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SA80 History: L85 A1 vs A2 (and the coming A3)

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:

At last, we have reached the L85A2, when the rifle was finally made into something reliable and effective. In 1995, after extensive public scandal from the L85A1’s shortcomings being blatantly exposed in the first Gulf War, Heckler & Koch was given a contract to retrofit the rifles. At the time H&K was owned by British Aerospace, so this remained an arguably British program. The H&K retrofit consisted largely of subtle changes to materials, tolerancing, and finish, but it would lead to very significant improvements in performance (these were the ares where the original Enfield design team had the least experience). The parts changed included:

Cocking handle, bolt, extractor, extractor pin, ejector, ejector pin, firing pin, cam stud, hold-open, barrel extension, gas system, handguard, magazine, bolt carrier, hammer stop, hammer, barrel, ejection post, and all springs.

The new A2 rifles were introduced into service starting in 2001, and have receiver widely positive reviews. This is the rifle that the L85 could have and should have been from the very beginning. In addition, further improvements will likely lead to an A3 variant in the relatively near future. Currently the main improvement is HK’s “A3” (not yet a government designation) upper receiver, which is stronger and has an improved optics mounting rail.

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