Greatest semi-auto battle rifle in history..

Dec 13, 2011
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#1
Obviously, in the same vein as the thread on bolt actions..

What in your opinion is the best semi automatic battle rifle?
**No intermediate power cartridge rifles**
*Pre-1991/dissolution of Soviet Russia only*

I'm gonna go ahead and vote FG42 as unequivocally the best battle rifle from WW2 to many years beyond. On a side note, does anyone know why the sturmgewehr got all the attention/development at the end of/after WW2 when IMO the FG42 seems much more deserving...? Aside from the STG using a much more controllable chambering, is there any other reason as far as technical & design issues? For one, to my eyes, the FG's operating mechanism seems a lot simpler to make and get it running correctly than the crazy delayed roller blowback of the Stg/CETME/G3..
 

jbell

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#4
Being a Marine the obvious choice is the M14 (even though I am a post M14 Marine, becoming a Marine in early September 1996), and I too love the M1. I also am very fond of the HK91 or Cetme rifles, but in my opinion I think there is a better rifle out there...

I think the FNFAL is probably the best all out full power semi-auto battle rifle ever created. Thoughts??
 
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diverdon

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Dec 21, 2011
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#5
Being a Marine the obvious choice is the M14 (even though I am a post M14 Marine, becoming a Marine in early September 1996), and I too love the M1. I also am very fond of the HK91 or Cetme rifles, but in my opinion I think there is a better rifle out there...

I think the FNFAL is probably the best all out full power semi-auto battle rifle ever created. Thoughts??
The FNFAL is robust in daily use, but the accuracy is half that of an M1A or Garand. Further the steel used in the FNFAL needs a lot more oil to keep the rust off it.
 
Feb 20, 2017
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#6
SLR L1A1. First rifle I ever shot. Standard NATO ammo only needs position four, make it five (or possibly six) if the rifle gets seriously filthy between cleanings (Long Tan, anyone?). If the ammo is really hot (Indian machine gun ammo, possibly) you can tuen the gas system down to position one, before cutting off the gas completely.

We were trained to remove gas parts first, on the basis that if you were attacked, you only needed the working parts, i.e. breech block and breech block carrier, to operate the rifle. Any gun-writer or so-called expert who tells you to start with the working parts, is talking out his back end. Cross-cuts on breechblock carrier do work, to keep rifle going.

The peep back sight uses opposing screws, just like the barrel-mounted backlight on my Brno .30-06, which means that you can finely adjust the windage and then tighten up the screws so that it will not move. Also, you can turn those screws with a bread and butter knife, or equivalent piece of metal, rather than opening up your cleaning kit to grab the multi-tool.

This is my opinion and I respect other ex-service member’s (and current service member’s) views on this matter.
 

Strykervet

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Jun 5, 2011
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#7
It's commonly said to be FAL --the "Right Arm of the Free World" it was in use by what, 50+ countries? Still used today in fact. It's a solid rifle and well designed for the most part. Not accurate per se, but it wasn't supposed to be really. It's a battle rifle where volume of fire was part of the doctrine. Also, FN would license for free anyone that wanted to use it post WW2, it was their gift for being liberated. It was ahead of it's time when it came out.

Today it's still solid, even the upgrades you make to one don't really change the weapon, mostly all cosmetic or ergonomic. I have an STG58/SA58 folder that's tricked out and it's a beast, I'd probably bet my life on it but I still prefer an one AR or another. It's heavy and most have an atrocious trigger pull but this one has a Jard 2 stage and is about as good as many AR 2 stage triggers.

But the FAL's record can't hardly be beat. It's the "in between" in battle rifles. Not as accurate as the M14 and as accurate as HK91, not as light as the HK91 and on par or heavier even than the M14, depending, it has substantial recoil, but less than the HK91 and more than the M14. It's reliable, as much if not moreso than the others, and in general "the best all around" battle rifle. Many versions were made and some better than others, same for magazines. Best FAL is the Austrian STG58 and the Austrian or IMI mags. A tricked out STG 58 w/Steyr bbl. is actually a nice rifle.

AR10 is in there too, but I'm not sure how well the Armalite AR10 stacked up but I'd imagine it'd be the best, however, only Sudan and maybe one other country adopted the AR10 when it came out. Later iterations were better and when Stoner got his hands back on it, well, you know the rest there.

Stoner's SR25 rifle came out in 90 or 91 but it was technically a sniper rifle; if you want to consider it in the lineup, well, it's the best by far.
 
Feb 14, 2017
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#10
The AG42 is on my radar for it's good looks, but I've shot my brothers Hakim (functionally identical liscenced copy) a lot and the gun is a little clunky to operate and a bit unwieldy.
The 510, while an excellent rifle just doesn't gain any sex points in the looks department.
 

flyer

Sergeant of the Hide
Apr 25, 2018
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#11
I'm guessing you are disqualifying the AKs and ARs due to intermediate cartridge.

M14 is out because it was barely fielded in any conflict. Cetme is out because they kind of suck. Dragonuv, M76 and the Iraqui AK derivative were not really used as a main battle rifle, they were snipers.

The AR10 was issued in some banana republics but not enough for my consideration.

That leaves the FAL, M1 Garand and BAR along with some oddballs like the Sigs, Beretta BM59s (and derivatives), Valmets and Galils.

The greatest combination of reliability, ergonomics and firepower goes to the FAL. The greatest combat history and battlefield impact goes to the Garand and if you want to look like a badass, bring a BAR.
 
Feb 14, 2017
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#13
The MAS49 was also ahead of Stoner with DI. But both of those earlier rifles have a simpler system where the gas just hits a flat face and thats it. No gas key or gas sent down into the carrier.
 

OLD308

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Jun 8, 2018
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#15
HK 91 for reliability, accuracy and genius design.
FAL for function only.
M14 causes nothing is more Americans or cool.
 

W54/XM-388

Online Training Member
Oct 1, 2005
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#20
To start with, when it comes to military sem-auto battle rifles, just about all of them are full auto or select fire.

I'd say the best is the M16/M4 based on that design and cartridge type in the end being the one everybody aspired to.
Even the Russian little green men in Crimea had those when possible, because when it really counts for an average infantry "assault" rifle the M16/M4 fits the bill like a glove.

The G3 / FN-FAL / M14 and AK-47, AK74 all did good service but in the end it's hard to argue that all things taken into account including amount of ammo carried it's hard to argue against. The soviets even had to agree which is why they started fielding the AK-74

You'll always need something firing a bigger / heavier caliber for support and longer range, that is where an AR-10 type platform or bolt gun or true belt fed machine gun comes into play.

Even if we have a caliber change eventually, the M16/M4/AR-10 platform will probably see use for a long time. Even countries like Israel where they have a different home grown design like the Tavor, still favour the M16/M4 platform for those at the tip of the force.
 

sandwarrior

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Apr 21, 2007
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#21
I don't think it's an accurate comparison without intermediate cartridges. They kill every bit as well as the full power rounds and you can carry more of them. So, I'm going with the M16 and all variants.

That said, if I were to stick with full power rounds, the FAL is the clear winner. It beat the M14 in trials with both rounds tested (.280 British and 7.62X51) and was adopted by choice by more than 100 countries.
 
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biffj

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Jan 23, 2010
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#23
Obviously, in the same vein as the thread on bolt actions..

What in your opinion is the best semi automatic battle rifle?
**No intermediate power cartridge rifles**
*Pre-1991/dissolution of Soviet Russia only*

I'm gonna go ahead and vote FG42 as unequivocally the best battle rifle from WW2 to many years beyond. On a side note, does anyone know why the sturmgewehr got all the attention/development at the end of/after WW2 when IMO the FG42 seems much more deserving...? Aside from the STG using a much more controllable chambering, is there any other reason as far as technical & design issues? For one, to my eyes, the FG's operating mechanism seems a lot simpler to make and get it running correctly than the crazy delayed roller blowback of the Stg/CETME/G3..
I don't think the FG was really all that great. Neat idea but not very durable. The lewis op-rod system wasn't really very good either. Lots of wear as evidenced by the next evolution-M60. The idea of using the open bolt system for full auto and closed bolt for semi was a good one though. Melvin Johnson did the same thing with the 1941 LMG and it was also a short run weapon that didn't get much respect. Silly side mounted 20rds single stack mag didn't help. After working on M14's and other Garands I'm not a fan. I do like the 308, 8mm and 54R versions of the AK like those from Yugoslavia.


You took out all the real battle rifles by excluding any of the little stuff. The reason the MP/Stg 44 got all the good press is because they were truly revolutionary and the future of battle rifles. They cost a lot less than the FG, were easier to make as well as being simpler for the operators to use. As found in later conflicts the rifles were more than adequate for the actual ranges and purposes required. The FG had a lot more recoil and was more difficult to handle. The barrel overheated much quicker and wore out faster because of all the extra power of the round. If you can't hit your target the rifle is ineffective.

The FG has neatness and the rarity cool factor going for it. I love the things and they are great fun to shoot but as for an effective battle rifle???? Not so much. With the value of the original guns being what it is and has been they don't get run very much. For that reason we don't really know how long they'll last in real life. Most of the guns the Luftwaffe issued didn't get used long either.

Frank
 

W54/XM-388

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#25
Yes, if this was an any caliber question then hands down M4. But that wasn't the question posed...
True but when people ask what was the "Greatest battle rifle" and then say let's not count the primary and widest used calibers for the past 40 years, they kind of need a bit of reality check.

If you want to get a bit technical... the .308 / 7.62x51 is a "mid range" cartridge compared to the actual manly rounds of 30-06 and .303 and 8mm that were used for "full power" manly rifles.
 
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May 13, 2013
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#26
The term battle rifle, if used as is technically intended, is what excludes intermediate cartridges; not the rules set forth by the OP.

Also I strongly disagree 5.56 has anywhere near the same terminal effect as a 7.62, in terms of FMJ loads anyway.

FN FAL is the answer you’re looking for by the way.
 

sandwarrior

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Apr 21, 2007
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#29
The term battle rifle, if used as is technically intended, is what excludes intermediate cartridges; not the rules set forth by the OP.

Also I strongly disagree 5.56 has anywhere near the same terminal effect as a 7.62, in terms of FMJ loads anyway.

FN FAL is the answer you’re looking for by the way.
While I agree with your choice of the FN FAL, the fact that numerous M16 variants and AK variants have fought in multiple conflicts, against each other and even against the FAL (and won) shows that the M16 and AK are quite viable as battle rifles. Yes, I know the 7.62 provides more terminal energy than either intermediate cartridge. But, intermediate cartridges have been doing the job of killing quite well since 1943. I maintain, therefore, it is not an accurate comparison.
 

Soulezoo

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Jun 4, 2018
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#32
Full power cartridge = battle rifle
Intermediate cartridge = assault rifle
Pistol cartridge = SMG

These were the definitions given in years past and therefore excludes the AR-15 & AK per the OP anyway.
AR-10 is a different story.
 

W54/XM-388

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#33
Full power cartridge = battle rifle
Intermediate cartridge = assault rifle
Pistol cartridge = SMG
These were the definitions given in years past and therefore excludes the AR-15 & AK per the OP anyway.
AR-10 is a different story.
I think perhaps maybe just ask is what is the best military battle rifle in 7.62x51 as that seems to be what the OP wants

"Full power cartridge" depends on what you are looking at, as the 7.62x51 was an "Intermediate" step down from the "Full Power" 30-06 "battle rifle" of the M1 Garand, or the other "Full power" cartridges in use WWI to WWII such as .303, 7.62x54R and 8mm Mauser. But if you are comparing it to an M16/AK47 then it seems "full power"
 
Feb 14, 2017
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#34
"Full power cartridge" depends on what you are looking at, as the 7.62x51 was an "Intermediate" step down from the "Full Power" 30-06 "battle rifle" of the M1 Garand, or the other "Full power" cartridges in use WWI to WWII such as .303, 7.62x54R and 8mm Mauser.
I don't know about that. The old 30-06 loads weren't as powerful as some of what we have now, and they weren't that far ahead of 7.62x51 loads.
And all the common 303 loads I'm aware of are a 174gr bullet at around 2400-2500 fps. Very much at or even below 7.62 power.
 

W54/XM-388

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#35
I don't know about that. The old 30-06 loads weren't as powerful as some of what we have now, .
Since we are talking about time frame military issue weapons, then you need to adjust things to what the energy levels of the 30-06 military loads compared to 7.62x51 loads were in 1959 using military issue ammo for both types. If you want to go with what we can currently max load a cartridge for then you'll have to up everything including the 30-06 which can be loaded much hotter now that it used to be.
 

Soulezoo

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Jun 4, 2018
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#36
Since we are talking about time frame military issue weapons, then you need to adjust things to what the energy levels of the 30-06 military loads compared to 7.62x51 loads were in 1959 using military issue ammo for both types. If you want to go with what we can currently max load a cartridge for then you'll have to up everything including the 30-06 which can be loaded much hotter now that it used to be.
If that is what you are saying, then yes, 7.62x51 when first introduced by Winchester was the equivalent of .30-06 loaded at standard M1 Garand pressure. That was when Winchester ball powders made their entrance and was the difference for .308. Naturally, .30-06 can outperform .308 due to increased case capacity; however, you cannot take advantage of that in your Garand as it cannot handle the extra pressure by virtue of design.
So, for the sake of this discussion, really the 7.62x54r was the hottest round. The .308 is right there with the others and was definitely not considered an "intermediate" cartridge. In fact, the original FAL did use an intermediate cartridge that was rejected by US Army.
 

Greg Langelius *

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#40
When it comes down to battle rifles, the only one I actually carried in the battle zone was the M-14. It did everything I asked of it, but honestly, I was not Infantry, and my exposure to two-way fire was limited.

Subsequently, I owned both the M1A and M1 Garand, and of the two, I only still own the Garand. I will probably be back in the mix with a .308 military semi, but I think I'll probably go with something less weighty and costly. Still don't know what that will turn out to be.

If, in the wildest of outcomes, I ever had to take a semi into combat again (very, very unlikely), it would be my Garand; I trust that sucker totally. It's issue grade, but has bedding, refinishing, upgraded sights, and a butt pad extension. It shoots my handloads to at least an N/M standard of accuracy.

But..., I am also being queued up for cataract surgery, and for now, iron sights are not my friend.

Greg

ETA
I just saw an offering for a SA 2002 Garand 308. It would be my choice.
 
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sandwarrior

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Apr 21, 2007
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#41
Look at post #11.
I saw your post. Not much of an explanation. As only "full sized rounds" I also chose the FN FAL. But as stated, with over 100 countries using it, it was an effective weapon. But, it wasn't as effective when up against an M16. It only held it's own against AK-47's all over Afrika. Tactics and numbers of people and weapons also dictate how well a rifle can be judged. The AK carries a lot more shots. It's effective as far as anyone can shoot open sights in combat. So, why limit yourself with logistics. ALL of the "full sized/full power" rounds cause a logistical hangup in that you limit the range your people can patrol, as they are limited in the amount of ammo they can carry. The G3/CETME (which real ones don't suck) pretty much has the same thing going. Sure it fires a bigger round. Do you need that size? Not in most cases. Most as in 90% or more. Ammunition resupply is a big thing in a fire fight. You get a lot more mileage out of a smaller round that you can carry more of.
 
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flyer

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Apr 25, 2018
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#42
AK fires an intermediate round, it isn't a main battle rifle.

The FAL is the most durable main battle rifle ever made. It's combat history is extensive and it has ergonomics that are as good as most modern assault rifles. With that said, by the time it was fielded, the nature of modern guerilla warfare favored the assault rifle so it doesn't shine as brightly as #2, the M1 Garand which changed warfare by bringing near machinegun levels of firepower to the average rifleman when the enemy had mostly bolt action rifles.

Despite being the first widely fielded semi-automatic main battle rifle, the M1 Garand is actually pretty reliable and durable, with accuracy on par with the battle grade bolt actions of the day. It changed warfare much more than any German wonder weapon because it was actually ready pretty early in the war and we made millions of them.

The BAR is the most rifle like of the light machine guns from the WWII era and more useable than the select fire M14s and light barrel FALs. It's a badass and kind of fits the question, not the best but worth a mention.

Oh, Cetmes suck. The only reason HK made the G3 was because FN didn't want to give Germany a license to build FALs (understandable due to Germany's treatment of Belgium in the two world wars) so the Germans went to the Spanish and licensed the Cetme.
 
Feb 14, 2017
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#43
Oh, Cetmes suck. The only reason HK made the G3 was because FN didn't want to give Germany a license to build FALs (understandable due to Germany's treatment of Belgium in the two world wars) so the Germans went to the Spanish and licensed the Cetme.
Last time I read it, German engineers already had the basic Cetme design mid war then fled to Spain after the war and kept working on it. The Spanish adopted it and the design eventually came full circle and was adopted in its actual country of origin.
 

flyer

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Apr 25, 2018
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#44
That makes sense with the stamped steel construction but doesn't fix the weird ergonomics, fluted chamber or ejecting cases in to the next county.
 
Apr 13, 2012
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#45
BAR? Seriously? It was fielded as an LMG or SAW. Heavy as hell, not easy to field strip and clean, and only 20 round magazines. Don't get me wrong, I like the rifle. A family member owns a semi auto version. But an MBR it is not.

Length of service and widespread use should only play a minor roll in consideration for best battle rifle. The M14 is just as reliable, easy to shoot, better iron sights, easy to maintain (barring anything catastrophic), and more accurate than the FAL, G3, etc. It has been fielded in some form or another on the battlefield since its adoption in 1959. It is easily the best option for a main battle rifle as it's defined.
 

flyer

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Apr 25, 2018
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#46
Nope, M14 has never been as reliable as the FAL.

The only reason a person would get that idea is if they thought the M14 trials were actually fair. They were not.
 
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kraigWY

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Feb 10, 2006
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#48
Pre-55 without a doubt the M1 Garand

Post-55, M14/M1A

If you're talking about mid cal rifles then it would have to be the M16 Series.

Where the M1/M14 have is above all the rest its the sights. No finer iron sight have ever been added to military Rifle.

In the CMP vintage rifle matches the M1 is slightly behind the Sprinfields, well above any other pre-55 military rifle

In the modern military matches, you take away the ARs the M1A dominates. I'm not talking about match rifles, but as issued per the CMP Rules.
 

sandwarrior

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#49
Nope, M14 has never been as reliable as the FAL.

The only reason a person would get that idea is if they thought the M14 trials were actually fair. They were not.
I don't know where you get your information, but the M14, according to the many people I knew who carried them in combat, was a very reliable rifle. Certainly not less reliable than the FAL. The reason I chose the FAL was more of widespread use. It gained a great reputation for reliability is a large part of why it was chosen. The other factor of course was British and Belgian distribution where it was chosen as the main battle rifle. And there was no main line distribution from the U.S. What we may see is that it's not just about the rifle but also about the sphere of influence where it came from.
 
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Apr 13, 2012
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#50
Nope, M14 has never been as reliable as the FAL.

The only reason a person would get that idea is if they thought the M14 trials were actually fair. They were not.
What was unfair? The fact that Springfield modified the rifle to work in the cold? Was FN not allowed to do the same? They chose to leave it alone and failed.

The M14 is also lighter, has less parts, and even after FN made modifications the M14 was still more reliable with less malfunctions during the "unfair" trials.

How about we ignore the trials and look at actual service use reliability. The lineage of the M14 must also be accounted for. Nobody complained about the M1 reliability, and I've never heard of anyone complaining about the M14 either.