The FAMAS (Fusil d'Assaut de la Manufacture d'Armes de Saint-Étienne or "Saint-Étienne arms factory assault rifle") is a bullpup assault rifle designed and manufactured in France by MAS (an abbrevation of Manufacture d'Armes St. Etienne - one of several government-owned arms factories in France) located in Saint-Étienne, which is now a member of the French government-owned Nexter (formerly GIAT Industries) group. It is the service rifle of the French military.
The FAMAS project began in 1967 under the direction of Paul Tellie and the first prototype was completed in 1971, with French military evaluation of the rifle beginning in 1972. When production problems delayed the general issue of the new rifles, and with the 1976 airborne operation in Kolwezi showing the immediate need for a more modern weapon, the French Army began searching for a temporary rifle to fill this need until the FAMAS came into full production. The H&K 33 was considered, and 1200 pieces were tested by Infantry, Marines, Mechanized and Airborne troops, but it was ultimately turned down in favour of the SIG SG 540, built under licence by Manhurin, until enough FAMAS rifles were produced to begin general issue. The French military finally accepted the rifle in 1978 as the standard French combat weapon.
After adoption, the FAMAS F1 replaced the aging MAS 49/56 rifle and MAT-49 submachine gun, and approximately 400,000 FAMAS F1 assault rifles were produced, with production now complete. The F1 was followed by the G1 that included several minor improvements such as redesigned grips and an enlarged trigger guard, but it remained conceptual and was never actually produced. The FAMAS G2 was developed circa 1994 to bring the rifle more in compliance with NATO standards by having tighter rifling and accepting standard NATO magazines, but also included several other upgrades taken from the G1 model, such as the enlarged trigger guard and improved hand guards. The French Navy purchased the FAMAS G2 in 1995, and began distributing it to the Fusiliers Marins and Commandos de la Marine, but the French Army has held off large scale purchase of the G2 to date, and the FAMAS F1 still remains the Army's primary service rifle. Small quantities of the FAMAS F1 have also been exported to Senegal and the United Arab Emirates, but for the most part, the rifle has remained almost exclusively in French service.
The FAMAS assault rifle is a bullpup configuration like the British SA80 and the Austrian Steyr AUG, with the ammunition feed behind the trigger. The receiver housing is made of a special steel alloy, and the rifle furniture is made of fiberglass. The rifle uses a lever-delayed blowback action, a system employed on the LMG AA52 derived from the prototypes built during Army Technical Department tests having taken place between WW1 and WW2. Fire rate is controlled by a selector just behind the magazine well, with three settings: safe, single shot, and automatic fire. Automatic fire can be in three-shot bursts (rafale) or fully automatic; this is determined by another selector, located under the housing and behind the magazine.
The FAMAS F1 and G1, the original variants, were designed to use French-made 25-round magazines with the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. These magazines were incompatible with standard NATO weaponry, but the FAMAS G2 uses the STANAG Magazine as used by most other NATO rifles, such as the M16 and SA80. The FAMAS G2 weighs . The G1 and G2 have a large, grip-length triggerguard like a Steyr AUG to allow easy access to the trigger when wearing gloves.
The F1 and G2 models of the FAMAS feature a bipod attached to the upper handguard.
The FAMAS first saw service in Chad during Operation Manta and again in desert operations in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm and in other various peacekeeping missions. Operational conditions proved the weapon to be reliable and trustworthy under combat conditions. The FAMAS was affectionately known as clairon ("bugle", because of its shape) amongst French troops in the late 70s-early 80s, but this practice is no longer current. An improved version of the FAMAS G2 is integrated in the Félin system.
Senegal and the United Arab Emirates received a small number of FAMAS rifles (possibly F1) from France, though it was unknown when they received them. Djibouti uses this weapon in its military as the standard infantry weapon. The Philippines also received a limited number and is used by the Philippine National Police Special Action Force.
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