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