Image: British Army.
A soldier from Royal Netherlands Marine Corps aims a SA80 A2 assault rifle during unilateral training. Credit: US Army / Kaye Richey (Released).

The SA80 A2 L85 is a 5.56mm gas-operated assault rifle manufactured by Heckler & Koch. It is a member of the SA80 family of assault weapons and serves the British Armed Forces as individual weapon (IW) and light support weapon (LSW).

The SA80 series of rifles entered service with the British Army in 1985. The SA80 family underwent a major mid-life update in 2002, during which the SA80 A1 rifles were upgraded to the SA80 A2 standard.

The British Army’s SA80 A2 is being phased out to pave the way for SA80 A3. The upgraded version minimises its visual and infra-red spectrums. It is more resistant to abrasion, and comes with a new handguard that supports the upper receiver while improving the precision and accuracy of the weapon system.

SA80 A2 L85 assualt rifle design and features

The selective fire gas-operated design of L85A2 incorporates a bullpup layout with magazine and firing mechanism behind the trigger group. The rifle’s automation is provided by combusted powder gases. The gas is fed into a short-stroke gas piston system on the barrel through a three-position adjustable gas regulator.

SA80 A2 has an overall length of 785mm and barrel length of 518mm. The weight of the rifle with loaded magazine and optical sight is 4.98kg. The muzzle velocity of the rifle is 940m/s. It has a cyclic rate of fire of 610 to 775 rounds per minute. The SA80 A2 can effectively engage targets within a 400m range.

The rifle features a revolving cylindrical bolt integrating locking splines, an extractor and casing ejector. The rotation of the bolt is ensured by a cam pin. The fire-control lever allows the operator to select semi-automatic fire or fully automatic fire. The flash suppressor on the barrel acts as a base for mounting grenades and a blank-firing adaptor or a bayonet.

L85A2 is fitted with a heavier and longer barrel for achieving greater muzzle velocity than the SA80 rifle base model. The SA80 A2 can also be mounted with AG-36 40mm Underslung Grenade Launcher (UGL) and EO Tech Holographic sight. The under-barrel grenade launcher weighs about 1.49kg. The UGL will allow the forces to fire effective fragmenting munitions up to a range of 350m.

Magazines of SA80 A2 L85

The L85A2 is fed by three types of 30-round magazines, including a plastic Magpul EMAG (Export Magazine) and two types of standard metal magazines. The EMAG was introduced in 2010 as an urgent operational requirement to replace the steel STANAG 4179 magazine.

In September 2010, Level Peaks Associates was awarded a £13m ($21m) contract to deliver more than a million Magpul EMAGs to the UK Ministry of Defence. EMAG is over 40% lighter than the other existing magazines issued for the SA80 A2 rifle.

The EMAG is also provided with an easily detachable cover to offer protection against dust and sand. The magazine has a clear window showing the ammunition left in the magazine. It ensures  operators maintain sufficient levels of ammunition at critical points in battle.

SA80 A2 L85 SUSAT, ACOG and CWS sights

The SA80 A2 L85 is mounted with a SUSAT (Sight Unit Small Arms Trilux) telescope and a Common Weapon Sight (CWS). The SUSAT optical sight on a quick-detachable mount above the receiver is equipped with a fixed four times magnification and tritium-powered illuminated reticle. Back-up iron sights are also mounted on the body of SUSAT.

The SA80 rifle used by the non-operating military units is fitted with fixed iron sights integrating a flip rear sight and a post foresight. The rifles used by the British Armed Forces are also equipped with the Trijicon Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG) in place of SUSAT.

The UK Ministry of Defence preferred Elcan SpecterOS 4x lightweight optical day sight under the Future Integrated Soldier Technology (FIST) programme. The new sight will replace ageing SUSAT units across the British Armed Forces.

L85A2 was provided with new adaptor to mount the new sight, while the SpecterOS sight is equipped with an illuminated reticle