The SAR-48: Springfield Armory reproduces a classic.
My enthusiasm with the arm began in England, where I trained my troops (bearing M-14s) alongside the British army using L1A1 variants. From the moment the English training officer handed me his sleek L1A1, I was hooked. The gun was light, handy and decidedly un-clunky. Everything, to my mind, the M-14 was not!
Since then I have had an on-again, off-again love affair with the FAL (FN/FAL, by the way, stands for Fabrique Nationale/Fusil Automatique Leger--"Light Automatic Rifle"). The FALs available to the civilian market have been superlative arms, though pricey; this latter factor has, of necessity, kept the FAL representation in my gun safe pretty low.
Over a year ago, Springfield Armory, 420 West Main St., Dept. GA, Geneseo, IL 61254, announced that they would, in the manner of their excellent M1 and M-14 look-alikes, be bringing out an FN/FAL copy. Based on the caliber (no pun intended) of their other arms, I eagerly looked forward to the new edition.
This year's NRA show in Seattle gave me a preview of the piece. When I managed to elbow my way to the Springfield Armory table and was able to pry the SAR-48, as it's called, from the fingers of other avid FAL enthusiasts, my suppositions were verified.
The arm indeed appeared to be of the quality I had expected. In fact, from its parkerized finish down to the black composition butt, fore-end and handguard, it is virtually a ringer for the real article.
The gun's title is an acronym for "Semi Auto Rifle," plus "48," which was the U.S. Army's designation (T48) for the FAL when it was being tested in the early 1950s.
I immediately began negotiations with Bob Grueskin, Springfield Armory's advertising director, to obtain a test gun. Though samples were few, for once my powers of persuasion didn't fail me. A week later, a SAR-48 and accessory package arrived at the G&A offices.
The gun immediately drew an admiring group of onlookers who, after working the action and generally giving the rifle a thorough eyeballing, all agreed that it appeared to be a worthy piece of merchandise.
The semi-auto SAR-48 follows the basic pattern of the standard "metric" version FAL used by a score of countries in either semi or full-auto persuasion, with the typical cylindrical flash hider pierced with four parallel sets of vent holes. The flash hider is also grooved to accept the FAL "socket" bayonet.
The SAR-48 weighs 9.5 pounds and measures 43.3 inches from muzzle to rubber buttpad. The 21-inch barrel is chrome lined. Many of the major parts are forged, and some, as per original mil specs, are stamped. The receiver is replete with the standard convenient safety and takedown lever. Bolt release, magazine release operating handle and carrying handle are all virtually the same as those found on the standard FALs.
Though Springfield originally announced that their guns would incorporate some military surplus parts, they have since decided to fabricate the guns from entirely new components. In fact, the parts are made overseas (point of origin as yet unrevealed) and assembled in the U.S. Whatever the procedure, however, it works, for the SAR-48 exudes obvious attention to detail.
Springfield offers each gun complete with an accessory pack that includes a bayonet and scabbard, two 20-round magazines, a sling, blank firing device, cleaning kit and magazine loader. It might be added that all accessories match the high quality of the arm.
"Okay," you say, "enough hyperbole--how does the thing shoot?" Well, as might be expected, I wasted no time finding out. The SAR, and as many boxes of military and civilian 7.62mm/.308 ammo as I could carry were taken to the Angeles Range in Tujunga, CA for a wringing out.
Ammo included PMC 148-grain hardball, Winchester 125-grain soft points and 200-grain Silvertips, Lake City 168-grain National Match, Samson 150-grain hardball and Federal 180-grain soft points. For our first score of "shakedown" rounds, we chose the ever-reliable PMC. These were loaded into the magazine singly (though the loading tool was successfully tried with four clips full of ball later on). To those of you familiar with loading the large military 20-round 7.62mm magazines of FAL and M-14 ilk, it will come as no surprise that little force was needed to top up the sheet metal box.
The magazine clicks positively into its well in the receiver. The first round was chambered effortlessly by pulling the operating handle fully to the rear and letting it go. When the last round is expended, by the way, the bolt locks rearward. The first round in the next magazine can be chambered by either pulling the handle slightly to the rear or by pushing down on the bolt release located in front of the triggerguard.
The trigger pull on the gun was your typical military "spongy," but poundage was not excessive, and once the creep was complete, letoff was surprisingly crisp. Our first string was loosed at a 100-yard distant ram metallic silhouette and, firing about one round per second, elicited 17 clear hits and a trio of worrying shots.
Cases were ejected about 10 to 12 feet at a right angle from the receiver. Though the brass showed some minor clawing from the extractor on the inside of the rims, and the case necks acquired small dimples somewhere in travel twixt chamber and terra firma, the hulls were eminently reloadable. We did notice some brass residue on the dust cover at the rear of the ejection port, where apparently the cases were whipping around the receiver prior to being tossed clear, but this is a common occurrence on even the Belgian-made rifles and is not really of particular concern.
Out of several hundred rounds fired, there was not a hangup, failure to eject or failure to feed. Hundred-yard benchrested groups, with iron sights, averaged in the just-under-3-inch-category, though it was possible to shoot consistent 2-1/2-inchers with the Samson 150-grain hardball.
The SAR-48's rear sight, like that of the FAL, has got to be about the sturdiest military battle sight ever made. It is an almost-indestructable, button-released "L"-shaped peep, which slides across a rail graduated in 100-meter increments from 200 to 600 meters. The rear is also laterally adjustable via a side-mounted, slotted screw.
Fieldstripping the SAR-48 is a snap. Remove the magazine and ensure the chamber is empty. Then simply push up on the takedown lever, and tilt the top portion of the receiver downward. The "tail" of the bolt assembly can now be grasped and pulled rearward to slip the bolt and bolt carrier from the receiver. The dust cover can then be moved back out of its channel and removed.
To disassemble the bolt, press in on the rear of the firing pin (which projects through the back of the bolt carrier), and rotate the bolt out of the carrier. While holding in on the firing pin, take a dummy cartridge and push out the firing pin retainer. The pin and spring can now be removed from their channel in the bolt.
The Springfield SAR-48 certainly lived up to its visual promise. It was reliable, accurate and robust. Despite being manhandled by several people at the range and suffering several takedown demonstrations, the gun functioned with nary a hitch.
Springfield Armory plans to sell the SAR-48 for $899, including the accessory package. By the time this story hits print, deliveries should be well under way. Other projected optional accessories will include scope mounts, heavy barrels and bipods.
After my all-too-abbreviated association with the SAR-48 one thing was readily apparent--Springfield Armory hasn't let the side down. The gun is a fitting tribute to the original FAL design and an arm that can take its place alongside that legendary battle rifle.