Mystery of the short barreled FAL is solved!

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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.

Ian Yule pictured with the short barreled rifle.

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 …

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

[ Many thanks to both Elize and Ian for helping solve this mystery! ]




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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  • Damp Squib

    HANOK = H AND K?

  • bullzebub

    maybe you should edit out the email address…

  • http://www.milgeek.co.uk milgeek

    Abosolutely fabulous! Well done for getting this abswer – and from the man himself. Steve!

    When I first posed this question to you it was a shot in the dark (LOL) and I suspected it was something that may never get answered, but this is a wonderful scoop for yourself and your blog.

    I should explain to your American readers that the guy in question – Ian Yule (‘Tosh’ in the movie Wild Geese) is something of a folk hero having served under the (in)famous ‘Mad Mike’ Hoare.

    Please accept my thanks and congradulations on this answer Steve!

    All the very best,

    Steve Beat (Milgeek)

  • Big Daddy

    Well that’s pretty cool. I like it when the person involved comes out and tells the true story. Most often it’s not as romantic as the stories made up about it.

    The whole Mini gun thing in Predator was humorous. I knew that was Hollywood fake. It might have made more sense if it were in 5.56mm and they carried some type of power supply.

    Now if someone could explain what they meant in the “Dogs of War”…….what the heck is Quad Four 9mm ammo???……..they emphasized it. I never heard of it then and now. I googled it for a few years and got nothing except someone asking what it was on some forum.

  • Jesse

    That’s just all kinds of awesome. It’s rare to find a Brit that into guns.

    Also am I the only one that read that letter in the voice of John Cleese?

  • http://jamesazacharyjr.blogspot.com/ Zack

    WOW! How very cooooooool!

  • http://www.advanced-armament.com Mike Smith

    What a wonderful thing it is to hear from an actor in one of my favorite movies, and all the more wonderful that he has such an informed, insightful, and educated opinion on the weapon he was using in the film! I would love to hear more from Mr. Yule.

    Many Thanks, and Merry Christmas!

    Mike Smith
    Advanced Armament Corp
    [email protected]

  • Greg

    Loved the movie. It got mistreated in the States. In Daytona Beach FL, in 1978, my Dad and I were the only folks watching it at the theater. I am glad HBO picked it up and got it exposed.
    As for Predator…it did have a power source…it spun after ammo was expended. As for caliber, who knows. Quad 4…don’t remember it and I just saw “Dogs of War” a couple of months ago. Does anyone else wish they would remake it (Dogs) along the lines of the original Frederick Forsythe book?
    Greg

  • http://homeplace-artsstuff.blogspot.com Arthur B. Burnett

    Greetings from Texas,
    I saw this movie the week it came out and finally got it on disk in the last year. I had never realized an actual SOF took part in the film.

  • http://www.ar15.com/forums/forum.html?b=8&f=15 Rodger Young

    Elize did say that Mr. Yule’s reply was transcribed from and hand written letter so I agree with Damp Squib’s supposition of H and K for HANOK.

  • http://www.milgeek.co.uk Milgeek

    The story behind the making of ‘Wild Geese’ is a very interesting one.

    First of all there was the controversy about making the movie in South Africa – this was during the height of the West’s ostracization of South Africa because of Apartheid…

    ‘Wild Geese’ was actually banned in some cinemas in the UK because of this and when I went to see the movie in Dundee there was a sizeable group of protesters outside trying to stop us going in (and giving us a lot of abuse for doing so).

    I always thought this was ironic as one of the main sub-plots was the conciliation of the Boar mercenary with the African politician (in a very touching scene).

    Ian Yule is a amazing guy – if you watch the movie you can tell he is a professional soldier as soon as he walks onto the screen! In fact he was not only a former SAS member (he wears his own beret through the film) but he served as a soldier of fortune with the legendary ‘Mad Mike’ Hoare in Africa!

    Ian acted as an unofficial weapons expert on the movie and Mike Hoare was the main consultant.

    Aside from the shorty L1A1 that is the subject of this thread there is a whole host of unique, interesting and rare firearms used in the film. It’s actually something of a gun nuts treasure trove and you can play a excellent game of ‘name that weapon’ while watching it.

    Once again, I would like to thank Steve for resolving this mystery. I have written to Elize to express my gratitude and I do hope that Ian Yule will one day put pen to paper and write his life story.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      I agree with milgeek, it is a great movie. I really enjoyed it.

  • Erik

    This has always been one of my favorite movies. Many thanks to Mr. Yule for taking the time to clarify this for us! I wish to build a tribute FAL, does anyone have any more clear photos of the shorty? Mr. Yule perhaps?

  • Big Daddy

    It was a great movie with many messages from a political standpoint including gays in the military not only race relations. One of the things that made the movie work was the outstanding cast. The sequel was totally forgettable.

    I do remember reading many years ago the lack of a flash hider on some was becuase they were testing a different power. Some export models from FAL also did not have a flashhider.

    I just hope before I die someone tells me what they meant in Dogs of war. The way he(Christopher Walken) emphatically said it sticks in my head.

    If you want to see something strange look at some of the FALs used by the Australian special forces. Chopped down, sear modified to fire full auto(I guess they were all semi) and an underneath 40mm grenade launcher. They also took off the handguard and used 30 round magazines probably from their Bren guns. It was very similar to a Canadian C2. It’s somewhere on one of these pages here:
    http://www.militaryphotos.net/forums/showthread.php?125381-Vietnam-war-era-pics-of-special-units-LRRPS-MACV-SOG-AATV-SEALS-FFL-GREEN-BERETS…/page34

  • Underwhelmed

    Just a minor correction… the film was made in 1978. One of my favorite “old school” action films. And the late Richard Harris before the world rediscovered him in the first Harry otter film.

  • Jed

    I am not quite as old as Mr Yule, but my memory could still be failing me…. but I seem to remember that this short barreled, full auto blank firing FN, with a ‘curved’ magazine was developed purely for “OPFOR” training.

    I seem to remember reading an article (or a signal, or a briefing paper) about the SAS using them in the OPFOR role playing Soviet Spetsnaz during exercises, like the Tactical Evaluation (TACEVAL) carried out on operational NATO airbases.

    Google does not find me any corroborating evidence, so I could well be wrong.

  • KW

    Wow, nice to see “Tosh” still among us!

    I went to see “Wild Geese” on opening day at a theater in Southern California, having read the book months earlier. The place was mostly empty.

    It’s THE Africa mercenary movie, I bought the VHS tape when it came out, and the DVD (twice! — one from overseas, then the US edition when it finally came along).

    The many of the cast (minus Burton) came back together for “The Sea Wolves,” which had David Niven in the role that Burton would have played.

    BTW, Richard Harris went on from “Wild Geese” to play a Rhodesian in “Game for Vultures,” an interesting film which unfortunately was never released on DVD in the US.

  • http://www.milgeek.co.uk Milgeek

    @KW

    ‘It’s THE Africa mecenary movie…’ – Well, it’s neck and neck with ‘Dogs of War’ (with Christopher Walken) I think, but there aren’t all that many good mecenary movies you can compare it with!

    Talking of Rhodesians – after I last watched WIld Geese I did some googling and came across lots of interesting material about Rhodesia and the Bush Wars and the Rhodesian SAS – absolutely facinating stuff.

    I alwats meant to see if I could find a good history of the Bush Wars (so if anyone knows of one, please let me know).

  • Thomas Roy Bender

    For those that wish to get their hands on the short barrel FAL.
    It is the OSW by DSArms.
    It can be had in semi auto or select fire.
    It is a very sweet firearem and does no carry a steep price tag either.
    Make sure you are legal to own one before you go to purchase.
    Also, if any one comes across a gentleman by the name of Paul Maurice, please have him contact me. He is said to be ex SAS and I have lost contact with him.
    The Para-congo by DSArms is also very nice.

  • Kenny

    Quad Four 9mm ammo:

    Surely this has to be bullets with a cross cut into them so they fragment on impact?

    They are decribed in the “day of the jackal book” by the same author, though they were hand finished in this book as opposed to being retail.

  • Big Daddy

    Wow this is an old thread. But that makes sense and also is typical of Hollywood. If he did use those types of rounds they would have issues with using them in Uzi’s. I think in the book he doesn’t use Uzi’s. I never read the book, always wanted to though. Maybe I’ll see if it’s on ebay or Amazon.

  • Kenny

    The book Dogs of war uses Schmeissers \ mp40s, I cant recall him specifying the ammo in that one, just day of the jackal mentions it for his sniper rifle.

  • Big Daddy

    9mm Quad……it sure sounded good and had it’s Hollywood affect on us. It’s how many years later and we still talk about it, they succeeded. That’s entertainment.

  • Mr Silly

    You honestly did’t know about the FN FAL SLR? The Australians used it in Vietnam and the British in Northern Ireland.
    PT Pindad manufactures short-barrel FAL for special or airborne operations and crew weapon for armoured vehicles.