Quantcast

Imbel L1A1 FAL inch or metric pattern?

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing and Repairs' started by JeffTC, Jul 10, 2020.

  1. JeffTC

    JeffTC Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2019
    Messages:
    16
    Location:
    Montana, USA
    Hello all. Got a question for all you FN FAL aficionados out there, I recently bought an FN FAL style rifle at a pawn shop, This is the first FN FAL I've ever had or used and it's a very different animal than the AR style weapons I'm familiar with. After spending many hours of research and trial and error I finally managed to get the rifle to cycle properly (previous owner had the gas valve turned off and the regulator was set wrong). Now that it's operational, I'm looking to get more mags for it. I notice that mags are available in either inch or metric pattern. From what I've read, I think my rifle is an inch pattern, but I'm not certain. Before I waste my money on the wrong mags I thought I'd see if anyone here could help me identify which type of FAL I have, inch or metric. I've tried searching for a users manual from Imbel that might answer these questions for me, but I can't seem to find one from this manufacturer.

    On the right side of the receiver:
    "L1A1 Sporter CAL. .308
    Receiver made by IMBEL - Brazil
    Imported by CAI St. Alb VT"

    How can I identify and verify inch vs metric pattern rifles? Thanks all for your help with this!
     
    GBExpat likes this.
  2. dh1633pm
    • Contributing Member

    dh1633pm Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2009
    Messages:
    2,914
    Location:
    Central New York
    I would be pretty sure that it is inch pattern. If it is inch pattern, it was my understanding that inch pattern would also take metric mags and that the other way around doesn't work (metric mags in inch rifles).
     
    JeffTC and GBExpat like this.
  3. GBExpat

    GBExpat Member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2007
    Messages:
    6,408
    Location:
    Rural, far beyond the beltway, Northern Virginia,
    Welcome to THR, JeffTC!

    I bought that same type of rifle (same markings) in 2001. It was my first "FAL". I have always referred to it as my FrankenFAL and used it as an accurate walkabout Beater. Great for wand'ring and you don't mind if you drop it. ;)

    Hopefully, yours came to you in better condition than did mine.

    The Lower on mine is configured for Metric magazines. I have always heard/read what dh1633pm stated about the one-way interchangeability of the two styles of mags, but I have never had access to an Inch Lower to test that.

    Shortly after acquiring my FrankenFAL, I started building them. I only built Metric rifles, mostly off of StG-58 Kits.

    I just dug out the old FrankenFAL prior to composing this response to check out my memory of the thing. Now I am going to have to take it for a walk for the first time in many years. Thanks for that! :)

    EDIT: Here is a vid showing the difference in the mags. Geez, too many of the guys that make such vid reeeeeeally like to hear the sound of their own voices.

     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2020
    Gordon and JeffTC like this.
  4. dh1633pm
    • Contributing Member

    dh1633pm Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2009
    Messages:
    2,914
    Location:
    Central New York
    I had a Century Arms model sort of marked the same way and I used Inch Patter Mags on mine so I don't know too much past that since I never tried Metric. I did figure it was a frankengun coming from Century but I had excellent reliability from it. It wasn't the most accurate rifle I ever owned, but I didn't expect it to be either. I sold it when the Safe Act was passed. I used the funds to get a 700 Milspec. So I can't really do any testing or comparisons.
     
    GBExpat and JeffTC like this.
  5. BBBBill

    BBBBill Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2005
    Messages:
    2,564
    Location:
    Alabama and Florida
    IMBEL made metric receivers. I doubt that they changed anything for Century as Century would be too cheap to want to pay for anything extra. As noted metric mags will work in an inch receiver, but not the other way round without modifications to one or the other. The self for the tab on the front of the magazine is cut deeper/wider on the inch pattern rifles. The metric shelf is too small for an inch tab. Metric mags are much more common and less expensive anyway.

    As for the differences in inch and metric, the actual dimension differences that affect fit are few. Most parts interchange between the two either as an individual part or as an assembly. So lots of FrankenFALs have been assembled from parts from both types. Example - The pistol grip of the metric will not fit an inch lower and the grip of an inch will not fit a metric lower, but the complete lower receiver assembly will swap readily with a metric lower receiver. Inch pattern barrels will work on a metric upper and vice versa. Matric barrels and uppers have timed threads so that the barrel turns in to the pre torque position the same every time (well, they're supposed to, Lol!). Inch barrels and uppers are not timed and use a breeching washer between the barrel shoulder and receiver to set the pre torque position. I have had to make my own breeching washers for a few metric builds because they were too stupid to know that they were supposed to time properly without one.

    Some other parts are specific to the particular model and some of that is not a metric/inch thing.

    The metric/inch designation actually refers more to the method of measurement and the way the production drawings were dimensioned more than any difference in parts. That is a brief description and there's more to it than that, but the basics are there.
     
  6. Bwana John

    Bwana John Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2004
    Messages:
    2,434
    "IMBEL made metric receivers. I doubt that Century changed anything"
    Actually for the L1A1 model Century cut the Imbel receivers charging handle slot to accept the inch folding charging handle, and made a "hybrid" beak cut that will supposedly accept inch and metric mags. If inch mags fit the OPs rifle that is what will usually work best. If metric mags are totally dependable they are the least expensive. Century used at least 4 or 5 different receivers, with marked and unmarked Imbels and Argis being the best, and Hesse usually being the worst.

    "metric mags will work in an inch receiver"
    Not usually on a "real" inch receiver, but possibly on a Century hybrid.

    "The metric/inch designation actually refers more to the method of measurement
    "
    If you look at the specs on paper the "inch" rifles (UK, Aussie, NZ) specs use the metric system (SI), and the "metric" rifles (Belgium, Austria, SA, Brazil, Argentina) specs use the Imperial or US system. Backwards yes, but in common usage that is how they are labled.

    The "Indian" pattern rifle uses... Kind of both, but closer to inch.

    " It wasn't the most accurate rifle I ever owned"
    True, and because of so many different and sometimes worn out parts used in rebuilds not the most dependable. "Real" ones usually do quite a bit better.

    If the OP can post a picture of the inside front of the mag well, determining it it is cut for metric, hybrid, or inch mags is easier.

    There are so many different types of FALs that nailing down absolute specifications for a " correct" model is almost impossable. Never mind a rebuild by Century, or a rebuild of a rebuild by Bubba.

    The FALFiles is a much better forum for information on these rifles, but is currently down due to hacking.
     
    Gordon, rbernie, db_tanker and 2 others like this.
  7. JeffTC

    JeffTC Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2019
    Messages:
    16
    Location:
    Montana, USA
    Hi Bwana John, thanks for responding. I took some pics of the mag well and of the 20rd magazine that came with the rifle. Based on everything I've learned so far from yours and everyone else's replies to my post it looks like I've got a real frankenFal here. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like I've got a metric receiver with an inch pattern magwell and an metric magazine. Do you agree?

    20200710_134930.jpg 20200710_134947.jpg 20200710_135201.jpg 20200710_135345.jpg
     
    Gordon and GBExpat like this.
  8. JeffTC

    JeffTC Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2019
    Messages:
    16
    Location:
    Montana, USA
    Hi BBBBill, thanks for your reply. Based on yours and the replies of others to my post, it looks as though the magwell at least is inch patterned, though the mag that came with the rifle when I bought is metric. I posted some pics in response to Bwana John's reply, take a look, tell me what you think. Thanks!
     
    GBExpat likes this.
  9. GBExpat

    GBExpat Member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2007
    Messages:
    6,408
    Location:
    Rural, far beyond the beltway, Northern Virginia,
    That sure looks like an Inch pattern magwell to me.

    First I have ever actually seen. :)
     
    JeffTC likes this.
  10. JeffTC

    JeffTC Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2019
    Messages:
    16
    Location:
    Montana, USA
    Hi there dh1633pm, thanks for your reply! It looks as though the magwell is inch patterned, though the mag that came with the rifle when I bought is metric. I posted some pics for Bwana John if you'd like to take a look.
     
    Gordon likes this.
  11. Bwana John

    Bwana John Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2004
    Messages:
    2,434
    . Do you agree?

    Yes. And it appears to have The hybrid cut. The good news is that with very little effort, a custom inch to para converter,and a reasonable chunk of change you can convert your rifle to the Para configuration, the veryest mostest coolest pattern. The only real "gunsmithin" would be changing out the gasblock for a solid eared lower front sight.

    Sooooo much more convenient for jumpin out of an airplane, or unassing a APC with.:cool:
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2020
    Gordon and JeffTC like this.
  12. JeffTC

    JeffTC Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2019
    Messages:
    16
    Location:
    Montana, USA
    Yeah, as I mentioned to Bwana John, it looks like I've got a real frankenFal here. Every picture I've seen online of FAL rifles have a different stock too, mine has a thumb hole stock. There does seem to be some play when the metric mag I have for it is inserted, but that does not seem to affect it's reliability. Once I figured out the gas regulator setting, I was able to rapid fire the 20rd metric mag 3 times with no jams. I can't speak yet as to the accuracy of the rifle as I was not firing at a paper target from a set range. I will say it took some major chunks out of a rotted stump I was firing at from about 30 yards away though! I look forward to testing out it's accuracy, but that will have to wait a little while as I'm now out of ammo for it!
     
    Gordon likes this.
  13. JeffTC

    JeffTC Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2019
    Messages:
    16
    Location:
    Montana, USA
    Hmmm, para configuration, I'm not familiar with that. Sounds interesting though. I'll have to do some research on that. Thanks for the tip about the hybrid cut, as I said, this is my firs FAL so I'm not too familiar with them yet.
     
    Bwana John likes this.
  14. Bwana John

    Bwana John Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2004
    Messages:
    2,434
    Oh dear, the butthole sporter! Even with the special adapter for the Para configuration, it may not work, and possibly a real Commonwealth buttstock and pistolgrip might not even fit. Easiest way to unbutthole it would by swaping out the lower for a real inch, or metric one. Metric and inch lower internals do not interchange, but complete metric and inch lowers do. If you replaced it with a metric lower you would need to put the inch rear sight on it to correctly regulate the sights.

    enuine-Fabrique-Nationale-F-N-FAL-L-A-R-Paratrooper-Model-50-63_101129555_70986_4D80FD6B24D20010.jpg

    Also looks like a scope mount topcover, make sure those screws that hold it on the upper are not touching anything as the action works, and locktite them so they can't come loose under recoil
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2020
    Gordon and JeffTC like this.
  15. JeffTC

    JeffTC Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2019
    Messages:
    16
    Location:
    Montana, USA
    Swapping out the lower sounds like it would be a bit pricey. Well worth it I'm sure, but would have to be something I'll have to save up a few months for. It does have a picatinny rail mounted on top, I've had a look inside and it looks like it's in no danger of interfering with the mechanical operation of the weapon, That's a good tip about the locktite, i'd like to get a suitable scope for it and securing the rail with locktite will help keep the zero from drifting as the recoil knocks everything around.
     
  16. Bwana John

    Bwana John Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2004
    Messages:
    2,434
    ARS prices the inch striped lower at $85, but presently out of stock https://www.arizonaresponsesystems.com/product/lower-receiver-assembly-with-return-spring-tube/ I think the grip lug for the pistolgrip was ground off the lower for the butthole sporter. ARS is slightly expensive, but worth it. The owner really is an arrogant bastard (his words) but the very best FAL armorer in the US.
     
    hso and Gordon like this.
  17. GBExpat

    GBExpat Member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2007
    Messages:
    6,408
    Location:
    Rural, far beyond the beltway, Northern Virginia,
    That is something that I had completely forgotten ... mine also came with the dreaded thumbhole stock. I replaced it with a standard L1A1 black "plastic" stock asap.
     
  18. Bwana John

    Bwana John Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2004
    Messages:
    2,434
    Did a standard inch buttstock and pistol grip work without modification? That would be the cheapest, simplest way ...(WITH the buttock removal tool! You might shoot out yer eye without it. I made one from an old cleaning rod, but the proper tool makes it much easier)

    Here is the ARS tutorial on changing out the butthole stock correctly, I think I would just buy a replacement lower.
    https://www.arizonaresponsesystems.com/tutorial-restoring-the-cai-l1a1-thumbhole-sporter/
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2020
    HankC likes this.
  19. HankC

    HankC Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2005
    Messages:
    1,324
    Location:
    SW Ohio
    Inch parts are getting hard to find and expensive. I bought a used Century L1A1 thumbhole with Imbel receiver many years ago and converted to standard stock, had to make a grip screw nut, was able to acquire all the parts I need while Century was making US parts and sell as part set rather cheap. Will be hard to find US Inch parts now and you need US parts to meet 922 part count to be legal. Those old Century VT plant made L1A1s with Imbel receivers are actually very good shooters but the thumb hole stock is hard to love.
     
    Gordon likes this.
  20. GBExpat

    GBExpat Member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2007
    Messages:
    6,408
    Location:
    Rural, far beyond the beltway, Northern Virginia,
    <shrug> I do not know as it has been 18-19 years since I accomplished the change. I will have to take a closer look at the FrankenFAL and the thumbhole stock that I removed (it is around here somewhere).

    I am sure that I did not swap-out the Lower.
     
  21. NuJudge

    NuJudge Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2006
    Messages:
    757
    Location:
    SE Michigan
    I've been married 24 years. My wife bought me a wedding present, a Century L1A1, with the thumbhole stock. The receiver was apparently made by Imbel in Brazil, but it is only marked as being made by Century in VT. I found the circumcised barrel and thumbhole stock ugly, so I restored it, mostly with US-made parts. When Century installed the thumbhole stock, they butchered the attachment for the pistol grip, and you will have to find an adapter. The Commonwealth butt went on with no issues. I have shot rifle matches with it, shot deer, plinked, and really enjoyed it. It does have a metric magazine cut. I will probably send it to the Gunplummer to have that altered so it will take Inch magazines. It is hard on many softer types of brass, bending the rim on extraction, even though I turn the gas down to minimum, have extra strength springs, and a small diameter piston. It will not quite hold the 10 ring at 200 yards, but it is a lot of fun. It is pleasant to shoot.
     
  22. Bcwitt

    Bcwitt Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2020
    Messages:
    117
    The folding handle is an inch feature. Inch mags are better anyway.
     
  23. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2003
    Messages:
    59,635
    Location:
    0 hrs east of TN
    https://www.forgottenweapons.com/fal-paratrooper-50-63/

    I have a Rosario Argi Para and a Rhodie fixed.

    We have some good FAL guys here, but if you bop over to FalFiles you'll find the largest concentration of FALaholics, but be prepared for some rough sorts.
     
  24. wiscoaster

    wiscoaster Member

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2019
    Messages:
    1,820
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    Welcome to the forum and kudos to you for recognizing a great firearm find when you happen to spot it in a pawn shop!! :thumbup:
     
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice