17 September 2010

Tools of War: L85A2 (aka SA-80) rifle

In the beginning, the British issued the L85A1, and it was shite.

In the time-honored tradition of new cars, you generally don't want to trust the new model. Wait a couple years, let all the bugs get sorted out, and THEN go buy it. While this is a generally accepted truism with autos, which are a mere annoyance if they break down, military procurement tends to forget the principle when they are out shopping for a new combat rifle. It's not like the BEAN COUNTER is going to be stuck in some third-world shithole, in brutal conditions, relying on said rifle for his life....

Similar to the M16 in the US, a war in an unpleasant environment highlighted the problems with the L85A1...all 50+ of them. FIFTY-PLUS! I can't think of 50 things that a rifle DOES, much less find fifty things that it DOES WRONG! That said, after serious reliability and operability issues came to light during the first Gulf war in 1990, the Brits did a little homework and then went a-fixin'. It took them two go-arounds to make it happen, but fix it they did, with a little help from their friends at Heckler and Koch.

What resulted was the L85A2, and it is much improved. It still has a couple design issues, but we'll get to those in a minute.

First, let's talk about the things that I like:
- It's a bullpup - Bullpups, for those of you who don't know, are rifles designed with the action located behind the pistol grip/trigger assembly. What this does for you is reduce the overall length of the weapon, while maintaining a nice long barrel. Compact AND accurate.
- It's fairly controllable at full auto - A nice bonus of the bullpup design, especially when combined with the low recoil of the 5.56x45 NATO round and a relatively low rate of fire (650rpm).
- It's pretty darn accurate - Again, the bullpup design allows for a nice, long 20.4" barrel.
- It's compact - Bullpup, again, for the win. You want to try to clear a house with a full-length rifle? Me neither.
- Telescopic sight - Removable, and issued stock. Smart.
- Mountable 40mm grenade launcher - Actually improves the balance of the weapon. That's a check in the win column.

Things I don't like:
- You can't be a lefty - Unless you like expended brass flying into your face.
- No collapsible stock - Well, no surprise there...the receiver is in the stock.
- It's a bit heavy - Tips the scales at 11lbs loaded, compared to 8.8lbs loaded for the M16A4
- Selector switch location - It's way to the rear, only about 4" forward of the butt of the weapon.

The L85A2 is currently in use by the UK and Jamaica.

Here's a nice overview of the weapon.

And here's a few words from Andy McNab:

By: Steve

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