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L81A2 Cadet Target Rifle

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A long, long time ago, the MoD decided to adopt a target rifle for cadet use, to replace the No.4 and SMLE for competition shooting in the Cadet forces. This in itself is not terrible, but was pandering rather to the Bisley school of thought.

They adopted, in around 1981, an up-rated Mauser. At the time, this was also not too terrible, although a little out-dated; the action being almost identical to Mauser's 1898 pattern.

This rifle was supplied by Parker-Hale, and it was called the L81A1. This in itself, at the time, was also not too terrible.

And then, in 1994 (IIRC), some problems appeared - some faulty metallurgy led to a receiver cracking. This is a bad thing - a very very bad thing. And a totally unavoidable thing, and not a problem reported in the original 1898 Mauser.

So they were all withdrawn, and Cadet target shooting continued with the L98A1 Cadet GP rifle.

The Bisley school of thought did not like this, all sights other than ring-sights being an abomination before Century range, and anything other than 7.62mm being unthinkable.

At about this time, it appeared that our friends Parker-Hale were going to the dogs (where have we heard this before?)

So, some bright spark at the MoD decided that Parker-Hale would "re-engineer" the rifles to be "safer".

After about 6 years (IIRC), the new, all-singing all-dancing L81A2 appeared. It contained the following, excellent features:

  • The barrel was too short (26") for serious long-range shooting
  • Since Cadets are alledgedly small, the stock is too short for many of them approaching full-size. The butt could be lengthened with spacers, but not necessarily enough for many of the aforementioned large cadets.
  • The rifle was poorly parkerised, and rusted at the slightest hint of moisture
  • The bedding was made from some dodgy compound, which also rusts at the slightest hint of water
  • The receiver walls were many times thicker than required
  • The sights were badly designed and had to be precisely torqued - this torquing is lost under repeated recoil and can lead to a need for re-zeroing. The windage scale cannot be read from the prone position.
  • The bolts were re-cycled from the old L81s and are thus of an out-of-date design, leading to a lock-time which is significantly longer than other modern designs
  • Since 10% of people are left-handed, the stock was ambidexterous, thereby making it equally bad for both.
  • The cheek comb was too low for the job
  • The rifle could only be taken out its bedding for drying (necessary after a wet shoot) by Parker-Hale (now ABRO, since PH folded), and not at the units (not even by the armourers or adult staff - this is an exceptionally easy thing to do - I taught 16 year olds to do it)
  • Cost around £1800 (so I have been told) per unit once one more recall (alledgedly to sort out the sights - but nothing had changed & they were still just as crap) had been factored in

A civilian version called the "elite" with a more sensible length barrel, better, non-ambidexterous stock, but still with the same action and sights was marketted by PH at around £1000 - I do not know of anybody who has bought one, especially as you could buy a 2nd hand Swing or Musgrave which will shoot far better for far less money.

After having spent so much money, they could have had, off the shelf, Musgraves, or possibly even RPAs (this is what the Royal Canadian Army Cadets recently bought) for that kind of money, and they would have worked 1st time with no issues and would have been exactly the same rifles as the International level shooters use.