It was proposed to change the coating of parts experiencing stress in friction. It was also proposed to change the body of the weapon itself in order to increase its mechanical strength, and this will be achieved by changing its shape, which in production means only replacing the stamping cliche. In addition, the trigger mechanism of the weapon was also changed, so the trigger stroke length was changed, as well as the shape of the trigger itself. In addition, it was proposed to install a new flame arrester and replace the standard sight. In general, these changes cannot be called serious work on the modernization of weapons; nevertheless, the rifle’s reliability and durability should increase significantly. However, this can only be judged after the weapon has proven itself on the battlefield. In the meantime, I propose to plunge into the world stories and see where this rifle came from, and what options could be beside it. In general, a brief historical excursion on the history of automatic rifles, which were in service with the army of Great Britain or at least claimed the place and were deservedly (or unfairly) refused.
In the 50 of the last century, the British army abandoned the EM-2 caliber .280 rifle, and switched to a new L1A1, which in its essence was a slightly modified FN FAL rifle chambered for 7,62, manufactured in England under license. This rifle was in service for quite a long time and fully met all the requirements, perhaps no one would have thought about replacing it if it hadn't blown the “wind of change”, which brought the rumor that NATO would switch to a new ammunition of smaller caliber. Having quickly realized what was the matter and how much money could be earned on this, the designers of Great Britain began to develop a new ammunition. The result of their work was the cartridge 4,85х49, which, despite the rather ridiculous almost “pneumatic” caliber, retained its effectiveness at a distance of up to 1000 meters, and the effectiveness was not paper, but real. The weight of a thin, but long bullet was equal to 3,11 grams, it could accelerate to speeds of 900-950 meters per second, which asked her kinetic energy almost under 1400 Joule. But the large total length of the cartridge, and its weight made this ammunition unclaimed. Despite this, high efficiency was noted, and if it were not for the United States in the role of Baba Yaga, which, as we know, is always against, then this very long cartridge could have become the standard of NATO. As a result, as long as there were disputes which cartridge was better created and weapons for the new English ammunition - an automatic rifle from the SA-80 system, which, in fact, was still the same EM-2, but under the new cartridge. The matter even reached the final test of weapons, as a result of which ... Britain surrendered and accepted the 5,56 cartridge, abandoning both its ammunition and weapons for it, and all the time and money spent on it. But those who are interested in the history of weapons of Great Britain will not be very surprised by this turn of events, the fact is that this is not the first or the last example when money flies into the pipe, apparently, such is the fate of all who want to stand out and fight off the herd, let them, even while creating really interesting and promising models of weapons.
The military name of the test rifle was XL 64E5. The weapon at that time even turned out to be arrogant and, not knowing what kind of animal it is, it can easily be confused with some of the latest weapons, however, the lack of a large amount of plastic in the design of the rifle still gives the real age of the weapon. The rifle automatics were built, of course, on the principle of removing some of the powder gases from the barrel, locking took place when the bolt was turned, in general, despite its layout, this rifle was very similar in design to the AR-18. It was also interesting that the bolt grappled with the barrel for the chamber, which reduced the load when shooting on the receiver. Not the last question was the fact that the production of weapons was adjusted with minimal costs, so virtually all the parts were made by stamping, of course, except for the barrel, bolt and bolt, which significantly reduced the cost of weapons. But, as it was already written above, this “toy” did not go into the series.
When it became clear the complete failure of their own ammunition and weapons to it, it was decided to at least partially offset the costs of developing weapons and adapt the rifle chambered for 5,56. The final version of the weapon was presented only in the 1984 year, and it should be noted that it turned out to be not so bad as it could have been, after all the ammunition is the basis, and here it was replaced. The new name of the weapon looked like the XL 70E3. At the root, the new rifle didn’t differ from the previous version, except for ammunition. But a change of cartridge is both a design left without fundamental changes and a complete change in the characteristics of the weapon, so there seem to be few differences, but the parameters are different. The positive qualities of the new rifle were: high reliability even in adverse conditions; ease of maintenance; low cost of production. In this model, immediately provided for the possibility of installing a grenade launcher, which was not in the first version of the weapon. They also made it possible to use wall grenades, which, even in those times, was already somewhat outdated design ideas. Not without a bayonet in this weapon, despite its layout. The bayonet knife itself is not of particular interest, but its sheath had many functions, so they were adapted to cut the wire when combined with the bayonet, and also had a built-in sharpening bar and a small file and most importantly - they had a corkscrew. The changes also affected the weapons shop, whose capacity has become one and a half times larger - 30 cartridges. The rifle was equipped with a SUSAT L9A1 optical sight, and in case of a fourfold sight failure there was a reclining front sight and diopter rear sight at a distance of 200 and 300 meters, which was removable and was stored in the pistol grip of the weapon. Also, for firing in the dark, a four-time KITE night-sight sight could be installed, with a “paper” target recognition capability at a distance of 600 meters.
As noted above, the rifle is built according to a scheme with the removal of powder gases from the bore of the weapon. The gas regulator had three positions: normal opening, wide opening, and also full closure, which is necessary for using barrel grenades. The short stroke gas piston has a separate return spring; as it moves, it opens 4 openings in the gas chamber, through which excess powder gases are removed, which increases the durability of the weapon. The barrel is locked when the bolt is turned to the right, the bolt carrier itself moves along two guide rods fixed in the receiver. There is also a third rod, but it only works as a guide for the return spring. The shutter release handle is located on the right side of the weapon. The trigger mechanism of the weapon is made of a separate prefabricated element, fastened with two pins, and is also held by the butt plate. The translator of the fire regime is located very far from the pistol grip, behind the weapon shop, apparently the calculation is that control will be made with his left hand. Such a rifle was the XL 70E3, better known after being put into service as the L85A1. By the way, about the price of this weapon. One rifle in the 600 $ cost without a telescopic sight, the telescopic sight separately cost the 120 $, the price for a sight with a night-vision device is unknown at that time. Also, on the basis of this rifle, the L22A1 carbine was developed, which was proposed for armament of the crews of armored vehicles, but because of the configuration of the bullpup and the short barrel, the carbine very "threw" up when fired, because it remained only as a prototype. The same fate befell the "training" version of the weapon, which was deprived of the possibility of automatic fire, and was also planned for sale to athletes and hunters. True, a small amount of these weapons still leaked to the market.
Naturally, it was not without negative points in this weapon. So, along with those "diseases" that are inherent in the bullpup layout as an impossibility of firing from the left shoulder due to the location of the window for ejection of spent cartridges in the immediate vicinity of the shooter’s face, it is not quite the usual and in this case not quite convenient arrangement of controls and so on. The weapon has a rather impressive weight in the 4,2 kilogram, although this can be considered a plus, since it is because of the weight that the high stability is maintained when firing with the barrel with a normal length. Also, in the layout, the bulpap is not quite at the location of the handle for releasing the bolt to the extreme rear position, since for this you have to hold the weapon with your left hand for the shank, which is not very convenient provided the center of gravity is shifted very strongly back. It is noteworthy that initially the pen was placed on the left side for the 4,85 chuck, and in the version for 5,56 it was planned on the same place, but the Ministry of Defense insisted on its location. In 1986, a rifle version was proposed in which it provided for the overlap of the reflection path of the spent cartridges, which allowed the use of weapons when firing from both the right and left shoulders without significant inconvenience, but the innovation was never approved and did not receive "good" from above. In view of the presence of all these problems, it was decided to upgrade the weapon, however, the implementation of the solution to this problem was constantly postponed indefinitely.
In principle, the fact that the modernization of weapons was constantly postponed is quite understandable, since later, after the announcement of the amount spent on this, all the hair becomes “peacefully”. Total 36 was spent millions of dollars, and the final modernization of weapons in the army ended only in the year 2000. Of course, that attempts to partially eliminate the shortcomings were before the decision was made to upgrade weapons. So, for example, it was proposed to combine a fire interpreter and a fuse switch, which turned out to be quite difficult at that time, changed the trigger forum, the shutter handle, and so on, but it was all marking time. The final decision on global modernization was made only after the weapon showed its flaws in Operation Desert Storm, precisely on the basis of a report on all the flaws in the L85A1 automatic rifle and the weapons modernization specification was created that included an 32 item. But we will not pass on all of them. In fact, these were all the same wishes that they tried to implement before global modernization. So, for example, the flame arrester was changed, which raised dust pillars when firing from the prone position, separate parts joints were strengthened, which increased the durability of the weapon and so on, that is, there were no global changes, but the weapon was just refined. After the modernization of the rifle and its delivery to the troops from Afghanistan, malicious letters were sent in which complained about the reliability of the weapon and its main combat parameters. It is noteworthy that the reason for this was simply the inability to handle the rifle, and after changing the training program, all complaints abruptly stopped. In general, this moment in the history of weapons seems to me, if not dark, then very vague. This is what needs to be done with a weapon so that it turns from a reliable into an unreliable one, and it also shoots like anyhow? In general, whether the soldiers were armless and tight, or the weapon is so whimsical, if "quietly" was not carried out another modernization.
In conclusion, to all this I would like to note another interesting fact. Initially, the price of a weapon with an optical sight was equal to 720 dollars, after upgrading one rifle became worth 1700 dollars, and there were no fundamental changes in it. Although with the weapons that were adopted in Britain there were always some “miracles” that were incomprehensible to the rest of the world. Suffice it to recall the Bren machine gun, which appeared in the middle of a competition from another country, and also initially used ammunition that did not meet the requirements of the competition. In general, England is really a very "foggy" territory on the blue ball, which is our planet.