British Army Makes Move To M-LOK as SA80 A3 Receives Tweaks

    SA80 rifle Upgrade

    L85A3 with Elcan (MoD)

    It appears that a year after the introduction of the newly upgraded SA80 A3 the British Army is introducing a series of small but significant tweaks to improve weapons handling. The changes come following user feedback on the SA80 A3 / L85A3 rifles which have been overhauled by Heckler & Koch in a contract worth  £15 million (or nearly $19 million).

    The August 2020 edition of the British Army’s Soldier magazine included a short article detailing upcoming changes to the British Army’s service rifle. The article notes that the modifications are user driven, with feedback collected since the weapons were first fielded in 2018.

    L85A3 Iraq

    A British soldier, with the United Kingdom training team, fires his SA80 A3 Assault Rifle during a combined forces endurance stress shoot at Camp Taji, Iraq, Aug. 6, 2018. (A.Ward/MoD)

    The most visible change is the transition from HKey (Heckler & Koch’s own KeyMod system) to M-LOK attachment points. The changes were iteratively prototyped using 3D technology allowing the Infantry Trials and Development Unit (ITDU) to test changes as they were made. Major Richard McMahon, a senior member of the British Army’s dismounted close combat through-life support team said “the ability to produce 3D printed mock-ups allowed the project to move at substantial pace, with various designs tested and the ability to make quick changes as issues were encountered.” McMahon also noted that ITDU had procured its own 3D printer to allow greater experimentation in-house.

    Below is a graphic highlighting some of the changes to the A3’s handguard, so far we’ve been unable to source more images of the improved handguard.

    Graphic showing some of the changes to the A3s handguard (British Army / Graeme Main)

    The new design of handguard features M-LOK attachment points, a redesigned guard for the SA80’s push-through safety, a bulked-up lower rail for the attachment of the grip-pod foregrip issued with the rifle, new M-LOK covers and the filling in of some of the holes near the gas block to prevent heat transfer to the user’s hand. Interestingly, one caption says that because of these holes no longer being present if an underbarrel grenade launcher is to be fitted they “can be drilled out to retro-fit one” – a new job for the armourers. It retains a full-length 12 o’clock Picatinny rail and reprofiles the shape of the forend slightly to improve ergonomics and shifts from the phosphor bronze finish towards a dark green.

    10,000 updated rifles will begin to be delivered in the latter half of 2020 with the unspecified number of SA80 A3s currently in service beginning to be upgraded with the new forend in October 2020.

    Matthew Moss

    Matthew Moss – Assistant Editor.

    Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written for a variety of publications in both the US and UK he also runs www.historicalfirearms.info, a blog that explores the history, development and use of firearms. Matt is also co-founder of www.armourersbench.com, a new video series on historically significant small arms.

    Reach Matt at: [email protected]


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