Saive Automatique, Fabrique
Nationale (SAFN) Model 1949 Range Report
|Prior to this
article, I had not really had the opportunity to handle or shoot
the SAFN-49 (also called the FN-49). This is true primarily
for a couple reasons. 1) I have not seen many FN-49 rifles
at firearm shows or at local stores to purchase and 2)
the ones that I have seen are priced too high for MY
wallet (or this is what I thought).
Usually the specimens
I have found range in price from $500 to $1000. I will on
occasion spend that much for a mil-surp rifle, but I REALLY
have to WANT the rifle to do so.
I usually get a lot of emails after I write an article asking
me - "Hey Jamie, where can I get one of those rifles?".
Let me say this - the FN-49 is not usually something you are going
to find in ads in Shotgun News for a couple hundred dollars shipped
to your front door.
Although the FN-49 is a C&R rifle (Classified as - Fabrique
Nationale, model SAFN49 semiautomatic rifles, any caliber by the
BATF), you will usually only find them in quantities of one
or two and maybe on consignment from someone like you and me.
The FN-49 is something you are going to have to keep an eye out
for when you are perusing the isles of the Gun Show or when you
are visiting Gun Stores, Pawn Shops, etc.
My friend Tony getting ready
to load up and shoot the 7.62x51 Nato FN-49 we had with us.
Designed by Dieudonne Saive
of Fabrique Nationale (FN) prior to WWII, but not manufactured
until after WWII, the FN-49 is very similar in functionality to
the Soviet SVT rifles and the Simonov carbines (SKS). If you are
familiar with any one of the three rifles, I have found that you
can easily understand the operating principles and maintenance of
The FN-49 is the predecessor to the famous FN-FAL rifle, which
was manufactured and carried by most non-communist countries in
the post WWII world.
If not for the overwhelming abundance and availability of surplus
military arms after WWII probably many more FN-49 rifles would have
been manufactured and sold by the FN company. It is a fact
that Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and The United States supplied
amazing amounts of WWII era weapons to most countries making it
very difficult for weapons manufacturers to sell their rifles.
Another contributing factor to the demise of the FN-49 is by
the time it was actually manufactured the design was already obsolete.
Figure 1 - Venezuelan FN converted
to 7.62x51 Nato
The FN-49 weighs almost as much as the M1 Garand but for some
reason, to me, seems almost "carbine" like in overall
dimensions. What I mean by this statement is that it seems shorter
than the Garand, but in reality it is about the same length and
size. Kind of reminds me of pulling an SKS up to your shoulder -
The 3 piece stock is usually European walnut with a military
oil finish. The design is very ergonomic with a semi-pistol grip
and two handguards.
The most common FN-49 magazine is a 10 round non-detachable type.
The magazine is not really designed to be removed to feed the rifle.
The rifle is loaded through the top of the receiver via a stripper
clip, but is easily loaded a single cartridge at a time.
Figure 2 - Venezuelan FN converted
to 7.62x51 Nato
|I was given
the opportunity to take two different FN-49 rifles to the range
for a test shoot.
The first (as shown in figure 2) was a Venezuelan
FN-49 that had been converted to the abundantly available 7.62x51
Nato cartridge. I picked up some surplus ammo that only cost around
$3 per 20 rounds.
Quality ammo for most of the available FN-49 models (30.06,
8mm, and 7.62 Nato) is bountifully available in the surplus
market and is at bargain-basement prices. A perfect combination
for a fun and accurate shooter.
Figure 3 - Cheap and accurate
Portuguese 7.62x51 Nato ammo
FN-49 (as shown in figures 4 and 5)
was a very nice looking 30.06 Luxembourg model. It had either been
arsenal refurbished or was pretty much brand new.
Figure 4 - Loaded 30.06 Luxembourg
FN-49 had two draw-backs when first fired (but both were error
on the part of the shooter - me).
1) The gas cylinder plug was set to non-semiautomatic,
grenade launch mode. This is when the "R" is visible on the
gas cylinder plug (this is true on all FN-49 rifles except for
8mm Mauser rifles of which the letter "A" and "R" are in Arabic).
When I fired the first cartridge all of the gas was vented off before
reaching the gas piston. The first couple of rounds I fired would
not cycle the bolt at all and the empty cases would not eject unless
I manually cycled the bolt. After I turned the gas cylinder plug
till the letter "A" was displayed facing upward, the
rifle cycled in semiautomatic mode just like it was designed to
Figure 5 - 30.06 Luxembourg
I was firing ammo that was intended for the M1 Garand. Several of
the fired cases actually stuck in the bore and the bolt's extractor
ripped the bottom of the case off. No, the case did not rupture.
It was broken off at the base of the case by the extractor. It was
one of the strangest things I had seen in a while. I later discovered
that this problem was caused by extreme gas pressure. Extreme gas
pressure can cause early extraction of the
case before bore pressures have reduced enough to allow the cartridge
case to contract and be released from the walls of the chamber.
I also found that this condition could be easily countered
by adjusting the gas cylinder.
Amazing how a rifle works correctly
when it is properly adjusted for the mode and ammo you are shooting!
Figure 6 - Proper sight picture
for the FN-49
|I like the
simplicity of the sights on the FN-49. Provided is an easy to use
rear aperture sight and an excellent sight picture (as shown
in figure 6).
The elevation of the rear sight is graduated to 1000 meters and
can be adjusted in increments of 100 meters.
On the FN-49 the "battle sight" position is when the rear
sight is pulled all of the way to the rear of the gradient. The
range of the "battle sight" measures out at 300 meters. A "battle
sight" usually refers to a setting on a rifle that allows for the
shooter to hit a man sized target between X distance and Y distance
without having to adjust elevation of the rear sight. With the FN-49
X = 50 Meters and Y = 350 meters.
Windage on the FN-49 sights can be set at either the front or
rear sights, but not easily in my opinion. The rear sight is adjusted
via screws but has no settings or marks as a guide, while the front
sight is adjustable via a hammer and punch method. Like most mil-surp
rifles that have been sitting for more than 50 years, good luck
moving the front sight easily.
Figure 7 - FN-49 (7.62x51 Nato)
5 shot grouping at 50 yards
FN-49 had noticeably stout recoil in comparison to the 7.62 Nato
FN-49. As a result I only ended up shooting around 40 rounds through
the 30.06 rifle (as shown in figures 7, 8, and 9)
while Tony and I probably put over 100 rounds through the 7.62 Nato
rifle (as shown in figures 10, 11, and 12).
I would have to say the 7.62 Nato FN-49 was a real pleasure to
shoot and very accurate as well. Regardless of recoil, both rifles
pulled in exceptional accuracy.
Figure 8 - FN-49 (7.62x51
Nato) 10 shot grouping at 50 yards
Figure 9 - FN-49 (7.62x51
Nato) 5 shot grouping at 100 yards
Figure 10 - FN-49 (30.06)
10 shot grouping at 50 yards
Figure 11 - FN-49 (30.06)
5 shot grouping at 50 yards
Figure 12 - FN-49 (30.06)
5 shot grouping at 50 yards
|So, have I
decided to purchase an FN-49 yet? If I had the money readily
available - yes. I do have my eye on one (the 30.06 model used
in this article) and probably will get it as finances allow.
For someone who is looking for a rifle to collect there are enough
diversity in the models found today to make it interesting enough
to collect the FN-49. Although collecting would be an expensive
proposition, none the less it would be rewarding.
To gauge the quality of the FN-49 I think it might be helpful
to compare it to another rifle. If I had to make a comparison between
the FN-49 and another rifle I guess I would choose the SKS. I make
this choice because of the similarity in functionality and size.
I would say the following: The FN-49 and SKS function almost
identically. But this is where the similarities stop.
Comparing the FN-49 to the SKS (and I really like the SKS)
is like comparing a Ford Focus with a Mercedes Benz. Both vehicles
have four wheels, an engine, brakes, etc. The FN-49 is like
someone took the SKS and said - "Let's make a luxury version of
the SKS, cut no manufacturing corners, and not worry about cost
In all fairness - the beauty of the SKS is - it is simple and
inexpensive to manufacture. But then again this is probably why
so many SKS were manufactured above and beyond the number of FN-49
This is my report and opinion of the FN-49.
Rifles used in article courtesy of
River City Gun
Joe Poyer, "The
SAFN-49 Battle Rifle: A Shooters and Collector's Guide", North
Cape Publications, 1998.
W.H.B. Smith and Joseph E. Smith, "The Book of
Rifles, Third Edition", The Stackpole Company, 1963.