The Australian Army, as a late member of the allied rifle committee along with the United Kingdom and Canada adopted the committee's improved version of the FAL rifle, designated the L1A1 rifle by Australia and Great Britain, and C1 by Canada. The Australian L1A1 is also known as the Self-Loading Rifle (SLR), and in full auto form, the Automatic Rifle (AR). The Australian L1A1 features are almost identical to the British L1A1 version of FAL, however the Australian L1A1 differs from its British counterpart in the design of the Main Body (Upper Receiver) lightening cuts. The lightening cuts of the Australian L1A1 most closely duplicate the later Canadian C1 pattern, rather than the simplified and markedly unique British L1A1 cuts. The Australian L1A1 FAL rifle was in service with Australian forces until it was superseded by the F88 Austeyr (a licence-built version of the Steyr AUG ) in 1988, though some remained in service with Reserve units until late 1990. Some Australian Army units deployed overseas on UN peacekeeping operations in Namibia, the Western Sahara and Cambodia still used the L1A1 SLR and the M16A1 rifle throughout the early 1990s. The British and Australian L1A1s, and Canadian C1A1 SLRs were semi-automatic only, unless battlefield conditions mandated that modifications be made.
The Australians, in co-ordination with Canada, developed a heavy-barrel version of the L1A1 as an Automatic Rifle variant, designated L2A1. The Australian heavy-barrel L2A1 was also known as the Automatic Rifle (AR). The L2A1 was similar to the FN FAL 50.41/42, but with a unique combined bipod/hand-guard and a receiver dust-cover mounted tangent rear sight from Canada. The L2A1 was intended to serve a role as a light automatic rifle or quasi-Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW). The role of the L2A1 and other heavy barrel FAL variants is essentially the same in concept as the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) or Bren, but the Bren is far better suited to the role of a fire support base for a section, being designed for the role from the start. In practice many considered the L2A1 inferior to the Bren, as the Bren had a barrel that can be changed, so could deliver a better continuous rate of fire, and was more accurate in the role due to its greater weight and better stock configuration. It is noteworthy that most countries that adopted the FAL rejected the Heavy Barrel FAL, presumably because it did not perform well as either a light rifle, or a SAW. Countries that did embrace the Heavy Barrel FAL included Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, and Israel.
Unique 30 round magazines were developed for the L2A1 rifles. These 30-round magazines were essentially a lengthened version of the standard 20-round L1A1 magazines, perfectly straight in design. Curved 30-round magazines from the L4A1 7.62 NATO conversion of the Bren are interchangeable with the 30-round L2A1 magazines, however they reputedly gave feeding difficulties due to the additional friction from the curved design as they must be inserted "upside down" in the L2A1. The L4A1 Bren magazines were developed as a top-mounted gravity-assisted feed magazine, opposite of what is required for the L2A1 FAL.
The Australian L1A1/L2A1 rifles were produced by the Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, with approximately 220,000 L1A1 rifles produced between 1959 and 1986. L2A1 production was approximately 10,000 rifles produced between 1962 and 1982. Lithgow exported a large number of L1A1 rifles to many countries in the region. Notable users were New Zealand, Singapore, and Papua New Guinea.
Many Australian soldiers used the SLR rifle during the Vietnam War. Many Australian soldiers preferred the larger calibre weapon over the American M16 because they felt the SLR was more reliable and they could trust the NATO 7.62 round to kill an enemy soldier outright. Australian jungle warfare tactics during the Vietnam War were far more successful than those employed by U.S. troops, and often determined by the strengths and limitations of the SLR and its heavy ammunition load.
Another interesting product of Australian participation in the conflict in South-East Asia was the field modification of L1A1 and L2A1 rifles by the Australian Special Air Service Regiment SASR for better handling. Nicknamed "The Bitch", these rifles were field modified, often from heavy barrel L2A1 automatic rifles, with their barrels cut off immediately in front of the gas block, and often with the L2A1 bipods removed and a XM148 40 mm grenade launcher mounted below the barrel. The XM148 40 mm grenade launchers were obtained from U.S. forces. For the L1A1, the lack of fully-automatic fire resulted in the unofficial conversion of the L1A1 to full-auto capability by simply filing down the selector, which works by restricting safety sear movement.
Australia produced a shortened version of the L1A1 designated the L1A1-F1. It was intended for easier use by soldiers of smaller stature in jungle combat, as the standard L1A1 is a long, heavy weapon. The reduction in length was achieved by installing the shortest butt length (there were 3 available, short, standard and long), and a flash suppressor that resembled the standard version except it projected a much smaller distance beyond the end of the rifling, and had correspondingly shorter flash eliminator slots. The effect was to reduce the length of the weapon by 2 1/4 inches. Trials revealed that, despite no reduction in barrel length, accuracy was slightly reduced. The L1A1-F1 was provided to Papua New Guinea, and a number were sold to the Royal Hong Kong Police in 1984. They were also issued to female Staff Cadets at the Royal Military College Duntroon and some other Australian personnel.
The FAL was made by Fabrique Nationale de Herstal (FN) in Liège, Belgium and under license in a number of countries. A distinct sub-family was the Commonwealth inch-dimensioned versions that were manufactured in the United Kingdom and Australia (as the L1A1 Self Loading Rifle or SLR), and in Canada as the C1. The standard metric-dimensioned FAL was manufactured in South Africa (where it was known as the R1), Brazil, Israel, Austria and Argentina. Mexico assembled FN-made components into complete rifles at its national arsenal in Mexico City. The FAL was also exported to many other countries, such as Venezuela, where a small-arms industry produces some basically unchanged variants, as well as ammunition. By modern standards, one disadvantage of the FAL is the amount of work which goes into machining the complex receiver, bolt and bolt carrier. Additionally, the movement of the tilting bolt mechanism tends to return differently with each shot, affecting inherent accuracy of the weapon. The FAL's receiver is machined, whilst most other modern military rifles use quicker stamping or casting techniques. Modern FALs have many improvements over those produced by FN and others in the mid-20th-century (for comparison, see a photo of a modern Para-style FAL).
It is estimated that FAL production (in all of its variants) has exceeded 1,000,000 units
The FAL operates by means of a gas-operated action very similar to that of the Russian SVT-40. The gas system is driven by a short-stroke, spring-loaded piston housed above the barrel, and the locking mechanism is what is known as a tilting breechblock. To lock, it drops down into a solid shoulder of metal in the heavy receiver much like the bolts of the Russian SKS carbine and French MAS-49 series of semi-automatic rifles. The gas system is fitted with a gas regulator behind the front sight base, allowing adjustment of the gas system in response to environmental conditions, and can be closed completely to allow for the firing of rifle grenades. The FAL's magazine capacity ranges from 5 to 30 rounds, with most magazines holding 20 rounds. In fixed stock versions of the FAL, the recoil spring is housed in the stock, while in folding-stock versions it is housed in the receiver cover, necessitating a slightly different receiver cover, recoil spring, and bolt carrier, and a modified lower receiver for the stock.
FAL rifles have also been manufactured in both light and heavy-barrel configurations, with the heavy barrel intended for automatic fire as a section or squad light support weapon. Most heavy barrel FALs are equipped with bipods, although some light barrel models were equipped with bipods, such as the Austrian StG58 and the German G1, and a bipod was later made available as an accessory.
Among other 7.62x51mm NATO battle rifles at the time, the FN FAL had relatively light recoil, due to the gas system being able to be tuned via regulator in fore-end of the rifle, which allowed for excess gas which would simply increase recoil to bleed off. In fully-automatic mode, however, the shooter receives considerable abuse from recoil, and the weapon climbs off-target quickly, making automatic fire only of marginal effectiveness. Many military forces using the FAL eventually eliminated full-automatic firearms training in the light-barrel FAL.
The FAL see's combat, and problems.
In 1955 the IDF adopted the IMI-produced Uzi submachine gun. To replace the Mauser Kar 98k and some British Lee-Enfield rifles, the IDF decided in the same year to adopt the FN FAL as its standard-issue infantry rifle, under the name Romat (רומ"ט ), an abbreviation of "self-loading rifle". The FAL version ordered by the IDF came in two basic variants, both regular and heavy-barrel (automatic rifle), and were chambered for 7.62 mm NATO ammunition. In common with heavy-barrel FALs used by several other nations, the Israeli 'heavy barrel' FAL (Makleon) was found to frequently experience a failure to feed after firing two rounds from a full magazine when in automatic mode. The Israeli FALs were originally produced as selective-fire rifles, though later light-barrel rifle versions were altered to semi-automatic fire only. The Israeli versions are distinguished by a distinctive handguard with a forward perforated sheet metal section, and a rear wood section unlike most other FALs in shape, and their higher 'Commonwealth'-type sights.
The Israeli FAL first saw action in relatively small quantities during the Suez Crisis of 1956, and by the Six-Day War in June 1967, it was the standard Israeli rifle. During the Yom Kippur War of October 1973 it was still in front-line service as the standard Israeli rifle, though increasing criticism eventually led to the phasing-out of the weapon. Israeli forces were primarily mechanized in nature; the long, heavy FAL slowed deployment drills, and proved exceedingly difficult to manouvre within the confines of a vehicle.
Additionally, Israeli forces experienced repeated jamming of the FAL due to heavy sand and dust ingress endemic to Middle Eastern desert warfare, requiring repeated field-stripping and cleaning of the rifle, sometimes while under fire, though the reasons for the reputed performance issues are still debated.
Though the IDF evaluated a few modified FAL rifles with 'sand clearance' slots in the bolt carrier and receiver (which were already part of the Commonwealth L1A1/C1A1 design), malfunction rates did not significantly improve.
The Israeli FAL was eventually replaced by the M16 and the Galil (a weapon using the Soviet Kalashnikov operating system, and chambered in either 5.56x45 or 7.62 NATO), though the FAL remained in production in Israel until at least 1981.
Highly customized L1A1 FAL I built years ago
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