SA80 Assault Rifles, Neil Grant

SA80 Assault Rifles, Neil Grant

Weapon 49

The SA80 family of infantry weapons are amongst the most controversial to enter British service, quickly gaining a reputation for being incredibly unreliable, difficult to maintain and prone to jamming in action. Despite that reputation the rifle version of the weapon has been the main firearm of the British infantry since the mid 1980s and is likely to remain in service for many years to come. 

The account of the development process makes you realise why the original version of the weapon was so badly flawed. The reliability tests were rigged to make sure that most serious failures didn’t count. After the weapon had been approved key components were redesigned to make them cheaper – in one case a solid resin component was replaced with a cheaper plastic one that actually expanded when wet! The attempt to produce an infantry rifle and a light machine gun using most of the same components inevitably caused problems because the two types of weapons have different requirements. The resulting weapon proved to be very unreliable once it entered service, and for about a decade the British Army was left with a rifle and light machine gun that weren’t really fit for purpose. Other major weapons also had problems when they first appeared, but the key problem here was that the MOD refused to admit the problems existed for far too long.

However since then the situation has changed. The book explains the process Heckler & Koch used to produce the A2 version, which solved most of the problems with the rifle and turned it into a reliable weapon (if maintained properly). This version is still in use, and is likely to remain in use for many years, using industrial quality 3D printing to produce new spare parts.

As well as the interesting account of the development of the weapon and its improvements, we also get a look at its use in combat, from the rather unpromising baptism of fire in the First Gulf War to its more recent successes, along with the rules of engagement that provide a framework for how it can be used. The section on future plans for the weapon is also of great interest, showing how modern technology has altered the design process for future weapons. Overall this is a useful guide to a weapon that has been around for a lot longer than I realised!

Chapters
Introduction
Development
Use
Impact
Conclusion

Author: Neil Grant
Edition: Paper
Pages: 80
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2016


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