Arms of the Venezuelan Coup

Fifty five years ago this week Marcos Pérez Jiménez, dictator of Venezuela, fled from power in the face of a popular uprising and botched military coup. Among other things, Jiménez had used Venzuela’s oil to finance a pretty well-equipped military, and the nation had been an early adopter of both the FN49 and FAL rifles. Well, thanks to reader Daniel, we have a handful of photos of the January 1958 uprising. They show several rare and interesting types of firearm actually being used. Thanks, Daniel!

Venezuela purchase 5,000 FAL rifles in 1954, and was the only country to buy these guns in a caliber other than 7.62 NATO. They were instead ordered in 7x49mm “Second Optimum”, also known as 7mm Liviano. This round was a development of the cartridge debate that had been running between the US and UK, in which the UK wanted an intermediate caliber for controllability while the US insisted on a full-power round for maximum range. Several compromises were designed, and the 7×49 was one of these, firing a 140 grain bullet at about 2750fps.

Anyway, the first Venezuelan FAL order was in 7×49, and the rifles were also fitted with a somewhat distinctive three-prong flash hider. In 1961 a second batch of FALs was ordered in 7.62 NATO, and the existing guns were converted to that caliber as well. The 7mm FAL rifles existed only briefly, from 1954 to 1961, and so it’s neat to find photos of them in that configuration.

Click on any photo to enlarge…

Silhouette of a Venezuelan soldier with an early FAL in 7x49 Liviano
Silhouette of a Venezuelan soldier with an early FAL in 7×49 Liviano
Venezuelan soldier with an early FAL in 7x49 Liviano
Venezuelan soldier with an early FAL in 7×49 Liviano

Edited to add: Leszek Erenfeicht sent us another photo of a Venezuelan FAL in action, in this case with a soldier guarding the bomb-damaged car of Venezuelan President Romulo Betancourt in 1960:

Early Venezuelan FAL guarding Betancourt's bomb-damaged limo
Early Venezuelan FAL guarding Betancourt’s bomb-damaged limo


Venezuelan soldiers with FN Model D and FAL
Venezuelan soldiers with an FN Model D and FAL (note the flash hider in front of the FND magazine)

Another rifle purchased by the Venezuelan military was the FN49, which they bought 4,000 of in 1948 and a further 4,000 in 1951. The early order was in fact the first major sale of FN49 rifles made, and they were chambered for the 7×57 Mauser cartridge, which had been a standard in Venezuela (and elsewhere in South America) for many years.

Venezuelan soldiers with FN 24/30 Mausers and FN49s in 7mm
Venezuelan soldiers with FN 24/30 Mausers and FN49s in 7mm
FN 24-30 rifles in Venezuela, 1958
Troops with FN 24/30 Mauser rifles in 7mm Mauser

One other gun that makes an appearance in these photos is the Hotchkiss Universal folding SMG (we have a video on it showing the folding capability). Venezuela is one of the very few countries that bought these interesting subguns, and it is pretty cool to find photos showing them actually being used. It appears they were in the hands of a military bodyguard, along with M1A1 Thompson SMGs. Perhaps someone can identify the man with the microphone below?

Venezuelan soldiers with a Thompson SMG and Hotchkiss Universal
Thompson SMG, and note the distinctive buttstock of a Hotchkiss Universal at the far left. The officer center right is also holding a Universal by the muzzle.
Venezuelan soldiers with an M1A1 Thompson SMG and Hotchkiss Universal
Better shot of a Hotchkiss Universal here, along with an M1A1 Thompson. These are the same men as the previous photo.