Top 5 Battle Rifles

The term “battle rifle” is a colloquialism that is generally used to refer to rifles firing a full caliber cartridge and generally are select fire. After WWII, many nations decided to forego intermediate rounds in favor of heavy hitting, powerful fully automatic long arms that lasted until intermediate cartridges seized the day. In this video, we take a look at 5 that we consider the best.

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Transcript …

– [Voiceover] Hey, guys.

It’s Alex C. with TFBTV and for today’s Top 5 we’re going to look at the Top 5 Best Battle Rifles.

For the purpose of this list, a battle rifle is going to be a military service rifle firing a full-power cartridge, generally select-fire as well.

We’re limiting this list to select-fire rifles or rifles that came from the factory with select-fire capabilities.

But we’re gonna first start out with the SIG AMT, actually this is a variant of the STG 57 or SIG 510.

Very cool rifles.

We’ve done a review.

They’ve got that wonderful beer keg charging handle that you’ll find on K-11s, K-31s, and things like that.

These are just really cool rifles.

They’ve got some great features.

They’re roller delayed blowback.

But one of my favorite things they have is this winter trigger that comes down in case you’re wearing big, heavy winter gloves in Switzerland, as this is a Swiss gun.

It’s also got an integral bipod that folds out and stores over the barrel, uh, barrel jacket.

Very well thought out feature.

A great way to store a bipod.

Very creative, the Swiss are (chuckles) pretty crafty when it comes to things like this.

The reason this is one of my favorites is they just shoot great.

They have a low recoil impulse.

They’re very, very accurate.

We actually did a full review on this rifle, and I was so blown away by the accuracy with run-of-the-mill ammo at a hundred yards.

It grouped about an inch with iron sights the first time I had ever shot this for accuracy on the first day we took it out.

These are just a pleasure to shoot.

I like ’em.

They’re not the most handsome rifles, most people find them pretty ugly, myself included, but I guess when it comes to firearms, aesthetics come second to function, and these just function great.

I wish they were more prolific in the United States.

There are some here, notably PE 57s and AMTs, but they are quite rare and they’re not imported anymore.

So if you see one for a good price, pick it up.

But the next rifle on the list is gonna be somewhat controversial.

This is the M14.

The M14 has a storied past.

It only served the United States as a main battle rifle for about five years, I believe.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good rifle.

You know, they’re very interesting, they share a lot of features with the very venerable, well-liked M1 Garand, but they are more modern.

They’re, of course, select-fire.

They have a very similar manual of arms to the Garand, including the safety that everybody loves, the op-rod is very easy to operate and charge.

You’ll notice the rotating bolt is almost a direct carryover from the M1 rifle as well.

It is an improved version, I would say.

The op-rod, for example, in lieu of a cam track, actually has a little roller bearing which is nice.

The selector switch is located on the back.

By the way, this is an M1A.

I just put a G.I. stock in and dummy selector to look cool.

Magazines come out.

They hold 20 rounds of 7.62×51.

On full-auto, these things are pretty beastly.

The pivot point is right at your wrist, so it’s best to go ahead and keep that on semi.

But the one thing I do like is it’s got this wonderful shoulder thing that goes up that makes the rifle deadlier.

Of course, I’m kidding, it’s just to rest the rifle if you’re holding the rifle for a long time.

The sights are great.

If you like M1 Garand sights, you’ll feel right at home behind an M14 or M1A, one of my favorite sets of sights, actually, in all of the firearm world.

Aside from that, the M1A, I think, is an aesthetically handsome rifle.

But, like I said, aesthetics come second to function.

These are very accurate when bedded properly.

You’ll see these at matches.

The old joke being, though, that you need three.

One to shoot, one with the bedding messed up, and one at the gunsmith getting the bedding repaired.

So next up, we’ve got the most modern one on the list.

That’s going to be a SCAR 17.

This is actually a semi-automatic SCAR 17S.

Unfortunately, I cannot get my mitts on a fully automatic version, because they were, unfortunately, made after 1986 where the cutoff is for fully automatic firearms.

But the semi-automatic version is still very, very cool.

I think they look just radical.

Very good looking firearms, handsome firearms.

The best thing about these, I think, is the manual of arms.

If you’ve shot an AR-15 and you at home on an AR, then you will really like this.

The position of the safety, the way the magazine releases, the bolt catch, all of that is fantastic.

I also like that the stock folds and stows great.

You can shoot it with the stock folded, which comes in handy if you’re a vehicle crewman or something like that.

It’s also got an adjustable cheek riser if you’re running an optic, which is very nice.

I also do like that the front sight on the gas block folds forward and stores very nice and naturally.

Of course, they come from the factory with a very nice and effective muzzle brake.

Now one thing I don’t like is the reciprocating charging handle.

It’s got quite a slapper on there and I put an aftermarket one to run an Acog.

Now these do weigh an impressive 8 pounds, 6.2 ounces, or, in metric, 3.806 kilograms.

So all in all, all these features combine with just excellent shootability, make the SCAR 17 a very great candidate for one of the top five battle rifles and that’s why it made the list.

So next up is definitely a crowd favorite, and that’s gonna be the FN Fucil Automatique Leger, or FAL rifle.

The FAL is a rifle that is loved by many.

They called it the right arm of the Free World for a good reason.

Pretty much every NATO member, sans a few, including us stubborn people in the United States, adopted the FAL in one form or another.

They’re great looking, they’re very reliable, 7.62×51, the manual of arms is excellent, and they’re very easy to maintain, which is my favorite part of the rifle.

Like I said, the manual of arms is great.

Magazines flip out by extending your pointer finger and then they rock out and rock in naturally.

The charging handle is on the left side of the gun, which is great and optimal.

And, of course, they do have a bolt catch and a bolt release which is nice.

Aside from that, on full-auto they’re a little difficult to control.

It’s noteworthy that the British military adopted these as the SLR rifle, self-loading rifle, but they eliminated the full-auto capability.

They left the safety sear in there, which is interesting, but they did away with the setting for full-auto.

Maybe a good choice? Having shot these on full-auto, I can tell you that it’s really not a whole lot of help.

Semi-automatic’s where these shine.

But I did mention ease of maintenance.

You can see the rifle fully fieldstripped for cleaning here.

There’s just a few parts.

Take the parts down, wipe ’em down, clean the bore, throw ’em back in and you’re ready to go.

It’s easy to see why this rifle was so well loved by the men who carried it.

And I’m actually very happy that I have one.

I would recommend that if you find a good deal on one, go ahead and grab one up.

But lastly, we’ve got the Heckler & Koch G3.

This is actually a PTR91, by the way, but it’s pretty close, I guess (chuckles).

But these are just pretty cool rifles.

I really like them.

There’s a great debate, I guess, on what’s better, the G3 or the FAL.

Maybe put in the comments which one you prefer.

But these are roller delayed blowback.

The manual of arms is a little different compared some other rifles on the list.

It does have the selector, here, this is an SEF trigger group, which stands for Safe, Economical, and Fun.

I’m actually kidding, but (chuckles) On the F-setting, these are actually very, very easy to control on full-auto.

That roller delayed blowback action makes it very rythmic and easy to control, for me personally, and I very much enjoy shooting them.

Normally they have a paddle, like an MP5 released magazine, however, being that this is a civilian PTR91, you do have press the magazine release button.

Not that big a deal, but like I said at the heart of the system is the wonderful HK roller delayed blowback system that was invented in WWII with the STG45 and then perfected at CETME.

But this is another very easy gun to maintain.

You can see, here, it fully fieldstripped for cleaning.

And ease of maintenance is one of the reasons why this rifle was very close to my heart.

It’s easy to clean, easy to maintain.

As long as you check your bolt gap and leave it in spec, it’ll serve you for a very long time.

Anyways, guys, that about sums up my list for the Top 5 Best Battle Rifles.

We’d like to thank you for watching.

We’d like to thank Ventura Munitions.

And if there’s a rifle that you think should’ve made the list, go ahead a list it in the comments.

See ya next time.

(grass crunching) (gun shooting then metal clanging)


Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.


  • Dave

    FAL vs. G3? FAL!

    Missing, and what would be my “honorable mention” perhaps yours too, is the MAS FSA 1949/56 7.5x54mm rifle.

    Partial to the AG-42B too, but I don’t actually own one. Oh. One more thing: M1 Garand! Yeah, yeah, Patton’s “greatest battle implement” and all that.

    • Dave, in the beginning of the video I said “We’re limiting this list to select-fire rifles”.

      • Dave

        Ah… Sorry. Missed that clearly. Even missing that, I should have picked up on the M14 hedging and discussion of its lack of controllable full-auto as a BAR replacement even with that “thing that goes up.” Heh.

        I guess the great-great-grand-daddy of these might just be the CSRG Mle. 1915 Chauchat! Not the “best” at anything, mind you, just the ancestor of the breed what with it being a sort of LMG/Battle rifle hybrid built cheap.

  • Don Ward

    Can I take my Battle Rifle to a skirmish, insurrection or a donnybrook? And what size of battle are these Battle Rifles optimal for?

    • Andrew Benton

      Insurrections, yes. Donnybrooks require pistol ammunition, and skirmishes require intermediate rifle rounds. Battle rifles may also be used with confrontations, affrays, engagements, and onslaughts.

      Please consult your user’s manual.

      • Evan

        But what about an altercation?

        • CountryBoy

          Only if the priest allows it (a wee bit o’ humor).

  • Mark


  • Darkpr0

    You know what? I like the flip-up buttplate on the M1a. It lets my trigger hand take the load off and concentrate only on getting a really good trigger press.

  • datimes

    FAL’s rule.

  • Based on your criteria, these are the “top 5” out of like 7 widely produced types, hahah.

    • Don Ward

      It must follow a similar counting system as Terry Pratchett’s trolls.
      One. Two. Many. Lots.

    • Major Tom

      I was about to ask how many battle rifle models there are. Last I remember the only things not on this list are basically the CETME and Galil ACE variants. Everything else being a derivative, successor (spiritual or otherwise), or modernization of one of these 5.

      Except maybe the SVU-A. But then again almost nobody outside GRU or the other Spetsnaz outfits know what it is and what it can do for realsies.

      • The_Champ

        Howa 64, FG42, Avt-40(ok that is pretty rare haha), AR-10, Fedorov Avtomat, maybe the original BAR if you use your imagination.

        I thought I was going to have a good list going but you’re right, beyond this top five list there are few more, and most saw only very limited service.

        • M

          To add,

          FN-49, BM-59, HK-417, MAS-49, Hakim, Ljungman, Garand

          Some of those lie the Garand and MAS are antiquated though

          • Laionidas

            Wait, Garand never was select fire was it?

        • Laionidas

          I was also thinking that the Howa 64 would have been a very interesting contender, but then whether or not it can truly be considered a “battle rifle” is open to debate, as it technically was not intended to fire a full power rifle cartridge. However, the cartridge it was intended to fire wasn’t exactly “intermediate” either. Does anyone have any experience/knowledge of what the actual effect was of the Japanese down-loading the 7,62×51(mm)?

      • SP mclaughlin

        Wouldn’t CETME just fall under the “G3” category though?

  • tb556

    I’d love to shoot a SIG AMT one day. Nice video.

  • mosinman

    G3 over the FAL?????

    • JumpIf NotZero

      HK love affair

      • mosinman

        that’s the only real explanation i can come up with

  • Bill

    A shoulder thing that goes up? Why does that sound vaguely familiar?

    • Evan

      It’s how some gun-grabbing congresswoman described a barrel shroud

      • UCSPanther

        Carolyn McCarthy if I recall right.

        • Evan

          I think you’re correct. I always want to say Boxer, but I know it wasn’t her

    • Steve

      Contrary to the explanation in the video, I believe this (M14 butt-plate hinge) was actually to maintain proper shoulder placement while prone.

      • Bob

        it was used with a “stabilizer” that went over the flash suppressor and clamped on to the bayonet lug for the select fire weapon. It was easier to control on full auto.
        When I worked on the rifle range at camp casey in So. Korea in 1966, we always used to say to the soldiers on the firing line, “if you are not hitting the target (trainfire targets…not bullseyes), you might check the nut behind the butt”. You’d be surprised how many soldiers would lift the hinged buttplate and look!

  • The_Champ

    This list needs more FG42 and Avt-40 ?

    • jcitizen

      Sometimes I wonder if the FG42 might actually be superior and should still be considered a modern design. It sure seems to be making a resurgence on the private market.

      AVT-40? You sure that isn’t just a digital gamer fantasy?

      • Laionidas

        You mean a M60?

        • jcitizen

          The market on legal M60s dried up during the GWOT. I was referring to a resurgence I’m seeing on semi-auto FG-42s.

          As an armorer, I’ve inherited a distinct disdain for M60s.

  • Evan

    FAL over G3. M14 over either. I find the FAL’s manual of arms mildly awkward, I don’t like the left side charging handle, and based on my experience the M14 is far more reliable and somewhat more accurate.

    • Vitor Roma

      Nope. The M14 already born outdated. FAL is by far much more sucessful.

      • Jim B

        After shooting both, I bought the M1A only because it had much better sights than the FAL IMO. Really liked both, just wish you could put Garand sights on the FAL. :o)

  • Twilight sparkle

    FAL > g3

  • Xeno Da Morph

    You say “run of the mill ammo” on the SIG AMT. What was it chambered in .308 or the 7.5x55mm Swiss? GP11 ammo (7.5) is very accurate ammo. But I’m sure you already know that.

  • TheSmellofNapalm

    I got into an argument with someone today because they thought that AR-15s didn’t come in 14.5″ barrel lengths, so they were completely different from the M4 and I was a complete idiot for referencing one during a conversation about the other. Mind you, this conversation had nothing to do with select fire or military service weapons, just internals. There is a lot of ignorance in this world and I’m glad you guys are doing your part to help.

  • Lance

    &Alex the M-14 served as standard issue for 7-10 years. Adopted in 1957, entered service for most troops in 1960. Its standard issue replacement the M-16A1 was not adopted as standard issue till 1967. Out side of Vietnam M-14s stayed standard till 1970. As a reminder the USA want the only none FAL user France, Spain, Italy, and Norway where some who did NOT use the the FAL at anytime.

    Like your pic except for the plastic SCAR. Overall FAL is far superior to the G-3 better ergonomics and has much less recoil than the G-3. To rate the BIG 3 Id say M-14 and FAL tied at first and G-3 distant third. AR-10 if they fixed its issues they had with them and saw any real issue with a major army. would have pushed G-3 to fourth.

  • Gidge

    Galil/Galil Ace 7.62 Nato models?

  • You don’t need to post twice. It can take a few minutes to ok a post when a link is in the post. Anything with a link gets bumped by Disqus for an ok by me.

    • Xeno Da Morph

      Ok, it’s gone.

    • Giolli Joker

      All to you? Did you pick the shortest straw? 🙂

  • ostiariusalpha

    ? Wut, no AR-10?! #ArtillerieInrichtingenMasterRace
    Ha ha! That was still a great list from a fairly small pool. I agree that the M14 is just too damn pretty, and it’s still fun to shoot as long as your not applying a new bedding for the third time to force it to be accurate.

    • Bob

      I have a “rack grade” M1A that is loose as a goose in the stock and if you put a scope on it, it WILL hold 1-1/4 groups all day long!
      I’ve shot NRA highpower rifle matches with it and it works FINE. I was a 1/2 point off of making “expert” when my health went to he11 on me.

  • jay

    FAL over G3. Better Ergonomics. Better accuracy at med-long range. Neither is truly controllable in full auto. But the FAL doesn’t destroy brass (have to be able to reload when SHTF). I’ll keep my FAL, maybe get an aftermarket G3 and try to make it into a PSG-like clone, for fun.

    • Chris Hall

      There’s a buffer for the G3/PTR91 GI that keeps the gun from destroying brass when ejecting, though you still run the risk of it putting notches into the round when charging. The buffer is also incompatible with the railed PTRs, but will work with a claw mount still.

      • jay

        I think both rifles are great. However, I do prefer the FAL. Both rifles with plenty of spare parts and ammunition are acceptable in a SHTF situation.

    • M

      The FAL does in fact dent brass and deform the case head regardless of how much the gas setting is tuned.

      The fact the bolt does not rotate (which “breaks the seal” so to speak)means that it simply violently yanks on the case to try to extract it which weakens the case head over time. Reload it enough and you will get case head separation. Kinda catastrophic if that happens in the middle of a fight

      • jay

        I’ve found the FAL to be ergonomically superior. My FAL doesn’t dent the brass (normally, only on rare occasions). I’ve seen the dented brass from the G3. Almost every brass ejected is damaged. Extraction is rougher on the FAL, as it’s a straight pull back as opposed to a twisting ejection, so in that you are correct. I’ve never had to remove a lodged case from mine though. And of course this was supposed to be a SHTF scenario, meaning what is most readily available, easiest to repair, and less damaging to the rounds, as everything is hard to find, and or repair. Don’t get me wrong, I like the G3 as well, I just prefer the FAL. My choice, guided by my logic, and of course emotions. Be well.

  • DW

    G3 with telescoping stock over FAL because people (the shooter) needs some faceslapping 🙂

  • MechanizedSwede

    I have to say the G3 is my favorite. I know it has a really awkward charging handle, uncomfy recoil impulse, no last shot bolt hold open, big freakin hump on the stock that hits you in the face when in bad shooting positions. BUT it has fantastic sights, reliable as hell, it feels like freakin warhorse (when out of ammo use as club). It may not be the perfect battle rifle, but its really close to my heart!

    f#!K da em-fourteeen

    • Bjørn Vermo

      I mostly agree, but I wonder what the meaning of “easy to control in full auto” is. It is certainly no MP40, my experience is that the third bullet hits rather close to the top of the target.
      I suppose a battle rifle does not need to concern itself with reloading, but I wish it did not dent the spent brass when ejecting it.

  • Joshua

    I do love me some FAL, a much more modern gun over the G3. The G3 lacks the bolt hold open and release that the FAL has. I’d take a FAL any day of the week

    • mosinman

      yeah i was surprised at the G3 being rated higher than the FAL

  • mosinman

    No AR-10?

    • jcitizen

      I’m surprised they mentioned the AMT, they are both obsolete. Do you actually mean the KAC SR-25 EM/M110 SASS (Semi-Automatic Sniper System)

      • mosinman

        no, i was talking about the original AR-10 that was used by Sudan and Portugal

        • jcitizen

          I would think those disappeared from armories sooner than the SIG AMT. They are sure getting long in tooth – and Colt has had such a bad time in the market, I’m not sure they could rely on them for parts replacements. Hopefully they bought 50 years worth of parts!

  • mosinman

    sounds like a lot of the problems listed in that article seem to be related to shoddy build quality, and less about actual design flaws

  • Nicholas C

    SCAR17/Heavy. Nice. My all time favorite rifle.

  • spiff1

    The article is about “battle” rifles…When was the Swiss last “battle”…?

    • CountryBoy

      They are always prepared, just in case. It has kept them “neutral” for decades.

      Better to have and not need than to need and not have.

      • jcitizen

        Yeah, who wants to take on a country where every man of service age has one in his closet at home – they just recently stopped issuing 100 rds of free ammo for them! Other than the US, I can’t think of a more fearful scenario for an attacking enemy.

  • jcitizen

    My brief synopsis:

    AMT – fell in love with it as a boy, but had expensive priorities and never got around to purchasing one. The only thing that makes me feel better about that is they are obsolete.

    M14/M1A – Too many defects to be a serious battle rifle – my ROTC TAC NCO said it failed them miserably in Vietnam. Nuff said.

    HK G3 – Shocked to hear it is controllable – the stock on the one I shot must have been defective, because it jumped all over the place with me! The only roller lock system that hasn’t failed me is the MG3, and I’ve even learned to keep spare barrels and bolts on that one too! Also not exactly a SHTF weapon the way the fluted chamber ruins the shells for reloading. Thank the Lord the MG3 doesn’t do that!

    FAL – Mine shoots MOA with custom compensator -Top battle rifle in this line up – SR-25 probably superior, but haven’t had the money to buy one yet. There again, money prioritizes for expensive stuff, that may be going away soon. I think I’d rather have a Colt LE901-16S.

    SCAR 175 – Lighter than the Colt, but I like it enough I’d snap one up if the price was right (which will never happen)

    • M

      FALs are not known to be the most accurate service rifles. The average is usually 3-5 MOA, 2 on good ones. Minor misfeeds are common for the platform on average. But it does the job for an average soldier though.

      The G3 has variable recoil due to the condition of the recoil buffer. The gun doesn’t need the buffer to function and many times the springs have actually seized up over the years, meaning that it isn’t functioning. That is when you get your harsh recoiling rifle.

      • jcitizen

        Thanks for commenting. I may have been lucky as mine was built by a custom gun smith, and he also helped me an another shop develop the recoil suppressor. We were pretty surprised at the phenomenal accuracy with the crappy ammo we had. You could tell the arsenal had cleaned the ammo with sand, to knock any rust off the shells. It was that bad! I would like to get rid of this rifle, because I don’t like keeping anything that isn’t current modern issue in world armies, but I can’t bring myself to do it, with that kind of accuracy, I might as well keep it!

      • Laionidas

        “FALs are not known to be the most accurate service rifles. The average is usually 3-5 MOA, 2 on good ones.” Still, the Dutch did little other than slap a scope on it to call it a DMR/Sniper (“Schutter Lange Afstand” is a bit in between I guess).

  • Stomper

    I’m partial to my genuine IMI .308 Galil… WOOT!

  • Eric Blatter

    Nice review. Of them all (and I’ve owned a bunch, but not a SIG or a SCAR) I prefer the FAL in its many versions. In 6×45 I think it would be highly controllable, which would answer your main concern, and I just like the way it shoots, feels and handles. The grip angle is a little steep for my taste, but the FAL is a “fine” rifle.

  • Brian M

    1. G3: Why is this number 1? Because it’s German. This has a few faults the FAL simply doesn’t, like having a charging handle positioned in the stupidest place possible and being plastic. Given the lack of advantage, popularity, and prestige over even the SCAR-H, this thing should’ve been down near the bottom. At least this confirms we can’t really trust these lists to any significant extent, given how Alex’s teutonophillia seems to keep landing H&K arms in high places regardless of whether or not they really deserve it.
    2. FAL: If not for the SCAR-H, this ought to have been number 1. The right arm of the Capitalist world, used by at least 90 and like more than 100 countries. The FAL is one of my personal favorites and I can’t really find many faults with it other than being long and sorta heavy.
    3. SCAR-H: I honestly would have put this at number 1 if not the number 2 spot, but I guess it cant’ appease Alex by the sin of being Belgian. This is the polymer rifle done right, and thanks to technological advances, it’s even controllable for people who don’t log long hours in practicing recoil management.
    4. M14: The crappiest of the 3 great battle rifles. Longer and heavier than the Garand, short service life, the reason we’re still struggling with finding a universal cartridge, and it doesn’t really having anything going for it at all. It’s an alright designated marksman rifle if you put a scope on it, but that’s completely beside the point of a full power automatic rifle, not that it could be controlled. At the end of the day, it’s a Garand that takes a slightly lighter round from a magazine instead of a clip.
    5. AMT: What is this gun, even? I’ve never heard of it or seen a service record for it, so I can’t really pass judgement on it. The only thing is that it seems to fit your pattern of having at least 1 hipster gun on every list.