Early Prototypes of the SA-80 Series Rifles with Forgotten Weapons

Most of the time Forgotten Weapons takes a look at weapons that are indeed largely forgotten. Sometimes they cover modern weapons and some of their history, and at other times they cover weapons that many wish were just forgotten. This is one of those latter times, where Ian gets a hands-on look at the history and first prototypes of the SA-80 series of rifles. Ultimately, the SA-80 program turned into the L85, which is sometimes loved but generally hated upon.

And, those haters would be largely justified. While partially groundbreaking for its day, the L85 created an ultimately kludgey weapon that after a public abysmal performance in Desert Storm nearly warranted a wholesale replacement. Instead, the weapon was the updated in the car-guy equivalent of a frame-off restoration into the actually pretty good L85A2.

But, how did the British government get to that point? That is where Forgotten Weapons comes in with hands-on of the first prototypes of the concept. From the first wooden mockup (which I dare say looks great) to their shooting capable early prototypes, the lineage of the SA-80 is easily seen.

Further, Ian confirms directly how the L85 is primarily just a bullpup chassis “copy” of the AR-180, which coincidentally is one of the rigged-up firing prototypes.

For the full video, to see the prototypes, and learn all about how the SA-80 came to be, enjoy the video from Forgotten Weapons:

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • Gary Kirk

    It is amazing how close that wood mockup is to the final production variant..

    In both form, and function..

    • CavScout

      It’s amazing how close it is, internally and externally, to the angry-jesting the Sterling AR18 one is to their final production variant, other than how the final version doesn’t work nearly as well.

      Proof British firearms design is completely dead.

  • b0x3r0ck

    My dad always told me “you know you did a good job when everyone tries to steals the credit”.

  • iksnilol

    LSD was clearly not in abundance in the UK like it was in the US and Russia.

    • phuzz

      Pink Floyd took it all.

      • iksnilol

        And by god, did they use it productively!

  • LH

    If I didn’t knew it before, I’d say something like:
    ‘This totally Looks like an bullpup AR-18… Ohhhhh!’

  • DrewN

    I’m leftie and very left eye dominant. My first familiarization session with the L85 looked like I had never handled or fired a real weapon in my life. The UK guys were trying to keep a straight face but were practically crying. Bought alot of booze that night and never really heard the end of it. I always refused to try the A2 on principle after that.

  • RavishedBoy

    Should have stayed a prototype.