L85A2 (SA80) 5.56mm automatic rifle

01. Original name L85A2 (SA80) 5.56mm automatic rifle  
02. Other official names SA80A2  
03. Popular names SA80  
04. Chamberings 5.56mm NATO  
05. Designed by RSAF Enfield  
06. Design date 1972-1984  
07. In service date(s) 1985  
08. Adopted by UK  
09. Production quantities Circa 330,000  
10. Mechanism Gas operated, rotating bolt, loaded with a thirty-round magazine  
11. Weight 9.11lbs (4.13kg) unloaded, with SUSAT  
12. Mountings Sling, bayonet, optical sight  
13. Practicality in action High – a compact assault rifle with the advantage of a full-length barrel finally having many of its initial problems solved by H&K  
14. Comments / Other information The L85 (also known as the SA80 which stood for ‘Small Arms for the 1980s’) started replacing the SLR in UK service in 1985. It had started life as the XL64 Individual Weapon, designed by the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF), Enfield. British studies into a possible replacement for the SLR had started in the late 1960s, with the logic that the SLR would come to the end of its service life in the mid-1980s and any replacement needed to be ready to enter service by then. Having looked at a 6.25x43mm cartridge (a necked-down version of the .280 round (7 x 43mm) used by the EM-2) RSAF Enfield settled on a 4.85 x 44mm round ( a necked-down, slightly trimmed version of the 5.56 x 45mm cartridge becoming more and more common within NATO). Choosing a bullpup design, RSAF Enfield produced two prototypes, the XL64 Individual Weapon and the XL65 Light Support Weapon to replace the variety of weapons in UK service. These were entered into the second set of NATO standardisation trials in the late 1970s. NATO chose a 5.56 x 45mm round, the Belgian SS109 but RSAF’s design proved flexible enough to be converted to this calibre. After Ordnance Board and ITDU trials (which would be later criticised by the Defence Select Committee) the design was modified, accepted for service and entered production in 1985 as the L85A1 (SA80A1). Troop trials between 1986-87 revealed a number of issues that should have picked up during development, such as the poor quality of some components, the bipod legs on the LSW failing to lock in position, standard issue insect repellent melted the plastic furniture, metal parts rusted quickly in a jungle environment, sand clogged the mechanism in desert environments, as did ice in Arctic environments, plus the exposed magazine release readily caught on the uniform or webbing, dumping the magazine at the most inopportune moments. While a number of small modifications were made to the design, the rifle came in for renewed criticism in the LANDSET report following the First Gulf War 1990-91 and the Defence Select Committee report of 1993. Over time, pressure mounted on the MOD to sort these problems out and eventually, it contracted Heckler & Koch (then part of BAE Systems) in 2000 to modify the rifle. It cost £92m to modify 200,000 A1s to the A2 standard with the remainder providing spare parts. (SA80)5.56mm Automatic Rifle (UK) Introduced in 2001 – modified version of the 1985 L85A1; chambered for the 5.56 x 45mm round; cyclic rate 750rpm; uses a 30-round box magazine; weight without magazine 8.5lb (with iron sights) 9.7 lb (with optical sight); body and butt frame (trigger mechanism housing) made from pressed steel; compact “bullpup” design.