Calling all FAL experts!


November 15, 2009, 10:44 AM
I need a little quick help here guys. I've got a chance to make a trade for a FAL parts kit and need some nfo to decide. First of all I know virtually nothing about the FAL other than what I've found on the interweb in the last day or so. I've looked over the parts kit and it appears to be all there. The barrel is marked :Made in Canada CIAL, C.A.I. ST. ALB VT. L1A1 Sporter .308 and the stock is the thumbhole plastic one with the Century Arms recoil pad. The owner says it came from Century in the mid 90's. My questions are how much would this parts kit be worth and what would it take to get the rifle up and running. I have read a little on the metric vs inch pattern FAL's but am not sure what this is and also what parts would be needed to make this 922r compliant. Thanks for all your help in advance!!

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November 15, 2009, 11:18 AM
You will need a reciever, ones marked Imbel are the standard.
You will also need to buy, borrow or make some tools.
While I'm sure there are people here who can talk you through the process,
the Fal Files are dedicated to building and shooting this rifle, sticked threads and FAQs may ansure all your questions.

I will warn you, a few on the Files are not all as well behaved as people
here on the High Road.

November 15, 2009, 12:48 PM
I have built a couple of Fals and for the most part I would recommend against getting a Century Thumbhole kit as a base for building one. Here is why

1-- Century thumbhole kits are not very valuable to Fal collectors, they are worth in the range of $200-250 depending on the base kit that was used (Inch versus metric, etc...)

2-- Century built many kits in their thumbhole style to get around the assault weapons ban which is now defunct. They often chopped barrels, silver soldered on flash hiders, and other such permanent modifications to get around the weapons ban. More likely than not the thumbhole kit you are looking at has had some sort of permanent modification like that. Hence why the kits aren't valued as much to collectors.

3-_ To build it you are going to need a receiver ($300-400 plus transfer) more likely than not the 922r parts ($150 minimum), a new stock, pistol grip, all the stock screws, plus the specialized tools neccessary (barrel vise, recoil spring tool, and action wrench) putting you over what you can get a completed CAI Fal for on Gun Broker.

Unless you are looking for some challenging fun building a rifle, your better bet would be to just buy a complete one for $700-800 on GB. If you want to build your own, find a nice Imbel kit for around $300 and build from that.

November 15, 2009, 01:54 PM
Listen to what akolleth says. Skip the Century.

SARCO has a bunch of Imbel kits for sale if you are really up for a build. They are a much better deal.

Also, please know that, while building a FAL is not rocket science, it isn't like building an AR. You need specialized tools and it will take you quite a bit longer than an afternoon (e.g., I can build an AR for separate parts in about 2-3 hours if I'm taking my time).

Bwana John
November 15, 2009, 02:18 PM
You can buy an assembled FAL for much less than putting together a parts kit right now.

Wasn't always this way, but right now that's how it is.

November 16, 2009, 11:24 AM
I can get this kit in trade for an AR-15 lower that cost me $80. If the Century kit is worth $200-$250 I think I would come out alright. What do you think????

November 16, 2009, 11:31 AM
What you have there is an Inch pattern FAL, at least based on you saying it is Canadian. If you want to build it up you'll need a L1A1 receiver and all the tools, or a good smith. Century FALs are known for being junk, but if you build it on a good receiver and do a decent job the rifle might be worth something, at least to you. If all he wants in trade is your $80 lower and you have no plans for it I say why not.

November 16, 2009, 05:43 PM

L1A1 kit

Check out DSA website for an inch pattern receiver. Good luck.

November 16, 2009, 06:16 PM
What you have there is an Inch pattern FAL, at least based on you saying it is Canadian.

Actually that is incorrect. Those markings are the import markings from Century Arms International, when it was based out of St Albens, Vermont. A Canadaian L1A1 is not marked "Made in Canada".

If all you have in trade to the guy is $80 I say go for it! The worst that can happen is you realize how costly its going to be to build up and sell the kit/parts for a good deal more than you have in it. When you get the kit get some pics up and we can let you know exactly what you have and point you in the right direction to getting the correct parts to build it up-

November 16, 2009, 11:24 PM
Gonna go ahead with the trade. I'll try to get more info. and some pics ASAP.

November 17, 2009, 07:32 AM
I'm not a fan of the FALs. I've previously owned a DS-Arms SA-58 and it was terrible as far as accuracy went. It shot fine but my primary concern was accuracy given the 308 caliber that it shoots. I traded it for an AR-10 that I didn't care for and just recently traded that for an FN-AR that I love. They look sexy but for me accuracy is my main concern.

November 17, 2009, 11:12 AM
When I built my FAL (10 years ago :what: ) the biggest issue I had was getting the headspace correct. On the FAL, headspacing is controlled by the locking shoulder. If your kit was originally a rifle (and not just a bunch of parts thrown together from who knows where) and you get the barrel lined up exactly right, the original locking shoulder should be OK. If not, you either need a pin gauge or a bucket full of locking shoulders to play with until you find the right one. Luckily for me, a gunsmith buddy had a bunch of them from previous builds and we found the one I needed.

Bwana John
November 17, 2009, 11:45 AM
Actually the locking shoulder width is more dependent on the specs of the receiver you use than any other component.

New DSA receivers are taking smaller locking shoulders than were ever made for the real deal.

Determining headspace is a straightforward math problem if you have the correct range of pin guides and understand how to use them.

Do NOT press locking shoulders in and out to determine the correct size.:banghead:

November 17, 2009, 11:55 AM
Perhaps that is why that particular smith is out of business...

Really though, it wasn't a matter of pressing a bunch in and picking the best one. After using a pin gauge it was just a lot easier to have a bunch on hand to choose from instead of having to order one.

November 19, 2009, 09:32 AM
I got the kit and its seems to be in good shape. Is there anything wrong with the Century inch pattern receivers? They are considerably cheaper than most others.

November 19, 2009, 10:25 AM
You definitely want the widow's peak style feed ramps. I'm not sure if century has these.



justashooter in pa
November 20, 2009, 10:05 AM
you need to register on the FAL FILES and start your conversation there. few of the responses here are of value.

you CAN build an inch gun out of your kit for less than what you can buy one for, since you got such a good deal on the kit. you should use an enterprise inch cut receiver, and will find anything else you need to make it right by posting a thread in the gunsmithing/BIY forum on the files.

you prolly have a british kit that was removed from an imbel receiver that someone wanted to build a different kit on. if it has no threads on the front of barrel for muzzle attachment, no big deal. you can solder a correct 5 slot brit hider on it in 15 minutes. you will need a proper buttstock that is easy to find, a proper pistol grip assy and grip stud that is easy to find. not a difficult job at all. you will also find guys on the FILES in your area that have the tools and knowledge to get this gun running in an afternoon. if you're in south central pa i'll help you out.

headspacing is pretty simple. most matching kits came with a correctly sized locking shoulder for the original gun. most aftermarket receivers are manufactured with the barrel threads indexed to create a negative headspace with the original shoulder. because of this your barrel breaching washer (did you get one? it's a thin shim that slides over the barrel threads) may be a little too thick for the gun to TDC with the requisite 100-140 ft lbs torque.

once the barrel is turned and torqued to top dead center the locking shoulder can be driven in ( it's an interference fit) and tried against a set of gauges or a surp cartridge with 2 thicknesses of scotch tape on the bottom as a go gauge, and 5 thicknesses as a no go gauge ( remove bolt from carrier before trying headspace. remove firing pin from bolt before using a live round as a gauge.). if your go gauge will not allow the bolt to go into battery, the locking shoulder can be removed and shaved by judicious grinding with a 5/32" chainsaw bob in a dremmel tool against a caliper and a witness card cut to 13 degrees. you don't want to be whanging shoulders in and out of a receiver too much, or the bore they sit in will become permanently stretched, and you will need a larger numbered shoulder (should be a small number stamped on the end of it on brit kits).

well, i guess this is not so easy, is it? you need to come over to the FILES and join up. post a link to hosted pix of your kit in a thread in the BIY section and all of your questions will be answered pronto. ask for help, and you'll get it.

November 20, 2009, 10:44 AM
A big +1 to coming over the the Fal Files and talking to us over there.

Just one thing I need to point out--

once the barrel is turned and torqued to top dead center the locking shoulder can be driven in ( it's an interference fit) and tried against a set of gauges or a surp cartridge with 2 thicknesses of scotch tape on the bottom as a go gauge, and 5 thicknesses as a no go gauge

Seriously bad idea. Do not use tape as a measuring tool for your go/ no go guages. Tape compresses and has always been considered a hillbilly method AT BEST and potentially lethal at worst. This method has been thouroughly discredited on the Fal Files and all legitimate weapon building forums over the years.

Invest in the proper headspace guages from a supplier like Midway USA or Brownells or see if you can borrow them from a nearby Fal afficianado. Inside your guns chamber you have what amounts to a minature explosion going on every time you pull the trigger. Don't cheap out when it comes to your safety. Do not trust some scotch tape to tell you the rifle is safe and won't blow up in your face.

November 21, 2009, 05:06 PM
Thanks for the tips. I'll ease over to FAL Files as soon as I find time.

November 21, 2009, 05:52 PM
Deleted...sorry, wrong thread

justashooter in pa
November 21, 2009, 11:28 PM
hey akolleth. take a leap. we been building FAL this way for years. it ain't rocket science, buddy. this concept has not been discredited no way no how. it is valid and has been used by lots of people to good result. you wanna talk about it, talk to me directly.

potentially lethal? grow up. learn a little about headspacing before you make statements like that. i would suggest you begin by reading phil sharp, or townsend whelen, or julian hatcher. some of the highest authorities on gun design will disagree with you.

November 22, 2009, 09:29 AM
I have to go with Akolleth on this one get the proper HS guages and pins and do it right the first time. you dont want to be removing the locking shoulder any more than nessesary. on 6 builds I have not had to remove 1 from the new reciever.
Go to

justashooter in pa
November 22, 2009, 11:56 AM
a pin set costs about $50. a set of gauges costs about $60. spare locking shoulders are $25-40. people building FAL on a budget don't need to spend that kind of money.

i have built over a dozen FAL and have seen dozens more built by friends. with experience it is possible to judge by position of bolt in attempting to battery how much stock needs to be removed from locking shoulder to get proper headspace. in some cases correctly sized locking shoulders are just not available, and never were (aftermarket receiver tolerancing variation). this is why i suggested the OP get together with experienced builders on this project.

as for tape and it's value in adjusting headspace: any bozo with a set of calipers can calculate how many thicknesses of tape it takes to get +.005 or .006" on a surp cartridge. 3M even makes a special tape for thickness gauging, but it's not much better than plain old scotch tape and calipers (yes, i am a professional precision machined metal products inspector, with qualifications in welding, metallurgy, ultrasonics, MT, x ray, precision machining, casting technology, etc. yes, i have used tape as a thickness gauge in industry practice and been paid very well to do so).

as for the importance of headspacing accurately. this is over-rated, unless you are building a "match gun" and are planning to reload. either of these concepts demand a different rifle. FAL are battle rifles designed to feed reliably, shoot into 2 minute of angle, and eject the brass. there is no thought in the design given to reloading brass, which can be reliably once fired in up to +.020" without incident. tight chambers improve accuracy, but the FAL design is not prone to accuracy beyond 2 minute of angle, and was designed to shoot ANY nato accepted ammo, no matter the production tolerance variation.

the trouble with the interwebs is that it is full of "experts" who have limited experience upon which to base draconian statements that limit or inconvience the uneducated. the trouble with the FAL oriented interwebs is that it is full of guys trying to make a match rifle out of a battle firle, and they want to reload, too. they should get a different gun.

do i have gauges? yes, in 4 calibers. do i use them? rarely.

November 22, 2009, 01:04 PM
Seeing that I am not nearly as qualifide as others here are. I guess I should just throw away my headspace guages. They aparantly have no practical use and take up space.
I can use the scotch tape for headspacing and sending out packages.
I could probably save more space by tossing the FAL reciever wrench and using my pipe wrench. Hell it's just A battle rifle

November 22, 2009, 10:10 PM
Justashooter in PA

$35 for a no-go is a very worthwhile investment, insurance if you will. I would rather trust my face, my eyesight, and potentially my life, to a precision milled part which is sized to a thousanth of an inch, than to some scotch tape.

Bottom line is the difference between a go and a no go guage on a .308 is 4 one thousanths of an inch (1.630, versus 1.634) 4 one thousanths of an inch is all that stands between a safe rifle and one that can have case ruptures and potentially kaboom. If you want a comparison, the average sheet of notebook paper is also .004 thick.

I highly edited out what I really felt like saying in respect for The High Road (This ain't the Fal Files where anything goes since Jen stepped out) and I will not keep arguing with you on this matter. The OP is smart enough to do searches on his own and find the truth.

To the OP-_ Good luck on your build, and please do follow our suggestions to dig deep into the Fal Files for a wealth of knowledge concerning the beloved Fn-Fal rifle.

justashooter in pa
November 22, 2009, 10:47 PM
OP, 4 thou of an inch is not all that stands between you and certain death in the jaws of a killer rabbit that can only be dispatched with an holy hand grenade. 4 thou of an inch is just a target for manufacturers in a wide variety of countries and occupations to agree upon as an acceptance standard.

in experiments done in the late 30's with ww1 surplus ammo from the frankford arsenal that had been declared unserviceable for known excess brittleness it was demonstrated in a series of 1919A4, which have adjustable headspace, that case head seperation does not occur until you get +20 thousandths excess headspace. separation does not reliably occur until you get +30-35 thou. this the result of the controlled firing of tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition at aberdeen. the 1919 was tested in this way to determine the importance of training machine gunners in the fine art of headspace adjustment in field maintinance. it was determined that the issue is less important than the ordnance department examiners originally expected it to be. the 1919 was ideal as the test bed because headspace on them can be easily adjusted and because case head sep does not damage them in any significant manner.

similar experiments were performed with springfield rifles through the alteration of a wide variety of bolts for installation in test rifles, again, in the interest of discovering the importance of quality control in manufacture and maintinance. the results were damned near identical.

this experimentation was also relevant to the selection of brass alloys and heat treatments for use in case forming, as MG generally need brass of specific hardness to avoid case crumpling related feed failures, and need brass of a specific elasticity to ensure that the cases will expand to gas seal the chamber and then relax dimensionally in time for reliable extraction. the alloys selected as suitable for MG use were standardised for the production of all ammo within the application range, and for all ammo intended for other firing platforms in the same chambering, in the interest of uniformity and simplification of logistics.

we can discuss this all week, and i can throw piles of text into this board that is based upon scientific experimentation by highly regarded US ordinance department experts. i have the time. it's just a shame that i have to waste it on a dead horse. knowledge is a good thing if it is deep and wide enuf. if it ain't it's often just a set of handcuffs bunding an otherwise unfettered life.

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