The SA80A2 Upgraded Rifles
By Dan Shea

In SAR Vol. 6, No. 3, December 2002, SAR took the current British infantry rifle apart top to bottom, and analyzed every technical aspect of it. We were not judgmental of the politics or the heritage of this weapon system, nor did we enter into speculation regarding corrections needed. We simply wanted to present an unbiased look at the system and its progression, and that article has been available on the Internet ever since on SAR's website, and has broken records for downloaded articles in our community. There is a tremendous interest in this rifle, both from proponents and opponents of its adoption, as well as most military services on the planet. How does a bullpup really stand up in true combat service? Iraq and Afghanistan have been the first real, full scale tests of this type system. This is not to denigrate anyone's service in other, smaller conflicts, but the sheer numbers of these rifles in service in theatre, and the duration of that service, has led to many lessons learned.

The irony of Great Britain herself boxing up her rifles and shipping them en masse to Germany to have them fixed is not lost on this author, and it has led to numerous sessions of light teasing of British friends who were, well, as sporting about it as I am when I have to endure comments about coming from the Colonies. However, the fact is that HK Oberndorf seems to have done the job, and done so quite handily, getting a lot of positive reactions from the boys in the field.

The story is told in other places about how heavily charged the politics of the SA80 have been. All we are covering here is how to ID the parts, and what the upgrades are. Essentially, HK Oberndorf came to the UK and analyzed the SA80A1 and defined the changes they needed to do. It was a short process to define, and eventually HK won the bid. The SA80A1s were taken to HK Oberndorf for their work, and it was about 385,000 rifles that were reworked. The work was started in 2002, and the schedule was to finish all of the work in five years. This means that both A1 and A2 models have been in service concurrently. From all accounts that we have gathered, the A2 model upgrades as instituted by HK, have been a success, and the troops are satisfied.

The changes in parts are detailed in the ID section. There were some changes done to the receiver. The ejection port opening on the A2 receiver body has been enlarged fractionally. One of the locking lugs in the barrel extension has been machined away to provide a guide for ejected cases and to facilitate the larger profile of the A2 extractor. The top surface of the body has been engraved with the HK logo at the rear end.

SAR ID of the parts of the SA80A1/SA80A2 systems.

The NSN part numbers are included for the future reference of those who are either searching for, or need to ID parts on the SA80 systems. The Cadet rifle and many training, Drill Purpose, and other A1 configuration guns remain in the system and are expected to for some time. The first number is for the obsolete A1 style part, noting which models it is appropriate for. The second number is for the upgraded A2 version to help in ordering for upgrade or replacement of the A2 system, and the notation is there for which models it is appropriate for. (Diagrams and NSN numbers are taken from a British Army component identification sheet obtained from a private collector at a firearms show in the UK.)

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V11N1 (October 2007)
and was posted online on November 1, 2011


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