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Thread: South African R series of weapons information thread (lots of pictures)

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    South African R series of weapons information thread (lots of pictures)

    Several years ago I started to look for information on building a South African R-4 and R-5 clone. I found most of the information scattered and hard to find. This forum was a great help in finding the information I was looking for and the parts I needed. I have been meaning to post a consolidated list of parts needed for an accurate clone for a while now and I finaly put the work in and typed it up. This is a subject near and dear to me, as I just finished having an R-4 and R-5 clone made up. Doing research on the subject is hard, as the Republic of South Africa did not publish much regarding weapons and weapons development. Most of the information comes from period photographs or a few articles/books on the subject (Both Kalashnikov: The Arms and the Man by Ezell and AK-47 The Grim Reaper by Iannamico have some information).

    Differences between the R-4 and Galil:

    The South African R-4, 5, and 6 are based on the Israeli Galil from the late 1970s. This means they have the gas block without bayonet lug (for R-4) and bird cage flash hider (although I have seen a picture of a very different bird cage FH in use, still researching) and for the R-5 it means an early SAR type of gas block (at first, later a locally designed but very similar looking gas block was installed on the R-5s) and an early SAR flash hider. The first several thousand rifles in the very late 1970s came from Israel and were used in front line units until local production took over. Pictures from the very early 1980s show stock Israeli ARMs (including parkerized barrel and gas tube components) with the longer wood handguard. These rifles from Israel also had the scope mount on the left side of the receiver (SA made rifles had a second lightning cut instead of the scope mount). Below is a picture I pulled off of another forum of a member's wife shooting a SA R-4 with an Israeli made R-4 in the back ground (member's name was Ghostrider, if he's around).


    The most notable are the handguard, gas tube, stock, and front sight hood/post.

    The handguard was extended so that a lip placed on the gas tube would serve as a stop for the handguard retaining ring (so the handguard could not come off unless the gas tube is removed). At first this part was made of wood, and then it was made of plastic for the rest of the production run. My theory (backed by a few pictures but no hard evidence) is that the first several thousand R-4s were made by IMI (1979/80) and included standard stocks, gas tubes and wood handguards. All local production was plastic handguard (IMHO). Handguards compared (normal AR length on the bottom):


    One thing to note is that the SA handguards are cut for the carry handle. The first several thousand Israeli made R-4s had carry handles, but they were removed and a new handguard retainer was adopted that did not have the provision to mount a carry handle.



    The gas tube had a lip added to the front to prevent the handguard from coming off of the rifle unless the gas tube is removed. The following picture shows the ARM, R-4, and R-5 gas tubes.


    Detail of the handguard on the weapon in relation to the gas tube:


    The stock on the earliest versions was the standard Galil stock, but at some point during production a new stock was designed and put into production. The stock knuckle is also different (I don't have a good pic comparing the two, sorry)


    The Front sight post is thinner and the front sight hood is larger. Because of this there is no "Z" spring under the front sight hood.

    The rest of the design changes are harder to notice, and are not required for a basic clone. They are:

    A plastic buffer inserted in the folding stock knuckle, serves to buffer the bolt carrier, held in by the stock pin.


    Top cover is made of a thicker sheet metal, although not much thicker, stamping/spot welds look a little different, hard to notice (R-4 on the right):


    Recoil spring guide rod's nub that retains the top cover is the longer type. Most of the kits that have come in recently have this longer nub (often marked with a "B"). There is supposed to be a difference in the collar that retains the spring at the front of the rod, but I have never seen a picture of a verified R-4 type.

    Bolt carrier's cocking handle is machined in the vertical position instead of being heated and bent up. A lot of the kits I have seen come in also have this Machined handle.

    Gas piston is slightly different, note lugs behind head of the piston (SA piston on top):


    Bolt was modified fairly early in production (good information about this in Ezell's book) with a rubber "spring" to prevent slam firing. Bolt is marked with the "P in oval" proof mark (same as SA made R-1 bolts/carriers) on the left lug (at least on the two R-4 bolts I have).

    Firing pin detail

    Another good picture of the mark:


    Separate hammer and trigger springs, and the hammer spring is of the braided wire type (some kits came in with this set up, perhaps a product improvement adopted by Israel as well).

    SA disconnector is supposed to have a wider "tail", have never seen one personally.

    The receiver as already mentioned has no scope mount on the left side, only a second lightning cut. The SA night vision scope mounted to a special top cover. Some aftermarket mounts are made with rails on the top cover as well. Selector markings are "S, A, R" and a proof mark (P in oval) is often placed near the ejection port on the examples I have seen close up pics of. Selector markings for the left side selector are the same "S, A, R" but in the IMI guns the selector position is marked by hash marks, in the SA guns they are marked by dots.

    For the R-5/6:

    Most of the part changes carry over to the R-5 and R-6. The R-5 was a SAR length rifle that borrowed heavily from early SAR parts (no bayonet lug on or behind the gas block, early flash hider, etc...) and had a few unique parts. The handguards on all examples I have seen pictures of were black plastic. They use a unique gas tube, handguard retainer and in later versions a unique gas block. The gas tube, gas block and FH:


    Detail of the handguard retainer, made of all stamped steel, not machined or cast like the Israeli type:


    For the R-6 the only major difference is a shorter barrel and a shorter gas tube (the bulge around the end is trimmed down to an R-4 style lip) and the gas piston is shorter.

    Magazines: Steel magazines were made but were replaced by a unique plastic magazine. It was supposed to be disposable, but was tough enough to become the standard issue magazine. These magazines have no steel reinforcement, they are tough, but I do own a broken one.


    Close up (note production date molded into magazine):


    As for finish, the Israeli made rifles were finished in the standard paint over park for the receiver and gas tube, but had parkerized finish for barrel and gas block. SA made rifles have paint over park over everything. For a period of time in the 1980s/90s a brown paint was applied over most metal surfaces (DSA used to sell some brown magazines done in the same paint). This paint was either brown vehicle paint (if done in the field) or a brown gunkote like paint (if rebuilt). I think the standard color is back to black?

    This is all information I have complied, others may have better info, I welcome any updates or further info anyone may have!

    I hope this was helpful!
    mrf2

    PS: My two clones:
    R-5 built by Tenngalil with muzzle device to bring barrel to 16"

    R-4 Also built by Tenngalil

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    Thumbs up

    mrf2

    Great work! Well done summary!

    Thanks for putting this information all together in one place.

    RM308

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    NICE!

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    Excellent thread!!!Thanks for the info!

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    Nice Info!! Thanks for your time and effort!
    ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ

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    Very informative. Thanks!

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    Registered User mcoleman762's Avatar
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    Excellent post mrf2!

    I'll have to dig through my parts bin and post a few photos of some of the parts that I have. I know right off the top of my head that my R4 bolt looks different than yours. Stand by, and I should have them posted up in a day or so.

    I've been meaning to get an R5 clone together one of these days. The big part I still need is that R5 gastube! I've got a hankerin' to have one done up in brown for that "period" look to go with all my Koevoet stuff.

    Thanks for the time an effort to put this post together!

    Mike

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    Great read! I know that took some effort,... many thanks!

    V.

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    A great post like this one deserves to be a sticky, thus, it's stuck.

    Superb job!

    Noah
    Might as well face it, you're addicted to guns . . .

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    Registered User mcoleman762's Avatar
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    OK, here's a few photos of a couple of my parts. First up is an R series bolt. This one has a very odd purple-ish finish on it. It's not paint or parkerizing, but more like a off-color bluing or anodizing. The only markings on this bolt is the serial number. I've included a couple comparison photos with an IMI spring-loaded bolt.











    Next I have a topcover that came from an LM-4 (semi auto R4) owned by one of my South African friends. He switched to a dedicated topcover for a scope, so he sold off this one. I also got the bipod at the same time. Here's a couple shots with an IMI topcover for comparison. The IMI is on the left in both photos.





    As mrf2 already stated, these things are just about identical, except the spot welds are a little different. I've also noticed that the meter designation on the IMI sight is recessed, whereas on the R4 the number is raised. Don't know if that is a feature on just the SA sights, or perhaps some IMI sights are this way as well?

    Cheers,

    Mike

  11. #11
    loner42
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    I believe the purplish coloration on the bolts comes from the heatreat process. They might 've used a different metal or heatreat method than the Izzys.
    I've seen that same color on various Chinese gun parts for AK's, Makarovs, etc.

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    MColeman762- Very interesting bolt! I have two R-4 bolts and one parked quite easly, the other did not take park well. Jeff though it had something to do with a high nickle content, maybe yours was like that and was just finished a different way? Does it have the proof mark on the left lug? Maybe a late production part?

    very interesting!

    mrf2

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    Registered User mcoleman762's Avatar
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    The only markings on this bolt is the partial serial number. The IMI bolt however, does have a "P" on it, just not in a circle. I seem to think one of my other IMI bolts is marked the same, but I'll have to go check.

    This bolt is brand new, so the odd color is the factory finish. Loner42 brought up a good point, in that bluing sometimes has an odd tint to it, as I've seen it before on other weapons too. Just not quite this purple!

    The lightning cuts are also absent from this bolt, much like some AK bolts I've seen. I'm not sure where this bolt falls into the production timeline, as there just isn't enough information out there about such things. I do have a reprint of the 1984 issue SADF R4 workshop manual, and it shows line drawings of bolts with the lightning cuts. So, perhaps this bolt is a really early type that was superceded, or maybe it is a later type? I don't know.

    Cheers,

    Mike

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    Good info here on the R-series. On a related subject, who can point me to some information about all the Vektor built semi autos. Is there a good site to look at, or a accurate summary?

    Specifically, I'm not talking about the LM4 and LM5, I thought I read some time ago that they did build something in .308. An LM7 or LM8? maybe. Am I dreaming?

    And yes, I googled to the best of my abilities before I wrote this. But I am not a google master.

    Thanks much!
    RM308

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    What happened to the pics?

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    For all of those that contributed, job well done--- thanks for placing as a "Sticky"!!!

    Tony

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    Registered User tomovich's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting this, I'd REALLY like an R4 clone.

  18. #18
    loner42
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    I posted this in another thread but did'nt get much response so am posting it here:

    Anybody know of any distinct differences as to how to identify an R4 steel mag from a reg. Galil 35 rd. steel mag ?

    Thanks...................

    I bought 2 steel mags that were advertised as R4 mags awhile back. They have been repark'd because they have some pitting but were park'd after the pitting occurred. I can see no difference comparing the them to izzy mags and can find no markings of any kind. If anyone knows of any specific differences, I'd appreciate your knowledge.

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    Quote Originally Posted by loner42
    Anybody know of any distinct differences as to how to identify an R4 steel mag from a reg. Galil 35 rd. steel mag ?

    I have two original R4 magazines, both are marked with a date on the right side running vertically, near the bottom. A four digit date such as "12/83". There are no other markings on either of them. Hope this helps.

  20. #20
    Registered User tomovich's Avatar
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    The best place to get R4/5 parts for a clone build are.......?? Besides the front sight and buffer that's always on gunbroker as of late????

    TIA

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