What is going on Across the Pond (A Short History)

What is going on Across the Pond (A Short History)

Our English cousins once renowned for their firearms development have basically stopped small arms development and are relying on foreign sources, namely the US for their newest military weapons.  I will not dive much into the causes except to say that the draconian gun laws all but prevent private development unlike the U.S.  England does not currently have a Ronnie Barrett taming the .50 caliber machine gun round and putting it into a rifle, a Thor Firearms  that has developed a first class sniper rifle system and top notch rifles based on the M16/AR15 platform, or a Reed Knight owner and founder of Knight Armament Company a leader in rail systems suppressors, and the M110 sniper system used by all branches of the U.S. military, and too many others to name.  Nor does England have a myriad of companies based upon the firearms accessories business there is no Magpul, Midwest industries, or Yankee Hill Manufacturing.  England’s destruction of their gun culture has also ruined their innovation in military firearms.  While Holland and Holland still make firearms into works of art this does not help their military.

The Brown Bess the weapon of Empire

The state of British military small arms prowess has not always been so…The Brown Bess or the British Land Pattern Musket was kept in service for 116 years and was the rifle used to expand and defend the Empire.  The Baker rifle one of the first successful rifled muskets and was issued in large numbers to British riflemen during the age of Napoleon and served alongside the Brown Bess.   The Baker was followed by the Enfield Rifled Musket which also happened to be the primary rifle of the Southern states during the U.S. Civil War.  Later the Martini Henry of Zulu fame was used very successfully by the British Army for 30 years. This was followed by the Lee-Metford which in turn evolved in the famous Lee-Enfield.

Lately things have turned ugly with the adaption of the SA80 in 1985.  This weapon was an excellent target rifle.  However the truth about the weapon came out during the first Gulf War.  It was discovered that in battle field used the weapon would fire when dropped, the hand guards would come off and soldiers would inadvertently dump their magazine leaving them unarmed.  In 1997 England’s Ministry of Defense (MOD) finally decided to fix the SA80.  The German company of Heckler and Koch was hired to redesign the weapon at a cost of 92 million pounds.  A side note Heckler and Koch has also designed what some consider a superior M4 and the HK M27 IAR was recently adapted by the US Marine Corps.  So it is not just the Brits who rely on the Germans for weapons.

In 2011 the British Army adapted the Lewis Machine & T L129A1 Sharpshooters rifle to issue to its designated riflemen.  This weapon won out over rifles submitted by HK, Knights Armament, FN, Sabre Defense, and Oberland arms.  More recently the LWRC Ultra Compact Individual Weapon to be used for a personal defense weapon by vehicle crews, helicopter pilots, and by British special operations troops.  Again this American firm won out over the usual competitors (wouldn’t be nice if the US military bought US guns?).

Britian’s New Sharpshooter’s Rifle the LMT L129a1. Taking back the Infantry half kilometer.


The Brits have not designed and fielded a domestic small arm since 1985 and this one was a failure.  Is British small arms development down for the count?  I supposed only time will tell if it will rise from the ashes but for now it is time for US companies as they say to make hay.


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Rick Keyes

Women's Defense Instructor, part time writer, knuckle dragger, father, and student. I am an certified intelligence analyst and have been published in the "Small Wars Journal", I am also a gunsmith, life long shooter, hunter and general gun nerd.

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