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South African LM4 Rifle
By Anthony Dee

In 1963, the United States placed an arms embargo against South Africa because of their government’s position on apartheid. This embargo was expanded in 1978 when the United Nations prohibited the export of arms to South Africa from all its member nations. At that time South Africa was experiencing a wave of terrorism that was a threat to its security and stability. Without a reliable supply of arms the situation was getting desperate. South Africa took a bold step and started its own defense industry by creating ARMSCOR along with Lyttelton Engineering Works. Lyttelton was a small arms manufacturing facility located in the beautiful city of Pretoria. I was in South Africa in 1985 and accompanied a friend who had a job interview there. We got a very brief tour of the facility as security was extremely tight at that time. Lyttelton grew under the pressure and was producing the FN FAL under license. They named that rifle the R1 and it was built to supplement the military. They also built the IMI Galil variants, also under license, that were named the R4 and R5. The LM4 was a civilian variation of the R4 as it only fires in the semi automatic mode.

ARMSCOR was also very prosperous and expanded its operation from small arms to military vehicles, electronic and telecommunication equipment. They then started to export these products to other nations bringing much needed revenue to South Africa. This was short lived however, as the United Nations in 1984 passed another resolution calling for another embargo against the purchase of arms from South Africa.

The LM4 was developed for use by civilians and farmers of South Africa. Being isolated on the large farms and cattle ranches, miles from help, they needed a weapon that was both reliable and handy and could produce a great deal of firepower to hold off the bands of heavily armed terrorists that were threatening their very existence.

Lyttelton took the basic Galil design and changed it to develop the R4. It was then refined slightly again in the creation of the LM4. The first change was the elimination of the wood forend and the steel buttstock. On the LM4 the forend is synthetic and the stock tubes were replaced with nylon. The buttstock was also lengthened about an inch to accommodate the larger stature of the average South African. The typical Galil carrying handle was also eliminated. These three changes make the LM4 significantly lighter (4.3kg) which is a benefit to those who have to carry it around all day long. Lyttelton also strengthened the front sight base by adding metal in that area to improve the original Galil design. Another improvement is the typical AK-style safety selector - characteristically both awkward and noisy to engage. On the LM4 it is still there, but it has been supplemented with another lever that is ambidextrous. This new addition is located on the left side of the weapon on the top of the pistol grip. This improvement allows the safety to be engaged while the stock is in the folded position which otherwise would be impossible. It is also a big help for left handed shooters. The only problem with this improvement is that the pistol grip lever operates backwards. The lever must be pulled backward to select “R” (repetition) and pushed forward to select “S” (safe). Despite this design quirk it is a tremendous upgrade as now the shooter does not have to remove his hand from the pistol grip to disengage the safety. The movement of this lever is a bit stiff but proved not be a problem for an average person. It has been reported that several members of the SADF have remedied this situation further by prying the selector away from the receiver slightly. This not only solved the problem of stiffness, it also made quieter the dangerous loud click that occurs when the selector is moved. Another internal change was the addition of a recoil buffer in the back of the receiver, which is a much needed improvement. The 5.56mm version of any of the Kalashnikov variants puts a great deal of force on the rearward motion of the bolt carrier assembly. This is a common problem with this cartridge often resulting in the back end of bolt carriers peened over and the backs of receivers severely battered from this forceful motion. It has been observed that a milled receiver on a new Bulgarian AK actually cracked because of this violent cycling. The large plastic buffer thoughtfully positioned in the LM4 would eliminate this problem.

The LM4 came packaged in a sealed plastic bag. Inside was a very well done instruction manual printed in the typical South African style of both English and Afrikaans, as these were the two official languages of the country at that time. The manual is very comprehensive and covers everything from technical data, operation, disassembly and assembly, preventative maintenance, trouble shooting, guarantee and after sales service.

The rifle came equipped with one 35-round steel magazine, which is identical to the Galil magazine. A nylon 35-round magazine was also available at that time along with a 50-round magazine. The 50-round magazine provides an impressive amount of firepower but its long length prevents its use with the bipod when shooting from the prone position. Another option was tritium night sights. The rear consisted of two dots and the front was a vertical bar. These sights were easy to install and were very bright. They were invaluable at night and could be folded down when not in use. Oddly, the other optional item that had to be purchased separately was a cleaning kit. The kit came in a canvas roll and included all the normal components one would find with one exception: the kit contained a broken shell extractor. Again, some forethought went with this choice. Taking into consideration that a broken shell could render the rifle useless in a tight situation, and the vast distances one would have to travel to remedy this occurrence, this tool gave the farmer or rancher a quick fix that he could do in a few minutes.

The LM4 is a very reliable rifle being able to shoot all types of 5.56mm ammunition with no malfunctions. The trigger is the typical Kalashnikov type that one would encounter in any of the variants and is noted for a great amount of creep. Some say that this creepy trigger affects accuracy, but you must remember that this is a battle rifle and the accuracy it achieves is more than adequate for fighting in the bush.

The LM4 has a pillar-type adjustable front sight and a flip-type rear sight. The low setting is for 0 to 300 meters and the high setting is for 300 to 500 meters. The night sights are set for 100 meters. The recoil produced by the 5.56 round is negligible and therefore it is a very comfortable rifle to shoot.

Very little information is available regarding this rifle as ARMSCOR was more concerned about security than commercial sales. The LM4 is a fine rifle that was very well made and reliable, but was rarely encountered outside of South Africa. Unfortunately, because of the drastic political changes in South Africa, this rifle is no longer in production and examples are extremely rare.

LM4 ASSAULT RIFLE SPECIFICATIONS

Caliber............................................................................5.56 NATO

Operation........................Gas. Rotating Bolt, Semi Automatic Only

Weight.................................................................................9.48 lbs.

Length Buttstock folded............................................................29.13 inches

Buttstock extended........................................................39.57 inches

Barrel Length.................................................................18.11 inches

Rifling............................................6 Groove, 1in 11.8” Right twist

Manufacture.......Lyttleton Engineering Works (Pty) Pretoria, RSA.


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