UK Royal Marines call for rifle improvements

Ahead of September’s 7th Annual Infantry Weapons conference in London, the UK Royal Marines have expressed dissatisfaction with the standard issue SA80 A2 in the hopes that government and industry step in to provide better solutions.

Commandos operating on the frontline of Afghanistan have told Defence IQ that although the SA80 assault rifle has improved greatly since its first introduction to British Armed Forces, the weapon is more ideal for conventional forces than for specialised forces more likely to engage at close quarters. The full article is available on the Infantry Weapons website.

Insiders, many of whom have seen action in Helmand within the past year, have quietly criticised the rifle’s 5.56 mm calibre ammunition as being too small to effectively defeat a target with a single round and occasionally find themselves vulnerable to a counter attack from wounded insurgents.

In addition, the rifle "rattles", causing a problem for covert operations, requires duct tape to prevent it from clogging with dust, and lacks the manoeuvrability of other modern assault rifles such as the Diemaco C8.

A source explained that today’s Commandos would much rather have a 7.62 mm rifle familiar to Special Forces. Problematically, the 7.62 sharpshooters that can switch to a short-barrel mode are currently available only to one or two troops per section but are themselves underperforming due to an inadequate magazine.

"The weight versus the rounds isn’t really an issue. A twenty round magazine weighs exactly the same as a thirty round magazine for the SA80, so that’s trade-off they’re willing to make. Twenty rounds in that sharpshooter is not enough, especially at close-quarters. That’s a massive limitation of that weapon system," said the source.

Problems with Royal Marine equipment is not often discussed for two reasons, according to the troops. For one, direct operational feedback is rarely sought by programme managers, while the Commandos themselves pride themselves on a culture of no complaints.

Defence IQ is hosting Infantry Weapons 2013 at the Copthorne Tara Hotel in London (September 24 – 26) and will be assessing how these issues effect global forces with input from industry specialists and senior military weapons system representatives, including those from the UK, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Norway, France, and Poland.

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