The L86 LSW, the M27 IAR, and the concept of automatic rifles and precision 5.56mm small arms

warmonger82

Old-Salt
I'm building a new AR-15 and I'd like to ask for opinions of the effectiveness of the L86 in its roles as both a base of fire for a 4 man team and its later employment as a marksman's rifle. While the L86 was replaced in the automatic role by the FN Minimi and later in the marksman's role by the LMT L129a1.

1571254121733.jpeg

L86a1 LSW


From an American perspective the USMC's experiment's with 5.56mm weapons in both the base of fire and squad marksman roles offers an interesting comparison.

The first dedicated precision 5.56mm rifle in relatively general issue to US forces was the Marine Corps' Squad Advanced Marksman Rifle (SAM-R)

1571254690174.jpeg


A faithful reproduction of a SAM-R

The SAM-R was introduced into USMC infantry battalions in late 2001 and was withdrawn in 2015 it featured a ffree floated 20" heavy match barrel and was equipped with 3-9x (according to Wikipedia) variable powered scope from Leupold. The stainless barrel offered superb accuracy with match ammo, but using the automatic setting would rapidly degrade the bore.

In 2002 the US Navy SEALs developed their own 5.56 precision weapon the Mk 12 Special Purpose Rifle, featuring a free floated 18" match barrel. The SEALs began replacing the SPR with the 7.62mm FN SCAR in 2011 with a complete changeover in 2017.

1571256651234.png

Mk 12 Mod 0

In 2010 the USMC decided to look into replacing the M249 squad automatic weapon (US produced FN Minimi) with a lighter, magazine fed weapon without a quick change barrel. The Corps ended up selecting a version the HK 416 dubbed the M27

1571255586304.png


While not having a precision barrel the M27 acquired reputation for impressive accuracy due to the Trijicon 3.5x ACOG free floated heavier barrel needed for frequent automatic fire.

Recognizing this, the USMC equipped a limited number of M27's with the same variable powered scopes used on both the SAM-R and the SPR. The brass felt that this change of optics necessitated a change in nomenclature and thus this rifle is known as the M38 Designated Marksman Rifle.



1571277468694.png


The M38 SDM equipped with a variable powered Leupold scope and surpressor.

The questions to ARRSErs

1) How accurate was the L86? Did the British army ever issue match quality 5.56 ammo to squaddies using the LSW in a marksman role?

2) How does the L86's accuracy compare to the LMT L129a1 in the hands regular line infantrymen?

3) If you were in charge of an infantry section would you prefer your 20-21 year old marksman to be armed with a 5.56mm or 7.62mm rifle, all other things being equal?

4) 7.62x51mm is a substantially more powerful cartridge is this increased performance worth the weight penalty of the heavier weapon and introducing dissimilar ammunition in the section?

5) Is the concept of using precision rifle fire as a stand in for automatic fire valid?

As always thank you for your time and I look forward to your comments
 
Last edited:

ugly

LE
Moderator
Good questions but too many to be answered in one go.
The LSW was developed to allow a section of 8 men to work effectively as two 4 man fire teams without losing bodies to GPMGs and ammo carriers.
It didn't work for a number of reasons.
1. The LSW was simply a longer barreled version of the rifle with a bipod, the bipod caused split groups in auto fire and the longer barrel meant it was well longer and therefore more cumbersome.
2. Doctrine if developed wasn't filtered back to infantry Bns through the usual routes of visiting training teams and newly minted SCBC passed nco's. This meant it was treated as something to give to the newest member of the section not the best shot.
3. Infantry units clung onto their GPMGs as long as possible because we all know that 5.56 really isn't up to snuff at penetration of cover.
4. Despite the barrel length of the L86 being harmonised for the issued round nothing was ever said about this. In fact as now everyone I the section had full auto why bother carrying something heavier and longer for no apparent benefit. This is a failing attributable to point 2 above.
5. The wall came down before roll out across the regular army. IFV tactics were suddenly in question as Ivan the drunk disappeared in a fog of diesel/vodka fumes back east.
6. The following conflicts weren't really infantry section attack wars (excluding some of the 1st GW) and therefore we had less drivers to push for development and employment of doctrine.

Now is a magazine fed weapon ideal in a fire team scenario?
1. Yes, for two world wars we managed with firstly Lewis Guns then the Venerable Bren LMG.
2. Infantry section tactics were based around a section (squad) automatic weapon supporting riflemen into the assault for essentially the next 70 years until we finally decided upon using four man fire teams.
3. The doctrine for the two four man fire teams was developed using the belt fed GPMG in each fire team originally. This allowed flexibility and for either a four man fire support team of two GPMGs and four assaulting riflemen or a second closer fire support pair with two riflemen assaulting.
The adoption of the belt fed 5.56 lmg was an UOR and one that had value in the short distance engagements taking place in Basra and some of the built up areas of Afghan. Sadly it lacked the legs to deliver D&P (Death and Pestilence) out beyond rifle engagement ranges so was an attempt to suppress the enemy by weight of noise rather than effective fire.
At this point the army starts to realise that 5.56 isn't cutting the mustard and 7.62 makes an appearance in the rifle section again.
It's also at this point my knowledge tends to fade as I had already been long gone and the feedback started to get less and less.
 
Last edited:

ugly

LE
Moderator
Sorry in answer to your questions rather than getting on my hobby horse see my comments in bold below:
1) How accurate was the L86? Did the British army ever issue match quality 5.56 ammo to squaddies using the LSW in a marksman role?
It was very accurate (see earlier comment re harmonics) but in semi only, Match quality ammo never exited, batches would be selected at the beginning of production runs and set aside for sniping and competition.
2) How does the L86's accuracy compare to the LMT L129a1 in the hands regular line infantrymen?
Sorry I cant comment apart from to say they aren't meant to do the same job in the initial doctrine
3) If you were in charge of an infantry section would you prefer your 20-21 year old marksman to be armed with a 5.56mm or 7.62mm rifle, all other things being equal?
I would have loved to have had the LMT during my time, a decent scope would be great.
4) 7.62x51mm is a substantially more powerful cartridge is this increased performance worth the weight penalty of the heavier weapon and introducing dissimilar ammunition in the section?
They are not really comparable as rounds, its the same comparing .30-06 to .308, no valid arguments as the doctrines are different. However an intermediate round throughout would be a better option, I dont think 5.56 can be developed much further in lethality and accuracy.
5) Is the concept of using precision rifle fire as a stand in for automatic fire valid?
No, however the old Bren LMG was very accurate despite the many "designed in means to make it a section weapon" it was extremely useful on single shot!
So I hope thats a better answer
 

Nemesis44UK

LE
Book Reviewer
The SEALs began replacing the SPR with the 7.62mm FN SCAR in 2011 with a complete changeover in 2017.
I don't know too much about SEAL teams and their procurement business, but is it fair to say that they are like our SAS in that they can choose their own weapons even if they differ from the standard issue?

Example: In Gulf War 1, the SAS were using M16s and Minimis for support, whereas the rest of the British Army were using a mix of the new SA-80(L85A1) and the old SLR (7.62mm). There were probably a few SMGs kicking around as well.

If that's the case, does this represent a failure of the 5.56mm round and a return to heavier calibre rounds?

ETA: Apologies if I have fumbled the designations, I'm working from memory - a rather dodgy prospect these days.
 

Nemesis44UK

LE
Book Reviewer
5) Is the concept of using precision rifle fire as a stand in for automatic fire valid?
No, however the old Bren LMG was very accurate despite the many "designed in means to make it a section weapon" it was extremely useful on single shot!
So I hope thats a better answer
I liked the redesignated Bren/LMG. You had flexibility in spades, with the bipod, or mounted in one's groin for AA duties (the one time I used it at Sennelager like this), either single shot or max chat it could be useful in many situations. It felt very reassuring to hold and use, feeling solid and comfortable and of course, as almost the shortest man in the troop, I got issued it a lot of times. The weight was a downside and even made the almighty SLR feel cheap and light.

By comparison the L85A1 was a Star Wars toy. Hugely impressed with the SUSAT sights at the time, which made night aiming a doddle, the sling was revolutionary and very handy when FIBUA. Not so impressed with the working parts that wouldn't go all the way forward unless you pushed it home. The plasticky feel of the furniture was not lovely either, but to its credit, never broke or cracked on me, even though there were a lot of reports about it.
 

chrisg46

LE
Book Reviewer
Now is a magazine fed weapon ideal in a fire team scenario?
1. Yes, for two world wars we managed with firstly Lewis Guns then the Venerable Bren LMG.
Would be interested in your thought on my response to this point - As you say, Lewis Gun, and Brens were effective as magazine fed support weapons in both World Wars, but the standard weapon of the Infantryman in both was a bolt action, low magazine capacity rifle.
Is a magazine fed support weapon able to support rifles with the same mag capacity?
 
I'm rather a fan of the lsw, sad git that I am.
Do I believe it could have a place ?
Certainly, but give it to a chap who is a decent shot and give them loads of practice. It can accurately hit out to 800m so can be used as DMR - lite.
It uses the same calibre as the A2, it can be used as a support weapon at normal combat ranges. Has the same firing/stoppage and cleaning drills as the A2 etc etc. OK, it's not 7.62 and it's not as Gucci as L129A1 or is it quite the same precision tool, but it's around in numbers, anyone who is trained on an A2 can pick it up and use it. What we needed was the will to explore the possibilities of its use and use it accordingly, imho.
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
You're back to generating noise versus effective fire.

From memory @Gravelbelly shared some interesting stuff on this (apologies for any error on my part).

Essentially, the concept of the LSW was fine but the delivery of that concept was shite to non-existent.

@History_Man might also add something here.
 
You're back to generating noise versus effective fire.

From memory @Gravelbelly shared some interesting stuff on this (apologies for any error on my part).

Essentially, the concept of the LSW was fine but the delivery of that concept was shite to non-existent.

@History_Man might also add something here.
Very true, I do recall posts by the same.
The first time I handled an LSW, the instructor was a skillies from the Queens as was, and he admitted it was accurate but not a patch on the gimpy. I wonder if that was the problem in that it was being treated like an ersatz gimpy replacement by some or just a pointlessly heavier SA80 by others.
 

anglo

LE
I'd like to know.
We went from 7.62 mm to 5.56 mm supposedly to allow a man to carry more ammunition,
now having had a lot of fire fights using both types, did it give any advantages or should we have
kept to the 7.62 mm round .
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
Very true, I do recall posts by the same.
The first time I handled an LSW, the instructor was a skillies from the Queens as was, and he admitted it was accurate but not a patch on the gimpy. I wonder if that was the problem in that it was being treated like an ersatz gimpy replacement by some or just a pointlessly heavier SA80 by others.
Pretty much.

Back to basics and what constitutes effective suppressing or killing fire.

Loosing off a long burst in the (suspected) direction of the enemy might make you feel better but might in fact just be a waste of the calories you've burned to carry your ammunition that far.

I'm not overplaying the virtues of That Rifle but with the SLR it was double-tap, then dash-down-crawl-up-observe-sights-fire. You were forced to take aimed shots because you didn't have an automatic option.

There were plenty of reasons given for the LSW's adoption, including its accuracy but also belt-snagging and a few other things besides. Matters weren't helped by the split group. But the powers-that-be were in wholesale denial about the SA80 and its quality of manufacture. The official line was, "There's no problem, now what's the problem?"

Some of the thinking was solid. It was also counter-intuitive to many - including many with (it must be said) years of soldiering behind them. As noted many times, though, it came down to being dicked to carry the Crow Cannon.
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
Very true, I do recall posts by the same.
The first time I handled an LSW, the instructor was a skillies from the Queens as was, and he admitted it was accurate but not a patch on the gimpy. I wonder if that was the problem in that it was being treated like an ersatz gimpy replacement by some or just a pointlessly heavier SA80 by others.
A bit of both in my experience
I'm rather a fan of the lsw, sad git that I am.
Do I believe it could have a place ?
Certainly, but give it to a chap who is a decent shot and give them loads of practice. It can accurately hit out to 800m so can be used as DMR - lite.
It uses the same calibre as the A2, it can be used as a support weapon at normal combat ranges. Has the same firing/stoppage and cleaning drills as the A2 etc etc. OK, it's not 7.62 and it's not as Gucci as L129A1 or is it quite the same precision tool, but it's around in numbers, anyone who is trained on an A2 can pick it up and use it. What we needed was the will to explore the possibilities of its use and use it accordingly, imho.
The SUSAT as good as it was wasn't the right optic for that weapon. Much more could have been achieved with the Surplus S&B sights coming off the L96 rifles. In fact the original trialled LMT was fitted with a scope I use although with a better and illuminated reticule, the S&B 1.5 to 5 x 20 in a 30 mm tube. (I think)
You're back to generating noise versus effective fire.

From memory @Gravelbelly shared some interesting stuff on this (apologies for any error on my part).

Essentially, the concept of the LSW was fine but the delivery of that concept was shite to non-existent.

@History_Man might also add something here.
Gravelbelly was all over the correct use of the weapon, Stonker all of the incorrect use of range time and MrBane all over the fact that in action no one ever could really see who was firing at them!
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
I'd like to know.
We went from 7.62 mm to 5.56 mm supposedly to allow a man to carry more ammunition,
now having had a lot of fire fights using both types, did it give any advantages or should we have
kept to the 7.62 mm round .
Lets put it this way, when I first drew 4 mags of 30 rounds 5,56 on ops it felt about the same as 1 mag of 7.62 on my belt order. The reality is different, its about 2 mags but all of a sudden we had the option for selective fire and plenty of ammo.
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
Some of the thinking was solid. It was also counter-intuitive to many - including many with (it must be said) years of soldiering behind them. As noted many times, though, it came down to being dicked to carry the Crow Cannon.
It wasn't taught properly and yes it became the weapon to give to the sections bell ends.
A Brucie bonus if you managed to fit IWS at the same time as a real punishment!
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
I'd like to know.
We went from 7.62 mm to 5.56 mm supposedly to allow a man to carry more ammunition,
now having had a lot of fire fights using both types, did it give any advantages or should we have
kept to the 7.62 mm round .
Where to start? 5.56mm has better penetration in some circumstances. 7.62mm was at one point considered overkill.

All sorts of variables. Average range of contact - military rifles were once more akin to long-range hunting rifles, with the solidity to match... try telling me how your shoulder feels after firing a Lee Enfield all day.

The Germans in WWII realised that most engagements were relatively short-range, so weapons didn't need to be so robust. The result was this:


That led to the development of the assault rifle.

All was good in the 'hood, then off we went to Afghanistan where ranges were longer than in Europe and trying to chew through compound walls with 5.56mm was a fruitless task. By the end of things, the local opposition knew exactly how close to get before loosing off a few rounds and making good their (unhindered) escape.

There are stories of US soldiers seeing Taliban leaping up like they'd been stung. The 5.56mm with the short barrel of the M4 just didn't have the power to kill at the ranges encountered. Frustrating when you've actually managed to gain a hit...

There's no doubting 7.62mm's power and utility. But again, there were well-founded reasons for the move to 5.56mm. It's just that things move on.



ETA: The Swiss spend a lot of time in the mountains, for some reason. Their ranges tend to be longer. Hence the use of 5.56mm rounds with a heavier load and, oh, what looks like a proper rifle with a meaningful barrel length. ;-)
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
Would be interested in your thought on my response to this point - As you say, Lewis Gun, and Brens were effective as magazine fed support weapons in both World Wars, but the standard weapon of the Infantryman in both was a bolt action, low magazine capacity rifle.
Is a magazine fed support weapon able to support rifles with the same mag capacity?
@stoatman has alluded many times to this in his reading up of training manuals for the 2nd world war rifle section. We weren't vastly different to the Germans in employing the lmg as our main weapon and everyone else carried lots of ammo.
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
There's no doubting 7.62mm's power and utility. But again, there were well-founded reasons for the move to 5.56mm. It's just that things move on.
Thread deviation alert, if we had reelected a labour Govt in 1950 we wouldn't have adopted 7.62 x 51.
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
That led to the development the assault rifle.
Throughout WW2 we had small arms development teams made up of European refugees designing selective fire weapons based upon whatever the small arms committee decided would be the requirements. In 1944 we had already selected 7.92 x 57 as our next new cartridge. Discovery of the 7.92 x 33 showed us to be behind. The Soviets 7.62 x 39 was developed at a similar time and we were badly behind the curve.
The Americans weren't going to adopt anything if it meant spending money, after all they were producing vast amounts of 30-06 (7.62 x 63) and were adamant that a drop in calibre wasn't on the table.
Eventually a 7mm was developed and the rest is historic conjecture.
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
Throughout WW2 we had small arms development teams made up of European refugees designing selective fire weapons based upon whatever the small arms committee decided would be the requirements. In 1944 we had already selected 7.92 x 57 as our next new cartridge. Discovery of the 7.92 x 33 showed us to be behind. The Soviets 7.62 x 39 was developed at a similar time and we were badly behind the curve.
The Americans weren't going to adopt anything if it meant spending money, after all they were producing vast amounts of 30-06 (7.62 x 63) and were adamant that a drop in calibre wasn't on the table.
Eventually a 7mm was developed and the rest is historic conjecture.
So where did the 4.85mm fit into all of this?
 

Latest Threads

Top