French Forces in Afghanistan

    Soldier of Fortune has a post that links to a recent video montage of French forces in Afghanistan. The country’s forces have all since left the country but the video shows an interesting portrayal of how the 1970s technology FAMAS has entered the 21st century arena of small arms. Instead of replacing the current FAMAS’s with new receivers without a carrying handle (M16A4), the French seem to have simply engineered over it, and added rails and scope attachment points (I realize that the charging handle is directly below it, but look at the G36, there is a version of the FAMAS that is modified this way, but I can’t find any use of it in Afghanistan specifically). It looks like it would be an awkward weapon to fire with the scope so high above the barrel line, but I’ve never fired a FAMAS with an optical sight so I’m not in a position to make a valid argument. There has been a lot written on the FAMAS and it’s issues. One of the biggest problems with it seems to be a problem the French army has in getting the funding they need to upgrade not just the weapon systems, but their logistics as well. Forgotten Weapons covers the weapon, and TFB has a guest post about the particular problems with it.

    Screen shot 2015-01-04 at 3.29.12 AM

    All these pictures are screen shots from the video provided above. Look through them to see the different configurations of the FAMAS rifle. Some of the criticism of the FAMAS and the French Army are the lack of upgrades which are due to funding constraints. A French guest blogger wrote that a lot of soldiers are paying out of pocket for gear that the Army won’t provide. I’m not sure how this impacts what is on the service rifles, but everything from scopes to slings is different in these pictures. It seems that different soldiers appear to remove their bipods because of the weight as in some of these pictures just the bipod studs are visible.

    Screen shot 2015-01-04 at 3.27.38 AM

    This soldier appears to be elite because of the beard and the low profile helmet, but then why would he have a FAMAS and not a SCAR or HK416 as is evidenced in other pictures. Bipods are taken off.

    Screen shot 2015-01-04 at 3.25.45 AM

    Bipod is mounted and Eotech XPS holographic sight is mounted on top of the carrying handle. What appears to be either a PEQ type laser aiming module or a grenade launching sight on the left side of the rifle. The sling looks to be a 3 or 2 point.

    Screen shot 2015-01-04 at 3.25.18 AM

    Seems to be a fixed power scope, probably 4X? This soldier leaves his bipod attached and has a forward grip with a flashlight.

    Screen shot 2015-01-04 at 3.23.00 AM

    This soldier has removed his bipod and has an Aimpoint scope mounted to his rifle. Notice that every single FAMAS before this picture has a completely different scope mounted on them? I don’t know if these guys purchased their own scopes or not, but there is a diversity among scopes throughout these rifles. I would imagine this complicates rear echelon maintenance as well as supply, with all these different kinds of scopes and the parts associated with each one.

    Screen shot 2015-01-04 at 3.23.55 AM

    This soldier is about to fire his rifle grenade. France seems to be one of the few ISAF members that still uses rifle grenades instead of UBGLs.

    Screen shot 2015-01-04 at 3.27.11 AM

    American forces use either a 200 round plastic drum (mostly used in training) or a 100 round cloth “nut sack” (mostly used overseas). But the French seem to prefer this 200 round nut sack instead. I’m hazarding a guess in saying the scope is an Elcan. Also the rail system seems to be very low profile, unlike the current rail system on the M249.

    Screen shot 2015-01-04 at 3.26.20 AM

    Old school does it best, with a 100 round nutsack. This gunner has attached the front portion of the sling to the actual gun instead of the barrel which is common mistake because it adds an extra step when changing out barrels.  Notice the FR F2 in the background.

    Screen shot 2015-01-04 at 3.27.19 AM

    Again we see the 200 round drum but this time with an EoTech 512 on top. What is with this mounting the optic so high off the firearm!

    Screen shot 2015-01-04 at 3.25.33 AM

    A generic M4 with M203 UGBL. It almost looks American supplied because of the armory code sticker on the magazine well. Notice the two aimpoint scopes, 1X and magnifier.

    Screen shot 2015-01-04 at 3.26.27 AM

    Looks to be an HK 417 because of the straight magazine in 7.62 with an EOtech 512 and an aimpoint magnifier.

    Screen shot 2015-01-04 at 3.24.32 AM

    HK 416 with a light underneath, this scope appears to be the same type used on the FAMAS.

    Screen shot 2015-01-04 at 3.24.45 AM

    The FR F2, with an action based on the MAS 36, an almost 70 year old design still in use today. Then again, the Browning M2 and Remington 700 are still in use as well. Notice the rifle grenade on the soldier’s back, probably carrying it for his personal weapon or his buddies.

    Screen shot 2015-01-04 at 3.26.04 AM

    The G36 in use among several FAMAS rifles. Unlike most NATO weapons that accept STANAG magazines, the FAMAS cannot accept them, so this guy is pretty much on his own if he needs a magazine quick, fast, and in a hurry during a firefight. His pistol is a PAMAS G1, which is a Beretta 92 manufactured under license by GIAT in France.


    This soldier has a one point sling that he’s using as a two point, Aimpoint scope and some sort of laser aiming module mounted on the left side. He’s left his bipod on. The device at the end of the handguard seems to be a aiming attachment for rifle grenades.


    The disadvantages of rifle grenades are that you have to be picky when you mount them or use them because they interfere with normal operation of the rifle. With most rifle grenades, they require a blank cartridge to propel the actual grenade. The French AC58 F1 version requires a blank round but the current F2 version as is pictured uses live rounds to fire it. This means the grenadier can go straight into returning fire at the enemy after the grenade has been fired. Either way, I’m not too keen on shooting a live round into a live high explosive grenade just feet in front of my face.


    This scope is probably privately purchased, as no other soldier seems to have a commercial scope mounted on their rifles. He’s spray painted his rifle with a gentle camouflage scheme as well. He has a Mako Group forward grip and light combination.


    Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

    Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at [email protected]