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Australia’s First Bullpup

By Matthew Moss

Twenty years before the Australian military adopted the F88 Austeyr, its adaptation of the Steyr AUG, a young officer cadet at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, developed a promising bullpup rifle. While on a training exercise at the end of his first year at Duntroon, Staff Cadet Kevin Loughrey began thinking of ways the Australian Army’s self-loading rifle, the L1A1 (FN FAL), could be improved. Loughrey would go on to develop two promising prototype designs which were favourably tested by Australian special forces; however, bureaucracy curtailed further development.

During a four-week training exercise in 1969, Loughrey, a mechanical engineering student, identified a number of characteristics which would create a more serviceable rifle than the L1A1. These included an adaptable in-line stock, ambidextrous controls, night sights and a simple, yet strong locking mechanism. These are features that modern firearms designers and manufacturers struggle to combine even today.

The most important of the improvements was the shortening of the rifle’s overall length without sacrificing barrel length. This could best be achieved by placing the trigger group in front of the action and removing the need for a butt stock—creating a bullpup rifle. When Loughrey began work on his “ideal rifle” he hadn’t even heard the term “bullpup;” his design was “simply the only way to achieve what I sought to do” (Interview with K. Loughrey, the designer). Loughrey developed rough sketches of what his rifle might look like. This first rifle, later designated the RMC No.1 by the Department of Supply, was based upon the Soviet AK-47’s gas system and rotating bolt. In order to simplify the construction of the prototype it was decided to use parts cannibalised from an L1A1 to build a proof-of-concept rifle. This modified L1A1 became known as the RMC No. 2.

In June 1970, Loughrey sent a rough set of design sketches to his commanding officer and requested permission to build a prototype. His commanding officer directed RMC Duntroon’s workshop commander Captain John Scully and Captain K. Sankey, the Deputy Assistant Director Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, to examine the proposed design. Their response was less than...

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