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

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