Republic Arms RAP-401: Compact South African Steel

This pistol is coming up for auction at Rock Island here.

The Republic Arms 401 was originally designed as a compact pistol for the South African Police. The country was under international arms embargo, and the police wanted to replace their assortment of Beretta 81s, PPS, and PPKs with something standardized, for use by detectives and female officers. They put out a request for an all-steel gun (they were quite specific on that) like the Astra A75. Republic Arms submitted the RAP401, and it was adopted in 1990.

In 1994, the newly elected government in South Africa ended the purchasing of new firearms, including the RAP401. This left Republic Arms looking for a market, and with the end of the arms embargo they decided to see if they could succeed on the US commercial market. In addition, they realized that the RAP401, begins stronger and heavier than really necessary for 9x19mm would be an excellent candidate for the new and popular .40 S&W cartridge. So they adapter the design for .40 caliber and exported it as the RAP440 alongside the 9mm RAP401. The guns sold reasonably well in the US thanks to their low price point but good quality, and remained in production until 2006.


  1. I have an Astra A-75L (aluminum frame) which was my EDC for 20 years. A fine gun and very easy to conceal. The Astra’s decocking lever doesn’t have a safety position like the RAP. That’s the only difference I can see between the two guns.

    • “request for an all-steel gun (they were quite specific on that) like the Astra A75”
      So it is example of customer knowing what he wants.

    • “country was under international arms embargo”
      This lead to question of effectiveness of embargo 1) in Rhodesia 2) in South Africa, it clearly do not prevent that countries from getting automatic pistol, on the other hand I suspect hand-guns were of little concern for embargo imposers.

        • In future if you can’t find link to RIA but you know it is somewhere on page, you can do following (I tested with Firefox browser, but other should works as well):
          Press [left] ctrl + u, a lot of text should appear
          Press [left] ctrl + f, type rockislandauction
          now it should highlight that phrase in said text, in this case is first one (ends with four-semiautomatic-pistols), but if it would be otherwise (there might be for example link to general rockislandarsenalauction page) hit enter, repeat that until you find proper link.

  2. A excellent pistol that reminded me of the SIG when used but, 12 years since it finished production I doubt whether South Africa 2018 could manufacture such now!!!!!

    In regard to the comment re the Rhodesian Mamba, the South African arms industry acquired a substantial number of Rhodesian’s both before and after Independence. Both engineers and tradesmen.

  3. Mamba: A pistol made in South Africa named after a snake related to the cobra, also a nickname for NBA player Kobe Bryant.
    Mambi: An anti-materiel rifle of Cuban origin (possibly-converted-from-Russian-WW2-PTRS-1941), made during the rule of the late Fidel Castro, and captured from operations in Angola.
    Mambo: A dance

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