Gun Review: DSA SA58 PARA Carbine

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The FN FAL is one of the greatest battle rifles to have ever graced the Earth. It garnered a reputation for extreme reliability, durability, and user friendliness over its decades of service and one of the rifles biggest fans is our boss man Steve. His opinion of the rifle is, in my opinion, valid. The FAL is an incredibly sleek rifle that has lines reminiscent of a high performance car with its angled stock and swept back pistol grip. The classic lines of the “right arm of the free world” get my attention every time, so naturally when Phil told me I would be able to review one, I was as happy as could be. I got in touch with Mike F. at DSA who told me I could specify whatever I wanted and they would build it and ship it to me to demo. Now that has never actually happened before, so I did not want to ask for much. I simply stated that I have long arms and that I wanted a full length handguard, and that a folding stock would be cool.

Mike had the gun built and it showed up to my door. I eagerly tore into the packaging ready to grab onto the rifle that served the West valiantly during the Cold War and beyond, and then I was surprised by all the… tacticool:

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I am a simple man when it comes to old designs. I like my AKs with wood, my ARs in A1 or A2 form, M1As with wood stocks, and so on so I was a little taken aback by this modern take on a classic rifle.

Here is the build sheet. I must say, they really went all out to showcase their product:

FAL SA58 PARA carbine rifle
18″ premium bipod-cut threaded barrel
PIC gas block & lower trigger frame
Extended PARA scope mount
CTR upgrade PARA folding stock
SAW pistol grip
Standard length handguards
SS gas piston
Quick release gas plug
Wide foot bolt hold open
Sand cut PARA bolt carrier
NP3 upgrade
Speed trigger upgrade, roughly 5.5 lbs pull
DuraCoat matte black

So those are just about all the bells and whistles available on these guns from DSA, and I get that they wanted the readers to see what they are capable of doing. If tacticool is your thing though, then you may dig the heck out of this rifle.

On 5/21/2014 I went to the range with a friend of mine to shoot the gun. I took 100 rounds of 7.62×51 (new production Olin stuff) to shoot. I would like to have had more ammo, but the price of 7.62×51 is very high as of late now that surplus seems to have nearly disappeared.

One problem was immediately evident. The sights on FALs are very low in the original design:

FN-FAL

As you can see they sit more or less right on top of the receiver, with the stock swept down to allow for a nice cheek weld and shootable sights. The gun DSA sent me had high AR15 sight plane sights so that a cheek weld turned into a chin weld. Why a company would intentionally move iron sights up two inches is beyond me, but hey, tacticool.

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Here I am shooting the gun with a very, very low cheek weld.

Another reason I love the FN FAL is that the folding stocks are bulletproof and have an incredibly solid feel to them. The rifle I received had the oh so familiar buffer tube and AR stock. One of the bad parts about the proliferation of the AR15 is that everyone feels that they must use AR15 accessories, which seems to stifle innovation and frustrate you guys (readers, I understand your malaise when you see the 12th post about unnecessary AR accessories and “improvements” in a given day). The CTR on this gun just did not feel right. That, and the grip angle I love so much on FALs/FNCs has been replaced with an M249/SAW grip.

My shooting buddy felt the same way, but that did not stop us from making noise:

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The gun was simply difficult to shoot with the high sights, and I would not recommend that a customer buy an FAL with AR15 sights at all. Still, burning through ammo was fun. My friend threw in a new magazine and got back to it:

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Then this happened. At about round number 50 or so:

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It was a simple failure to feed that was easily rectified, and I know this is a new gun.

After this I set up for some distance shooting at 100 yards using plain old 7.62×51, not match grade or anything fancy:

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I have heard conflicting stories on the accuracy of the FAL (or lack thereof) but I must say that with these sights, with that ammo, and at that distance I was mildly surprised. I shot 5 groups of 4 and here is the best:

IMG_5912

Worst:

IMG_5914

All in all I averaged 2.285 inches which is acceptable for a battle rifle in my opinion. I am sure the gun would shoot much much better with match ammo, good sights/an optic, and a better trigger man. I wish I had more ammo to really run the hell out of this thing to get a better reading on reliability, but 7.62 is very effective at turning money into noise.

Instead of my usual “good, bad, ugly” points, I am going to try something a little different here with two simple categories; What I like, and what I don’t.

What I like:

The finish on this gun looks fantastic. The people at DSA did a great job with both the black and NP3 coatings. The handguards were comfy and provided ample room to grab onto, and the trigger is quite good. The gas plug is also very cool and is easy to remove or switch positions. The scope mount/dust cover feels very solid too, and I would not be afraid of much POI shift. Lastly, the sand cut carrier is very neat. These parts came together very well, and if ordering an FAL from DSA, I would pick them all. Accuracy was acceptable for me too, and reliability was ok despite one jam (maybe a higher gas setting would have prevented it… you be the judge).

What I don’t like:

The sights. As stated, the cheek weld turned into damn near a chin weld and I was extremely uncomfortable shooting this gun. The low profile FAL sights are just that; so low that they generally don’t interfere with optics when set up right. I also did not like the stock. I like folding FAL stocks the way they are, and adding an AR buffer tube and CTR stock not only makes the gun ugly as can be, but it just feels off. The grip contributes to the awkwardness, and I feel that DSA forced modernization too much. Let classics be classics sometime! Other “improvements” I found that were also detrimental to the gun were the oversized mag release (I like the small factory paddle) and the flash hider that just looked out of place on the gun.

So those are my thoughts, experiences, and opinions on this gun. As stated, I am a sucker for the FAL, but I do not feel that companies need to try and modernize the classics that served their roles so brilliantly in the first place. These changes often turn out the be detrimental to the gun’s fit and function as evidenced here, but I do understand that some people will appreciate this approach. If I were voting with my wallet however, I would opt for a nice simple SA58 to live happily ever after in my safe.

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Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog who was born and raised in Texas with years of experience in hunting, shooting competitions, and general collecting. A degree in History from Baylor University has contributed to his love of both early and modern firearms technology, but Alex is most fond of machine guns and other NFA toys. Alex also owns a firearm manufacturing business licensed to produce title I and II weapons.
You can reach Alex at [email protected].


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  • Lance

    Only down side its that its metric mags and parts. I personally prefer the L1A1 in FAL terms Looks good FAL is my 2nd fav 7.62mm battle rifle just below the classic M-14.

    • Chad Hausman

      More choices and better availability on metric parts vs. inch. Many of them mix and match just fine though. I’m running an alloy DSA trigger housing (lower) with all matching metric parts, Steyr STG58 stock (metric), under an L1A1 receiver/barrel/sand cut bolt. Metric mags are more plentiful and will fit in either a Metric or Inch receiver. The Inch won’t fit in a metric though.

  • S O

    “carbine”
    LOL

    • Chad Hausman

      Yes, carbine. Standard length FALs and L1A1s were appx. 21″ barrels. The Para carbine versions with folding stocks were roughly 18″ barrels with a low number built for Belgian forces with a 17″ barrel. I had my 21″ cut down to 18″, as it still holds good velocity and isn’t quite as much of a nose-heavy pain when I run it suppressed.

      • JLR84

        A carbine is just something shorter than whatever someone decides the standard length is. I’ve always found it interesting looking at the history of “carbines” what has qualified for the term.

        For example the WW2-era German Karabiner 98k had a 22-inch barrel.

  • Fred Johnson

    I like everything about it except that AR type buttstock. That rifle needs something . . . different. Not the old original style stock, but something suited for that sight/optics rail. Yet, styled to match the rifle.

    • hkryan

      As Joe Del Zotto mentioned, the ACR stock is an option.

      • Fred Johnson

        That ACR stock looks perfect. I didn’t see it earlier.

  • Timothy G. Yan

    DSA should have included the Magpul CTR .50 inch or .75 inch riser with this. It adds what $19 to the total.

    https://store.magpul.com/product/MAG326/104
    https://store.magpul.com/product/MAG327/104

  • erwos

    That’s a CTR stock. Go buy the cheek riser for $20. Real easy fix for the sight plane issue. No idea why they didn’t include it with the gun.

    • big daddy

      Exactly, I was going to say that, cheek riser. I have physical issues and for me to shoot I have to be comfortable. I have 4 herniated discs in my neck alone and the need for me to be in a comfortable position is imperative. Also have terrible arthritis in my hands so I can also mention the grip and handguard as having to be ergonomic for me too.

  • Joe Del Zotto

    You can buy a ACR stock adaptor for the FAL; now you wont be able to use Iron sights but if you have a pic lower and any type of red dot or optic it will fix the cheek positioning that plagues the FAL with folding stocks. The adaptor can be found on the FAL files. As for not modernizing the classics, I can understand why you would want an original rifle in the original configuration but you also must remember that keeping these guns up to date allows for the gun market to be diverse and not flooded with just AR-15′s.

    • hkryan

      The ACR stock actually looks pretty nice on the FAL. Too bad about the cheek height ruining the stock sights though. That being said, it’d work really well with the iron sights on this article’s rifle.

      • Joe Del Zotto

        Thats true, I was only thinking about the stock sights, but if you put after market iron sights on the gun it would work like a champ. Here is a photo of my FAL with the ACR stock. As you can see it the cheek placement is perfect for a scope like the elcan.

        • big daddy

          That’s a beautiful women, I mean rifle.

        • An Interested Person

          …that ACR stock looks like it was made for the FAL. That is freaking awesome.

          • Joe Del Zotto

            Thanks, that ACR stock really makes a big difference when shooting the gun in FA and in semi. You can actually hang onto it now, and get excellent positioning for your cheek. Honestly if you have any intention on shooting modern optics on your FAL the ACR stock is the way to go, period.

  • James Kachman

    Gah. Saive would be rolling in his grave if he saw this. More for the lack of functionality of some of the pieces (the sights just seem to be a complete downgrade) than the butchering of a fantastic rifle from an aesthetic standpoint, which is why I’m upset. I have a DSA SA58, and yeah, it’s had ~5-6 FTF’s when breaking it in. But, it runs like a dream now, and it looks far better than this tacticool abomination. But that’s just me.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Alex C.

      I would love to see a photo of your rifle James.

      • James Kachman

        It’s just a bog standard SA58. Far better photographers than I have taken pictures of them.

    • hkryan

      The AR buttstock on an FAL is not my thing but I won’t complain about DSA providing more customizing options for the FAL. Besides, they kept the best part of the original folding stock: the awesome hinge.

      I have an SA58 Para w/ 18″ barrel. It came with the railed handguard and railed top cover. I had it set up with a Leupold Mark 4, bipod and some other goodies. It weighed close to 14 lbs but was surprisingly accurate considering the badmouthing the FAL gets for accuracy. Since then I’ve yanked all the crap off it and brought it back to an ~8 lb rifle. It’s a hell of a lot more fun to shoot now in original form.

      I’m actually liking the two-tone look of the black Duracoat and NP3 parts. Might have to send mine in! Nice article as always, Alex!

      • James Kachman

        Like I said, the aesthetics are just me. I’m not upset that they offer customization and all that, it’s a good company, and I respect them.

  • Adam Skrzypczak

    I have a DS Arms FAL, great rifle, but the trouble is getting reliable magazines for it.

    • sauerquint

      DSA makes 30 round mags for the FAL. I have seven, they work fine.

  • Esh325

    I guess the question is whether or not it’s worth upgrading a rifle that’s kind of obsolete and no longer used by militaries and police. I guess it’s only practical purpose is for the die hard FAL fans.

    • swede1986

      The FAL is still used by forces all over the World.

      • Esh325

        Still being used doesn’t mean it isn’t obsolete. I mean just look at FN who abandoned it for the FNC and SCAR-L and SCAR-H.

        • n0truscotsman

          Thats because the standard infantry rifle is in 5.56 and not 7.62 anymore. The SCAR H and 417 are very niche specific rifles.

          • sauerquint

            I honestly can’t understand what the Scar H brings to the game that the FAL doesn’t already have. Well, it is triple the price, but other than that…

          • n0truscotsman

            Its more modular, reliable, ergonomic, and measurably lighter. Essentially using modernized technologies and applying it to the battle rifle concept.

            It is expensive to reconfigure M14s and FALs to be just as modular with modern IR lasers and optics. Sometimes more so than these new rifles in many cases.

            The SCAR H has more hope than its L counterpart. Both of them are anything but perfect, with their own laundry list of issues.

            The parts commonality between different SCAR rifles is important, also to note.

            That doesn’t change the fact that FALs are awesome. The retro-futuristic 1950s concept really melts my heart.

        • swede1986

          You claimed that it wasn’t used anymore, which is obviously false. Nice try with moving the goalposts though.

    • Zachary marrs

      Its not obsolete, the ar 10 isn’t much younger. And let me know when an ar10 can shoot 16,000+ rounds without cleaning

      (Look up ol’ dirty fal if you dont believe me)

      • John

        It’s obsolete in the sense that military philosophy has moved away from the full sized cartridges being used by riflemen for ranges under 500 yards, and the FN FAL design doesn’t allot itself to being accurized and used by marksmen.

        • n0truscotsman

          well said.

          im glad somebody is thinking

      • Esh325

        I would say the AR design had more longevity which has allowed to remain still up to the task of modern armies. And we basically piston AR-10′s like HK417 which are probably more reliable than even the FAL.

        • Zachary marrs

          “Which are probably more reliable than even the fal” the only ar 10s ive seen that dont have problems are the original armalite ones. Look up ol’ dirty fn fal a guy put 16000 military surplus rounds through his fal without cleaning it for 10 years. Its been awhile since I’ve heard anything else about it, but I assume that its still going strong. Has anyone done such a test for an ar 10? There was also someone who did a similar test on a m1a, but I never followed that.

      • Yellow Devil

        I would still clean my FAL way before it hit that 16,000 round mark.

  • Pete Sheppard

    Nice writeup. An FAL is on my wish list, with a Para topping the FAL list.

  • ThomasD

    Original sights and neither of you would have been using that thumb over style of forearm hold.

    Not sure if that’s why they went with AR sights (probably had more to do with price/availability) but many tacticool operators wouldn’t know what to do with sights so close to the bore.

  • http://www.scoutbasecamp.com/ TV-PressPass

    It pains me to no end that after decades of use by the Canadian Forces, the FAL was deemed “too dangerous” for us Civilians and prohibited outright. I’m very jealous of both classic and modernized variants.

  • guest

    “It was a simple failure to feed that was easily rectified, and I know this is a new gun.”

    Facepalm.

  • JT

    so besides aesthetics, there was nothing the rifle could be knocked on?

  • Chance

    Respectfully, I think you were too preoccupied with how the weapon looked. The company asked you explicitly what you wanted, and you could have told them, “The classic FAL” but you didn’t. That’s something the company could have easily gotten right for you had you just asked, so I don’t think that portion of your review is fair to them.

    • An Interested Person

      This is a pretty good point.

  • Sulaco

    I’d like one to play with please. The magazines are inch or pattern or does that matter at all in these rebuilds?

  • n0truscotsman
  • SM

    I’ve been waiting a long time for this rifle to be reviewed. It’s one of my favorites. I do agree that that the old school FAL look is nicer, but it’s always nice to have options. Well done.

  • Y-man

    Ah… The FAL/ FN SLR. Sweet memories. I started training on these in Military School at age 10, could barely cock the rifle [Learnt to do this with a cocked leg/ foot instead!] but learnt the inners of this rifle even blindfolded. I love this rifle…

    Alex said it all: this needs a better stock [Which would help with the sights.]

    Good review Alex, like the simple conclusive points.

    I hope 7.62×51 price comes down before I visit in January/ February next year!

  • janklow

    i like my DSA FAL a lot… but it has normal sights and no AR-15 style stock, so there’s that.

  • FedUpTxn

    I agree that some improvements/modernization are often misdirected. I have a standard SA58 Para version FAL with skeletonized folding stock & original low sights and many shooters that have handled it don’t experience the problems mentioned. The FAL is a seriously awesome, bada$$ weapon. Now several countries are moving back up to the 7.62 format. Only problem I have is that now I have to buy ammo in bulk. :-(

  • drparadox

    I’m thinking about a DSA rifle. However, I’ve read over at the FAL files that DSA isn’t up to par any more. So what is everyone’s opinion on DSA FALs, are they good to go?

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    There are so many interesting takes on what is preferable ( or not ) on an FAL, and I will say that whatever works best for you — provided you have researched it carefully and actually tried it out in practice to your ultimate satisfaction — is the way to go.

    Having said that, I personally prefer the layout of the bone-stock FAL and FAL Para, where everything falls to hand easily, comfortably and naturally, original hump-back buttstock included ( in the case of the former ). The only concessions I would make, and only if absolutely necessary, would be use of a suitable Picatinny rail-equipped handguard and a railed locking dust cover ( such as DSA’s ).

    As far as aesthetics go, the standard FAL rifle is, at least to me, the most graceful and well-proportioned yet purposeful-looking modern battle rifle of all time, and where form meets function in a rare, near-perfect union.