R4 Cleaning Kit

Whilst we have looked at an experimental cleaning kit wallet for the South African Defence Force’s R4 rifle before this was not only incomplete but not representative of the kit carried by soldiers during the 1980s. Today we are looking at the far more common issue version of this cleaning kit. Unsurprisingly it is very similar to the experimental one, but made in canvas rather than vinyl and this example has a full complement of tools within it. The tool roll is a large piece of green canvas with pockets on its interior with slots to fit all the tools necessary to maintain the R4 rifle:

This diagram from a period manual shows what items are supposed to go where:

A pair of loops are sewn to the rear face of the cleaning kit, and a pair of tapes at one end:

The cleaning kit is folded in half and rolled, before the tapes are wrapped around to stop it unravelling:

When rolled up the belt loops allow it to be mounted onto the soldier’s webbing, with the press stud attaching to the belt to prevent it from sliding:

The tools inside the roll allow all the daily cleaning requirements a soldier might have in the field to be met. The R4 was based on the Israeli Galil, which in turn was based on the AK47 so the basic platform was robust and well designed and worked well in the climate of the Cape. It did need to be cleaned however to ensure the most reliable operation and with a complete cleaning a soldier could keep it in the best of condition. Here we see the different tools carried inside the roll (refer to the diagram above for details):

The combination tool has folding blades and can be used as a screwdriver and reamer and used for general adjustments to the rifle’s gas system:

A sectional cleaning rod is included that can be screwed together with a brush at one end to allow the barrel to be cleaned out, a pommel at one end makes it more comfortable to use:

The cleaning kit was part of the standard kit issued to an SADF infantryman along with his rifle. Graham McCallum remembers the day he was issued his rifle and cleaning kit:

On a given day in our training, our platoon was marched off to the 3SAI Armoury where we sank down onto the ground, back against back, into exhausted relaxation. We were here to get our rifles. Many of the chaps I was with were beyond excitement at the prospect. In contrast, I thought what a bugger – ‘now I have to haul this heavy piece of metal around with me and clean it. Several long wooden boxes were hauled out, and one by one we went forward to get our special surprise. Brand-new, covered from butt to flash-breaker in thick cloying grease, shiny-black R4 rifles. Each weapon’s number was meticulously recorded and logged in the armoury inventory and company records. I have all my platoon’s rifle numbers to this day. I wonder if they remember theirs.

 Then lined-up in squad formation, we were instructed by Corporal Stols that we were to treat our rifles as one would a women, lovingly no doubt. Being gay I smiled inwardly. The second commandment was never, never, to drop our rifles. I clutched this foreign-feeling instrument as tightly as I could in my hand, thinking, whatever I do, just don’t drop it Graham. Well, it did not take long for one unlucky ‘Roof’ (scab) to do just that, with his rifle making a terrific crash on the paving. He was immediately punished on the spot for this grave disrespect. We were also given two magazines and a cleaning kit.

One comment

  1. Crikey wearing it on a belt kit would have been a recipe for disaster. Imagine this coming undone while on a belt and the contents falling out.

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