CLASSIC ARMY: SA58 Carbine

Did you ever wonder, which rifle could be considered as Western counterpart of ubiquitous AK-47? Weapons aficionados often debate about this question and short list usually boils down to M14, G3 and FN FAL. M14’s active duty was limited to eight short years, so it fails short in service time. Hecker&Koch’s G3 -excellent weapon as it is- wasn’t involved in any truly televised war in fails short in recognition; FN FAL is third candidate, which is by some (author of this review shares the opinion) considered as Western counterpart of Kalashnikov’s design.

It has been in service for over 50 years; its reputation was earned in South Africa’s bush wars; it was used by Rhodesian SAS; it was used by both sides in short but intensive Falklands conflict. FN FAL and its derivatives use a tried and tested classic design, which is soldier proof- which is as good as weapon can possibly get.

FN FAL was manufactured by FN Herstal (licences all over the world were sold to various governments) and were used by military and paramilitary forces of Argentina, Australia, UK, South Africa. Rhodesia and many more). FN FAL is typical representative of battle rifles. It is long, it uses heavy calibre (7,62×51), it is made out of machined steel, which makes it fairly heavy. Shorter versions of FN FAL exist; sometimes they were born out of necessity- Australian soldiers in Vietnam shortened down their full length battle rifles to carbine length (model was affectionally known as “The Bitch”).

Enough of the history, let’s jump into present time. When FN Herstal ceased with the production of FN FAL, several US based companies tried to satisfy the demand of their domestic market. One of them (and probably best known) is DSA (David Selvaggio Arms), located in Barrington, Ilinois. They first started as importer of assembly parts and later bought machinery and started with their own production. DSA’s products are known for their high quality and reliability. DSA’s products found their users in recreational shooters, law enforcement agencies and recently Private Military Companies.

Action Sport Games acquired licensing rights for DSA products in airsoft and this is the first fruit of their cooperation. Some of the stores are promoting this replica as “the best product from Classic Army yet.” Bold statement, and we shall see if there is any merit to it.

First impression is excellent. Very sturdy, no rattle (except for the sling swivels, but that is unimportant). It is surprisingly light for full metal replica. It is very handy, length is perfect.

There is zero flex or creaking of the parts. Truth to be told, if you exert a disproportionate amount of pressure on fore grip it moves for a millimetre or two, but nothing dramatic.

This is one of those replicas where it is easier to list plastic parts than metal. Reinforced plastic is used for fore grip, pistol grip, stock and cocking handle knob.

It is worth underlining that all functional parts of the real gun are here replicated in full detail (gas block, disassembly lever), even if they are non functional. For instance, FN FAL uses unique gas flow system. Naturally, this play no role in the replica, but both gas regulators can be adjusted.

Working bolt catch is impressive. While working bolt catches are nothing particularly new in airsoft, design on CA SA58 is probably one of the best I’ve seen. Short You Tube clip demonstrates basic operation.

Bolt catch is disengaged with the downward push on the lever, which is located next to the magazine release lever. Bolt will slam into the closed position, making nice metal sound while doing so.

Dummy bolt covers HopUp dial, which can be easily reached trough ejection port. Turning the dial is a bit soft. Personally, I prefer a bit of a resistance when adjusting the HopUp. Despite that HopUp retains its setting.

Bolts on airsoft replicas are usually bit sluggish and more than embarrassment than visually appealing feature (Tokyo Marui’s AK comes to mind). Bolt on CA SA58 on other hand is much faster and slams forward with loud and crisp clack. For test purposes I tried this function several (hundred) times, but with no visible wear and tear. Life of replica tester can be hard and stressful…

Ergonomics are very good, but not stellar (remember, design is nearly 60 years old!). True, it is not fully ambidextrous and it is not very friendly to left hand dominant users, but both commands (magazine release lever and bolt catch) are acessable by thumb of the left hand. Fire selector is again feature worth mentioning. Stiff (by airsoft standards), very positively clicks into position and does not wobble. Settings are S (Safe), 1 (Single) A (Full Auto).

Hand guard is wedge shaped in very comfortable. It offers very positive grip, without any sharp edges to dig into your hands. Black plastic is very even with slight texture.

Inserting of magazine is simple.You have to insert it with the front (where the tooth is located) into the magazine well and lock it into position. It locks with very audible click. Once the magazine is inserted you will notice that there is absolutely no magazine wobble. None whatsoever.

Currently, only HiCap magazines are available. Capacity is around 330 BBs and HiCap work reliably out of the box. Floor plate on the magazine is secured with a hex screw.

Sights were often praised while we tested CA SA58. Both front and rear sight are protected by protective wings (sometimes also known as “dog ears”). Elevation of the front sight is adjustable (appropriate tool is not included. Interestingly, same goes for the real DSA SA58. One of the rare complaints is that this inexpensive little accessory should be part of the package). Rear “L-type” flip sight has two apertures marked “150” and “250” (meters). Markings are laser etched.

Grip is very nicely made. Its shape is very recognisable, as it is also used on other models from Fabrique Nationale (most notably Minimi family and FN FNC). Original has storage compartment, closed with hinged door. Hollow space is usually used for storage of cleaning kit and oil bottle. Naturally, on SA58Carbine grip is used to house a an AEG motor.

Front swivel rotates around the barrel for the full 360 degrees, making wearing it more comfortable, as swivel adjust to the user. Rear swivel is located on the buttstock and also swivels.

Removing of the rubber buttplate is simplified. While the real FALs use screw, CA used tried and tested approach of sliding buttplate. System is very similar to Classic Army’s fixed stock series of MP5.

Only part, which is weak link in the otherwise visually very pleasing replica is stock. There is nothing obviously wrong with it, but its walls feel a bit too thin. This is pure subjective feel, so your experience may or may not be the same. It is similarly nicely textured as fore grip. Seam is noticeable, but does not distract.

Flash hider is birdcage type. Personally, I’d rather see a “Belgian type” flash hider, but this type enables compatibility with aftermarket replica suppressors.

I find it especially interesting that there are no Classic Army markings to be found. Individual serial number is located above fire selector, inscription “SA58 MADE IN USA” is located on the mount on the left side, and two inscriptions and logo “DSA INC. LK BARRINGTON. IL” are on the right side.

The catch on the rear of the receiver is used on real ones to lock upper receiver to the lower receiver. It has no function, but it moves.

Replica shoulders perfectly and iron sights work very well. It is important to mention that you will have to adjust cheek wield when using optics (try to use as low mounts as possible). This is probably due basic configuration, as 60 years ago no one even dreamt about widespread use of optics.

Top rail runs on the entire length of the receiver. It is MIL-STD-1913 (Picatinny) compatible, which means that full compliment of optics (and their replicas) are at your disposal. As this is carbine length replicas, (replica) EOTech or Aimpoint looks best.

Real FAL has very quick disassembly. You will probably remember that we mentioned disassembly lever. Once pressed, FN FAL opens much like a shotgun (similar approach is also used in M16 family). Disassembly of CA SA58 Carbine bit differs, but is quick and painless none the less. You need to unscrew both screws (in the real this is actually a pin) on the left and right and simply remove upper receiver from the lower receiver.

Gearbox is held by screw on the motor plate of the grip. Once unscrewed, V3 gearbox can be safely removed from lower receiver. We already complimented grip. Again I’d like to mention that while it stores a motor, it still very well replicates a swinging door of the real one.

HopUp chamber is metal. Casting is precise, with no left over material. We already mentioned flimsiness of the HopUp dial. Flimsiness of the dial can be attributed to the design of the HopUp. There is no friction, as dial directly adjust the lever, which is reason of the “softness” of the adjusting process. Despite this, HopUp does not reset itself.

Gearbox is V3, with addition of metal spring guide. It looks like a standard Classic Army reinforced V3 gearbox. Decision for V3 Gearbox will be undoubtedly warmly received by those, who like to tune up your replicas.

Parts are standard with no surprises: metal bushings, yellow polycarbonate piston with plastic piston head. Gearbox looks well assembled and I’m glad to say that Classic Army’s Quality control department is doing their job.

Chronoed exit velocity is standard 96 m/s with .20g, which is just below 1 Joule. We tested it in couple of skirmishes; we went trough approximately two bags of BBs. Naturally, that is everything but long term test. Bottom line, this is a sound design without any obvious flaws. Replica was tested by both veteran as well as new players without any problems.

Some players miss more Picatinny rails, but others love streamlined and elegant shape of plastic fore grip. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Classic Army announces of one of the modernised version of DSA’s products in the near future.

Now to return to the question about being the best out of CA’s yet. I very much dislike big words. CA DSA58 Carbine is very good replica. We found couple of flaws, which don’t harm overall very positive impression. It is true that its price is a bit high. But than again, I much rather pay more for my primary replica to work as expected. CA DSA58 Carbine is a very sound design an I’m sure that it will prove its worth in the long run.

Test item provided by Action Sport Games

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