On the previous page I have mentioned the SA80's reliability problems and the tactical liability of the design
To recap, even if the reliability problems are solved the fact that the SA80 can only be fired from the right shoulder means that Soldiers firing around the left side of cover are fully exposed to counter fire. According to BBC news:-
'Junior defence minister Lewis Moonie said the MoD had considered buying a new rifle, but concluded that modification represented "the most effective solution" to providing a weapon that worked in all conditions.
In a Commons written reply, he told MPs the Army planned to continue using the SA80 until 2020. '
Just what is "most effective" about unnecessarily risking Soldier's lives?
The H&K modifications to the rifle are costing £400 per weapon and do not solve the tactical problems. (And the weapons still have problems -see Update, top of page.) That's $640-720, considerably more than the US army replacement value for its M16s -$586. It's also more than the over the counter price of a AR-180B.
The only honourable thing for the MOD to do is admit that a mistake has been made and take steps to rectify it immediately.
My friend Ed commented that if you are going to adopt a new weapon, you might as well have something more advanced. Usually I'd agree but we need a new rifle tomorrow, not in seven years' time. We need it before any more servicemen die unnecessarily.
What I suggest is to buy a new off the shelf pattern of rifle. I'd suggest the M16, since it is a proven design and already in service with the SAS, Mountain and Arctic Warfare cadre and jungle stationed units. If we want to keep the money within the commonwealth we can buy them off Canada. There may be political reasons for not using the M16 some idiot is bound to claim it as further proof we are the 51st state. If that is the case I suggest the AR-18 in its new "B" configuration. For several years the AR-18 was manufactured in the UK as the Sterling Assault Rifle. Sterling have now folded, but the AR-18 was designed to be simple to manufacture so this would favour domestic manufacture, creating jobs. The remaining L85A2s will be kept for introductory marksmanship, carrying on route marches, basic training and other non-combat roles. Ed believes many American Gunbugs will actually buy anything, and SA80s and LSWs might prove popular. The LSW might prove a useful varmint or target rifle:-
I've suggested that the AR-18 should be adopted with a 16" barrel to make it handier for room clearing operations. The civilian configuration AR180B has a fixed stock which is integral to the polymer receiver bottom. This part would need to be changed to accomodate selective fire mechanisms, and while this is being done the military receiver bottom could incorporate a side-folding stock like the original AR 18 models. The AR 18 side folding stock gives a far more compact package than the telescopic stocks of the M16 or M4. A 19" barreled AR-18 with the stock folded may be shorter than a M4. True a gun with the stock folded is going to be less accurate, but is this really a practical problem when the foe is less than twenty feet away? With the stock folded the AR-18 can be used with the centreline snap firing methods detailed on this page.
Another feature to incorporate into a new receiver lower would be stripper clip guide rails moulded into the front of the magazine well. The AR-18 stock appears to be pretty robust looking, but the hinge unit may need to be looked at to ensure that it withstands hard use during CQB. The British version of the FAL, the L1A1 SLR was offered with a selection of stocks accommodate different body sizes- Gurkhas tend to be smaller than Guardsmen. The AR-18 stock could be designed to accept a range of inserts or spacers. These should be easily removable to adjust for winter clothing etc.
Another feature that may need to the changed over the civilian model would be the scope-mounting bracket, which should be compatible with the current issue SUSAT optical scope if not already the case. A selective fire version of the AR180B could also incorporate features such as the High-cyclic Two-round burst and two-stage selective trigger.