Hmm. The gubmint wanted to sell off Royal Ordnance. You have to have a product, so the SA80 was shoved down the throat of the army even though the people testing it said it was a bag of shite. NOBODY else wants it, rejected even by the Falklands and Belize.
The MOD stated "We have realized there was a problem with the SA 80 and have taken immediate action to fix it" TWENTY YEARS LATER.
Just a few little things"
You could squeeze the reciever with your fingers and STOP the bolt
Bits fell off the stock if dropped, leading to the name the "Airfix rifle" as tubes of glue were issued to put the bits back on.
the handguards fell off. this was corrected by designing new handguards, but they gave them the SAME part number.
The aforementioned lack of a guard on the mag release button which was rectified by a glued on guard.
Mosquito repellant would melt the stock
The only rifle to suffer a stoppage of a round BEHIND the bolt
The cocking handle was easly bent
The sight had a tendency to fog up under certain conditions. (even a cheap jap scope wouldn't do that)
Magazines were utter trash.
Again the stoppages in sandy conditions. (the L1A1 had sand cuts to stop that.)
Sharp edges on the reciever attracting rust.
A bayonet that was designed by Heath Robinson
Anyway, the MOD had to give it to the germans to fix the bloody thing.
OOPS forgot to mention some batches of ammunition had the primers facing the WRONG way.
I only fired the SA-80 with the .,22 adapter, but even then, there were multiple stoppages.
I suppose it's more reliable now.
However I often wonder why they just didn't downsize the SLR to .5.56, making a nice short reliable rifle,
here it is. sorry couldn't attach it as a word doc so i had to copy and past it.
The Definitive Military Service Calibre and Rifle For the 21st Century - Part 1
By Mike Staples
Hi, my name is Mike Staples and I am an ex Australian Army Fitter Armament or to put it more simply, an Armourer. My experience takes in all Australian Military Weapons including pistols, rifles, SMGs, LMGs, HMGs, Mortars, recoilless rifle, and artillery pieces, as well as mounted guns in our Armoured vehicles that were current at the time of my service. On top of that experience is my love of shooting, which started when I was around 6 years of age and has continued to this day, some 51 years later. I have been asked by Mr. Hawks to write an article on a suitable calibre for a General Purpose Military Rifle (GPMR), and whilst the calibre is important the delivery system, a.k.a. the rifle, is equally so. That being the case, this first article will establish what I feel is a suitable calibre to replace the 5.56mm NATO round, whilst the second part will put forward suggestions on a suitable rifle.
There has been a multitude of cartridges that have been used by the worlds Military Forces, and to compare all of them in the pursuit of the "perfect calibre" for the 21st Century would take many pages and many hours of research. Therefore, I will concentrate on those which have been used by the US, Australia, Great Britain, and NATO Forces in recent history.
Since the Vietnam War there has been a move to make one calibre "the NATO calibre," and at this point in time that calibre is the 5.56mm NATO. The main reason for this, from my perspective, is to make all aligned forces users of this calibre. NATO is a collage of many countries. When NATO forces either take up arms against an aggressor or have become an occupation force on behalf of the United Nations inside a country that has experienced a war or uprising, many soldiers from different countries make up that force. If all used a different calibre in their GPMR, ammunition re-supply would be a nightmare.
The question is then, "What makes a suitable calibre and why?"
The answer to this question will not be easy to establish, as every country and every soldier has a differing opinion. While some like one calibre and one style of rifle, others have trouble accepting those choices. They may prefer to stay with whatever their country uses, as it has become familiar, comfortable and a trusted friend.
I am told by Mr. Hawks and some of my Australian Army friends that there are moves afoot to abandon the 5.56mm calibre. (These may, of course, come to nothing--particularly as they originated with the troops, not the high command. -Ed.) Apparently the U.S. Senate is currently considering a new calibre (the 6.8mm SPC) for use by Special Forces. As the actions of the U.S. military have in the past greatly influenced the NATO countries, it is quite likely that whatever is chosen by the U.S. will eventually become the NATO standard.
Before they do, I would like to bring to the attention of the leaders of the NATO countries a calibre which is not only a suitable upgrade, but that eclipses the two best service rounds yet devised.
To do this I must compare the two standard NATO rounds used today (7.62x51mm and the 5.56mm) with what I consider to be the best choice. I will include in these comparisons the .30-06, a world record holder for all ranges prior to the advent of the .308 Winchester (7.62x51 NATO) and which was, over a number of decades, the U.S. calibre of choice.
The .30-06 was brought out in 1906 to replace the original cartridge for the Springfield rifle of 1903, which initially was chambered for the .30-03 round. Both cartridges fired a .30 calibre bullet, but the '03 had a 220 grain monster and a very long neck to accommodate it. The neck of the '06 case was shortened by .07 of an inch and became the standard military cartridge with a 150 grain spitzer projectile. The '03 and '06 signify the year of first use.
This round was used in every .30 calibre weapon in the US armoury up until the late 1950s. These included the M1 Garand, the BAR and their main LMG, the .30 calibre machine gun. At that time the .30-06 was replaced by the ballistically identical but 10% smaller .308 Winchester (7.62mm NATO) cartridge.
Why they ever abandoned these powerful cartridges, exchanging them for the .223 (5.56mm) "squib" used in the M16 Armalite rifle, is anybody's guess. (The official reasons included reducing recoil and facilitating fully automatic fire. -Ed.) That change, as far as I am concerned, did the US soldier a great disservice. More on that in the second part of this article.
Detailed tables will establish my calibre of choice and the reasons for it. The calibres I will compare in this article are as follows:
(1) .30-06 (US design) - .30 calibre, .308" projectile (military calibre)
(2) 7.62 x 51 (.308 Win.) - .30 calibre, .308" projectile (military calibre)
(3) 5.56mm (.223 Rem.) - .22 calibre, .224" projectile (military calibre)
(4) .270 Winchester - .270 calibre, .277" projectile (civilian calibre)
Before I proceed, I would like to clarify "calibre" and the fact that some projectiles appear to be the same size as the calibre.
Calibre is described as being "bore" diameter (inside bore diameter, ID), which is gauged across the lands of the rifling in the bore of a weapon. The diameter of the projectile is usually equal to the "groove" diameter of the bore, measured across the depth of the groves in the bore (outside bore diameter, OD), or in some cases is slightly bigger than the OD of the bore.
This difference, if the projectile is slightly bigger than the distance across the grooves, is possibly only 1 or 2/1000ths of an inch. This is ordinarily only the case when the projectiles are made from a lead-antimony mixture, as these projectiles are soft enough to deform sufficiently to allow the projectile to fit the barrel. I would suggest that all copper clad (jacketed) projectiles would be the same size as the OD of the bore. To be effective, all projectiles must, at the time of firing, "take" the rifling of the weapon, making a gas tight seal.
Some common examples of this differentiation in calibre are the .308 Winchester and the .243 Winchester. The .308 Winchester is in reality a standard .30 calibre cartridge. .308 rifles have a bore diameter of .300" and a groove/bullet diameter of .308". (Both dimensions are identical to the earlier .30-06 and .300 Magnum.)
The .243 Winchester is a similar case and rifles in this caliber have a groove/bullet diameter of .243". Both the .243 and .308 were named for their groove diameter rather than the more traditional bore diameter. This method of nomenclature became popular after the 1950's and many, but not all, cartridges developed since that time have been named for their groove/bullet diameter.
To arrive at a suitable calibre for a GPMR one must take into consideration the following minimum criteria:
(1) Does the selected calibre have minimal bullet drop at ranges out to a minimum of 400 yards (366 metres)?
(2) Is the complete round suitable for self-loading rifles (in overall length)?
(3) Is the projectile heavy enough to deliver sufficient knock down power (Kinetic Energy) at all ranges out to 400 yards?
(4) Will the trajectory of the projectile be relatively flat when compared with other suitable ammunition?
(5) Is a complete round (i.e. cartridge case + projectile + powder + primer) light enough to allow a soldier to carry a minimum of 300 rounds on his person?
(6) Will the selected calibre and projectile be accurate enough to shoot groups of 5 inches/125mm or less at the stipulated minimum range? (The rifle being used will be a factor here.)
(7) Will the selected calibre and projectile be able to attain velocities of at least 3000 FPS from a self loading service rifle?
The following tables clearly demonstrate what round I feel conforms to the above criteria. The comparison rounds are:
(1) The 5.56mm round, using a 63 grain projectile with a MV of 3200 FPS.
(2) The 7.62 x 51 round, using 168 grain projectile with a MV of 2700 FPS (I do not have detailed tables for a MV of 2650 FPS, so I have used a slightly higher MV to highlight the differences).
(3) The 30.06 round using a 150 grain projectile with a MV of 2700 FPS.
(4) A .270 (6.858mm) round using a new case with the same dimensions as the 7.62 x 51 case, except it is necked down to accept a .277" diameter projectile. (A similar situation to the .243, which uses a necked down .308 case). In European (or modern military) nomenclature this would be a 6.85 x 51mm cartridge. 150 grain bullet at a MV of 3000 FPS.
Note: All projectiles are spitzers (pointed) with boat tail base, as I have no tables for FMJ projectiles. All tables, are based on information, as found in the Sierra Reloading Manual, 2nd edition; Sighting plane is assumed to be 1.5 inches above the axis of the bore; All distances are in YARDS. 1 Imperial Yard = (approx.) 0.9143 metres.
Velocity in feet-per-second (Muzzle, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500 yards)
5.56mm NATO (63 grain): 3200, 2862, 2521, 2198, 1900, 1612
7.62 NATO (168 grain): 2700, 2513, 2333, 2161, 1996, 1839
.30-06 (150 grain): 2700, 2473, 2257, 2052, 1859, 1664
.270 Win. (150 grain): 3000, 2804, 2613, 2429, 2253, 2084
Kinetic Energy in Ft-Pounds (Muzzle, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500 yards)
5.56mm NATO (63 grains @ 3200 FPS): 1432, 1146, 889, 676, 505, 364
7.62 NATO (168 grains @ 2700 FPS): 2719, 2355, 2030, 1742, 1486, 1261
.30-06 (150 grains @ 2700 FPS): 2428, 2037, 1697, 1403, 1150, 922
.270 Win. (150 grains @ 3000 FPS): 2997, 2618, 2273, 1965, 1690, 1446
Bullet Drop from line of bore (at 100, 200, 300, 400, 500 yards)
5.56mm NATO (63 grains @ 3200 FPS): -1.76, -7.79, -19.31, -38.06, -66.51
7.62 NATO (168 grains @ 2700 FPS): -2.37, -10.23, -24.47, -46.14, -76.53
.30-06 (150 grains @ 2700 FPS): -2.41, -10.51, -25.42, -48.60, -81.86
.270 Win. (150 grains @ 3000 FPS): -1.90, -8.22, -19.63, -36.92, -61.05
Bullet Path in Inches at Zero Range of 300 yards (100, 200, 300, 400, 500)
5.56mm NATO (63 grain @ 3200 FPS): +3.68, +4.58, 0.00, -11.81, -33.33
7.62 NATO (168 grain @ 2700 FPS): +4.79, +5.58, 0.00, -13.02, -34.75
.30-06 (150 grain @ 2700 FPS): +5.06, +5.94, 0.00, -14.20, -38.49
.270 Win. (150 grain @ 3000 FPS): +3.36, +4.36, 0.00, -10.25, -27.33
As the above tables clearly demonstrate, the 5.56mm NATO round is as suggested a "squib" and has precious little remaining energy beyond 200 yards compared with the other calibres, and I feel that this is a generous assessment. Its bullet drop characteristics are better than the projectiles of the 7.62 and .30-06, and it shoots flatter than both. But, lacking their knock-out punch, so what?
On the matter of accuracy with the 5.56 NATO round, I would dispel a myth that was rife in Vietnam. That being the projectile "tumbled" or rotated in an ellipse fashion along its axis. This assumption was made by many soldiers because of the damage the projectile could inflict at short range.
The reality is that any sharply pointed FMJ bullet may tumble if it hits something hard enough to destabilize or deform it, a large bone, for example. This tumbling effect has been noted by US troops ever since the adoption of the .30-06 cartridge and its 150 grain spitzer bullet in 1906. It is not unique to the 5.56mm bullet. But often a FMJ bullet will simply drill a bullet diameter hole straight through the target, particularly in soft tissue. The terminal performance of any FMJ spitzer bullet is unpredictable and any result other than a caliber diameter hole cannot be relied on.
Both the .30-06 round and the 7.62 x 51 round perform very well at all ranges out to 500 metres, with sufficient energy to stop most men in their tracks. I read some years ago that a rouge African Elephant was shot and killed at a range of approximately 100 metres with an FMJ 7.62mm NATO round. Before WW II many elephants and other heavy game were killed at fairly close range by .30-06, .303 British, and 8mm Mauser FMJ bullets.
Both the .30-06 and 7.62x51 are very accurate rounds, especially in bolt action or single shot rifles, as their target shooting records attest. There is also the indisputable fact that US snipers in Vietnam (and other theatres since) used the 7.62x51 round very effectively at long range.
I am reliably informed that, whilst the round was a 7.62x51, its similarity to that used in the GPMG M60 and the Australian L1A1 SLR ended there. Each sniper was responsible for handloading their own ammunition and, as their rifles were bolt action repeaters, it's quite possible that different projectiles and powders were used.
One shot kills have been recorded out to ranges of 1200 metres, and that is no mean feat.
I have personally experimented with my Omark single shot, heavy barrel target rifle, which has a Weaver 8 power scope fitted. Using 150 grain Sierra MatchKing HPBTs, IMR-4064 powder and magnum primers I have chronographed projectiles 15 feet from the muzzle at speeds averaging 2900 FPS. I have, on numerous occasions using that rifle and my hand loaded rounds, shot 6 inch groups or better at 800 metres.
If the Australian military and the US Senate are investigating the possible change to a bigger round for their GPMR and section LMGs, then the .30-06 and the 7.62 x 51 rounds should be high on their list.
I would ponder the question, "if they are considering an upgrade of calibre, is that an admission that the 5.56mm round does not stack up against the previously used 7.62x51 NATO round?"
By using the .30-06 and the 7.62x51 cartridges as a bench mark, I have looked for a suitable round that can deliver everything required of a GPMR. The round and calibre are only part of this equation. However, I would point out that once a suitable calibre has been identified a competent rifle can be built around it.
A nearly ideal calibre is the .270 Winchester, which has been around since 1925. The civilian round uses a necked down .30-06 case and has proven to be an excellent hunting calibre. The only problem with this round is its overall length, which can create feed problems in semi-auto and automatic rifles. That being the case, it could cause stoppage problems that can endanger a soldier's life. However, this can be overcome quite simply by the introduction of a new .270 cartridge using the 7.62x51 (.308 Winchester) case.
The .243 Winchester and 7mm-08 Remington cartridges use a necked down .308 case and there is no reason why a new case cannot be made to suit the .277" diameter projectile of the .270. It could be called the .270 Military/NATO or the 6.85x51mm Military/NATO. Its slightly shorter length would overcome feed problems and its overall total weight would make it possible for a soldier to carry upwards of 300 rounds on his person.
The above tables clearly demonstrate that the .270 Winchester calibre outshines the other comparison rounds in all respects and with a slightly lighter (130 grain) projectile in a good rifle, MVs up to 3000 FPS should be achievable.
It is my opinion as an Armourer that kinetic energy and accuracy, at all ranges out to at least 400 yards, should be the base criteria for a calibre suitable for a GPMR. Every time a soldier faces an enemy his target can and does shoot back. Therefore, he must be given every advantage to negate this threat before he or a fellow soldier is killed or wounded.
The figures supplied by Sierra are fairly complex and their calculations are not much better, but the everyday soldier only needs to know the following:
(1) The zero range of his rifle (300 yards/275 metres).
(2) Where he needs to aim to hit his enemy at ranges up to zero range.
(3) The holdover height at ranges beyond zero range, should it be necessary to shoot beyond that range.
(4) He must have an understanding of what kinetic energy is and why it is important to himself as a soldier and the man standing next to him.
(5) Finally he must learn how to estimate distances accurately, unless he has the use of modern range finders or estimators.
In the next article I will marry this round with a tried and proven rifle, which I believe will give our soldiers a decided tactical advantage. It is very necessary for our soldiers to be confident that one round will incapacitate his enemy, without having to throw an entire magazine at him.
The Definitive Military Service Calibre and Rifle For the 21st Century - Part 2
By Mike Staples
Over the last 100 years there have been many rifles, which in their day were considered by the countries using them and the men who carried them in war, as being the best rifle for the job. In the early years most were bolt action repeaters and. in the hands of well trained soldiers, were as good as any of today's rifles. What they may have lacked in rapid fire they made up in their simple action, reliability, accuracy and sturdy construction.
Today however, a soldier¹s rifle is more than just a rifle, it is a "weapons platform." In the past a Section Strength force may have had one Light Machine Gun (LMG) and possibly a submachine gun or two. Today¹s Section would have an LMG and every soldier would be carrying a rifle that is capable of automatic fire and could even have a 40mm grenade launcher slung under the barrel.
For aiming they no longer rely on iron sights and most come standard with an optical sight of some sort. Most can exchange the basic sight with night vision optics, laser optics and other sundry sighting options.
Whilst optical sights are an advancement in terms of the accuracy achieved by the soldier, I wonder if it is a step in the right direction. They can be damaged, they must be kept clean, and any knock can move their zero point. (The same, of course, also applies to iron sights. -Ed.) The optical sight must also be securely fitted to the rifle.
How does a soldier, who may be fording rivers, trekking through impenetrable jungle, or sloshing through mud and the like keep the scope on his rifle from becoming caked in mud or waterlogged? How does a soldier aim his rifle at an enemy if he must first remove the mud that may be caked on the optics?
I realize that military optic sights are quite possibly stronger (in construction) than a civilian telescopic sight. However, they are still an optical sight. That being the case, like a good pair of glasses, they can be damaged. Unless the soldier has a backup, either iron sights or another optical sight, he is immediately at a disadvantage and would be a liability to his fellow soldiers.
Whilst the above may be an unfavorable opinion of optical sights, the gate is already open and the horse has bolted, so reverting to iron sights only would be a step backwards. Optical sights are here to stay and therefore must be made as strong as possible. They should incorporate some form of protection for the optics that will not detract from the soldier's ability to return fire, as quickly as possible, in a contact situation.
If the rumors that are circulating in Australia¹s military forces, as well as those I hear from the States, are true, then there are moves afoot to change the Military or NATO calibre from the 5.56mm round to a larger calibre. To do this successfully a new rifle would be extremely desirable.
Research and development is a costly exercise regardless of what kind it is. I feel that a tried and proven rifle, which is capable of handling a bigger and more powerful calibre, albeit with some modifications, would be the best way to go, as dies and tooling should still be available for this rifle.
In my opinion, as a qualified Armaments Fitter, it was a mistake of huge proportions to abandon the 7.62 x 51mm round and the rifles that were chambered for it. And if a change had to be made, which I doubt, why was a glorified .22 calibre round, chosen? I believe that this move put the lives of many soldiers in danger, as it is imperative that the weapon they carry be able to immobilize or kill an enemy soldier with 1 round, at all ranges out to 500 yards.
The 5.56 round and the rifles that were designed for it should never have been used in warfare, as the round itself does not impart enough energy to the projectile to drop a living target much over 35 kilograms in weight (77 pounds). A man, who may weigh 75 kilograms (165 pounds) or more, is a far more difficult target to kill, especially at ranges beyond 200 yards (183 meters).
The 5.56mm round also has the propensity to deflect on hitting a hard object, i.e. a stone, so how can it be expected to punch a hole through sandbags or logs or other forms of cover, to disable or kill an enemy? True, the round has a very flat trajectory, however unless it is fired from an accurized rifle, this advantage is less important than it might otherwise appear.
As an indication, Australian Forces use the F88 Austeyr rifle/carbine, which the manufacturers suggest can achieve a 60mm group at 50 meters. I consider this to be very poor accuracy in a modern weapon. Ordinary hunting rifles in the same caliber regularly shoot groups of that size at 100 meters!
The primary positive aspect of the rifles chambered for this (5.56mm) round is they are capable of automatic fire. But if it takes 3 or 4 rounds to drop a man at 150 meters, unless it hits a bone with the first round, what good is it?
The definitive GPMR for the 21st century must be chambered for a round that is flatter shooting than the 7.62x51mm NATO round, hits harder than the 5.56mm NATO round, and must be capable of automatic fire.
Modern GPMRs are compact and except for the necessary metal parts, are either made from high impact plastics, carbon fibre composites, or other similar materials. They are very reminiscent of the rifles that many police forces use today. These semi-automatic or automatic weapons may be satisfactory for shooting bad guys in the close confines of inhabited city streets, where the populace must be protected from stray bullets, but they are not good enough for an all-around military rifle.
The rifle a soldier carries into a war zone has to be his best friend. It must, at the very least, be capable of killing or stopping his enemy with 1 round at a variety of ranges. He should not have to rely on 3 or 4 rounds hitting the enemy to stop him from shooting back.
If one of the reasons for the change to 5.56mm was that the soldier could carry more ammo, then this reasoning is flawed. The lighter caliber simply means that a soldier needs to use more than one round to take the enemy out.
The following are the attributes that I consider to be minimum requirements of the perfect GPMR.
1. *Cost should not be a mitigating factor, unless it is way, way out of the ballpark. The front-line soldier must have the best rifle money can buy, as their lives and the lives of their fellow soldiers, depend on it. Its life span should be, at the very least, 75,000 rounds and any mechanical action, which may create stoppages, must be kept to an absolute minimum.
2. *It should be comfortable to use and easy to operate; it must have both, single aimed shot capabilities via a self loading action and a fully automatic setting, for times of close contact with an enemy. Semi-auto fire should be from the closed bolt and closed chamber position. Automatic fire should be from the open bolt and open chamber position, to prevent cook-offs.
3. *Its mechanical operation must be simple and loose minimal MV and energy, when reloading.
4. *It should be gas operated, preferably with a short-stroke piston-style system, not a direct gas to bolt system. Recoil or blow back operation are not options.
5. It should be short enough, to facilitate ease of use in heavy jungle type operations or the close confines of buildings in an urban operation.
6. It should have an optic sight which is easily zeroed, is graduated for all ranges from 50 yards out to 400 yards and which has, at the very minimum, a 40mm exit optic with 4 power magnification. The optimum would be a 3 to 6 variable magnification with a 57mm exit optic (for more light gathering properties).
7. As an optic sight can be damaged, the weapon must have an adjustable iron sight, which can be used with the optic sight attached to the rifle.
8. The optic sight mount must also be able to accept all other sighting equipment, including night vision or low light optics and a sighting system which makes it possible for the rifle to be used with other attachments, i.e. grenade launchers and the like.
9. It must be chambered for a suitable calibre that is conducive to automatic fire, has a flat trajectory and has knockdown power (kinetic energy) similar to or better than, the 7.62x 51 NATO round (see Part 1). Any section or platoon strength LMG should be chambered for the same cartridge.
10. It must not weigh more than 8.5 pounds (3.86 kilograms), fully equipped with its standard sight and a 30 round mag. Making magazines from high impact plastic can save some weight. Making all parts that were previously wooden from a similar material to the magazines or even better, carbon fibre, can reduce weight further.
11. It should be fully ambidextrous or available in both right hand and left-hand versions, as there are enough left handed, left eye dominant people in the military to warrant a left handed weapon.
12. As rust is a problem, the rifle's metal parts, including the barrel, should be made from high quality stainless steel. Whilst the use of stainless steel may increase the unit cost, this will come down if it is adopted as a NATO GPMR. And the extended service life of the weapon will ultimately render it less expensive than an identical weapon manufactured from ferrous metal. External stainless steel parts, if used, can be dull coloured or camouflaged.
13. *It must be accurate out to ranges of at least 400 yards (366 meters), with minimum groups of 6 inches (152mm) attainable at that range. Groupings, at the following ranges, should be considered minimum requirements, 25 yard or 22.85 meters .75"/19mm; 50 yards or 45.7 meters - 1.25"/32mm; 100 yards or 91.4 meters - 2"/50mm.
14. *It should be able to be field striped for cleaning without the use of complex tools. There must be no small parts that are either hard to remove or easily lost when cleaning in the field.
Finally, once issued, the service rifle must remain with that person throughout his/her service life, or until it must be replaced or upgraded. The personal weapon of any soldier must be his or hers to keep from the time they start their training. Only in this manner can they become familiar with it, confident of it, and an expert in its use. Once these things have been achieved, it will become their friend and they will treat it with the respect it deserves.
A rifle which has many of the above attributes (*) already exists and is a tried and proven GPMR and is in fact, considered to be the best battlefield rifle ever made.
The rifle in question, is the Australian, Canadian and British L1A1 7.62x51mm Self-Loading Rifle (SLR), which was made under license from Fabrique Nationale.
This rifle was made under license by a multitude of countries and has been used by as many as 90 since its inception in the 1950s. Some countries still use it to this day, and a great many have been produced over the years.
Research and development is a costly expense when designing and manufacturing any mechanical product and a rifle, in most cases, even more so. That being the case and as tooling and dies would still exist for the L1A1, any adaptations or alterations to take in those criteria not marked with an asterisk (*) would be easily achieved.
The most important alterations would be the engineering to make it fully automatic (safely), the reduction in length and weight, availability of a left hand version, and chambering the rifle for the round as suggested in Part 1 (.270 or 6.85mm).
As an Armament Fitter I have worked on a lot of these rifles over my years in the Army and have rebuilt quite a few. One in particular, whilst I was in Vietnam, was very badly mangled and whilst my boss suggested the "gas axe" solution, I felt that it could be rebuilt, albeit with some radical alterations.
The first problem was the barrel, as it was bent about 25 degrees out of true. By the time I achieved a straight barrel, it had been reduced by around 7 inches and finished approximately .75 of an inch in front of the gas plug. The rest of the repairs involved the body, the gas cylinder, the return spring and tube, the fore end and butt and the front sight.
By the time it was finished, the rifle was some 8.5 inches shorter than standard, with the shortened barrel accounting for much of that reduction. I converted it to fire fully automatic, and it was when I was test firing it that I discovered why it had never been made as an automatic rifle, although we did have an automatic heavy barrel version.
I had put two 30 round mags through it and clipped in a third, only to have it run away on me as soon as I cocked the weapon. The heat generated in the breach was enough to cook-off the rounds before the bolt was fully locked. Since both sears were irrelevant in these circumstances, the rifle continued to fire until the magazine was empty. Luckily this only took about 3 seconds, but it highlighted a very serious problem and one that nagged me for many years.
I also test fired this rifle at 200 meters and found that it was a little more accurate than a standard SLR. However, as I did not have access to a range out to 500 meters, I cannot suggest that it would be so at those ranges. That said and with the advancements in ballistic technology over the last 30 years or so, I feel the original 4 grove barrel with a 1 in 12" twist could be upgraded to a 5 or 7 grove barrel with a 1 in 10" twist by using micro grove technology. These changes would stabilize the smaller length and diameter projectile of the .270 much better.
About a month after this occurred we were modifying our Browning .30 caliber machine guns to fire from the open bolt, open chamber position. I considered doing the same to this particular SLR. However, whilst the idea would solve the problem of cook-offs and make it possible for every Australian SLR to be used fully automatic, the actual mechanical modification was a little harder to envisage.
Over the years many ideas were dismissed and it was not until 16 years after my discharge, and at about the time the SLR was phased out of the Australian Forces, that the penny finally dropped. I had considered this idea whilst still in Vietnam, but had abandoned it as being too simple a solution to the problem. If I had gone with my intuition then, Australian troops might have had access to an automatic rifle in Vietnam and the SLR might still be the Australian GPMR of choice.
As is often the case, the simplest solution to a mechanical problem is usually the best. As the rumors have suggest a change of calibre may be imminent, I have decided to push this conversion of the "old girl" and make it possible for her to be resurrected.
I will not divulge how to achieve these critical modifications, which also includes the barrel, in this article, as they are my intellectual property. However, I would invite those people who are in a position to have some influence on the decision to make the NATO calibre bigger and the companies who would be competing for the contracts to build a new rifle to suit that calibre, to make contact with me via these pages.
Suffice to say, they will save the companies involved millions of dollars in R&D, but more importantly will see what was, arguably, the best battlefield rifle ever made back in the hands of competent soldiers.
No longer will their lives be placed in jeopardy by an ineffectual rifle and cartridge. Instead they will have a rifle which will, with a few rounds, destroy most of the cover their enemy uses in an ambush situation, and which can, with one well aimed shot, take out an enemy at 400 to 500 yards.
The other upside of this is that those countries which still use the SLR, would be walk up customers to have their rifles modified to fire safely on automatic. At the very least they could have them modified to suit the new calibre and round.
We have a saying here in Australia, "If it ain't broke, don't try and fix it." This was the case with the L1A1 SLR, as it was certainly not broken. So why get rid of it for something which was, in my opinion, not a worthy substitute or successor. True, the old girl may have needed some upgrading and modernization, but the basic mechanical foundation of the rifle itself would have gone unchanged.
Whilst the opinions voiced in this article are mine alone, I have found that they are shared by many current and ex-serving members of Australia¹s Defence Forces, who have used both weapons. Also many U.S. veteran soldiers, especially those who have used both the M16 and the M-14 or M1 Garand.
Our experiences in war are invaluable. Maybe the people who instigated the changes to make the NATO standard calibre the 5.56mm round should have talked to us first.
History between our two countries clearly establishes rifle calibres of around .300 inches are best in a war zone, as does many rifles and calibres from opposing forces. The exception to this, even though it is a .303 calibre round, is the 7.62 x 39mm, as used in the various copies and variants of the AK 47. Whilst the AK 47 and Chinese SKS are capable of automatic fire, their useful range is even less than that of rifles chambered for the 5.56mm.
On August 18th 1966, at the Battle of Long Tan, the outcome may have been decidedly different had our forces been armed with the M16 Armalite. The long range and hard-hitting power of the SLR and its 7.62x51mm round made all the difference in that rubber plantation. We were able to engage the enemy at longer ranges, and rubber trees do not offer much protection against a swarm of 168 grain 7.62 projectiles travelling at a MV of 2650 FPS.
108 men from D Company 6 Battalion RAR, assisted by artillery fire from Nui Dat and a troop of APCs from A Sqdn 3 Cav Regiment, held an overwhelming force of VC and NVA forces, estimated at a strength of close to 2,500 men, at bay for 24 hours. We lost 18 good men, with 21 wounded, but the estimated enemy KIA, was in excess of 245, with wounded unknown. Three enemy soldiers were captured.
Much later VC records captured by US forces indicate that the VC & NVA force at Long Tan lost 500 KIA and 750 WIA. This was an overwhelming victory. Documents captured during the war and only released a short while ago suggest that the VC & NVA did everything possible to avoid contact with Australian Soldiers after Long Tan. (MAIN SOURCE: http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-battles/long_tan.htm)
Many Australian soldiers owe their lives to this unique and reliable rifle, and those who serve today deserve a personal weapon that is at least as good as the L1A1 SLR.
The Austeyr and other weapons, which are chambered for the 5.56mm round, do not even come close.
Interesting, I have an australian SLR. it's easier to clean than a M14 (a LOT easier)
The only thing I would change is the rear sight, but it is adequate in it's present state.
Converting to automatic is a BAD idea if one is using the 7.62 round due to the weight. There is a REASON why LMG's are heavier. In any case the only bullet that counts is the one that HITS! Spray and pray may make the soldier feel good, but hitting the bad guy is even better.
I believe the armourer has good intentions, but he is flogging a dead horse.
Ever since the advent of automatic weapons, the job is to establish fire superiority. That is to keep the other fellows head down while you outmanouver him and close to destroy.
Rifle range accurate, heavy hitting weapons are not needed for modern warfare. I do believe the dedicated marksman concept is of worth. Pity the US took so long to match the Soviets. The new AR10 seems worthy.
The widespread use of underslung grenade launchers has made breaching defences easier. No longer do you rely on a couple of belts of mmg to pierce walls and sandbagged positions.
I believe the 6.8 has a lot of merit, but I'm not holding my breath for the changeover. I'd say 10 years down the track perhaps.
Modern optical sights are a huge advantage to the rifleman and permit faster training. Mud and dust clogs iron sights just as bad.
Weapons need to be produced as cheaply and simple as possible. If a weapon breaks - you destroy it and get another. Much cheaper than having fitters flitting about.
Nothing wrong with the AUSTEYR F88 if you maintain it just like all your other kit.