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(courtesy reports that UK troops charged with protecting the country’s nukes have switched from the home-grown SA80-A2 rifle to Canada’s DIEMACO C8-CQB, a modified M4 produced by Colt Canada.‘s entry on the SA80-A2 reveals that the “first five years of this rifle’s service were disastrous.” It doesn’t get much better from there . . .

Specific complaints included: the poor quality plastic furniture fell apart and the gun was damaged easily; the magazine release catch was easily knocked accidentally and dropped the magazine; the catch on the housing over the gas mechanism was too weak and constantly popped open, so it had to be taped down; only 26–28 rounds could be loaded in a magazine because the springs were weak, and it also had to be kept very clean and the lips checked for dents; the LSW had a small magazine capacity for its role and overheated after 120–150 rounds fired in bursts; the weapons were difficult to strip and reassemble, with the gas plug easily jamming in place and requiring an armorer to remove; and ergonomic issues related to the safety catch, cocking lever, and the location and stiffness of the fire selector switch.

Now how much would you pay? Well, the UK blessed H&K with £400 per rifle to “remanufacture” 200k SA-80’s. I make that £80m ($112,444,000 at current exchange rates). And yet the UK nuke police still don’t want ’em. Huh.

Back in 2013, we reported that the UK Royal Marines’ Swap SA80 A2 for C8 Diemaco. So, right answer — without getting into the usual caliber debate. Anyway, disarmed Brits should sleep better at night knowing their thermonuclear weapons are being defended by troops with Canadian guns. At a base identified on the map above.

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  1. SA-80 is a well known disaster. Mostly mitigated by now, but the result is just workable, nothing to boast about (and heavy).

    I predict that UK will switch to either Diemaco C7/8, or to H&K 416, within a decade. 416 especially seems to be the platform that many Western countries looking to upgrade seem to be coalescing upon.

      • It doesn’t matter. HK 416 is “good enough”; it doesn’t need to be perfect. With every new country that adopts it, the ones still on the fence have one more reason to follow suit.

        Even US is already on that path, when you consider that M27 IAR and G28 are both from that same family. I think it’s only a matter of time now before M4 is replaced by an HK as well – not even for any particular perf improvements, but just to simplify logistics by consolidating things.

        • Good enough, it certainly is. I’m just grateful that the IAR and the new CSASS are AR variants, not HK originals. Stoner and ideas from American businesses (bolt catch, mag catch, charging handle and whatever gizmos) took care of the ergonomics aspect.

          The piston system is, thankfully again, a less complicated design than what HK habitually put in their pistols. But barring logistics, I’d take an LWRC (or an improved and proven MCX, for its lightweight and lack of a buffer tube, which is a weak link that breaks with abuse) any day.

        • I’m not an expert on it, but based on what I’ve heard, the gas system in HK 416 is a direct derivative of that in G36, which is itself a copy of AR-18. So you could say that HK 416 is incestuous offspring of AR-15 (bolt and bolt carrier, and its interface with the receiver) and AR-18 (gas system).

        • Funnily enough the SA80 is operating mechanism is also modeled on the AR18 as manufactured by Sterling Arms in the UK, plenty of good reliable assault rifles around, its the ball cartridge in a short barrel that concerns me, its like stabbing someone with a knitting needle, needs a bit more oomph.

        • @Murray
          223 is not bad if the velocity is there (READ: close range, even closer for a 10″ bbl). Fragmentation and yawing are luxuries, it’s great when they are there. When they’re not, temporary cavity caused by *high* velocity is also devastating (that’s why a sane person would take a 308 rifle over a 380ACP any day).

          Yknow, tradeoffs. Lightweight, low recoil, flat shooting, but there’s always a catch

    • After the G36, everyone should be very wary of any military arm sold by HK. They marketed and mass produced a design they knew or should have known would fail in the field.

      Can’t believe they are still getting contracts.

    • It all depends on the bullet. If you’re going to use the usual FMJ ammo that mostly relies on fragmentation to make more damage than a .22 caliber hole would do, 10″ won’t work very well. But Barnes TSX 62gr, for example, will reliably expand out of a 8″ (!) barrel out to 170 yards or so (its expansion threshold is 1800 FPS). For a 10″ barrel, you’re looking at ~230 yards for expansion.

  2. 900rounds per minute?!? Sure….I guess. If you’re not concerned about what you’re hitting. 29 mag changes in a minute?

  3. There’s actually been several articles in the British press in the past few months citing serious problems with several of the UK troops weapons systems. there’s been a typical cost cutting measure in place to take belt fed SAWs and 60mm mortars out of the platoon level and in some cases, out of the TO&E altogether in favor of more multi-purpose infantry weapons. The whole bullpup phenomenon seems to be losing steam in many of the world’s militaries. Too complex and heavy due to the extra linkages required to work the action from the rear mounted magazine.

  4. So a mark 18 wannabe? Okay. As previously stated, how long until they claim DI is broken and move to the 416?

    • Yes, those flash suppressors were major factors in every active shooter incident in the past 10 years. Without flash suppressors and a forward grip the body count would surely have been much lower.

  5. ARs and Glocks are the best bang for the buck. The UK military seems to be figuring that out lately with this problem and the adoption of Glock 17s.

    • Ben, truer words were never spoken. I spent many months in Iraq doing convoy escort armed with an M4 and a Glock 17. No complaints.

  6. “Technologically cutting edge”? What is this, 1967?

    But seriously, while I’m happy that the people guarding nuclear weapons are ditching a problem-plagued boat anchor for an upgrade, I must be the only person who’s disappointed to see AR pattern rifles gobble up yet another segment of the market instead of something new and different.

    Yes yes, I know that designing a new gun from the ground up is economically cost prohibitive, and I know that adopting one of the newer offerings like the SCAR, ARX160, etc is also cost prohibitive due to economies of scale. It’s just that I enjoy variety and seeing interesting and unique designs. This dogged devotion and laser like focus on AR15’s from every corner of the market (and to a lesser extent AK’s, but they’re catching up) is seriously hindering small arms development.

    Plus, bullpups are just cool.

      • An M4 is an M4 – it’s a very specific weapon from the AR family.

        Diemaco C8 is not an M4. It’s also a carbine, and it’s also an AR, so it’s similar, but not identical. It is actually derived from Colt model 653 and 723 carbines, as well as Diemaco C7 (which is itself an offshoot of M16A1, and not of A2). C8 predates M4 by 10 years (it was first put into service by Canada in 1984; M4 by US, in 1994).

        There are actual difference between the two subfamilies. In particular, Canadians didn’t appreciate the retarded choices that were made when developing M16A2, and so they kept their C7 full auto, as well as the original simple and reliable rear sight of A1; replaced “government profile” A2 barrels with heavy profile hammer forged barrels; and tweaked the handguards and the stock somewhat. C8 inherited full auto and A1 sights from C7, even as M4 in US was still constrained to 3-round burst inherited from M16A2.

        Further generations diverged further by adding ambidextrous safety, charging handle, and mag release, although the difference in rear sights (A1 vs A2) disappeared because of the move to flat-top receivers.

        Even more significant divergence is likely in the future, as Canadians keep pondering further upgrades for their Diemacos, and one of the things they have expressed particular interest in are monolithic uppers.

        So, no. C8 is not an M4. They’re two similar but not identical weapons from the same large family, but with different genealogy.

        • We used to say a C7 was an M-16A1.5 – since it had the A2s upgrades without its downgrades. Plus, as noted, the better barrel.

        • BTW, for those curious what I mean by “retarded choices” made in M16A2 design, read this:

          (As a side note, it’s also interesting that one of the side effects of A2 adoption was the death of Army’s much saner original 250m battlesight zero with its flatter trajectory, and its replacement with the current 300m one.)

        • int19h. Enjoyed the read…rifle training differences between Army & Marines. Marines – unique in having a corp of dedicated rifle instructors teaching fundamentals of rifle marksmanship based on known distance. Army – simplifying training for engaging up to 300 meters and relaying on the front sight post.

  7. “To completely drop the standard SA-80 rifle for a technologically cutting-edge Canadian gun”
    Anyone catch that? Breaking news from 1985. Then again, they worship the double rifle still, so…

  8. The official reason for the switch was to fire the special ammo.
    I would also suggest that many SA80s/L85s are worn out and need replacing, as they do not make them anymore it makes sense that small units have the new guns and large units all use the same regular gun.
    Any unit that is part of “Special Forces” want to look the part and use a different weapon.
    There is nothing wrong with the SA80 now, Yes a British owned German firm fixed it. Foreign owned firms make many weapons here.
    I want a .22 SA80.

  9. The SA-80/L85 has the issues you would expect from rushed development over the space of a few months and then made by subcontractors who previously did very little with firearms.

    Instead we have a design that was in constant development since the early 1970s, with a custom 4.85mm cartridge, and then made by a long experienced firearm manufacturer. What could go wrong?

    In the 1980s many special units including the SAS and the Royal Marine Commandos REFUSED to use the L85, preferring to stick with their M16s (note that most were early model slab-side lowers and slick-side uppers). In the first gulf war the L85 would only work if constantly used in full-auto, most of the time.

    It should be noted the SA-80/L85 has been rejected in the first round of every other acceptance test it has been submitted to. Why would someone use such a bad gun? National pride and indifferent bureaucrats can be a start. That would certainly explain the Italians use of the Carcano, the French designs such as the 1907 Berthier (3-round magazine), the and St Etienne machine gun (so complicated it was replaced by the gun it was meant to replace: The Hotchkiss MG).

    Perhaps the designers and manufacturers should be forced to use their products in action. It’s a long running joke that British car makers make more money out the back door from repairs than they do out the front door from sales.

    Murphy was right, your weapon is made by the lowest bidder.

    • Long string of British failures in aviation due to design by committee, in the hope to sell British designs to multiple European countries. All failed

      The last two great things the Brit’s made was the Spitfire and Chobham Armor.


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