FAL in the North: The Canadian C1A1

Canada was the first country to adopt the FAL rifle, purchasing trials rifles from FN within weeks of the formal standardization of the 7.62mm NATO cartridge. Canada acquired production rights to the rifle along with the technical package form FN, and spent 18 months converting the drawings into 1st-angle inch pattern (which would be used by the rest of the Commonwealth nations subsequently). Both a C1 rifle pattern and a C2 LMG pattern were made, although todays we are looking at just the C1.

The first production was a run of 20 toolroom prototypes, one of which we have in today’s video. After a few changes were made – most distinctively to the rear sight – full-scale production commenced. Over the following years, a few minor changes were made, and a slightly improved C1A1 pattern adopted. These would service the Canadian military until eventually replaced with the C7 rifles.

Special thanks to Paul Wassill for providing the prototype C1 for this video!

44 Comments

  1. I remember the first time I shot this rifle in the spring of 1967 while a high school cadet at Camp Borden .I had never shot a semiautomatic large bore rifle before only Lee Enfields and lever guns. It literally got away from me and I shot my neighbours target. A bad memory and when I first shot a AR15 I was really surprised at the difference

  2. Look! An oversized strip-charger! At least the magazine isn’t hinged or filled with weight-reduction cutouts… you know what I mean, right?

    • IIRC, that’s the same pattern of charger the US was looking at when evaluating the T-48 (US FAL). If you are planning on topping the gun off with the magazine in place, it’s actually quite a good design — being anchored front and rear makes it run better, becuase of reduced flexing. And the loop makes it easy to get your thumb in there to shove rounds down, or retrieve the strippers from cloth bandoliers.

      Personally, I prefer the M1 Carbine clip design (with the attached loading spoon), so you can load mags OUTSIDE the gun, instead of grunts only having a charger adapter built into the gun (so they are forced to keep swapping mags if loading up in the field).

      But even better are the AK74 chargers I have, which are spring loaded (not bent brass fingers) holding the rounds in place, and the charger (which every troop has) automatically unlocks the clip. MUCH smoother feeding than any of the US style bent finger clips I’ve used. (The fact they are resuable is only relevant if you’re going to do the Commie issue system, and issue troops the clips are part of their kit, and force them to load the clips from the paper packets of loose rounds they get issued.)

  3. I believe the Canadian C1s have the ejector retained by a screw, instead of the rivet used on the metric rifles. In 30 years of shooting FALs, I’ve never seen an ejector break, but this still seems to me like a useful improvement.

  4. Ian
    My SGT would beat me about the head and shoulders with his pace stick if I ever put my rifle down with the rear site in the “up” position. Rear sight always down unless ready to shoot.
    Also
    The trigger guard rotates to the rear and stores in the pistol grip as a winter trigger operation

  5. As I was involved in 80s in Technical data update program and somewhat remember some details of C1A1 and C2A1 design. Having previous experience with vz.58 I found FAL to be of much greater manufacturing complexity. I cannot say I disliked FN, but was not great fan of it either. That having said does not bear at actual value of this rifle. Its adoption by so many nations is undisputable testimony to it.

    Most important is that this rifle served Canadian forces thru many years on their peacekeeping missions. I confirm that Ian has subject well researched and what he said matches my own knowledge.

    • “(…)80s(…)Technical data update(…)remember some details of C1A1 and C2A1 design.(…)”
      Interestingly, according to https://modernfirearms.net/en/assault-rifles/belgium-assault-rifles/fn-fal-l1a1-c1-slr-eng/
      The receivers were initially machined from forged steel blocks.In 1973 FN began to manufacture investment casted receivers to decrease production costs. Many manufactures, however, stuck to the machined receivers.
      Which spawn question: you was working with machined or casted version? If first did Canadians know about update version made in Belgium? If yes was purchase of ready technology update for Belgium considered? If yes why it never materialize?

      • Those I remember were machined out of billet (bar of drawn steel). It is understandable why FNH later turned to investment cast. The firing reaction is held on hi-strength replaceable insert/ shoulder. Our firm did not produce any receivers.

  6. One of less known details from actual service with C1A1 rifles comes from the fact that the weakest point of this rifle was its hollow sheet-metal buttpad. Since the standard Canadian forces routine while giving “honor to arms”, was smacking butt hard against pavement, many of those pads were damaged and needed constant replacement.

  7. The first ,0L-7Lseries, C1 and C1A1 had the ejector mounted on a block retained by two pins and was a base workshop job to replace. The block also held the hold open and mag catch. The 8L series had a much smaller ejector block retained by a screw which could be replaced at unit level.
    In my experience banging the butt on the grond was strongly discouraged. “Don’t butt your bangs!”

  8. Those living outside of Canada may think FAL C1A1 is a common collectible rifle among collectors in that country. Sadly, it is not; it is listed among “prohibited” by RCMP. I recall time it was “restricted” and some guys bought them from Indian forces surplus made in Ishapore arsenal. That was short lived opportunity. My guess is that those rifles which survived training with troops are held in reserve.

    • .300″ lands, .308″ grooves diameter

      It’s almost as inches as it comes

      The same as 7.5mm Swiss is as metric aso it comes

      😉

      _______________
      Big fugly hint; they’re 3xactly the same spec

    • Not really.

      NATO adopted the metric system as standard, hence the 7.62mm NATO round. But the USA and the British Commonwealth still used the Imperial system in their industries. Everything was tooled up to use Imperial measurements, so it was obvious that the FAL was going to have to be manufactured using that system. It was not until the 1960s that the Commonwealth largely went over to using metric for manufacturing, and that was too late for the FAL.

      As an aside, I am sure you have worked out that the 7.62mm x 51mm NATO round is in fact 0.30″ x 2″. It was designed by the US Ordnance Board, which of course still used Imperial measurements, and then was disguised in metric. It has been pretending to be metric ever since. The .30-06 has a case length often given as 63mm, but its designers would have called that 2 1/2 inches!

  9. There are a number of features on the 8LXXX rifles that were not on the original C1A1, and in fact, there was talk of designating it C1A2, but that never happened. To muddy things further, new features were incorporated into older rifles as they came in for repair or refurbishment.

    For example, Bruce already mentioned the change to the ejector block. The original was riveted in and if the blade of the ejector was chipped or broken, the rifle had to go back to the depot for repair. FN modified their part so that the blade of the ejector was a separate piece held by a pin, but the final version of the Canadian one on the 8L rifles was retained by the same screw that retained the mag release, so easily repaired in the field.

    The front sight protectors are the same as on the C2 automatic rifle. Since it has a heavier barrel, the C2 could not use the one piece gas block/front sight, having instead, a gas block with separate stamped protective wings. One of the issues with the rifle was that if you bent or damaged the front sight wings, since they were integral, you had to replace the whole gas block. This required a trip to the depot and taking off the flash eliminator and disassembling the gas system. So to make it simpler and field repairable, the C2 front sight system was put on the rifles.

    There were still plenty of rifles in inventory with the old original front sights, since if they were never broken, they were not replaced.

    The other distinctive feature is the lack of cooling holes in the handguard. The original holes were a weak point, and cracks would develop between them. FN went to plastic as a solution, (while still retaining wooden butts for some time before switching to plastic for everything).

    The Brits went to plastic (foam filled nylon IIRC). The Aussies switched to a laminated plywood with sheet metal brackets. Canada simply eliminated the holes, since they really didn’t do anything. If you fire around 200 rounds as fast as you can, the hanguard will scorch, smoke, and finally catch fire, and the holes did not significantly change the round count at which this happened. Like with the front sights, it was still possible to find the occasional rifle with original ventilated handguards.

    • There were liners in front part of handguards filled with layer of asbestos. However, later the asbestos was ruled out as harmful and they had to search for replacement. So, they called that Beta-bestos; sounds almost as joke.

    • Your spot on. Also the Reserves used the rifle as late as 1994. Algonquin Regt. In timmins ont. Some how got forgotten. I walked into their Valt to do an Annual Tech inspection and they still had C1A1 Rifles and SMG. In 95 they got the C7 possible i may be off by a year. Really great Post by him. He did a good job.

  10. The very last C1A1s ,8L5006-18 were made for a civilian shooting club and were made with the original gas blocks with integral sight protectors.
    They were sold as unrestricted rifles in 1972, made restricted in 1985, prohibited in 1993 and are now considered so dangerous that no civilian is allowed to shoot one. There may be a pattern developing here. In the 60s the use of this arm was taught in high schools compulsory.
    The reserve stocks of C1s were destroyed in 2009.

    • Sounds like stupidity is winning again. “We want a picture perfect world where nothing bad ever happens to good people so we won’t need to know how to fight a war.” Sound familiar?

      Has any good come from pretending that post-modern “cultural tolerance” (more accurately, social elimination of genuine cultural uniqueness) can make things perfect? No. Go ahead and shoot me if you disagree.

      • Boy, did you hit the nail on the head. Look at Europe/England, before WWII and early WWII. NO guns, and after Dunkirk, no anything@ What was the yardage between machine guns on the Channel beach. Was it every 8th of a mile? And now, back to strict gun restrictions.
        I am so glad we can keep ours, but the forces of evil are always trying to take them away!

      • “Genuine cultural uniqueness” was the rationalization of Apartheid and Jim Crow – at least among those of its “superior” defenders who could use long words. Humans will create a caste system at the drop of a “sincerely-held faith.” And your revenge against cultural tolerance is already here, named Putin, Orban, Modi, Trump, Duterte, Bolsonaro. Their followers are the ones who do the shooting.

        So I’m half-Japanese; I have no culture so I have no right to exist. In 1963 the American Consul on Okinawa tried to talk my Dad, a White airman, out of marrying my Mom, an Okinawan. THAT was the world you want back – it wasn’t until 1967 that interracial marriage was a Federal right. There was no magic time when society was just the right amount of intolerant.

        • I didn’t refer to racism as a legitimate culture (it’s an ILLEGITIMATE culture borne of complete xenophobia and irrational pride). Try looking at what the KKK did. They tarnished the reputation of Christianity by claiming that only white people could go to heaven. They conveniently forgot that Jesus was JEWISH and NOT WHITE. They forgot that God created ALL of humankind. Worse, the European/American neo-imperialist culture was definitely NOT a reflection of Christian doctrine. How’s that?

          I meant to say “cultural tolerance” as of late includes making everyone Middle-Ages STUPID because to the most extreme of Left-Wingers, academic intelligence is little more than a “privilege of the elite” and should be done away with altogether. It’s anti-intellectualism that leads back to the negative stuff you just described, including racism.

          • Not sure what kind of fantasy you live in; where I’m from, anti-intellectualism is definitely not the provenance of the left. Anti-intellectualism goes hand-in-hand with complaining about ‘post-modernism’ in total ignorance of what that school of thought actually entails, or better yet trotting out that old Nazi boogieman ‘Cultural Marxism’. The people complain that higher education is indoctrinating the youth, they aren’t leftists and they would not appreciate you calling them such.

        • Apparently Antifa’s social media operations are now infesting Forgotten Weapons. That is a tragedy. This site has been such a wonderful island of technical scholarship, (nearly) devoid of politics. Ah well. Alright, I can play this ridiculous game too: should a self described “half Japanese” owe half the “normal” reparations for war crimes committed by the Japanese Imperial government against the Chinese civilian population during WW2? Are you half guilty for the crimes some group committed before you were born? Do the sins of the fathers give you some “Japanese Privilege” that must be remedied by social justice in the here and now? Japan is a very successful country. Have they succeeded at the expense of others?

          Furthermore, your rogues gallery of “followers doing the shooting” seems to have some conspicuous omissions. For example, James Hodgkinson, a left-wing activist and vocal supporter of Bernie Sanders shot up a baseball game of U.S. Congressman in 2017. The victimization ideology sometimes known as Cultural Marxism, is a black hole that swallows all logic and reason; a whirlpool of insanity from which there is no escape.

          • I think super390 still owes reparations to the Korean women forced into prostitution by the Japanese government.

        • “Their followers”…

          Like the explicitly Marxist El Paso shooter (read his manifesto — the reason he wants to get rid of Hispanics is so we can afford a bunch of radical socialism and environmentalist policies, like UBI, universal single payer healthcare, and Green New deal stuff)?

          Or the Dayton shooter, who was quite vocally (and proudly) both far leftist and anti-gun?

          The point I am making here IS NOT that liberals are bad people, or murderous nut jobs.

          “Murderous nut job” isn’t a political ideology. Neither is racism — https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1985-20155-001

          “…both antiauthoritarian leftists and proauthoritarian rightists are equally likely to be racists.”

  11. I forgot to mention the arctic trigger Ian alluded to. It was, as far as I know, an experiment, (there is a similar one for the EM-2), and was never actually in service. The trigger guard is just flipped around and stored in the recess uncovered by the front plate on the pistol grip, and the rifle used without a trigger guard.

    I have heard that the ex-OPP rifles were originally going to go to the States, but ATF pointed out that the rifles all had safety/auto sears, so they went to England instead, and why they have BNP proof marks under the barrel forward of the handguards

    • Now the light of memory flashed. I read somewhere in past that because of the nature of auto – release/ safety sear it was not possible to “sanitize” design to preclude its capability of going back to automatic. It would require extensive re-design which was not practical. This explains why FAL C1A1 is on “prohibited” list.

  12. Stupidity is absolutely winning. But not because Canada threw
    away some obsolete rifles. And I’m fairly certain that the Canadians have a few ideas about how to fight a war while promoting tolerance in their famously non murderous country.

    • “Famously non-murderous?” How about the Japanese Canadians who were STRIPPED OF PROPERTY AND CLOTHES, BEATEN WITH RIFLE BUTTS, AND CHAINED UP LIKE ANIMALS in the WW2 Internment camps and then afterwards deported to Japan NAKED AND IN CHAINS even if they were natural-born second-generation Canadian citizens?

      • Yeah, we Americans would never herd women and children into internment camps and intentionally abuse them to terrify others into staying away, especially in 2019. Oh, that’s okay because they weren’t citizens but asylum-seekers under the terms of international law? Well, in the 1930s the Texas Rangers used to round up American citizens of the Latino persuasion into trucks and dump them back inside Mexico. It wasn’t just the Japanese-Americans.

      • “(…)Japanese Canadians(…)”
        Wait, but did any of them became dead due to this action? If not, then your example in my understanding is lack of fair trial but not murder. Such action should cause shame in anyone responsible, but it was claimed that Canada is famoulsy non murderous not ardently lawful.

        • Several of the victims froze to death in the internment camps owing to harsh winter and lack of any warmth except that from a wood-burning stove (and only one stove per camp). Supposedly, the white Canadian guards used the frozen bodies as rifle target practice in front of their families just to insult them further.

    • I would take a waiver on that Non-murderous country. Sure, for most part Canada is very safe and it has non-gun culture (at lest officially) to back it up. But here and then there are some serious exceptions. One such case was last summer in Toronto:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_Toronto_shooting

      There were several security (mostly on intelligence part since the family of shooter was known and suspect for other reasons) failures, but the main one was that there was NOT one police officer on scene to take the appropriate action and stop the carnage.

      • Nah, non-murderous.

        It’s going to take some effort to find more than a dozen mass shootings (e.g., 4 or more victims are murdered with firearms) in Canada in the last 10 years. And if you find a dozen, consider this: The US has several hundred of these every year.

        If Canadian shooting incidents are appalling and qualify it as a murderous place, what conclusions can be drawn from the US statistics?

        Suffice to say, yes, compared to the US, Canada is indeed a non-murderous place.

        • Right-to-militia enthusiasts never bother being honest about statistics, because they don’t care if America’s murder rate or gun murder rate is 10 times higher or 100 times higher or if we’re in an all-out civil war. All they care about is that the “right kind” of American is still seen as being on top of the arms race. If Blacks were stockpiling military-grade weaponry faster than those who want to bring back the Good Old Days, the latter would feel very differently about gun laws. For example: ultimate right-wing hero Ronald Reagan, as governor of CA, had zero problem with enforcing gun laws that right-wingers today denounce as tyranny, because it was for the sole purpose of crushing Black militants. The racial balance of terror had gotten too close for his comfort. That’s why American right-wingers will never allow a Yugoslavian-style militia system; the Latinos and Blacks would have militias too and we know how that turned out in Yugoslavia.

          • Let’s agree to this: America is a total Hell-Hole (and I’m living near a hotspot of racially-charged riots myself). If it weren’t for human willful-ignorance and selfish pride, we wouldn’t have this issue. White Militants and Black Militants who want to terrorize each other on the basis of race can go to hell for all I care (and FYI, I’m neither White NOR Black). Just let the rest of us non-supremacists live in peace!

  13. A very interesting article. The Australian version of the FAL was the L1A1 (or SLR) which is very similar to this but has a few minor differences, probably in line with the British version. The differences I remember were the rear sight, a simple flip-up blade with 200 and 400 metre settings; the magazine release, which I found awkward to use and I would have preferred the Canadian design; the bolt hold-open, which had to be applied manually (!!!); and minor differences in the wooden furniture.

    We also had the L2A1 full-auto heavy barrel version, which apparently was not used by the British.

    The L1A1 was standard issue in Viet Nam and was generally considered to be a reliable and effective weapon. However this did not stop troops from making ‘field modifications’, which included shortening barrels, removing flash suppressors, converting to full auto, and adding forward pistol grips. These ‘illegal’ rifles were often converted from the L2A1 version, and were mostly used by the SAS guys, who liked the increased firepower. I had one myself for a short time, its barrel had been shortened and the gas block had been moved back several inches, and strangely had no sights (!!).

    There is a detailed description of these modified rifles, commonly known as ‘The Bitch’ by the troops, on ‘The Firearm Blog’ – search using the term ‘The Bitch’.

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