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I'm definitely with Mr.Chem on this one. DSA are hard to beat for the price. I think they are FN licensed and they use original blueprints. They are regarded as one of the highest qualilty FAL manufacturer, if not currently the best. Imbel's are also excellent but they are usually put together using older surplus FAL kits, unless they were the original Austrian Stg58 kits, which were in excellent condition, or newer parts specifically the barrel.

I (may or may not) have a DSA SA58 Para Congo with the 16.25 inch barrel and HD scope mount. I'm actually going to hunt with it this year. I personally would prefer my 7.62's to have as close to an 18 inch barrel because it is the shortest barrel needed for the most complete powder burn. Not totally sure on the actual ballistics, but the 16.25" barrel will do nicely up to the 300-400 M range. Beyond that accuracy will start to suffer. I'm hard pressed to find enough reason as to why have a 7.62 in a shorter barrel length, only one reason I can think of. If that where the case a 5.56 and 5.45 could adequately do the same job in a lighter and more compact package with different weapon platforms. I'm dissapointed that DSA doesn't offer the barrels chrome lines except for a 21" heavy. Just a personal preference and not necessarily a must. Of course I do have one of those brand new Imbel 17.4" CL barrels I got back when they were $129 and will put on one day :D.

Most FAL's have a 21" barrels. DSA has the heavy version chrome lined, the rest are not. The para stocks but they have a different 'recoil?' spring set up than that of the non-para FALs. They use a modified top cover, spring, spring guide, bolt carrier, and obviously lower. I can't tell if the para model has more recoil than a non para stock which has the longer and stiffer recoil spring captured in the stock. I like the para stock simply due to the compactness feature.

The DSA HD scope mount is beefy and made out of aluminum. It does get banged up pretty bad at the rear of the ejection port. I don't care about that but I know for some it's an issue. It doesn't afect operation but if you must the scope mount does have provision to mount a brass catcher. The mount is secured by 10 screws that clamp it on to the receiver cover rails. The screws are flat head slots, which suck. DSA does offer button head allen screws at $1 each, but they are the same ones you might find at True Value for .30 cents a piece (not Lowes).

This (may or may not) is my 3rd FAL. My first was a Century L1A1 on a metric receiver. I had problems and some of the parts were definitely well used. I ended up giving it to my best friend and he fixed it and he's also taken 2 deer with it since. Short of a castatrophic issue they all are fixable, so you never know that $500 FAL might be a good bargain. But if given a choice I'd chose between a DSA or Imbel, or original FN.

If you do shop for a used FAL check out the barrel carefully, inside and out. Make sure the bore looks good and not full of pits and such typically found from really used parts kits. Look at where the barrel meets the receiver and check that the notches cut out for the barrel wrench are not totally fudged up. This will indicate if it was a homebuild/WESCOG. Some guys know what they are doing and most don't. I do know what I'm doing. That's because I send that part out to be installed by well known FAL smith. They have the proper tools and experience to do that part and I don't.

For the 7.62 the FAL is my favorite. It is the lightest, or feels that way, but definitely the handiest of the bunch compared to the Hk, M1A, and even the AR10. The US should have adopted the FAL (T48) over the 14 when they had the chance. Interesting to see how the XCR adopted 2 features from the FAL, the charging handle location and operation and the bolt release. The weight and feel of the Para Congo is right there with the M16A2. Of course the ergonomics will be an issue for the small handed, but not for me and I don't think it's that much of an issue at all if you do have itty bitty paws.

In my comparison:
I've owned M1A's and although I didn't have a whole lot of issues with them, the higher quality USGI mags, for some inexplicable reason, go for a pretty penny. Starting at $20 while you can find FAL surplus mags starting in the $8 range and maxing out under $20. The Springfield M1A's have gotten crappier in the last 5 years. I've had extractor and spring pop out twice, and luckily found. I think that they are more accurate with nicer triggers but it's funny seeing the current abominations trying to modernize it and make it more like a FAL. BTW any trigger can always be improved by some gunsmith.

The G3 types does a few things the FAL doesn't while it totally flops at the other. The story goes that FRG wanted a FAL version after WW2 and Belgians told them to eat sheissen due to post WW2 ill feelings. The G3 good features are the mag insertion/release and sights. It's operation is more reliable and simple. Ergonomic sucks and it is not gunsmith friendly. Cocking it is ridiculously stupid and no last round BHO. Supposedly it's been said that the Euro's don't believe in BHO and I've heard some wild stories as to why. Let's not forget assault rifles only emerged in the early 40's, the FAL and G3 in the late 40's, so where is the Euro's long standing history scoffing at last round BHO device. I say BS because the FAL has a last round BHO device. I'm not sure if it was originally designed as such but it was nothing to make it that way so I believe that it was in the original design. To adapt a last round BHO to those HK designed rifles would require more work than they deemed necessary. And the G3 types bang the hell out of the brass for the reloading types.

I've owned more than one of each type and shot the AR versions of 308. I pick the FAL over them all although the other will have a feature that the FAL doesn't. I will admit I do get torn between the AR-10/SR25 but when it comes to more bang for the money the FAL wins. Besides the FAL's sight plane/sight over barrel is lower to that than a G3 and AR. The G3 FAL's was a design ahead of it's time that only until now newer designs are merging to finally surpass it.

Good luck and let us know how it turns out.


Edited to add:

Thanks to a bunch of kids it took me a while to write my post and since then 6 more ppl have responded. I see MickeyC and I have the same idea about the FAL. I also agree with the handguard issue adding that the stock HG also heats up terribly.

I typically shoot rifles from 100 to 500M scoped or not, 600M max b/c that is the best that I can do shooting at a man sized target w/o a scope and w/o getting too much in to doping. Except for every now and then I don't do much long range plinking but a few times with my old junky Century L1A1 I once played around with shooting at an oversized bear steel gong at 1000 with iron sights on a bench. Took about 8 rounds to find the "sweet spot" with half of the impacts not seen/able to adjust. If given a choice I'd get the sniper, or at least the hunter version of a FAL for 500M+ shots. I will admit that free floated AR10 has been the most accurate rifle I've ever shot aside from an accurized bolt gun. Same gong was hit within the first 2 or 3 shot using irons, benched of course.

I'm thinking about getting those railed HG. Just clarify that with rail covers the heat is tolerable? And how securely are they mounted to the rifle?
 

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Right from Military.com:

http://www.military.com/news/article/the-ultimate-battle-rifle.html?ESRC=dod.nl

The Ultimate Battle Rifle
September 24, 2008
Tactical Life|by Cameron Hopkins

Belgium may be best known for fine shotguns, rich chocolate and tasty waffles, but for you and me, this quaint little country is the home of the world's finest major-caliber battle rifle, the FN-FAL. Renowned throughout the world for its rugged reliability, the FAL was manufactured in 10 countries in its heyday and issued to over 70 armies, not to mention various irregulars and mercenaries.

In fact it was the FAL's calling card as the weapon of mercs that gained it the most notoriety.

Col. "Mad" Mike Hoare, an Irish-born World War II veteran who immigrated to South Africa and went on to become one of the Dark Continent's most celebrated mercenaries, unwittingly did more to promote the legend of the FAL as the merc's gun-of-choice when he led a daring hostage rescue mission into the Belgian Congo in 1964 and freed a group of Americans and Belgians. In the days following the raid, Mad Mike's men held off the rebels long enough to evacuate over 1,800 European and American civilians.

If the FAL, the "Fusil Automatique Legere," was not famous before, it would be now.

The FAL is a .308 Win. (7.62 x 51mm) gas-operated, short-stroke piston system available in semiautomatic and automatic versions. The FAL's standard payload is a 20-round detachable box magazine; 30-round magazines were also made for a squad automatic version of the FAL, but they're not desirable due to their length and "spring issues" with the elongated box.

The FAL came in four major versions. The best known by far was the FAL 50.00 standard model. It came with a 24-inch barrel. The next most popular was the Paratrooper version, the FAL 50.63, the same basic weapon except with a folding stock and a shortened 18-inch barrel. A standard 24-inch barrel with the Para's folding stock was called the FAL 50.64. The rarest version of all was the FAL 50.41, a heavy-barreled model with a built-in bipod designed as a squad machinegun, sort of like the BAR.

Not only did the FAL vary in cosmetics, but also the weapon remains a testimony to the conflict between the English and metric systems of measurements. There are two categories of FALs, "metric" and "inch" pattern guns, inch-pattern guns being made in former British colonies like Australia and Canada while metric-pattern guns were made in places like Brazil. And no, the parts don't interchange. Worse yet, the magazines don't interchange!

Most metric-pattern FALs came in full-auto with fixed carrying handles, while inch-pattern FALs were predominantly semi-auto with folding carrying handles. Once again, exceptions are the rule, so you can't simply glance at a FAL and decide from, say, the selector or the carrying handle whether it's inch or metric.

While we all love the M-14, the U.S. came within a cat's whisker of adopting the FAL. In the early 1950s, there was world-wide clamor to upgrade all those "obsolete" battle rifles from World War II with more modern designs. Belgium's Fabrique Nationale (FN) had the best candidate in the FAL, but the company had thrown its lot in with England to develop the weapon in what the Brits thought was the caliber of the future, an intermediate bore .280 (7 x 43mm).

When the U.S. Army field-tested the FAL in the early '50s, the die was already cast for the caliber choice, and that caliber would be the classic American bore size, from the Krag to the Springfield: .30 caliber. The new T65 round was the only thing the ordnance boys would consider-what we now call the .308 Win. or 7.62 NATO.

Sensing the political wind, the Belgians redesigned the FAL to accommodate the 7.62 NATO with the first guns being ready in 1953. Ironically, Belgium wasn't the first country to adopt the .308 FAL; Canada was, in 1955. Britain adopted the FAL as the L1A1 SLR in 1957. From there, the FAL gained steam quickly with Israel, Brazil, South Africa, West Germany, India and other countries adopting the FN design.

Meanwhile, the U.S. settled on the M-14, a not unforgivable alternative. But with its conventional wooden stock and short-stroke, gas-rod system, the M-14 was really just a face-lifted Garand with a detachable box magazine. At the end of the day, the derivative M-14 was chosen over the innovative FAL, primarily for that oft-encountered reason of "not invented here."

First and foremost, the Belgian weapon features an adjustable gas system via a heavily knurled knob just behind the front sight. If the action is dirty or the soldier is fighting in a dusty, sandy, muddy environment, the gas regulator can be dialed up to give the bolt more oomph on its rearward travel.

Additionally, the ergonomics of the FAL's controls are much better than the M-14's hard-to-reach and problem-prone control locations. I mean, whoever thought of putting the safety inside the trigger guard? John Garand, that's who!

The sights of the M-14 are much better than those of the FAL, but the variable configurations of the FAL, from its handy little Para to its heavy bipod light machinegun, more than offset that consideration. It wasn't until after the turn of the century when Springfield Armory modernized the M-14 (M1A) with its SOCOM collapsible stock that the M-14 really caught up to the 50-year-old FAL.

The bottom line is that if the U.S. had adopted the FAL in 1957 instead of the M-14, then we almost certainly never would have transitioned to the M-16, at least not as quickly as we did.

Tipping the scales at nearly 10 pounds, the FAL is an easy-shooting .308. Even the Para version at slightly over 8 pounds is soft on the shoulder. Recoil is not a problem.

The Belgian battle rifle's fire controls are, as we just noted, easily accessed and ergonomically positioned-for a right-hander. Like the M-16's controls, they're "right biased" with a down-for-fire thumb lever on the left side of the receiver.

There is a prominent bolt knob, also on the left side of the receiver, although the Para's knob is a spring-loaded, fold-down version. An easily grasped bolt knob is a really good idea on a military weapon because you need to be able to manually cycle the action in the event of a malfunction.

On the other hand, the M-16's magazine release is unquestionably better. The FAL's mag-release button is directly in front of the trigger guard, somewhat obscured by the mag well itself. It's not nearly as easy to reach as that of the M-16. The bolt release is even harder to access, tucked up inside the mag well. The M-16's bolt release is comparatively a snap to operate.

But wait. I seem to have subconsciously fallen into a comparison of the FAL's controls with those of the M-16. It's a hard trap to avoid because the FAL seems to relish being pitted against all comers, and certainly the M-16 is the standard by which all others are judged as of now.

Getting back to shooting the FAL, the Belgian rifle is as accurate as its sights can hold (no gun can out-shoot its sights, except with dumb luck) and is easy to operate. Its reliability is exceeded only by that of the "Glock" of assault rifles, the AK47. All told, the FAL is a thoroughly reliable, easy-to-shoot, hard-hitting battle rifle.

Soldiers will quickly tell you that a lot more time is spent carrying a rifle than shooting it, and this is one area where the FAL reigns supreme. The carrying handle may look just a bit odd, sort of like a bent coat hanger, but it is positioned exactly over the center of gravity and allows the rifle to be carried comfortably all day, then folded out of the way when not needed. Also, the forward sling-attachment point swivels, allowing for a wider range of sling options.

The FAL is comparatively clean in operation owing to the self-contained gas piston system of operation. The M-16 with its direct gas-assisted action spews hot gas and fouling directly into the bolt raceway and carrier. Even animals know not to foul their nests!

The FAL was once the most widely issued battle rifle to the armies of the West and their mercenaries, standing up against AK-armed, Soviet-backed rebels and guerillas the world over during the Cold War. In its prime stomping grounds of Africa, the Belgian FAL became the calling card of hard-core, hard-charging, hard-bitten fighting men. And it still is.
 
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