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Book Review: The Green Meanie – L96A1 by Steve Houghton

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Following up on his 2018 “The British Sniper: A Century of Evolution”, Steve Houghton has now released a followup book on the L96A1 in particular: “The Green Meanie”. This rifles was a paradigm shift for sniping rifles, and a tremendous success for the British military. It is also a quintessentially British story, as the rifle was essentially developed by three men in a shed. Well, more accurately a garage, but the idea is the same. It is the story of two engineers (Dave Caig and Dave Walls, who were competitive shooters in their spare time) and a world-class competitive shooter named Malcolm Cooper who together developed a benchrest-accurate rifle using a chassis system instead of the traditional bedded stock. Cooper was connected to the sniper program at the Special Air Service, and the SAS adopted the trio’s rifle to replace their L42A1 Enfields. When the British Army announced a tender for a new sniper rifle for the whole service, the trio figured they could get some useful feedback on their rifle by entering the competition. Little did they realize that they would eventually win it!

Houghton’s book covers the origins of the Accuracy International PM rifle – which became the L96A1 – in excellent detail, informed largely by primary sources (Dave Walls wrote the Introduction). This includes the troubles the project had when production was contracted to a large firm, and how those problems eventually led to Accuracy International bringing production back in-house and really becoming the company they are today. Houghton also takes the rifle’s story through to the present day, covering all of the accessories and equipment that went along with it. Scopes (both the original ones and the mid-life upgrades to the system), spotting scopes, thermal and image-intensifying optics, even the clothing issued to snipers using the L96A1. The book includes numerous first-hand accounts from snipers who carried the Green Meanie in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

I would be hard-pressed to think up an aspect of this rifle that is not explained in detail in this book. Houghton has done an excellent job expanding the L96A1 section of his first book into the full-fledged story of the rifle – and it’s a story that is well worth telling!

As of this writing, the book is available only direct from the publisher (Swift & Bold Publishing):

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