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From: "Jonathan M. Spencer" <>
Newsgroups: rec.guns
Subject: Re: British assault rifle is in fact a very accurate and reliable 
Date: 17 Jun 1996 17:42:17 -0400

In article <4pnh6a$>, Colin Eve
<> writes

#I regularly shoot the "rifle 5.56" and have found it capable of 
#achieving "head shots" at 600m more than 75% of the time (with SUSAT) 
#how does this compare to the M16?

I'll preface this by saying that I have never fired the L85A1, but I
certainly have stripped and examined the design and construction of
them.  My wife fires one fairly regularly though.  But only on ranges,
never on operational duties.  She likes it, but then she isn't "in the
trenches" so much as "in a nice warm comfy comms truck". :-)

I think most folks who are "in the business" accept that the L85A1 is an
accurate weapon *on the range*.  But shooting static targets on the
range is no test of a battle rifle.  Where it has been rightly
criticised is for lack of robustness (it is not 'squaddyproof') and
absence of reliability under operational conditions.  Pete Bloom (former
weapons instructor with the Royal Marines) has written a whole series of
articles in _Guns Review_ detailing the shortcomings of the weapon -
almost all of which could have been avoided.  Of course, every new
weapon goes through a teething stage.  But many of the faults with this
rifle could, and *should* never have occured.

The report of the Commons Select Committee that looked into the
performance of this weapon, including operational use the Gulf War
published a report that listed no fewer than 32, yes *32*, major faults
with the gun.  This report included, for example, the rifle's lack of
tolerance to to cope with ingression of dirt in dusty conditions
resulting in failure to self-load.  The outcome was that British troops
could not rely upon the gun to be ready to fire the next round and in
Desert Storm all have bayonets fixed.  (One of the first buyers for this
rifle was Namibia.  It couldn't cope with the dust.  Desert Storm came
many years later and it still couldn't cope.  Now we see little black
plastic dust covers on the rifles except when they are to be fired,
indicating that the rifle still cannot cope.  Instead of curing the
disease this is treating the symptom.  What did the SAS use in Desert
Storm: L85A1s or M16s?  And why?)

I have yet to meet anyone who has a good word to say for the rifle, with
the exception of one infantryman who's comment that it was easier to run
carrying the L85A1 bullpup on the straps than carrying the L1A1 SLR

A senior figure in the MOD's small arms world dryly commneted to me one
day, "I don't see what the troops are complaining about: the longer they
carry the rifle the less weight they have to carry", meaning that bits
are dropping off it all the time.  That's some condemnation considering
who made the comment.  (No, I dare not name him! :)

Jonathan Spencer -- forensic scientist
Mountjoy Research Centre, Durham, England, DH1 3UR
tel: +44 191 386 6107   fax: +44 191 383 086

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