Full-Auto FAL: The Select-Fire Springfield SAR-48

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Full-Auto FAL: The Select-Fire Springfield SAR-48

December 30th, 2021

1:56 runtime

Fans of military small arms history likely know the storied history of the FAL 7.62mm design, and how it almost unseated the revered rifle we now know as the M14. But did you know that Springfield Armory used to sell its own version of this classic design in its SAR-48 series of rifles?

First, a Little History

While the M14 went on to become the service rifle of the United States and led to the adoption of the 7.62x51mm round as the NATO round of choice (to learn more about the relationship of the 7.62 NATO round to the .30, read Wayne van Zwoll’s article on the topic), the FAL was used by more than 90 countries and is still in use today.

Man testing a Springfield SAR-48 rifle
The FAL-pattern SAR-48 was manufactured in Brazil and imported by Springfield in the 1980’s.

The original rifle that was manufactured in Belgium in the 1940’s was supposed to be a rifle that fired the 7.92x33mm Kurz cartridge the Germans created during World War II that was fired by the Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle. However, the NATO push for the 7.62mm round would ensure the FAL would chamber this much more powerful cartridge.

Gas system of SAR-48
The gas system is fitted with a gas regulator behind the front sight this allows adjustment of the gas system in response to environmental conditions.

The FAL is known to be a very durable and reliable rifle, with one of the main reasons being its gas system. The gas system is driven by a short-stroke, spring-loaded piston that runs above the barrel, and the locking mechanism is called a tilting breechblock. To lock, it drops down into a solid shoulder of metal in the heavy receiver.

Paratrooper SAR-48
Paratrooper models of the SAR-48 had a folding metal stock. As a result, its recoil spring is mounted in the top cover of the receiver.

The gas system is fitted with a gas regulator behind the front sight that allows adjustment of the gas system in response to environmental conditions. Almost this alone made the rifle very reliable. The ability for soldiers to apply more gas to the system in order to overcome harsh conditions is part of its capable performance in the field. The action design of this system was from the mind of John M. Browning’s protégé, Dieudonné Saive (the engineer who also worked with Browning on the revered P-35 pistol).

A New Source

Fast forward to the mid-1980’s, and the popular rifle was being manufactured in Brazil by Indústria de Material Bélico do Brasil, or IMBEL. Springfield Armory worked with IMBEL to produce a civilian-legal version of the FAL rifle for its U.S. customers, which would become the SAR-48.

Close up of SAR-48 stamping
On the left side of the rifle above the selector switch, there is the marking SAR-48, 7.62, and the Springfield seal with the crossed cannons. Note the full-auto “A” selector setting in the forward position.

In addition to the semi-automatic version, a small number of select-fire models were also offered before the banning of their manufacturing in 1986 (learn more about the ban and the NFA in our NFA video and article).

Man holding SAR-48 rifle
The full-auto SAR-48 variant tested was a blast to shoot.

Springfield Armory offered numerous variations of the SAR-48. They offered a 21” barreled Standard Model, 18” and 21” Paratrooper rifles, 18” barreled Bush rifles, and Heavy Barrel models. The Paratrooper rifle featured a folding stock, and as a result, its recoil spring assembly is integrated into the top cover of the receiver.

Selector switch on the SAR-48
The right side of the rifle’s receiver is stamped Springfield Armory, Geneseo, IL, USA.

The Heavy Barrel SAR-48 was constructed with Israeli military parts on an IMBEL receiver. In addition, a thumbhole-stocked SAR-4800 version was offered in response to new firearms legislation in 1989. However, the SAR-48 and its variants have not been offered by Springfield Armory for many years.

A Rare Find

We recently had an opportunity to go hands-on with an SAR-48, and it is a fantastic rifle. If you ever see one out and about just know it’s a great system and you would do well to pick it up. I guarantee you as a gun enthusiast it would be a rifle you’d proudly have in your safe. And the one we had was not just any SAR-48, but one converted into a select-fire gun before the 1986 cut-off date to register new machine guns. That means that this SAR-48 is a fully automatic transferable machine gun.

SAR-48 rifle and magazine
The SAR-48 takes detachable box magazines that can hold 20 or 30 rounds of the 7.62 NATO cartridge.

You can find guns like this SAR-48 for sale on GunSpot.com. Yes, machine guns just like this can be bought by civilians like you who can legally own them.

Editor’s Note: Please be sure to check out The Armory Life Forum, where you can comment about our daily articles, as well as just talk guns and gear. Click the “Go To Forum Thread” link below to jump in and discuss this article and much more!

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