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  • Weapons are made for war.

  • It is their purpose, and a weapon that cannot fight is not a useful one.

  • Not all are forged in battle, however: and the forces that drive us apart can equally

  • unite us.

  • The FAL.

  • A classic cold-war rifle used the world over.

  • A design that shed wartime wood for the modern age.

  • So, how did the notion of a NATO-standard rifle come about?

  • What obstacles stood in its way?

  • And in games, why is such a widely-used weapon a relatively rare sight?

  • The year is 1945.

  • War had left millions dead, cities in ruins - and a collective will for a long-lasting

  • peace.

  • It was a time of treaties and unions, with wounded nations shoring support in case of

  • future conflict.

  • The seed of a new European Union was planted in the Treaty of Brussels: a pledge of mutual

  • defence between Britain, France and Benelux - lest the Nazis ever return.

  • As the dust settled, it was clear that Germany was no longer a threat: but the massive manpower

  • and nuclear weapons of the Soviets were another story.

  • Nobody was more concerned by the rise of communism than the United States - and thus the North

  • Atlantic Treaty was drafted, extending the zone of mutual defence to cover the US, Canada,

  • Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway and Portugal - with Greece, Turkey and West Germany joining

  • shortly after.

  • With the establishment of NATO, a clear line in the sand was drawn between the first and

  • second world: A deterrence that had a chilling effect on military action - ensuring the Cold

  • War stayed that way.

  • NATO's role was to organise effective co-operation between each member's military: proposing

  • standardisation for procedures, communication, equipment - and ammunition.

  • With most member nations still using bolt-action weapons: if there was to be a collective modernisation

  • - the so-called 'Free World' needed a new firearm.

  • FN Herstal were key innovators in the early 20th century - well noted for their self-loading

  • firearm designs - and for the work of John Browning.

  • After his death in 1926, work continued in the hands of FN's chief weapons designer,

  • Dieudonné Saive.

  • He was the man responsible for finishing the Browning Hi-Power - but he would become better

  • known for his gas-operated rifles.

  • The first was the FN Model 1949, or the SAFN - a ca pable semi-automatic rifle, but its

  • non-progressive design relegated it to a prior era.

  • Saive's next project would shed such conservatism and attempt to define the next generation

  • of small arms.

  • With select-fire capability, removable magazines with a 20-round capacity - and reliable self-loading

  • function regardless of ammunition:

  • Compared to the wooden weapons it would replace, this new 'Light, Automatic Rifle' would be

  • state of the art.

  • Inspired by the 7.92mm 'Kurz' cartridge fired by the German Sturmgewehr, the FAL was originally

  • designed to fire intermediate rounds - just like a modern assault rifle.

  • The experimental .280 British was the prime calibre contender - a small, high velocity

  • round which retained rifle-grade ballistics while lessening recoil and necessary weight.

  • The FAL was to be a truly modern rifle firing the perfect round.

  • What could go wrong?

  • America's 'doctrine demanded power: .30 calibre was their minimum acceptable manstopper, and

  • in their dominant position they dug their heels.

  • And so the new rifle was retooled for the more powerful .308 Winchester round - eventually

  • becoming the NATO standard 7.62mm cartridge.

  • Despite getting their way, America snubbed the foreign-made rifle after testing, instead

  • electing the home-grown M14.

  • The dream of a universal weapon destroyed: the advanced use of intermediate cartridges

  • delayed.

  • Even so, from its first production in 1953 the FAL still saw massive adoption - it has

  • been used by over 90 countries, and over 2 million rifles have been manufactured.

  • It was the NATO equivalent of the AKM through its widespread service, earning it the title:

  • 'The right arm of the free world.'

  • The odd thing about the FAL - with regards to its depiction - is its relative rarity.

  • With the huge number manufactured - it's amongst the top ten weapons of all time - it should

  • rub shoulders with the M16 and AK-47:

  • but it doesn't.

  • It's a sideline, a relic from the cold war overlooked in favour of valiant World War

  • 2 stories and more relevant tales of modern terrorism.

  • After all, it was a weapon designed for unity, for peace - an uneasy peace, perhaps - but,

  • with few exceptions, its conflicts saw no greater scale than skirmish.

  • It's a relatively unassuming weapon to look at, too - the most prominent feature of its

  • sleek black exterior is its carrying handle.

  • Compared to weapons made just 10 years before, it's a very modern-looking rifle - but its

  • innovations are obscured by those who imitated them.

  • Caught in the middle of two eras: it's no war hero, nor is it particularly tacticool.

  • Designed for duty, and nothing else: the FAL harks to an era before Picatinny rails - where

  • customisation meant spray-painting the weapon with situational camouflage.

  • A primitive hunk of steel, without delicate decoration - you'll aim with sights of iron

  • and you'll like it.

  • It might not fire the round it was originally supposed to, but it still spits its .30 calibre

  • with aplomb.

  • It is unapologetically powerful - as perhaps a battle rifle should be - and leaves no wish

  • for more: but such power is not without detriment.

  • The recoil is significant by modern standards: and while a typical rifleman is no stranger

  • to such force, the bolt-actions of yore lacked the FAL's select fire.

  • Simply put: a relatively lightweight firearm discharging a full-power cartridge full-auto

  • at some seven hundred rounds per minute -

  • is unusable.

  • And so the FAL served primarily in single fire: which, in most circumstances is fine:

  • conserving ammunition and ensuring more accurate shots.

  • Combat was evolving, however - and individual marksmanship was an ever-decreasing factor

  • in modern combined arms doctrine.

  • Towards the end of the 20th century, the benefits of intermediate cartridges were increasingly

  • clear: Compared to modern assault rifles the FAL was too long, too heavy and too difficult

  • for some to handle.

  • Slowly, the rifle intended for universal service - was replaced.

  • The Americans let slip their stubborn grasp on .30 calibre rifles with the M16.

  • The Austrians adopted the AUG, the Belgians the FNC, the British the L85 - all bearing

  • the new standard of the 5.56mm round.

  • However, the FAL endures: like the AKM, it's too common to ever fall entirely out of favour

  • - and it still turns up in all sorts of places.

  • Its time as the prime tool of NATO forces might be over:

  • but its steadfast service is sorely missed.

  • It emerged in a fractured world - one thoroughly weary of war.

  • The start of a new global responsibility:

  • A need not to fight, but to be prepared.

  • Weapons might be made for war:

  • But this one was a product of peace.

  • The FAL:

  • Pacifier;

  • Sentinel;

  • Stalwart friend.

  • Thank you very much for watching - and until next time, farewell.

Weapons are made for war.

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    Daniel Lin 發佈於 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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