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The Vault

British EM-2

The EM-2 was the result of a British research and development program looking for a replacement for the venerable Lee Enfield rifle after WWII. As with just about every other country on the planet, they were largely influenced by the German Sturmgewehr, and the program was built around the .280 Enfield cartridge. This was a good intermediate-power cartridge, firing a 140 grain bullet at about 2450fps – slightly more potent than the Soviet 7.62×39 and the “new” 6.8 Remington SPC.

The EM-2 used a long-stroke gas piston mounted above the barrel, and a locking system similar to the German G41 and G43/K43 selfloading rifles. Two flaps were mounted in the bolt carrier, and would pivot out to engage locking recesses in the receiver when in battery. The system was a bit complex, but effective and well sealed against dirt and dust.

Disassembly was simple enough, as the buttplate could be rotated up and removed, allowing the recoil spring, piston, and bolt carrier to slide out the back of the receiver. The safety was located in the front of the trigger guard much like the M1/M14 rifles, and the magazines were of the “rock-n-lock” variety, with an AK-like latch at the back of the magwell. The optical sight  was fixed; zeroing was done with screw adjustments on the front of the carry handle.

The EM-2 was chosen over the EM-1 rifle as an standard service rifle as the No9 Mk1 rifle in 1951. Before it could be put into serious production, though, the government decided to indulge the US and adopt the new 7.62×51 cartridge instead (thus paving the way for the L1A1 rifle). A few decades later they would return to the bullpup configuration with the L85 rifle (which bears no mechanical similarity to the EM2 except gross configuration).



I managed to skip a couple pages when I scanned this, but better to have most of it available than none, so here it is (less pages 4/5, 22/23, and 28/29). The full material is available in Dugelby’s book, although it is out of print and difficult and pricey to find.

EM2 Provisional Notes (English, 1950 - missing pages)

EM2 Provisional Notes (English, 1950 – missing pages)


44 comments to British EM-2

  • Mike

    Damn shame about the rifle and more so about the cartridge. I love the 308 but the 280 brit would have solved the combat rifle issue we still are trying to solve.

    • Magus

      Unfortunately, the morons in the Pentagon insisted that a full-power cartridge was needed, and flat-out lied about what the combat data from WW2 showed in order to get their way. And the rest of NATO went along, despite knowing the US Army was being stupid.

    • DNA Ciwboy

      Exactly, not to have introduced the British .270 and .280 just because it was British was madness and as you mentioned today after spending hundreds of millions of dollars the US still hadn’t discovered a better calibre . :-/

  • Chaz

    This is great i was doing so much research on The EM2 finding old pics and just external ones but i stumbled on this and my mind exploded with joy thank you and how did you get a hands on with the EM2?

  • Ross

    Chaz – if you’re referring to the left side of the gas regulator, that’s a flip-up backup sight post. Can’t answer what the sight picture looks like as I’ve never had the opportunity to see for myself – we have an EM-2 at the museum I volunteer at, but it only comes off display when absolutely necessary. Next time it does and I’m around, I’ll definitely try and get some photos though.

    • chaz

      Thank you. My terminology with the EM-2 isnt the best. Where is this museum. and Can you tell me if there is a place in the UK I could see one?

      • Ross

        It’s in Lithgow, Australia. I would assume there would be EM-2s in the UK, but I’m not sure where.

      • Steve Sheppard

        I did see one on display at the School of Infantry in Warminster. They had a rather nice collection of small arms in the museum on site, though I’m not sure it was open to the public; there is no harm in asking though.
        The EM2 is my personal favorite and would love to see it make a come back.

  • Mike

    I’m a new guy on this conversation, but is there any reason why the sight picture on the EM-2 and the EM-1 should be different? The sights appear similar to me, and the EM-1 sight picture is published in the EM-1 manual.

  • Ben

    Hello, I’d be very interested in an EM-2 replica. I’m a Corporal in the British Army Cadets so I know how the SA80 works, but I’ve always been fascinated by this weapon. I’ve never seen so many pictures of it before!

  • TonyE

    The sight has a downward pointer which gives a very clear picture even in poor light and is particularly good at picking out objects (such as helmet) showing above cover.

    Although the EM-2 was an advanced design with an excellent intermediate cartridge, in reality it was not really ready for service. It wasa nightmare to strip with a very complicated bolt with many small parts.

    i have shot a couple of different EM-2 rifles in different calibres and they perform well on the range, but in combat…??


  • Dash

    ‘Ello. If replica EM-2s were to be made, I would also be very interested in purchasing one or two. I’ve always fancied owning one. There’s just something about it; maybe it’s a mixture of old/new designs to it.

    And if you don’t decide on creating replicas, I don’t suppose I could be sent a copy of the machinists specs/designs?

    – Dash

  • chaz

    Hello forgotten weapons, I was seeing all the support for a EM-2 replica. I was wondering if you would be interested in making a small batch. Maybe 5? Thanks.

  • Hans

    Who can make photo thre the EM-2 scope?

  • Hans

    Thank you! But I need real photo thru the scope…(((

  • Ross

    Thanks for putting the video up – wonderful to see one actually firing.

  • AJ

    Excellent video. May I ask if this was shot in the US? Amazing to believe there is a EM2 in the NFA registry.

  • Jack Richardson

    could anyone get some blueprints that show the dimensions please?
    Also ive heard rumors that a couple were issued for direct contact issues in case that would interest anyone!

  • Ed Mooney

    Please add me onto the list of those who would like to obtain a replica. In addition to those listed above I am in awe of the pictures you have. I’ve googled for years, and only ever came up with limited shots of the exterior.

  • Barry Larking

    I was about six years old when the ‘new British rifle’, the EM 2, was cancelled. I heard all about it (or as much as a six year old could understand) from my older brothers and cousins, one of whom had tested the rifle during Army service. Some websites cite erroneous information or details, so tread carefully in your researches, chaps! One I came across said ‘Churchill over ruled his Defense Secretary (sic) Manny Shinwell’ and cancelled the gun just as it was about to enter full scale production. Shinwell was in another political party altogether and so far from Churchill’s politics you might as well say Noam Chomsky wrote Ronnie Reagan’s speeches … Thanks FW.com for all the detail I could wish for in my own research. N.B. Churchill (and just about everyone else) thought it highly likely Stalin would push forward in western Europe, as unlikely as that seems to us now. He believed if Stalin was to be resisted in any such move, then ‘commonality’ of arms would be critical cross the national boundaries. For the U.K. to go its own way at that time was not an option he could support in the light of U.S. refusal. Short sighted. In Korea and Vietnam use of this versatile weapon would have been ‘interesting’. It’s ironic that today many are finally coming round to the .280 (6.8 mm) design.

    • Ian Stevenson

      Barry,there had been an election. Shinwell was the defence minister of the previous govt. Churchill was the Prime Minister of the new Conservative government Churchill usually deferred to the Americans although his reasoning of a common cartridge does have some logic.

  • Reg Mason

    I’d be up for buying a EM2 replica in 6.8 SPC

  • Brody

    As a reproduction goes, manufacturing a lookalike stock for a 10/22 wouldnt be that difficult, but would of course just ‘look’ the same

  • Springer6

    Some years ago, I had the opportunity to handle an EM 2 ( and an EM 1 ) at the “Pattern Rooms” when it was located in Nottingham , England. I believe that this Pattern Room collection is now held at the Leeds Armouries Museum, but I don’t think it is currently open to inpection ( even by arrangement )

    Both these bullpups were nicely balanced with good ergonomics ( much better than the SA80 ).

    However the optical sight on the EM2 was very poor. On the example I handled, the optics had yellowed with age and the sight picture was cloudy. Possibly with a modern combat type scope it would be much better.

  • duchamp

    can you describe or point me to a description of how the firing pin/sear set up works?

  • Martin Knox

    Saw you fire this on youtube. Must have been a pleasure to shoot

  • Richard

    Given relative scale from photography, could you not take a few measurements at the Leeds museum in order to build up a CAD/CAM spec? CNC laughs in the face of complexity.

  • Paul

    My father was part of an all-Polish design team which developed this weapon. They were employed by the Ministry of Supply and based at the Drill Hall, Cheshunt in Hertfordshire. I’ve still got one of his notebooks somewhere, full of formulae and mystifying ballistics calculations.

    • If you ever have an opportunity to scan that notebook, I would love to have a copy of it!

      • Paul

        I’ll try and locate it. It was an M.O.S. exercise book if I remember correctly. I have no idea whether its contents relate to any particular weapon they worked on, or what. It may be in Polish, I don’t remember.

        Some diligent researcher ought to locate any living relatives of those Polish design teams to try and establish the true record of what those men actually produced. My father said they were discharged around 1949 (replaced by British designers apparently) coz he was pretty upset about that, not that he ever really let on about anything to do with his wartime work. I’ve got some photos of them in their design office at Cheshunt Drill Hall and probably some names as well, so that would be a start.

        • Hi Paul, I’ve been writing a Masters dissertation on the EM2 and the British light rifle programme of the 1950s. I definitely agree research into the Polish Armament Design Department/Establishment team needs to be made. I have a feeling it would be a fascinating story – how they managed to reach the UK and the work they did. I know that Stefan Janson remained at the ADE and was later commissioned into the Royal Artillery (Territorial Army) as a Captain, before he left for the US some years later. A little is written about Roman Korsac too, with whom Janson worked closely on the EM-1 LMG.
          It would be great to hear more about your father and it would be fascinating to find out what happened to the rest of the Polish design team.

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