In today’s “Pic of the Day,” we see a Rhodesian soldier during the Bush War firing a Para FAL variant weapon.

In the aftermath of World War II, like several British dependencies, Southern Rhodesia aligned with the Commonwealth norm, adopting the L1A1 SLR by the early 1960s. The region actively supported British anti-insurgency campaigns during the Malayan and Aden Emergencies, establishing the L1A1 as its primary infantry firearm. This engagement underscored the Rhodesian Security Forces’ approach, emphasizing individual sharpshooting and deploying small units as fundamental to major counter-insurgency strategies.

The archetypal small unit, inclusive of the Southern Rhodesian Army and diverse paramilitary and internal security factions, was termed the “stick,” comprising four riflemen equipped with SLRs and a machine gunner armed with an FN MAG. Following Southern Rhodesia’s unilateral declaration of independence in 1965, becoming Rhodesia, the UK instituted an arms embargo, limiting the usage of SLRs primarily to reserve units.

During the Rhodesian Bush War, Rhodesia pivoted towards South Africa for arms supplies, receiving several R1 rifles, a variant of FAL manufactured under license. Additionally, Rhodesia procured FAL models through covert means from various sources, including Belgium and West Germany. Several rifles received modifications, such as custom flash suppressors for recoil reduction during automatic fire.

Rhodesian forces, emphasizing marksmanship and utilizing the superior penetration capability of the 7.62x51mm round, often successfully countered larger insurgent forces from ZANLA and ZIPRA, primarily armed with Kalashnikov-type automatic rifles. Troops were trained to counter-ambush by aiming low and gradually elevating their fire, exploiting their ammunition’s ability to penetrate thick foliage and eliminate concealed enemies.

Post the 1980 general elections, internationally recognized independence was achieved as Zimbabwe, leading to the amalgamation of the Rhodesian Security Forces with ZANLA and ZIPRA. The new Zimbabwe Defence Forces initially upheld the FAL as the standard service rifle due to the abundance of inherited 7.62x51mm ammunition. However, following a sabotage incident depleting the ammunition stocks, potentially orchestrated by former Rhodesian personnel or South African special forces, a shift was initiated. The insurgent weaponry was reintegrated, and a gradual transition to Kalashnikov rifles was undertaken to streamline maintenance and logistics.