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BESAL (Gun, Light, Machine, Faulkner, .303-inch)

Prototype Light Machine Gun (LMG)

The BESAL appeared as a fallback to the continued availability of the BREN LMG, should production of the latter stop due to German bombardment.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 4/13/2016
National Flag Graphic


Year: 1940
Manufacturer(s): Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) - UK
Roles: Fire Support/Suppression/Defense;
Action: Gas-Operated; Short Recoil
Caliber(s): 0.303 British (7.7mm)
Sights: Iron
Overall Length: 1,185 mm (46.65 in)
Barrel Length: 558 mm (21.97 in)
Weight (Unloaded): 21.61 lb (9.80 kg)
Muzzle Velocity: 2,450 feet-per-second (747 meters-per-second)
Rate-of-Fire: 600 rounds-per-minute
Operators: United Kingdom
During the critical early years of World War 2 (1939-1945), German forces held key northern French and Belgian territories which placed much of southern England within easy reach of enemy bombers. Unfortunately for the British, its storied BREN Light Machine Guns and other small arms emerged from the equally-storied Royal Small Arms Factory (RSA) of Enfield Lock. As such, a single decisive blow from Axis bombers could render the production facility useless to the British cause with few alternatives in sight as replacements. This was the basis for a like-minded light-class automatic weapon in the mold of the BREN to be manufactured through a simplified production processes. The resulting work produced the "BESAL" through the Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA), makers of the famous BESA 7.92mm vehicle machine gun detailed elsewhere on this site.

The prototype BESAL adopted much of the form and function of the original BREN gun including its top-mounted, curved 30-round, spring-loaded magazine housing 0.303in cartridges. The gas-cylinder remained under the barrel and the receiver left very clean of obstructions. No flash suppressor was fitted and the iron sights were of a simple pattern. The buttstock was a hybrid solid/wire-frame approach which used far less war material in its fabrication. The receiver and the gas cylinder were both of simply pressed manufacture. A folding bipod was fitted but not adjustable. The end result was a very workable gun which was showcased to authorities in March of 1942. Revisions over the summer months ultimately saw the design settle on a solid wood buttstock as well as a handguard set over most of the gas assembly and a flash suppressor capping the barrel. A carrying handle eased barrel-changing and the cocking action was revised, borrowing some of its function from the BESA series. Rate-of-fire reached 600 rounds per minute.

Testing continued into late 1942, proving the weapon largely sound, and at some point during early 1943 the weapon was formally adopted for mass production. By this time, the weapon had been rechristened after its designer, Henry Faulkner, as the "Gun, Light, Machine, Faulkner, .303-inch" (or rather simply the "Faulkner Gun"). However, the threat to BREN production from German bombers had largely subsided as multiple British factories were now churning the weapon out in the required numbers, leaving the Faulkner Gun with no true battlefield need. As such, the production contract was pulled in June of 1943 and the design never produced beyond a few prototypes.

Variants / Models

• BESAL - Base Series Name
• "Gun, Light, Machine, Faulkner, .303-inch" - Long-form designation.
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