MAS Type 62: France Does the FAL, With a Twist

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, France was seriously considering joining the NATO small arms standardization. They were equipped with the MAS 49/56 semiauto rifle at this point, and were looking at three possibilities:

1 – Convert the 49/56 rifles to 7.62 NATO. (This was actually tested with poor results; the gas system was not easily converted to handle the much higher port pressure of the NATO cartridge)
2 – Adopt the FAL.
3 – Adopt a new domestic-production rifle in 7.62 NATO.

It was this third option that led to the rifle we are looking at today. After a wide variety of prototypes from all the different French design bureaus, it was determined that the best was a MAS design that used many elements form the FAL. Specifically, the Type 62 used the bolt design and tilting locking system form the 49/56, the short-stroke gas piston form the FAL, the gas cutoff and rifle grenade hardware form the 49/56, the receiver and top cover form the FAL, and a novel striker-fired trigger system. The Type 62 maintained all the capabilities of the 49/56 (including mounting an APX L806 scope) and added a pistol grip, 20-round standard magazine, bipod mount, and full-auto option in the fire control system. About 65 Type 62 rifles were produced, and were tested sufficiently that the rifle was considered suitable for development into mass production.

At this point, however, the larger strategic decisions came into play. The cost of adopting an all-new infantry rifle was significant, and the new design really didn’t do anything except for ammunition compatibility with NATO in the case of a full-fledged land war. The fully automatic function was of dubious utility (both the US and UK would quickly remove the full auto function from their M14s and SLRs). The 7.62 NATO cartridge was very close to 7.5 French in size and ballistics, not offering the reduced size compared to .30-06 or the rimless case compared to .303 British. French high commend decided that the money needed to buy FALs or Type 62s would be better spend on other strategic priorities, like a new medium tank or nuclear missile development. And so when it came to the infantry rifle question, they chose:

4 – Do nothing.

Curiously, the program to convert French machine guns to 7.62 NATO did move forward, with the AA-F1 replacing the AA-52 in the 1960s. But the rifles remained in 7.5 French until the adoption of the FAMAS in 5.56mm NATO some 15 years later.

Many thanks to the IRCGN (Criminal Research Institute of the National Gendarmerie) for generously giving me access to film this exceptionally rare specimen for you! They maintain an extensive firearms reference collection as part of their mission to fight crime and international terrorism.


  1. FAL, MAS Type 62, Japan Type 64. All 7.62mm NATO, all selective fire, with a tilting bolt, a short stroke gas piston, and gas shut off for rifle grenade launching. That’s a lot of convergent thinking.

  2. This rifle does not demonstrate a remarkably novel solution. It is not exactly dumb internally but not inspiring either. FAMAS is a far jump ahead in comparison, although not without flaws either. The French general staff (its technical group) seem to screw up by not adopting FAL. You cannot argue with 50 other countries who did. Besides, it was later successfully transformed into 5.56mm version in Brazil and elsewhere.

    • Think how much of that fancy machined receiver could have been saved, if the locking was directly into barrel. The lower, which looks like made out of aluminum, could have been extended into action shroud and voila – much cheaper concept right off the bat. In that case the action could be removed by replacing buffer plate integrated with buttstock.

      • “(…)locking was directly into barrel(…)”
        Now this might be look obvious, but it was so in 1951? Was such solution used earlier in NATO/primaldozen assault rifle?

          • In contrast, you can line up just about every other semi-auto rifle from the interwar years, which were almost all tilting-bolt actions. The Garand is very nearly unique in that regard from that era.

            At least, in terms of what got adopted and fielded.

          • @ Kirk
            The Garand is very nearly unique in having been adopted and fielded 😉
            If you see what had been close to adoption, or barely adopted, there is some short recoil, both with rotating or tilting bolt, the “flapper locked” Gew41 – 43 (ok, not really interwar), the rotating bolt, short piston stroke, Scotti Mod. X…
            In the end the rotating bolt gas action dates back to some of the the first semiautos, as the Cei-Rigotti and the Mondragon.

          • “Johnson 41”
            So far there existed self-loading rifle and light machine gun, I am not aware of any assault rifle codenamed this way.

            In 1951?

          • What I was getting at was the fact that while rotary-bolt looks like the “thing to do” these days, that fact wasn’t clear to designers of the post-WWII era.

            I’d have to find the cite I’ve got for it, but I remember some discussion, somewhere, talking about the production machinery available being a lot more expensive back in the day for doing things like the broaching and machining on the AR-10 bolt extension. It took the WWII expansion of the aviation industry to make the machine tools for that sort of machine work affordable enough to even make something like AR-10, and not everybody had them.

            And, yes, that makes sense when I say it, but even I’m a little unsure of the reality, and I can’t say for sure what or where the cite came from. Someone I read, or someone told me, I’m not sure which. I think it was in a discussion about figuring out whether something like the AR-10 would have been possible during the immediate post-WWI era, and the answer was basically “No, not with the production machinery of the time…”.

          • @ Kirk
            To me, it pretty much went like this.
            At first, there had been many rotating bolt semiautos (Mondragon, Cei-Rigotti, etc.), because they were conceived like automated rotating bolt actions (even in a straight pull, the bolt face rotates).
            Then, someone realised that a tilting action worked as well, and was easier to manufacture (because it’s easier to cut straigth surfaces on open pieces than recesses in the internal of a cylinder), so you got a lot of tilting actions. At that point the Garand action was actually an “old style” action that survived in the ’30s.
            And it worked like that until receivers were made of forged steel. See for example the Beretta M57 carbine. A M1 carbine where the rotating bolt had been replaced with a tilting one. I can’t see other than advantages in that solution.
            But, once you start making your receiver out of aluminium, a thin sheet of stamped steel, or plastic, a tilting action is no more convenient, because, if the action locks in the back of the bolt, you need something sturdy to link the back of the bolt with the barrel.

        • To machine the locking recesses into the barrel is a pain in the ass, that’s why there were so many tilting actions in the interwar and early postwar period. You need an extended “something” to keep the bolt attached to the barrel, but it’s easy to make it.

    • “(…)The French general staff (its technical group) seem to screw up by not adopting FAL.(…)”
      According to “The Army Headquarter” did acknowledge its’ virtue and planned to acquire said Belgian fire-arm, but this never materialized
      (…)The Army Headquarter chooses the FAL made by FN Herstal in March 1963. The Belgian weapon had the advantage over its competitor of being already in production for ten years and of having proven its reliability. There remained only to define the quantity produced; at that time the needs for the Army were estimated as follows:

      purchase of 30,000 rifles before July 1, 1966,
      purchase of 90,000 additional weapons before the end of 1970 (figure raised to 120,000 little later),
      manufacture under license in France by the Saint-Etienne Small Arms factory thereafter.

      A transitional period of assembly with units made in Belgium was also considered. But adoption of the FAL was halted, because the German G 3 was looked upon to be more economic. This rifle was also tested by the above mentioned technical establishments, but we found no trace of a troop test in the consulted files.(…)

      • Seriously: Look at all of the different iterations available from FN-Herstal for the basic FAL rifle… Now just imagine: France either gets the rights to manufacture it at MAS/MAC/MAT, etc. or merely requests the same grenade launching stuff as the FSA 49/56 has, plus the tricked-out rifle sights and night sights as an option…

        Probably just as well they retained the FSA 49/56.

  3. Interesting story.
    However, the development of heavy weapons (like MBT or missile weapons) is not just a different number, but a different order of numbers.
    The explanation of the refusal to accept a new rifle as “we will save money” sounds complete nonsense…
    Another thing is that assault rifles really had dubious usefulness. Especially given the sufficient saturation with other automatic weapons.
    Another thing is the transition to a completely new ammunition, what happened with 5,56.

    Judging by the design, this system should have problems with the stability of the automation.
    It couldn’t not be.
    We are waiting for the report from the shooting range.

  4. More than striker fired this is linear hammer fired.
    However, without knowing about the timeline, this would have seemed promising but, knowing it’s the result of ten years of development, it’s still really rough.

  5. It seems to me that “striker-fired” is a misnomer here. This, like the VZ58, is a rifle with a conventional firing pin but a “linear hammer” or straight-line hammer or whatsit. Striker-fired, like the P7 or Glock, requires the inertia of a somewhat heavy striker plus the kinetic energy of a spring. This gun and the VZ58 require the weight of the linear hammer plus the spring behind it. I have a vague recollection that a conventional rotating hammer takes more backward force to cock — the VZ58 being a short-stroke weapon and this weapon being direct gas impingement (as opposed to the over-gassed rotating hammer AKs) — so both might have required the linear hammer system just to successfully reset. Might the Type 62 designers have already seen a VZ58 as an example? In any case, fascinating to see to see this rifle. I do suggest an educational video now: striker vs. rotating hammer vs. linear hammer.

  6. Another obscure design that I’ve always wanted to know more about. Thank you, Ian.

    Looking at it, though… I have to wonder about the ergonomics and “shootability” of this design compared to the FAL, G3, and AR-10. The layout looks awkward as hell to my eye, but I have to wonder how it feels, shouldered? Is it one of those typically French designs that just look “off”, yet really are not? Not to mention, how does it shoot, particularly on full auto?

    Again, thanks to Ian for bringing us this. It’s an amazing find–I never thought to see one of these anywhere, let alone in such detail.

    I’d love to see the whole range of developmental weapons the French put together during this period–A bullpup 7.62? I wonder what that looked like…

    • Dude… You have no idea the amount of angst you’ve caused me. I spent a considerable chunk of the early morning going through my copy of the Collector’s Grade “The FAL Rifle” looking for the definitive answer to that question, and… Zip. I vaguely remember seeing something, somewhere, once upon a time, but I’ll be damned if I can find a cite for it.

      So far as I know, and it’s also something I noted intuitively when I first picked up an L1A1, that difference between the sides on the FAL is there as a magazine guide. You’ll note that it is set up for a left-handed load, so they’re pre-supposing a right-handed user for ergonomics. You use the extended right side as a guide when inserting the magazine.

      I’m not really sure why more rifles don’t have a feature like that, but… It’s unique to the FAL in things that actually reached production, and nobody, even FN, ever used it again on another weapon. For a rock-and-lock magazine system, it’s pretty damn useful.

      Of course, someone else will pop up with a cite that shows I’m delusional, but that’s my understanding of it.

      • Thanks for your time. It makes sense that the long side is to assist reloads. Slam mag in at a slight angle and use the side as a guide.

        • I think it’s more like “Move magazine rightwards until it contacts extended side, then up at a bottom-forward angle, find front latch, rock back…”.

          FAL mags are not really amenable to slamming, at all. You’ve got to carefully place them, and rock home to load. It’s actually a fairly complex physionomic task, compared to the “hand-finds-hand” of a pistol or an Uzi-type SMG, and it’s certainly a lot harder than an AR-10 sort of load, where you can index off your firing hand forefinger-tip and then slam the magazine home.

          I have an affection for the AR-10 way of doing magazine business, probably due to a career’s worth of muscle-memory. But, I do think that the “rock-and-lock” methodology has its points, for certain applications. I’m just not of a mind that those are really good weapons to take into actions where it might be down to just you and your rifle keeping you alive…

      • “…difference between the sides on the FAL is there as a magazine guide…”(С)

        I heard two versions, about equally plausible.
        The first, full neck of the magazine is needed to securely fix magazines made of thin and weak material, and the cutout is needed to clear snow and dirt.
        Secondly, they did not have enough rigidity of the lower one, which caused accuracy to suffer.
        Both versions are equally trusted 50/50.

  7. This was an excellent presentation by Mr. M’Collum of a rifle prototype that outside the Francophone world, I’m pretty sure we knew next to nothing about! Merci beaucoup!

    I see some positive features, as noted by Ian. I like the sights and the rifle sights. That said, it is truly a case of “mama MAS 49 and papa FAL were lying in bed, Mas 49 rolled over and this is what she said…” I mean, if “Nato-interoperability” is the stated goal, or ostensibly the underlying premise, *why not use FAL magazines, or even, dare I say it, G-3 magazines??* France rejected the 7.62x51mm caliber for perfectly logical reasons: they had tons of 7.5x54mm ammunition built up from doomed colonial projects in Indochina and Algeria, and a significant war reserve by the time the U.S. decided to adopt a cartridge that as far as I can discern, had been developed already back in 1889 as the 7.65x53mm “Belgian/Argentine” Mauser cartridge, but now re-engineered decades later… If anything, Nato might profitably have adopted the 7.5 French!

    Some observations on Gallic arms engineering: So rush to adopt smokeless powder in an antiquated Kropatscheck rifle: Voilá! Lebel 1886/M.93… Starts to look rather antiquated and obsolete almost immediately, tortoise vs. hare where “slow and steady wins the race…” So the French decide to retain the smokeless-cartridge Kropatscheck until something wildy revolutionary and super-different comes on the scene, and so they set about developing–in absolute, utter secrecy–the world’s first direct gas-impingement, all kinds of boldly innovative new calibers, gas operation, etc. etc. because the 1886/93 and Berthier are ‘good enough’ until a self-loading rifle design as reliable as a bolt action comes along. The nation fights a cruel, hideous war with the obsolete rifle, for the most part, and the military institution that entered the war believing that the cran/ guts and elan/ will and fighting determination of the individual soldier should be replaced by artillery, artillery, and more artillery, and perhaps a “labor-saving” super trench in the form of the ouvrages of Maginot. An LMG would be important, so the FM 1924/29 “upside-down” (or rightside up?!) BAR is adopted…

    Post-WWII: We’ve got a reliable-as-a-bolt-action self-loading rifle of our own, as well as the Garand of les Amis… But should we, say, buy the FAL? I mean, the Belgians are right there, make good guns, albeit a bit *cough* Bochey shall we say? And a mere three years after we cooked up the 8x50mmR double-tapered Lebel cartridge, well… rimless 7.63x53mm… A: “Non!” Why, what we’ll do is continue to use the MAS FSA 49/56 until something truly extraordinary and revolutinarily new comes on the scene! Voilá! The 5.56mm FAMAS, albeit adopted in the 55gr. M193 cartridge, which Nato a few years, by the early 1980s… determine should properly be the *cough-cough* Belgian SS109/ M855 62-gr. projectile that will go through the German version of the old M1 US steel helmet at several hundred meters…

    Of course, in light of the above, merely take a drag off your Gaulois or Gitane ciggie and insouciantly retort: “Mais oui… What does it matter anyway, we’ll just drop nuclear weapons on the Boche, destroy the bridges over the Rhine, and attempt preserve what we can from the remnants of the Nato vs. Warsaw Pact apocalypse… I mean, it’s not even like we participate in the Nato command anyway?”

    French armed forces didn’t want to pay for the Hotchkiss, so they cooked up the Mle. 1907 St.Étienne machinegun. French armed forces didn’t want to pay for the FAL (they later hedged on the G-3, no? Mulhouse…) so they at least designed this FA 62, but for cost reasons didn’t adopt it.

    What is the big white spot above the pistol grip? Why is that there? Also, why are the sometimes black nylon, sometimes transluscent nylon, but almost always *white* nylon bolt charging handles to be found on the self-loading rifles? Why the color white? Is it so they are more visible in low-light settings… Or what? Or is it some kind of price-saving measure?

    Gotta love the stoved Le Creuset enamel finish or “paint” that has gotten scratched off!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.