Mysterious Iranian .50 Cals, Part 3

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A keen-eyed reader identified the .50 Cal rifle in my previous post, I believe correctly, as the old version of the Heinrich Fortmeier single-shot rifle.

Old model Heinrich Fortmeier .50 BMG. Photo from Truth About Guns (click through for a review of the gun).

Heinrich Fortmeier designed the Steyr HS-50, which is basically Fortmeier’s single shot with a number of minor improvements: bigger muzzle brake, Steyr-style bolt handle and a fluted barrel with a distinct taper.

Steyr HS-50
Steyr HS-50
.50 Cal said to be found in Iraq in 2008.
Iranian Steyr HS-50
Iranian Steyr HS-50

I was told that a number of “Iraqi HS-50″ were recovered from Sadr City in 2008 (I have no way to verify this, I am taking the information that was passed to me at face value). It clearly has the Iranian HS-50 pistol grip but a Fortmeier barrel and muzzle brake.

My theory is this: Fortmeier sold Iran a number of their rifles. They later licensed the design to Steyr. Steyr then got Fortmeier to produce a large number of their original rifles for Iran, but with the Steyr-brand bolt handle and their 3-baffle muzzle brake. I believe Steyr’s original claim they sold 800 HS-50 rifles to Iran was a load of BS. They sold 800 Fortmeier rifles. The Fortmeier has a number of distinct differences to the HS-50 and cannot be considered the same rifle (in the same way that a M16A3 cannot be called a M16A1 or a M4).

That still does not explain why a Fortmeier was found in Iraq. Given its dilapidated state (rusted bolt handle), I think it dates back a number of years before the Steyr-Iran sale. Possibly Iran troops wore out or mistreated some of their Fortmeiers and they ended up in the junk pile to be shipped off overseas to their militant allies. I struggle to believe that the Iranian government intended easily traceable weapons to be shipped to Iraq. Iran has one of the most convoluted governments in the world where even the Iranian’s are not sure who is in charge, so SNAFUs like are surely not uncommon.

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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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  • Alex-mac

    Jihadists from all over the world came to fight against the U.S in the Iraq war.

    • W

      I used to think that was a over exaggerated myth until I was boots on the ground (imagine that). There were Egyptians, Syrians, Saudi Arabians (yeah!), and most frighteningly, Chechens to name just a few. The Chechens scared me the most because they were trained by a professional military (Soviet Army before the dissolution) and experienced from their own bloody war on their homeland against Russia, where they used IEDs, ambushes, and suicide attacks with impunity.

      • Charles222

        I’ve always thought it was the “foreign” aspect to the insurgency that proved to be its greatest weakness; the locals didn’t view them with much enthusiasm, and combined with brutal tactics on their part, led to the Anbar Awakening and everything that came out of that.

  • Reverend Clint

    i wonder how many hajis try to shoot it over their head

  • AMX

    More mystery!
    Based on a vague memory, I looked through the WHQ Forum archive, and turned up this:
    http://www.whq-forum.de/invisionboard/index.php?showtopic=25632&start=0&p=842797&#entry842797
    A thread about Iranian motorcycle troops, the final entry has a link to this picture:
    http://media.farsnews.com/Media/8506/ImageReports/8506310301/6_8506310301_L600.jpg
    Fluted chambers clearly visible.

  • Other Steve

    OOOoohhhh…. I didn’t realize you were the new troll here, I get it now.

    Oh hai troll, how ya doin?

    • Mike Knox

      Dood! Don’t feed the troll, it’ll follow you around eventually asking for more noms..

    • Mike Knox

      Well, someone’s trying to be funny with names^..

  • 15yroldgunman

    http://uskowioniran.blogspot.com/2010/08/irgc-video-documentary-farsi.html. this is pretty neat according to this they copy the mark 19 grenade launcher

  • Lance

    Not surprised if they took features on multiple rifles and molded them into there own design. This is a nation to do that they did the same on there Type-56 AK copy featuring some Russian features like a ribbed dust cover on a mostly Chinese AK rifle so not surprised.