April 7, 2009

Imbel Sporter Model 444 308 Win.

This is the published dealer price, so you can negotiate with a local FFL for what you agree is a fair markup. On these guns, a common street price is $800.

Easily the best-looking of the trio, the Imbel-receivered FAL looked thoroughly professional with its even, matte-black finish, The first Brazilian FALs were made under contract by FN, but Brazil initiated production on its own, and our test rifle was made in its entirety in Brazil. The markings on the receiver indicated the maker was Fábrica de Itajubá, the government-owned company that is part of the government-owned IMBEL arms complex. The IMBEL logo and name also appeared on the upper receiver. The name “Pacific Armament Corporation — Modesto, CA” also was on the receiver. Beneath the ejection port was laser-stenciled “MODEL 444 308 SPORTER” and “LIBERTY ARMORY LIBERTY, TX.”

Fit and finish were excellent. All the parts fit as though they were made to go together. The detail work was not as good as on other samples of the FAL we’ve inspected, but there was absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. The polishing and Parkerizing were all very well done. A clever touch was that within the pistol grip were a pull-through with bristle brush, and a container for the cleaning juice of your choice. These were held in with a spring clip, useful yet unnoticeable. The Imbel was a “metric” FAL, as opposed to the first “R1A1” tested below, which was assembled from British “inch” FALs. Proper British FALs, like the L1A1 sporter we had on loan several years ago, would take both British and metric magazines, and function perfectly in all respects. Metric FALs including the Imbel will not accept British magazines.

Imbel Sporter Model 444 308 Win.

Courtesy Gun Tests

The Brazilian-made FAL gave a good showing of itself. Its accuracy was acceptable for a battle rifle, and it was thoroughly reliable with good metric magazines. Everything about it worked, not too much to ask for a very serious rifle such as this.

Part of our reasons for all this magazine discussion is that British mags are more costly and harder to find than metrics, which have sold as cheaply as $5 each within the past two years. Brit mags sell for about five times that.

Our Imbel had a fixed protrusion for manually opening the bolt, which we call the bolt knob or bolt lever. Some FAL bolt knobs have a provision for forcing the bolt forward, which is done by first pressing inward on the bolt knob. This one did not, and like all three rifles tested here, the bolt could only be drawn rearward. The bolt knob did not follow the cycling bolt. Unlike the M1 Garand and M14 rifles, nothing external moves on any of the FALs as the rifle fires and ejects.

The pistol grip was angled sharply to the rear, which made it hard for most of our test shooters to move the safety (down is off) without repositioning the shooting hand. The British version was a whole lot easier to access and, we believe, a better setup than this one. None of the three FALs had provisions for lefties. The trigger broke at just under 10 pounds, and it had significant creep.

The adjustment for gas escape, just behind the front sight, was very stiff. Its dial had sharp-edged serrations for good grasping with the thumb, or for levering with a screwdriver or similar tool. Normally this is not changed, once it’s set for your favorite ammunition.

Imbel Sporter Model 444 308 Win.

Courtesy, Gun Tests

The FAL has clean lines. The bolt knob, located just behind the forend, didn't fold, and doesn't move during firing.

We had to do significant sight correcting of the Imbel to get it to hit our target. This involved shifting the rear sight, via its opposing screws, to the left, and lowering the front sight to get the bullet impact high enough. A clever spring lock held the front sight adjustment securely. The rifle had more than enough adjustment for these corrections, but we felt the rifle ought to have been better sighted-in by the maker. The Imbel alone of the trio had a pinch-lock on its rear sight ramp, which made coarse range adjustment much easier than with the other two rifles. The base setting on all three rifles is for 200 yards (or meters), with graduated marks for 300, 400, 500, and 600. The rear sight blade, which held the aperture, was fixed on the Imbel, but folded on the other two.

On target, the Imbel did its best with the Barnes X-bulleted PMC ammunition, averaging about 2 inches. In this particular rifle it outshot the Winchester match ammunition, which was a big surprise to our shooters. There were no problems with the rifle except for one failure to feed the last round in the magazine, but that was with an old and obviously worn magazine. With good magazines, it was a very good rifle.

Comments (4)

Thanks for the info, any more? DEUCEDRIVER1 Pantano, Az

Posted by: DEUCEDRIVER1 | June 20, 2015 7:47 PM    Report this comment

I purchased one of these some time ago. Shoots fine and the fit and finish are nice, however the muzzle brake was poor. Many people on the internet forums were calling it a "recoil enhancement device". Whoever designed it had the ports facing forward, in essence, creating more recoil.

Tapco created a new brake, and when it was approved by the BATF, I had mine replaced. It works much better than the one supplied.

Posted by: SomewhereinPA | January 15, 2015 2:52 PM    Report this comment

The Isrealis were dissatisfied with their metric FALs. Perhaps if the rifles bolts had the "sand cuts" that the British imperial standard FALs had this would have improved their reliability. When Isreal started relieving Foreign Military Assistance for the USA the funding had to be spent on American weapons. So the M-16 was what they could get. M-16/M-4s are now being replaced by the isreali made Tavor rifle. Some Isreali units used Galil rifles produced in Isreal. But they never replaced the M-16/M-4s for general issue.

Posted by: idahoguy101 | January 15, 2015 11:20 AM    Report this comment

One of the things that surprised me is, that the Israeli Military had tested these rifles and found that they tend to jam in the dusty environments unlike the M14 & M16 ect.

Posted by: lotoofla | April 9, 2009 3:09 PM    Report this comment

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