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SS77: South Africa Builds a GPMG on the Shoulders of Giants

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In the 1970s, South Africa began looking for a domestic-production GMPG to replace its inventory of FN MAG machine guns. The MAG was an excellent weapon, but the ones in South Africa were getting old and worn out, and with the country under international embargo over Apartheid, new guns and parts were not available from FN.

The SS-77 (named for its two designers, Richard Joseph Smith and Lazlo Soregi) began development in 1977, with initially prototypes built by Lyttleton Engineering Works in 1978. The design took elements from several other excellent machine guns – the side-locking action form the SG43 Goryunov, the barrel release and feed mechanism from the MAG, and the gas system from the PK. After an extensive series of testing and tweaking, the gun was formally adopted by the South African Defence Forces in 1986, and went into serial production. Despite the development cycle, the guns still proved to have significant problems in the field. The gas piston was liable to break, along with problems of broken extractors, loose pins, and other issues. The guns were actually recalled from military service and rebuilt in the early 1990s. Following that redesign program, the gun has proven very reliable and successful in service.

A Mini-SS design was also adopted, essentially the same gun scaled down to 5.56mm. Initial plans were to produce a conversion kit to allow the regular SS-77 to use either caliber, but these were never actually produced.

0:00 Introduction and history of South African machine guns
1:37 Designing and testing of the Vector SS77
3:33 Features, feeding options, and attachments for the Vector SS77
5:46 Disassembling the Vector SS77 and its various parts
10:44 Detailed look at the action and bolt of the Vector SS77
13:30 Examination of the receiver and firing pin of the Vector SS77
14:41 Issues, redesign, and production of the Vector SS77
16:33 Introduction to the mini SS machine gun and rarity of Vector SS77
17:30 South Africa’s economic embargo and its impact on the weapon’s export market
18:00 Wrap up, appreciation of the Vector SS77’s design, and thanks to viewers

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