Military Wiki
R4 assault rifle
Type Assault rifle
Place of origin South Africa
Service history
In service 1980–present[1][2]
Used by See Users
Wars South African Border War
Namibian War of Independence
Rwandan Civil War
Haitian conflicts
Production history
Designer Yisrael Galili of Israel Military Industries[2][Notes 1]
Designed Late 1960s to early 1970s[2]
Manufacturer Lyttleton Engineering Works, now Denel Land Systems
Number built 420,000[3]
Variants R5, R6, LM4, LM5, LM6
Weight R4: 4.3 kg (9.48 lb)
R5: 3.7 kg (8.2 lb)
R6: 3.6 kg (7.9 lb)
Length R4: 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 length R4: 460 mm (18.1 in)
R5: 332 mm (13.1 in)
R6: 280 mm (11.0 in)

Cartridge 5.56x45mm NATO
Action Gas operated, closed bolt
Rate of fire R4, R5: 600–750 rounds/min
R6: 585 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity R4: 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 range 300–500 m sight adjustments
Feed system 35-round detachable box magazine
Sights Flip rear aperture and hooded forward post are standard but various optical sights can be mounted.

The R4 is a 5.56mm assault rifle that was introduced into service with the South African Defence Force (SADF) in 1980,[1] replacing the earlier 7.62mm FN FAL rifle, that was manufactured in South Africa under a licence agreement from Fabrique Nationale as the R1. The R4 is produced by Denel Land Systems (DLS), formerly Lyttleton Engineering Works (LIW, "Lyttleton Ingenieurswerke").

The weapon is a licenced variant of the Israeli Galil ARM assault rifle[4][5] with several modifications; notably, 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.[4]

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 channeled 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 5.56x45mm 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.[4]

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.[6]


The LM5, a semi-automatic version of the R5 carbine

The South African Navy, South African Air Force 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 millimeters (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.

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.


See also


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


  1. 1.0 1.1 Dr. David Westwood (2005). Rifles: an illustrated history of their impact. ABC-CLIO. p. 392. ISBN 1-85109-401-6. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Jonh Walter (2006). Rifles of the World. Krause Publications. pp. 139–141. ISBN 0-89689-241-7. 
  3. Engelbrect, Leon (24 Sep 2010). "Denel Showcases a 21st Century R4 Assault Rifle at AAD". Defence Web. Retrieved 21 Jul 2012. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Woźniak, Ryszard. Encyklopedia najnowszej broni palnej - tom 4 R-Z. Bellona. 2002. pp9–10.
  5. John Walter (2006). Rifles Of The World. Krause Publications. p. 141. ISBN 0-89689-241-7. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  6. "Denel showcases a 21st Century R4 assault rifle at AAD". DefenceWeb. 2010-09-24. Retrieved 2012-10-01. 
  7. "Rifle R4 - Assault Rifle / Carbine - History, Specs and Pictures - Military, Security and Civilian Guns and Equipment". 2012-05-23. Retrieved 2012-10-01. 
  8. "LiČna Karta". 2010-03-13. Retrieved 2012-07-21. 
  9. "R4 R5 Assault Rifles". 2010-12-13. Retrieved 2012-07-21. 


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

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