The shooting world in which we live today is vastly different than the shooting world of 25 years ago. Some highly desirable magazine-fed semi-automatic rifles that were abundantly available and affordable in 1989 are now no longer either of those things. The evolution toward the brave new world of today might be best represented by the way circumstances have changed Fabrique Nationale’s venerable Fusil Automatique Léger (Light Automatic Rifle). During the late 1980s, recreational shooters could purchase a FAL produced in Belgium and then imported into the USA by either Steyr in Secaucus, NJ, or Gun South in Birmingham, AL (and sometimes both). With importation at an end, parts kits of differing nationalities and configurations began entering the country alongside receivers that made it possible to build FALs in compliance with the new law. Since 2004, we have lived in a post-modern FAL reality in which the rifles can wear the features for which they were designed, as long as each build carried a certain number of domestically manufactured parts. While a bit more complicated now than they were in 1989, at least it is still possible to experience the thrill of owning and shooting the rifle that armed much of the free world throughout the second half of a troubled century.
The roll mark above is an example of the Fusil Automatico Liviano or “Light Semi-automatic Rifle” designation.
Turn back the clock to those golden days when outstanding foreign-made semi-automatic rifles were available in gun stores from coast to coast. Back then, there was an alternative to Belgian FALs that brought every bit of the same rugged quality to the table. These rifles were produced under a license from FN by the government of Argentina Dirección General de Fabricaciones Militares (the General Directorate of Military Manufacturing, or “DGFM”) at the Fábrica Militar de Armas Portátiles (Military Small Arms Factory, or “FMAP”) in Rosario, 200 miles from the capital, Buenos Aires. Argentina adopted the FAL in the late 1950s with the purchase of rifles produced at FN, but commenced domestic production at FMAP in 1960.
Twenty-two years later, Argentina was desperate to get the wheels of its economic engine turning again. It just lost the 1982 war with England over the Falkland Islands and cast-off the oppressive rule of a military junta that had abused its people for too long. In an effort to get some positive cash flow into the country, FMAP modified its existing selective-fire model FAL (Fusil Automatico Liviano or Light Automatic Rifle) to fire semi-auto only so it could be sold in the U.S. The new model was designated FSL (Fusil Semiautomatico Liviano or Light Semi-automatic Rifle) and Argentina began to export it to the American shooting public.
An advertisement from the 1980s showed the full line of Argentine FAL rifles and carbines that were imported at that time.
The first FSL/LARs were brought into the USA by Armscorp of Silver Spring, MD as “Standard Model” rifles and carbines with full stock, and “Para Model” carbines complete with the FN-designed side-folding stock. Armscorp also imported a limited number of “Heavy Barrel Model,” rifles that were semi-auto-only versions of the FMAP’s FAP (Fusil Automatico Pesado or Heavy Automatic Rifle). An Argentine-licensed copy of the FN Model 50.41 FALO (Fusil Automatique Lourd), these rifles were rollmarked “L.S.R./F.A.L.” when they should have actually been designated “H.S.R./F.S.P.” (or Heavy Semi-automatic Rifle/Fusil Semi-automatico Pesado). Regardless of the designation, this handsome rifle weighs-in at a stout 13.5 pounds, thanks to its 21-inch heavy barrel. Featuring the same carrying handle, wooden fore-end and folding bipod, the FMAP is cosmetically identical to both the FN Model 50.41 FALO and the FMAP FAP selective-fire, squad-automatic rifles that equipped Argentine infantry during the Falklands War, making it a rifle of the 1980s more than the present.