I'm sure this has been done to death already on here many times, but you should always flog a dead horse at least once more, for good measure!
world.guns.ru's take on the L85 series:
world.guns.ru's take on the L85 series:
Caliber: 5.56 NATO (.223rem)
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt
Overall length: 780 mm (709 mm in Carbine variant)
Barrel length: 518 mm (442 mm in Carbine variant)
Weight: 4.13 kg (with SUSAT optical sight and no magazine); 5 kg with SUSAT and loaded with magazine with 30 rounds of ammunition
Magazine capacity: 30 rounds
Rate of fire: 650 rounds per minute
Effective range: about 500 meters (with SUSAT sights)
The development of the SA80 (Small Arms for 1980s) system, which included two weapons - SA80 IW (Infantry Weapon) assault rifle and SA80 LSW (Light Support Weapon) light machine gun, began in the late 1960s when British army decided to develop a new rifle, which will eventually replace the venerable 7.62mm L1 SLR (British-made FN FAL rifle) in the 1980s.
When NATO trials were announced in 1977 to select a new cartridge, British state-owned Enfield Small Arms Factory developed its own small-caliber, high velocity round, which was more or less representing the US .223/5.56mm case necked down to accept 4.85mm (0.19 inch) bullet. When cartridge came out, Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield developed a new weapon around it, initially designated as XL65. This weapon, being somewhat similar in outline to the much earlier British Enfield EM-2 assault rifle, was internally quite different, and, basically, was more or less the US-made Armalite AR-18 rifle, put into bullpup stock and rechambered for 4.85mm cartridge. After NATO trials, which resulted in adoption of the Belgian SS-109 version of the 5.56mm cartridge, Enfield engineers rechambered XL65 for this cartridge and continued its development under the designation of XL70. Due to Falkland war new system was actually adopted only in 1984. Original SA80 weapons (both L85 and L86) were plagued with many problems, some being very serious. In general, L85 was quite unreliable and troublesome to handle and maintain, so, finally, in the year 1997, after years of constant complaints from the troops, it had been decided to upgrade most L85 rifles then in service.
The upgrade program, committed in years 2000 - 2002, was completed by the famous Heckler&Koch, which was then owned by British Royal Ordnance company (German investors bought the HK back in the 2002). About 200 000 rifles were upgraded into the L85A2 configuration, out of total 320 000 or so original L85A1 rifles produced. While official reports about the upgraded weapons were glowing, the actual field reports from the British troops, engaged in the Afghanistan campaign of 2002, were again unsatisfactory. The future of the L85 rifle remains unclear but there's some rumor that it could be retired from British service around the year 2006, and replaced by another design (most probably, the Heckler-Koch G36 assault rifle).
Other than the basic L85A1 variant, the SA80 IW also appeared in the shortened Carbine version, which never got an official "L" designation, and in the manually operated L98A1 rifle, which got its gas system removed and a larger cocking handle attached. The L98A1 is used to train the army cadets for basic rifle handling and shooting skills, and the rifle is fired as a manually operated, straight pull magazine repeater rifle.
In general, the only good thing about the L85 is its SUSAT 4X telescope sight, which is quite good and allows for accurate shooting. Even regardless of all internal bugs, found in the L85A1 rifles, these rifles are somewhat heavy and clumsy by modern standards, with most of the weight located toward the butt, which does not help to control the muzzle climb during the automatic fire.
The L85 is a gas operated, magazine fed, selective fire rifle of bullpup layout.
The receiver of the L85 is made from stamped sheet steel, reinforced with welded and riveted machined steel inserts. The steel of the receiver is somewhat thin and can be dented when rifle is handled roughly, possibly resulting in serious malfunction. The gas operated action has a short stroke gas piston, located above the barrel. The gas piston has its own return spring. Gas system has a3 positions gas regulator, one position for a normal firing, second for a firing in adverse conditions and the third for launching the rifle grenades (gas port is shut off). The machined bolt carrier rides inside the receiver on the two parallel steel guide rods, with the single return spring placed above and between the guide rods. The typical rotating bolt has 7 lugs that locks into the steel insert in the receiver, just behind the barrel breech. The charging handle was rigidly attached to the left side of the bolt carrier, and prior to A2 upgrade caused some problems by reflecting the ejected cases back into the action, thus causing stoppages. In the L85A2 configuration the charging handle was redesigned to avoid such problems. The charging handle slot is covered by the spring-loaded dust cover. The bolt and its extractor claw also were upgraded in the L85A2, to achieve more reliable extraction of the spent cases.
The trigger / hammer assembly of the L85A1 is also typical for a modern bullpup rifle, with the long link from the trigger to the hammer unit, located in the buttstock. The hammer assembly of the L85A2 was redesigned to introduce a slight delay before the hammer release when the gun is fired in the full auto. This did not affected the cyclic rate of fire but improved the reliability and stability of the weapon during the automatic fire. The fire mode selector is located at the left side of the receiver, behind the magazine housing, and allows for single shots of full automatic modes of fire. The cross-bolt safety button is located above the trigger.
The barrel is rifled for a NATO-standard 5.56mm ammunition, with 1:7 twis, and is fitted with a NATO-standard flash hider, which allows to launch the rifle grenades from the barrel.
The L85 is fed using NATO-standard (STANAG) magazines, similar to M16 type magazines, with the standard capacity of 30 rounds. Early L85A1 steel magazines caused a lot of troubles, as well as a magazine housing itself, which had a thin walls that could be easily dented, thus blocking the magazine way. Both magazines and its housings were upgraded in the L85A2 configuration, too.
The standard sighting equipment is the 4X SUSAT (Sight Unit, Small Arms, Trilux) telescope, with illuminated reticle. The SUSAT is mounted on a quick-detachable mount at the top of the receiver, and features an emergency backup open sights at tits top. The SUSAT is, probably, the best thing out of the whole ill-fated SA80 package, since it allows for an accurate fire (mostly in single shots) out to 400 meters or so. For a second-line troops an alternative sighting system is available, that consists of the removable front post sight with high base and post protection "ears", and a detachable carrying handle with built-in diopter rear sight.
The L85 can be fitted with the proprietary knife-type multipurpose bayonet. The bat thing about this bayonet is that it uses its hollow handle as a mount - the handle is put around the muzzle of the rifle, so when rifle is fired the bayonet handle becomes really hot.
This text I've received from one of my correspondents from Great Britain. Article is published as sent to me, with authors permission.
As someone with a certain, if limited in areas, amount of experience with the current British issue rifle 556 (L85A1 / SA-80), I would like to dismiss some flawed perceptions and put forwards some home truths of the rifle; for in my eyes it is not a rifle but a glorified paper weight! In all seriousness, in aspects the rifle is not nearly as bad as the media enjoy making it out to be, however this does not stop the fact that the MoD have been flogging a dead horse ever since the rifles adoption back in 84. Government plans to retain the arm until 2015 is a clear act of lunacy, despite their plans to purchase Heckler & Koch AG36 40mm grenade launchers and FN Herstal Minimi para light machine guns to support them. The act of transforming 200,000 rifles (not all) for about Ð400 each was also a waste, considering that money would have been better spent on 100,000 odd new rifles of different manufacture, such as G36's.
The early rifles had many problems; I have heard many horror stories such as that the plastic would melt when cam cream and insect repellant was applied, that the rear upper receiver and trigger mechanism housing were made of such poor strength that you could squeeze the walls together and prevent the bolt carrier from travelling down the recoil rod assembly. I have heard that the top cover was made so flimsily that it was common practice to tape it down to prevent it opening randomly during firing, even that the lack of a magazine release catch guard meant that the magazine would often release itself when making contact with your webbing! The list goes on.... What has to be remembered is that the rifle is not a bad idea as such but more a good idea gone bad, for it is essentially an American (British Sterling made) AR18 'widowmaker' (as called by the IRA) switched into bullpup configuration. It is a wonder how such a highly competent company as Enfield Small Arms (producers of the old SMLE and more recent SLR battle rifles) could turn such a good rifle as the AR18 into such a compact and heavy paperweight! It should be noted that both the German G36 and the Japanese Type 89 assault rifles are also based on the AR18, and both are fine rifles, the G36 in particular showing great success on the export market.
The matter of the rifle 556 is not all doom and gloom however, and its less than desirable side should not come as a total shock to anybody who has firearm history related knowledge, for most rifles have their darker side. The stoner XM16E1 of American Vietnam vintage was an utter failure, indeed the 'matt black mouse gun' cost many an American marine and soldier his life, through such major flaws as too fast burning powder moving through the gas components and trying to cycle the action while residue pressure was still holding the cartridge in place, resulting in the extractor shredding the case in the chamber and the destined to be screwed over grunt fumbling for his cleaning rod! (More recently a similar if lesser problem with the SA-80 when using foreign ammunition resulted in it being removed from the NATO assault rifle list as according to Jane's.) Now however the M16A2/A3/A4 family of modern assault rifles are much sort after pucka pieces of kit, despite a troubled youth. The L85A2 (which I can not comment on with any great accuracy) is supposed to be a great improvement over the L85A1, and to its due the L85A1 was a great improvement over the first L85's. (The L85A1 rectifying the weak top cover, strengthening the plastic parts and receiver strength and adding a magazine release catch guard etc, all improvements over the first rifles). Of course other problems such as the stiff and poorly placed safety catch and fire selector switch I doubt will ever be rectified. Who can say though what the L85A3 and A4 will be like if they ever come into existence, maybe pucka pieces of kit? (I doubt it, but hey, who knows...)
Whatever those guys at Enfield were smoking when they made the rifle, they sure turned out a good target rifle. The rifle itself is far shorter than your classics such as the SLR and G3 battle rifles, however its barrel is of similar length, and I dare say the SA-80 is the most accurate mass-production assault rifle to be found anywhere in the world at the moment. If for any reason someone could ever fault the SA-80 in accuracy, the LSW more than makes up for it with its longer heavy free floating barrel, with bipod, rear handgrip and shoulder strap, although this all comes with the price of added weight of course. What makes the SA-80's level of accuracy attainable by any well trained soldier is the 4X SUSAT (Sight Unit Small Arms Trilux) sight, and this is probably (as Max said) the best part of the whole package. The sight gives a good clear picture, is simple and easy to use with its post type reticule, and has limited night vision capability due to its built in radioactive tritium gas. Another sight available for the weapon is the CWS (or Combat Weapon Sight), which delivers a good clear modern generation night vision picture complete with 4X magnification and illuminated reticules. I dare say an LSW fitted with a CWS could eliminate an entire section or more of enemy on a clear night if handled well; John Rambo made the wrong decision when he opted for that bow and arrow crap! Of course the weapon can also be issued with iron sights of ghost ring type, as is common practice for all 3rd line units, these sights having tritium paint on the foresight for limited night time capability.
If the SUSAT were to be classed as the best bit of the Small Arms of the 80's package, then in my opinion the issued bayonet would have to be rated as second best, despite the rifles unsatisfactory length for hand to hand combat. The bayonet itself is not of great length neither is it supremely sharp, and it has been known to become excessively hot during rapid fire; to the extent that the tip has broken off. These cons being said, it has the much needed blood grooves for 'non-stick operation' which some other common bayonets lack, and does what it says on the tin. The real area where it comes into its element however is when it is combined with its sheath. The sheath can not only sharpen the blade but has a built in bottle opener (big bonus) and with the aid of a built in locking lug the bayonet and sheath become useful wire cutters of the scissor type (don't believe that Rambo cutting barbed wire with a pointy knife crap). Of course, the lunacy of the MoD combined with cost issues have led to all 3rd line units being equipped with bayonet sheaths without the frills, with some units having no bayonets at all!
Another positive if unrefined aspect of the rifle is to be found in its simplicity to field strip, although there are certainly grim points to be found. Both front and rear (especially rear) Trigger Mechanism Housing pins (TMH pins) are fairly prone to breakages when removing the TMH to gain access to the bolt carrier, recoil rod assembly and chamber. Also due to the positioning of the recoil rod assembly, pulling the rear TMH pin out past the first stop position when removing the TMH, and failing to cup the butt with your hand more often than not results in flying recoil springs. Including flying out of the open window of 8 tonne trucks on the M25 and even off of HMS Ocean, the poor if careless souls responsible remaining nameless. Removing the gas parts for daily cleaning can be an equally troublesome prospect, for when you have opened the top cover and removed the components and cleaned them, putting the thing back together has a large and small problem of its own. The small problem being that you can not properly see the middle of three holes in which the gas piston slots into place, making it an occasional pain to fit in, especially when in the dark. A rare but more serious problem is to be found with the gas plug, for the spring loaded gas plug catch being not only the exact right size for the three gas settings, but also if pushed in at the 12 o'clock position being the right size to get stuck in the hollow beneath the foresight. This proving to be a quick and easy way to turn your assault rifles into a magazine fed manually operated repeater! These points being noted, I am sure they are all fixable if the weapon were to progress to A3/A4 standard, and overall the standard disassembly and reassembly procedures are quick and simple.
In conclusion, I cant say I know what went wrong when the SA-80 was made, the design in theory would appear to be of near kalashnikov simplicity, maybe it is all the fault of the famous British trade unions? For a modern assault rifle, the SA-80 is uncomfortable to carry (especially concerning the position of the cocking handle and its desire to slip into bruising your arm on long tabs), the rifle is too heavy for its size (it even has a weight in the forward hand guard to balance the weapon), and its reliability and general durability are sub-standard to an alarming degree. I have had the mis-pleasure of seeing people breaking off warn top covers and seeing trigger mechanism housing pins falling out near at will. On the other side of things the rifle is marvellously accurate on the range, and so long as it is kept near 100% clean and well oiled it will perform well. However everybody other than the MoD seem to realise that keeping a rifle perfectly clean when in a muddy trench for extended periods of time when it is pissing it down with rain drops the size of hamsters heads isn't exactly practical, the rifle 556 is hardly of kalashnikov quality. Back to the other hand, the various sights for the rifle are all durable and of high quality (I have never heard of a SUSAT getting broken), maybe those chaps at Enfield were making a target rifle after all? In my opinion, although the SA-80 is not as bad as some make it out to be, it is in Britains best interest to replace it with a real rifle asap, maybe keeping the SUSAT's and bayonets. The reason it has gone down so poorly with those who have to use it is probably due to comparing it with the previous issue SLR, whereas the SLR was a lion, the SA-80 is a cockroach (an annoying bugger which you cant get rid of). I would hate to think how our casualties might have looked if we had adopted the SA-80 before the Falklands conflict of 82.