Spam's questions on rifles used in NI

#1
As a Spam Army Reserve soldier I have always found it interesting to compare HM Army's transition from the L1A1 to the SA80 during Operation Banner with the US Army's infamous transition from the M14 to the original marque of M16 during the height of the Vietnam war; and the subsequent scramble to field the M16a1 in order to rectify the glaring deficiencies of the initial variant.

My questions to all the squadies on the other side of the puddle are:
how problematic was the transition of rifles from SLR to SA80 during NI operations?

How did the switch in rifles change British tactics and procedures?

How does the SUSAT compare to the SUIT scopes?

And how did the M16a1 (with UKSF) and the AR18 (with the Provos) compare to the SLR and SA80
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#2
I hated the SUIT but loved the SUSAT. I was there when the Bn transitioned as you call it to the L85A1.
There were mods needed such as a mag release catch guard and apart from that and a few NDs on the range when brass build up on the face of the L86A1 bolt caused rounds not to eject no real dramas. Our Plns transition was a day in the classroom followed by a day on the ranges back to 500 yards. On patrol the next day! Still took SLRs when required and the GPMG was kept if an LSW was asked for. We would look at each job and decide upon what tools were needed!
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#3
As for tactics,, we had been working in 4 man fireteams with a GPMG in each since 1983 at least. No real change needed!
Edited to add that Bns in tour ie 4 months kept the same weapons till end of tour, only Bns on 2 year tours had to transition.
Loads of recruits coming through NIRT had to be retrained to the SLR depending upon their posting.
"And how did the M16a1 (with UKSF) and the AR18 (with the Provos) compare to the SLR and SA80 "
AR15s M16s and M16A1s were on issue in province to rifle companies if required as was the M203 and all Rural role units got the M79 (so now you know where they all ended up). No real dramas just what we were issued. The British Army was a customer of Armalite before the US Army and some of our AR15s were from that original order if condition was anything to go by. They functioned well because as good soldiers we looked after our weapons!
 
#4
What made the SUIT and SUSAT so different?
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#5
What made the SUIT and SUSAT so different?
Suit post down meant I felt tunnel visioned, susat post up let me feel I had a better field of vision! Oh and the newer ones worked better as they werent all shagged out!
 
#6
Did the rifle scopes actually change anything about the basics of how the conflict in NI played out at the section level?
 
#7
Did the rifle scopes actually change anything about the basics of how the conflict in NI played out at the section level?
Not all riflemen used SUIT, It was a bugger for loosing it's Zero, And a pain in the Arrse. I remember been issued a mounting bracket for the SUIT sight for my LMG, which was rubbish and I never used.
 
#8
We had a shoot in 83 in NI when the provo was hit in the leg while running by SLR 7.62mm, he did not run anymore! We had another shoot in 93 when the guy was hit by SA80 5.56mm, in contrast to 83 this guy was hit in the side and then ran away from New Lodge road to Tigers Bay and it took a major follow up to find him hidden away, also in this follow up one of our lads took a pot shot at an undercover PC but thats another story
 
#9
SUIT was a good sight but badly mounted, the main problem were the antagonistic screws used for zeroing the weapon. If they were not properly tightened down and the lock nuts secured the sight would soon be hanging off. The post down put a lot of people off, particularly for tracking moving targets, but the tritium light source was more relible and lasted longer than the SUSAT's.

The real difference was that with the L1A1 you didn't really need the SUIT except in poor light conditions. The iron sights were good enough to fire single selected killing shots out to about 700 meters and with 7.62 you have plenty of visible "strike" to correct with. The SA80 iron sights are, in my opinion, for too close together for ranges over 400 meters and strike is, at least in wet European landscapes, almost invisble.
 
#10
Totally agree on SUIT, a proper pain in the arse at the best of times. Much preferred iron sights & didn't feel the need for SUIT esp in built up areas. Scanning the area with a SUIT sometimes made you tunnel visioned esp if a shoot was a possibility.
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#11
Also SUIT was issued as a response to troops buying single point sights in the 1970's and winning gun battles (which is what they were as opposed to the well planned and executed ambushes later). Allegedly the Govt bowed to pressure from political groups in NI and replaced them with SUITs. I was the only lad in the company during my 1983 tour not to have one mounted, mine was BLR'd at NITAT and I had an IWS which was used once!
So you can see that the having optics was already no longer an issue by the late 70's and the real benefit was more ammo carried in Rural patrolling and automatic fire capability!
 
#12
M16A1 lighter and shorter than the SLR (L1A1) so was better for house clearing.

As ugly said, suit sight was issued after complaints of troops buying singlepoint sights (which were too accurate and unfair on the baddies) costing c. £25 at the time (mid 70's).
 
#15
I liked the SUIT sight and the SLR. I thought they were both good pieces of kit. I always felt confident that I could handle anything I came across with them.
 

jim24

LE
Book Reviewer
#16
I bought a "single point" in about 75, and as I was in the regimental rifle team and we had a great armourer My SLR was in damn good nick, and properly fitted, and with a Single Point amazingly accurate, the only sniper rifle I could shoot against it was an L39 and to be quit honest it was not that much better than the SLR at 400mtrs
 

OldSnowy

LE
Moderator
Book Reviewer
#17
I think the main problem with the SUIT was the mounting, as mentioned above. It was never going to be completely stable when attached to a piece of pressed steel (the top cover) mounted in grooves on the receiver. Plus it was rather easy to knock it off completely, so a bit of string around it was a useful addition.
Luminous foresights were available for the SLR, they had a small glass tube of Tritium in the middle; they were pretty effective, especially given the alternative. Carrying an SLR with an IWS fitted was no fun, especially with INIBA on. Fine for OPs, sangars and top cover, not so good for a four-day rural wander.
 

jim24

LE
Book Reviewer
#18
If I remember correctly the IWS was just about the same weight as the SLR, If it wasn't it sure felt like it after about six hours carrying the f@cker

just checked IWS weighed 2,78 kilos ,6.2 pounds
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#19
[/IMG]
Bog Standard AR15 in early 88 by Concession Road!
 

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