It is the 5.56mm SA
-80, and it has a long, troubled story.
Deployed in the mid 80's, it got a poor reputation for durability and reliability, plus points were it's great accuracy, particularly with the SUSAT optical sight issued to infantry, this caused a problem in that most troops were doing so well on the ranges that they were becoming eligible for sniper training.
In 1991, the SA
-80's reputation sunk further, in the sandy conditions of the Gulf.
It was noticed that special forces were not using it.
The whole mess was mixed up with the privatisation of the makers, Enfield, part of Royal Ordnance, soon brought out by BAe, political pressure to enrich these companies seemed to override what the forces wanted.
Quality declined further when the Enfield factory was closed, and shifted to Nottingham.
In the end, much later than they should have, the Ministry Of Defence took action, the weapon was redesigned by Heckler and Koch, another company owned by British Aerospace, a £90 million contract to upgrade the weapons to SA
-80A2 standard was awarded a couple of years ago, this is what is issued to the troops in the Gulf, and soon enough, the rest of the forces.
Given that the press are always running stories, mostly untrue, about the poor equipment of the army, if the SA
-80A2 was still giving problems it would be all over the press by now.
So it seems that after a long soap opera, at last the SA
-80 is working as advertised.
The weapon has had very extensive trials, which should have been carried out 15 years before, seemingly it passed with flying colours.
It is liked for it's accuracy, controllability in full auto, and ease of handling in confined areas, we will soon know if the trials really did vindicate the SA
-80A2 now that it is very much in action.