SA80 History: Underbarrel Grenade Launchers

Armament Research Services (ARES) is a specialist technical intelligence consultancy, offering expertise and analysis to a range of government and non-government entities in the arms and munitions field. For detailed photos of the guns in this video, don’t miss the ARES companion blog post!

In our final segment on the SA80 family of weapons, we are looking at a selection of underbarrel grenade launcher adaptations of the L85 rifle. Specifically, we will see a prototype XL60 series launcher, a prototype Enfield XL70 series system, an adaptation of the Colt M203, and the final adopted H&K AG SA80 grenade launcher mounted on the L85A2. These various types include a variety of different loading, mounting, and sighting systems, and make a very interesting composite picture of the ways in which underbarrel grenade launchers can be designed.


    • “Game over, man! GAME OVER!!!”

      Similarly, tons of people thought that the FN P90 was fake just because it didn’t look like a conventional long arm. Lots of world war vintage arms would not look out of place in a space opera if given cosmetic add-ons. The vintage service handgun which likely does NOT requiring any add-ons to look like a space gun would be the often ridiculed and insulted Type 94 Nambu (especially the early production model). Yes, it is underpowered and extremely dangerous to people dumb enough to carry the gun in a front pants pocket with a loaded chamber and with the safety in the “fire” position. But it is also seriously dangerous to whomever is dumb enough to assume that military grade 8×22 Nambu can be stopped by a wooden foot stool at a bad breath range. The Whitney Wolverine does a better job at looking good and at looking like a space opera prop… Did I miss anything?

      • “Did I miss anything?”
        I would that, generally, that guns that fit “space opera” have unusual (unexpected,uncommon) aesthetic feature(-s), examples are (from today point-of-view):
        -for automatic pistols:
        –“edgeless” being : Vector CP1 from South Africa
        –slide which is not “wrapped” around barrel : Mannlicher 1901
        –magazine in front of trigger guard: Mauser C/96, Bergmann Mars, Walther GSP
        -for revolvers:
        –barrel which is not round : slab-sided barrel revolvers
        -for sub-machine guns:
        –more than 1 barrel : Villar-Perosa
        –magazine of type not box : Calico

  1. Having carried and used the M16A2/M203 combo in combat in Iraq in 2003-2004, I wonder if the Brits ditch the grenade sight in day to day use like we tend to. After firing enough grenades, you get to where you no longer use the grenade sights, and take them off because they snag on everything (though the HK sight looks much less snag prone than the contraption we use). I personally loved having the extra firepower the launcher afforded, and found it to be worth the extra weight both on the rifle and in carrying the grenades in addition to standard combat load.

    • I don’t know if they dumped the sights or not, but I’m told that the UGL on the SA80 helps a lot with the balancing of the gun. The extra weight on an already too heavy gun is problematic, though.

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