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The French FAMAS was one of the first bullpup rifles to be adopted and built in large numbers by a military power. It was adopted by France in 1978 at right about the same time as the Steyr AUG was being adopted by the Austrian military. Bullpup rifles offered a short overall length without sacrificing barrel length, an advantage that seemed quite valuable for troops who were to spend significant amounts of time in vehicles, where space is at a premium. In French service, the FAMAS was also made the formal replacement for both the MAS-49/56 rifle and the MAT-49 submachine gun, thanks to its compact nature.
The FAMAS is interesting mechanically, as it is one of very few production delayed-blowback rifle designs (the other common one being the CETME/HK series). The FAMAS uses a lever-delaying system, which allows a very simple bolt and action mechanism. The F1 model (adopted by the French Army and still in use today, making up the bulk of FAMAS production) has a 1:12″ twist to its rifling, effectively limiting it to 55 grain projectiles – and it also requires steel-cased ammunition to run reliably. The G2 variant (adopted in 1995 by the French Navy) changed to a 1:9″ twist, introduced a full-hand trigger guard, and also uses NATO standard AR15 magazines instead of the proprietary 25-round magazine of the F1.
In the late 1980s a small number of semiauto FAMAS rifles were made by St Etienne and imported into the US by Century. Most people say 100-125 rifles, although serial number suggest this may have actually been 225-250 rifles. Regardless, they are quite scarce and expensive today.
At Forgotten Weapons I think the most interesting guns out there are the most obscure ones. I try to search out experimental and prototype weapons and show you how they work, in addition to more conventional guns that you may not have heard of before. You’re much more likely to find a video on the Cei Rigotti or Webley-Fosbery here than an AR or Glock. So, do you want to learn about something new today? Then stick around!