Jungle Rifles: Modified L1A1/L2A1 SLR Rifles in Vietnam

L1A1 Fitted with XM148 Grenade Launcher, L4A4 Magazine and Chopped Down Barrel

The Australian Special Air Service Regiment provided additional deep reconnaissance and long range patrolling capability to the anti communist efforts in Vietnam. To increase effectiveness in this niche, the SASR operators took to modifying their L1A1 SLR Rifles and L2A1 Automatic Rifles to make them more suitable for jungle warfare.

The L1A1 and L2A1 were adopted by the Australian military in 1960 and used extensively until 1992 when they were replaced by the F88 (Steyr AUG). While the L1A1/L2A1 are fantastic weapons, their length, weight and low capacity proved to be a hindrance in the confined jungle engagements faced by the SASR troopers. To remedy this, unit armorers began experimenting with modifications to increase their effectiveness.

L1A1 with XM148 Grenade Launcher

The SASR operated in small teams of 4-6 men deep in enemy territory with reconnaissance of enemy movements and positions being their primary focus. Right away the troopers on these patrols desired more firepower that would allow them to break contact with the enemy and disappear back into the jungle should they encounter an enemy force. The initial solution was to use the 30 round magazines employed by the L4A4 machine gun and L2A1 automatic rifle. These were compatible with the SLR and ran reliably with the only common modification being the addition of an extra spring in the L4A4 magazines to assist with feeding when not offered the gravity assist of the L4A4. Another, albeit rare, magazine modification was the welding together of two standard 20 round capacity magazines with a longer, field made spring.

The barrels were also shortened, often times cut all the way back to the gas block. The FAL pattern rifles are uniquely suited to this type of modification due to their highly adjustable gas system design which allows the user to adjust for the change in gas pressure, preventing a loss of reliability.

Due to the nature of operating in small teams, the SASR troopers utilized intimidation and a fair amount of trickery to deceive the enemy into believing they were engaging a much larger force than a 4-6 man recon team. This was achieved by omitting the muzzle device on the shortened SLRs which makes the report much louder and more aggressive; coupled with the extended magazines this was a disorienting amount of firepower for such a small team. Some cone flash hiders were also added to the short barrels to increase the muzzle blast as well.

L1A1 with Short Barrel, Cone Flash Hider, XM148 and Short Stock

Other common modifications include cutting the large SLR stock down by a few inches to make the rifle more handy in the jungle and the addition of vertical grips to the front end of the weapon. These vertical grips are seen in a variety of styles, most commonly, a standard SLR pistol grip welded to a block in a cutout under the handguard. These have been seen in angled, straight, offset and canted configurations. The factory bipods on the L2A1 and occasional L1A1 bipods were universally removed.

Selection of SASR Weapons

The single biggest improvement to the collective firepower of a SASR recon team was the addition of the Colt XM148 40mm under barrel grenade launcher. The XM148 was a very common addition to the SASR SLR rifles and allowed the smaller teams to effectively engage larger forces and light vehicles and give the impression of a larger force.

Overall, the modified L1A1 and L2A1 rifles proved to be quite effective and popular with their operators and many elected to continue using them even after they were issued M16s. The FN FALs unparalleled reliability and rugged design coupled with the field modifications by SASR armorers provided an excellent source of firepower for the small SASR recon teams in the jungles of South East Asia.

Cade Johnson

SASR Recon Team with SLRs and M16s featuring the XM148
SLR and M16 Rifles Equipped with XM148s. Note the chopped muzzle on the Center M16

General Overview of the L129A1 DMR

The L129A1 is the current British Designated Marksman Rifle. It was introduced as a result of the extended range engagements troops were facing in Afghanistan. LMT won the contract for the DMRs and imported them through Law Enforcement International LTD. The first 440 weapons were fielded in May of 2010 after the initial procurement request was announced in 2009. The weapon was well received by deployed forces, as they now had a portable weapon that could engage targets beyond 500 Meters. Previously, the only solutions capable of engaging at these ranges were the GPMG and L115A3 Sniper Rifle, neither of which were well suited to dismounted patrols in Afghanistan.

LMT Stock Photo of the Commercial LMT L129A1 Reference Rifle

The L129A1 is based on the LMT MWS rifle. The upper is monolithic with a full length top rail, allowing for the mounting of inline night vision systems. The 16″ LMT barrel features a 1:11.25 twist rate optimal for both L2A2 Ball and the 155gr L42A3 Precision Ammunition. It is crowned with a Surefire FA762K Flash Hider, although the suppressor is only issued on the Sniper Support Weapon variant of the L129A1.

The rifle comes with an LMT SOPMOD Stock in FDE, FDE Ergo Pistol Grip, LMT Rail Covers as well as a folding Ergo/CAA Front Grip. The LMT 2 Stage Match trigger is an excellent precision trigger for a rifle in the DMR role. Other common furniture items are the Magpul AFG, and Tango Down Vertical Grip. The Magpul PRS stock is a very rare item on the DMR variant but more commonly seen on the SSW. As far as magazines go, the “official” issue is Magpul Pmags; however, metal Knights Armament Magazines have also been seen in service. The issued bipod is the Harris BRM 6-9″ on either an ARMS or, rarely, a Larue bipod mount. A very odd accessory that has been seen is the Istec SA80 bayonet adapter. This device is a picatinny mounted faux SA80 barrel and bayonet lug that allows the use of the SA80 bayonet on the L129A1. Blue Force Gear and VTAC slings have been seen in use with the DMR.

The optics package has little to no variation among the DMR variant of the rifle. The issued kit includes a Trijicon 6×48 ACOG with 7.62×51 BDC Reticle topped by an RM01 Red Dot Sight with Knights Armament micro back up iron sights. The Larue Tactical and ARMS acog mounts have both been seen on the L129A1. The PVS27 MUNS is the issued inline night vision system used on the rifle for night fighting capability.

L129A1 with PVS27 and Isatec Bayonet Adapter

The L129A1 will continue to serve as the primary DMR for the UK’s military forces for he forseeable future. In an upcoming post we will look at the Sniper Support Weapon variant of the L129A1. References have been included below.

Cade Johnson

Sources/Links:

Law Enforcement International LTD: http://l129a1.com/

LMT L129A1 Reference Rifle: https://lmtdefense.com/product/lm308ssr/

Armament Research Services L129A1 Overview: https://armamentresearch.com/british-l129a1-sharpshooter-rifle/

L100A1: G3KA4s of the UK

G3KA4 with SFSG

The G3KA4 is a unique battle rifle that had a brief service life among special operations elements of the UK’s armed forces. Its users included the SAS, SBS, SFSG, CTSFO and Royal Marines. The UK adopted this weapon with the Land Service Number L100A1.

The G3KA4 is 28″ long, weighs 9.7 lbs and uses a more compact 12.4″ barrel instead of the standard 17.7″ barrel. It was generally utilized as a battle rifle but was occasionally pressed into the DMR/Sniper role.

The L100A1 was issued with a B&T extended scope rail (P/N: BT 21174), B&T Tri Rail (very rare, never seen one commercially), Convex HK Telescoping Stock, and Harris Bipods. Variable accessories include KAC/Tango Down/GG&G/Grip Pod vertical foregrips, ARMS/GG&G Harris Bipod mounts, Surefire X200, M952, or very early X300 lights, and 1/2/3 point slings. The LDI DBAL is the only laser seen on the L100A1.

The Army L100A1 was issued with a Trijicon UK Spec TA01 ACOG 99% of the time, (only one has been seen with an Aimpoint M2). The top mounted Shield Red Dot Sights were rarely seen on the G3. There are a few photos showing a PVS4 in use and even one showing a SUSAT optic off of L85 adapted onto a G3KA4.

G3KA4s with PVS4/SUSAT and PEQ2 Lasers.

The Royal Marines Fleet Protection Group’s Maritime Sniper Teams used the G3KA4 with the UK Spec Trijicon 6×48 ACOG, occasionally with a top Mounted RMR. They were all equipped with Grip Pods. They were primarily utilized as aerial gunnery systems and VBSS overwatch rifles. The aerial gunnery rifles were all equipped with B&T brass catchers to prevent brass from entering an engine intake. It is also interesting to note that some of these MST rifles have the newer B&T rail with removable picatinny segments. These MST rifles were also rarely fielded with lasers of any kind.

MST G3KA4 with Grip Pod and New Generation B&T Rail

The G3KA4 was well liked by those who used them, serving until they were replaced by the L129A1 and HK417. The CTSFO G3s will be covered in another post, as they vary wildly from unit to unit. Please contact if you have any questions! More reference photos can be found below.

Cade Johnson

L101A1: The British HK53s

HK53 with Surefire Handguard and TA01 ACOG with Iron Sights and Mag Coupler.

The HK53 is a fantastic weapon and one of the most under appreciated rifles to have been used by the UK’s military. It has seen service with numerous units and branches and, was generally well liked by those who employed it. They were officially designated the L101A1 but are most often referred to as HK53s.

Having an 8.31″ barrel, the HK53 is the shorter, SMG sized variant, of the HK33 rifle. This makes it an ideal choice for roles where the weapon must be concealable, compact for various reasons, (such as vehicular operations), and lightweight. The L101A1 was later replaced in these roles by the L119A1, despite briefly serving concurrently.

L101A1 with Trijicon Reflex Sight, Surefire Handguard Light and Mag Coupler.

The main users of the HK53 within the UK were those tasked with VIP protection or low visibility activities. The bulk of the photographs are of Royal Military Police Close Protection Officers escorting VIPs in conflict zones. The SAS has utilized them in the PSD role as well as counter terror operations. 14 Intelligence Company has also employed them in low vis operations in Iraq and Northern Ireland.

L101A1s with Trijicon Reflex sight and PVS4 NOD. Both rifles are equipped with the Surefire Handguard and Mag Couplers.

As far as the weapon itself, the HK53 variant utilized by the UK is fairly standard with the convex telescoping stock and either an HK, ARMS, or B&T scope rail mounted to the receiver. Some of these feature Surefire lights integrated into the handguard (Surefire Model 628), but it is not a standard accessory. The Surefire lights were most likely issued on a unit-to-unit basis.

L101A! with mag coupler, TA01 with top mounted iron sights and no Shield sight. Note the lack of Surefire Lights.

The rifle was initially fielded with only iron sights but a variety of optics were soon added. The two most common are the Trijicon ACOG Reflex Sight and the UK spec Triijcon TA01 ACOG with top mounted Shield red dot sight. Aimpoint M2 Red Dot Sights have also been seen, along with one showing a PVS4 night vision scope.

Other common accessories include magazine couplers and 1/2/3 point slings (one point is most common). I have seen two non-public photographs of them with the SAS using PEQ2s and Sound Suppressors (appeared to be an Ops Suppressor of some variety).

Outside of the counter terror operations, the HK53 seems to be a weapon that was meant to be compact and carried more often than used. It excelled in this role until being replaced by the L119A1 due to cost and logistical reasons. Below are a selection of reference photos of the L101A1 in use.

Cade Johnson

HK53 with ACOG, Mag Coupler and Surefire Handguard in use with a Close Protection Officer
HK53s in service with Close Protection Officers
Older photo of a stock HK53 fielded in counter terror operations.
HK53s with Trijicon ACOG 4x and Reflex sights
HK53 with a Trijicon ACOG Reflex Sight and Mag coupler.
HK53 in use with the SAS in the PSD role. It is equipped with a Trijicon Reflex Sight, Surefire Handguard and Mag Coupler.

Special Reconnaissance Regiment L119A1s

Note the PEQ14 on the far left L119A1

The Special Reconnaissance Regiment is a special operations element of the United Kingdom specializing in reconnaissance, surveillance, and counter terrorism operations. Generally, they were equipped with the same L119A1 packages as their other UK SOF cohorts with the exception of occasionally being equipped with a AN/PEQ14 instead of the AN/PEQ2 or LA5 of the other UK SOF units.

The above L119A1 is standard fare, as far as optics and accessories are concerned, with the exception of the PEQ14. These were most likely issued with their MP5s but soon found their way onto a few L119A1s. This was probably done to add visual laser capability, (PEQ2 was the primary laser at the time and had no visible laser), and minimize the total accessory footprint on the weapon. To my knowledge, these are the only 3 photos featuring PEQ14s on L119A1s, all of which are SRR. To say it was a rare occurrence would be an understatement, as simply finding verified photos of SRR is uncommon. Nonetheless, it is fascinating to see small unit variations in the equipping of the early GWOT L119s.

SRR 15.7″ L119A1 bearing a PEQ14

Cade Johnson

1990s VBSS M14 and M16A1

The 1990s were a weird time for high speed rifles. They fell in a period between SOF using shortened versions of their standard service rifle counterparts (CAR-15, XM177, 723, etc) and the advent of SOF specific weapon systems and upgrade kits such as the SOPMOD program and others. Many operators were attaching various commercial accessories to their rifles on an individual basis in the absence of an official modification program, resulting in non-standard configurations that differ wildly between end users. The most famous “custom” carbines of the time were undoubtedly those used in the “Black Hawk Down” incident in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993.

A lesser known set of photos is that of a SEAL team preparing for VBSS that features some other odd weapon modifications. The most common photo from the series is that of an M14 with a rather unorthodox grip attached to the stock.

This is a basic M14 with the standard USGI leather sling that has been modified by the operator to be more efficient for his close quarters mission set.

The most obvious upgrade is the vertical grip attached to the stock of the weapon. It is crudely made, likely by the user himself.

The second photo featuring the M14 shows an alternate view of the grip, further illustrating its crude construction. It also offers an excellent view of the Aimpoint 5000 atop the receiver. It is unclear if it is a weaver rail or a direct scope mount mounted to the receiver.

The other weapon featured is an M16A1. An Stainless Aimpoint 3000 adorns the carry handle rail of this M16. The Aimpoint 3000 can be discerned from its brethren by noting the battery compartment on the right side of the body, whereas, the 5000 has the battery located on the left and the 2000 has a lower angled battery compared on the right side.

This operator has also affixed his sling to the front sight post and rear sling mount using 550 cord, a very common modification for the time. He has also looped the sling through his Yates rappelling harness to retain his weapon in a dynamic environment.

Not much else going on in these photos as they are standard rifles topped with interesting accessories. Next post will cover more cool 90s rifles!

Cade Johnson

Rifle Breakdown: Travis Haley Najaf Blackwater DMR

By now, everyone interested in military rifles knows who Travis Haley is, and most have seen the video of him, and his coworkers in Blackwater, engaged with insurgents on a rooftop in Najaf, Iraq. The “Turkey Shoot” rifle featured in the video is the subject of quite a bit of misinformation regarding its specs and components, I will try to put much of that to rest in this article.

No, this rifle is NOT an M16A4, Mk12, SDMR, SAM-R or any other US military rifle. The base rifle is a Bushmaster 20″ DMR. Bushmaster supplied many rifles and carbines to Blackwater in the early 2000’s. This one has an A2 upper featuring a heavy profile, chrome lined 1/7 Bushmaster match barrel. It features a standard A2 stock and A2 grip. It is unclear whether the muzzle device is a standard A2 or the KAC NT4. It is interesting to note that the front sling swivel has been removed from the front sight post.

Perhaps the most unique element to this rifle is the ARMS # 59 SIR Rail system. This system features an integrated riser rail mounted to the upper and an offset top rail to allow for the use of inline night vision. The SIR also features removable picatinny segments along the sides of the rail.

Mounted to the ARMS rail is a CQD front sling mount and an ARMS #32 bipod mount holding a Harris BRM-S with Schuster Lever.

The rifle is topped with a Mark 4 Leupold 3-9×40 with and illuminated Mil Dot reticle. ARMS #22 Medium, (non lever stop), rings hold the Leupold and Butler Flip Caps protect the lenses. The rear sight is the ARMS #40 mounted behind the SIR upper rail.

Now for the most commonly misunderstood part of this rifle, the IR Laser.

This rifle DOES NOT have a PEQ2 mounted, it has an Atilla 200 IR Laser system. Travis has specifically noted this when discussing the rifle in the past. These lasers were seen on a few SFG rifles but most commonly were found on contractor rifles. They were popular due to their strong output of 150mw compared to only 50mw for the AN/PEQ2. These lasers also feature a unique drop-down pressure switch.

That covers the DMR used by Travis Haley in Najaf. As always if anyone has any questions please reach out via Email, Facebook or Instagram. Check out the Links page for the the original Najaf video.

Thanks

Cade Johnson

Rifle Breakdown: L119A1 Baghdad Photo

This series of images represent perhaps the most popular L119A1 10″ photographs. Here we will provide a breakdown of the rifles as they offer an excellent representation of the L119A1 and it’s ubiquitous components.

The base for the L119A1 is the Colt Canada C8 series of rifles and carbines. The L119A1 features a 10″ barrel with a heavy profile, colloquially known as the “FBI Profile” in some US circles. The rifles are fitted with the Knights Armament KAC RAS rail with the KAC “SAS Locking Lower Rail”. The locking lower rail is a part unique to the L119A1 series of rifles. Another note is that the serial number suffix, “GB” in this case, denotes the country the Colt Canada rifle was manufactured for. Other defining departures from other AR15 carbine variants are the lack of a bayonet lug under the front sight post, the upper receiver having an additional rail slot at the rear of the upper and a small, but specific, Colt Canada rear sling plate. The safety switches will also generally, but not always, have extra material extending over the rotating section of the lever to facilitate more ergonomic use with gloved hands in austere environments.

The issued suppressor and muzzle device for the L119A1 is the Surefire Flash Hider FA556-216A and the suppressor is the FA556SA with welded end cap and old collar. This suppressor and muzzle device were never offered commercially for sale and are very difficult to find. Some were sold as overruns or used law enforcement surplus items.

The stock on the L119A1 series of rifles is one of the most unique parts to these rifles. The Colt Canada carbine stocks are similar to their Colt USA counterparts from a distance but with some distinct differences. Most apparent is the presence of molded texturing found on the cheek piece of these stocks, a feature only found on the Colt Canada carbine stocks. Additionally, the rubber butt pads are fitted and glued on at the factory, this one here has been zip-tied to the stock for additional security. These stocks are fitted on Colt Canada 2 position receiver extensions.

The pistol grip is the Stowaway model made by Lonestar Ordnance. These and the A2 grips are the most common. The Lonestar grip has long been out of production but can be found on the secondary market for approximately $50. New ones can be found in paintball shops in the southern United States as a result of these shops buying out Lonestar’s inventory when they closed their doors.

The optics on this L119A1, and the most common on the type, are Trijicon TA01 ACOGs. The two specific ACOG models are the L31A1 NSN:1005-01-594-7680 and the L29A1 NSN: 1240-01-412-6608. I have never seen one of these for sale on the commercial market. The TA01 NSN is the closest counterpart available differing in the reticle from the L29A1 and L31A1.

The piggyback red dot is the Shield RMS model, mounted in the protective Shield Wing Mount. These optics are readily available but the real wing mount is difficult to acquire. Brownells offers a JPoint wing mount that is identical the Shield brand.

All SAS, SBS, UKSF, and SFSG L119A1s are equipped with the Insight LA5b laser aiming module. The newer L119A1s used by the Royal Marines use the Rheinmetall Vario-Ray laser aiming module. PEQ15s are NOT used on L119A1s. These are activated with the Insight tape switch on early L119A1s and by the Surefire SR07 D-IT on the later L119A1s.

The light on this particular L119A1 is the Surefire M600C with the tape switch attached to the KAC vertical Grip.

Other accessories on the top rifle include the Garmin 301 GPS, Redi Mag Mk1, KAC vertical grip, and KAC rail covers.

The lower L119A1 shares all the base components with its compatriot, except the stock. Due to the photo resolution, it is unclear whether the stock had the rubber pad removed or if it was replaced with a non textured Colt Canada carbine stock.

The optics and most of the accessories are the same between the two rifles save for the lower of the two having the Surefire M600a scout light switch taped to a non-quick detach Tango Down vertical grip.

More information on cloning the L119A1 can be found in Elucidate’s excellent post on the AR15 forum. Head over the the “Links” page to check it out.

That covers the first Rifle Breakdown! If you have any questions please reach out to us via email, Facebook or Instagram.

Thanks

Cade Johnson