By Marc Cammack
FN 49 Rifle – A Brief Overview
USA – -(Ammoland.com)- During the 20th Century Fabrique Nationale (FN) produced many legendary weapons such as the High Power 9mm pistol, the Mag 58 Machine gun, the FN FAL.
After World War Two, FN produced another lesser known rifle the semi automatic FN49 rifle. The FN49 did not see the same level of combat use as similar self loading battle rifles like the M1 Garand, SVT40, or G43.
However the weapon helped pave the way for the famous 7.62mm FN FAL battle rifle, and the FN49 saw use in other conflicts such as the Korean War. The rifle was also adopted by several countries right after World War Two, and today surviving FN49 rifles have become a prized collectible.
The designer of the FN49, was a Belgian named Dieudonne Saive. After the death of John Moses Browning, Saive finished the design for the 9mm Hi Power pistol. He also later designed the famous FN FAL rifle, which would equip many Western nations during the Cold War. Saive began working on semi automatic rifles in the early 1930’s. His earliest design self loading rifles were recoil operated, but he designed an early gas operated rifle in 1936. This gas operated rifle’s further development however was stopped in 1940, when the Nazis invaded Belgium.
Saive managed to escape from Belgium to England in the summer of 1941. In England, he further developed his design for a semi automatic rifle. Saive later went to Canada in 1943 to help with production of the Hi Power pistol at the John Inglis company. The rifle design that Saive worked on in England served as the basis for the post war FN49 semi automatic rifle, that was adopted by Belgium in 1949.
The Belgian Army was the largest user of the FN49 rifle. These rifles were marked “ABL” for the Belgian Army. These Belgian issues were set up for easy conversion to select fire. The Belgian Congo also had a total of 2,795 select fire FN49 rifles in .30-06. These rifles had a lion crest on the receiver to distinguish them from the Belgian Army rifles. By 1960 the FN FAL replaced the FN49 in both Belgium and the Congo as a standard infantry rifle.
Belgium was not the first country to adopt the FN49. Venezuela ordered 4,000 FN49s in 7mm Mauser in 1948. They placed a second order for 4,000 in 1951, for a total of 8,000 rifles. These rifles were marked with the Venezuelan coat of arms, and had a unique flash suppressor. The Brazilian Navy used a total of 11,001 FN49 rifles in .30-06, and one rifle in 7.62mm NATO. These rifles were marked with the Brazilian crest on the top of the receiver, and they also were marked with an anchor on the left side of the receiver.
Other South American countries used the FN49 such as Argentina. The Argentine Navy ordered a total of 5,537 rifles in 7.65mm Argentine. Many of these weapons were later converted to 7.62mm NATO and fitted with a 20 round detachable box magazine. Argentine Navy rifles are marked with the Argentine crest and ARA on the receiver. 1,000 rifles in .30-06 were produced for Columbia and these rifles were marked with the Columbian crest on the receiver.
Egypt was the second biggest user of the FN49, with some 37,602 rifles in 8mm Mauser being purchased over the course of two years. Egyptian guns often had a brass stock disc on the right side of the butt. The rear sights were also marked in Arabic, and the receivers were marked with either an Eagle or the Egyptian Crown. Luxembourg also ordered the FN49 These were chambered in .30-06, and marked AL on the receiver meaning Army of Luxembourg. A total of 6,003 FN49 rifles were made for Luxembourg. Indonesia was another purchaser of the FN49, and ordered some 16,100 .30-06. These rifles were marked with the letters ADRI on the receiver and an eagle.
Sniper variations of the FN49 were made for Belgium, Egypt, and Luxembourg. Belgium had a total of 262 FN49 sniper rifles. The number of sniper rifles used by Luxembourg was also small. Sniper rifles from Belgium and Luxembourg both featured Echo mounts and 4x power OIP scopes. Egypt used a larger number of FN49 sniper rifles, and these guns differed from their European counterparts. They were fitted with Czech MeOpta 2.5x power scopes and Czech made mounts.
The FN49 was quickly superseded by the famous 7.62mm FN FAL in many nations. Despite this the rifle did see limited combat use in various conflicts. The Belgian Volunteer Battalion fought in the Korean War and were equipped at first with British No. 4 Enfield .303 rifles, but would be reequipped with FN49s in 1952. FN49s were also used in the Congo following that country’s independence in 1960. Egyptian troops used the weapon during the Suez Crisis of 1956 as well. Venezuelan troops used the FN49 alongside FN Mausers, and FALs, during the Venezuelan 1958 Coup d’etat.
In the United States surviving FN49 rifles are in high demand on the collector’s market. They are much more uncommon than other contemporary rifles like the M1 Garand, due to their low production numbers. Rifles from Venezuela and Luxembourg are highly sought after due in part to the fact that they are often found in excellent or like new condition.
Egyptian rifles are the most common FN49 rifle in the US, and are often found with replacement stocks. Belgian Army FN49s are rare in the United States, as they were setup to be easily converted to select fire, and thus are banned from importation.
** Images: Rock Island Auction Company ( www.rockislandauction.com )
FN 49 Rifle Resources:
- FN 49 Rifle for Sale on GunBroker : http://tiny.cc/puj27x
- Books on the FN 49 Rifle : http://tiny.cc/xzb47x
- Youtube Videos or the FN 49 Rifle : https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=FN49+Rifle
- Wikipedia on the FN 49 Rifle : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FN_Model_1949
- FN 49 Rifle Images : http://www.gun-photos.info/
About Marc Cammack
Marc Cammack has been collecting firearms since he was 14 years old.
His interests are primarily military surplus firearms of the late 19th into the 1950’s. He has studied these in depth, and currently volunteers at two local museums providing them with accurate information about their firearms.
He is a graduate of the University of Maine with a bachelor’s degree in history. He has studied modern European and American history since the age of 9, and has been shooting since the age of 11. He currently resides just outside of Bangor, Maine.