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Thread: Taking Back The Infantry Half-km: Britainís L129A1

  1. #1
    Guns Network Lifetime Membership 01/2011 old Grump's Avatar

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    Taking Back The Infantry Half-km: Britainís L129A1

    Jun 08, 2010 17:51 EDT

    If fighting in Iraq was mostly about Close Quarters Battle, experience on the ground in Afghanistan is driving home the opposite imperative: marksmanship and lethality at range. US studies like the influential ďTaking Back the Infantry Half-KilometerĒ are driving that point home, and the trend is leading to shifts like fielding more 7.62mm M240 machine guns in place of 5.56mm M249 Minimis, and doubling the number of 7.62mm M14 EBR rifles per infantry squad to 2.

    The British are facing the exact same pressures. After a very poor start, their 5.56mm SA80/ L85 bullpup assault rifles have been improved by an H&K redesign. That may help with jamming and reliability, but it doesnít change the 5.56mm roundís fundamental ballistic characteristics, like its notable drop-off in lethality beyond 300 meters.

    The Competition, and the Winner
    In December 2009, The UK Ministry of Defence issued an initial GBP 1.5 million urgent operational requirements contract that would offer its troops a semi-automatic 7.62mm rifle with excellent accuracy, whose rate of fire and robustness made them usable within infantry squads, not just by specialized sniper teams. It had to demonstrate lethality in the 500-800 meter range, which is not uncommon in Afghanistan.

    UK Ďsharpshooterí soldiers remain chosen men, who must complete a marksmanship course but are expected to conduct the full range of infantry tasks, and are considered a grade below sniper. Britainís new L115A3 .338/ 8.59mm sniper rifles left a lot of spare bolt-action L96s for sharpshooters to use, but that isnít a suitable choice in the kinds of firefights patrolling soldiers experience.

    The winning ďL129A1Ē is gas-operated semi-automatic weapon with a 20-round magazine. Its single-piece upper receiver has free-floating, quick-change barrels available in 305 mm, 406 mm and 508 mm. The standardizing ďPicatinny RailsĒ on the top, bottom, and sides allow a wide variety of attachments, from sights to flashlights to grips, that can be replaced in the field with only basic tools. At 5 kg/ 11 pounds, itís close to the loaded weight of an SA80A2.

    Janeís reports that 7.62mm competitors included H&Kís 417, the FN-SCAR 17 used by US Special Forces, and Law Enforcement Internationalís winning LM7 design. Janeís added that Sabre Defense Industries had also entered the competition, but did not specify whether the product was a 7.62mm weapon. Sabreís weapons, like its M5, publicly offer only 5.56mm, or 6.5mm Grendel options.

    While intermediate calibers like 6.5mm Grendel and 6.8mm SPC offer far superior ballistics with the same magazines as 5.56mm weapons, the pressures of standardization have kept them out of the field. A MASS contract under Britainís long-term ammunition supply agreement may tweak the 5.56mm roundís performance, but it doesnít offer the step change required. The choice of heavier 7.62mm rifles and less ammunition carried, or 5.56mm rounds with less range and penetration but more rounds carried, remains.
    Old but I just came across it. I have my own ideas but more interested to hear your take on their choices.

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  2. #2
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    Forum Administrator Schuetzenman's Avatar

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    I seem to recall Saber Defense got shut down by BATFE for gun smugeling.

  4. #4
    The MK-14 is a stop-gap item with limited life. However I do like to point out the MK-14 has been in service almost as long as the original M-14.

    The HK417 is probably a great gun (I'm not an HK fanboy but I'm not a hater either) but I don't see this design as offering anything special, particularly for this role. (I do however understand why their 10.5" 416s are popular with the doorkickers).

    The SCAR 17 has a very impressive weight which is hard to understate but it's got a stubby little rail which would be lengthened for the SSR at the cost of additional weight (the SSR would also have a heavier barrel which would of course add weight too). It's dogged by reports of a wandering zero (though I personally suspect it's an AAC suppressor issue rather than a rifle issue, but that's just a guess on my part).

    The L115A3 is the cat's ass for true long range shooting but it's not really fit for the role of squad DMR.

    The LMT MWS .308 or L129A1 is a really nice gun which uses the KAC SR-25 ambi-lower and match trigger. Because it uses the KAC lower it takes the excellent .308 pmags. The SOPMOD stock isn't the best choice since it's easy to collapse accidently when shooting prone (a popular fix is to replace it with a magpul ACS). The ERGO grips aren't terribly popular either but again are easily replaced. The quick change barrels is a nice feature and even the basic chrome-lined barrel offers impressive accuracy (the l129 uses the SS 5R barrel which is even more accurate). The biggest downside to this rifle is it's weight. It's not as bad as the MK-14 but it's almost 10 pounds empty and that goes up more when you start putting gear on it. A lot of the weight is in the heavier barrel and very large barrel extention. I noticed LMT has a second generation of uppers with some material removed so it looks like they're interested in shedding weight.

    Personally I think that with a nice 1-8 power optic the LMT is almost the ideal "do everything" rifle. I really want to like the scar but currently feel it gets it's most desirable feature of low weight at the cost of questionable consistency and an unreasonably short rail.

    I think the Brits made a good choice and the soldiers seem to really like them.

    Last edited by Starvin; 06-11-2011 at 11:19 PM.

  5. #5
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    I like the looks of the SCAR, but it doesnt seem to be up to all the hype so far and the cost of the rifle is a bad joke. The LMT seems to be a great 1 does most. The M14 is a sweet rifle system as well, from what I understand the M14 requires a confident gunsmith when being worked on. The AR series dont as much. The rifles in the pics look similar to my AR10.
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  6. #6
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    They could have saved a lot of time, trouble and money by pulling some L1A1s out of armory and issuing them.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Penguin's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bluntforce View Post
    They could have saved a lot of time, trouble and money by pulling some L1A1s out of armory and issuing them.
    If I am not mistaken most of those were destroyed.
    Doobie Doobie Doo..

  8. #8
    Why go backwards when you can go forwards?

    The FAL was a great battle rifle (in it's day) but it needs a lot of love and work to make it a half-decent precision rifle.

    The Brits would have sunk as much money into making the old SLRs work for the new mission as they did buying the relatively inexpensive L129s and the SLRs would have been a nightmare for the armorers.

    This is the same reason why the Mk-14 is being phased out in favor of the various SR-25 iterations. It was a stop-gap using old tech until the new gear arrived.


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