The FN 1949 uses a piston-type operating system in which a small amount of the breech pressure is bled off through an opening in the top of the barrel. That pressure drives back a steel piston that operates the action to eject the spent cartridge, re-cock and re-load the weapon. There is a collar (gas regulator) on the piston housing that allows the rifle to be tuned for best function. Turning the collar opens or closes a small hole that vents gas pressure from the piston tube.
Military ammunition can be found with significant variations in chamber pressure. Some might have been loaded “hot” for use in machine guns, while other arsenals might load it to a lower pressure to be safe in older weapons that remained in use. The front hand guard must be removed to adjust the regulator.
The FN-49 is fairly easy to field strip for cleaning. Make sure the rifle is not loaded. Start with the bolt in the forward, closed position. On the back of the receiver cover is a latch that needs to be turned a half turn so the flat piece is to the top. Now, push the cover forward until it stops, then lift up from the rear. The receiver cover along with the recoil springs can now be removed to the rear. Pull the operating handle back to the rear. Lift the bolt/carrier assembly out of the receiver when it reaches the cuts in the rail that permit removal.
After cleaning and oiling, the rifle can be re-assembled in reverse order. Watch the sliding dust cover that can move forward and block re-insertion of the bolt/carrier. When replacing the receiver cover and recoil springs be careful not to kink the springs. They can fold downward and the cover will still fit on, but the carrier cannot be retracted. Once this has happened the springs are bent and will be harder to get in line for proper assembly.
I have fired a lot of rounds through several FN 1949s over the years. As long as consistently loaded ammunition is used there have been few failures to feed or misfires. I’ve only actually needed to adjust the gas regulator a couple of times. If one was to reload for the FN-49 it might be necessary to tune the regulator to a specific load. Ejection is quite violent and the brass is usually dented where it hits the top cover. The gun is fairly accurate, for a military rifle. The rear sight can be adjusted right or left by loosening or tightening the screws on both sides of the aperture.
One word of advice. Try to find charger clips that fit the loading slot in the top cover. Each caliber of SAFN uses a unique size clip and it is sometimes hard to find the right size. Stripper clips are almost never marked beyond a manufacturer’s letter or number code. Just try different types until one fits. Loading single rounds into the magazine is fine but be careful not to bump the bolt handle or hold open the piece while loading. If you think M-1 thumb hurts, FN-49 thumb is worse.
All versions of the FN 1949 are popular with American collectors. Many 7mm and .30-06 rifles were imported before 1968. The Egyptian 8mm rifles were imported in the late 1980s. These Egyptian-contract rifles are the most commonly seen SAFN in the U.S. today. Many of the Egyptian rifles came in with broken stocks and Century Arms sold them with a new stock. These stocks are made of a light colored wood that is stained dark walnut. They frequently have a black plastic butt plate.
The metal parts of these rifles were usually re-blued. The re-stocked 8mm rifles run $400 to $550 on the U.S. market. Original 8mm rifles will usually be in well-used condition and can run $350 to $800 depending on condition. The 7mm and .30-06 versions will currently bring $800 to $1200. Many of the 7mm guns are in un-issued condition. The Argentine Navy rifles in 7.62mm will run $800 to $1200.
This article appeared in the January 31, 2011 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine. To learn more or to subscribe, click here.
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