FAMAE Firearms: From SAF Mini to SG 542

The FAMAE Firearms Family is a product of the Chilean state-owned manufacturing company Fábricas y Maestranzas del Ejército and the Swiss Arms company, formerly Sig Sauer. The Chileans have licensed the original Sig540 design to outfit their armed forces.

This platform from the 1970s has been adapted into many variants with specific weapons for military and police use. They cover every base: large 7.62×51 designated marksman rifles, solid 5.56 assault rifles, short barreled paratrooper carbines, 9mm sub-machine guns, snub-nosed personal defense weapons, and even police-specific options chambered for the World War II .30 carbine round.

Some of the semi-auto variants are exported to Canada, where they find a welcome home in the gun-starved north.


You see, during the 1990s Canadian Parliament banned a number of scary-looking assault rifles outright. Essentially anything used in an action movie during the 1980s became prohibited. All kalashnikov variants? Gone. The FN-FAL? Gone! MP5s, G3s, and almost all those other popular military rifles were banned outright. Even the AR-15 was relegated to a restricted status, meaning that they must be transported under lock and key, and can only be fired at a range approved by the government. There is no bush plinking or varminting up north with America’s favorite firearm.

So Canadians often look for “the next best thing.” We shoot Vz58s instead of AKs, Tavors instead of AUGs, and specialty guns like the XCR and ACR become “hunting-AR15s.”

Firearms that managed to avoid our politicians narrow-minded fear are always a reason to get excited. The FAMAE SAF Mini becomes the MP5K I will never own.

The SAF Mini that I’m best acquainted with has a 4.5” barrel, a saw-style rear grip, the classic H&K style foregrip, a folding stock, diopter sights, an ambidextrous safety and magazine release, plus a picatinny rail add-on for optics.

They are a great PDW that is ready to go right out of the box. These guns really are a beauty to behold.


The SAF uses polymer double-stack magazines that come from Chile in 20 or 30 round sizes. Of course they end up being pinned to 5 to comply with Canadian law, but interestingly the 30 round magazines can be snapped together redi-mag style. This modular magazine system is something carried over from the Swiss Arms 550 rifles, and in theory you can stack as many as you feel comfortable with.

But: FAMAE is not Sig Sauer. These aren’t Swiss machinist-made, these are stamped steel. Some of the welds aren’t as nice at the sights and grips. Parts have to come up from Chile, and proprietary magazines are expensive. But considering a SAF is right at the $2000 mark, and a Swiss Arms rifle can push up past $3600, you would expect to see differences.

The next big thing to come from FAMAE into Canada will be the SG542. This .308 battle rifle features an 18.5″ barrel, and is a unique option for anyone looking for a semi-auto in this caliber.

Non-restricted .308 black rifles are a rarity in Canada. Your options are: M-14, Robinson Arms XCR-M, or Kel Tec RFB. That’s all there is.

So the arrival of a Swiss-designed, South American-made rifle is a welcome addition. I’ve had a limited hands-on with one, but having put a few rounds down-range I am seriously considering it as a DMR role rifle.


It uses an integral bipod, with a pinned flashhider and bayonet lug. Once again, these use a proprietary rock-in magazine, not dissimilar from FAL or M14 magazines. They have an adjustable gas system with settings for “clean” “fouled” and “rifle-grenade.” The SG542 is substantially lighter than the XCR, and does not have the optics mounting issues associated with an M14.

The SG542 is slated to arrive on Canadian shores en masse this fall, and hopefully we will see more imports from Chile’s manufacturer in the coming year.

Edward O

Edward is a Canadian gun owner and target shooter with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. Crawling over mountains with tactical gear is his idea of fun. He blogs at TV-Presspass and tweets @TV_PressPass.


  • Andrew Tuohy

    Nice article.

    • Pretty pleased to have you as a reader Andrew. Although I hope I never fire these guns underwater or light their hand-guards on fire.

  • Goran Sablic

    V ery nice military parade.

  • Bob Barker

    Nice to see more Canadian writers/reviewers/video producers 🙂

  • SkyPup

    Nice article, sure wish I could get ahold of that .308, it is an awesome piece!

  • Ian

    I’d never seen the .308 version but it really is lovely. It’s basically everything you could want in a .308 AK.

  • dp

    I have high regard for FAMAE as they are without any doubt maker of most ‘advanced’ (in relative terms) hi-quality arms without reproach in South America. I would consider buying one, but I also anticipate they will be hugely overpriced. it’s that ‘sig’ thing behind it which makes it.

  • Cobalt-60

    I would love to get my hands on that paratrooper model, seems like a nice compact rifle. Do the Canadians have SBR laws? Or are all of those firearms on the table regulated the same?

    • Brace yourself: We do, but they’re quite different from US SBR rules. Manually operated firearms (pump, bolt, lever) can have any manufactured barrel length as long as the entire firearm stays above 26 inches. Semi auto firearms with a barrel longer than 18.5″ are non-restricted as long as they aren’t on any named list of “bad guns.” Semi autos with barrels under 18.5 inches can be any length overall, but qualify as handguns. So they must be registered to you, moved under lock and key, and fired at approved ranges. There’s no real fee attached to SBR rifles, but they are definitely more of a hassle. In the first video there’s a point where I put my ATT on screen. That’s the paperwork from the RCMP that allows me to have that SBR in that location.

      • Brandon

        Kinda complicated, but better than some of our laws.
        Rules for owning an SBR in Michigan: NO!

  • dp

    I am also glad to see Canadian writer here. In Canada the situation got severely screwed up years ago due to action of women-hater Marc Lepin who killed, using mini-Ruger14 in Montreal university, score of female students. Utterly nuts and beyond comprehension.
    In following all kinds of young carrier-lawyers in head with person known as ‘gun-basher’ Wendy Cuckier (if anything to do with “cuckoo” I do not know) were out hard to make themselves famous by depriving Canadian enthusiasts from owning military-style firearms, This improved little bit lately by act of Conservative government nixing previous long arms registration. So hopefully, ice is breaking in this country.

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      Hi, dp :

      Good commentary that is, as usual for you, very much to the point and unabashedly up-front with a real insider’s viewpoint!

      @ Edward O, Steve & Phil :

      Many, many thanks for presenting and enabling such an interesting article covering high-quality weapons from outside the U.S. If one carefully examines the history of firearms innovation and development in Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, among others, one begins to realize how deep and rich that history is, and with that realization comes a profound regret that so many excellent weapons that were ( or are ) easily as good as, if not better, than the more well-known offerings, either do not see widespread acceptance or only limited acceptance due to lack of exposure, political maneuvering, and that old boogie man of the firearms world, “market timing”.

      • dp

        Thanks diver
        I went bit political, but this is for purpose of putting some light on Canada’s gun policy. It is bit inconsistent, to say at least. But it has some cracks which can be exploited (that is by importers to say it right).

  • Serious Question: Did I break the TFB cardinal rule of “Firearms Not Politics” by writing this?

    • Geo

      Nope, you kept to the facts. Interesting how different Canada’s laws are from the U.S.

    • Michael

      They are talking about politics in Canada, not America. So a political answer to your question about no discussing politics, That is as clear as mud.
      That little subgun looks sweet.
      Lets campaign to reduce the barrel length of rifles and shotguns, or at least make shotgun the same as rifles

    • Nah you’re fine:-)

  • russell

    Awesome to see some Canadian articles and options for us fellow northners!

  • DaveP.

    Will these be offered to the American market? I’d love to get a look at one.

    • erwos

      Nope. The US, for whatever reason, has much stricter import rules on rifles.

  • big daddy

    So basically it seems all politicians over the world are as stupid as the ones in the USA. Maybe ban politicians and not guns. These look like nice rifles and shorties. The HK and FN influence is obvious and that’s not a bad thing. Now think about this, if these idiots vote so moronically on gun laws think about how they vote on issues concerning science and economics. That’s a scary thought.
    I would hope they come to the USA. Maybe a few trigger parts, a magazine and it’s compliant?

  • Kevin

    Nice to see you here Press Pass.

    Hope to see you keep posting, I always enjoy reading your stuff.

    Kevin M. (CGNer)

  • VolkCNC

    You forgot the Valmet rifles are available in .308 chambering. Very rare and very expensive, so I won’t blame you for missing them.

    • Curses! I was just chatting Valmets and Galil conversions this weekend too! Good point sir. I’ve also heard some Canadians argue that the FNAR is a .308 black rifle.

  • Norincos are better

    Can the author do a report on how the new $999 Norinco Type 97 have a better trigger are more accurate and just a better rifle than the $2700 Tavor.
    Mag changes are excempt from this conversation.

  • Jorge

    Fun thing is that for a Chilean to buy a FAMAE gun, he has to import it from Canada.

    • Sergio

      Actually these kind of guns are completely forbidden in Chile, the most powerful semi-auto rifle you can get here is a .22 LR. All these guns are produced for the military and police only.

  • TXNate

    Go ahead an send 1 of those 20″ 5.56s my way!

  • Dennis Robbins

    Great article … but did anyone else do a double take when the video review guy presenting the 9mm Sub-gun slapped his palm over the muzzle at about the 19 second mark? Maybe it’s just me … just sayin.