I also suggest that they use the correct locking shoulder
gauges: GAUGE, Plug Taper Cylindrical, Rifles 7.62 M.M. No 1 and GAUGE,
Plug Taper Cylindrical, Rifles 7.62 M.M. No 2.
The correct instructions for carrying out this
procedure are contained
in the Australian Small Arms Factory (SAF), Technical Brochure Supplement.
Thanks for that info, Kevin!
In terms of spare "breakage" parts for an
it is currently far more cost effective to get a complete spare parts
(everything except the receiver), than to buy parts separately.
the late 1980s--before the brief glut of Commonwealth parts kits--I
to pay $150 just for a set of Maranyl L1A1 stock furniture.
if you look enough, for around $300 you can buy a complete spare parts
set! (Everything except the receiver.) Needless to say, the full parts
set will leave you prepared for any eventual parts breakage, et cetera.
Even if you don't foresee the need for all those spares and just want to keep a few critical items such as a firing pin and stock furniture, you might be able to sell off all or part of the remaining parts from the set at a gun show, to recoup much of your investment.
TELESCOPIC SIGHTS AND MOUNTS:
The best scope mount for putting a traditional
scope on a FAL or L1A1 is the A.R.M.S. scope mount. My personal
set-up is to use a Trijicon Trophy Point 4x and an A.R.M.S mount.
This is like the best of both worlds. It has tritium gas lit reticle
a Trilux, but has optics that are better suited to "reach out and touch
someone" work. The A.R.M.S. mount is a replacement top cover with
a Weaver rail. (It takes standard Weaver style rings.) It is much more
trim and compact than its competitors (such as the B-Square
monstrosity), and has excellent return to zero when it is taken on and off the rifle. A.R.M.S. even makes a version with a return spring guide for the paratrooper FAL.
The following on Trilux "SUIT" sights is courtesy of David Young of New Zealand:
With SUIT sights, the correct point of aim is dead center.
The ranges at each of the positions for the
lever are as follows:
The lever should be set back for 300 yards, and forward for 600 yards.
The gun should be sighted for 300 yards. You can do this by shooting at
25 or 100 yards. The (short) instruction manual that came with these
sights has all the specifications for this.
On original unaltered SUIT sights, there is a
small handle that you can rotate to expose the tritium.
most of the SUIT sights in the U.S. have had their tritium vials
to meet some brainless N.R.C. radioactive material import
The spot where the vial went is filled with a black plastic plug.
You can "reanimate" a Trilux that is sans its tritium vial by using one
of the battery powered red LED units made by MJS International. (They
formerly sold by Entreprise Arms, but they no longer stock
The earliest ones were too bright. The newer ones reportedly work
much better. MJS sells them for $50 postpaid to U.S. addresses.
Phone: (760) 591-1709
Special thanks T. Mark Graham of ARS for his valuable input on magazines, coatings, receivers, and parts kits.
FALFiles Silver Contributor. (Member #133.)
I'm the author of numerous firearms FAQS on topics including:
AR-15 magazines, M1 Carbine magazines, M14/M1A magazines, M1911 magazines,
FN/FALs and L1A1s, Mauser rifles, pre-1899 cartridge guns, and European Ammo Box
Markings Translations. These FAQs are available at www.SurvivalBlog.com/faqs.html
I'm also the author of a pro-gun survivalist
and screenplay. For info,