New Zealand Army Begins Fielding New Rifle: LMT MARS-L

Matthew Moss
by Matthew Moss
New Zealand solider firing the new MARS-L from behind a range barricade (New Zealand Defence Forces)

Over the last few month the New Zealand Army has begun fielding its new standard issue infantry rifle, the LMT MARS-L. The MARS-L is replacing the F88 Austeyr which has been in service since 1988.

The decision was made to replace the Stey AUG-based F88 in 2015, following performance concerns reported during operations in Afghanistan. The MARS-L will eventually replace the F88 in all branches of the New Zealand Defence Forces.

Officer Cadets take part in Exercise La Basse Ville in the Waiouru Military Training Area to build upon the theoretical leadership skills that they have learnt while attending the Officer Cadet School.The Officer Cadets were training with yellow Blank Firing Attachments (BFA) which enables the MARS-L weapon to be operated with blank ammo. (New Zealand Defence Forces)
Alpha Company and Pacific Island Combat teams conduct a clearance of Kopara Village during Exercise Southern Katipo. Armed with new MARS-L rifles (New Zealand Defence Force)

The 2nd/4th Battalion of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, the New Zealand Defence Force’s only infantry regiment – made up of regular and reserve battalions, are the latest troops to receive the new rifle. The New Zealand Army’s facebook page shared some photos of troops training with the new rifles for the first time on the West Melton Rifle Range.

The MARS-L isn’t the first LMT rifle New Zealand have adopted, back in 2011 the also adopted the LMT 308 MWS as a designated marksman’s rifle.

A soldier from the Combined Joint Task Force patrols the area as the Grey District Council Mayor Tony Kokshoorn is evacuated as part of Exercise Southern Katipo 2017. (New Zealand Defence Forces)
Soldiers of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment on the march during an exercise in March 2018 (New Zealand Defence Force)

The rifle is designated the Modular Assault Rifle System – Light or MARS-L by the New Zealand Army, but sold as the Modular Ambidextrous Rifle System by LMT on the civilian market. It was adopted in two barrel lengths, 18 and 16 inch, with an empty weight of 3.3 kg or 7.3 lbs. It has ambidextrous controls and charging handle, a flared magazine well and uses a mid-length DI gas system. It is shipped with back-up iron sights but is most frequently seen mounted w and is fitted as standard with a folding front grip and a barrel specially adapted to fix a bayonet. The New Zealand government ordered a total 9,000 rifles with the first being issued to troops of the 1st Battalion of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment in June 2017.

Matthew Moss
Matthew Moss

Managing Editor: & Overt Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. Matt is also runs The Armourer's Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms. Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news. Reach Matt at:

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  • Int19h Int19h on May 21, 2018

    It's a nice, no-nonsense, "it just works" AR. I think the only thing that might raise the eyebrows is the price (look up NZ16 - that's the civilian version of this same rifle). But I doubt NZ is actually paying that much for it.

  • Bj Bj on May 22, 2018

    Best standard issue rifle setup by any country at the moment, hell they have pretty much these best Armory of any country at the moment with all the new weapons they selected for all roles. Just a shame they went with the stupid short quad rail and not a longer mlok rail.

    • Jono102 Jono102 on May 22, 2018

      @bj Until MLOK can be rated for mounting M-203's, it won't be much change for service rifles. It would also mean having to replace or add additional add-on rails or purchase new mounting systems for in service lasers etc.
      An alternative for a service rifle would be full upper and lower rails and MLOK everywhere else.