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India Army’s love affair with 1A SLR

The 1A SLR is probably one of the most unique FN FAL variant produced till date as it’s based on both the Metric Pattern FN FAL and Inch Pattern RSAF SLR. Kunwar Rajeshwar Singh Karki telling all about the 1A SLR service in India and it’s interesting history and features.

The need for the 1A SLR was realised after the debacle of the 1962 Sino-Indian war where Indian troops were woefully equipped with the SMLE No.1 Mk.III .303 bolt-action rifles while PLA soldiers were equipped with the semi-automatic Type 56 carbine which was a copy of the soviet SKS and the Type 56 assault rifle which was a copy of the Soviet AK-47/AKM.

After the war had ended it was quickly realised that the Indian Jawan needed a new service rifle. even though the Army had trialed AR-10s in 1958 and found them satisfactory, but Politics and the British connection led India to the British SLR. Subsequently an ARDE design team started requisitioning numerous FAL examples from Fabrique Nationale de Herstal and L1A1 SLR examples from Royal Small Arms Factory Enfield and Lithogow Small Arms Factory.
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These Rifles were studied by ARDE and a formal proposal was made to the Army for the induction of these rifles.The Army started negotiating with FN for the license production of an Indian variant of the FAL at Ishapore Rifle Factory. The negotiations fell through as the Belgians were asking for too much money for the licensing and royalties, they also wanted machining equipment and technicians from Belgium to run the factory.

It was eventually decided to reverse engineer the rifles. Thus ARDE began drawing up plans for the reverse engineering the rifles and inductions of features which they though suited best from the FAL and SLR. By December 1963 the 1A SLR was put into production at Ishapore Rifle Factory. This obviously didn’t bode well with the Belgians who weren’t getting loyalties for an unlicensed copy of the FAL, an international row ensued. To satisfy the Belgians additional FALs, FALO 50.41 LMGs and MAG 60.20 GPMGs were purchased, in fact licensing agreement for MAG 60.20 was purchased by India which is produced by OFB. RFI was initially producing around 3300 rifles per month but this was slowly increased, serial production ended in 1998 when it was replaced by the 1B and later on the 1B1 INSAS.

The 1A SLRs baptism by fire came during the 1965 Indo-Pak war where the performed well and the increase in firepower because of being semi-automatic was well received by the soldiers. The rifles were again used during the 1971 Indo-Pak war.

During the IPKF though the Jawans deemed the rifle unsatisfactory because of it’s length and bulk which made it hard to maneuver, in Jungle and Guerilla warfare smaller assault rifles like the AK are more suitable rather than larger full power battle rifles like G3 and FAL/SLR.
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The 1A SLR has a rather unique variant known as the 1C, this a full-automatic firing port weapon designed to be fired from the firing ports of the BMP-1 and later BMP-2. The 1C is considerably shorter in length than the 1A and is equipped with the same butt as the 1A SLR, the rifle also has unique barrel sleeve that works as attaching interface for the BMP firing port.

The 1A SLR has three different butt lengths available giving it an overall lenght of 44.35″, 44.85″ and 45.35″ for the short, medium and long buttstock. The butt-stock is also not compatible with the FN FAL and RSAF SLR, the buttstock has a trap at the butt end similar to the 2A/2A1 SMLE to store a cleaning kit and oil. The rifle weighs 4.4 kgs empty and 5.1 kgs loaded with a 20 round magazine. The magazine well can take magazines from both Inch and Metric pattern FAL rifles, the magazine of the 1A SLR is based on the Inch pattern L1A1 SLR.

The 1A has a barrel length of 21″, it has a flash hider which has 3 slots, this is different from the flash-hider on the L1A1 SLR which has 4 slots. The rifle is capable of launching rifle grenades and has a gas regulator available to do the same, the 1A grenade projector is used to launch 36mm hand-grenades. The 1A SLR was provided with a bayonet with a 10″ blade. The rifle has a folding charging handle which is similar to the L1A1 SLR charging handle and has been incorporated on the 1B and 1B1 INSAS as well, the metric pattern FALs have a fixed knob type charging handle. The 1A SLR like the Inch pattern L1A1 SLR don’t have the bolt-hold open device and bolt-release catch, this feature was available in the Metric pattern FALs. The 1A SLR like the FAL it’s based on operates from the short-stroke gas piston and locks via the tilting breechblock method.

Presently the 1A SLR has been supplanted by the 1B1 INSAS in Indian Army service, it’s kept in storage for reserves. A significant number of these rifles are in service with the various Central Armed Police Forces, Paramilitary Forces and State Police Forces. OFB manufactures a newer variant of the 1A SLR known as the 1A1 SLR which has polymer furniture from the INSAS series, these are available for export.

About Writer – Kunwar Rajeshwar Singh Karki is Ex-Mayo and a ‘Informed’ Farmer based in Nainital.

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