FAMAE SAF: A shortened version of Swiss SIG 540 assault rifle

Ian Hogg

Like the Steyr submachine gun, the FAMAE SAF is based upon an assault rifle design, though in this case with much more modification. In the 1980s the FAMAE factory (the Chilean government small arms factory) obtained a license to manufacture the Swiss SIG 540 assault rifle.


This is a 5.56mm locked-breech weapon of fairly conventional pattern and is the standard Chilean service rifle. Having set up the machinery to make this rifle, FAMAE looked at the design and decided to adapt what they could of the rifle to a submachine gun (SMG).

The design is a shortened version of the SIG 540 rifle, but the rifle’s rotating bolt has been replaced with a simple blowback bolt. The FAMAE SAF also has a bolt hold-open catch that engages after the final shot. Otherwise, the receiver, stock, fore-end, trigger/hammer assembly and floating firing pin design are from the SIG 540.


The general design, the receiver, stock, and fore-end, is that of the rifle though shortened. The rotating bolt breech closing system was modified to a simple blowback bolt, but the rifle’s hammer mechanism was retained, so that, like the Steyr AUG 9 Para, this weapon fires from a closed bolt. The actual mechanism was altered, however, to allow for single shots, automatic fire or three-round bursts, the latter being somewhat unusual on submachine guns.

Steyr AUG 9 PARA, Aimpoint on a Bobro Engineering Mount, Hexmag with a Springer Precision Mag Extension
Steyr AUG, Aimpoint on a Bobro Engineering Mount, Hexmag with a Springer Precision Mag Extension (Photo: Imgur/AUGret)

A new 9mm barrel was designed and fitted. The magazine was made in translucent plastic so that the contents can be seen at any time; it is also fitted with protruding lugs on one side and keyhole-like slots on the other so that two or three magazines can be clipped together. One can be inserted into the magazine housing on the weapon, leaving the others exposed.

When the first magazine is empty, it is simple to slip it out, shift the lot sideways and slip a fresh magazine into position – far quicker than withdrawing fresh magazine from a pouch and fitting it in place, then having to pick up the old magazine.

The selector has four settings: safe, single shot, 3-round burst and fully automatic. Some models were made in a semi-auto only configuration for law enforcement and civilian customers.


Three models of the FAMAE SAF submachine guns are made; the standard model with a fixed plastic butt; standard with a side-folding tubular metal butt; and a silenced model with an integral silencer (FAMAE SAF SD) and folding butt.

Mini SAF
Mini SAF has a much shorter barrel, no shoulder stock and a forward handrip (Photo: Pinterest)

Mini SAF

There is also the Mini SAF with a much shorter barrel, no shoulder stock, and a forward handgrip. It can use the standard 30-round magazine but a special 20-round magazine gives additional compactness. The whole weapon is only 12 inches long and is ideal for stealth work (concealed carry) like bodyguard and covert operations.


The SAF-200 is a modernised variant, which is being tested by FAMAE and the Chilean Army. It includes a new retractable and foldable stock, a new handguard and Picatinny rails provided for modern optics and lateral attachments. The rails are optional for the other SAF variants, but is standard on the SAF-200.

The FAMAE SAF-200 with an unloaded magazine
The FAMAE SAF-200 with an unloaded magazine (Photo: FAMAE)

Since 1999, Taurus have signed an agreement with FAMAE to produce the SAF under license in .40 S&W for the Brazilian law enforcement.

Technical Specifications: FAMAE SAF

Manufacturer: FAMAE, Santiago, Chile
Type: Blowback, selective fire
Caliber:  9mm Parabellum
Barrel: 7.87in (200mm)
Weight (empty): 6.4lbs (2.9 kg)
Magazine capacity:  30 rounds
Cyclic rate of fire: 1300 rounds/minute

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