For decades gun aficionado’s have been wondering what the story was behind the strange short-barrel FAL used by actor Ian Yule (formally a member of the SAS and later a mercenary before becoming an actor) in the 1975 movie The Wild Geese. Earlier this year I blogged about the mystery.
I was surprised, delighted and honored to get an email from Elize, a friend and former manager of Mr Yule, who promised to pass on my questions about the guy. Yesterday Elize replied with a message from Ian himself! It turns out it was an experimental British SLR and not, as many thought, an experimental South African R1. Moments like this is why I blog!
Elize’s and Ian’s emails are below …
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
Elize (friend and former manager of Ian)
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
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.
[ Many thanks to both Elize and Ian for helping solve this mystery! ]