In about an hour’s time we will be publishing a TFBTV video about the Pedersen rifle, which was chambered in the .276 Pedersen. Almost three decades later the British developed the .280 British round, very similar to the .276 Pedersen, and an experimental bullpup assault rifle chambered in it called the Enfield EM-2 or Rifle No.9 Mk1. Once again the US military were reluctant to give up a high-powered .30 caliber round for a lower powered 7mm round with better ballistics. The EM-2 was scrapped and the SA80 assault rifle was developed.

15 years later the US military had realized that full power battle rifles were not ideal but instead of adopting a lower slightly lower power but ballistically superior cartridge, they instead opted to adopt a varmint cartridge, the 5.56mm NATO … ~25 years later the internet was invented and gun nuts have been debating these cartridge decisions online ever since.

The particular rifle is a very rare EM-2 chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO. It is one of the few left in the the world. Many thanks to Trev Weston for taking and sending us this photo.


  • ostiariusalpha

    Hoh boy, I don’t know if I would entirely trust this thing on full automatic. The original EM-2 rifles were pretty tightly engineered around the .280 Brit, without a lot of leeway for stuffing in a longer, more powerful cartridge. Sure looks beautiful though!

    • Bolt thrust would have been approximately the same for each, so while I have little doubt that firing that rifle would be a real wild ride, it also would probably be perfectly safe.

      • ostiariusalpha

        Bolt thrust aside, the .308 would have been a lot rougher on parts designed for a less powerful cartridge. But I was mostly referring to the EM-2 rifle’s weight & handling; it was a relatively light gun that was controllable on full auto with the .280 & .280/30. With the T65/7mm “second compromise” and the other large .280 cartidges it reputedly became a spray-to-the-sky, flamethrowing menace, and even worse with the .308. The FAL only almost, kinda’ got away with being a .308 machine gun because it was heavier and it was a bit easier to stretch the receiver for the longer round. The EM-2 already had an unfriendly LOP, so any compression of the parts was going to compromise reliability also.

        • Yeah, it definitely would overheat and wear out the guns faster.

          • Monty01

            Interestingly, the British had another crack at developing an intermediate caliber in the 1970s when we produced a 6.25 mm round. We re-chambered a number of EM-2s to fire it and it seems to have addressed many of the earlier criticisms of the .280/30 series of rounds we had experimented with. The U.S. 6 mm SAW round was very similar to the British 6.25 mm (so much so that I wonder whether some kind of information sharing went on). The 6 mm SAW was excellent in every respect and if it had been adopted, we might well still be using it. I am sure you will cover this.

          • That’s a little outside the context of the Light Rifle series, to be honest.

  • Matthew Moss

    Just to note that the EM2 and SA80 were about 30 years apart and share very little other than the bullpup layout. The EM2 was scrapped and the FN FAL which had been in trials along with the EM2 the entire time was adopted in US 7.62×51. The IPW programme of the 1970s was also a bullpup and arguable shares a great deal more in common with the SA80 than the EM2 does. Nice photo though, handled 5 or 6 varying models of EM2 and by far the handiest was the paratroop carbine. Also worth noting the UK developed a .270 round in ~1911 in what eventually became the Pattern 1914. Although all three rounds were apparently developed independently.

    • ostiariusalpha

      That was the XL64E5 assault rifle & XL65E4 LMG that led to the SA80, correct?

      • Matthew Moss

        That’s right, chambered in 4.85x49mm originally, it was later rechambered when NATO went 5.56.

        • The 4.85×49 was a goofy weird round.

          • Matthew Moss

            Cute, goofy and deadly.

          • IIRC, it was ballistically very similar to SS109.

          • Matthew Moss

            Yeah from what I’ve read SS109 was designed to be ballistically similar to 4.85 which was initially better than original US 5.56 ball.

          • Yeah, no doubt in my mind that 4.85 whups M193.

          • Work on the forerunners of the SS109, the SS92/1 and SS101, were already underway before the first news of the 4.85mm was publicly released. Everyone was trying to extend the range of the 5.56mm in hopes of making a marketable support weapon.

          • Monty01

            UK tests of the 4.85 x 49 mm versus SS109 after the latter had been selected suggested that the 4.85 mm round yawed more consistently. It also needs to be noted that 4.85 mm delivered its performance using a lead cored bullet not steel. It was a very elegant solution. Ultimately it was as Nathaniel says too similar to SS109 to merit adoption.

          • Monty01

            Yes, but the 4.85 x 49 mm had a higher velocity, lost energy less quickly over distance and yawed much more consistently in soft tissue to deliver superior terminal effectiveness. As good as it was, there was no way the USA was going to adopt a cartridge to replace 5.56 x 45 mm once it had been adopted. The NATO standardisation competition of 1979 was about which 5.56 mm round not which SCHV round. The UK should have developed a 5.56 mm round.

          • Than M193; IIRC it was very comparable in those respects to SS109.

  • Anton Gray Basson

    Its amazing how through out history people seem to arrive at a “true 7mm” round as the ideal.

    • There’s more variety to “ideal caliber” studies than is often repeated. For example, I can think of three separate occasions where the US identifies .22 caliber as the ideal, and numerous others where .30 is identified as such.

      • Bob

        .45 acp. It takes the soul.

      • Anton Gray Basson

        Its not just military rounds, even in sporting calibers we see the 7mm round concept coming back over and over again.

        • Those are two whole different worlds, really. There are plenty of commercial calibers that aren’t 7mm, as well!

    • Kivaari

      Mauser was on the right path circa 1890. I still contend the 6.5mm Carcano loaded with a proper BT bullet around 120-130 would do anything needed in an infantry rifle. I still like the 5.56mm. We have them and they work. The article about the 6.8 SPC done on TFB awhile back was great.

      • iksnilol

        I think .260 Remington with a lighter case could be interesting (polymer or aluminum).

    • Monty01

      Yes, we keep coming back to this calibre. Quite a few people thought that 6.5 mm would be sufficient and maybe it is. However, the move towards lead-free ammunition mandates a slightly larger calibre to ensure sufficient bullet mass. In the wake of combat feedback from Iraq and Afghanistan, I would say that 5.56 x 45 mm NATO has reached the limit of its development potential. I see either a return to 7.62 x 51 mm (with a more aerodynamic bullet) or a new intermediate calibre being adopted. If LSAT works out, this could well be the technology that enables a calibre change.

  • James

    Whatever you do, don’t buy from a place like Kentucky Gun Company. Worst service I’ve ever experienced.

    • Spencerhut

      What does that have to do with this article?

      • abecido

        If they have EM-2s I’ll risk bad service.

    • Sgt. Stedenko


  • Some stuff I posted about this subject over at Forgotten Weapons:

    (Regarding the .276 Pedersen vs. 6.8mm SPC):

    The two cartridges are not very similar. The 6.8 SPC has a 1.6864″-.020 long case and a 2.26-2.32″ long max overall length. This limits case capacity relative to the caliber, and also means the cartridge can only be loaded with stubby bullets of poor aerodynamic shape. It generally can fire a bullet of about 110-115 grains with a BC of about .160-.185 G7 between 2,550-2,660 ft/s from an 18″ barrel. Read my more thorough examination of 6.8 SPC’s ballistics here.

    In contrast, the .276 Pedersen has a larger cases that is 2.02″ long, with a 2.83″ long max overall length. It can use extremely fine form factor bullets of heavier weight, fired faster than the 6.8 SPC is capable of doing. The PD-42 loading we shot during the shoot was loaded with the excellent PC-50 bullet having a G7 BC of about .248, and produced muzzle velocities of about 2,740 ft/s (note that we did not chronograph the rifle during the shoot, this figure is based on instrument velocities from over 80 years ago!). As a result, the .276 Pedersen is ballistically much more elegant and capable than the 6.8 SPC, while also being much more potent, producing about 20% more energy.

    (.276 Pedersen vs. .280 British):

    Hi, both the .280 British and .276 Pedersen underwent a variety of changes during their life with regards to performance, but in particular the .280 British is difficult to pin down because unlike the .276 it had a more tumultuous history and less certainty as to what, exactly, would be adopted by NATO.

    It was decided fairly early on what the .276 Pedersen would look like: It was loaded into the PD-42 (small Boxer primer), FB-9892/FB-10865 (almost identical cases with large Boxer primer), or A-11 (large Berdan primer) cases, with either the PC-50 (125grs) or T1-E19 bullet (126grs), both of which were identical in shape*. Standard loads produced just under 2,700 ft/s at the instrument, equating to about 2,740 ft/s at the muzzle. In general, when people talk about the .276 Pedersen, it is this configuration they are referring to. Interestingly, this is not the configuration that would have been adopted, but that is a separate topic. This performance represents the overwhelming quantity of .276 ammunition in existence.

    In contrast, there is no single version of .280 British that generally is being referred to. I will be doing a more thorough article on this, but basically the .280 British was loaded to performance levels ranging from approximately equal to 7.92mm Kurz to almost 7.62 NATO levels. What can be said is that in terms of case volume, the .280 British is just slightly lower than the .276 Pedersen, and was never loaded with bullets as aerodynamic as those used in the .276. To further confuse matters, the round the British abortively adopted, the 7mm Mk.1Z (augmented .280/30), was more powerful than the majority of .280 ammunition produced, giving a muzzle velocity of 2,595 ft/s with a lead-cored 140gr bullet – which, it should be noted, was reported in tests as being uncontrollable in fully automatic, negating the primary virtue of the .280 round. In terms of muzzle energy, that performance is very comparable to the .276 Pedersen, but the projectile was not as well-streamlined, and as a result it had about the same ballistic coefficient as the PC-50 and T1-E19 bullets of the .276, despite being 15 grains heavier. Combined with the lower velocity of the .280 British, the .276 thus outperforms the Mk.1Z.

    To further confuse the issue, at least two wildcatters of the era, Phil Sharpe and Lewis Potter, made their own versions of the .280/30 British and the performance their handloads developed are sometimes published as if they were the official figures.

    So at its low end, the .280 British was not so far off from the 6.8mm SPC, in fact, but at its high end it was much, much closer to .276 Pedersen or 7.62 NATO in performance. Unfortunately, conflation of these two ends of the spectrum, especially by 6.8mm SPC fans has led to some confusion regarding exactly what the 6.8mm is capable of and what its performance looks like.

    For visual reference, he’s a picture I took earlier today of a few samples from my collection:

    Bear in mind, the image is distorted towards the edges. I should probably refrain from taking pictures of so many cartridges in one shot with my camera phone, in the future. Oh well. From left to right, 7.92×33 Kurz (just PPU commercial stuff), 7.62×39 M67 Yugoslavian, 5.56×45 NATO Danish SS109, 6.8 SPC 115gr Sierra BTHP, 6.5 Grendel 123gr Lapua Scenar Alexander Arms, .30 Remington Western Cartridge Co 170gr Super-X, .280 British 140gr “Type C” steel-cored projectile, 7mm Second Compromise, the forerunner to 7mm Liviano, 140gr S12 FN bullet, 7.62×51 M198 Duplex for scale, .276 Pedersen FB-10865 loaded with T1-E19 bullet, fired .276 Pedersen PD-42 case, originally loaded with PC-50 bullet – this was from the lot of ammunition we fired in the video above, and an unfired pulled T1-E19 bullet from an FB-10865 case. Note the very fine shape of the T1-E19 bullet.

    The US Army did think the .30 caliber (in the very potent M1 Ball load, mind you, which had much longer range than either the later M2 Ball or M80 7.62mm Ball) was necessary to retain for machine guns, and neither they nor the British later with the .280/30 intended to replace their existing .30 caliber medium machine guns. The US in the 1930s in fact had no .276 caliber machine gun program of any kind – I’ve not even seen any evidence of a .276 BAR or comparable automatic rifle (some expected the advent of a semi-automatic rifle would negate the need for the automatic rifle, an assessment that sounds pretty weird to modern ears). However, the experience since then definitely suggests the .276 Pedersen could have replaced the .30-06 in the machine gun role, since it has superior ballistics to the later 7.62mm NATO. The only concern I would have about that hypothetical – and a major concern of the time – was that the .276 had difficulties meeting requirements with steel-cored armor penetrating projectiles, and while we don’t think of that being so important today, in WWII .30 M2 AP was a very useful round to have.

    *It should be noted that there were a huge number of designations of cases and projectiles that represent largely identical ammunition. I have only mentioned some examples, for a more thorough treatment please read History of Modern U.S. Military Small Arms Ammunition, by Hackley, Woodin, and Scranton.

    (Factory cartridge drawings):

    Oh, also, factory drawings of the .276 Pedersen and .280 British, and the SAAMI drawing for 6.8mm:

    • tts

      This detail and information about the history behind these cartridges is pretty damn interesting, thanks for the effort of finding and posting it!

      • A lot of it is related to the upcoming fourth installment of the Light Rifle series, anyway, so it didn’t take much additional effort to put together, but you’re welcome!

    • Blake

      6.8SPC works great…

      …when you neck it way down to use much better bullets &ltgrin&gt

      BTW wood-stocked bullpups like this are rare & awesome 🙂

    • mikee

      The EM2 – arguably the greatest rifle that never was??

      • Nah, I don’t really think so. It’s a cool and interesting rifle – and I think it (and the Pedersen, for that matter) has gotten an undeserved reputation for being hard to make because they never made pre-production models – but I don’t think it would have been the revolution many today think it would be.

        IMO the greatest rifle that never was would probably be the Ferguson.

        • Monty01

          I tend to agree with you. The FN FAL served the British Army very well from 1955 until 1986. It never had the reliability issues that plagued the L85A1 rifle that replaced it and its ammunition, 7.62 x 51 mm did the job. I do think that the EM-2 was an interesting design but it would have probably been difficult to perfect. Not many people know that it none other person than Winston Churchill who nixed it in favour of the FN FAL.

          • Tom

            I have always heard the decision was purely to adopt 7.62 NATO which the EM2 was struggling with.

          • Monty01

            There’s a very good book on this topic called: “EM-2 Concept and Design. A Rifle Ahead of its Time” by Thomas P. Dugelby. It was published by Collectors Grade Publications, which specialises in small arms histories. Sadly, it is now out of print but explains the whole saga of the weapon very well.

          • I have read it. Unfortunately, it’s a little light relative to the other Collector’s Grade volumes. It is however, the single best source on the EM-2. I have found more information on the EM-2 than can be gleaned from that book, though, and will incorporate some of it into Light Rifle IV.

            Funnily enough, Ian McCollum ninja’d me on a copy of that book at a gun store we visited over the weekend we did the Pedersen shoot. It’s cool, though, I grabbed the Brophy’s book on the Krag out from under him!

          • Monty01

            You’re right that the Collector’s Grade EM-2 book is a bit light compared to other volumes; however, it is the best source of info on this topic. I would love to see someone write a new book on the EM-2 triumph and tragedy. You could be just the person to do it. If you ever find yourself in Leeds, UK, a visit to the Royal Armouries Museum archive would yield a lot more information. As would a chat with Tony Williams.

          • I’m flattered that you think so.

            I would love to take a trip to Leeds. Hopefully, someday…

            I’ve spoken with Tony via the Internet, mostly about his GPC idea. I’m afraid he’s not my biggest fan; partly because I am a pretty outspoken critic of the GPC concept and also because of my being overaggressive previously. That last is certainly my fault.

        • iksnilol

          *cough* Korobov TKB-022 *cough*

    • Kivaari

      That’d well done piece. It has more information on the .280 than all the books I’ve had since 1960.

      • There’s a lot more where that came from, and it will come with Light Rifle IV.

    • Cody

      THIS ^ should be it’s own post/article on here!

      Also, I would be curious how 6.5 G compares to .276 P and .280/30 B.
      6.5 G seems more comparable than the 6.8 S.

      • Hi Cody, it will be. 🙂

      • As for the Grendel, it has much more space for better projectiles than the 6.8 SPC, but it has only comparable powder volume, so velocity suffers. It can produce ballistics similar to the 7mm Mk.1Z load, but keep in mind that those aren’t really all they’re cracked up to be!

  • Believe it or not, there were actually more EM2 built in 7.62 NATO than the original .280/30.

    • BearSlayer338

      True,I’ve never seen the .280 version,but I have seen and have shot the .308 version.They shoot well bet feel a bit awkward compared to other bullpups.

      • Javon McCabe

        If only there were that many. They made 72 rifles. Only 15 ended up in the states and last I checked were all owned by the president of Walther USA.

        • Nouseforaname

          One turned up in Kamloops BC recently in a police raid! Was donated (amazingly) to the local gun club.

  • Kivaari

    That is a real wow collectors piece.

  • Looks like that guy could benefit from the factory drawing I posted above.

    • HenryV

      They will see it. Not all us Brits are as gun phobic as most Yanks think. 🙂 🙂

  • John

    So. Let’s hypothesize that the British suddenly want to remake the SA-80 and make a 7.62 variant of it. Would a bullpup 7.62×51 assault rifle be feasible?