DSA 58: the Para FAL from Illinois

DSA Arms was founded in 1987 and incorporated in February 1992 in Illinois. They make a full line of DSA 58 Para FAL rifles using modern processes and improved tooling. Each part is in-house by DSA and is interchangeable with original F.N. metric parts. To be clear, they make not only complete rifles but also spare parts.

The Para FAL
A sexier beast does not exist! The PARA FAL from DSA (DSA 58). It has a gorgeous profile.

As an aside, they make M-16 rifles and parts in-house now. They also make components for the M-2 .50 caliber, MAG-58, and M203 40mm and they offer training to end-users, maintenance, and armorers courses for the FAL.

Variety

My review will cover the standard barrel profile PARA FAL, but DSA offers a plethora of different configurations for their FAL line. Barrel lengths range from 11 inches up to 21 inches. There are various options for stocks, too, some with telescoping stocks like the M-4 carbine, fixed stocks, and side-folders like the PARA model. I must say, I enjoyed perusing their website.

The Para FAL folded stock
Another shot, with the stock folded, just because it looks so cool! That carry handle is a comfortable way to carry the rifle.

Para FAL History

Back in 1946, the Fabrique Nationale Fusil Automatique Leger (which means Light Automatic Rifle), better known as the FN FAL, was born. Interestingly, the original prototype (made by F.N. and Great Britain) was in the German 7.92×33 cartridge that they pioneered during WWII in their Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle. The idea was the same that the Germans had: an intermediate cartridge, a sort of do-it-all round meant for engagements out to 300 yards, where the majority of combat took place.

They then decided that the .280 caliber would be a good compromise for the new FAL. To make a long story short, by 1950, the U.S. and NATO steered the FAL to the 7.62×51 NATO cartridge, which is shorter than the .30-06 but gives somewhat similar performance.

Initially, it seemed that the U.S. was going to adopt the FAL, but in 1959 the U.S. went with the M-14 instead. The rest, as they say, is history. Britain designated the FAL as the L1A1, put it into production, and used it initially in the late 1950s in Malaysia. More NATO countries also adopted the FAL over this period. At one point, over 90 countries used the FAL. Ironically, during the 1982 Falklands war, both combatants (Britain and Argentina) used the FAL against each other.

The FAL and the AK

As the years drew on, the FAL found itself pitted against the AK-47 in many cases. The FAL’s 7.62×71 cartridge was superior to the AK-47’s 7.62×39 for distance and power. I think the FAL is a superior weapon to the A.K. series, in general, because it can reach out further. This is especially true in open country such as deserts.

DSA Arms 58 Para FAL rifle
The profile of the FAL is amazingly fetching. It beats the AK-47 in so many ways.

Eventually, as most countries adopted 5.56mm weapons, the 7.62 NATO FAL began to fall from grace, which is unfortunate, in my opinion. Finally, for the past several years, militaries are beginning to realize that they will benefit from a cartridge with more power at longer ranges than the 5.56mm. So, as usual, we’re coming full circle to a requirement for a round that reaches out over a longer distance. But, of course, they’re still overlooking the one that’s been in use for decades (7.62 NATO) and attempting to re-invent the wheel by coming up with newer, better cartridges. Now there’s nothing wrong with more recent and better, except when you already have one that will work reasonably well and has worked relatively well for decades.

Would I feel well armed carrying a FAL into the battle present day if I had to? Absolutely! It embodies much of what we need in a battle rifle, just as it has for decades. But I digress.

PARA FAL Tech Specs

I believe most gun enthusiasts would agree that there are few guns sexier than the DSA 58 PARA FAL. DSA Arms makes some downright sweet FALs, particularly their PARA FAL. A friend of mine owns one (I’m very aggrieved to admit that I don’t own it), and he was kind enough to allow me to evaluate it.

The DSA 58 testing
Evaluating the DSA 58 was a total barrel of fun!

When I first hefted the DSA 58 PARA FAL, it was instant love. The balance, the feel, the length, the look…all are just utter perfection. It’s a beautiful creation, indeed a work of art.

Upon checking the website, I found an example very close to this one, from which I gleaned the specs. My friend’s PARA FAL differs slightly from their current offering, and I’ll note the differences here. If his memory serves, he bought his about 15 years ago, so the review rifle specs are ever so slightly different.

The main difference is that he reports that his barrel is 14 inches, with the muzzle brake/flash suppressor permanently attached and bringing the barrel length to the legally requisite 16 inches long. Another difference in the test rifle is that it sports an integral bipod that neatly folds up into recesses that are in the handguard. It’s a lovely addition and highly sturdy in construction. That said, it adds a bit of extra weight onto the end of the rifle as the bipod is all-steel construction.

The DSA 58 barrel
The flash suppressor is clearly visible here, as is the bipod, which folds up into recesses in the handguard.

The DSA 58 Barrel and Grip

DSA 68 lists the barrel steel as 4150-11595E Mil-Spec with a chrome-lined chamber and bore. There is a front sling swivel on the side, so the sling can be on the side, which is an excellent option. The cast receiver is made from 4140 fully machined steel and heats treated. It also sports a folding carry handle, making it easier to carry the carbine. 

The Para FAL's lower and upper receivers
The steel upper and lower receivers are of the highest quality and durability.

The pistol grip and handguard are made from glass-filled nylon and are robust yet lightweight. The buttstock is the classic, side-folding PARA type, sturdy yet lightweight, and not cumbersome. It’s surprisingly comfortable and not a compromise in any way. Unlike the folding stock of the A.K. series, which is very much a compromise in that it is not very comfortable for the shooter’s cheek weld, the PARA stock is quite comfortable and practical.

The Para FAL foldable stock
Although it does fold to the side, I had almost no inclination to fold the stock because it is so well done and comfortable in the extended position.
The Para FAL's grip and selector switch
The carry handle, selector switch, and pistol grip can be seen here. Magazines need to be rocked into the mag well in much the same manner as the M-1A platform.

DSA 58: More Specs

The trigger frame is listed as a lightweight alloy. Honestly, I hadn’t even noticed this detail when checking the rifle out. DSA lists the magazines as being the metric variety, 20-round box type. The magazines are exceptionally well built, rivaling those of the M-14/M-1A family. They both look very similar. And, just like the M-14 series, the magazines of the FAL need to be rocked into the magazine well in the same manner: the front of the magazine has a latch that must be engaged, and then the rear is rocked into place. I have to say, this is not my favorite magazine securing system, as it is easy to fumble. I much prefer the M-16 method, wherein the magazine is inserted into the mag well straightly. If there is a criticism that I could point to in this weapons system, that would be the one.

The weapon’s overall length is 35.5 inches, with a folded length of 26.5 inches. Suffice to say; it is a relatively compact carbine.

The DSA 58 folded stock
When the stock is folded, the PARA FAL is fairly compact.

Weight as per the factory says this model is 8.76 pounds, but that’s without the bipod. With the bipod on my friend’s version, I’d say it adds at least a pound, maybe a tad more, so the weight is closer to ten pounds. Although the bipod is excellent and adds versatility, I might consider removing it to lighten the load if it were mine.

The DSA 58 zoomed in folded stock
A closeup of the side folding stock. Unlike the AK series, in which the under folder stock is not very shooter-friendly, the stock of the PARA FAL is very comfortable.

The FAL’s Sights

The sights are pretty good, being of the aperture variety. The wings on the front sight base resemble those of the M-1A series, which are probably the best open sights in the world. The rear “peep,” or aperture, is of the L-shape and can be flipped for a longer or shorter range in that there is a smaller and larger hole. The front sight post can be adjusted for elevation, so zeroing is a simple matter. As with most other aspects of this rifle, the sights are machined from solid steel and appear to be built so that they can withstand a direct nuclear blast. Overbuilt is a very accurate term to describe this firearm, which is a compliment on my part. It is meant to absorb abuse and continues functioning, which it will do.

The DSA Arms sight
The rear sight is of the aperture variety and is L-shaped, so the shooter can choose between two different size apertures. It is incredibly durable. The side sling swivel can also be seen here.
The DSA 58 front sight
Here we see the front sight, which consists of a post and ears, similar to that of the M-1A family. It is adjustable for elevation. Just behind the sight, the gas system adjustment knob is visible.

The DSA 58 Para FAL At The Range

I did not test the PARA FAL for minute accuracy as I had limited time with the rifle. Instead, I wanted to get a feel for its handling characteristics. Happily, it came through with flying colors. It’s certainly more than accurate enough for combat, as my friend reports groups about two inches at 100 yards from a rest (I did not have a rest to use).

More DSA Arms testing
The DSA 58 “PARA FAL” handles so beautifully around buildings and in close quarters, yet has the power to reach out several hundred yards with authority, thanks to its 7.62 NATO chambering.

I can tell you that it maneuvers well through the underbrush and inside buildings. Oh, and be sure to bring top-notch hearing protection because it is LOUD! I mean loud, as in the thunderclap of God loud! That short barrel, in combination with the .308, is wicked. I’ve experienced similar noise levels from my Springfield Armory Scout Squad Rifle in .308 with its 18-inch barrel.

Recoil with the DSA 58 is amazingly mild with this and all other FAL rifles I’ve ever fired (I’ve fired quite a few). However, they did perform a marvel with the recoil system on the FAL series, and the shooter receives a gentle push into the shoulder that is relatively modest for a .308. All in all, the firing characteristics for the DSA 58 PARA FAL are exquisite. In addition, follow-up shots are relatively easy to perform.

And, because it’s.308/7.62 NATO, as the late, great Col. Cooper used to say…”It stays shot!” The 7.62 NATO speaks with authority and hits hard. A solid hit with that caliber tends to stop hostile people from continuing to act out.

In Summary

At the time of this writing, a model similar to the one reviewed here, as per the DSA website, costs $2,075. I’m here to tell you that if I had that spare cash, I’d buy one today, no questions asked. These firearms have the highest build quality and repeatably proven design for decades. Despite the trend of semi-autos going to smaller calibers, I’d be fine carrying the .308. It’s more effective at penetrating building materials, vehicles, and other things that need penetrating. If you can pick one of their firearms up, I urge you to do so.

 

 

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities.

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