While recently perusing DS Arms’ website, I spotted a variant dubbed the “SA58 Para Congo.” A close look at the rifle’s specs and overall design brought to mind the Congo Crisis and the daring of the Belgian paratroopers. Inspired by the chance to go hands-on with a semi-automatic rifle that closely mirrored the weapon that these renowned warriors had at one time carried, I contacted DS Arms and inquired about the availability.
I was in luck: They did have some completed rifles in stock, and I soon had a sample in my hands. Weighing in at 9.85 pounds, the 7.62mm rifle featured the early Type I receiver configuration and a lightweight aluminum lower receiver. Although a 16-inch barrel is also offered, I opted for the 18-inch barrel length. Both bipod-cut barrel types feature a “Belgian Short Flash Suppressor” with a serrated face and four groups of three venting ports located at the 1, 5, 7 and 11 o’clock positions. A rotating forward sling swivel is mounted just forward of the gas block/front sight assembly.
The Para Congo has a full-length gas system that sits under a molded fiberglass handguard, which is cut for a bipod and features three large cooling ports on each of its upper-forward sides. Patterned like the original Para FAL, the Para Congo’s stock features a metal “skeleton” body that offers a full cheekweld and a 14-inch length of pull. Employing a tongue-in-groove lock, it can be unlocked through downward pressure on the stock body. This allows it to fold along the right side of the rifle. To keep weight to a minimum, it is manufactured from aluminum. The rifle also features the familiar FAL folding carry handle at the forward ring of the receiver. The smooth synthetic pistol grip has the classic “belled”-shape body that is hand-filling and comfortable.
Once home with the rifle, I gave it a more thorough inspection. Like with my past experiences with DS Arms’ products, I found the fit and finish of the Para Congo to be superb. The exterior of the rifle has a deep black DuraCoat finish, and the action cycled smoothly, with an empty magazine locking the action open. A few dry fires of the trigger revealed a gritty 9.25-pound pull but with a discernable break. The one 20-round magazine provided with the Para Congo has the same DuraCoat finish on its exterior. After a quick cleaning and lubrication, I took the rifle out with a selection of Black Hills, Federal and Winchester ammunition to put it through its paces.
Although DS Arms makes a very nice scope rail mount for its FAL rifles, I felt it would be more appropriate to test this rifle the way it would have been used—with iron sights only. Could I get better groups with an optic? Sure, but to me, that was not really the point of this test. So I set out to see what I could wring out of the rifle with just the open sights.
Settled in on the bench with my target set at 100 yards, I fired a few groups to sight in the rifle. I quickly became accustomed to the excellent iron sights of the rifle (made up of a wing-protected post front sight and a Belgian-type dual peep aperture rear designated for 150 and 250 meters). Once sighted in, I began running the Para Congo for groups. About 25 rounds in, I had one failure to fully eject, with the fired case pushed against the forward edge of the ejection port by the bolt. As this was a brand new gun, I suspected it was part of the break-in process. So I marked my logbook and continued firing.
As I expected, the gun ran like a champ for the rest of the test, which entailed a few hundred rounds. And I was surprised by the gun’s accuracy, particularly with open sights. Although the majority of the groups were around the upper 2- to 3-inch range, I got some tight “best” groups (including a 1.55-inch group with the 150-grain Federal load). Being that I was fighting a 9.25-pound trigger pull and using iron sights, I was extremely impressed with the results. Recoil was manageable but notable (no surprise, considering it is a carbine-length 7.62mm with a metal, folding stock). I did note one minor quirk: The carry handle could not fully fold down alongside the right of the receiver when the stock was folded.
The SA58 Para Congo from DS Arms offers U.S. gun enthusiasts a chance to own an arm affiliated with the brave Belgian paratroopers that pulled off the daring Dragon Rouge raid during the dark days of the Congo Crisis. Combining impressive power with compact handling characteristics and DS Arms’ trademark attention to quality manufacturing, the Para Congo not only ties itself to the remarkable history of the FAL design but also offers users a capable 7.62mm carbine that’s capable of holding its own today. For more information, call 847-277-7258 or visit dsarms.com.