Aircraft / Aviation Vehicles & Artillery Small Arms Warships & Submarines Military Ranks Military Pay Chart (2024) Special Forces
Infantry Small Arms / The Warfighter

Fabrique Nationale FN CAL

Assault Rifle / Assault Carbine [ 1966 ]

The FN CAL of Belgium failed to find many takers in its attempt to become a popular 5.56mm assault rifle.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 08/19/2016 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

In 1962, the United States adopted the famous M16 assault rifle and, along with its selection, came widespread use of the accompanying 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. The 5.56mm intermediate line joined the full-power 7.62x51mm as NATO's standard ammunition set for automatic weapons. When American went to war in Vietnam, it showcased the M16 heavily and this proved the intermediate cartridge a sound investment. Gunmakers around the globe observed the battlefield events and several came to the conclusion that there was a market need for similar 5.56mm rifle systems.

Fabrique Nationale of Belgium set about designing such a firearm. By this time, it had already seen considerable success with its famous FN FAL series (chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO) which was accepted by many participating NATO and non-NATO armies of the world. The same basic form and function was utilized in a dimensionally smaller automatic weapon system and this came to be the FN CAL ("Carabine Automatique Legere") of 1966.

Design work on the rifle began in 1963 and spanned into 1966. Production then started soon after under the FN Herstal banner to which some 30,000 of the type were eventually delivered from 1966 to 1975. Chambered for the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge, the CAL was a gas-operated weapon utilizing a rotating bolt action (unlike the FAL and its tilting breechblock). As in the FAL, the CAL's gas cylinder was fitted over the barrel and primary feeding was by way of a 20-round, straight detachable box magazine. Iron sights were accordingly standard. The receiver was very clean with a right-side mounted charging handle (unlike the FAL's left side approach). The forend was given a tubular handguard which most of the gas cylinder and nearly all of the barrel. A perforated muzzle brake capped the barrel. Sling loops were affixed under the barrel and at the buttstock. The buttstock was of solid plastic or twin-strut skeletal - in the latter this was hinged to fold over the receiver for a more compact profile. The pistol grip was ergonomically angled in the usual way with the trigger group just ahead. The magazine well was then seated just ahead of the trigger group. Early CALs were completed with fire selector allowing for semi-automatic single-shot, a three-round burst function and full-automatic fire.

Once in practice, the CAL suffered from high procurement costs, owing much to the high quality construction and finish afforded to most Fabrique Nationale products. Additionally, the rifle was found to be difficult to field strip and maintain on a regular basis with some issues also centered on long-term reliability. The CAL eventually found few buyers in a now-crowded market - these becoming Gabon, Lebanon, Mexico and Morocco - and all this led to its dropping from the Fabrique Nationale line offering after 1975. Its relative commercial failure led to a simpler, more refined and less expensive cousin in the FN FNC of 1978 detailed elsewhere on this site. The FNC did much better from a sales standpoint, becoming a standard-issue assault rifle of the Belgian Army, while being adopted by no fewer than eight other world powers including Sweden.©MilitaryFactory.com
Note: The above text is EXCLUSIVE to the site www.MilitaryFactory.com. It is the product of many hours of research and work made possible with the help of contributors, veterans, insiders, and topic specialists. If you happen upon this text anywhere else on the internet or in print, please let us know at MilitaryFactory AT gmail DOT com so that we may take appropriate action against the offender / offending site and continue to protect this original work.


Basics [+]
Fabrique Nationale; FN Herstal - Belgium
Gabon; Lebanon; Mexico; Morocco National flag of Gabon National flag of Lebanon National flag of Mexico National flag of Morocco
Service Year
National Origin

Features a mechanical function to automate the firing action.
Modern class of long gun featuring select-fire properties, automatic internal function, and magazine feeding.

Overall Length
980 mm / 38.58 in
Weight (Empty)
7.39 lb / 3.35 kg
Gas-Operated; Rotating Bolt
System utilizes internal mechanism to lock the breech or rear barrel assembly prior to firing.
Gas-operated system is featured, typically involving a gas cylinder and rear-driven piston directing energy to the bolt component.
5.56x45mm NATO
*May not represent an exhuastive list; Calibers may be model-specific dependent; Always consult official manufacturer sources.
20-, 25- or 30-round detachable box magazine
Iron Front and Rear

Material presented above is for historical and entertainment value and should not be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation - always consult official manufacturer sources for such information.

850 rpm
Muzzle Velocity
3,200 ft/sec / 975 m/sec

FNC ("Carabine Automatique Legere") - Base Series Designation.

Military lapel ribbon for the American Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon representing special forces
Military lapel ribbon for the Ukranian-Russian War
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2


1 / 1
Image of the Fabrique Nationale FN CAL

Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Cookies

2024 Military Pay Chart Military Ranks DoD Dictionary Conversion Calculators Military Alphabet Code Military Map Symbols

The "Military Factory" name and MilitaryFactory.com logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT gmail.com. No A.I. was used in the generation of this content; site is 100% curated by humans.

Part of a network of sites that includes GlobalFirepower, a data-driven property used in ranking the top military powers of the world, WDMMA.org (World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft), WDMMW.org (World Directory of Modern Military Warships), SR71blackbird.org, detailing the history of the world's most iconic spyplane, and MilitaryRibbons.info, cataloguing military medals and ribbons. Special Interest: RailRoad Junction, the locomotive encyclopedia.

©2023 www.MilitaryFactory.com • All Rights Reserved • Content ©2003-2023 (20yrs)