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Rhodesian R1


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Rhodesian R1 Rifle


Hi there guys – I’ve started this thread so that I can post my progress for this year’s ACBC.

My intention is to create as realistic a replica of the full-length R1 Rifle as I can. There will be some things that I cannot make accurate to the real steel – such are the limitations of my base gun, but I will be doing everything within my power to get as close as possible to the real-steel.


I am sure that a great many here will be familiar, at least cursorily, with the FN FAL battle rifle, and as such it is not my intention here to give a full run down of the FAL’s history – instead I will be concentrating on the specific variant I have chosen to recreate.

The R1 was the South African designation for the FN FAL as it was produced locally, under license by Lyttleton Engineering Works (Now Denel Land Systems, manufacturer of the better known Galil-derived R4 and R5 rifles). The South African government had been on the search for a modern automatic service rifle and having tested the American AR-10, the West German G3 and the Belgian FN FAL, the latter was deemed to be most suited to the needs of the SADF, and by the mid-1950s, local production facilities had been set up to fabricate the rifles.

The FN FAL, adopted by over 90 countries was in use in conflicts the world over, and the R1 saw its fair-share of action in the South African Border War (1966-1989).  It was also famously used in the Rhodesian Bush War.

Rhodesia had made its Unilateral Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom in 1965 after the UK refused to accept Rhodesian independence without the implementation majority rule. A year earlier the Rhodesian Bush War had begun to rage in earnest. For our purposes I will leave the political history aside for the most part at this point, interesting as it is. Needless to say, shipments of British and Australian L1A1 SLRs were no longer forthcoming, and the Lee Enfield rifles stockpiled after the Second World War were neither available in sufficient numbers for troops, nor combat effective against the AK-47s, AKMs and Type 56s wielded (amongst other weapons) by the communist-backed ZANLA and ZIPRA forces. Rhodesia, restricted by UN embargoes and sanctions, was forced to use whatever could be procured from the limited trading partners it had left. G3s were procured from Portugal via Angola, but never found real favour amongst the troops, and were in any case, supplied in small numbers. The R1s that were sent by South Africa (in direct and open contravention of UN sanctions) proved to be the boon that the Rhodesian forces needed in order to remain combat effective. Most that were sent had their proof marks and serial numbers removed in order to ‘sanitize’ them. They were much loved by the troops for their reliability, effective range and the supposed ‘stopping power’ of the 7.62x51mm round – moreover, they were functionally familiar to those who had trained with the L1A1.  In the hands of the Rhodesian troops, the R1 (and other weapons – G3s, Uzis, AKs etc.) received what has become both an iconic and rather infamous paint job, known often as ‘baby-poop’. It is very much an acquired taste.

The R1s sent to Rhodesia were almost exclusively of the full length, fixed stock variety (FAL 50.00). Folding stocked ‘Paratrooper’ R1s were incredibly rare and much prized – indeed, several that are known to have been in the hands of Rhodesian forces are actually FALs from the
Armée Nationale Congolaise that were captured on clandestine raids by the RhSAS into the Congo. Given that they were far from the norm, they are not what I have chosen to try and replicate this time.

Recreating the R1 so far

The base for this project is a full-length King Arms FN FAL. The conversion ultimately should not require so much fabrication as modification. It is not a project of a particularly ambitious scope, but I hope that merit will be found in my attempt to build a fairly faithful replica of a variant from a weapon ‘family’ that I feel is under-represented in airsoft.

In order to begin building my R1, I have had to deal with some of the King Arms FAL’s gross inaccuracies. Like many airsoft rifles, it is an amalgamation of several FAL variants, but seems to be based, for the most part, on the Austrian STG 58 variant.

The pictures below represent a work in progress. I have removed the inappropriate markings from the receiver, stripped the paint (in preparation for ‘bluing’ the aluminium), had the false ‘horizontal’ style takedown lever removed and the rear stock-mounting block machined and mated to a RS stock (I had two stocks of different lengths machined to fit the new mounting block exactly, for a tight fit, rather than ‘testing’ my own abilities with a Dremel). The correct gas-block has been taken from a CA SA58 in order to replace the odd, open-winged L1A1 style gas-block sight chosen by KA. I have also fitted the correct  flash-hider, likewise taken from a CA SA58 and this is mated to a custom barrel extension made by Precision Mechanics in order to acquire the correct barrel length. Most recently I have sanded and polished the pistol-grip so that it matches the ‘smooth’ plastic of the RS furniture (the KA furniture sports a horrible ‘granular’ finish).

Still to do: Have the correct markings engraved, ‘blue’ the aluminium, fit a RS charging handle, fit (if possible to acquire) a RS Zulu Grenade Sight, fit a RS carry-handle, manufacture two bolts to secure the stocks and buttpad to the receiver and, finally, add the ‘baby-poop’. I am sure I am forgetting a few things, but I’ll add as I go along.

Thanks must go so far to: Panoptes – for jumping the gun and getting to a Rhodesian build before me (and thus lighting the way – also, for the baby-poop!), Martyn and Neil of the New Rhodesian Forum (likewise for excellent build advice - check out Martyn's build to see how this project should really be done), and to my Dad, for the use of his tools, expertise, time and patience.

TL;DR WIP Pictures.


The machined stock attachment 'block' (Note: the broken tang is going to be rebuilt when I take this back to the machine shop)


Reciprocal hole in the 'short' stock


RS Pistol-grip compared to newly polished KA grip.



Selector side of the grip


Correct Gas Block fitted


R1 Length Comparison to an L1A1


R1 Length comparison to a G3


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