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

Nathan S
by Nathan S

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
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.

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  • DrewN DrewN on May 12, 2017

    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 RavishedBoy on May 12, 2017

    Should have stayed a prototype.