The Cold War was a great time for rifles. I mean real rifles, oit light little carbines. Big, full-powered battel rifles ruled the western military forces. The two rifles that filled the hands of European Cold Warriors were the FN FAL and the G3. These two rifles defined a genre of battle rifles and would serve democracy well. Oddly enough, one only exists because of the other.
The FN FAL came first and hit the European market in 1953. Design began right after WW2, and the rifle went through numerous incarnations. The original design was relatively high-performing. Due to the American desire for a 7.62 round, the rifle founds itself chambering the 7.62 NATO round. The FN FAL saw massive adoption across Europe, and even South America, Africa, and beyond. The FN FAL was adopted by over 90 countries and became known as the Right Arms of the Free world.
The Germans want the FAL. Most countries licensed the FAL from FN and built their own. Germany wanted to do the same thing, but the Belgians refused to license the rifle. The Belgians were still understandably sore about being occupied during two World Wars. They refused, so the Germans hooked up with the Spanish and CETME rifle, and they began developing the G3 rifle. Thus the G3 was born, and the rifle saw adoption by about a dozen or so different countries.
FAL Vs. G3 Operating System
The biggest difference between the two comes from the internal operating system. The FN FAL utilizes the short-stroke gas piston system. Quite nice and refined for the time. The FAL runs very clean with a limited recoil impulse. To this day, the short-stroke gas piston system is one of the premier options for modern rifles.
The G3 uses the famed roller delayed blowback operating system. A roller delayed system works efficiently and reliably. It also runs dirty with a fair bit of recoil. The G3’s system is incredibly reliable, and HK made their name with the roller delayed system putting it in everything from submachine guns to light machine guns.
Is one better than the other? Tough to say. The G3 works very well for a military force, but the FN FAL’s more refined and better suited for a professional rifleman.
In a battle of rifles, accuracy matters. What good is a rifle if it doesn’t shoot straight? Your stock standard FAL and G3 have acceptable but not exceptional accuracy. Both guns are in that 3 MOA or so category with basic military-grade FMJ ammunition.
With that being said, the sights are both excellent for cold war battle rifles. I prefer the FN FAL sights, but the G3 sights are very versatile. It’s a bit of a preference issue rather than a definite objectively better option.
While the stock standard models match each other inaccuracy, the G3 can be heavily accurized. It can be made into an accurate platform with better drop-in triggers, and it’s easy to add an optic too. Ultimately the G3 wins, even if the stock trigger sucks.
Ergonomically the rifles are similar in a number of ways. Both are big, heavy rifles. They are designed with long, fixed stocks. However, there are plenty of small differences worth noting.
The FAL tends to be a little heavier than the G3 but by a fraction of a pound. FN made a front-heavy rifle that’s noticeable with the standard rifle but even more noticeable with the paratrooper models.
If you plan to shoot a lot in a short period of time, you can expect the handguard to get plenty hot. This isn’t a big issue with the G3. It’s one of the faults of the short-stroke gas piston. If you don’t plan to do repeated mag dumps, it likely won’t be a major issue.
Where the G3 gets points taken away is recoil. Oh boy, the FAL feels soft compared to the G3. There is a reason why roller delayed rifles have never been popular outside of the G3 series. They work fine for subguns but hit hard with rifles.
Both guns have a magazine release placed in front of the trigger. Neither seems to have any major flaws and is easy to use. That’s a preference point. However, running reloads on the FAL is much faster. The FAL has a last-round bolt hold open, and the G3 does not. With the FAL, you know when it’s time to reload, and the step of working the bolt is eliminated. The G3 takes about a second longer to reload.
Both guns have left-side charging handles that make left-handed shooters feel left out. The G3’s is placed way up above the barrel and can be awkward to use. The FAL’s is right over the magazine and is a much shorter reach.
Both rifles tend to perform extremely well in terms of reliability. If you only use good, factory-loaded ammunition, you’d never notice a difference. If for whatever reason, you tossed in the worst ammo ever produced, it would probably run better in the G3. The roller delayed system is less sensitive. However, you’d have to be slinging some pretty bottom-of-the-barrel ammunition.
The Cold War
When you have a hankering for full-powered battel rifles, the G3 and FAL are both two of the best. They’ve proved it with worldwide military service and a fascinating degree of success. These two rifles are clear winners and dominated the European military world for a reason. It’s tough to go wrong with either.