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'The Right Arm Of The Free World': The History And Legacy Of The FN FAL

The FN-FAL (Often shortened to just FAL), was the gun adopted by a majority of the western world during the Cold War, being made in Belgium by arms manufacturer FN Herstal from 1953-1988, with licensed variants across the world still being made today.

The FAL was born from the need for a uniform rifle for NATO Countries as a way to cut costs and make sure they could hold their own against the equally famous and mass produced AK-47, in the Soviet Union.

From 1946-1952 engineers in the newly liberated Benelux region were tasked by the allies to turn the STG 44 into something they could use to compete with the AK platform being mass produced in the USSR.

The first few prototypes made from 1948-1951 were just STG 44's made using American machinery, but in 1952 the weapon was transformed from an STG 44 clone into it's own unique platform.

The Success of the FAL platform led to licensing agreements with other countries and soon they started making their own variants with unique features.

The British L1A1 SLR had vents in the grip to prevent overheating, the West German G1 had a selector switch to toggle between single shot and burst fire (Future versions of the FAL included select fire switches as standard), the American T48 had a completely open firing chamber, the Australian L2A1 was full auto and had a bi-pod concealed in the barrel grip, the Canadian C1A1 used stripper clips with a fixed magazine, the South African R2 had integrated sling clips in the stock and grip, and the famous Rhodesian R1 had a hand guard insulator and the 'Halbek Device' used to control recoil.

As a result of them being mass produced, they were found in wars across the globe: Notably the Falklands War, Rhodesian Bush War, Angola Civil War, Nigeria-Biafra War, Liberian Civil War, Vietnam War, The Troubles, and the Namibian War of Independence just to name a few.

The gun was so popular with western paramilitaries and armies it gained the slogan: “The right arm of the free world”, a name that's still associated with the FAL today.

The FAL has also featured in movies such as Scarface, The Last King of Scotland, Hotel Rwanda, The Wild Geese, and 71.

It's popularity soared among young people after it started to be included in video games, as the first person shooter genre became popular.

Call Of Duty Black Ops, Pay Day 2, Battlefield Hardline, The Division, and Far Cry 2 all featured the FAL for players to customize and use in online matches and single player campaigns.

It goes to show that the FAL is a good example of “If it isn't broken, don't fix it”.

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