ARS NOTES. FAL
REVIEW: EAI FAL RECEIVER #1
|My previous reviews of Entréprise Arms FAL receivers have been unfavorable. Not only were the receivers grossly out-of spec, but the company tried to market the curious dimensions as a bonus - to permit a "match fit." I don't buy a carburetor for my Chevy and expect to have to get custom machine work for it to fit, and I don't buy a firearm receiver and expect anything more than the slightest effort for it to fit. That is not to say the receivers could not be MADE to work, and if they were the only ones available, I'm sure that's what I'd be doing. The previous receivers were oversize in the face, the shoulder, the locking ledge. The ejector blocks were misaligned, the distance from the ejector block to the receiver bridge was off, the feedramp was non-existent, and the thread alignment for the barrel was off. Considering the ready availability of in-spec, quality receivers from IMBEL Brazil and DSA Inc, I refused to work on the Entréprise.
In light of my unabashed criticisms, I was particularly surprised to get a call from Lawrence Abbot at Entréprise around Thanksgiving of 1999 asking me if they could send me some free samples of their parts and receivers for evaluation. Lawrence apparently had taken over quality control responsibilities and found that indeed my comments did have merit. He oversaw changes that might improve the quality of the product - hopefully turning it into something that could be assembled without significant modifications to both the receiver and the "in spec" parts kit. Coupled with an alleged interest in improving their customer service reputation, Walt and Lawrence actively solicited feedback from the FAL building community and claim to have made substantial headway in redressing customer complaints.
I received the receivers, a Type I (GRV 28779) and a Type III (KR3615) on January 17, 2000. I began my evaluation with careful photographic documentation, which demonstrated serious problems with the font magazine notch, barrel timing, and feedramp geometry. Lawrence admitted these receivers were defective and issued a call tag for their return before I had completed my evaluation. I don't know if they sold any of this production run to others, and if they did, if they recalled those as well.
The replacement Type I and Type III were noticeably improved in the areas I had observed in the first samples. Follows a photographically documented review of the Type I and Type III Entréprise receivers.
This is an older review, where neither my photographic skills, nor equipment, are what they are today.
|I received two receivers. The Type 1 serial number GRV31250 and the Type III serial number KR8000. The left side of the receiver on the flat is marked with the "guy shooting" logo and "Entréprise Arms - Irwindale CA USA" and the serial number under the ejection port. The right side is marked STG58C 7.62mm. The engraving is shallow and not uniform in depth between the Type I and the Type III, nor is it uniform from one side to the other. The lettering is not sharp, appearing to be chemically etched rather than engraved (or engraved witha dull tool). I was not able to uniformly fill with paint. The serial number is pricked with the dot-matrix process. It is not clear and is not deep enough to hold paint. Finish is a dark gray, probably manganese phosphate, and is uniform in color and texture.
Entréprise earlier receivers were machined from billet. This receiver is cast. Lawrence states the receiver is "induction heat-treated at the front ring and drawn back toward the receiver center." IMBEL receivers are induction heat treated at several locations, including the receiver ring, hammer slot, locking ledge, etc. I have no opinion on the functional affect, if any, of this different process. Soft edges of some of the lines gindicate the receiver started as a casting. Lines on earlier receivers are sharper.
The Type I has all the appropriate weight reducing ("lightening", not "lightning") cuts and sand cuts on the inside. In theory, the bolt carrier will push debris into these cuts so as to keep the debris from affecting operation. Additionally, a Type I is approximately 3.5 ounces lighter than a Type III.
One issue I discovered on initial observation is the recess for the dustcover is not deep enough on either receiver. While easy to trim the dustcover to fit flush (lower cannot be closed in this configuration) this should be fixed.
Another issue discovered on intital test-ftting was the front receiver face was not square on one of the receivers. One rear gas tube support screwed in fine, the other as you can see in the picture, does not contact the receiver face evenly. While flush at 6 o'clock, there is a noticeable gap at 12 o'clock. This is a cosmetic rather than a functional issue. It is interesting to note also that this second receiver required a spanner wrench for the last 4 turns. I could have chased the threads (9/16x24 RH) but wanted to see how much effort was going to be required. The front of the Type I has the correct radius and lightening cuts.
The machining on the inside receiver face and the receiver bridge is very rough. While machine marks themselves are of little consequence, the pattern here seems to indicate either non-homogenous steel or badly worn or damaged tooling. You will also note the non-concentricity of the gas piston hole and the relief cut around it. It seems to be the relief cut, not the hole, that is off. The depth is too shallow as well, as demonstrated by the dustcover fit.
(followup: Lawrence claims this is not a problem as it does not affect function and he claims to have fixed it).
The extractor relief cut had rough serrations, as was the cut on the opposite side. The receiver the bridge is wavy. I couldn't photograph the underside of the bridge, but it too was off. It is supposed to be flat - it cams the front of the bolt down. These had an irregular double-bevel. There is supposed to be a radius on the right side for the extractor to cam outward, and a smaller one on the left, but you can see the center section is not flat either. This does not appear to affect operation.
The photograph that did not turn out well was a closeup of the feedramps. The radii are either too deep or too close together, as the ridge in the middle is smaller than on an FN receiver. This does not seem to have an adverse effect on operation. The same closeup showed the front recess for the tab on the front of the magazine. It is taller and wider than an FN, but works. One gun fit all magazines loosely. It still cycled fine, and perhaps its simply a stacking of errors with a worn mag catch and a pile of used magazines, but it also could be this notch was a bit too low.
|The ejector blocks fit snugly with no gap. The retaining pins are machined flush. The Type I has the appropriate lightening cut. The width at the hinge portion of the receiver is correct, giving a tight fit to the lower receiver.|
|The locking shelf has the appropriate Type I lightening cut. The shelf is not deep enough (contrasting with earlier Entréprise that were too deep). The lever locking body moves all the way forward and contacts the rear of the lower receiver. There was no discernable movement when using a paratrooper lever, locking body. It points forward and has a bit more travel than the standard verticle on. The vertical lever locking body bottomed out against the rear of the receiver and still permitted significant movement of the upper and lower, mitigated somewhat by tightening the Hinge pin more than usual. (Lawrence claims to have rectified this issue). The ledge on the reaceiver should be slightly higher to take advantage of the tapered locking body. The lever, locking body, should be a few degees short of contact with the receiver. As parts wear, this feature allows the parts to self-adjust and retain a tight upper to lower receiver fit. This fit is crucial to accuracy as the front sight is on the upper and the rear sight is on the lower. Any slop between the two affects the relationship between the front and rear sight, and therefore accuracy.|
||The Type 1 hand-tightened to fine, I still shaved .001"-.002" off the shoulder before final torquing. Both guns headspaced in what I consider an average range, that is .256"-.260" locking shoulder.
The Type III also timed correctly. I am concerned about the thread engagement, as there was considerable lateral play prior to snugging agains the shoulder. I do not consider it a safety issue.
||The locking shoulder holes were too tight on both receivers. I have built enough FALs that I know how much force should be required to push a new locking shoulder into place. Even dramatically increasing the force was insufficient. I had to slightly reduce the diameter of the locking shoulder. Unlike the first receivers they sent, the dimensions of the recess for the locking shoulder "leg" were correct on these. Driving the locking shoulders in raised a burr of metal inside the receiver which I had to file off. This is an absolutely critical dimension, and one off which other receiver dimensions are calculated. While only a minor inconvenience, I recommend Entréprise reexamine their code or the frequency of tooling change for this critical cut. Furthermore, the hole appeared to be wider at the middle than on either end. I lack the necessary ID gauges to determine this for certain, but if true, may affect headspace over time as the locking shoulder "bows" in the middle.
Follow-up Lawrence told me this was to prevent locking shoulder "setback" an event where the locking shoulder presses back against the receiver during firing, increasing the headspace slightly. I describe this process more completely in "Gunplumber's Guide to FN FAL Home Gunsmithing." I don't buy it. FN contract guns are built with a tight initial headspace to compensate for this phenomenon, which only occurs durring the first few rounds.
This spot was frustrating. Bolt and carrier closed fine on a rimless go gauge, but not on a rimmed go gauge, even with extractor removed. A slight raised portion (the area not colored black) was camming the bottom of the carrier up and right just enough that the face of the bolt would bind on the rim of the gauge. A bit of careful filing through the cocking slide cut with a thin file remedied this. I did not adjust the area immediately above this spot. It is machined much rougher than the surrounding area, although a bit difficult to make out in this scan.
Follow-up Lawrence claimed that they pulled 10 receivers at random and assembled them into complete rifles in 20-30 minutes each, and experienced no such problems. All guns functioned flawlessly. I don't know what to say other than I am skeptical. It takes me longer than that just to clean, inspect, and prepare the parts. I consider his claim to be dubious at best.
Completing the Builds
||I selected an excellent condition StG 58 barrel and gas system, a new set of DSA internal parts previously tested in my SAR48. The remainder of the parts were in-spec, from inventory.
The first gun was uneventful. No malfunctions. I did not shoot for group, but could bounce a gallon milk jug up a 10 meter incline at approximately 100 meters from the shoulder. The second gun also cycled 6 magazines of mixed ammo without a hitch.
Follow-up Lawrence was not pleased with my evaluation. While finding no fault in its technical accuracy, he kept saying that it would "hurt our relationship" and he has since removed me from their list of "recommended gunsmiths." In retrospect, it appears that the receivers were not "no strings attached" as he originally claimed, but a bribe to revise my earlier comments. He obviously didn't know me very well. I have too big an ego to give other than a clear, objective, carefully documented evaluation. He then had the gall to then send me a bill for the "free": receivers, but when I sent him a bill for my many hours of careful review and photographic documentation, he tried to sue me. Given what I consider extremely unethical behavior, I now have zero trust or confidence in the company or their representatives, and am not interested in purchasing or working on their products.
|The receivers are still not perfect, however they are an improvement. There are some assembler-correctable issues as well as a few more substantial problem. I assembled both receivers in metric configuration and fired 120 rounds of mixed surplus ammo through each without a malfunction.