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SA80 History: The First L85 Mockups (Sterling and Stoner)

Armament Research Services (ARES) is a specialist technical intelligence consultancy, offering expertise and analysis to a range of government and non-government entities in the arms and munitions field. For detailed photos of the guns in this video, don’t miss the ARES companion blog post:

The British military had been working towards a reduced-power cartridge since the end of World War 2, and the ultimate adoption of the FAL/SLR in 7.62x51mm NATO did not end their interest in the concept. It would not be long before the roots of SA80 would take hold, and today we are looking at the very first mockups of the concept that would become the L85A1 and L86A1.

As part of a preliminary study to decide the basic layout and capabilities of a future new individual weapon and light support weapon, five wooden and metal mockups were produced in conventional and bullpup layouts, and also with/without ‘dropped’ stocks to facilitate sighting. The favored mockup was the bullpup seen here, which gave rise to the whole Enfield Weapon System/SA80 family. It is relevant to note that the concept included a universal standard optical sight from the very outset, as this was a cutting edge concept at the time. In addition, note the small features like safety, sling swivels, and magazine catch, as these would vary back and forth through the development program.

After the wooden guns, two functional (or mostly functional) guns were produced. These were standard off-the-shelf rifles converted into bullpup configuration – one Stoner 63 and one Sterling AR18. Neither company was contacted for licensing or technical assistance.

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