In my FFL dealer’s shop this week I met a gentlemen who had a gem of a rifle I HAD to get some history on and pictures of to share with the Haus of Guns community. Like many of America’s great gun owners, he was happy to share and impart his knowledge of the rifle on me, to which I was much obliged. It doesn’t really look like a sporter. It doesn’t look like something that would be enjoyable to carry in the field. Looking at the picture you would be convinced you’re staring at a Belgian Fabrique de Nationale FAL or Fusil Automatique Leger OR if you speak English like we do, the “Light Automatic Rifle.” The FAL is a poster child for many European nations as well as NATO forces as the original was chambered for and fired the 7.62 NATO, the military twin to the American commercialized 308 Winchester. This however is a Brazilian made IMBEL MD series rifle. “Imbel” is an acronym for Brazil’s state firearm manufacturer which now produces the Imbel in 5.56x45mm NATO.
Many might be familiar with the HK G3, the CETME, FN-FAL and even the L1A1 (Brittain’s version). Well, aside for minor differences including cosmetics and measurements (english vs. metric) most variants of the original FN-FAL are the same. Just as the M16/AR15 and the AK47 have different original versions and clones, the FAL (or Imbel in this case) is no different. While import of these “sporters” no longer exists this rifle has seen some modification in order to be made legal for private ownership in the US. The bolt and selective fire switch/safety have both been modified removing any full auto option to fire. You’ll also notice this matches the FAL design right down to the swiveling carry handle which I must say is one of my favorite most practically engineered add ons to this rifle.
Many may be familiar with this rifle after it’s airing on The HIstory Channel’s popular show Top Shot: Reloaded this past season. In fact, many of the shooters were not excited about nor did they claim to even enjoy shooting the FN-FAL in their competitions and final challenge alike, but most shooters I’ve seen or heard from in my gun loving experience seem to love shooting the FAL design.
While I just had the chance to shoot the bull with the owner of this fine rifle in a shop this week, I cannot speak to its accuracy and shooting enjoyability. The owner swears by its AR-like open sights as well as the trigger and mild recoil while shooting 168 grain Hornady Hollow point match grade bullets. He claims to load the exact same recipe for this and his Springfield M1A National Match rifle and says while it jumps in the hand substantially more than an AR 15 or the Imbel’s newer counterpart in 5.56x45mm NATO with nearly zero muzzle jump considering the lightweight round and weight of the rifle. Overall it was just cool to get to learn about and hold another great piece of history that came about during and as a result of the Cold War.