Thursday, February 10, 2011



I love to tinker with my toys. Especially when it’s cold and damp out and I’m starting to wonder if maybe it’s time to get that quadruple fusion done on my neck. My wife sometimes erroneously refers to this as “puttering around the house”. I must point out that only old men putter. I brilliantly re-engineer ingenious solutions. My favorite projects have been to improve the performance of my supposedly “junk” CAI Franken-FAL, which has already proven capable of 1 MOA at surprising ranges. I either won a crapshoot, or they aren’t as bad as most folks say they are.

At any rate, here are a few ideas for my fellow old FALcohalics to putter around the house with to make the good ol' FAL/STG58/L1A1 even more user-friendly.

1. Recoil buffer: Cheap, easy to install, reduces wear on guts, slightly reduces recoil. One reviewer claimed this thingie reduced how far his FAL ejected the brass, but since mine throws them halfway out of the county anyway, I don’t consider this a particular “problem”. Well worth your $15.

2. Adjust gas system: Properly adjusting the gas plug up front by the sights not only makes things easier on the FAL’s inner workings, but it also reduces recoil a bit. Fire one round, click the gas regulator one click, and fire another. Repeat process until the rifle no longer cycles. Then move her back a minimum of two clicks and you’re good to go. In really cold weather, or if you forget to clean the thing for a couple of thousand rounds, you may need to open 'er up a couple more notches.

3. Remove bipod: Sell it on gunbroker. Use the money to buy more ammo. Or not. It may actually work on your particular FAL, but I have never been a big fan of bipods, and in decades of hunting I have found the instances in which I could actually go prone, still see the target, and use the bipod are very few indeed. SHTF, you may find that you can’t make every single shot from the prone with the bipod. You need to know, as the Brits in Malaysia and the light infantry boys in Rhodesia, to shoot from all positions. A bipod mounted on a free-floating stock which does not touch the barrel itself, ala sniper rifles, actually works. A bipod like the FAL/STG’s is mounted directly to the barrel, steel on steel, which can do nasty things to barrel harmonics and degrade accuracy. At long ranges, the bullets’ point of impact without bipod versus with bipod is readily noticeable. Plus its removal shaves close to a pound of weight from the weapon, which is not exactly light.

A bipod is right handy on a SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon), automatic rifle, or light machine gun, but then these weapons are supposed to have dispersal of bullets into a beaten zone. If you’re a wealthy Class III kind of guy, an FAL with the Israeli heavy barrel and bipod with the 30-round mags actually works pretty well as a suppressive fire critter somewhere between the old American BAR and the British Bren Gun. The Aussies, Canadians, Israelis and a few others used heavy barrel FALs as SAWs. And these guys have 50-round drum magazines available now, oh so tacti-cool and guaranteed to give you a big woody. If anyone here can figure out how to get the little wife to allow you to buy one of these, please let me in on the secret immediately.

I’ve never tried it, but I always thought it would be pretty cool to try one of those with a heavy barrel FAL off the bipod and one of those little Gat trigger cranks to see how it would work as a legal home-made ersatz SAW of your own, as opposed to a battle rifle. Of course, I can only afford so many toys, so I haven’t been able to give this idea a good going over. I suspect the Gat would not be rugged enough for extended field use.

But I digress. And, as is usually the case when I digress, I don’t care.

4. Trigger job. A good trigger is probably the single most important factor to good shooting. As Jeff Cooper said, by dint of hard work a real rifleman can do good work with a bad trigger just as a marathon runner can compete with a 50-pound ruck on his back, but it’s not what either would choose to do given an alternative.

DSA, which is THE name in FALs, has a Speed Trigger and a Match Grade Set Trigger for $175 and $250 respectively. Entreprise, a company which initially had a bad rep but now seems to be quite diligently improving on their products, can “adjust” your trigger for $85 or has a Match Grade Trigger with set-back for $75. There are some gunsmiths out there who can also do wonders with a FAL trigger but although their prices can be reasonable, the shipping quickly adds up as well.

For the do-it-yourselfer, the first and easiest step is to install the Falcon Arms FAL trigger spring kit. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I didn’t know my FAL inside and out, Mark introduced me to this. Falcon makes good shit, and swapping out the springs is easy enough, and they do indeed reduce the poundage on your trigger pull, which can be as heavy as 9 pounds or so on some FALs.

Now it’s lighter, but still a little creepy and spongy. There’s still plenty you can do yourself. Here’s the advice from the Canadian Army Shooting Team, you hosers:

a. Polish the bents of the hammer and sear with crocus cloth or a fine stone, taking care to maintain existing angles.

b. Reduce the depth of the bent of the hammer by removing metal from surface “A” until the required weight is obtained. It is important that bearing surfaces be highly polished to avoid friction.

c. Now kick back with a two-four of Elsinore, eh.

I polish the living hell out of all the contact points till they’re smooth as a baby’s bottom. I start with a very fine small Arkansas knife stone and finish up with lots and lots of polishing with a soft buffing wheel on a Dremmel tool. If you don’t have special polishing compound, you can use case polish from your reloading bench or Soft Scrub.

The trigger plunger pin is easy. I don’t know how much effect it actually has on the trigger pull, but I make mine shine. Wrap it with a little masking tape, chuck it into your drill, add polish, and then polish away with the finest grade steel wool. Repeat process on the other end. Then polish the living hell out of the knob on the trigger end that fits into the socket on the back of the trigger.

5. Shooting Sling: Thanks mainly to the Appleseed Program (if you haven’t been to one, shame on you) many shooters in this country are rediscovering the very, very useful art of the shooting sling. The old US Army manuals said this system improves your shooting by at least 30%, Timothy Mullin likens it to an 8-ounce bench rest, and the late great Jack O’Conner called it one of mankind's great inventions in the same league with fire and the wheel.

But there is a problem with shooting the FAL/L1A1 with a tight sling. The sling swivel is mounted directly on the barrel, and near the muzzle end. Horsing down on the barrel at that point in real shooting sling hold will pull your shot group low and left for you normal folks and low and right for us southpaws. What’s a boy to do?

Fortunately, in answer to the prayers of FALcohalics everywhere, I personally am working on a quick and easy solution so brilliant that it may change life as we know it and maybe even cure male pattern baldness. But wait there’s more. It’s not found in any store. Order now and you also receive a set of ginsu knives and a handy appliance that will scramble an egg while it’s still inside it’s shell!

Unfortunately, this idea is still in the puttering stage. In the meantime, here’s a neat trick from the Aussie Army for the web sling. Pull the sling straight back towards the receiver, make a half hitch around the handguard, and then go about your business using it as a shooting sling. You'll need to practice throwing that half hitch on there quickly, but it works. The most common American web slings, however, can be a tad short for the really tall and/or "large-boned" folks. The Aussie shooters who used with method modified the longer Bren Gun sling to use in this manner.

Now, for those of you who still insist on using the M16/AR15 platform instead, HERE is a product you may wish to try out.


Ben said...

Bawb, as an AR-15 owner I was very offended by your insensitive joke at the end of that post. I sobbed into my Hello Kitty pillow all night!

Anonymous said...

Ignore the mean man M/AR-15 owners. Go here for manly target silhouettes:

Ben said...