Book Review: FN49 – The Last Elegant Old World Military Rifle

I have been impatiently awaiting the expanded second edition of Wayne Johnson’s “The FN-49: The Last Elegant Old-World Military Rifle” ever since I heard a rumor that it was in the works. The first edition was printed in 2004, and sold out before I started looking for a copy. There was also a Collector Grade book on the FN-49, but there were aspects of the story that it does not adequately cover. Well, Johnson’s new book is finally here, and it’s a massive expansion from the first version. In fact, the page count has more than doubled, to over 450 pages and more than a thousand photographs.

It is printed by Wet Dog Publications (Anthony Vanderlinden), and his experience with his own previous books on Mauser rifles and handguns clearly shows in the layout and editing of this work. It begins with some basic history of FN and of designer Dieudonné Saive for context, and then moves into the developmental work done by FN on semiauto rifles in the years before World War Two. There is a series of chapters on each of the production contracts for the FN-49 (Argentine, Belgium, Belgian Congo, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Indonesia, Luxembourg (and their Gendarmerie), and Venezuela. The second part of the book then covers sniper versions, bayonets, manuals, accessories, and such, along with detailed disassembly and operating instructions and a thorough part-by-part breakdown of the whole rifle.

Johnson has done a great job both researching the history of the FN-49 and then organizing his information into a clear and expressive collector’s reference. In addition to the original factory history of design and production, he also discusses the rifles’ serve use and how they came into the United States. This includes substantial information on things like the Century Arms work assembling mixed lots of parts into Egyptian-pattern rifles, and the safety concerns for those who want to shoot their FN-49 today.

Where the first edition was a good companion to the Collector Grade Publications book, this new second edition thoroughly eclipses it. If you can only have one book on the FN-49, this is definitely the one to have.

Available direct from the publisher or via Amazon:


  1. Still kicking myself for not getting one when I had the chance. Like so many stories, when they were available I had no money. When I had money they were long gone. Or at least far out of my price range.

    • “Books will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no books”. If you know what I’m paraphrasing you are a TRUE child of the 60s. Corollary: if you have the money and say, ” I’ll get it later “- it won’t be there.

  2. OOOOH! I have the Collector Grade book already, but if Ian approves, then clearly I need to check this out!

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