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.
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.
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.