FN Herstal Firearms
Europe has a knack for creating great firearms, both rich in history and cutting edge in technology. FN America is purely American in legal terms; it is the merger of FN Manufacturing and FNH USA. That being said, it is still strictly Belgian in design.
The Origins of Fabrique Nationale Herstal
Born near the stunningly beautiful and historically rich Liege, Fabrique National Herstal was established in 1889 to contract manufacture Mauser rifles ordered by the Belgian government.
While the company was still primarily in its infancy, it came into a partnership with John Browning, perhaps the most famous American firearms designer of all time. But more on that a little later.
FN Herstal may have been forged as a firearm company, but that didn't explicitly limit them to guns. In fact, it is a generally American concept that manufacturing companies stick with a specific discipline: Toyota has made forklifts for decades, Mitsubishi makes air conditioners, airplanes, and a lot of other things, and Korean Daewoo manufactures heavy construction equipment and firearms in addition to cheap economy cars.
FN Herstal took a page out of that playbook, producing automobiles until the 1930s, and they also made motorcycles until the mid-1960s. They even manufactured utility trucks until the 1970s. Crazy.
FN Herstal Military Arms
The origins of FN Herstal was strictly military arms, starting at their inception near the turning of the 20th century, which remained and remained a vital component of their overall business.
Besides their Mauser clones, which were produced post-World War I and pre-World War II, FNH has made a couple of monsters of the markets. Let's start with the Fusil Automatique Léger. Not familiar? Well, you might recall it better as the FN FAL. Chambered in the formidable 7.62X51mm NATO, the FAL was a real contender with around seven million units built from 1947 through the present day, although FN ceased production back in 1988. Through several turns of events too numerous to involve here, the FAL was ultimately selected to arm most NATO countries, while the Garand-based M14 was chosen for the U.S. in the same 7.62mm caliber. Sort of. The FAL was initially designed in another caliber, the English wanted a different one, and rumor has it that Truman heavy-handed NATO into taking the 7.62x51mm. Whatever it may be, the FAL has seen its fair share of action.
Also notable are their significant contributions to the American service member in the form of the M4A1, M240, and of course, the SAW itself, the M249. Contrary to popular belief, Colt has not always manufactured the military's M16s and M4s; in fact, FNH USA has produced all M16s and M4s since 1991 under contract from Colt.
The Civilian Market
The civilian market is as hot as ever for firearms, particularly in the bent of pistols, semi-automatic rifles, and precision bolt action rifles. Beyond their military contracts, these just so happen to be the products that FN America markets to the hungry American market. The FN Five-seven might be the most identifiable of their pistols, but it is not their most prolific with its hefty price point and limited applications. Their DA/SA FNP and later FNX pistols have been good sellers, and their FNS striker-action pistols are a direct competitor to monster rivals Glock and Smith & Wesson.
They also produce the versatile and modular SCAR series of rifles, and for a lower price point, the FN-15 is an AR-pattern rifle. Logical since they have been making them for almost three decades in the defense sector.