Vektor R4

The R4 is a South African 5.56×45mm assault rifle.[6] It entered service as the standard service rifle of the South African Defence Force (SADF) in 1980.[1] The R4 replaced the R1, a variant of the 7.62×51mm FN FAL. It was produced by Lyttelton Engineering Works (LIW, "Lyttelton Ingenieurswerke"), now Denel Land Systems.

R4 assault rifle
TypeAssault rifle
Place of originSouth Africa
Service history
In service1980–present[1][2]
Used bySee Users
Production history
DesignerYisrael Galili of Israel Military Industries[2][lower-alpha 1]
DesignedLate 1960s to early 1970s[2]
ManufacturerLyttelton Engineering Works, now Denel Land Systems
No. built420,000[5]
VariantsR5, R6, LM4, LM5, LM6
MassR4: 4.3 kg (9.48 lb)
R5: 3.7 kg (8.2 lb)
R6: 3.6 kg (7.9 lb)
LengthR4: 1,005 mm (39.6 in) stock extended / 740 mm (29.1 in) stock folded
R5: 877 mm (34.5 in) stock extended / 615 mm (24.2 in) stock folded
R6: 805 mm (31.7 in) stock extended / 565 mm (22.2 in) stock folded
Barrel lengthR4: 460 mm (18.1 in)
R5: 332 mm (13.1 in)
R6: 280 mm (11.0 in)

Cartridge5.56×45mm NATO
ActionGas-operated, closed bolt
Rate of fireR4, R5: 600–750 rounds/min
R6: 585 rounds/min
Muzzle velocityR4: 980 m/s (3,215 ft/s)
R5: 920 m/s (3,018.4 ft/s)
R6: 825 m/s (2,706.7 ft/s)
Effective firing range300–500 m sight adjustments
Feed system35, 50-round detachable Galil magazine
SightsFlip rear aperture and hooded forward post are standard but various optical sights can be mounted.

The weapon is a licensed variant of the Israeli IMI Galil assault rifle[7][8] with several modifications; both the stock and magazine are now made of a high-strength polymer and the stock was lengthened, adapting the weapon for the average South African soldier.[7] Other detailed differences include the R4's lack of a carry handle and a number of improvements made to its internal operating mechanism.[6]

Design details

Operating mechanism

The R4 is a selective fire, gas-operated weapon that fires from a closed bolt. As with the Galil parent weapon, the operating system is derived from that of the AK-47. It uses ignited powder gases channelled through a vent in the barrel to drive a long stroke piston located above the barrel in a gas cylinder to provide power to the operating system. The weapon features a self-regulating gas system and a rotary bolt breech locking mechanism (equipped with two locking lugs), which is rotated by a helical camming groove machined into the bolt carrier that engages a control pin on the bolt. Extraction is carried out by means of a spring-loaded extractor contained in the bolt and a protrusion on the left guide rail inside the receiver acts as the fixed ejector.


The R4 is hammer-fired and uses a trigger mechanism with a 3-position fire selector and safety switch. The stamped sheet steel selector bar is present on both sides of the receiver and its positions are marked with letters: "S"— indicating the weapon is safe, "R"—single-fire mode ("R" is an abbreviation for "repetition"), and "A"—fully automatic fire. The "safe" setting disables the trigger and secures the weapon from being charged.

The R4 is fed from a synthetic box magazine with a 35-round cartridge capacity (designed to use the 5.56×45mm NATO cartridge with the M193 projectile) loaded in a staggered configuration. During the 1980s South African troops were issued with one 50-round magazine as well. The flash suppressor is slotted and doubles as an adapter for launching rifle grenades. Bolted to a bracket in the gas block, under the barrel, is a lightweight folding bipod (folds into the handguard), which includes a wire cutter in the hinge.[7]

The R4 has a side-folding tubular stock, which folds to the right side of the receiver. The rifle's handguard, pistol grip, magazine, stock arms and shoulder pad are all made from a synthetic material, making it lighter in weight than the equivalent original Galil model which uses heavier metal and wood in these components.

For regular field maintenance and cleaning, the firearm is disassembled into the following components: the receiver and barrel group, bolt carrier, bolt, return mechanism, gas tube, receiver dust cover and magazine.


The rifle has conventional iron sights that consist of a front post and a flip-up rear sight with 300 and 500 m apertures. The front sight is adjustable for windage and elevation and is installed in a durable circular shroud. The rear sight is welded at the end of the receiver's dust cover. For nighttime use, the R4 is equipped with self-luminous tritium light dots (exposed after placing the rear sight in an intermediate position) installed in a pivoting bar to the front sight base, which folds up in front of the standard post and aligns with two dots in the rear sight notch.


The R4 is issued with spare magazines, a cleaning kit and sling.


DLS has introduced remanufactured models of the R4, R5, R6 that have Picatinny rails. DLS has also introduced grenade launchers, grips and other underbarrel attachments.[9]


The South African Navy, South African Air Force, South African Military Health Service, and South African Police Service adopted a short carbine version of the 5.56 mm Galil SAR, which was license-manufactured as the R5. The R5, when compared to the larger R4, has a barrel that is 130 millimetres (5.1 in) shorter, together with a shorter gas system and handguard. It also lacks a bipod, and the flash hider does not support rifle grenades.

In the 1990s, an even more compact personal defence weapon variant of the R5 was developed for armoured vehicle crews, designated the R6, which has a further reduced barrel and a shortened gas cylinder and piston assembly. This reduced the barrel length to 279 millimetres (11.0 in).[6]

Denel developed prototypes for the R7 and R8, a heavy barrelled squad automatic weapon and a locally produced Micro-Galil, respectively, but it is unclear whether these entered production.[6]

LIW/DLS also introduced a line of semi-automatic variants of the R4, R5 and R6 called the LM4, LM5 and LM6 respectively, built for civilian and law enforcement users. The rifles were marketed by Musgrave, with the joint venture between the Littleton and Musgrave conferring the rifle's "LM" prefix.

Vektor RifleSpecifications
R4 Rifle1,005 mm (39.6 in) stock extended
740 mm (29.1 in) stock folded
460 mm (18.1 in)4.3 kg (9.48 lb)650–700 rpm
R5 Carbine877 mm (34.5 in) stock extended
615 mm (24.2 in) stock folded
332 mm (13.1 in)3.7 kg (8.2 lb)650–700 rpm
R6 PDW805 mm (31.7 in) stock extended
565 mm (22.2 in) stock folded
280 mm (11.0 in)3.6 kg (7.9 lb)585 rpm


See also


  1. Minor adaptions were made to the original Israeli Galil design by Lyttelton Engineering Works.


  1. Dr. David Westwood (2005). Rifles: an illustrated history of their impact. ABC-CLIO. p. 392. ISBN 1-85109-401-6.
  2. Jonh Walter (2006). Rifles of the World. Krause Publications. pp. 139–141. ISBN 0-89689-241-7.
  3. Small Arms Survey 2003, p. 267.
  4. Final report of the Panel of Experts on the Central African Republic extended pursuant to Security Council resolution 2262 (2016) (PDF). 5 December 2016. pp. 32&48.
  5. Engelbrect, Leon (24 September 2010). "Denel Showcases a 21st Century R4 Assault Rifle at AAD". Defence Web. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  6. Tilstra, Russell (2011). Small Arms For Urban Combat. Jefferson: McFarland Press. pp. 77–78. ISBN 978-0786465231.
  7. Woźniak, Ryszard. Encyklopedia najnowszej broni palnej – tom 4 R-Z. Bellona. 2002. pp9–10.
  8. John Walter (2006). Rifles of the World. Krause Publications. p. 141. ISBN 0-89689-241-7. Retrieved 27 August 2008.
  9. "Denel showcases a 21st Century R4 assault rifle at AAD". DefenceWeb. 24 September 2010. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
  10. Small Arms Survey (2007). "Armed Violence in Burundi: Conflict and Post-Conflict Bujumbura" (PDF). The Small Arms Survey 2007: Guns and the City. Cambridge University Press. p. 204. ISBN 978-0-521-88039-8.
  11. Berman, Eric G.; Lombard, Louisa N. (December 2008). The Central African Republic and Small Arms: A Regional Tinderbox (PDF). Small Arms Survey. p. 94. ISBN 978-2-8288-0103-8.
  12. Touchard, Laurent (17 December 2013). "Centrafrique : le Soudan a-t-il armé les ex-Séléka ?". Jeune Afrique (in French).
  13. Small Arms Survey (2015). "Waning Cohesion: The Rise and Fall of the FDLR–FOCA" (PDF). Small Arms Survey 2015: weapons and the world (PDF). Cambridge University Press. p. 201.
  14. Small Arms Survey (2003). "Making the Difference?: Weapon Collection and Small Arms Availability in the Republic of Congo" (PDF). Small Arms Survey 2003: Development Denied. Oxford University Press. p. 263. ISBN 0199251754.
  15. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. Berman, Eric G. (March 2019). Beyond Blue Helmets: Promoting Weapons and Ammunition Management in Non-UN Peace Operations (PDF). Small Arms Survey/MPOME. p. 43.
  17. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 October 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. "Media Briefing: Bullets from Greece, China, Russia and United States found in rebel hands in Democratic Republic of Congo". Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  19. "Arming Rwanda: The Arms Trade and Human Rights, Abuses in the Rwandan War" (PDF). Human Rights Watch Arms Project. Vol. 6 no. 1. January 1994. p. 16.
  20. "LiČna Karta". 13 March 2010. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  22. "R4 R5 Assault Rifles". 13 December 2010. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  23. Thwala, Phumelele (1 October 2004). "Country study: Swaziland" (PDF). Hide and Seek: Taking Account of Small Arms in Southern Africa. p. 276.


  • Woźniak, Ryszard (2002). Encyklopedia najnowszej broni palnej – tom 4 R-Z (in Polish). Warsaw, Poland: Bellona. pp. 9–10. ISBN 83-11-09312-1.
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