ANZAC Smallarms

ANZAC Smallarms

Lithgow SLR (L1A1)

Lithgow L1A1 (SLR)The standard infantry weapon was the Lithgow SLR (L1A1) produced under license as a copy of the 7.62mm Belgian FN FAL. The L1A1 is an air-cooled, select fire weapon with a 20 round magazine. 

L1A1 SLR was the same as the British, i.e., semi auto.  Occasionally, for a bit fun, someone would convert their weapon to automatic, with clever placement of a match stick in the trigger mechanism.  Putting the match in the wrong place though, would cause the full magazine (20 rounds) to be fired off, even when trigger was released.

AN (formerly of the British Army, commenting on the match stick trick)
Could also have the working part of your own rifle try and take your head off.


The L1A1 is a SLR is a SLR is a SLR. (or Slar or Slur or "Go bang gotcha stick" or "gat" or "riffly" or "bangstick" or, as some US troops on exchange with us called it, "The Godamn Express Rifle"). The same as the Pommy one in most respects. We didn't make one with the plastic furniture like the Brits did though we did have the L1A2 (I think) that had about 150mm cut off the barrel (it could've been less) that was made for the PNG Defence Force. The Australian SAS made up "the Bitch" during the Vietnam war which was a SLR cut down to buggery, with what appeared to be an M-16 flash suppressor and rigged for full auto. A terrifying weapon to friend and foe alike. 

TT was right about the matchstick under the sear to go full auto. Gangs of fun when using blanks and playing enemy. Scares the brown out of young recruits in an ambush.


It has been suggested that some ANZAC soldiers (in particular RTO's, Commanders etc.) sometimes carried the Owen SMG instead of the M-16. 

Owen SMG: Caliber = 9mm; barrel length =24.7 cm; Magazine capacity of 33 rounds and a ROF of 700 rpm. Effective range approximately 75 meters

Developed in WW2, rather similar to the British Sten  except that the magazine is mounted on top because side magazines were found to snag on branches etc in jungle fighting (possibly also so that it can't be used as a hand hold, misalignment of the magazine being a common problem with the Sten).

Dallas Gavan

Known as the "Owen Sub-Machine Carbine" it (and it's replacement, the F-1, the weapon in your original photo) was replaced by the M-16 for a number of reasons - not all that pleased the end-user. One of my CPL (RM, who was with either 5 or 7 RAR in Vieties as a No1 Scout) refused to carry an M-16 even in the late '70's, preferring an SLR. He loved to recount how he put three M-16 rounds into a VC's chest, only to have to track him for a couple of days. The rounds went between the ribs and, due to the way the 5.56mm round works at very short range, had cauterised its own wounds. Only the infection that the wounds caused stopped the bloke, apparently. In Malaysia in '82 I saw what he meant when we had a bloke shot through the thigh at close range. Hardly any bleeding (just a couple of drops), just two bruised dimples in the skin where the round entered and exited. He was hit at about a range of 30-meters.

But, for whatever reason, the M-16 took over from the Owen/F-1 in infantry units at least by '68. Having seen and used the F-1 and M-16 I'd still rather use the M-16. At 100M it will at least hurt you (if you're lucky). A hanging wet blanket can literally stop the under-powered 9mm from an F-1 at that range. But at 25mm it just chops meat up, as demonstrated to us on an old beef carcass.

Designed as a .22 in '39, first made as a .38 in '41, proved .38 round not suitable, main production started in 9mm mid '42. Last made Sept '45. I have details of a Lithgow SMG which started as the X3 and was standardised as the F1. Apparently well liked in Vietnam.

I checked my "Australian Armed Forces of the Eighties", and it mentions that a sub machine gun, the L3 was a silenced version of the British Sterling.  This was replaced by the L34A1 Sterling which is un-silenced, but otherwise the same.  The F1 and the Sterling are very similar, the most noticeable difference being the F1 has a top feed magazine, while on the Sterling comes in from the side. In 1967, Australia purchased M16's, and I doubt whether combat units would have used the F1 after then.

F1A1. Had the same pistol grip and trigger mechanism as the L1A1 SLR. It replaced the Owen, though not nearly as much folk-lore surrounds this weapon as the Owen. In Vietnam, some Australian units used the American M16 where they would otherwise have used the F1. The Infantry weapon was the SLR, with the American M60 as the Section Machine Gun,

Owen SMG was a WW2 weapon, supposedly designed for jungle fighting. (Vertical magazine, that didn't get caught on things like vines, etc.) I am not aware of its use in Vietnam.


The Owen was invented by a young Lt called Evelyn Owen. No-one wanted to know him because SMGs weren't really de rigueur during the early part of the war if you were in the Commonwealth (or Empire as it was then). When the war in the Pacific broke out we needed said weapons for the close fighting in the jungle. An Australian version of the Sten called imaginatively enough the AUSten was produced but generally binned as it suffered the same breakdowns as the early British Stens. Once the Owen came in you couldn't get the Diggers to let go of them. The were very reliable, fired a 9mm parabellum cart, vertical box mag and the barrel came off for cleaning. Later models were finished in an ochre and jungle green disruptive pattern. An excellent submachine gun. The were called a machine carbine but they were in essence an SMG. My Grandfather carried one and swore by it.

They were used for a limited time in Vietnam but they were becoming quite worn by that stage. The F1 or X3 was coming in at that time as was the M16.I had the opportunity to play with one once and they are a very reliable piece of kit. The thing I remember most about them is that they felt very light, narrow and sorta dinky. I guess this is because I had carried an SLR for so long. The other submachine gun was the X3  which was later redesignated the F1. Given to signalers, officers and others not trusted with a weapon...:-) A good fun weapon to fire. Surprisingly accurate if fired instinctively with the butt stuck into your abdomen. Not to many stoppages, quite reliable. Similar in layout to the Owen. Curved box mag on top (same mag as the Sterling) SLR pistol grip and butt plate. Perforated sleeve like the Sterling and could be fitted with the SLR bayonet, though if they were that close I think I would've thrown it at them.

Mr X

The photograph originally captioned as an Owen is in fact the F1- both were similar but distinct designs. The Owen dated from WW2 service in PNG - the F1 was kind of an updated Owen with considerable design features nicked from the Brit Sterling. One of your correspondents also mentions an L3 and L34A1 SMG - they are the same weapon and in fact the integrally suppressed version of the Brit L2A3 Sterling SMG. As far as I'm aware the L2A3 'basic' Sterling never saw service in RVN however the L34A1 did in extremely limited use by SASR for certain jobs.

Owen SMG

 The F1 (originally displayed as an Owen SMG - apologies to all concerned)

The comments about full auto SLRs - it was in fact extremely common for Oz 'green army' (i.e. line units, not SASR) scouts to have their weapons thus modified. Rather a few also took off the flash suppressor and chopped the barrel back by a few inches. The idea was to convince the opposition in a contact to keep their heads down while the patrol or platoon sorted themselves out. Lots of scouts also pilfered the 30 round mags from the L2A1 support version and used them on their chopped and fully auto SLRs.

The SASR's SLRs were generally customised in a similar manner though the SASR armourers replaced the full auto sear with a proper machined version rather than the somewhat unreliable match stick approach. They also fitted bolt hold open devices to the SASR SLRs which made mag changes faster. I have seen photos of chopped SASR SLRs fitted with twin 20-round or even twin 30-round L2A1 mags and in one notable case, an XM148 40mm GL jury rigged under the barrel! The SASR rule of thumb in RVN was 'you can have it but you've got to carry it'!

SASR also used the XM148/M203 M16A1 combo widely, once again with twin 20 or later 30-round mags taped together. Occasional use was made of the suppressed Sterling as mentioned above and other suppressed SMGs like the M3 and Carl Gustav M45. Shotguns were sometimes preferred by SASR scouts, especially before the XM148/M203 became available. Shotguns were also used in prisoner snatches- the idea being to shoot the nogs in the legs and wound them.

Craig Burnett

The original picture of an Owen is not an Owen, it's an F1. The Owen has a straight magazine. True that the Owen was used, at least to 1966, maybe later too - so not a suggestion, a fact. 1RAR had them on 1965 tour too. Akell carried one at Long Tan, when he run the spare sig set through to 10 platoon.

The F1 was a piece of s**t. The ballistic theories and all that might look good on paper, but what the staff say is different to the field anyway. Comment is right about giving it to anyone who might not really have to use it.

The SLR was the best infantry rifle. You wont see that on paper - man gets hit, even in hand and he is very sick. They say newer, modern rifles are better but it would have been better to modernize the SLR - i.e. leave it the same but make new ones!

If you want more info on Australian firearms check out an Australian author called Ian Skennerton. His knowledge on said subject almost scary. The Australian War Memorial site might be worth visiting too. Their address is


My thanks to all those who have contributed to this page and in particular to David Makin, Tom Woolman and especially to Nowfel Leulliot.

If you have any further information regarding these or any other ANZAC weapons then please feel free to contact me 


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