Vektor CR21: South Africa’s Futuristic Bullpup

The CR-21 was a private effort to create a new rifle for the South African military in the 1990s. Bullpup designs were all the rage at the time (Austria has the AUG, France had the FAMAS, the UK had the SA80, etc), and so a company called Lyttelton Engineering Works (now part of Denel Land Systems) created a bullpup conversion design for the South African R4 (Galil). It was given a very fluid, futuristic look, and equipped with a fiber optic optic without any iron sights. The action and magazines remained original R4/Galil, however.

The weapon was promoted to the South African military as an economical upgrade package for the R4 rifles already in service, but was met with little interest. Further efforts to sell the weapon to South African police and international military or security customers similarly met with no success. In total, only 200 complete rifles were made, plus parts for another 200. They achieved some notoriety in fictional media because of their looks, including use in the film “District 9”. As often happens, however, becoming popular in film or video games does not equate to commercial success.

Many thanks to the anonymous collector who let me take a look at this piece and bring you a video on it!

22 Comments

  1. Military Arms Channel posted this very day a video on a distant cousin of this gun: the Valmet M82. Those 2 bullpup AK seems to share a lot on the negative side: challenging field stripping, tricky magazine manipulations… and not left-hander friendly.

    • And I believe neither gun is conscript-friendly at all. I’m certain that traditional assault rifle layout still trumps the fancy bull-pup. It’s much easier to build, operate, and maintain. Any objections?

      • “I’m certain that traditional assault rifle layout still trumps the fancy bull-pup. It’s much easier to build, operate, and maintain.”
        “Repacking” existing design mostly ends in weapon of lacking ergonomics or needs so much alterations that little original parts remain and it is no longer “the cheap way”.
        It does not necessarily apply to all bull-pup designs, Lithgow F88 seems to be quite successful.

        “Valmet M82”
        OTs-14 Groza also has not best ergonomics due to its heritage.

  2. Boy, the “futuristic” polymer stock is fully as ugly as that on my Giugiaro-designed Beretta Cx4 hot mess! fully+ugly=fugly.

    Still, I do like the handling characteristics, or I wouldn’t have hung onto it for as long as I have…

    I have heard that Poland’s arms industry has developed a rifle that can be configured as either a bull-pup or a more conventional carbine layout. France’s armed forces and internal security forces will have the FAMAS for a good long while. I’m not sure who still uses the AUG, but certainly there are Austria, the new-improved Thales Australian version, Eire/Ireland, maybe some in Morocco, Tunisia, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador and tiny Uruguay. Of course in many Third World states, one or another of the elite snake-eating special forces outfits has the AUG too. Argentina, Nigeria,Indonesia and lord knows who else…

    Presumably the South African inheritors of the former SADF will be using the R4 Galil for a good long while, yes?

  3. One thing I’ve noticed about bullpup rifles, other than the obvious bit about most of them being “southpaw-challenged”, is that virtually every one places the shooter’s face right over or next to the chamber.

    Besides the issue of putting your cheekbone right next to a cylinder containing up to 55,000 PSI (vs. about 2000PSI for a typical IC engine in your car):

    http://kwk.us/pressures.html

    There’s also the little factor of heat, especially in autofire.

    Firearms barrels get hot in rapid fire. Full-auto firearms barrels get very hot. Well, they are called firearms, after all.

    And the chamber is generally the “warmest” part. Right next to the shooter’s face in the case of a bullpup.

    Without really (bordering on incredibly) good heat shielding, that seems like a less than brilliant idea.

    Any way you look at it, bullpups have a lot more problems than they solve. And some of them are potentially more dangerous to the operator than to the target.

    cheers

    eon

    • There’s a compromise with every design. The question is whether the design of the bull-pup has given enough good performance in return for having so many issues… I don’t think the answer is “yes.”

      • “The question is whether the design of the bull-pup has given enough good performance in return for having so many issues… I don’t think the answer is “yes.””
        Maybe because offered bull-pup are not radical enough, if you want to have barrel as long as possible in short package (big barrel length to overall length ratio) utilize as many length as you can – make receiver as short as possible, for example like in Shevchenko Smerch:
        http://guns.wikia.com/wiki/Shevchenko_Smerch

    • “Besides the issue of putting your cheekbone right next to a cylinder containing up to 55,000 PSI (vs. about 2000PSI for a typical IC engine in your car):”
      I say it should not be exaggerated, catastrophic failure could happen however with proper ammunition and weapon (in spec) it is ultra-rare in metallic-cartridge weapons.

  4. It’s a shame this rifle failed to sell. As a semi-auto I think it would have made a handy piece for police, security guards and civilians. But I am not sure about it as a full auto military rifle, and obviously it need those sort of sales to succeed.

  5. to simple to diss a rifle that has not evolved further than the test fase. the ever present ar 15 has 50 (?) years of development behind it, so yes it will have less flaws, but in essence the vektor looks like a good design (and so does the Galil inside it, ofcourse). i wonder what would happen when kel-tec gets/accepts the money to really develop the RDB. too many people discard the concept of the bull pup, because of some underdeveloped designs. oh and if you don’t like to put “your cheekbone right next to a cylinder containing up to 55,000 PSI”, you can’t be thrilled to put your face a few centimeters away from the same amount of PSI on a “normal” rifle.

    • “too many people discard the concept of the bull pup, because of some underdeveloped designs.”
      IDF is deploying IWI Tavor in bull-pup configuration and I do not think they would accept lackluster assault rifle in their current geopolitical situation.

      • Apparently, the IDF did just that: lackluster. It is, however, very short and compact. They received so many U.S. M16s and later M4s that it was always cheaper to use the U.S.-supplied arms and ammunition and sell the Galils abroad…

        The AUG, however, and the current Australian iteration, appear to be continuing in use. I’m not sure the UK can afford a replacement for the L85 IW any time soon. Of course, the French announced the long-in-the-tooth FAMAS’s imminent replacement, but it appears that the trickle of HK416 rifles will see it continue to soldier on there for a good long while too. Perhaps as telescoped, quasi-“caseless” types of ammunition are developed, something like the old Steyr ACR prototype or something with the sorts of top-mounted magazines like the Cold War-era HK G Elf or FN P90 might see further adoption? Maybe even the odd post-WWII Holek ZB-47 or WWII Canadian prototype “machine carbine” of Anton Rosciszewski SAL might be resurrected?

  6. Mostly the description of a modern firearm cartridge (sealed tubular Metallic container, packed with exposive filler and a dedicated detonation device) pretty much is a perfect description of a pipe bomb. One can understand the reluctance of a shooter to snuggle his pretty face up to a breech provided by the low-bidder.
    Pretty much also illustrating the unpopular nature of computer-printed firearms. Does the “Fire” in “Firearms” really play so well with “Thermoplastic?”

        • Not quite the same thing, and less likely to happen with a short piece like a bullpup.

          If the muzzle were plugged with dirt, it would still be much less tightly sealed than the breach, so I would expect the muzzle to burst before the breach did. Does anyone know if this is the case?

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