Mysterious Short Barreled FN FAL

I was emailed this image taken from the 1975 movie The Wild Geese. The movie, about a band of mercenaries, was filmed in South Africa. In one scene a merc is seen using a short barreled FN FAL (or R1, as the FAL was designated in South Africa).

A number of countries fielded limited numbers of shortened FAL rifles but I have never heard of them being used South African.



Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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    • Whaleoil, thanks for the links.

  • Ilkka

    More info of the gun in question:

    http://www.imfdb.org/index.php?title=The_Wild_Geese

    quote from that article, regarding the carbine:

    ” I heard this weapon was an experimental weapon for South African Paratroops but never got adopted.”

    and a pic from another angle:

    http://www.imfdb.org/index.php/Image:WG-R1a.jpg

    • Ilkka, thanks for the link. I forgot about IMFDB

  • Hauser

    I might be wrong as I don’t have a source, just my memory, but I believe the shortened version was called the R1 Battle Carbine and was an experimental weapon for the South African Paratroopers that was never adopted.

  • Ladyfox

    Just wanted to give you some info on this since it’s one of my favorite movies. The rifle in question was called the R1 Carbine:

    http://www.imfdb.org/index.php?title=FN_FAL

    And here is a little history about the FN in South Africa:

    http://www.saaaca.org.za/links/SIG/fal/fal.htm

    BTW, stumbled across you blog just here recently and wished to mention you’re doing an awesome job. This place is my first stop just before keepandbeararms.com is. ^_^

    • Ladyfox, thanks for the links and the kind words.

  • Thanks for posting this up, Steve… This ‘mysterious’ cut-down FAL variant is driving me crazy as *nobody* seems to have any information on what it might be!

    Superficially it looks almost exactly like a DSA Inc. ‘Mini’ SA58 Tactical Carbine, but these weren’t around in the mid-70s.

    The guys using it in the movie is actually an ex-SAS soldier and former Mercenary called Ian Yule, who was brought on board the ‘Wild Geese’ movie as both an actor and unofficial weapons expert (I am sure this has some bearing on the mystery FN as he will have been a lot more weapons savy and will have had a say in the choice of this rifle for his character).

    The weapon *seems* to have an extended 30 round British L4A1 (7.62mm BREN) mag. This is quite a clue to the origins of the weapon itself as the L4A1 was an ‘inch pattern’ magazine specifically designed to fit the British weapon and as far as I am aware could not fit the metric FN FAL. In short this points to the mystery ‘shorty’ as being of British L1A1 origins rather than a cut-down FN FAL.

    But maybe there was a metric FAL extentd mag available at teh time as well? (I know there were several variants of heavy barreled FAL support rifles which used an extended mag).

    If anyone knows anything about this rifle It would be great to solve teh mystery!

  • MrSatyre

    Well, it IS a movie. And more importantly, the character IS a merc, so maybe he was allowed to use the weapon of his choice (or maybe it was simply a choice on the part of the actor “Hey, that looks cool, I’ll use that one!”). 😉

  • allen

    Interesting, the FAL is also sporting a Singlepoint red dot reflex sight.

  • Danny

    Short Barreled version of indian FN FAL clone “The Ishapore SLR” was standard issue to BMP-II equipped Mechanized Infantry Troops.

  • Vak

    Well, allow me to introduce you to your new best friend when it comes to identifying guns in movie/videogame/other media :

    http://www.imfdb.org/

    And for the Wild Geese : http://www.imfdb.org/index.php/Wild_Geese%2C_The

    Hope that helps.

  • Dan F

    Blocky safety and folding handle says inch pattern, solid sight wings say metric. Almost looks like a SAW stock as well.
    …I’m confused.

  • allen

    Found the history of Ian Yule’s cut-down FAL here:
    http://www.imfdb.org/index.php/Talk:Wild_Geese,_The

  • Jim

    The actor in the photo, Ian Yule was actually a mercenary who was cast for the role in South Africa. Apparently he also brought his former commander Col. “Mad Mike” Hoare of the real Wild Geese to act as a technical advisor on the film. As to the weapon itself, it was probably chosen more for the “cool factor” more than anything else much like the over abundance of Uzis and the cross bow. Great movie though.

  • Carl

    Whatever it is, I am quite sure it sucked to shoot it without good ear protection.

  • I remember back in the late 80’s we had a short barrel SLR lithgow brand come into the gunshop (back when I was in the outdoor sports game) it was normal configuration and had a standard wooden forend. Basically just the flash suppressor protruded from the forend and it came with a solid wood rear stock that folded forward. Additionally it came with only one magazine – a huge 40 round mag that looked both ridiculous and intimidating on such a short weapon.

    I was told by the owner that it was experimental weapon, issued to Aussie artillery around the mid 70’s to replace the sten or sterling that they were using. Which kind of makes sense if you want your guys packing with something decent while they are working on the big gun. Still she was a heavy beast (as any SLR is). I don’t think the 40 round mag was standard issue, if full I reckon it would have added an extra 2 kg to the weapon which would have not been all that practical.

    The gun was up for grabs at the time, and I always regretted not taking it , but it would have been an expensive exercise just to own it for a talking point, as it wasn’t much use for anything else. I wonder what became of it?

    • Peter, 40 round mags! WOW! That must have looked awesome (but as you say, very impractical)

  • A very big thank you for the excellent response to this!

    The key to this – it appears – may actually be the ‘actor’ himself – Ian Yule. Were he a normal actor I would have simply assumed that the mystery rifle was a ‘one off’ movie custom job, but the fact that Ian Yule was ‘one of them’ (ex-SAS) and an experienced merc lends more credence to the idea that he could very well have been ab;e to put his hands on an ‘experimental’ short R1.

    I also thought it was lovely – in a nostalgic way – to see that old Singlepoint OEG in use. Many of the ‘young ‘uns’ these days will wonder what the heck that ‘thing’ is! 🙂

    During my research for this I came across the Armson web site and was surprised to find that they *still* make OEG sights.

    The one hesitancy I have in declaring that this ‘mystery’ FAL *is* a cut-down South African R1 is something Dan F picked up on in teh comments…

    The side view – fuzzy as it is – does seem to show a Inch Pattern style (L1A1) cocking handle, rather than the Metric style ‘knob’…But it’s too close to call.

    In conclusion – I think the only certain way to find out what this rifle actually was is to go to the source. SO I am trying my best to contact Ian Yule himself – who now resides in South Africa.

    Again, thanks to everyone – I am swayed by the consensus that it is a R1 variant. But best of all, this has been a fun investigation – it’s not every day you come across a FAL variant you have never seen before!

    Cheers, M

  • Elize Labuschagne

    Ian Yule is alive and reasonably well and living in Johannesburg, South Africa. If you would like to contact him, you can mail me at elizelabu@gmail.com

  • Elize Labuschagne

    Hi Steve
    In response to the questions regarding the weapon IAN YULE used in The Wild Geese, herewith a letter from Ian. It was written by hand and I’m typing it word for word – hope I manage with the handwriting! Ian is currently 76 years old. Any further questions, please feel free to mail me at elizelabu [at] gmail [dot] com
    Best regards
    Elize (friend and former manager of Ian)
    JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA

    FROM IAN:
    Dear Steve
    I apologise to you and your readers for the delay on my part for responding to the many questions on the subject of the weapon I used on The Wild Geese. As you know, I only received your query about a week ago, so I hope I’ll be excused from an appointment with the firing squad!
    The overall question is was that weapon experimental and the answer is yes.
    Second question, where did it come from? Answer: The U.K. England.
    Third question, what was it? Answer: It was an updated S.L.R. complete with an attached single point dot reflex sight and 4 X 40 round magazines, as well as a special rifle sling, flash eliminator and bayonet attachment.
    The rounds were standard NATO 7.62 Long (with crimped ends – for blank firing). The barrel was engineered to fire blanks, not live ammunition. It was not a detachable choke as used by the South African Military for blank firing. The cocking hammer was slightly smaller than the standard S.L.R. was, but more refined and robust.
    I had no input into the allocation of the weapon being issued to me, only that I was asked to assess the weapon’s performance from a certain source. I did of course point out that I was only firing blank ammunition and my assessment could only be based on those findings because the load in the blank ammo would not be the same as the varring loads used with live ammo which could vary in special operations.
    My assessment of the weapon was as follows:
    Because of the short barrel, the special sight was unnecessary because you would not engage a target in a so-called snipers capacity. On sustained automatic fire the barrel and stock became very hot. However, the rate of fire was abnormally high. The only weapon I’ve used with an equal rate of fire was a German Spandau Machine Gun – the version with the reduced rate of fire. But I was using live ammo on the German weapon.
    Did I like the weapon and would I use it on an operation?
    Not on the knowledge I gained firing blanks on a film. But after firing live ammo with varring types of ammo and cartridge load – maybe? The load in the cartridge may affect the barrel temperature but the altered load may compromise your intended purpose and operation. The weight of the ammunition could be a problem for a single operator. It has to be carried and would of course affect his speed and mobility in carrying out his operation. Without a full capacity assessment, I would choose the HANOK, which is tried and tested (HECKLA KOCK – HECKLER & KOCH?) sub-machine gun.
    A film of the nature of the nature of The Wild Geese, given the subject matter and the political and international climate at the time, would have made it for a South African experimental weapon to appear on such a film extremely unlikely. Apart from that there was an arms embargo in place at the time.
    I would like to thank all your interested readers for their enthusiasm shown towards the film (which I fully agree with) and private comments about me as an individual. I trust this will put to bed any further confusion regarding the experimental S.L.R.
    Steve, should you require any further assistance, please feel free to contact me.
    Regards
    “Tosh”
    Ian Yule

  • Para

    This looks well shorter than the ~10″ barrels of the DSA FAL OSW, anyone identified it yet?