The L85, otherwise known as the SA80, is the standard issue service rifle for the British Army. It is a selective fire, gas operated firearm, that features a bullpup design. It was first built in the late-1970s, and has seen action in very operation that the British Army has been in since it's introduction in the mid-1980s.
The L85 is a bullpup assault rifle, that, with the exception of the L98A1 trainer, has a selective fire, gas operated design that uses ignited powder gases bled through a port in the barrel to provide the weapon's automation. The rifle uses a short-stroke gas piston located above the barrel, which is fed gas by a three piston gas regulator. The first setting is used for normal environmental conditions (i.e. conditions in Europe or America), the second for difficult environmental conditions (such as in Iraq and Afghanistan) and the third for use with rifle grenades fitted to the end of the barrel. This third setting prevents gas from reaching the piston. The weapon uses a rotating cylindrical bolt that contains 7 radially-mounted locking lugs, an extractor and casing ejector.
The SA80 is a bullpup layout (i.e. the weapon is behind the trigger) with the pistol grip and trigger in the middle. The main advantage of this is that the SA80 can be more compact than other weapons of it's class, allowing better mobility and easier storage. It also allows the SA80 to be the size of a carbine, but with the barrel length of an assault rifle, giving better accuracy and muzzle velocity. However, it does mean that the SA80 is an exclusively right handed weapon, as the cocking handle and ejection port for the spent cases are on the right hand side of the weapon.
The SA80 family is hammer-fired, and has a fire mode selector (with the selector switch located behind the magazine) that allows semi-automatic and automatic firing. The SA80 also uses a cross bolt type safety that prevents accidental firing and is located above the trigger. The "safe" setting blocks the movement of the trigger. The SA80 uses a slotted flash hider to mask the flash of the shots, that also serves as a mount for rifle grenades, bayonets and blank adapters.
The weapon uses a 30-round STANAG magazine, and has a bolt catch and magazine release similar to the M16 Assault Rifle. When the last round in a magazine is fired, the bolt and bolt carrier are locked backwards, and are released by flicking the bolt catch forward. The handguard, pistol grip, cheek rest and butt pad on the stock are all made from synthetic nylon, and the receiver is made from stamped steel, reinforced with welded and riveted steel inserts. A special Picatinny handguard has been made for this gun, allowing foregrips and grenade launchers to be fitted to the weapon.
L85 rifles used by the Royal Marines, RAF Regiment and Infantry regiments are generally equipped with the SUSAT optical sight, with a fixed 4x magnification and an illuminated aiming pointer powered by a variable tritium light source. As of 2006, almost all servicemen were issued with SUSAT scopes for combat.
Some units, especially those with a close combat role have had the SUSAT scope replaced with a Trijicon Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG) to allow easier aiming without the 4x magnification. Others replace the SUSAT scope with iron sights and a carry handle (which mounts the rear sights), while for night operations, a passive night vision CWS scope is used.