When most veterans of the Vietnam War think of an infantry weapon, it’s usually either an M-14, M-16, SKS carbine or AK-47.
But to veterans from Australia and New Zealand, the iconic long arm was the L1A1, a British- and Australian-built version of the Belgian Fabrique Nationale’s classic self-loading rifle (SLR) whose use in some 90 countries earned it the sobriquet “The Right Arm of the Free World.”
More rugged and reliable than its American equivalents, it was also more accurate and its 7.62mm round was more effective than the M-16’s .556mm bullet.
Bob Cashner’s entry in Osprey’s “Weapon” series provides a concise summation of this long-lived long arm, with highlights from the many conflicts in which it saw use—including the Falklands War in 1982, when British and Argentine variants engaged each other.
In the short but pointed section dealing with Vietnam, the statistics surrounding the infantry from Down Under should raise some eyebrows, as should the original issuance of just five 20-round magazines per soldier until the Battle of Long Tan on Aug. 18, 1966, which convinced the Aussies to carry more.
Superbly illustrated with photos and artwork by Steve Noon, The FN FAL Battle Rifle sheds light on a relatively overlooked fixture in the Vietnam landscape.
This story was originally posted in Vietnam Magazine.