My experience so far with my Century L1A1 FAL


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palmettopatriot
March 28, 2010, 10:37 PM
Hello folks. I am new here, never posted. But I am posting this review I wrote about my Century FAL because when I was in the market searching I did not find any FAL posts that were about rifles that were not several years old. Since Century claims their quality has gotten better, I wish to post an up to date review. I hope this helps someone looking to buy an FAL make a wise decision.

I've had my rifle for about 3 weeks by now. I was really impressed when I got it. It appeared well assembled. The bolt release doesn't work worth a crap, but from what I have seen that is the case with all FAL rifles. Your have to pull the bolt back a little to get the bolt to drop after it is caught. This is with all FAL rifles, and is a nuisance to someone who is used to the M-16 platform such as me. I am sure DSA has fixed this issue. My bolt catch is also worn, so I will be replacing it with a DSA unit. I have 300 rounds through it so far, 200 of which after working on the receiver without a jam Ė which brings me to my next segment.

The finish on the Century is pretty tough. I found out just how tough. I was having failures to feed from the left hand side of the mag regardless of ammo used or gas setting. I handloaded some dummy rounds so that I could safely observe the mechanical function of the rifle with the receiver cover off. I noticed that the action was extremely choppy and moved in three stages. I completely degreased the rifle and worked the action many times with no lubricant. I then disassembled it again and looked for wear marks. There were hardly any at all. But I could see that the very coarse and porous protective finish on the inside of the receiver was preventing smooth movement of the bolt carrier. So I polished the absolute hell out of it, beginning with 100 grit sand paper needed just to break the finish to get to the metal. Holy smoke, that is an awesome finish on that receiver. What a pain in the backside to wear through. But finally when I got to the metal I used progressively finer grades of sandpaper until it felt like glass and reflected like a mirror. The rifle now runs like a sewing machine on all gas settings except the highest.

That is one seriously tough finish on the receiver. I don't know if it is some kind of two part epoxy like a more coarse Duracoat or what, but that stuff is nearly indestructible. I am never going to be worried about the receiver rusting. The parts that are numbered do not match, but they are all made by Fabrique Nationale-Herstal. The parts that were part of the supply rifles that went into the kit appear to be in great shape, with the exception of the bolt catch. It feels loose and the individual parts seem like they are loose and they wobble quite a bit. However, function is not impeded and the rifle never fails to lock open on the last round. The original rifle kit parts are parkerized very nicely, as should be expected from any quality firearm from a reputable company like FN. I guess I got lucky with every part except for the bolt catch because these parts all look virtually new. The only part that shows significant wear is the rear aperture sight, but just from adjustment. I am just thankful that it doesnít rattle like I have heard some of them do when they get older. It is tight as a drum, and actually takes some effort to adjust. The brand new barrel and appears to have a moly coating, as it looks precisely like the finish on my M-4 that I know is moly coated. I canít attest to itís hardiness yet but in time I have hope that it will prove durable. Modern finishes are cheap, so I can assume its good stuff.

Now we get into the unfortunate stuff. The malfunctions were annoying and had me concerned about my investment. But that proved fairly easy to fix. As happy as I am with the finish on the receiver, I donít know how anyone in his right mind would have thought that machine would have functioned with that thick, porous, coarse stuff all over the receiver rails and feed ramp. The friction created by heat and the eventual loss of oil through spray from function would make even one that ran great new fail to feed. Even a mentally handicapped person would have known that rifle would not have functioned. This has lead me to believe that the famous trained monkeys at century still just donít give a crap, regardless of their recent image whitewash. First of all, if my rifle was test fired at all they would have known that the thing did not function. This simply was not done. I received it with traces of cosmoline inside the rifle and with metal dust from their shop all inside of it. Sorry will the moron be that does not clean this new rifle before he shoots it, as most average Joes donít. To be honest, I think I just got lucky and got a great rifle. Maybe it was hand picked by the guys at Centerfiresystems.com because I was super polite when I called them, as is the custom where I am from in the South and lead to a friendly but brief conversation. My FFL dealer, also my boss, was just as polite and pleasant when he called to make the final arrangements. Or maybe perhaps I just got lucky that day and they picked a great rifle. I doubt, given the lack of attention to the assembly, that every one of their rifles looks as nice as mine or contains as many pristine parts. One more thing that annoys me is a gap in-between the receiver cover and the upper receiver where they come together. It is as if the upper receiver was cut for a different measurement that was different from the FN spec shape of the receiver cover. This leaves a small, crescent moon shaped gap in-between the upper receiver and the receiver cover. I am buying a UTG picatinny rail receiver and if it does not fit and leaves a gap I am going to add some metal on with my welder, fit it and grind it smooth, and Duracoat it black.

Another thing that I was very disappointed about is the handguards and the buttstock. How cheap are they? You are not going to believe this. Imagine the steel FAL handguards, about 2mm thick steel, right? Well, imagine 2mm thick plastic handguards made to look like the steel ones. Lamentably worthless. Woefully pathetic, even. I can squeeze the handguards and watch them cave in. The best I can describe it is the plastic that is on one of those small portable bottles of hand sanitizer. Yes, itís that soft. That is cheapness to the point of negligence, in my opinion. The buttstock is a little more robust, but not much. I think it is stronger mainly because the oval shape lends it more able to withstand pressure. If you buy this rifle you WILL have to replace the handguards and buttstock. I am replacing that garbage with OD green furniture from Tapco and am currently awaiting its arrival. It will also have handguard and the SAW buttstock and pistol grip, also awaiting arrival. I canít wait because it is going to look so deliciously evil. I would not give the original handguards an estimated life of more than 500 rounds as a gun safe decorator and as a real working field rifle not very long at all. You just have to feel these things to understand how cheap and worthless they are.

Range results were surprising. With crappy Winchester 7.62mm white box NATO stamped brass reloads and Barnaul softpoint I managed to get about 2.5 inch grouping out of my best 5 round string at an outdoor range at a known distance of 100m. I had no high dollar rounds or handloads available. To be honest I donít care what it shoots with them because I donít know anyone who has a head smaller than 2.5 inches. I am not one of these mall ninjas or tacticows obsessed with sub MOA accuracy. You arenít going to shoot that well under stress any way. And what are you going to shoot at beyond about 300m any way? If you canít be satisfied with accuracy fair enough to fit in someoneís skull at 300m then you are probably somewhere you shouldnít be. So I am very happy with the accuracy of this rifle. It does shoot 2 inches low at 100m with the front sight adjusted all of the way to the lowest setting. I did not have a file on hand, but next trip to the range I am bringing one to wear the sight down until I am hitting bulls-eye. I will perform this task carefully and conservatively. It is easy to take metal off, but a huge pain to add it.

In closing if you were considering getting a 7.62 rifle and you chose FAL platform I would suggest you buy a DSA STG-58. I called them when I was shopping around and asked them how much that rifle was. The cost, $945 shipped. This would have been my only cost because FFL transfers are free for me. However, they warned me of a 5 month build time. RightÖno thanks, or so I reasoned then. Hearing all of the white washing hype about Century lead me to decide to trust them. When you consider that the new furniture cost me $120 plus $10 for the buttstock tool I could have spent $70 more and got a DSA STG-58. And of course that $70 could easily have been spent accounting for my time in fixing what should have been a working rifle out of the box. Then again, my Century runs quite well now. And now it is going to look exactly the way I want it to. To outfit the DSA would have cost even more. So my synopsis is buy a DSA, honestly. Or an Entreprise. They offer Tapco furniture already on their rifle out of the box. To be honest, I gave up on Entreprise because they are completely uncooperative with speaking to you about prices, even when you can get someone on the phone. They encourage you on their website to just purchase online, and pay the full ridiculously inflated price. Do not buy a Century unless you want to work on your rifle to get it running. And I can almost guarantee you that if will not look as nice or shoot as straight as mine out of the box given the sorry craftsmanship. My FAL is very nice and so far pretty reliable, but only after considerable extra money invested and time spent fixing it.

Good luck,
Levi

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Birddog1911
March 28, 2010, 11:45 PM
Very nice write-up, and covers all of the bases.

One thing I might mention; I flipped a Century last year, and when I had my smith cut the barrel down, we did some test firing and found it wouldn't cycle. Turns out that in many cases, Century uses a two piece gas piston. Be sure you replace it with a one piece Tapco or other piston.

BruceB
March 29, 2010, 12:49 AM
Levi;

An excellent report, and I particularly liked the fact that you DID NOT APOLOGIZE for its length. Sometimes, I'd swear that some people can't concentrate for more than two (short) sentences, and complain if posts are longer than their ability to comprehend.

I have a very fine example of the DSA SA58 (not the less-expensive STG58) and I agree with your recommendation of the STG58 from DSA. The price is reasonable for what your money buys, based on the STGs I've seen.

We disagree slightly on the bolt hold-open device. My first FAL was issued to me in the Canadian Army about 1960 (C1, NOT C1A1), and since that time I've seldom been without an FAL of some sort. On all of them, perhaps a dozen or so rifles of both inch and metric flavors, the hold-open worked as designed and allowed easy closing of the action. (British L1A1 rifles had their hold-opens de-activated, apparently due to concerns about sand infiltration. It was easy to re-activate them.)

Great write-up, and thanks for putting forth the effort.

evan price
March 29, 2010, 01:52 AM
Now go find some Penguin furniture for your FAL and ditch the Century crap. My Century butt actually broke where the bolt goes through and became unusable quite fast.

The Penguin stuff is cats' meow.

Z-Michigan
March 29, 2010, 10:17 AM
Great review, thanks. However, from what you describe, including the FNH parts and the style of handguards, you do not have an L1A1 but rather one of Century's other FALs, probably their franken-STG-58. Only the G1 and STG-58 used steel handguards, so I don't see why Century would try to replicate that design for anything else.

Easy tests:
-are the front sight ears open or solid? If solid, it's probably a metric; if open, probably a L1A1 (I say probably because a few metrics had open ears)
-is the charging handle a round knob (metric) or lever that folds (L1A1)

I suspect that the "really tough finish" was parkerizing on top of the metal, and your sanding was probably sanding into the metal - which is probably between RC30 and RC40 hardness, so it would be tough to sand!

I have handled and used a DSA SA-58 and a DSA built STG-58 back to back, and honestly I think the STG-58 is at least as good despite being a parts gun instead of an all new gun. The only clear benefit on the SA58 is trigger pull. Otherwise they are so similar it's hard to justify the 50% extra cost for the SA58.

I recently got some Penguin furniture from Gun Parts Guy. It's pretty decent and definitely better than what you describe, but I think the TAPCO furniture is more solid (and more expensive, of course). Of course the Penguin stuff is the original Belgian style while the TAPCO stuff is, ahem, creative. The T48 handguard feels great but doesn't cover or protect the gas piston rod and its return spring.

Robert
March 29, 2010, 10:53 AM
Pics or it didn't happen. ;)
Thanks for the very well written review. I hate to sound like a fan boy, well not really, but for me it is DSA all the way. My rifle was built from a kit with all DSA parts and I could not be happier. The only failure so far was my fault. My chamber is cut tighter than a standard FAL and I loaded my first batch of ammo with an OAL that my rifle did not like.

palmettopatriot
March 30, 2010, 03:19 AM
Thanks for you reply, Z-Michigan,

And thank you very much for providing that information in your reply for the newbies looking for info on this rifle. I have educated myself on the differences of the configurations and national differences. However, I called it an L1A1 because this is what Century calls it. Either an L1A1 or a R1A1. It seems to change every batch. When I did my FFL transfer we actually had to get additional clarifications because on the Centerfire Systems paperwork it was called an FAL, and on the Century paperwork it was called an L1A1. The ATF doesn't care what the retailer calls it so as far as the ATF was concerned I have an L1A1 - regardless of what you and I know it is. Thank again for the data, though.

Oh yes, and I must make an addemdum. I completely forgot to include this in my review and thanks for the reminder. The trigger on my Franken-FAL is exquisite. Very nice and comfortable with very little creep. Mechanically, I have a great rifle. The furniture and inside of the receiver just ticked me off.

Also I want to thank all of the members who accepted this new comer whose first post was a long review with openess. This certainly is a nicer board than most. Thank Providence for that.

Levi

palmettopatriot
March 30, 2010, 03:52 AM
Hi there, Gus,

I will try to remember to post pics as soon as all of my furniture comes in. I got a great deal on a SAW buttstock that a member here was selling on the infamous arfcom. It was factory blemished but a little time with some sandpaper and some Duracoat made it look just fine. Speaking of Duracoat, I am thinking of finishing my CA Bulldog Pug in coyote brown, possibly with an OD green cylinder. The finish on it was never that great but I have been rough with it too.

Levi

palmettopatriot
March 30, 2010, 04:17 AM
Bird Dog,

Actually I had read about Century's pistons. I don't jump into anything woerth over $50 without researching first. Not because I am miserly, but because I am a dirt poor college student. I completely planned on replacing my piston when I got my rifle. However, upon initial dissasembly for cleaning I found that the piston was one piece. I inspected it and found that it appears to be an original part because of the little bit of wear and soot cooked into the metal. I then noticed that someone had welded it. I suppose that they are cutting the pistons and then welding them. Perhaps they figure since a part is no longer a part when it is destroyed, modifying the destroyed part therefore makes it a newly made American part. or I am assuming that is their logic. And I hope it is valid because if not they sent me an illegal rifle. I am not worried about replacing the piston right now because the weld that they made was actually quite good. They used a pretty hard welding rod and ground it down almost unnoticably smooth. It works for me at least for now.

I may indeed contact you about refinishing my Bulldog Pug. PM me with how much you might charge for the whole deal. Thanks.

Levi

palmettopatriot
March 30, 2010, 04:32 AM
Bruce,

I am not disagreeing with you at all! You certainly know more than me about this platform. I am just going by what I've seen on videos. Including the AGI FAL course where the instructor has one hell of a time closing his bolt and finally gives up by relieving the tension on it then letting it go forward. Then again, he was using a Century for the demonstration! One thing that scared the crap out of me, and I wonder if this is supposed to be this way, is when my rifle butt hit the floor the bolt slams shut. I know that it would be stupid of me to walk around with a loaded mag with the bolt open, and nearly impossible for it to go off even when slamming onto a live round - but it just something I would rather prevent. There is a brief moment when I hear that sound even on a rifle I know is unloaded that makes me wonder if I might need clean shorts. I had a junky worthless AK that used to do that too, and I know it was not supposed to. Is the FAL supposed to do that? Remember, guys, this type of rifle is completely new to me.

Levi

BruceB
March 30, 2010, 06:16 AM
Levi;

I see that I'm not the only one 'burning the midnight oil'. I'm at work....what's YOUR excuse?

This business of the hold-open is just one more thing to get used to, I suppose. As a group, hold-opens are usually activated by the follower of an empty magazine and are intended to:

1. alert the shooter that the rifle is empty (the cycling noise is different if the bolt doesn't close), and

2. speed-up the reload by removing the need to cycle the bolt to charge the chamber.

I've long considered the lack of a hold-open to be a major flaw in the AK47/AKM rifles.

Any of the common rifles with hold-open devices will drop the bolt closed if the butt is bumped on the floor, once the empty mag is removed OR a loaded magazine is inserted. They're designed that way, and it's nothing to worry about....just be aware of the fact.

There's no doubt that disengaging an FAL's hold-open takes a firm push, but it really shouldn't be all that difficult. As mentioned, my rifles have never given trouble in this respect, and my current DSA only needs about five (estimated!) pounds of "push".

Sounds like maybe a bit of polishing might be indicated.

iamkris
March 30, 2010, 07:26 AM
Your experience mimics mine. I've seen and shot several Century FALs...in addition to VZ58s, CETMEs, Golanis, WASR10s and G3/C91s. Century never fails to disappoint me with their build quality. They are a great company because they bring many arms to the market at good prices, but the buyer needs to realize they will likely have to do a lot of work themselves to make the gun "right". I've only seen 2 Century rifles (one of my CETMEs and one of my WASRs) that are 100% out of the box. All the rest had crap furniture, canted gas blocks, twisted sights, etc, etc, etc.

My advise...if you have the time and money and there are substitutes out there for a Century (e.g., FALs) there is no reason to buy the Century...you will likely end up spending more in the long run for less gun.

Are there exceptions? Absolutely...there are plenty. My own exprience in owning Century guns, though, is that 75% more more of them need significant work to be "right".

palmettopatriot
March 31, 2010, 01:08 AM
Bruce,

I work at night as well. I am not complaining about the last round hold open. Just like with the M-16 platform, you can certainly tell when the rifle has ran out. But with an FAL the "bang, bang, bang, *POP!*" is much more pronounced and menacing, like everything else with a 7.62mm. I love my rifle. I just hate the furnature. That I had to polish the inside of the receiver is not all that bad. I got to take everything apart and reveiw what I watched on AGI's FAL video while I was waiting for it to arrive. It sort of makes the rifle more mine too, in a silly sort of sentimental way. On another note while I had it apart working on it my not so old lady, who is new to weapons but very much interested in shooting them and learning their inner workings, exclaimed how the bolt carrier was "cute" because of the tail. When I told her what it was called she disbelieved me so much that she googled it. She hasn't fired it yet but can't wait to. Though she admitted that she was afraid of it when she saw the size of the rounds. I explained to her that it is just a big baby, just like the 1911. A big, dangerous baby.

Levi

palmettopatriot
April 6, 2010, 12:55 AM
The pics as promised:

http://img16.imageshack.us/i/1003307l.jpg/

http://img406.imageshack.us/i/1003308.jpg/

http://img200.imageshack.us/i/1003309f.jpg/

Levi

buttrap
April 6, 2010, 04:16 AM
My guess is most of the issues where do to the usual out of spec Hess receiver as they are kind of hit or miss. The older ones used Imbel receivers and the main issue was a odd worn out part or 2 that was easy to replace. I dont see how they call the gun you have in the pics a L1A1 though as its a metric gun with a L1A1 style looks like a Hess metric upper receiver. Bugs out and working still sounds good to me though.

essayons21
April 6, 2010, 01:13 PM
Thanks for the review.

I've bought two Century rifles, a WASR-10/63 and a MAS-49/56 .308 conversion. Both are widely reviled as being junk on the internet, however I must have gotten lucky because both are flawlessly reliable.

I've been in the market for a FAL for awhile, but they are a bit too pricey for me at the moment. My attitude towards Century's is to never buy them sight-unseen. I see Century's at gunshows in the 600-800 range, maybe it is time to bite. As long as it is mechanically reliable, I don't mind fixing up the fit and finish a little.

As to the handguard issue, I see bins of FAL hardware at my local gunshows. I've never really priced them, but I'm sure there is a cheaper, but quality alternative to the Tapco set.

Smoothone566
April 15, 2010, 04:16 PM
I was needing some information...
I have a G3 sporter from Century International Arms, and its serial number is G27266. The rifle shoots fine, no real problems, other than when I first got the rifle it had a burr on the upper part of the bolt carrier. This lead to a FTF, but took a peice of emory cloth to it and filed down the burr. With that said, it has not had any more FTF, and shoots very accurate. I have notice that the bolthead does not have any sharp edges on the side of it, and was wondering if maybe someone could verify if I had a gound bolthead or not? Any information will be greatly appreciated.

Z-Michigan
April 15, 2010, 05:48 PM
I would suggest you start a new thread, as your question has almost nothing to do with this thread.

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