- Calibre 5.56 mm
- Weight 4.98 kg (with loaded magazine and optical sight)
- Length 785 mm
- Barrel Length 518 mm
- Muzzle Velocity 940 m/s
- Feed 30 round magazine
- Effective Range: 400m (600m for section fire)
- Cyclic Rate of Fire 610-775 rounds per minute
An underestimated piece of equipment, the L85A2 IW is the most accurate assault rifle in service with any armed force today, with the possible exception of the SIG 550/Stgw 90 of the Swiss. Its size, ability to fit a bayonet (which it has in common with nearly all other military rifles except the Austrian issue version of the AUG,) and the fact it is a bullpup makes it in the eyes of the MoD to be uncontested in urban and close quarters fighting, particularly by those who never have to fire around the wrong side of cover, and by those who never have to engage in bayonet fighting with someone possessed of a conventional weapon.
The L86A2 was at first a light support weapon but now it will seek to attain designated marksman rifle status, a role that is used in the US armed forces. The L86A2 is even more accurate than the L85A2 but is not classed as a rifle.
The L22A1 is not used in the British armed forces.
The SA80KA2 or the 'L85 AFV' as it is known to some is a smaller version of the IW and is issued to the Royal Armoured Corps.
The History of the SA80 family is flawed despite its status today. At the first Services rifle meeting at Bisley after general issue of the SA80, squaddies could be seen relaxing in the sun and wearing T-shirts made by the late, great Pete Bloom which bore an outline of the SA80 in profile, and the legend : Designed by the Ignorant, Built by the Incompetent, Issued to the Unfortunate. A passing general who'd come to distribute prizes had a sense-of-humour failure and had the T-shirts banned as "bad for morale".
Michael Kalashnikov, fabled Russian designer of the AK-47 and AK-74 assault rifles, was shown a specimen of the SA80 by a (presumably rather proud) UK officer. He looked long and hard at it, and then remarked (very quietly), "You must have very clever soldiers".
I once heard it called the "Civil Servant", as it doesn't work, and can't be fired.
At first the SA80 family was known for its reliability, but not in the sense that it would work as well as the SLRs that it had replaced, in fact they where known to not fire, break, shed parts and even to fall apart, despite this, the L85A1's that were used in the Persian Gulf war had no reported failures (apart from all the chronic stoppages, parts breakages, failures etc reported in the press). Where the previous author got this idea is a mystery. To quote the leaked LANDSET report from 1991 entitled "Equipment Performance (SA80) during operation Granby (the Gulf War)",
"SA80 did not perform reliably in the sandy conditions of combat and training. Stoppages were frequent despite the considerable and diligent efforts to prevent them. It is extremely difficult to isolate the prime cause of the stoppages. It is, however, quite clear that infantrymen did not have CONFIDENCE in their personal weapon. Most expected a stoppage in the first magazine fired. Some platoon commanders considered that casualties would have occurred due to weapon stoppages if the enemy had put up any resistance in the trench and bunker clearing operations. even discounting the familiarisation period of desert conditions, when some may have still been using the incorrect lubrication drill, stoppages continued to occur."
further, under the rubric of "mechanical failure", we learn that...
"the most common mechanical failure was the tip breaking off the firing pin."
When the A2 was introduced, the SA80 family was finally fixed with less problems than an M16A4 that the spams uses, according to the MoD's own trials... Since a full breakdown of the results of the trials has never been published, it would be safe to assume that some massaging of figures has taken place, as it is definitively known that such massaging took place in every single previous reliability trial of the rifle and its prototypes.
The UKSF do not use the L85A2 because it is an un-ambidextrous rifle, they also required a flat top rifle (err, the L85 is a flat-top rifle) that could quickly be fitted with mounted equipment, the various other reasons can be debated, such as the fact that it is really really really heavy for such a small thing.
The SA80 family of rifles are expected to be replaced by 2015 yet the family far outclasses (says the MoD) any other of the kind.
Anyone who thinks that "the rifle has no problems" is invited to fire 10 rounds rapid from the left shoulder and attempt to survive this challenge without breaking their face, and also to explain to S**** T***** why he is being paid by squaddies to produce solid metal A2 cocking handles for them after the plastic breaks off the "perfect" originals.