FAL vs L1A1: What's the difference?


January 9, 2008, 08:11 PM
Honest question from a technical, mechanical, historical perspective. Anything interchangeable on them?


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January 9, 2008, 08:16 PM
I'm not an expert on them, but the difference between a metric FAL (most non British Commonweath guns) and an inch FAL (L1A1) is that the specs on the inch FAL had some small dimensional changes when the blueprints were transcribed from metric to imperial measurements. This unfortunately means many parts will not interchange.

Baba Louie
January 9, 2008, 08:28 PM
Inch verses Metric

There are two basic kinds (patterns) of FAL's, inch and metric. All inch pattern FAL's, except those made as squad autos, are meant to be fired semi-auto only, and the selector will not go into the full position. There are dimensional differences in some parts between the two. Among the parts that don't interchange: the charging handle, the dust cover, and most internal parts; trigger, selector, hammer, and sear. A complete inch lower receiver generally speaking can be fitted to a metric upper.

The inch pattern guns were made in Canada, Australia, and Britain, and parts should interchange among them, as there is Rifle Steering Committee agreement to that effect between the UK, Australia and Canada. The Indian made guns, according to the FAL Story book, are reverse engineered from British guns, and are more or less inch pattern, but are not really compatible with any other FAL. Indian mags work fine in inch pattern guns, in my experience. Inch pattern guns use a magazine that is dimensionally identical, or nearly so, to a metric FAL. But they use a differently shaped front catch on the mag itself. On the inch pattern mags it is a longer, more solid ridge welded or soldered across the front of the mag; on the FAL it is a smaller protrusion stamped out of the mag body itself. Thus a spec metric mag should work in an inch pattern gun, but unless the shape of the front catch is modified on the inch pattern mag it will not fit into a metric gun. An illustration of these magazine differences may be seen in E. Ezell's Small Arms of the World, 12th Ed., page 343. Inch pattern guns also, generally speaking, use a folding cocking handle.

January 9, 2008, 08:29 PM
ZINJ is absolutely right. I have a Century L1A1 (which is actually part metric & part SAE). Anyway, metric/fal magazines will work in both. They have a tiny bit of wobble in an L1A1, but I've never had a jamb.

However, you cannot put L1A1/English Pattern magazines in a FAL. That's probably OK, because metric mags are currently going for about $8.00 to $12.00 and L1A1 mags are $35.00 to $45.00.

Anyway, if you're going buy one, I'd recommend getting a metric FN/FAL and not an L1A1. I got mine rebarrelled. It took me months to find a vendor with a replacement barrel, and a good gunsmith to install it. The whole job cost me about $650.00 (more than the original cost of the gun).

The Wiry Irishman
January 9, 2008, 08:46 PM
There's a nice visual comparison in DSA's FAQ section:


January 10, 2008, 12:23 AM
L1A1 has a muzzle device that likes to go banana peel
L1A1 muzzle device is threaded in the opposite direction from all the metric barrels.
L1A1 has a gas port drilled at an angle (making it harder to modify)
L1A1 has different hammer/trigger/sear parts than metric.
L1A1 has different lower receiver than metric (can't use metric stocks)
L1A1 has a fatter bolt hold-open device (can't use L1A1 bolt hold-open device in metric)
L1A1 has a larger magazine release lever (mostly a matter of taste, but heavier)
L1A1 magazines only work in L1A1's unless permanently modified
L1A1 magazines much more expensive than metric
L1A1 magazines won't take metric floorplates, springs or followers
L1A1 buttstock has a buttplug that makes it harder to remove the stock
L1A1 buttstock has hard plastic or hard metal buttplate
L1A1 has blocky pistol grip with "popsicle stick" thing that can be troublesome
L1A1 is very difficult to get US made stocks or pistol grips
L1A1 has folding cocking handle that some folks don't like
L1A1 top covers won't fit metric - but metric will fit L1A1

I remain confused about whether L1A1 bolt parts interchange with metric.
I do know the extractors will not interchange.

You can exchange entire assembled bolts L1A1 to metric and vice-versa

All FAL bolt carriers interchange.
There are some other minor differences

Aftermarket scope-mount topcovers fit L1A1 or metric

Its all good.





January 10, 2008, 03:45 AM
LiA1 is the British military designation for their Inch pattern FAL.

BTW, the Inch guns came first.

Bwana John
January 10, 2008, 11:22 AM
The only thing "metric" I can find on my "metric" FALs is that the short combo device has 18 mm wrench flats.:evil:

January 10, 2008, 10:46 PM
My L1A1


Type 1 Entreprise Inch pattern reciever, Aussie Lithgow kit, everything is inch pattern, barrel was cut and crowned to comply with the slime bill.

January 12, 2008, 01:04 PM
Thanks for the responses. I bought a Century L1A1, which I thought looked a lot like a FAL and wondered what the difference was. Not much, it seems.

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