FN FAL vs AR308
Some years ago I did some tests with the FN FAL, the HK91 (G3) and the M14 (M1A) to determine for myself, which rifle was “best” for me. All three met the requirements I have for a fighting rifle, those being Reliability (it must go bang every time), Durability (must be able to survive hard use), Accuracy (must be able to group at least 4” at 100 yards) and Repairability (must have spare parts available and the skill to replace them). The test was comprised of a number of firing scenarios that would pit each rifle’s pro’s and con’s against each other and give a ranking of which took 1st, which took 2nd and which took 3rd. The test was designed to show the weaknesses of each rifle.
I conducted those tests a number of times, and the ranking never changed. You can find a synopsis here.
The FN FAL held top spot.
The M14 (M1A) was a very close second.
The HK91 (G3) was a distant third place.
This was pre-youtube, sorry no video.
The FN FAL finished major developed in 1953 by one of the world’s most respected small arms companies, FN Herstal in Belgium.
- Adapted by over 90 countries
- “The Right Arm of the Free World”
- Battle proven on nearly all continents
- Arguably the best of the .308 rifles for a general issue battle rifle
The AR10 was developed in the late 1950’s by a small company with virtually no history in small arms.
- Small numbers were used in Sudan
- Small numbers were bought by various militaries around the world.
- The AR10’s demise was its smaller sibling, the M16.
Fast forward to the late 1990’s when Armalite bought the rights to the AR10. However, ever since that time there has not been an AR308 manufactured to the 1957 design. In fact the state of the AR308 today is there NO uniform design, no commonality of parts, lots of confusion and lots of head scratching when it comes to building/troubleshooting an AR308.
Stated AGAIN – the FN is superior to the AR308 due to the fact that it is BATTLE PROVEN around the world in a FIGHTING RIFLE role, not a DMR or Sniper rifle role. There are small numbers of AR308’s that are seeing battle, but the vast majority of that in the DMR/Sniper role.
FN FAL vs AR308
Moving on – since I own one of each (factory built Imbel FN FAL imported by Springfield Armory many years ago and S&W M&P10), and having conducted those tests years ago with the FN, HK and M1A, I have wondered how the AR308 would stack up against the others.
Well, stay with me and you will know!
I won’t be using the exact same test as I did years ago, mainly due to the fact that I cannot get 7.62×51 NATO ammo (military .308) anymore for .10 cents per round. Now it is upwards of .50 cents per round or more.
Because of ammo cost, I refined the test and added a few items to ensure I tested each area of how a firearm interfaces with the shooter, to see which one “works with the shooter” better than the other.
The categories or areas to test are these:
- How well does the firearm do at “snap shots”? I did 25 yard head-shots from low-ready to determine this.
- How easy is it to clear malfunctions? I did Type 1 and Type 3 malfunction clearance drills followed by a body shot at 25 meters to determine this portion. (I did not do a Type 2 because I teach the EXACT same manual of arms for a Type 2 as I do a Type 1).
- How fast can the long-arm be reloaded in an emergency? I engage a 25 yard target in the body, perform a Speed Reload (Emergency Reloads) followed by a body shot at 25 yards.
- How well does the long-arm do multiple shots? For this drill I do the 5 yards, 10 rounds drill with all rounds having to impact in the -0 zone of an IDPA target.
- How well does the long-arm do with multiple targets up close? For this I do the 1-5 and back down drill. I have 5 targets at 10 yards, and are engaged in this order: 1,2,1,3,1,4,1,5,1,4,1,3,1,2 and 1.
Both firearms were shot without any muzzle devise to reduce the chance for equipment skewing the results.
No slings were used. I want the rifle to bounce around in recoil if that is what it would do, whereas a sling can mask or mitigate the bounce.
All ammo used in this test was (Brit) Radway Green manufactured L2A2 ammunition with a headstamp of 69 (year of manufacture – 1969) surplus ball, 147 grain.
Tale of the Tape
|Length of Pull||14.38″||12.13″||2.25″|
|Weight||9.25 lbs||7.9 lbs||1.35 lbs|
As you can see, the FN FAL is hampered by its fixed buttstock that is much longer than we like to use today. It was built using the mindset of over 50 years ago. Small arms development was driven by the various military’s rifle teams, so length of pull was from that regard, and for target shooting, length of pull is better when it is longer. However we now know that a shorter length of pull is better for combat. I saw that in these tests I conducted. I like the shorter LOP of my AR308 MUCH better than the longer LOP of the FN FAL.
Note that due shorter LOP of the AR308 allows it to have a longer barrel (18”) and still be shorter overall than the FN FAL with its 16.25” barrel.
The AR308 is also much lighter than the FN FAL and since the LOP of the AR308 is shorter, it feels even lighter when carried, as most of the weight is closer to the body. The FN’s weight is further out there and it feels heavier in the hands when shouldered than the AR308.
OK enough paperwork, now let’s get to the range and shoot!
FN FAL vs AR308 – Head Shots at 25 yards.
Zero (0) in the score block means all rounds impacted in the head portion of the IDPA target.
Average time for the FN was 1.85 seconds (1.73 if we take the average after we drop the fastest and slowest time). With the AR308 the average was 1.60 (and also 1.60 if we drop the fastest and slowest time).
FN FAL vs AR308 – Type 1 Malfunction Clearance Drill
This drill started with no round in the chamber, and one round in the magazine. At the beep, aimed at the body of a target (at 25 yards) and attempted to fire, the ensured the magazine was properly seated, racked the charging handle, and engaged the target in the body at 25 yards.
Average time for the FN FAL was 3.74 (3.69 dropping high and low time) with a hit score of -6. The AR308 came in at 3.28 (3.22 dropping high and low) with a hit score of -4. The shorter LOP of the AR308 made doing the drill easier.
FN FAL vs AR308 – Type 3 Malfunction Clearance Drill
Started with a Type 3 (double feed) – at beep, raised rifle, attempted to fire, cleared malf, reloaded and fired one body shot at 25 yrds.
Average Time for the FN was 9.73 (9.83 minus H&L) with 4 shots dropping out of the zero zone. The AR308 came in at 9.88 (10.06 minus H&L) with 5 points out. The longer LOP of the FN stopped it from getting better times. Having to rip the mag straight out of the magazine well hindered the AR308 from getting better times. Having a short LOP with a magazine that “rocks” out would give the best times, as it is easier to rock a magazine on this drill than it is to pull the magazine straight out.
FN FAL vs AR308 – Speed Reloads
This drill starts with a round in the chamber, empty mag in the gun, a mag with rounds in the pouch. At the beep, get a body shot at 25 yds, eject empty mag, replace with full mag, and engage target again at 25 yrds.
FN average time came in at 6.10 with 12 points out of the zone. AR308 average time was 5.23 with 4 points out. The shorter LOP and not having to rock the magazine in allowed the AR308 to get better times/scores.
FN FAL vs AR308 – 5 yrds 10 rounds
This drill really tests how well a rifle does at shooting a single target very fast with 10 rounds. If the rifle doesn’t recoil smoothly – it will jump around and the times will be slow. If it operates smoothly – the times will be fast.
The drill is, start with a magazine with 10 rounds, low ready. At the beep, shoot the target in the zero zone as fast as you can. All hits outside the zero zone are misses.
The AR308 was nearly a second faster than the FN. The difference is in the trigger pull and the shorter LOP. The AR308 is much shorter and crisper. The FN FAL trigger is longer and twice as heavy.
FN FAL vs AR308 – 1 – 5 and Back Drill
This drill demonstrates how well a rifle is able to transition from target to target, both directions (left and right). You start with 15 rounds in the rifle and have 5 targets at 10 yards placed in front of you with about 1 yard between targets (shoulder to shoulder). At the beep the targets are engaged in this order: 1,2,1,3,1,4,1,5,1,4,1,3,1,2 and 1.
Both rifles dropped 3 points, with the faster time going to the AR308 (9.72) and the slower time going for the FN FAL (10.03). Although the difference in time is nearly insignificant at .25 of a second spread out over 15 shots.
FN FAL vs AR308 – Final Thoughts
Running this drill reminded me of shooting the FN FAL alongside the M1A. The amount the FN beat the M1A is about the same as the AR308 beat the FN FAL. In other words, the AR308, the FN FAL and the M1A are all pretty well engineered to work WITH the body, not against it.
As a battle rifle, a FN factory (or licensed) built rifle is pretty dang hard to beat. These are the rifles that were called “the Right Arm of the Free World”. Very close second place (or maybe even a tie for first) would be a DSA produced rifle. Any other build of FN FAL and you are taking a chance on getting something that is less than what you want.
Spare parts and magazines are still available for the FAL, but prices on these items raise every year, and will continue to do so as stock dwindle.
The FAL has seen its day, and it is in the past.
With the AR308, if you need one now, I would suggest getting a factory built rifle, from a reputable company. The internet is rife with guys that have troubleshooting questions regarding their AR308’s, with nearly every brand having issues. A good company will take care of those issues.
If you don’t need one now, I would wait a few years to see what shakes out regarding design. There are so many variables with the AR308 that it is mindboggling and frustrating. It is the total opposite of the AR15 world. Nearly everything made by almost every company fits in an AR15 like Lego’s. Not so with the AR308. Parts made by X company won’t fit in an AR308 made by any other company. Same with company Y, Z and A, B and C.
Additionally I would suggest you get one that takes Magpul PMags. Not all AR308’s are even standardized regarding magazines. Brownells is about to unveil their own AR308 mag made from aluminum, just like their excellent 5.56 magazine, and it will fit the same magazine well as the Magpul unit. The price point will be VERY reasonable, unlike some other mags. Lancer (who makes arguably the best 5.56 magazine) makes an AR308 magazine, but it is kind of spendy at nearly $50 a piece. Speaking of expensive AR308 mags, you can buy Knight’s mags for over $100 a piece!
I enjoy shooting my FN FAL, and I enjoy shooting my AR308. However, were I forced to choose between the two, I would choose my AR308. MY RIFLE has proven itself to be every bit as reliable as the FN FAL with anything I feed it. It’s shorter LOP is a true blessing, its lighter weight is much appreciated and it is very easy to add optics.
However I would grab the FN and head into harm’s way with zero issues were that the case.
The real bottom line though is this – it wouldn’t matter what long arm I happen to have in my hands because I am the weapon. You were expecting nothing less though, weren’t you?