The Legion’s Rifle of Choice

 

You asked, we answered. Leroy Thompson answers a reader question which was featured in our “Ask The Experts” column in our July 2013 issue. 

About our expert: Leroy Thompson is an internationally recognized authority on weapons and tactics, and is the author of 49 books. He has trained military and law enforcement personnel in hostage rescue tactics, close protection and counterinsurgency. Watch for his feature on the tactical employment of the submachine gun (the first in a series) in next month’s Gun World.

A French Foreign Legionnaire armed with the FAMAS

A French Foreign Legionnaire armed with the FAMAS Infantrie mounting an AimPoint red dot sight, illuminators/pointers, and a vertical foregrip. (Legion etrangere)

Question: What rifle does the French Foreign Legion use? —George S., Princeton, New Jersey

Leroy Thompson Answers: Currently, the Legion issues the FAMAS (Fusil d’Assaut de la Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Etienne). The FAMAS is a bullpup design in 5.56x45mm NATO, and has been in service with the French armed forces since 1981. At one time, it did not receive the latest weapons, but today, the Legion is one of the most elite French units, and is often among the first deployed to combat zones. As a result, Legionnaires are equipped with the FAMAS Infantrie version, which has an accessory rail atop the handguard. Normally, an AimPoint Comp M3 or a SCROME J4 4X optical sight is mounted. The original version of the FAMAS was designed to take special French magazines, but current versions will take the STANAG magazine used by other NATO armies.

I’ve fired the FAMAS a few times and found it quite handy. However, the location of the cocking handle on the version with the carry handle makes it impossible to kick the action open to remove a stuck case. Extraction is so hard on the FAMAS that special French steel case SS109 ammunition has to be used to avoid tearing the case heads. Although the French have reportedly been considering a replacement for the FAMAS, it is still in service as I write this, and appears likely to continue in use for some time.

A French Foreign Legionnaire armed with the FAMAS Infantrie mounting an AimPoint red dot sight, illuminators/pointers, and a vertical foregrip.  (Legion etrangere)

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