FN CAL: Short-Lived Predecessor to the FNC

The CAL (Carabine Automatique Leger; Light Automatic Carbine) was FN’s first attempt to produce a 5.56mm rifle as a counterpart to the 7.62mm FAL. While light and handy, the CAL was a relatively complex and expensive design, and failed to garner many sales. About 12,000 were made in total before FN pulled the gun in favor of the FN FNC, which would prove to be much more successful.


  1. This one really fits the FW definition… 🙂

    I like this rifle, mainly how neat is sheet metal treatment and its fit. It is kind of ‘jewel’. Yes, disassembly is a bit odd (mainly while disconnecting return spring) and often subject to confusion.

    At the positive side and not mentioned in description, is the fact that due to its locking lugs on helical surfaces, it enables primary extraction. This is rare among assault rifles and presumably enhances reliability.
    Overall, this is nice example of design in-between ‘classic’ type like FAL and more up-to-date and rationalized FNC. I like FN Herstal’s approach to rifles design – it’s mechanically thorough. Nothing is left to chance of things going wrong.

    • I agree, mechanical consistency is key to good design. Don’t allow for problems that can’t be solved with proper tools and/or procedures. But no gun is idiot-proof. Just ask Kirk why US Army Ordnance fails at realistic combat. They’re likely to demand that the other team sit perfectly still and wait to get shot in the face from a mile away via M14. No, really.

      • US Army Ordnance was and remains always ready to face the dread Plywoodians* in mortal combat…

        *(Unofficial name for the enemy made up by the usually plywood targetry used during the live-fire phase at the National Training Center)

      • Not for this rifle as far as I know.
        Btw., so called GI aluminum ‘disposable’ magazine was not liked in Europe. Both, FNH and HK designed their own equivalent steel versions. CZUB waited for a while and then they went right into their own plastic translucent one.

    • Well, IMBEL does not trust ‘cheap sheet’ metal receivers. Their rifles are arguably not as sophisticated but they are robust and durable.

  2. A note on 2-3-4 shot burst fire control triggers.
    It looks they are on their way out and I can only have sympathies for that move. Not just because the burst versions are more complicated (and potentially confusing in heat of battle) but there is according to widely held opinion no need for them. It is argued, that trained soldier (most armies are now professionally with more trigger time being afforded) can produce a controlled burst using full auto mode. I tend to believe that as long as RoF does not exceed 650-700 RPM.

    • What I could say? Двадцать два!
      Знаешь, как отсчитать ровно три патрона? Дави на спуск столько времени, сколько будешь мысленно произносить: «Двадцать два!»
      from КЛЕЙМО ЗОНЫ by В. Орехов и С. Осипов
      from: http://hijos.ru/chislovoj-salon-krasoty/chislo-22/

      Do you know how to fire exactly 3 cartridge? Squeeze trigger as long as you would said Dvadtsat’ dva in mind.

    • Why seemingly nobody acknowledges that recoil of a burst of *fixed lenght* could be mastered and such bursts can be used more effectively than 2-4 shot manual burst that requires focus and concentration and precise trigger control?
      With burst mode you give your full attention to controlling the predictalbe, repeatable recoil and relax on the trigger control. It is especially relevant to situations of real combat, when you can damage your hand or get concussion from explosions or large caliber full auto nearby without hearing protection or get tired or dehydrated. It all diminishes ability to focus on all the necessary bits for accurate fireing, burst mode can be very helpful and conserve ammo.

    • They still do. The problem with them is that they are bit too pricey (civilian versions completely off the board). They do not sell as well as they used to. But then, FNH traditionally provides life-time service & support; it’s part of the deal.

  3. Agree with others who have already posted, very handsome rifle. Has that FAL groove going, while not being a FAL, maybe the child of a Belgian daddy and an exotic mommy…Darn sexy either way in spite of cost/maintenance issues. Then again, exotic love children are often expensive and high maintenance…hmmm.

  4. The lug towards the rear of the bolt seems to interact with with the inner bolt carrier. Is this some sort of anti bolt bounce mechanism?

    • It seems that this lug is taking the hit from the outer carrier when the carrier goes back. It stops movement of the bolt relative to the outer carrier.

      The anti bounce feature is the shape of the cam groove. It has rather long straight portion at the back, so as soon an the cam pin enters this straight portion it cant rotate. As the lugs are cut like a screw grooves, lateral movement of the bolt is also stopped.

      • * in last sentence i mean that locking lugs prevent bolt from bouncing back, not laterally. Sorry for mistakes, not a native speaker.

  5. Correction
    Ian, Max Popenker, wiki say that its short recoil gun, but i’ve found a couple of pictures (barely enough resolution to see) that show grooves on the head of the piston. The kind of grooves that help to limit amount of gas that go back around a long stroke piston head (stg-44, ak).
    World of guns seem to animate this gun properly, long stroke piston.
    This is the better picture, grooves are clearly seen – https://ibb.co/94bYHV8
    This one is too low quality, but i think i see the grooves – https://ibb.co/px2kt4P

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