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The KAL1 General Purpose Infantry Rifle was an Australian bullpup rifle intended for jungle warfare after complaints about the weight and length of the L1A1 rifles.
Developed between 1969-1973 by Kevin Loughrey, now CEO of NVTech. Loughrey has a long history of successful invention (See http://www.nvtech.com.au/ProjPast/pastProjectsIntro.html and http://www.nvtech.com.au/ProjCurr/currentProjectsIntro.html). He graduated from the Royal Military College Duntroon with an Honours Degree in Mechanical Engineering on 12th December 1972. The course, including military studies, ran for a period of four and a half years. There had been numerous complaints from the Infantry about the unsuitability of the L1A1 Rifle for use in Vietnam because of its weight and length. Consideration had been given to copying the AK-47, but for political reasons this was not an attractive proposition and might have even been illegal. The idea of building a better, shorter rifle from an original baseline therefore had some appeal.
In 1969, Loughrey conceived the idea of reducing the length of a conventional rifle by placing the working parts in its butt. His company commander was supportive and passed him onto the local workshop commander who passed him to a Captain in the Army Reserve, ostensibly with knowledge about small arms design. The Captain reported adversely on the ideas being proffered and, spurred on by this rejection, Loughrey gained access to the Scientific Advisor for the Army, Max Nesbitt. (He achieved this through the help of a friend and fellow cadet, Rick Davies. Rick's girlfriend happened to be Max Nesbitt's PA at that time!) Max Nesbitt was very supportive and arranged for a working mockup of this concept to be built at the Small Arms Factory Lithgow, utilising components from the infantry rifle in use at that time, the L1A1. (Loughrey's design actually advocated the use of a locking action identical to the AK-47, a rifle for which Loughrey had considerable admiration. This method of locking is extremely simple to manufacture and the action of the single lug bolt head is such it cleans out detritus in the locking collar with each loading of a round. It is therefore virtually "unjammable". This design could accommodate any calibre simply by building working components to the required design strength. The rifle's calibre could therefore realistically range from .177 through to .50 if desired.)
Another more advanced working model was made in 1973 at 3 Base Workshop Battalion in Melbourne with the support of LTCOL John Faulks (who later went on to be the Director of RAEME). Once again, cannibalised parts from an L1A1 were used to make the weapon. When the Head of Army Design Establishment learnt of this development, he pressed the Director of RAEME, Brig Dean, to cease all work and to have the rifle and all plans destroyed. From the outset, driven by an Ex-British officer, LTCOL Michael Chivers, ADE had been very negative regarding these ideas. Although incomplete, Loughrey learnt of the imminent destruction of his work and so arranged for the rifle to be brought onto the Workshop's weapon's register by his friend, the Quartermaster, CAPT Michael Stark. Having been brought to charge, it could no longer be destroyed without a certificate of destruction being raised. Once completed, Loughrey arranged it be housed at the Infantry Centre museum, Singleton, where it remains on display.
These rifles bear a strong similarity to the present AuSteyr F88 with which the ADF is now equipped. It was introduced into service in 1985, 16 years after the first KAL Rifle. Of interest, the KAL rifles, in concept, are significanly superior to the AuSteyr in a number of ways. They are designed to be fired with equal ease by left and right handed people whereas the AuSteyr is really only suitable for right-handed people. The rifle field stripped into only three major components and so was very easy to maintain in the field. The AuSteyr strips into 12 parts, some of them very small and easily lost in the humus of a rain-forest floor. Open aperture sights provided a better solution to the need to track and snap shoot at targets than the AuSteyr. The Safety catch in front of the trigger is significantly better than the AuSteyr's left to right sliding catch and allows ease of operation by left and right handed operators. When people are frightened, they cannot easily tell left from right. With the AuSteyr, it is easy to forget which position turns the safety catch off. With the KAL rifle, firers cannot put their finger on the trigger with the safety catch on. This means if they are surprised, they will not inadvertently try to fire the weapon with the safety catch on. There have been a number of recorded incidents where policemen lost their lives because, in fright, they lost precious seconds trying to use their weapon with the safety catch on! The AuSteyr has no trigger guard. It is easy when picking up the weapon to turn off the safety catch with the palm of the hand and, at the same time, have a finger slide up onto the trigger setting off the weapon. So bad is this feature, that the Australian Army now teaches its troops to pick up the weapon at the point between the pistol grip and the magazine. This breaks a "sacred" basic Infantry teaching, that you must always hold a weapon by its pistol grip so that you are always ready to use it.