One of the rarest versions of the FN49 rifle is the Belgian Congo contract, made to equip the Force Publique there – the military force in the territory when it was a Belgian colony. A total of 2,795 of them were delivered (all actually AFN-49s, chambered for .30-06); 1,500 rifles in 1951, 1,100 more in 1952, and 185 scoped sniper models in 1954. Some of the standard rifles (including this particular one) were later scoped, though. They replaced Mauser Model 1930 bolt action rifles, but only for a few years – Belgian adopted the FAL in 1954.
When Congo gained its independence in 1960, the arms of the Force Publique ended up in the hands of fighters on both sides of the Congolese civil war. They remain very scarce in western collections today because they were dispersed across central Africa in the wake of the civil war and have never been commercially exported. Interestingly, this is the only place historically where two opposing forces both used the FN49 in combat; the UN mission to Katanga included a contingent of Indonesian troops armed with their own FN49s.
Many thanks to the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History in Brussels for access to this very rare piece! Check them out here: