BOOM July - Page 48

GUNS & AMMO The African Rifles: The HK G3 and FN FAL T o many, the words Africa and rifle together conjure up images of a side-by-side Holland and Holland chambered in a dangerous game cartridge such as .500 Nitro Express. While these fine pieces have certainly found themselves in the hands of those privileged few who pay the big bucks to travel to the Dark Continent in search of the Big 5, they have not toppled empires, fought proxy wars or defended the colonial interests of aging European monarchies. That title belongs to a few 7.62x51mm battle rifles, specifically the FN FAL, the Heckler and Koch G3 and the regional variants of both.Prior to World War One, only the African countries of Ethiopia and Liberia were independent states while the rest of the continent existed under European colonial rule. Often viewed as a purely American problem, the Great Depression of the 1930s sent Europe and its colonies into an economic tailspin, causing them to rely more and more on African agriculture, which in turn caused increasing animosity between the native people and European rulers. With the onset of World War Two, native Africans learned firsthand that empires could be won and lost through direct action and violence. The death toll of the great European empires had sounded, and the second half of the 20th century would see the FN FAL and HK G3 become forever carved into African history. Making its debut in 1954 after a 7-year development process, the Fabrique Nationale Fusil Automatique Leger (FN FAL) took the world by storm. As the first NATO standard select-fire battle rifle, the FAL fires the venerable 7.62x51mm cartridge from a tilting breechlock or bolt, utilizing an adjustable gas block and short stroke, spring-loaded piston. The recoil spring mechanism is contained within the buttstock on fixed stock models and is modified heavily to fit under the top cover of folding stock paratrooper models.The FAL was quick to success, with 90 countries worldwide adopting the rifle. Many nations bought the firearm directly from FN in Belgium, while others obtained licensing rights to domestically produce their own FAL variant. Notable examples of variants produced under license are the Austrian STG-58 and British L1A1. West Germany briefly adopted the Belgian-built version under the German nomenclature Gewehr-1 or G1. However, negotiations to license the FAL for production in West Germany fell through and interest turned towards a Spanish-built rifle designed by German ex-pat Ludwig Vorgrimler: the CETME Model A. With a fair amount of back-channel wheeling and dealing, eventually licensing was granted to Heckler and Koch as well as Rheinmetall to produce the CETME rifle in the full power 7.62×51 NATO round. The resulting Gewehr-3 or G3 was a closed bolt, roller locked, fluted chamber, delayed blowback select-fire battle rifle that would be adopted by 44 countries. Of these, several, including Portugal, began to produce the 48 | BOOM