The Worst Modern Combat Rifle? Her Majesty’s Junk Gun, the L85A1

What do you get when you combine what’s widely regarded as one of the best rifle operating mechanisms ever invented, an innovative and promising concept, and a factory with over 150 years of history making some of the finest small arms in the world? If you said “the best rifle ever made”, you’d be out of luck, because today we’re talking about the L85A1, and how a weapon that seemed to have everything going for it ended up being possibly the worst modern infantry rifle developed by a major party.

The SA80, a term which denotes the family of weapons to which the L85A1 belongs, had a long and troubled history, beginning in the late 1960s with a trial of the Armalite AR-18 rifle in Britain in 1966. This trial helped kick off a line of development of domestic British-made AR-18 derivatives, including the production of AR-18 rifles at the Sterling Armament Company, most famous for their excellent L2 Sterling submachine gun. Sterling was very close to the famous RSAF Enfield, who soon began using Sterling parts to manufacture prototype bullpup rifles based on the AR-18. The first true prototypes in this development were the XL64 series, which chambered an unusual 4.85x49mm round that has been covered previously in the Modern Intermediate Calibers series here at TFB. These were followed by the prototype XL85 and XL85 weapons, which were eventually adopted in modified form as the L85A1 Individual Weapon and L86A1 Light Support Weapon.

If you want a look inside the SA80, take a look at Forgotten Weapons’ video on the rifle, embedded below:

I have glossed over the details of this history, because I think there is really one good source to learn about this firearm’s history and unfortunately I do no have it with me as I travel during the holidays. That is The Last Enfield – SA80: The Reluctant Rifle by R. Blake Stevens and Steve Raw. This book covers, in lavish detail, the almost unbelievable issues, political drama, and shady dealings that characterized the SA80 program from start to finish. From the beginning of development to introduction of the A2 variant, the program was characterized by corruption, incompetence, and bad engineering.

The Heckler & Koch-rebuilt A2 variants were a substantial improvement over the previous guns, but this program did not prove to be as inexpensive as the MoD had hoped: Each gun cost about £484 to convert, which is the equivalent of about $1,030 today – practically the price of a new rifle entirely. The resulting L85A2s didn’t cure every ill of the SA80, either. The rifles, fundamentally, were still nearly 20 years old by the time the program was completed, they were still extremely heavy, and there was also no straightforward path to replacement of worn-out units. The number of SA80s in the world was fixed, no more would ever be made. To this day, the consequences of this decision to try to “fix” the SA80 are still being felt; the fleet is now over 30 years old, and will need to be replaced soon. However, with a shrinking small arms budget and the promise of new technologies on the horizon, is the answer for Britain to stick with the L85A2 until something better comes along, or bite the bullet and replace it with something else now, ending the rifle’s troubled service life once and for all?



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Jim Slade

    “possibly the worst modern infantry rifle developed by a major party.”
    You nailed it right there.
    Not the outright worst by a long shot, but dam sure the worst by a nation that should and could have done better.

    • Phillip Cooper

      What, did they forget about the FAMAS?

      • Jim Slade

        The Armees Francaises ceded the ‘first world crap rifle’ trophy to the Brits when they decided to buy German.

      • LCON

        FAMAS has it’s issues but overall Those are considered small details compared to the SA80.

      • Malthrak

        The FAMAS is overall a decent weapon. It has its quirks, some stuff was better left in the 70’s, but is overall much more user friendly, ergonomic and far more reliable than the SA80 series.

        Plus the FAMAS is being replaced anyway and wont be a concern anymore while the L85 is not XD

      • DrewN

        The FAMAS was also easily swapped to LH.

      • gunsandrockets

        Check out the Forgotten Weapons video on the FAMAS. More than meets the eye, and some pretty impressive engineering.

      • RealitiCzech

        The FAMAS is a far superior rifle. It has some peculiar features and quirks, but it wasn’t designed by the stupidest man in the British Isles, unlike the SA80.

    • Dougscamo

      Not to mention that the troops look dorky as h@ll trying to march in formation with it….. 🙂

    • Martin M

      That would be correct, so long as India isn’t a major party.

      • iksnilol

        OH GOOD GOD! WHAT IF INDIA MADE A LICENSED CLONE OF THE L85!?

        That’d be a magnificent disaster.

        • Martin M

          You know it must be a bad rifle if India didn’t ask for a batch of samples to ‘evaluate’.

        • 40mmCattleDog

          Dear god man, dont give them any more bright f@&kin ideas!!!

        • DW

          I might just want to see how that goes

        • Paul White

          I want this to happen now

      • RealitiCzech

        India should’ve outsourced INSAS production to the Khyber Pass guys. They can at least make an AK that runs.

    • Bigbigpoopi
      • Mikial

        Sorry, I must be missing your point with this picture. What was it again?

  • Spade

    I’d still buy a semi auto of the L85A2 for no particularly good reason.

    • Rick O’Shay

      Because there IS no good reason?

    • DW

      Why not, as long as you keep it a range gun I see nothing bad about the rifle.

  • yodamiles

    How’s the trigger pull on the sa 80? I keep hearing “SA 80 is the most ‘accurate’ rifle on on earth” claim every time someone talk about this gun. It shouldn’t be anymore accurate than other AR 180 derive and with 1980’s bullpup trigger…..

    • M

      IIRC it is because at the time, they took the SA-80 with SUSAT mounted as the standard issue rifle and compared to other rifles using iron sights.

      • Sid Collins

        Correct. Our leaders (1988 era) seemed to think comparing an M16A2 with iron sights against the L85 with optics was in someway fair. It wasn’t that it was inherently more accurate than other rifles. The Brits had mounted a scope and we were shooting iron sights. Apples and oranges.

  • 40mmCattleDog

    It honestly seems the only people who even like the L85 series are people who A: Have never fired an actual firearm before, B: People who think England can do no wrong ever and are superior at everything to we stupid Americans or C: Irrational AR haters who think any piston driven rifle has some magical operating system that can never jam.

    • john huscio

      Supposedly the Bolivians like it.

    • iksnilol

      *raises hand*

      I… I think it looks cool.

    • JT303

      I’ve talked to a few soldiers, and they all said the L85A2 was a fantastic weapon. Incidentally, they’d had no firearms experience prior to military service. I also talked to somebody who is ex-SBS, who used the L85A2 and the C8. He said that the flaws of the L85 outweigh its advantages. The L85A2 is reliable and supposedly quite accurate. However, it is heavy, the sling is retarded, it’s not left-hand friendly, reloads are inconvenient, the grip is poor and the charging handle placement sucks.

      • CommonSense23

        You bring up a excellent point. People with vary little firearms range only knowing one gun and liking it.

        • JT303

          It happens with things as mundane as strawberry jam. If somebody’s only tried one, and it was alright, they’re not going to have qualms about it, even if it has serious flaws from an objective standpoint.

          • VanDiemensLand

            Are you implying there are objective flaws with strawberry jam? It is inferior to raspberry jams for sure, but it has its place!

          • JT303

            There was one brand of strawberry jam that used to contain small amounts of sawdust. I’d say that’s an objective flaw.

          • VanDiemensLand

            WTF that is gross! Why?

          • ostiariusalpha

            Fiber.

          • JT303

            Cost, likely. And they thought they could get away with it.

          • Dougscamo

            AND…..all natural ingredients…..if it’s paper….

          • billyoblivion

            Nah, that’s fiber.

          • JT303

            The marketing department awaits you.

          • lostintranslation

            Best response would be; ‘We have no problems, only opportunities.’

    • J.K.

      I loved using this rifle in Battlefield 2!

    • John

      >every single british unit that is not forced by the MOD to use the L85 chooses to use a C8 instead.

      That raises more questions than it answers. Are they going with Colt Canada? Daniel Defense and/or LMT because they already use some of their products? Some other manufacturer entirely?

      Will Heckler and Koch even sell to Britain once they’re out of the EU?

      • Tom

        HK said they will continue to sell to NATO and allied nations so no issue there. Of course one might argue that it would be better to simple buy DI M16/M4s from the Americans for far less money and avoiding any potential political shenanigans from the EU.

      • JF

        If the French got away with the Famas and bought the HK 416 why couldnt the British get rid of their old junk?
        That’d be cool if the British decided to equip themselves with Colt Canada gear. They’ve been proven to be very good rifles.. favored by the SAS no less.

  • Phillip Cooper

    Wow, 30 whole years old!

    • John A. Smith

      No kidding. My 100+ year old Mosin works just fine. As do my old SKS and AK.

      • Cymond

        And how many of your Mosin’s years were spent in storage?

  • lowell houser

    It’s going to get replaced with either the HK416 or the C8, which is just a
    Cannuckistani M4. The C8 is already being used, is cheaper, and is produced by a commonwealth country, so no-brainer.

    • Sid Collins

      Harrumph

    • Uniform223

      *sarcasm on*
      The C8? Really!? It’s DI and anyone who was in 1965, has mastered CoD, and is a qualified Teir One UDT Delta Black Op Milsim Mall Cop knows that DI sucks!
      *sarcasm off*

      The C8 would be a cheaper and more readily available no brainer replacement.

    • int19h

      Ironically, C8 is actually a better M4 than M4 itself in many respects. Like e.g. sane choice of barrel profiles: pencil on earlier versions, heavy on later ones; none of that “we’ll just make it thicker where you can see it” government profile BS. Or full ambi controls.

      The real irony is that the original M16 design did most of this right, and then it was screwed up over time for various strange reasons. It’s really weird. All Canucks had to do was to not make the same foolish choices.

  • M.

    I don’t understand this article at all. It doesn’t actually describe what’s wrong with the rifles besides a brief mention of their weight. This is is basically a book recommendation

    • LCON

      The video goes into more detail in the technical.

      • Bigg Bunyon

        OK, the sentence maybe should read: The L85A1 is a bad gun; buy my book and I’ll tell you why and if you watch my video I’ll show you what I’m saying.

        • LCON

          part of what I am saying would be more accurate. For a article that covers all the issues in detail you need a book for a video a full length documentary series covering the fall of the British firearms industry

        • Kevin Harron

          Buy this book. Not buy my book. Nathaniel, afaik, has no relationship of any sort to the authors of that book. It’s just a ‘this book covers everything I’d say and then some’ recommendation.

          • No relationship to Collector Grade, Stevens, or Raw. I directed readers to book because it really is the authoritative volume on the subject.

            The post is short for several reasons:

            1. I am currently sick.

            2. I set a 500 word limit for administrative reasons.

            3. You really should just go read the book.

    • Bigg Bunyon

      I’m with you. The entire article can be summed up in one sentence: The L85A1 is a bad gun; buy my book and I’ll tell you why.

    • roguetechie

      Yes it is i indeed a book recommendation!

      Books like this and other stuff published by the same company telling the history and etc of guns like the fg-42 etc are invaluable and extremely educational

  • john huscio

    Betting on Colt Canada getting the replacement contract.

    • LCON

      They already have supplementary but whole hog replacement? Seems a Fantasy.

      • roguetechie

        Considering the work they’re already doing got USMC on board… And others

        The British should absolutely throw in on the project!

        This project is going to be awesome, …

        • LCON

          your still talking years away.

          • Tom

            The L85A2 is not slated for replacement for another 10 years or so and since what ever replaced it will be off the shelf its not like there is a need for a protracted T&E cycle. I suspect that depending on how much bad blood comes from Brexit the Canadians have a very strong case. And whilst we are speculating from a point of view of security of supply I would say the US and Canada have major plus points over Europe since any real threat (regardless of how unlikely it actually is) will come from the east not the west.

  • LurkingSpider .

    The damn thing was good at what it was designed for (notwithstanding cost effective or not) which was sit in foxholes or forest scrapes delaying the advancing russian hordes on the German border.
    Accurate certainly but it was hopeless when it came to use in multiple environments, and a pig to modify for different tactical requirements. More than that it was just horrible to use, it just never felt natural on me the way AR based or even AK rifles do. For the price we could and should have had far better.
    Best consigned to the scrap bin asap…

  • BillC

    They can’t replace it. The British killed their own firearms industry because “Ewwww, guns!”. They effectively have stifled any homegrown innovation. They are also too broke to really purchase a whole new family of firearms from their Euro neighbors, despite their shrinking Army size.

    • Ian Davis

      We quite like the Eeeewww guns actually. It’s nice to be able to walk the street without having to go through the whole Defendmylife/standmyground/concealedcarrier/handsupdontshoot crap you guys do.

      • BOB

        They forgot we build the Accuracy Internationals it seems.

      • Bierstadt54

        We manage to avoid all that too, 99.999% of the time. And we are able to defend ourselves and shoot what we like, for the most part, too. Fancy that. But I am not going to critique the decisions other countries make, unless it is relevant to a present discussion. Like the state of the UK firearms industry.

      • jay

        You guys, with your retarded ignorance, are far on your way to become a caliphate.

      • Dan

        Well just about everyone in my town is a gun owner and it’s been quite a few decades since someone has been shot intentionally or otherwise. So it’s nice not being a pansy and still owning guns

      • Kivaari

        Small town and rural America has a lower crime rate than the UK and Europe. It is only in the inncer-city jungles where there are issues. Like London and Liverpool. Liverpool having the highest violent crime rate of the industrialized world. It has something to do with the high alcohol usage in the UK.

      • BillC

        …and yet the UK has an overall higher violent crime rate. Yep, must be the guns.

        Remember when the UK was on the verge of invasion by Hitler and there wasn’t enough guns to go around so us Yanks mailed y’all our spare guns for your homeguard, then you ungrateful beefeaters destroyed them after the war?

        • Graham2

          Oh no, not this again! The UK police consider many crimes that really aren’t violent at all as ‘violent crimes’. This has been done to death on here recently but the UK is in fact very peaceful despite the stupid way in which crime is recorded.

      • Jia Li

        Correct you are. So that you can concentrate on avoiding being decapitated by knives/axes; run over by trucks; or blown up by home-made explosives. That is so much better.

  • BillC

    Also this is a stupid blog post.

  • Major Tom

    The three worst guns on the planet are the L85, the FAMAS and the M16. (And derivatives.) And of the three, only the M16 has been doing any real work to try and change that by spending the last 50 years digging itself out of the hole it made for itself in Vietnam. (And to be fair, it has succeeded at a couple things it was trying to improve upon.)

    The L85A2 was a coaster attempt at product improvement.

    • tts

      The M16 doesn’t belong on your list of the worst. It had problems when it was introduced but those were fixed relatively quickly. By 1968 or so going by what Chris Bartocci (Colt manufacturing guy) says. He did a looong video on the problems with the M16 in Vietnam that was damn interesting. Google:

      Christ Bartocci What happened with the M16 in Vietnam?

      InrangeTV (Ian and Karl’s channel) did a great video on a Vietnam era style M16 and dumped mud on it with the dust cover closed and open and it ran just fine. Even when they let the mud dry on and harden. They tested Ian’s GAU5 replica (Vietnam Son Tay era gun) too and it passed just fine.

      Just google:

      InrangeTV Mud Test: Mattel Death Trap! (The Vietnam Era AR15/M16)

      InrangeTV also did mud and dust tests on several different AR15’s over last year or 2. It did pretty well in all of them. Beating out the M1A, AKM, MAS 49/56, and other guns.

      Its definitely not a perfect gun but its pretty far from horrible and has been for decades. It just had some issues early on is all and ever since then a persistent mythology concerning those issues has sprung up around it ever since.

    • Uniform223

      That comment shows what you know… NOTHING.

      • 40mmCattleDog

        2ndlt Tom lol, that was savage bro.

    • Tom

      Its funny how no other country using the M16 at that time (Australia, New Zeland, the UK and others) had any real issues with them. The AR15 as designed by Stoner worked just fine.

      The problems the M16 exhibited were a combination of the DOD wanting to go cheap (no chrome chambers and dirty ammo) and often poorly trained and badly lead draftee’s not maintaining their weapons. Once the right ammo was used chambers were chromed and cleaning kits issued and proper maintenance of weapons taught by experienced and competent NCOs the problems went away.

      I think we have a few Marine Corp vets here who will also confirm that the Corp had less issued with the M16 having maintained a far more effective NCO corp who would not stand for any self cleaning bullshit and insisted on proper weapons maintenance.

      • Uniform223

        Also some of the first users of the M16 in Vietnam were US Army Special Forces (Green Berets) and SEAL teams… they also experienced little to no issues with the weapon. From my understanding when M16s were firsy issued to Green Berets acting as embedded advisors to South Vietnam as part of an evaluation for Project AGILE, one of their recommendations to improve the M16 was to have chromed lines chambers and barrels. Of course political bureaucracy got in the way.

  • Juice

    Christ, that book ‘The Last Enfield’ starts at £45,- online.

  • Edward Franklin

    To be fair if you’re counting major nations who should have honestly been able to do better the L85A1 is a masterpiece of design and engineering compared to the INSAS. India does have enough competent engineers and manufacturing firms to produce an AK derivative that functions properly yet bureaucratic bungling and corruption at every turn produced the INSAS. A rifle where every example has a different rivet pattern and furniture made by a company who makes lawn chairs.

    • tts

      What little I’ve read about the INSAS suggests to me its not so much a engineering or manufacturing failure as it was a product of no holds barred venal political corruption.

      The Indians know how to produce and design stuff just fine its just getting anything actually done properly is damn near difficult due to the jaw dropping levels of corruption.

  • lostintranslation

    Is this negative; ‘focus,’ a sort of historical carryover from the 20’s and 30’s?

    “In 1930, a mere nine years before the outbreak of World War Two, America drew up proposals specifically aimed at eliminating all British land forces in Canada and the North Atlantic, thus destroying Britain’s trading ability and bringing the country to its knees.
    Previously unparalleled troop movements were launched as an overture to an invasion of Canada, which was to include massive bombing raids on key industrial targets and the use of chemical weapons, the latter signed off at the highest level by none other than the legendary General Douglas MacArthur.

    Ref: Plan Red was code for massive war with British Empire.”

    Is this a book promotion exercise or, another try at a historical; ‘itch,’ that seems difficult to scratch?

    • Tom

      The British also had a plan to ‘eliminate’ the US as late as the 1930s as well. War planners plan for pretty much every conceivable scenario, I would not be at all surprised if the Pentagon had right now a plan to invade the EU just because its better to have it and never need it than need it and not have it. TLDR one should not read too much into such plans or take them as a serious indication that one nation harbours hostile intentions against another.

      • lostintranslation

        Unfortunately; I have not seen any References to British plans, in the 1930’s, to attack the USA.
        “The Great Depression of 1929-32 broke out at a time when the United Kingdom was still far from having recovered from the effects of the First World War. Economist Lee Ohanian showed that economic output fell by 25% between 1918 and 1921 and did not recover until the end of the Great Depression, arguing that the United Kingdom suffered a twenty-year great depression beginning in 1918. Relative to the rest of the world, economic output declined mildly in the UK between 1929 and 1934.”
        It appears highly improbable, from a practical and logistics view point, that any such a British attack plan would, realistically, exist in the 1930’s particularly as the nation was still ‘completely exhausted’ from the First World War.
        To my understanding, most families had lost a least one member….. My extended family lost two with a third disabled.

        The only 1930’s British plans that I have ever heard of, were for the defence of the (mainland) UK in the event of attack. The difference is the emphasis on defence, rather than offence.

        Are there any References that you can share, with regard to “The British also had a plan to ‘eliminate’ the US as late as the 1930s”?

        With regard to the SA-80, I still have press cuttings, from way back, detailing the shambles that occurred.

        FPSRussia (YouTube SA-80 Tire Launching) managed to; set a more ‘ambitious’ and considered tone, with his recent analysis. 🙂

        • Tom

          It was actually a Canadian plan “Defence Scheme No. 1” (the British government was opposed to the idea of war with the US and would most likely have abandoned Canada if the US had invaded or at least this is what they told the Royal Navy). In short the plan called for a preemptive strike against the northern US. How successful it would have been is open to much debate but can be summarised as it was just about crazy enough that it might have worked.

          Of course the issue of Canada and Britain’s possessions in North America had essential be en solved with the failure of the Fenian Raids. Both sides believed that cooperation was the key to peace. By the 1930s the Americans and Canadians understood that Japan was much more of a potential aggressor.

          Whilst the great depression had a massive effect on the UK it did so on the US as well probable fair to say that nether party had the resources much less the will to engage in what could easily become a 2nd world war. Again I will say that the existence of such plans should not be taken as an indication that they were taken particularly seriously or represented any sort of actual policy of a given state. The Pentagon even has a plan to deal with a zombie outbreak (okay its a metaphor for a worst case scenario apocalyptic event but even still it goes to show such plans can not be taken as representative of a real perceived threat.

          When it comes to the SA80 series though we have no need to speculate on what may have been as we all know its a terrible design (I recall reading an article years ago where one of the engineers as Sterling claimed he knew straight away that they had messed up ‘copying’ the AR18). badly implemented but that’s politics. The Army wanted the M16A2 the government wanted a cheaper rifle they could produce at RSAF before selling it off. Now all is said and done what we ended up with is a rifle that cost well over twice that of the M16A2 and will most probable adopt a variant of the M16 to replace it when the time comes. But then again hindsight is a wonderful thing.

  • A Fascist Corgi

    One of the design wins that it has going for it is the fact that it’s a bullpup. Traditional rifle designs are completely outdated and are causing dangerous ergonomic problems. Just look at all of the images of soldiers and police officers having to ride the buttstocks over their shoulders while doing room clearing drills. That’s true even for rifles with collapsible stocks and 14.5 inch barrels. And if light wight, high velocity rounds are all the rage in modern combat, then you need all of the barrel length that you can get.

    • AC97

      “Traditional rifle designs are completely outdated and are causing dangerous ergonomic problems.”

      Uh… no.

      • Kevin Harron

        It’s Corgi. Those of us who comment here regularly know he’s almost always wrong and misinformed. 😛

        • AC97

          Believe me, I know.

    • Uniform223

      Speaking from experience playing CoD and watching youtube?

      Personally I’m only did that butt stock over the shoulder not ONCE with a full sized M16A2. When I eventually got an M4, the differences in handling room clearing or any close quarter stuff compared to an M16A2 felt like night and day… being the M4 was BETTER.

    • Kevin Harron

      The bullpup is dead or dying. Almost every army that had them is transitioning to a standard carbine layout. Only the Brits with the outdated and heavy L85 and the Aussies with the F88 (updated AuG) are really moving forward in any substantial way. Proliferation of body armour means that ajustable LOP is way more important than a shorter overall length. And the only bullpup with ajustable LOP is the VHS, which already you pretty much need to be 6’6″ or have full on gorilla arms to use properly

      • User

        Even tough i mostly not really agree with gorgis post. Saying “The bullpup is dead or dying” is senceless, metal bottleneck cartridge bullpups are dying yes. But the hole thing instantly changes with CT cartridges and push trough ejection.

      • EC

        There is of course the largest army in the world that still uses bullpups… China and their QBZ-95 family of weapons. The latest QBZ-95-1 can be shot from the left shoulder (albeit with brass flying across the shooter’s vision) and has a much lighter weight than an L85.

        Just by numbers produced and fielded today, I think the QBZ-95 alone would suggest that the bullpup is far from dead.

      • int19h

        Why aren’t there more bullpups with adjustable LOP that is sufficiently short to use comfortable with body armor? Is it because you need so much room for the action?

        Oh, and you forgot about Tavor.

      • roguetechie

        The bullpup is far from dead…
        All the CT guns are likely to be bullpup or near pup.

        Meanwhile you must have missed the MULTIPLE presentations and individual projects featuring an ad hoc bullpup build …
        .
        Then there’s canuckistan with their xm29 reboot. Hell this one may technically be a double pup!!

        The LMG we should have adopted instead of the 249 yup bullpup!!

  • QuadGMoto

    Consider Jaguar’s reputation at the time this rifle was conceived. I think that would answer your question. ?

  • Sid Collins

    I trained with 1 Para Regiment in 1988. The rifles were fairly new to the unit at that time. They referred to the rifles as not being “para-proofed”. Some of the components were not up to the abuse that would be associated with jumping from planes, walking in heavy brush, or soldier-life in general.

    The only distinct advantage was the standard optic that was part of the basic rifle. At standoff distances, every rifleman became almost a designated marksman. However, in kinetic engagements, the rifle was cumbersome and slow. The manual of arms is complicated and slow. Point-shooting is difficult.

    They were not happy and I was not impressed.

    • DrewN

      This jibes with my experience. I was working with the Brits in a $#!^hole not to be named in the late 80’s and the rifles were universally hated. You should have seen the circus when we did cross familiarization drills. As a left eyed lefty I’ve never had to buy so much damn booze in my life. Still hate that rifle.

  • Martin Grønsdal

    good job making something that even India could improve….

  • Rob

    I didn’t mind the l85 to much. Never had much trouble with it but having fired a c8,AUG hi g36 and a ak47 at Warminster with the infantry trials and development unit I was bitterly disappointed we weren’t issued an AUG or c8!

  • valorius

    I’ll take “AR-15s as replacement rifles” for $1000, Alex.

  • .45

    My only experience with the L85 is in video games. As I recall, in S.T.A.L.K.E.R these are heavy and prone to jamming, no good for CQB (I like to remove the aiming dot for ambiance, thus becoming more reliant on the sights). To sum up, they are not a weapon I even bother with after my initial experimentation, though perhaps if you wanted something with a scope and couldn’t find anything else they would serve as a stop gap measure until you found something else.

  • Vitor Roma

    If someone in the US want to try a good version of of the L85, just look for the K&M M17s, both are bullpups ar-18, but one executed much better than the other.

    • roguetechie

      Yup I made the same comment too!

      The K&M gun is absolutely awesome even if it’s got extruded rain gutter like upper!

      PS insanely good trigger and etc too

  • idahoguy101

    I’m betting it’ll be replaced by either the HK416 or the M4A1. IIRC British Special Operators use the M4

  • Wetcoaster

    If they were smart and thrifty (HAH!), they’d point at the just concluded French trials, say the testing was thorough enough and the results are good enough for them, and just piggy back off the French HK416 order. Euro warm and fuzzies all around. Or decide that the C7/C8 that their and various North Euro SF have been using are good and just place an off-the shelf order with Colt Canada.

    Given Brexit and all though, I suspect the Brits’ll go with the Hobbesian option: ” solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” (Although maybe British over brutish).

    • roguetechie

      If the Brits were smart they’d get in on the colt Canada project which USMC is also involved…

      The project is extremely neat and quite likely involves Jim Sullivan as part of the design team!

      (Note: my statement about Sullivan’s involvement are a product of deductive reasoning. I could be wrong but… I’m most likely right LOL

  • Joel

    The L85A1 entered service in the 1980s. By this time, many iconic service rifles had already been developed and proven. These included the M16, the FAL, the HK G3, the Israeli Galil, the Finnish Valmet, and even the Steyr Aug.

    The L85A1 failures should be understood as arriving in the midst of so much progress by other countries and within so many other arms. In other words, given so many fine examples in this technical realm, how did the UK go so wrong.

  • What’s really amazing is that the Steyr AUG entered service in 1978, nearly a decade before the L85A1 in 1985.

    So with a solid blueprint of what a modern bullpup should be, rather then borrowing heavily from and improving on the design… they spent 9 years creating a stamped sheet metal monstrosity that made almost no use of modern aluminum and polymer construction.

    The closest pear to the L85A1 is the Bullpup AK conversion; both feature similar construction and a fire selector located behind the magazine.

  • John

    Just market a civilian version, put it in a few patriotic action films and Michael Bay flicks following a tragic terrorist attack, and everybody will love it. Worked for the M-16.

  • n0truscotsman

    The L85 is one of those firearms where it was gtg in theory, incorporating the AR18 gas system, etc, but being an absolute failure when it came to QC. The quality is by far its biggest problem.

    Had there been more acceptable quality of the components, alongside more realistic testing, then it would have been a decent rifle.

    Although they *still* couldve followed the lead of the SAS, and adopted the M16, which were used pre-dating the L85.

  • ozgrunt

    The Brits actually owned H&K through BAE from 99 to 02, hence H&K won the contract to fix the SA80. They sold it back to the Germans.Big mistake.

    It was the Brits who wanted to go 5.56mm but the Yanks had a too much love for it’s M14.So the Brits had to adopt the FAL and then the yanks did a back flip to 5.56mm while the whole of NATO was on 7.62mm. Politics man.

    Australia used both SLR (FAL) and M16A1 and M203s in it’s Infantry Sections from Vietnam until the 1990s.

    Everyone is stubborn and nationalistic when it comes to rifles.If the Brits are not making rifles any more it’s criminal that they don’t switch to a newer platform.For an Army that has lost men in war every year since the end of WW2 (except 1968 I think) it’s madness.

    • ozgrunt

      Also I was in Israel in the late 1990’s.The hatred the IDF grunts had for the M16 was a surprise.When they found out I was an Ex Aussie grunt myself they would talk to me.Not one IDF grunt I knew or talked to rated their M16s , CARs Or M4s highly.
      There was a distrust for it as a Jungle weapon and too sensitive.I use to defend it by saying the M16A2 was much better as I qualified on it on ex change with 25ID.
      This was the first time I met soldiers that hated their issued weapon.They wanted their Galils back.

      I had worked with Brit Paras before and they said they like their SA80s.

      When I used the M16A2 I felt it rattled too much and made too much noise in the Jungle.I loved it at the range though.As a Airborne Company group we just wanted our F88s back.Funny how things change, now all the kids want an M4.All the M4 is too me is a cut down M16.
      I’m told the HK 417 is the rifle everyone loves at Aussie infantry Section/Squad level now.

  • Ronaldo Olive

    Well, when I fired both the L85A1 and the L86A1 at the Enfield factory in September, 1986, they worked flawlessly. Of course, I was a VIP guest gunwriter and things HAD to work properly, right? The L85A2s seen in the other photo in the hands of Royal Navy sailors were photographed by me aboard the HMS Ocean in Rio de Janeiro, September 2010, 24 years later.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4f2b977df6b42d46d4b3e6252e5a50c21445a9c3006d9039127e5702d165422f.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5bde7df8719026d70aa045c22ef09e6e179248201ffa7e37f6f4384ce5467a35.jpg

  • I’d club a baby seal for an L85A2.

  • Matthew Groom

    Having actually fired one, I was expecting to read about the actual problems of the rifle, and not just be directed to a somewhat pricey book, and an Ian McCollum video. This article is just a bunch of hyperbole with no evidence or even anecdotes, such as the polymer stocks melting when they come in contact with UK-issued bugspray, or metal components in the reciever which can be bent by hand pressure, rendering the rifle inoperable, the lack of adequate recoil-spring pressure, etc. Your articles are usually better than this, Mr. Fitch

  • Mikial

    Regardless of what you might think of Andy McNab, even he said in his book Bravo Two Zero that the Brit rifles were trash and the SAS teams working in the Gulf in 1991 tried to get their hands on US M16/M4s.

    • Mr Mxyzptlk

      The last part of that is kind of BS, as it makes it sound like the SAS would be using SA80s if they didn’t beg borrow or steal US M16s. ARs had been standard issue for the SAS for years by the time of GW1, at this point they had a huge stock including M16s, A1s, A2s, Model 733s, and possibly even C7s by that point.

      • Spike

        Just to add to your reply, the SAS were one of (if not, maybe) the first users of the AR-15/M-16, having used it on op’s in Borneo in the early 1960’s.

  • JoelC

    Did the new barrels fix the fact that it only fires steel cased ammo? I still completely agree it isn’t a bad gun overall, especially compared to this.

  • Andrew Varley

    I’m from Enfield, and a lot of my friends worked at the small arms factory. The tales I would hear like the magazines falling out when the rifle was fired. One of my mates had a single job for weeks reducing the size of the mag week so it didn’t happen any more. He said he was “bonking” hundreds of SA80 rifles a week.

    That said, when BAe closed the factory and moved it to Nottingham, they ripped the heart out of our little bit of North London. The engineers and support industries never really recovered.

    • Warren Ellis

      Did your politicians then tell you, “Oh you can just go back to college, learn some new skills, and then get new jobs”, without mentioning that they wouldn’t do anything to help move companies or jobs close to your home so all those new skills wouldn’t really be put to use?

      Because here in the US, that was done to a lot of Rust Belt and mining places.

  • Secundius

    As i recall, so did the M16A1 from March 1964 through March 1973 in Vietnam. Thank you very much SecDef Robert Strange McNamara, for YOU’RE Adoption of the Rifle…

    • Quest

      But the M16 and M4 wasnt a ergonomic piece of crap from a design standpoint.
      The early M16 had problems due to non chromed chamber/barrel, wrong powder, no cleaning kits.

      • Secundius

        And THAT’s not considered a “Flaw”. McNamara “Considered” the M14 a “Flaw”, just because it WASN’T being Produced in Large Numbers and because it looked like a WW2 Weapon (aka “Wood” Stock)…

  • anonymouse

    Would still say the INSAS is worse than the L85A1.

    L85A2 is basically what L85A1 should have been first time around, and it’s a pretty decent rifle all told.

  • disqus_XlYouOiadt

    The British are not ‘gun’ people. We learn that every time they stumble into a war and call us for something that shoots.

    • CS

      Seeing as we only finished paying for the weapons “America sent” in WW2 a few years ago, I think we can do what ever we like with them.