B1 Intermediate UK 129 Folder Collection
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Weapons are made for war.
It is their purpose, and a weapon that cannot
fight is not a useful one.

Not all are forged in battle, however: and
the forces that drive us apart can equally

unite us.
The FAL.
A classic cold-war rifle used the world over.
A design that shed wartime wood for the modern

So, how did the notion of a NATO-standard
rifle come about?

What obstacles stood in its way?
And in games, why is such a widely-used weapon
a relatively rare sight?

The year is 1945.
War had left millions dead, cities in ruins
- and a collective will for a long-lasting

It was a time of treaties and unions, with
wounded nations shoring support in case of

future conflict.
The seed of a new European Union was planted
in the Treaty of Brussels: a pledge of mutual

defence between Britain, France and Benelux
- lest the Nazis ever return.

As the dust settled, it was clear that Germany
was no longer a threat: but the massive manpower

and nuclear weapons of the Soviets were another

Nobody was more concerned by the rise of communism
than the United States - and thus the North

Atlantic Treaty was drafted, extending the
zone of mutual defence to cover the US, Canada,

Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway and Portugal
- with Greece, Turkey and West Germany joining

shortly after.
With the establishment of NATO, a clear line
in the sand was drawn between the first and

second world: A deterrence that had a chilling
effect on military action - ensuring the Cold

War stayed that way.
NATO's role was to organise effective co-operation
between each member's military: proposing

standardisation for procedures, communication,
equipment - and ammunition.

With most member nations still using bolt-action
weapons: if there was to be a collective modernisation

- the so-called 'Free World' needed a new

FN Herstal were key innovators in the early
20th century - well noted for their self-loading

firearm designs - and for the work of John

After his death in 1926, work continued in
the hands of FN's chief weapons designer,

Dieudonné Saive.
He was the man responsible for finishing the
Browning Hi-Power - but he would become better

known for his gas-operated rifles.
The first was the FN Model 1949, or the SAFN
- a ca pable semi-automatic rifle, but its

non-progressive design relegated it to a prior

Saive's next project would shed such conservatism
and attempt to define the next generation

of small arms.
With select-fire capability, removable magazines
with a 20-round capacity - and reliable self-loading

function regardless of ammunition:
Compared to the wooden weapons it would replace,
this new 'Light, Automatic Rifle' would be

state of the art.
Inspired by the 7.92mm 'Kurz' cartridge fired
by the German Sturmgewehr, the FAL was originally

designed to fire intermediate rounds - just
like a modern assault rifle.

The experimental .280 British was the prime
calibre contender - a small, high velocity

round which retained rifle-grade ballistics
while lessening recoil and necessary weight.

The FAL was to be a truly modern rifle firing
the perfect round.

What could go wrong?
America's 'doctrine demanded power: .30 calibre
was their minimum acceptable manstopper, and

in their dominant position they dug their

And so the new rifle was retooled for the
more powerful .308 Winchester round - eventually

becoming the NATO standard 7.62mm cartridge.
Despite getting their way, America snubbed
the foreign-made rifle after testing, instead

electing the home-grown M14.
The dream of a universal weapon destroyed:
the advanced use of intermediate cartridges

Even so, from its first production in 1953
the FAL still saw massive adoption - it has

been used by over 90 countries, and over 2
million rifles have been manufactured.

It was the NATO equivalent of the AKM through
its widespread service, earning it the title:

'The right arm of the free world.'
The odd thing about the FAL - with regards
to its depiction - is its relative rarity.

With the huge number manufactured - it's amongst
the top ten weapons of all time - it should

rub shoulders with the M16 and AK-47:
but it doesn't.
It's a sideline, a relic from the cold war
overlooked in favour of valiant World War

2 stories and more relevant tales of modern

After all, it was a weapon designed for unity,
for peace - an uneasy peace, perhaps - but,

with few exceptions, its conflicts saw no
greater scale than skirmish.

It's a relatively unassuming weapon to look
at, too - the most prominent feature of its

sleek black exterior is its carrying handle.
Compared to weapons made just 10 years before,
it's a very modern-looking rifle - but its

innovations are obscured by those who imitated

Caught in the middle of two eras: it's no
war hero, nor is it particularly tacticool.

Designed for duty, and nothing else: the FAL
harks to an era before Picatinny rails - where

customisation meant spray-painting the weapon
with situational camouflage.

A primitive hunk of steel, without delicate
decoration - you'll aim with sights of iron

and you'll like it.
It might not fire the round it was originally
supposed to, but it still spits its .30 calibre

with aplomb.
It is unapologetically powerful - as perhaps
a battle rifle should be - and leaves no wish

for more: but such power is not without detriment.
The recoil is significant by modern standards:
and while a typical rifleman is no stranger

to such force, the bolt-actions of yore lacked
the FAL's select fire.

Simply put: a relatively lightweight firearm
discharging a full-power cartridge full-auto

at some seven hundred rounds per minute -
is unusable.
And so the FAL served primarily in single
fire: which, in most circumstances is fine:

conserving ammunition and ensuring more accurate

Combat was evolving, however - and individual
marksmanship was an ever-decreasing factor

in modern combined arms doctrine.
Towards the end of the 20th century, the benefits
of intermediate cartridges were increasingly

clear: Compared to modern assault rifles the
FAL was too long, too heavy and too difficult

for some to handle.
Slowly, the rifle intended for universal service
- was replaced.

The Americans let slip their stubborn grasp
on .30 calibre rifles with the M16.

The Austrians adopted the AUG, the Belgians
the FNC, the British the L85 - all bearing

the new standard of the 5.56mm round.
However, the FAL endures: like the AKM, it's
too common to ever fall entirely out of favour

- and it still turns up in all sorts of places.
Its time as the prime tool of NATO forces
might be over:

but its steadfast service is sorely missed.
It emerged in a fractured world - one thoroughly
weary of war.

The start of a new global responsibility:
A need not to fight, but to be prepared.
Weapons might be made for war:
But this one was a product of peace.
The FAL:
Stalwart friend.
Thank you very much for watching - and until
next time, farewell.

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129 Folder Collection
Daniel Lin published on October 30, 2016
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