LAPA FA-03 (Fusil de Assalto Modele 03) History

The LAPA FA-03 ("Fusil de Assalto Modelo 03") was a private venture by the Brazilian concern of Labpratorio de Pesquisa de Armamento Automatico (LAPA) to develop and ultimately sell Brazilian military and security forces on an all-modern automatic assault rifle weapon. The design of the FA-03 was attributed to Nelmo Suzano and project work spanned from 1978 to 1983 in which working prototypes then made available. A period of formal testing ensued with the goal of seeing production undertaken as early as 1985. However, government support for the product never materialized as had been hoped and the competent FA-03 design fell into firearms obscurity. It is possible that a few examples did manage to see some active service with select Brazilian police units though fewer than 500 units were ever produced.

The dominating design feature of the FA-03 was its bullpup configuration in which the firing action and magazine resided in the lengthened, fixed shoulder stock located aft of the trigger group. The bullpup saw few viable forms in development throughout the Cold War years and has only recently caught on with firearms makers as an accepted mainstream alternative to conventional designs such as the American M16 and Soviet AK-47/AK-74. The bullpup provides the inherent benefit of allowing a full-length barrel to reside within a more compact overall design (a strong quality for urban warfare). Operators also comment on a higher degree of short-range accuracy for the weapon is held tight against the body, much of its weight being aft of the center of gravity and close to the operator. Of course due to the shorter overall design, the operator has to ensure that he not cross the barrel with his support hand when firing the weapon. The most famous bullpup assault rifle is the Austrian Steyr AUG of 1979.

The FA-03 sported a molded plastic receiver which was lighter than designs relying on metal. The carrying handled was integrated into the receiver with the charging handle set within the handle loop. In this way, the weapon could be cocked ambidextrously, accessible from either side of the weapon. The pistol grip was under the receiver in the traditional way with an integral trigger guard surrounding a curved trigger assembly. The forend of the receiver was well-formed and perforated with an upper and lower line of heat-dispensing slots for most of its length before the receiver tapered at the extreme front end. The barrel extended a short distance ahead of the receiver, much of it shrouded by the plastic body. A perforated muzzle compensator/flash suppressor was fitted ahead of a front fixed sight. The rear sight was embedded in the carrying handle and adjustable as required. A bayonet could be fitted under the barrel in the normal way. Overall weight of the weapon neared 7.7lbs with a running length of 29 inches, the barrel measuring 19 inches in length.

The LAPA design was centered around the ubiquitous American 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge and operated from a conventional gas system actuated a rotating bolt. The rifle utilized a unique system in which it could be set to a double-action mode with the weapon chambered and ready-to-fire while still safely restricted - requiring only a long trigger pull to operate. A single-action mode brought operations in line with other typical automatic weapons (single-shot or full-automatic - there was no traditional manual safety selection). The FA-03 was fed by a 20- or 30-round detachable box magazine inserted into the underside of the shoulder stock. While the weapon was tested with M16-style STANAG magazines, it was intended that the finalized production model would make use of an in-house lightweight plastic 30- or 40-round straight magazine designed by LAPA.

As tested, the FA-03 exhibited a rate-of-fire of 650 rounds per minute. Muzzle velocity was listed at 3,200 feet per second which gave the weapon good penetrative capabilities at range. Effective range was approximately 600 yards depending on conditions.

LAPA FA-03 (Fusil de Assalto Modele 03) Specification


- Close Quarters Battle (CQB) / Personal Security

- Frontline / Assault


Overall Length:

738 mm (29.06 in)

Barrel Length:

489 mm (19.25 in)

Weight (Unloaded):

7.67 lb (3.48 kg)


Adjustable Iron Front and Rear



Gas-Operated; Rotating Bolt

Muzzle Velocity:

3,280 feet-per-second (1,000 meters-per-second)


675 rounds-per-minute

Effective Range:

2,000 ft (610 m; 667 yd)


FA-03 (Fusil de Assalto Modelo 03) - Base Series Designation.

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