Yes, there really was a FAL in 5.56×45. It was the SAR-4800 made by Imbel in Brazil and imported by Springfield Armory. According to Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons, only about 700 were imported into the United States and these came with those ugly post-ban thumbhole stocks.
He discusses the history of it while examining one that was converted to the FAL Para configuration. While it probably is a bit heavy, it is still pretty cool.
Years before he co-founded Sturm, Ruger & Co., Bill Ruger worked for Auto-Ordnance. When the Army’s Ordnance Department was seeking a replacement for the M1919A4 light machine gun, he designed and submitted a prototype. Unfortunately for Ruger, it failed the endurance test as did the other submissions. Ultimately, the Army went with an updated version of the Browning design.
As it turns out – and as Ruger would later write – it could be quite hard to create a ground-up new design to beat John Browning’s work in just 4 or 5 months (shocking!). When Ruger’s gun was tested, it was found to have a few good aspects, but was generally unreliable and failed to complete the scheduled 10,000-round endurance test. All of the other guns in that trial failed for various reasons, though, and a second trial was scheduled, giving the manufacturers time to improve their designs. Ruger and Auto-Ordnance were unable to substantially correct the problems with the gun, however, and it did as badly in the second trial as it had in the first. Ultimately, a separate procurement process by the Infantry Department would result in the M1919A6 Browning, which was adopted for the role of light machine gun.
This experience would serve Ruger well, as he would go on to do quite a lot more work with Auto-Ordnance before forming his own tremendously successful company.
When my family took our great Western trip during the Bicentennial, one place we visited was Cody, Wyoming. We took in the nightly rodeo and other sights. However, the highlight was the visit to what was then called the Winchester Museum and the Buffalo Bill Museum. They have since been renamed to the Cody Firearms Museum within the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
The Cody Firearms Museum has just undergone an extensive (and expensive) renovation. Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons visits and gives us a virtual tour. He notes in his description of the video that it is now, in his opinion, the best firearms museum in the US.
Use of carbines like this one by Delta and other special forces groups set the stage for the adoption of the M4 Carbine and Aimpoint M68 optic by the US military at large, and it’s very interesting to listen to Larry’s first-hand experience of how and why it was put together.
By the way, if you want to duplex magazines like that, Matt Bracken (Enemies Foreign and Domestic) has an excellent “how-to” article on it here. I’ve done it with black duct tape and a thin dowel.
Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons just released a video of the South African Defence Forces R2 rifle with its modified furniture. The R2 was originally a Portuguese made G-3 rifle purchased by the SADF for use by second-line troops and the South West Africa Territorial Force.
South West Africa is the former name for the modern country of Namibia. The country was a South African “protectorate” under a League of Nations mandate after World War One. This mandate was abolished in 1966 by the United Nations but the South Africans held on in whole or in part until 1990.
Getting back to the R2, there were problems with the handguards due to the climate of the region. Ian writes this about it.
The Portuguese hand guards and buttstocks were found to be unsatisfactory, however. In the heat and harsh ultraviolet radiation of South West Africa (now Namibia) in particular, the plastic would shrink and lose its fit, leading to the guns being called “rattlers” by the SADF troops. The fix this, the American firm of Choate Machine & Tool was contracted to make new hand guards based on the H&K export pattern – wider and longer and with fittings for a bipod. New stocks were also made, duplicating the shape of the R1/FAL stock.
Given the similarities of the G-3 and R2 with the currently produced PTR-91, it would be very interesting to see if you could find some of these Choate Machine handguards and stocks to use on a PTR-91. I like the looks of the Choate handguards and stocks better than the originals. While I don’t own a PTR-91, I do own a boatload of magazines for it because they were a dollar or less at the time. One of these days I’ll finally get around to obtaining a rifle to use with those magazines!
As always, Ian has produced an informative and interesting short video.
The other day, Herschel at The Captain’s Journal had a blog post regarding the government profile barrel for the AR-15 and the M16A2. He made the point that the government profile barrel was adopted based upon erroneous assumptions and without proper engineering failure tests. He also said that top end AR makers continuing to put out rifles with government profile barrels was dumb.
First, I question their testing of the resistance to bending of a “government profile” barrel. They obviously never got real engineers involved in this problem. The highest bending moment in a cantilever beam will be where it is pinned, which in this case will be at the receiver. As best as I can tell, not only didn’t they solve a real problem, they didn’t even solve the pretend problem.
Second, engineering resources would have performed a failure mode and effects analysis of the problem. A failure investigation team of engineers should have been commissioned, not a military team.
Third, if you believe the problem is that Soldiers or Marines are using their rifles to pry open boxes or crates, then teach them not to do that. That’s stupid. I remain unimpressed with folks who try to mistreat, abuse and beat up their guns only to complain when they don’t work.
It was an interesting post with good comments. You should read the whole thing.
That led to me finding this video from last year by Ian and Karl from InRangeTV and their WWSD (What Would Stoner Do) series. In it, they test stress relieved pencil barrels from Faxon and then compare that to an original pencil-barreled Colt SP-1 doing the same test. Given I have one of those Faxon pencil barrels, I need to get my act together and finish my lightweight build using it!
PS: Lest you think I’ve gone all “what has Wayne done now” all the time, being able to have a day without significant charges of malfeasance and self-dealing is a relief. However, the day is still young.
Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons has produced this nice short video explaining the differences in operation between open and closed bolt actions. While we tend to think that open bolt is for machine guns and closed bolt is for semi-automatic is the rule that isn’t always the case. Ian has examples of both closed bolt full auto submachine guns and open bolt semi-automatic rifles. The confusion may stem from a ruling by BATFE back in the 1980s which said no new open bolt semi-autos could be manufactured as they thought these would be easier to convert to full auto.
Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons has a fine review of David Royal’s A Collector’s Guide to the Savage 99 Rifle. I know some people think that Winchester or even Marlin lever actions are the be all and end all of lever guns but my heart belongs to the Savage of which I have two. Both of mine are in .300 Savage.
In this video, Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons looks at one of John Garand’s early rifles. The Model of 1924 Trials Rifle was primer-activated. That is, the primer would come out of the pocket in the brass and push a small piston back. This would serve to unlock the bolt and the autoloading process would go on from there.
This is the first that I’ve ever heard about such a system and I find it both intriguing and horrifying. Intriguing because it simplifies the barrel of the rifle – no gas ports needed – and horrifying because of the potential for failure or worse.