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The British L85 (SA80) rifle


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#1 Dawes

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 0719 AM

Haven't read much in the news lately about this particular rifle (which I believe is currently in the "A2" iteration). The last I heard it seemed to be performing reliably, according to published reports. Have all it's shortcomings been cured?

#2 Tony Williams

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 0850 AM

Its reliability shortcomings have been sorted and it's now apparently well-liked by its users, but it's still heavy and with poor ergonomics.

This gives the story: http://www.quarry.ni....co.uk/SA80.htm

Edited by Tony Williams, 16 November 2010 - 0851 AM.


#3 crazyinsane105

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 2131 PM

Found this video pretty informative:



#4 Cutaway

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 0713 AM

An SA-80 derivtive is now copied in Myanmar as the EMERK:
Posted Image

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EMERK

Edited by Cutaway, 17 November 2010 - 0718 AM.


#5 Michael Dekmetzian

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 2131 PM

what a fucking abortion.

interesting though Cutaway, thanks!

Edited by Michael Dekmetzian, 17 November 2010 - 2131 PM.


#6 FirstOfFoot

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 0806 AM

Its reliability shortcomings have been sorted and it's now apparently well-liked by its users, but it's still heavy and with poor ergonomics.


As your own article points out, it's only 400g heavier than a comparable M16. You have to wonder whether reliability costs weight; if so, fair trade.

As for "poor ergonomics", I'd suggest that they're adequate. Again, there are tradeoffs; the ergonomic advantage of a shorter, better-balanced rifle comes at the cost of a magazine release that can't be operated with the firing hand (but it's predecessor the SLR couldn't do that), and which is impossible to fire from the left shoulder (just like the SMG and LMG that the SA80 series replaced).

The ultimate irony is that the much-derided LSW variant (caused mostly by poor training of users, in my experience) turns out to be the concept that the USMC wants to move towards for its IAR...

#7 shep854

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 0922 AM

"The ultimate irony is that the much-derided LSW variant (caused mostly by poor training of users, in my experience) turns out to be the concept that the USMC wants to move towards for its IAR..."--FirstOfFoot

I wonder how much a "Grass is Greener" mentality is at work here.

#8 Tomas Hoting

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 1042 AM

As for "poor ergonomics", I'd suggest that they're adequate. Again, there are tradeoffs; the ergonomic advantage of a shorter, better-balanced rifle comes at the cost of a magazine release that can't be operated with the firing hand (but it's predecessor the SLR couldn't do that), and which is impossible to fire from the left shoulder (just like the SMG and LMG that the SA80 series replaced).


I wonder if we will ever live to see the day when an engineer manages to put together a fully ambidextrous bullpup rifle, with its controls laid out equally well for a left-handed and a right-handed shooter?

The FN2000 almost got it right, except for the cocking handle. On the Tavor you can apparently swap the cocking handle from one side to the other and cover the empty slot with a rail mount (maybe Tony Williams can confirm this?), IMHO clever thinking.

Edited by Tomas Hoting, 23 November 2010 - 1319 PM.


#9 Tony Williams

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 2321 PM

I wonder if we will ever live to see the day when an engineer manages to put together a fully ambidextrous bullpup rifle, with its controls laid out equally well for a left-handed and a right-handed shooter?

The FN2000 almost got it right, except for the cocking handle. On the Tavor you can apparently swap the cocking handle from one side to the other and cover the empty slot with a rail mount (maybe Tony Williams can confirm this?), IMHO clever thinking.

Yes, the Tavor is switchable between right and left hand use, but it does take a couple of minutes.

The FN F2000 (and US commercial Kel-Tec RFB in 7.62mm calibre) both use a forward ejection tube; I have heard British Army small-arms specialists criticise the handling of the F2000, especially the routine clearing process, and the fire selector controls work in a completely different way from other rifles.

There are various suggestions for other ways of achieving ambidexterity with bullpups in my web article here: http://www.quarry.ni...uk/bullpups.htm

#10 Jonathan Chin

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 0004 AM

Arguably the number 1 argument for an ambi-dex capable weapon is to be able to shoot behind weak side cover. This would require a rifle that can be fired equally well from either shoulder without reconfiguration.

Edited by Jonathan Chin, 24 November 2010 - 0004 AM.


#11 Tony Williams

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 0507 AM

Arguably the number 1 argument for an ambi-dex capable weapon is to be able to shoot behind weak side cover. This would require a rifle that can be fired equally well from either shoulder without reconfiguration.

Not a problem - there are various ways of achieving that apart from the F2000 / Kel-Tec RFB forward eject, as I spell out in my article linked to above.

#12 GPMG

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 1556 PM

Arguably the number 1 argument for an ambi-dex capable weapon is to be able to shoot behind weak side cover. This would require a rifle that can be fired equally well from either shoulder without reconfiguration.

It would then require the user to be able to shoot well from their weak side, in the real world how many armies train to good standard if at all shooting weak handed? If you dont train for it what are the chances you will do it in combat?

#13 thekirk

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 1600 PM

It would then require the user to be able to shoot well from their weak side, in the real world how many armies train to good standard if at all shooting weak handed? If you dont train for it what are the chances you will do it in combat?


In 25 years in the US Army, the only time I ever saw or participated in training off-hand shooting, it was something I either did on my own, or I was the one who ran the training. I had a hell of a lot of trouble doing so, on one occasion, because there was no mandate in the manuals to even address the issue. I think I'd be pretty safe in betting that the only place you're going to find this even mentioned in Army doctrine is in the urban warfare part. It sure as hell didn't find its way into any of the marksmanship manuals I ever saw.

Come to think of it, I don't think they even address it in pistol marksmanship for Military Policemen, which is really staggeringly stupid.

#14 EvanDP

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 1650 PM

I know the L85 is used by the British (Army, Royal Marines and Ghurkas), is it also used by the RN and RAF? Do any of the above mentioned use any substitute weapons? I was wondering because it was last manufactured in 1994 and then just recently re-manufactured/updated so how much life is still left in the guns? Or is the number of weapons left good enough to last awhile?

#15 Tony Williams

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 2129 PM

In 25 years in the US Army, the only time I ever saw or participated in training off-hand shooting, it was something I either did on my own, or I was the one who ran the training. I had a hell of a lot of trouble doing so, on one occasion, because there was no mandate in the manuals to even address the issue. I think I'd be pretty safe in betting that the only place you're going to find this even mentioned in Army doctrine is in the urban warfare part. It sure as hell didn't find its way into any of the marksmanship manuals I ever saw.

Yet the strange thing is that a lack of rapid ambidexterity is the main reason given for why the bullpup is considered unacceptable for US forces.

#16 Tony Williams

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 2134 PM

I know the L85 is used by the British (Army, Royal Marines and Ghurkas), is it also used by the RN and RAF? Do any of the above mentioned use any substitute weapons? I was wondering because it was last manufactured in 1994 and then just recently re-manufactured/updated so how much life is still left in the guns? Or is the number of weapons left good enough to last awhile?

The L85 is the only 5.56mm rifle issued to British forces except for the SAS (and probably the SBS) who use whatever they want and have used the M16 family since before the SA80 was thought of.

About half of the existing stock of L85 were converted by HK from L85A1 to L85A2 standard around about 2000-2002. These are indeed wearing out given their heavy use in the harsh conditions of Afghanistan. The official in-service date of the SA80 replacement is 2020, but they'll be doing well to last that long. HK could convert the remainder, but it would cost more than buying a brand new gun off the shelf.

#17 Archie Pellagio

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 2153 PM

What is the thinking for a replacement? 2020 isn't that far away.

Would the replacement be something designed specifically to British specifications or something off-the-shelf?

#18 GPMG

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 0207 AM

The L85 is the only 5.56mm rifle issued to British forces except for the SAS (and probably the SBS) who use whatever they want and have used the M16 family since before the SA80 was thought of.

Intrestingly the Falkland Islands Defence Force uses the Steyr AUG. They arn't British forces but I would have thought that they would use the same rifle as the British army.

#19 Tony Williams

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 0438 AM

What is the thinking for a replacement? 2020 isn't that far away.

Would the replacement be something designed specifically to British specifications or something off-the-shelf?

It certainly won't be a British-designed gun because the UK no longer has that expertise. It will almost certainly be a proven, off-the-shelf system, maybe with a bit of customisation, because the BA won't want to go through the SA80's horrendous in-service debugging process all over again. It will probably come from HK or FN, or possibly from Colt. Which means that it will very probably not be a bullpup, not because the BA doesn't like them but because the only currently available (or planned, AFAIK) one from those sources is the F2000 with which the BA seems to have arms manual issues.

#20 Tony Williams

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 0440 AM

Intrestingly the Falkland Islands Defence Force uses the Steyr AUG. They arn't British forces but I would have thought that they would use the same rifle as the British army.

Yes, that does seem odd. Perhaps they assume it's the right gun for the Southern Hemisphere ;)




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