Saturday, July 2, 2011

France and Britain

While the British L96A1 PM sniper rifle enjoys an excellent reputation, this cannot be said for the L85A1 rifle - the British soldier's issue rifle. The French FAMAS has had its critics too, but it is in wider use around the world. The French FR F2 sniper rifle is well regarded, but lacks the unique features of the L96A1.

In 1967, development started on the Fusil d'Assaut de la Manufacture d'Armes de St Etienne or FAMAS. The new weapon was designed to replace both the MAS Mle 49/56 semi-automatic rifle and the veteran MAT-49 submachine gun. Paul Tellie, who headed the design team, came up with a radical design. The first prototype was completed in 1971, trialled in 1972-3 and adopted by the French Army in 1978. It has a delayed blowback action, and although the magazine can hold 30 rounds it is normally loaded with 25 rounds. On automatic it fires at 900-1,000 rpm. The FAMAS has an effective range of 300m/330yd. It has been exported to Djibouti, Gabon, Senegal and the UAE. The FAMAS G2 is intended for export, takes the 3-round M16-type magazine and is rifled for M193 or SSI09 ammunition.
The French F1 FAMAS is a comfortable weapon to fire with its built-in bipod and ambidextrous cocking handle. It is in service with the French armed forces as well as those of Djibouti, Gabon, Senegal and the United Arab Emirates.

The L85A1 rifle SA80
In the late 1960s, the British Army realized it required a new rifle and began the development of the Small Arms for the 80s, or SA 80 system. The system was concentrated on two systems: the Individual Weapon, or SA80 IW and the Light Support Weapon, or LSW The LSW was mechanically similar to the SA80 but had a bipod and longer barrel.
Gurkha soldiers armed with the L85A1 rifle and LSW negotiate with Indonesian Special Forces in East Timor in September 1999. The Indonesians are armed with an M16 and a Chinese-made SKS.

The L85A1 rifle that finally reached the soldier was not well received. Although it was chambered for 5.56mm, it was the heaviest weapon in this calibre in service. Being a bullpup design, the rifle had a long barrel, but with most of the weight located towards the butt this did not help to control muzzle climb during automatic fire. In the upgrade programme undertaken by Heckler & Koch in 2000-02, about 200,000 rifles were upgraded into the L85A2 configuration out of a total of about 320,000 original L85A1 rifles produced. The rifle is gas-operated with a rotating bolt. It has a 30-round box magazine and a cyclic rate of fire of 650 rpm. In general, the best feature of the L85 is its SUSAT x4 telescopic sight, which allows for accurate shooting out to 500m/550yd.

The L96A1 PM (Precision Marksman) sniper rifle
The Accuracy International, Bolt Action 7.62 x 51mm NATO sniper rifle entered service with the British Army in 1985 and was given the designation L96. With a ten-round box magazine, it is designed to achieve first-round hit at 600m/660yd and harassing fire out to 1,100m/1,200yd. The L96 was upgraded with a new sight and spotting scope to L96A1. The infantry version of the rifle has 6 x 42 Schmidt & Bender telescopic sights as well as iron sights. A covert version of the rifle folds down to fit into a suitcase and is fitted with a suppressed barrel. In ideal conditions the subsonic ammunition is accurate up to 300m/330yd.

Among the distinctive features of the L96A1 are a tool kit of three Allen wrenches and a screwdriver, which means the sniper is able to carry out all but the most major repairs by himself in the field, and a stainless-steel barrel that can be changed in five minutes. The L96A1 is in service with the British Army and with several armies in Africa, the Middle East and Far East.

The FR F2 sniper rifle
The French Army FR F2 sniper rifle is a modernized version of the earlier FR Fl. The main differences are that it has been re-chambered from 7.5mm Lebel to 7.62x51mm NATO and the barrel design has been changed. FR F2 has a thermal-shielded barrel consisting of a polymer envelope enclosing most of the barrel. This ensures ballistic consistency, since the barrel stays at the same temperature, and it reduces the infrared signature and any heat haze from hot metal that could interfere with target location. FR F2 is a bolt-action weapon with iron sights and a x4 optical sight; it has a ten-round box magazine. It has been in service with the French Army since 1984.

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