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Assault rifle


The original British L85A1 assault rifle was plagued with many problems

Country of origin United Kingdom
Caliber 5.56 x 45 mm
Weight (with sight) 4.13 kg
Length 780 mm
Barrel length 518 mm
Muzzle velocity 900 m/s
Cyclic rate of fire 650 rpm
Practical rate of fire 40 - 100 rpm
Magazine capacity 30 rounds
Sighting range ?
Range of effective fire 500 m


   Development of this assault rifle began in the late 1960s. The project was known as the SA80 (or Small Arms for 1980s). This project included development of two weapons - automatic infantry rifle and light support weapon. It has been developed by Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield. First prototypes were trialed in 1976. These new weapons were adopted by the British Army in 1984. The L85A1 eventually replaced the L1A1 self-loading rifles, license-produced semi-auto version of the Belgian FN FAL. It is reported that about 320 000 of the original L85A1 rifles were produced until production completed in 1994. Despite all of its shortcomings the British Forces keep on upgrading these weapons. It is planned that the L85 series assault rifles will remain in service until 2025 and beyond. Export operators of this weapon are Bolivia and Jamaica.

   The L85 is a gas operated, selective fire rifle with bullpup layout. Design of this weapon is generally similar to the US Armalite AR-18. The main advantage of the bullpup layout is the overall compactness of the weapon. This assault rifle is chambered for the standard NATO 5.56 x 45 mm round. It is worth mentioning that the L85A1 assault rifle was plagued with many problems. In general it was quite unreliable and troublesome to maintain.

   Initially these weapons were produced in Enfield. These were actually the last guns developed and produced in Enfield. Unfortunately quality control there was rather poor there. Production did eventually moved to a new facility in Nottingham. It had new machinery and apparently the quality control was a little bit better there.

   Reliability of this weapon was not a big problem, at least for the British Government, until the L85A1 saw actual combat during the Operation Desert Storm. These assault rifles performed really poorly in desert conditions. After the Operation Desert Storm there was a huge scandal when a British MoD report on these weapons leaked to the public. However only in 1997 a German Heckler & Koch company was hired to fix the issues of the L85A1 rifles. At the time the Heckler & Koch company was a subsidiary, owned by the British Ordnance company.

   The fire mode selector is located well behind the magazine, at the left side of the receiver. It has single shots and full-auto modes. A separate safety button is located above the trigger. It is worth mentioning that the L85A1 is not ambidextrous.

   This weapon is fed from 30 round box-shaped steel magazines. These are the standard NATO STANAG magazines, similar to the US M16 type magazines. The original magazines of the L85A1 were not very robust. Also a magazine well of the rifle had thin walls, that could be easily bent. All of this caused lots of troubles with the feeding. Furthermore a magazine release button was unprotected and could accidentally release the magazine.

   Another problem of the L85A1 was that its polymer furniture was not of high quality and used to breake a lot. Especially in cold weather.

   The standard sighting equipment of the L85A1 is the SUSAT scope with 4x magnification. This scope is mounted on a quick-detachable mount. There are also simple sights atop of the scope for emergency use. Effective range of the L85A1 is about 500 meters, using a built-in scope. A passive night vision scope can be used in place of the SUSAT. There is an alternative sighting system for these rifles, employed by the second-line troops. These rifles are fitted with detachable carrying handle, with a built-in diopter rear sight.

   This weapon is compatible with knife-bayonet. Its improved models can mount a German Heckler & Koch 40-mm underbarrel grenade launcher. This weapon is also capable of launching riffle grenades. A slotted flash suppressor also serves as a mounting base for the bayonet.




    L85A2 upgraded variant of the original weapon. In 1997 the German Heckler & Koch company was hired to fix issues of the L85A1 rifle. At the time the Heckler & Koch company was a subsidiary, owned by the British Ordnance company. The Germans went though the weapon and either replaced or completely redesigned the bolt, the gas piston, the gas block, the hammer, and a number of other components. A total of 110 parts were modified. So even though it looks the same, the L85A2 is essentially a new weapon. Upgrade program was completed by the German Heckler & Koch company. Around 200 000 rifles were upgraded to the L85A2 standard between 2000 and 2002. Currently the L85A2 is the standard service rifle of the British Forces. The upgraded L85A2 is recognized as reliable and accurate weapon. It is compatible with German HK 40 mm underbarrel grenade launcher.

   L85A3 is a further upgrade of the L85A2. It was first publicly revealed in 2016. It is a proposed upgrade for existing L85A2 rifles. The main goal was to extend service life of this weapon until 2025 and beyond. This weapon has got a redesigned upper receiver with a full-length Picatinny type scope rail. Also it has got a new foregrip with accessory rails.

   L86A1 light machine gun. Some of its parts are interchangeable with the L85A1. It has a longer barrel, bipod, shoulder trap and additional grip at the rear. This weapon has a greater effective range.

   L86A2 upgraded variant of the L86A1 light support weapon. Upgrades are similar to that of the L85A2.

   L98A1 a manually operated rifle with its gas system removed. It is fired as a repeater rifle. This weapon is used to train army cadets.

   L98A2 upgraded variant of the L98A1.

   L22A1 compact assault rifle. It is smaller and has a shorter barrel. It looks like the original L22A1 was never adopted. Instead its improved version, the L22A2 was selected for service.

   L22A2 compact assault rifle is an improved version of the L22A1. It is fitted with additional Picatinny-type rail on the foregrip. This weapon was reportedly adopted by the British Army in 2003-2004, but is used only in small numbers. It is issued to vehicle drivers, pilots, artillery and tank crews for emergency action outside their vehicle.


Video of the L85A1 assault rifle

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