FAMAS Review

Great looks but is it practical to own?

This is a spitfire of a bullpup assault rifle, with a cyclic rate of over 1,100 rounds per minute. The rifle, called Fusil D’Assaut De La Manufacture D’Armes De Saint-Etienne,has been in service for over 40 years, and has provided the French Armed Forces and police a reliable shooting platform that has been fielded by French Troops in Afghanistan and by both sides in the Syrian Civil War.

The rifle chambers the 5.56 x 45mm NATO round which falls in line with the US’s adoption of the M-16 as the primary service rifle of the US Military.  The first prototype of the FAMAS was rolled out by the French in 1971.

The French Army tested the weapon in 1972 and later adopted it as their battlefield rifle near the end of 1978. The French, after having been pushed out of Indochina, had finally found a weapon that could go toe-to-toe with Soviet and Soviet Bloc nations using the AK-47. Being one of the first bullpup designs manufactured, magazine and action behind the trigger, it sports a 19” barrel – 4.5” longer than the comparable M4 carbine.

The bullpup design allows the FAMAS to be over 3 inches shorter than the M4. The FAMAS is a select-fire, assault rifle that allows the shooter to select between 3 round burst or full automatic fire.

Background – Lucky to Get One in the US

In 1978, the French FAMAS was one of the first bullpups adopted to become the battlefield rifle for First World militaries. The British SA-80 came out a little later in 1985 and chambered the NATO adopted 5.56 x 45mm round. The Steyr AUG rifle, another cool design, came out in 1977. All three of these amazing rifles are still in use today.

Getting your hands on one is nearly impossible.

100 FAMAS rifles were shipped to the US in the past. They were packaged with a bayonet and two magazines. Where those rifles are today is a mystery. I’m guessing they are tucked away in some super rich guys’ collections. Also there is no apparent market for production of a domestic, semi-automatic version of the weapon. The AUG with it’s ray-gun modern look has enough appeal in the American bullpup market. So it’s one option if you are looking for a compact PDW.

FAMAS  Specifications

Cartridge 5.56 x 45mm NATO
Use Military, Police
Weight 8.4 lbs FAMAS G2
Total Length 29.8
Barrel Length 19.2 Standard F1/G2
Operation Lever delayed blowback
Muzzle velocity 3,030  fps G2
Max effective range 1,300  ft

FAMAS Models  – Well Built

 

The FAMAS is a great design and is coupled with the 5.56 x 45 mm round, albeit, the French prefer to stick to their own chamberings and not purchase foreign ammunition. In some cases other NATO rounds could cause an over pressurization situation and damage the FAMAS. By only firing French ammo, the shooter can be guaranteed that the rifle will perform at its best and be safest as possible.

When the FAMAS F1 rolled out at the end of the 1970’s, it replaced aging French rifles and machine guns from WWII and French Indochina wars. It was a remarkable engineering feat that utilizes blow-back operation to feed rounds and fiberglass and plastic parts to make it lightweight. The F1 had problems with malfunctions due to bad, worn or improperly inserted magazines. The rifle was designed to use single-use, disposable magazines unlike the standard reusable NATO magazines used by rifles like the M-16.

The G2 came out in 1994 and updated the rifle to meet new NATO standards. The new version was modified to accept STANAG magazines and their barrels were tightened up and rifled (1/9) to shoot the old school 55gr 5.56mm round and the new standard 62gr round.

The old plastic handguards were replaced with reinforced fiberglass and the trigger guard was widened noticeably to support cold weather fighting when the shooter needs to wear gloves while shooting. The weapon was also tuned to handle both standard NATO brass cased ammo as well as the proprietary French steel cased.

FAMAS Infantry improved upon the F1 by retrofitting a rail system on the handguard for mounting tactical optics. Remember,  I mentioned that the FAMAS did make its way to the States at one time. Century Arms purchased the rifle from France and began offering the MAS .223.

It did not catch on in popularity in the American firearms community and its production was stopped. Now there are only a few MASes out there and are estimated to cost over $25,000. Even worse, there are no replacement parts available for the gun.

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