SA80 - Inf Opinions

And by inf I also imply informed hopefully.  Have moved the next post from another thread so as to hopefully start somewhat afresh.
This old chestnut just wont lay down and die.

There's a discussion going on about this very topic in the QMs at the mo.

Was really interested in the (educated and unemotive /not red-arrsed) opinions of my estimed inf colleagues.  Looking back now (and I feel relatively able to comment now I can sit comfortably on polyprop chairs without fearing they may burst into flames, or that my arrse would melt through), I don't remember any significant problems with the old rfile never mind the new one.  Having mooted the point with loads of other trenchy types, they appear to feel the same.

Those who don't know, or have just listened to 'Dave' in the block, or 'David' in the Mess need not respond.

Let's face it.  Come the exped into the desert (sorry, possible exped), we are going with the A2.  We have got a significant period of firing after Christmas (but we wont read anything into it of course) so should have an even better idea.

And I don't want any arrse about the gun-club not using them.  They didn't appear that keen on the SLR either.

Sensible comments only eagerly awaited.
No doubt you have seen my response in the QM's topic regarding the facts of the case.

The A1 LSW did have problems mainly in extreme climatic conditions with stoppages on automatic fire. The SA80 A1 in temperate conditions largely OK and in extreme climatic conditions certainly almost as good as other similar weapons of its type.

Tremendous improvement with the A2 both IW and LSW, and this has been objectively proved in climatic trials. Glad you have fired it.

Enjoy !


DM, in reply to your request.  Hopefully the last time I'll bang on about the SA 80 (I would urge anyone other than Dogmonkey not to bother reading this).

There are 4 main areas of concern with the SA 80:

1.  Lethality.  The SA 80 is a 5.56mm weapon and there is a persistent view that 5.56mm is less lethal than 7.62mm.  The origins of this mostly lie with the early AR15s (in the British army) and M16s (in the US army) using lightweight Remington deer hunting ammunition that is in no way comparable to the much heavier SS109/L2A2 NATO-standard round.  I would tend to agree with you that this old chestnut is mainly the preserve the inexperienced, and most of us would rather carry more rounds that do the job rather than less rounds that overmatch the requirement.  (I wonder if there is a Russian website where they moan about getting rid of the 7.62mm AKM for the 5.45mm AK 74?).  

2.  Build Quality.  You asked for examples, and these are all things that I have personally witnessed going wrong with SA 80A1s over the years (I'm only including things that I have seen multiple examples of).  First the mission critical failures:
a.  Gas plugs failing and being launched out of the weapon
b.  Firing pins breaking
c.  Return rods bending
d.  Ejectors breaking
e.  Safety-catches sticking
f.  Magazines constantly falling off
g.  Bayonets being launched off the weapon when fired
i.  Bayonets bending/breaking (the SLR was no better though)

And now merely irritating ones:
j.  Cheek pieces melting when wearing mosquito repellent
k.  Bolt release studs endlessly breaking off
l.  Dust covers endlessly breaking off (irritating, but likely to add to stoppages)
m.  Butt pads coming away (rubber failing around retaining screws)
n.  Rear sling loop coming away (related to above)

The manufacturing failings by Royal Ordinance have been well documented: they were not used to this sort of mass pressing work, they moved factories in the middle of the production run, the MoD "value engineered" the weapon by insisting that cheaper materials be used etc etc.  (Fine.  No doubt it was also difficult producing Brens while the Luftwaffe were bombing Enfield Lock but they seemed to manage OK).  These failings more than any others have done the most harm to the credibility of the weapon, but it is important to note that they are mostly historical problems.  Although I have seen some of the mission critical failures occur fairly recently, no weapon is perfect and some breakage has to be expected.  However, when these weapons were first issued they were almost criminally unreliable for about the first year I had one (which just added to my suspicions that I was in Northern Ireland to be shot at, rather than shoot back; an example of the physical component not really supporting the mora...).  Most of these issues have now been fixed, and I would say that the A1 is as reliable as any 5.56mm weapon on the scene today.  It has taken over 20 years though, and we have put a lot of soldiers lives at risk in the meantime.  So in 2002 I'd agree with you that the A1 is a good weapon and A2 even better.  But for all the time and money it has had lavished upon it (all of which comes from a finite defence budget - now you know why some soldiers quarters are still so shit), it bloody should be.



...more boring infantry oriented SA 80 bollocks.  I stongly recommend most readers to avoid it.

3.  Weapon Design Concept.  The SA80 (A1 and A2) is a bullpup weapon with an optic sight.  This concept trades lighter weight and the ability to fire from either shoulder for greater compactness while still having a long barrel capable of achieving high accuracy.  It fits with the 1980s view that every infantryman would be a dismount from an AFV (so a short weapon would be less cumbersome) and would fight from inside a trench with full OHP (again a short weapon is handy and the sight will be protected from the elements).  It also enables the rifle to be issued as a PPW to non-infantry, thus replacing the SMG.  The weapon is, therefore, a Defence Rifle, not an Assault Rifle.

My objection to the optic sight is, I agree, a purely personal viewpoint.  I find it is usually misted up or covered in rain, so is pants in most operational conditions (but then I've mostly been operational in cold and wet locations; or hot and wet, where the army have admitted defeat and you have to take the SUSAT off).  I can't deny that when it works the sight works well; however, the bullpup design means that there is no alternative to an optic sight for accurate shooting over 100m because the weapons sight line is too short for good iron sights.  

The issue of not being able to fire left around cover is, however, disgraceful, I think, particularly for a weapon that was introduced when Northern Ireland was the principle operational theatre.  I've banged on about this enough elsewhere, but for the sake of a short weapon with a long barrel this was too much of a price to pay (particularly when you consider that an FAL with its stock folded is the same length as an SA80 rifle).

4.  System Design Concept.  I've also banged on enough about the weakness of the rifle / heavy barrelled rifle combination introduced by the SA 80 IW / LSW system.  The firepower limitations this has imposed on our light role infantry (and AI, once we worked out that if tanks won't drive within RPG range of the enemy position, perhaps Warrior shouldn't either), has always been my biggest objection to the whole misguided SA 80 adventure.  However, now that that we have got GPMGs back in the platoon and are introducing LMGs and grenade launchers as well, there is not much to say, other than I TOLD YOU SO YOU STUPID SASC BASTARDS!  Oh, and tell me again how the SA 80 system will reduce training time and complexity because recruits will only have to learn one basic weapon?  That thing about interchangeability of parts and ammunition within the section?  You c unts.

Summary.  The SA 80 is by now a reliable, accurate and effective weapon, which I believe is at least the equal of any other 5.56mm weapon available.  The shortcomings of the SA 80 system design are being addressed by new procurements, but we still can't fire left around cover.  However, HOW MUCH FU CKING MONEY HAVE WE WASTED OVER THE LAST 20 YEARS TO GET A WEAPON WHICH IS "OK"?

I also worry about what we will get in 2008.  Somebody sold the concept of this sub-standard weapons system to the MoD in the 1970's, and they will have sold it on the basis of cost and theory rather than operational effectiveness and experience.  Stand by.

Thanks for your very detailed comments on a subject that I am sure will be with us for a few more years yet !   :) My comments are below:

1.  Lethality.  The SA 80 is a 5.56mm weapon and there is a persistent view that 5.56mm is less lethal than 7.62mm.
The purpose of the SA80 is to kill humans wearing CBA, and it is more lethal for greater ranges doing this than 7.62 mm. This is fact and one of the reasons why many other nations adopted 5.56mm.

2.  Build Quality .. Poor.
I totally agree. Tolerances in some cases were way above acceptable limits and the examples you quote are valid. As an aside - this reinforces the requirement in my view for the MOD to do random quality batch testing to ensure that equipment functions as it should in a military setting.

3.  Weapon Design Concept.  The SA80 (A1 and A2) is a bullpup weapon with an optic sight . . . .The weapon is, therefore, a Defence Rifle, not an Assault Rifle.
I agree witheverything you say in this para apart from the deduction that it is a defense weapon. As you say .. I would have though it is far better to have a compact accurate weapon especially for Armf Inf and Mech warfare than a large bulky one.

The optic sight is excellent for about 80% of climatic climates. With regards to firing from the left around cover - you are quite right. However in the number of instances where this must or could occur is very limited, Our main equipment is designed for warfare and not peace keeping or making. Where we need specific equipment for these two scenarios then they are bought, but the main driver for the design of our main equipment has to be our primary role.

Weapon design is a compromise and balances many requirements. Hundres of books have been written on the subject ! The A1 was designed in the Cold War era and the bottom line is we are where we are. There was probably an investment appraisal with the A1 to establish the adv and disadv of replacing the whole fleet or going the A2 route. If we had replaced then it would mean less money for other equipments. The A2 is a radical improvement in terms of reliability and the SUSAT concept is about to be adopted across the US M16 fleet which speaks for itself.
Thanks to both of you.  About time we had some rational discussion.  Personally, I am happy (and more importantly that my blokes are happy) with the weapon.  Hopefully with the phasing in of the LMG, whichever one we pick (but if we could have one in the next two weeks, that would be good, according to today's Telegraph), the LSW will become more relevant.

I suspect the you are currently clutching your head in your hands and gnashing, but let me go on.  With the heat (literally) taken off the LSW, which I absolutely agree, was not a good design (although it did achieve its original extraordinarily limited stipulations), the rifle section will have an added dimension.  That is the accurate long-range rifle.  I would suggest that any muppet can hit out to 600m with it (ok providing your sight isn't misted).  Instead therefore, of having the LSW as the only (un)sustained fire in the section, this can be done (albeit at a closer range) with the LMG, which pretty much ties in with the range of the rifle at 3-400m.  This can only be good for us in the trenches / dismounting / jumping from planes / running down ramps.


Roger to all the above, and I agree that the LSW "sharpshooter" role has a lot more to be said for it than using it as the section's principle firepower.

Forgive my cynicsm (this site is about the only place I can voice it after all), but in this year's "The Infantryman"  I have recently read that the light role GPMG's (not LMG's) maximum range is 600m, and hence the continuing importance of the LSW within the platoon to provide MSp out to 800m...

I had always understood GPMG in the light role to be effective out to 800m (same as LSW).  That's what it says in AATAM.  Are we not talking up a role for the LSW?

Don't get me wrong, long range point targeting MSp is the way ahead - but I'm concerned that there may be a move afoot to make the LSW seem more indispensible than it actually is. ::)

A good point.

I think it is really semantics here. The GPMG (Lt Role)  battle range is about 600m though of course it is effective at ranges beyond this when strike can be observed and firing for example, at a group of bodies. The battle range as I understand it (and I might be wrong) is the maximum range at which the weapon can be pragmatically be used with the greatest probability of hit. Yes, the GPMG (Lt Role) can be used for greater ranges than 600m but the probability of hit significantly decreases - therefore the range of 600m was adopted.

The LSW with the SUSAT provides greater accuracy and therefore I think this where the 800m comes from. I don't think there is a plot to write the performance of the LSW up, it is just that compared to the GPMG with its iron sight and beaten zone providding a battle range of 600, you would expect the SUSAT with the LSW to give a greater range.

The LMG route is an interesting one. The main argument for it was the need for a weight of suppresive fire, which I entirely agree with. However I bet that it will take a lot of ammunition to hit a triple Fig 11 at 600m.

The long range rifle really is an excellent weapon and in my view a world beater. Many other nations (less Germany) have adopted the .5 which results in a considerably heavier rifle with less accuracy (but greater penetrative power) than the .338. Comparing the two though, the AI long range rifle IMHO really is a good news story for the Infantry. Especially with the laser binos. Good news stories are rare I know  ;), but I think we have a real winner here.
I agree with all the above, especially re the LRR.  I'm really just questioning why now of all times, just as 7.62mm IPA is being introduced that makes the GPMG effective against personnel in body armour out to 1000m, we have suddenly declared the GMPG LR to only be effective to 600m when it has always been 800m in the past (and still is in AATAM). ???

I just have a suspicion that the rule book might be being re-written to support the latest SASC shibboleth: that only LSW can suppress out to 800m on a bipod.  However, my arguement is undermined by the fact that I can't find the original mention in The Infantryman 2002 and because I am pissed. ;D ;D


But wasn't that the "great claim" for having 2xLSW and 2xGPMG in the MSp section? Namely, the LSW could reach out and touch someone beyond GPMG (Lt role) range. Cries of "Close Precision Attack".

I'm old enough to have done a chunk of gravelbellying with the SLR (and PCD with SLR/GPMG in the Fire Team, oh joy); the question to those who cry "but you can't fire opposite-shoulder with a bullpup" is, how often did we ever train opposite shoulder with the SLR? Because if you don't practice it, you aren't going to be any good at it. Again, the average punter is actually going to hit something, when firing "right way around", as opposed to showing less, being slower into aim and fire, and less accurate. Not to mention all the problems of aiming with a non-master eye.

Anyway. ref gravelbellying, I ended up "muppet with the Gun", and found it a damn' sight easier to hit things at 600m when we got the LSW. The winning scores at RASAM for the gun match went up significantly, so there's a statistical backup - added to the fact that LSW in the hands of BACST wins lots of metalwork in Gun Matches around the world. (Bad memory - misty day at 600yds at Bisley, can see the triple fig.11 with eyes open, targets disappear when look through iron sights. Roll on SUSAT, I thought :) )
There is nothing to stop you using the SA80 in the left shoulder, especially in NI. By placing it in the left shoulder while in cover from a right-hand corner wall, you stay in cover and retain its observational capability.  In dire emergency it can be fired from the left shoulder, (when was the last time you fired in NI that wasn't a dire emergency?)  Sure it's uncomfortable/painful, but it will just be a snapshot Return Appropriate Fire, before moving into another fire position.

I realise this is far from ideal, but the left shoulder debate has become a little prominent.  Rifles like the FAMAS, which have left/right shoulder capability do not solve the issue either, because the shoulder cannot be changed at short notice.

All said and done, I would still prefer the G36.
If you treat the weapon like a consumer product the market has spurned it.

Because its competition easily craps all over it

The weapon is old, untrustworthy and produced without proper trialing to satisfy a government that was determined to keep civvy jobs to produce it.

The LSW introduced an old concept that had been rectified by the GPMG.

It is truly ironic that some journals I have seen have shown the GPMG introduced into the section to increase its firepower as some new concept.

I am sure one day they will write a book about the fiasco

Chris...PS it is a great range wpn
Because its competition easily craps all over it
Mmmm .. back to the need for facts again  ;) - proof ?

produced without proper trialing
Agree with you here as discussed earlier.

The LSW introduced an old concept that had been rectified by the GPMG
Off point here again as discussed in the previous posts. Beaten zone, lethality (penetration from 0 - 600m) and weight of wpn and ammo do not favour the GPMG - good weapon though it is.

I am sure one day they will write a book about the fiasco
I wonder who the author will be ?  :)
Dear Ramillies

Yes the competition does crap all over it and I am not going to compare it to another weapon on a trial as trials are conducted by yes men and are always loaded (scuse pun) to favour what the Army wishes to see.

The fact that no other buyers can be found in the market place speaks volumes.

The German Machine gun of ww2 was superior to anything the allies had and is the forerunner of all GPMGs, it was found in ww2 with the bren gun, that had a closed bolt and a low rate of fire was far inferior to an open bolt and belt fed German MG 42.  

That is why the GPMG was introduced.

The LSW has gone back to the dark ages of the Bren gun, in a real fire fight when all rules go out the window the weapon will not produce the hard sustained fire that is needed to support the section.

Yet again hard facts from the users and not some facts or figures from a desk jockey, the GPMG is always reissued to the sections on Operations with the LSW being put back in the toyshop.

The author will not be a desk jockey or some lying git from the MOD or some smarmy politician.

Cheers Chris…….

Thanks for the reply.

as trials are conducted by yes men and are always loaded (scuse pun) to favour what the Army wishes to see.
Trials are open and above board as they are done by sldrs from TA or Reg Bns.

The fact that no other buyers can be found in the market place speaks volumes.
Modern western nations now tend to use their own national firms to develop their weapons. I accept the SA80/LSW has not sold volumes and is probably not the best weapon in the world, however comparing like with like, it is well up there as proved by trials, operations, various international shooting competitions and that the US are about to adopt the SUSAT concept.

As has been said before, the role of the section machine gun is to supress an enemy ie. kill him or to keep his head down to enable the sect to get closer. This is done either by volumes of inaccurate fire (GPMG) or accurate well aimed shots (LSW) with the latter also having the disadvantage of having to change magazines. Hence the limited reintroduction of the GPMGs to compliment the LSW and in the near future the section LMG.

We are where we are. I do not slavishly follow the SA/LSW cause. I try to use logic and facts tinged with common sense. Of course there are many other good weapons on the market. But if there was hard objective evidence that we had to replace the A2 series of the LSW/SA80, then I am sure the MOD would but at present there is not.  ;)

This topic will go on I am sure. Regards.  :)
Thanks Ramillies for your reply.

Yes there is logic in what you say, I paint one side you the other, there is ground in between.

You can also find augments to support whatever side you take and both may make sense.  I do find that history and training does repeat it self.

The Bren, which I have used and carried in Norway many moons ago, was a great weapon.

I remember an old sweat as a sprog telling me that when the GPMG was introduced it got a Slagging because of its weight and its inaccuracy compared to the Bren.

The counter argument was the Bren was too accurate and you need the area and suppression of the GPMG.

A study done by the Americans in WW2 reckoned you had just as much chance to be wounded by an un-aimed shot as an aimed shot.  God knows how they found that out.

It a fire fight it is massive volumes of fire fluck the well-aimed shots.

The supposed accuracy of the LSW is over rated, and I belive lost over greater ranges when it is needed as the Tracer is hard to distinguish and the wind affects the round greatly.

On a sunny day on the range firing a range test with nil wind its fantastic.

I do rate the site and the sling, the bayonet is a pant.

The A2 version I’m sure is an improvement but if this weapon were a consumer product by big business there would be much blood on the dance floor and possible bankruptcy.  

That is what really gets me, the complete waste of money so some politician gets a few extra votes to keep some jobs before an election and to hell with the poor bar stewards who have to use it.  

This can also be said about other kit.  I wore a trial pair of Boots down south in the 82 life firing exercise, my feet lasted longer than most and I considered the boots to be very good.

What happened, they got put out to tender and got made on the cheap, the company got an issue of said boots and they all fell apart.  

I have always worn my own boots for this reason, fortunetely the Corps allowed us, I don’t thing with Health and safety nonsense they are allowed to turn this blind eye any more.

My opinion

Thank you

Regards Chris

Thanks - yes you make some good points. The debate will go on I am sure.  ;D

If only when the SA80/LSW was first made - it was made and trialled properly - perhaps we would not be where we are now !  ;)

I hope that when we develop our next personal weapon we learn from our mistakes. I doubt it though ....  :D


Yes the competition does crap all over it and I am not going to compare it to another weapon on a trial as trials are conducted by yes men and are always loaded (scuse pun) to favour what the Army wishes to see.
Unfortunately for that claim, I've got the Ex NERINE (post-bootie-complaints-in-Afghanistan field firing demonstration and confidence-builder) report and nominal roll.

There were 21 demonstration troops - 10 RM, 8 Army, 4 RAF Regt. The RM personnel included 4x PW1, a PW2, and a PW3; had a CSgt, and 5x Sgt among them; they came from 40 Cdo, 45 Cdo, CTCRM, and FPGRM (among others).

So, hardly REMFs, nor gullible young troopies.

They all (ie 100%) signed up to the statement at the end of the exercise "I would rather buy SA80 A2 rather than M16 for the British Armed Forces".

So, you have a choice. Either the Corps of Royal Marines is full of (your words) "yes-men" as its Senior NCOs and skill-at-arms instructors, or perhaps the A2 actually does the business.
The fact remains that it appears to be those who do not have a vested interest in the weapon (ie do not depend on it as they are civies), or those who will (largely) not have to depend on it in any forthcoming operations who are slagging the weapon off.

Having just completed (another successful) week of an IFFC, (that's 'INFANTRY', not SASC or Geoff Hoon Appreciation Society) FFC.  I am yet to hear any complatints from any of our soldiers, who let me assure you, are neither politicians nor yes-men, and who are, at the mo, made up of quite a few different cap-badges.  Out of the thousands of rounds we fired (in a few different conditions since the weather decided to rain, freeze and snow - ideal acclimatisation or what?) there were almost no significant stoppages, and hardly any minor stoppages at all, since a careful log was made for precisely this reason.  No ridiculous cleaning regime was employed and the weapons fired plenty of rounds.  

The bottom line is that our soldiers are happy with the weapon, and are confident that if Youssouff wants to mix it, he will get some A2 action as and when we want to deal it out, and not after us having spent the last week cleaning it in case.

Let's stop the cobbing from those who do not have to use it any more or never will.

No doubt it is soon to be tested.

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