Sometimes a great rifle comes along and doesn't quite get its due. Sometimes its mischambered in an under-powered ammunition. Other times it falls victim to bad timing. That is the legacy of the stout and much overlooked Fabrique Nationale Model 1949.
Born in the years before the outbreak of World War II, the FN Model 49 was improved and refined by the Belgian weapons manufacturer to create a weapon that lasted many decades.
The semi-automatic rifle narrowly missed service in World War II and would have been a capable and noteworthy addition to the armory of combatants. Looking for the next generation rifle, with bolt action waning and semi-automatic the newest trend, FN put their minds back to the Model 1949.
While the United States went to Korea with M1 Garands and the Soviet Bloc secretly produced the rifle that would change the face of small arms, the AK-47, Belgium went for the Model 1949.
Firing one shot per trigger pull, the Model 1949 was gas operated and fed by a fixed 10 round magazine chambered initially in 7 x 57mm for Venezula. Belgium, as well as other armies, fielded the Model 1949 in .30-06. Egypt armed their forces with the Model 1949 in 7.92mm Mauser. Even the United States even looked at the FN rifle, chambered in its post-Korean caliber of 7.62 x 51mm that would go into the venerable detachable magazine fed M-14.
Like the Tokarev rifle, the Model 1949 was a gas operated tilting block weapon. As propellant gas acted on a piston, the block inside the receiver moved back and tilted, allowing a spent case to be ejected and a fresh round to be chambered upon the forward recoil.
The ability to convert the basic Model 1949 in select fire ran into trouble, with the caliber and recoil forces never quite in practical balance. The U.S. faced the same issue with the M-14, with it remaining semi-automatic after failed experiments to turn it to select-fire.
FN made plenty of these sturdy rifles for numerous armies, but in the limelight of American and Russian small arms of the period, the Model 1949 stayed in the background, soldiering on well into the 1980s with several armies.