The BESAL (abbreviated from Brno, Enfield, BSA, Light), also known as the Faulkner, was a British light machine gun developed by Birmingham Small Arms during World War II. It was designed as a cheap stop-gap substitute for the Bren.


During World War II, the vast majority of the British Army's small arms arsenal was produced at RSAF Enfield. The British government considered that if Enfield were to be destroyed by German bombing attacks, the Army's supply of machine guns would be crippled. Thus, the British Board of Ordnance commissioned BSA to design a cheap but effective machine gun that could be mass-produced at short notice. BSA's chief designer, Henry Faulkner, was placed in charge of the project.

The initial prototype, known as the Mk.I, was a stripped-down version of the Bren, designed to be as cost-efficient as possible. However, it was considered too crude and unpolished for military use. The weapon was then developed in the form of the Mk.II, which differed in that it took design cues from the Czech ZB vz.60. The Mk.II retained the cheap production cost of the Mk.I but was a rather more presentable weapon which performed well in tests.

The BESAL Mk.II was approved for production in the event that Enfield was bombed and could no longer produce the Bren. However, since this never happened, Bren production continued as normal and the requirement for the BESAL did not arise.


The Mk.I version of the BESAL was based on the Bren, and functioned much the same, albeit built to a small budget. It cocked from a cocking slot located on the right side of the receiver. The Mk.II version, however, revamped the cocking system to replicate that of the BESA, which in turn was based on the Czech ZB vz.60. The pistol grip was pushed forward to grip the piston and then pulled back to retract it in order to cock the weapon for use. Both the Mk.I and Mk.II guns were operated by a gas piston.


  • Modern Small Arms” by Major Frederick Myatt, Salamander Books, 1978
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