L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle

L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle

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Encyclopedia
The L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle, also known by the Canadian Army designation C1, as the SLR, or as the "inch pattern" FAL,especially on the American surplus market is a British Commonwealth derivative of the Belgian
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 FN FAL
FN FAL
The Fusil Automatique Léger or FAL is a self-loading, selective fire battle rifle produced by the Belgian armaments manufacturer Fabrique Nationale de Herstal . During the Cold War it was adopted by many North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries, with the notable exception of the United States...

 battle rifle
Battle rifle
A battle rifle is a military service rifle that fires a full power rifle cartridge, such as 7.62x51mm NATO. While the designation of battle rifle is usually given to post-World War II select fire infantry rifles such as the H&K G3, the FN FAL or the M14, this term can also apply to older military...

, produced under licence. It has seen use in the armies of Australia
Australian Army
The Australian Army is Australia's military land force. It is part of the Australian Defence Force along with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. While the Chief of Defence commands the Australian Defence Force , the Army is commanded by the Chief of Army...

, Canada, Jamaica, Malaysia
Malaysian Army
The Malaysian Army is the land component of the Malaysian Armed Forces. Steeped in British Army traditions, the Malaysian Army does not carry the title ‘royal’ as do the Royal Malaysian Air Force and the Royal Malaysian Navy...

, New Zealand
New Zealand Army
The New Zealand Army , is the land component of the New Zealand Defence Force and comprises around 4,500 Regular Force personnel, 2,000 Territorial Force personnel and 500 civilians. Formerly the New Zealand Military Forces, the current name was adopted around 1946...

, Rhodesia
Rhodesian Army
The Rhodesian Security Forces consisted of the Rhodesian Army, Royal Rhodesian Air Force, British South Africa Police, Rhodesian Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Guard Force.- Rhodesian Army :...

, and the United Kingdom
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

.

In contrast to the "metric" FALs, the design dimensions of the inch-pattern are British imperial units, rather than the metric units used in Belgium. Despite this, many sub-assemblies are interchangeable between the two types, although components of those sub-assemblies may not be compatible. Another notable difference is magazines. Also, butt-stocks are not interchangeable, since the stocks on metric pattern and inch pattern guns attach in different ways.

Most Commonwealth pattern FALs are semi-automatic only. However, there is also an automatic rifle variant, the L2A1/C2A1, capable of automatic fire and meant to serve in a support role. Differences from the L1A1/C1 include a heavy barrel, a handguard
Handguard
A handguard on firearms is a guard attached to the front of a firearm to grip the weapon from the front. It allows the user protection from the barrel, which may become very hot when firing...

 that doubles as a foldable bipod
Bipod
A bipod is a support device that is similar to a tripod or monopod, but with two legs. It provides significant stability along two axes of motion .-Firearms:...

, and a larger 30-round magazine although it could also use the normal 20-round magazines as well. Only Australia and Canada used this variant, as the UK and New Zealand used the Bren light machine guns converted to fire the 7.62mm NATO cartridge. Some Canadian C1s issued to naval personnel were also capable of automatic fire.

History


The L1A1 and other inch-pattern derivatives trace their lineage back to the Allied Rifle Commission of the 1950s, whose intention was to introduce a single rifle and cartridge that would serve as standard issue for all NATO countries. After briefly adopting the Rifle No. 9 Mk 1 with a 7mm intermediate cartridge
.280 British
The .280 British was an experimental intermediate rifle cartridge. It was later designated 7 mm MK1Z, and has also been known as 7 mm NATO, .280/30, .280 Enfield, .280 NATO, 7 mm FN Short, and 7×43mm. It was designed by the British Army in the late 1940s, with subsequent help from...

, the UK, believing that if they adopted the Belgian FAL and the American 7.62 NATO cartridge that the United States would do the same, adopted the L1A1 as a standard issue rifle in 1954. The US, however, did not adopt any variant of the FAL, opting for its own M14 rifle
M14 rifle
The M14 rifle, formally the United States Rifle, 7.62 mm, M14, is an American selective fire automatic rifle firing 7.62x51mm NATO  ammunition. It was the standard issue U.S. rifle from 1959 to 1970. The M14 was used for U.S...

 instead.

The L1A1 subsequently served as the UK's first-line battle rifle through 1980s before being replaced with a more up to date assault rifle.

Combat service


The L1A1 and variants have seen use in several conflicts, mostly, though not exclusively, as part of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

. Inch-pattern weapons have been used by the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 in Malaysia
Malayan Emergency
The Malayan Emergency was a guerrilla war fought between Commonwealth armed forces and the Malayan National Liberation Army , the military arm of the Malayan Communist Party, from 1948 to 1960....

, Northern Ireland
The Troubles
The Troubles was a period of ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland which spilled over at various times into England, the Republic of Ireland, and mainland Europe. The duration of the Troubles is conventionally dated from the late 1960s and considered by many to have ended with the Belfast...

, and in the Falklands War
Falklands War
The Falklands War , also called the Falklands Conflict or Falklands Crisis, was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands...

, by Australia and New Zealand in Vietnam
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, and by Rhodesia in the Rhodesian Bush War
Rhodesian Bush War
The Rhodesian Bush War – also known as the Second Chimurenga or the Zimbabwe War of Liberation – was a civil war which took place between July 1964 and December 1979 in the unrecognised country of Rhodesia...

.

Replacement


Starting in the mid 1980s, the UK started replacing its 30-year-old L1A1 rifles with the 5.56 NATO bullpup L85
SA80
The SA80 is a British family of 5.56mm small arms. It is a selective fire, gas-operated assault rifle. SA80 prototypes were trialled in 1976 and production was completed in 1994....

 assault rifle. Australia chose the Steyr AUG
Steyr AUG
The AUG is an Austrian bullpup 5.56mm assault rifle, designed in the early 1970s by Steyr Mannlicher GmbH & Co KG . The AUG was adopted by the Austrian Army as the StG 77 in 1977, where it replaced the 7.62mm StG 58 automatic rifle...

 as a replacement in the form of the F88 Austeyr, with New Zealand following suit shortly after. Canada replaced its C1 rifles with the C7 assault rifle and C8 carbine (both AR-15 variants). Both Australia and Canada replaced their L2A1/C2 heavy barrel support weapons with FN Minimi
FN Minimi
The Minimi is a Belgian 5.56mm light machine gun developed by Fabrique Nationale in Herstal by Ernest Vervier. First introduced in 1974, it has entered service with the armed forces of over thirty countries...

 variants: the F89 and C9, respectively.

Australia


The Australian Army
Australian Army
The Australian Army is Australia's military land force. It is part of the Australian Defence Force along with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. While the Chief of Defence commands the Australian Defence Force , the Army is commanded by the Chief of Army...

, as a late member of the Allied Rifle Committee along with the United Kingdom and Canada adopted the committee's improved version of the FAL rifle, designated the L1A1 rifle by Australia and Great Britain, and C1 by Canada. The Australian L1A1 is also known as the 'Self-Loading Rifle' (SLR), and in select-fire form, the 'Automatic Rifle' (AR). The Australian L1A1 features are almost identical to the British L1A1 version of FAL, however the Australian L1A1 differs from its British counterpart in the design of the upper receiver lightening cuts. The lightening cuts of the Australian L1A1 most closely resembles the later Canadian C1 pattern, rather than the simplified and markedly unique British L1A1 cuts. The Australian L1A1 FAL rifle was in service with Australian forces until it was superseded by the F88 Austeyr (a licence-built version of the Steyr AUG
Steyr AUG
The AUG is an Austrian bullpup 5.56mm assault rifle, designed in the early 1970s by Steyr Mannlicher GmbH & Co KG . The AUG was adopted by the Austrian Army as the StG 77 in 1977, where it replaced the 7.62mm StG 58 automatic rifle...

) in 1988, though some remained in service with Reserve units until late 1990. Some Australian Army units deployed overseas on UN peacekeeping operations in Namibia
Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

, the Western Sahara and Cambodia
Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

 still used the L1A1 SLR and the M16A1
M16 rifle
The M16 is the United States military designation for the AR-15 rifle adapted for both semi-automatic and full-automatic fire. Colt purchased the rights to the AR-15 from ArmaLite, and currently uses that designation only for semi-automatic versions of the rifle. The M16 fires the 5.56×45mm NATO...

 rifle throughout the early 1990s. The British and Australian L1A1s, and Canadian C1A1 SLRs were semi-automatic only, unless battlefield conditions mandated that modifications be made.

The Australians, in co-ordination with Canada, developed a heavy-barrel version of the L1A1 as an automatic rifle variant, designated L2A1. The Australian heavy-barrel L2A1 was also known as the 'Automatic Rifle' (AR). The L2A1 was similar to the FN FAL 50.41/42, but with a unique combined bipod/handguard and a receiver dust-cover mounted tangent rear sight from Canada. The L2A1 was intended to serve a role as a light automatic rifle or quasi-squad automatic weapon (SAW). The role of the L2A1 and other heavy barrel FAL variants is essentially the same in concept as the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) or Bren
Bren
The Bren, usually called the Bren Gun, was a series of light machine guns adopted by Britain in the 1930s and used in various roles until 1991...

, but the Bren is far better suited to the role of a fire support base for a section, being designed for the role from the start. In practice many considered the L2A1 inferior to the Bren, as the Bren had a barrel that can be changed, so could deliver a better continuous rate of fire, and was more accurate in the role due to its greater weight and better stock configuration. For this reason the British used the 7.62mm-converted L4 series Bren. It is noteworthy that most countries that adopted the FAL rejected the heavy barrel FAL, presumably because it did not perform well in the machine gun role. Countries that did embrace the heavy barrel FAL included Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, and Israel.

Unique 30-round magazines were developed for the L2A1 rifles. These 30-round magazines were essentially a lengthened version of the standard 20-round L1A1 magazines, perfectly straight in design. Curved 30-round magazines from the L4A1 7.62 NATO conversion of the Bren are interchangeable with the 30-round L2A1 magazines, however they reputedly gave feeding difficulties due to the additional friction from the curved design as they must be inserted "upside down" in the L2A1. The L4A1 Bren magazines were developed as a top-mounted gravity-assisted feed magazine, opposite of what is required for the L2A1 FAL. This was sometimes sorted out by stretching magazine springs.

The Australian L1A1/L2A1 rifles were produced by the Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, with approximately 220,000 L1A1 rifles produced between 1959 and 1986. L2A1 production was approximately 10,000 rifles produced between 1962 and 1982. Lithgow exported a large number of L1A1 rifles to many countries in the region. Notable users were New Zealand, Singapore, and Papua New Guinea.

During the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, the SLR was the standard weapon issued to Australian infantrymen. Many Australian soldiers preferred the larger calibre weapon over the American M16
M16 rifle
The M16 is the United States military designation for the AR-15 rifle adapted for both semi-automatic and full-automatic fire. Colt purchased the rights to the AR-15 from ArmaLite, and currently uses that designation only for semi-automatic versions of the rifle. The M16 fires the 5.56×45mm NATO...

 because they felt the SLR was more reliable and they could trust the NATO 7.62 round to kill an enemy soldier outright. Australian jungle warfare tactics used in Vietnam were informed by their experience in earlier jungle conflicts (e.g. the Malayan Emergency
Malayan Emergency
The Malayan Emergency was a guerrilla war fought between Commonwealth armed forces and the Malayan National Liberation Army , the military arm of the Malayan Communist Party, from 1948 to 1960....

 and the Konfrontasi campaign in Borneo
Borneo
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

) and were considered far more threatening by their Viet Cong opponents than those employed by U.S. forces The Australians considered the strengths and limitations of the SLR and its heavy ammunition load to be better suited to their tactical methodology.

Another interesting product of Australian participation in the conflict in South-East Asia was the field modification of L1A1 and L2A1 rifles by the Australian Special Air Service Regiment
Australian Special Air Service Regiment
The Special Air Service Regiment, officially abbreviated SASR but commonly known as the SAS, is a special forces unit of the Australian Army...

 SASR for better handling. Nicknamed "The Bitch", these rifles were field modified, often from heavy barrel L2A1 automatic rifles, with their barrels cut off right in front of the gas block, and often with the L2A1 bipods removed to install a XM148 40 mm grenade launcher mounted below the barrel. The XM148 40 mm grenade launchers were obtained from U.S. forces. For the L1A1, the lack of fully automatic fire resulted in the unofficial conversion of the L1A1 to full-auto capability by using lower receivers from the L2A1, which works by restricting trigger movement.

Australia produced a shortened version of the L1A1 designated the L1A1-F1. It was intended for easier use by soldiers of smaller stature in jungle combat, as the standard L1A1 is a long, heavy weapon. The reduction in length was achieved by installing the shortest butt length (there were 3 available, short, standard and long), and a flash suppressor that resembled the standard version except it projected a much smaller distance beyond the end of the rifling, and had correspondingly shorter flash eliminator slots. The effect was to reduce the length of the weapon by 2 1/4 inches. Trials revealed that, despite no reduction in barrel length, accuracy was slightly reduced. The L1A1-F1 was provided to Papua New Guinea, and a number were sold to the Royal Hong Kong Police in 1984. They were also issued to female Staff Cadets at the Royal Military College Duntroon and some other Australian personnel.

In 1970 a bullpup rifle known as the KAL1 General Purpose Infantry Rifle
KAL1 General Purpose Infantry Rifle
The KAL1 General Purpose Infantry Rifle was an Australian bullpup rifle designed in the 1970s for jungle warfare following complaints about the weight and length of the L1A1 SLR rifles then in service with the Australian Army. The design never entered service however, with the bullpup configured,...

 was built at the Small Arms Factory Lithgow using parts from the L1A1 rifle. Another version of the rifle was also built in 1973.

Canada


The Canadian Forces
Canadian Forces
The Canadian Forces , officially the Canadian Armed Forces , are the unified armed forces of Canada, as constituted by the National Defence Act, which states: "The Canadian Forces are the armed forces of Her Majesty raised by Canada and consist of one Service called the Canadian Armed Forces."...

 operated several versions, the most common being the C1A1, similar to the British L1A1 (which became more or less a Commonwealth standard), the main difference being that rotating disc rear sight graduated from 200 to 600 yards and a two piece firing pin. The trigger guard was able to be folded into the pistol grip, this allowed the user to wear mitts when using the weapon. The Canadian rifle also has a shorter receiver cover than other Commonwealth variants to allow for refilling the magazine by charging it with stripper clip
Stripper clip
A stripper clip or charger is a speedloader that holds several cartridges together in a single unit for easier loading of a firearm's magazine. A stripper clip is used only for loading the magazine and is not necessary for the firearm to function...

s. It was manufactured under license by the Canadian Arsenals Limited company. Canada was the first country to use the FAL. It served as Canada's standard battle rifle from the early 1950s to 1984, when it began to be phased out in favor of the lighter Diemaco C7
Diemaco C7
The Colt Canada C7 rifle is a service rifle variation of the M16 rifle that is manufactured by Diemaco/Colt Canada, a subsidiary of Colt Firearms after 2005, and used by the Canadian Forces, Hærens Jegerkommando , Military of Denmark , Iceland Crisis Response Unit, the Military of the Netherlands ...

, a licence-built version of the AR-15
AR-15
The AR-15 is a lightweight, 5.56 mm, air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed semi-automatic rifle, with a rotating-lock bolt, actuated by direct impingement gas operation. It is manufactured with the extensive use of aluminum alloys and synthetic materials....

.

The Canadians also operated an automatic variant, the C2A1, as a section support weapon, which was very similar to the Australian L2A1. It was similar to the FN FAL 50.41/42, but with wooden attachments to the bipod legs that work as a handguard when the legs are folded. The C2A1 used a tangent rear sight attached to the receiver cover with ranges from 200 to 1000 meters. The C1 was equipped with a 20-round magazine and the C2 with a 30-round magazine, although the two were interchangeable. Variants of the initial C1 and the product improved C1A1 were also made for the Royal Canadian Navy
Royal Canadian Navy
The history of the Royal Canadian Navy goes back to 1910, when the naval force was created as the Naval Service of Canada and renamed a year later by King George V. The Royal Canadian Navy is one of the three environmental commands of the Canadian Forces...

, which were capable of automatic fire, under the designations C1D and C1A1D. These weapons are identifiable by a "A" for automatic, carved or stamped into the butt stock. Boarding parties for domestic and international searches used these models.

Malaysia


The Malaysian Army
Malaysian Army
The Malaysian Army is the land component of the Malaysian Armed Forces. Steeped in British Army traditions, the Malaysian Army does not carry the title ‘royal’ as do the Royal Malaysian Air Force and the Royal Malaysian Navy...

 adopted the L1A1 SLR rifle from the British Commonwealth circa 1969 to replace the elderly bolt action Lee Enfield rifle and Sten
Sten
The STEN was a family of British 9 mm submachine guns used extensively by British and Commonwealth forces throughout World War II and the Korean War...

 sub-machinegun, but the Royal Malaysian Navy
Royal Malaysian Navy
The Royal Malaysian Navy is the naval arm of Malaysian Armed Forces. All commissioned ships of the RMN have the prefix KD , which means Royal Ship.-Straits Settlement Naval Volunteer Reserve:...

 adopted the L1A1 SLR earlier than Malaysian Army
Malaysian Army
The Malaysian Army is the land component of the Malaysian Armed Forces. Steeped in British Army traditions, the Malaysian Army does not carry the title ‘royal’ as do the Royal Malaysian Air Force and the Royal Malaysian Navy...

, about 1965-66 along side the Sterling SMG. It was also adopted by Royal Malaysian Police
Royal Malaysian Police
The Royal Malaysia Police is a part of the security forces structure in Malaysia. The force is a centralised organization with responsibilities ranging from traffic control to intelligence gathering. Its headquarters is located at Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur. The police force is led by an...

 for its Paramilitary Field Force (Pasukan Polis Hutan/GOF). Communist Party of Malaya
Malayan Communist Party
The Malayan Communist Party , officially known as the Communist Party of Malaya , was founded in 1930 and laid down its arms in 1989. It is most famous for its role in the Malayan Emergency.-Formation:...

 cadres had been found with the FN FAL as well, most of them looted from dead or wounded Malaysian soldiers. This rifle was used until the 1990s with the adoption of the HK 33, Beretta AR70 and M16A1 assault rifles before FALs were withdrawn from service and transferred to second line units (Rejimen Askar Wataniah
Rejimen Askar Wataniah
The Rejimen Askar Wataniah is the military reserve force of the Malaysian Army. An equivalent formation in the British Army would be the Territorial Army....

).

New Zealand


The New Zealand Army used the L1A1 as its standard service rifle for just under 30 years. The Labour government of Walter Nash approved the purchase of the L1A1 as a replacement for the No. 4 Mk 1 Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle in September 1958. An order for a total of 15,000 L1A1 rifles was subsequently placed with the Lithgow Arsenal in Australia which had been granted a license to produce the L1A1. However the first batch of 500 rifles from this order was not actually delivered to the New Zealand Army until 1960. Thereafter deliveries continued at an increasing pace until the order for all 15,000 rifles was completed in 1965. After its adoption by the Army, the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Navy also eventually acquired it. Unlike L1A1s in Australian service, New Zealand L1A1s later used British black plastic furniture, and some rifles even had a mixture of the two. The carrying handles were frequently cut off. The British SUIT (Sight Unit Infantry Trilux) optical sight was issued to some users in infantry units. The L2A1 heavy barrel variant was also issued as a limited standard, but was not popular due to the problems also encountered by other users of heavy barrel FAL variants. The L4A1 7.62mm conversion of the Bren
Bren
The Bren, usually called the Bren Gun, was a series of light machine guns adopted by Britain in the 1930s and used in various roles until 1991...

 was much-preferred in New Zealand service. The New Zealand Defence Force
New Zealand Defence Force
The New Zealand Defence Force consists of three services: the Royal New Zealand Navy; the New Zealand Army; and the Royal New Zealand Air Force. The Commander-in-Chief of the NZDF is His Excellency Rt. Hon...

 began replacing the L1A1 with the Steyr AUG
Steyr AUG
The AUG is an Austrian bullpup 5.56mm assault rifle, designed in the early 1970s by Steyr Mannlicher GmbH & Co KG . The AUG was adopted by the Austrian Army as the StG 77 in 1977, where it replaced the 7.62mm StG 58 automatic rifle...

 assault rifle
Assault rifle
An assault rifle is a selective fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. Assault rifles are the standard infantry weapons in most modern armies...

 in 1988. The Steyr AUG
Steyr AUG
The AUG is an Austrian bullpup 5.56mm assault rifle, designed in the early 1970s by Steyr Mannlicher GmbH & Co KG . The AUG was adopted by the Austrian Army as the StG 77 in 1977, where it replaced the 7.62mm StG 58 automatic rifle...

 is currently in use across all three services of the New Zealand Defence Force
New Zealand Defence Force
The New Zealand Defence Force consists of three services: the Royal New Zealand Navy; the New Zealand Army; and the Royal New Zealand Air Force. The Commander-in-Chief of the NZDF is His Excellency Rt. Hon...

. The Royal New Zealand Navy
Royal New Zealand Navy
The Royal New Zealand Navy is the maritime arm of the New Zealand Defence Force...

 still use the L1A1 for line throwing between ships.

Rhodesia


Like most British colonies and Commonwealth Nations of the time, the colony of Southern Rhodesia
Southern Rhodesia
Southern Rhodesia was the name of the British colony situated north of the Limpopo River and the Union of South Africa. From its independence in 1965 until its extinction in 1980, it was known as Rhodesia...

's military forces were issued the British semi-automatic version of the FAL, the L1A1. However after the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from the UK in 1965, Rhodesia
Rhodesia
Rhodesia , officially the Republic of Rhodesia from 1970, was an unrecognised state located in southern Africa that existed between 1965 and 1979 following its Unilateral Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom on 11 November 1965...

 was unable to obtain further supplies of L1A1 SLRs. Instead, as many as 30,000 South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

n R1 rifles were procured from that country. These two rifles would be the primary infantry small arms of the Rhodesian Security Forces
Rhodesian Army
The Rhodesian Security Forces consisted of the Rhodesian Army, Royal Rhodesian Air Force, British South Africa Police, Rhodesian Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Guard Force.- Rhodesian Army :...

 during the Rhodesian Bush War
Rhodesian Bush War
The Rhodesian Bush War – also known as the Second Chimurenga or the Zimbabwe War of Liberation – was a civil war which took place between July 1964 and December 1979 in the unrecognised country of Rhodesia...

 of 1965–80.

United Kingdom


The United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 produced its own variant of the FN FAL incorporating the modifications developed by the Allied Rifle Committee, designating it the L1A1 Self Loading Rifle (SLR). The weapons were manufactured by the Royal Small Arms Factory Enfield
Royal Small Arms Factory
The Royal Small Arms Factory was a UK government-owned rifle factory in the London Borough of Enfield in an area generally known as the Lea Valley. The factory produced British military rifles, muskets and swords from 1816...

, Birmingham Small Arms
Birmingham Small Arms Company
This article is not about Gamo subsidiary BSA Guns Limited of Armoury Road, Small Heath, Birmingham B11 2PP or BSA Company or its successors....

, Royal Ordnance Factory
Royal Ordnance Factory
Royal Ordnance Factories was the collective name of the UK government's munitions factories in and after World War II. Until privatisation in 1987 they were the responsibility of the Ministry of Supply and later the Ministry of Defence....

 and ROF Fazakerley
ROF Fazakerley
ROF Fazakerley was a Royal Ordnance Factory rifle manufacturing plant in Fazakerley, Liverpool; which manufactured weapons such as the Sten and Sterling submachine guns and Lee-Enfield rifle during and after World War II....

. After the production run ceased, replacement components were made by Parker Hale Limited
Parker Hale
Parker Hale Ltd. was a United Kingdom firearms, air rifle and firearms accessory manufacturer, located in the Gun Quarter of the city of Birmingham, England. It was originally founded by Alfred Gray Parker and Arthur Hale. Parker-Hale Limited began manufacturing high quality precision shooting...

. The SLR served the British Armed Forces
British Armed Forces
The British Armed Forces are the armed forces of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.Also known as Her Majesty's Armed Forces and sometimes legally the Armed Forces of the Crown, the British Armed Forces encompasses three professional uniformed services, the Royal Navy, the...

 from 1954 until approximately 1994, being replaced by the L85A1
SA80
The SA80 is a British family of 5.56mm small arms. It is a selective fire, gas-operated assault rifle. SA80 prototypes were trialled in 1976 and production was completed in 1994....

 from 1985 onwards.

The SLR was designed using Imperial measurements and included several changes from the standard FN FAL. A significant change from the original FAL was that the L1A1 operates in semi-automatic
Semi-automatic firearm
A semi-automatic, or self-loading firearm is a weapon which performs all steps necessary to prepare the weapon to fire again after firing—assuming cartridges remain in the weapon's feed device or magazine...

 mode only. Other changes include: the introduction of a folding cocking handle
Cocking handle
The cocking handle is a device on a firearm which, when operated, results in the hammer or striker being cocked or moved to the ready position...

; an enclosed slotted flash suppressor
Flash suppressor
A flash suppressor, also known as a flash guard, flash eliminator, flash hider, or flash cone, is a device attached to the muzzle of a rifle or other gun that reduces the visible signature of the burning gases that exit the muzzle. This reduces the chances that the shooter will be blinded in dark...

; folding rear sight
Iron sight
Iron sights are a system of shaped alignment markers used as a sighting device to assist in the aiming of a device such as a firearm, crossbow, or telescope, and exclude the use of optics as in telescopic sights or reflector sights...

; sand-clearing modifications to the upper receiver, bolt and bolt carrier; folding trigger guard
Trigger guard
A trigger guard is a loop surrounding the trigger of a firearm and protecting it from accidental discharge.Some assault rifles can have their trigger guard removed or positioned as not to impair firing with gloves for example in Arctic conditions....

 to allow use with Arctic mitts; strengthened butt
Stock (firearm)
A stock, also known as a buttstock or shoulder stock, is a part of a rifle or other firearm, to which the barrel and firing mechanism are attached, that is held against one's shoulder when firing the gun. Stocks are also found on crossbows though a crossbow stock is more properly referred to as a...

; enlarged change lever
Safety (firearms)
In firearms, a safety or safety catch is a mechanism used to help prevent the accidental discharge of a firearm, helping to ensure safer handling....

 and magazine release catch; vertical stripping catch to prevent unintended activation; deletion of the automatic hold-open device and the addition of retaining tabs at the rear of the top cover to prevent forward movement of the top cover (and resulting loss of zero) when the L2A1 SUIT was fitted. The flash suppressor is fitted with a lug
Bayonet lug
A bayonet lug is a standard feature on most military muskets, rifles, and shotguns, and on some civilian longarms. It is intended for attaching a bayonet, which is typically a long spike or thrusting knife...

 which allows the fitting of an L1-series bayonet
Bayonet
A bayonet is a knife, dagger, sword, or spike-shaped weapon designed to fit in, on, over or underneath the muzzle of a rifle, musket or similar weapon, effectively turning the gun into a spear...

, an L1A1/A2 or L6A1 blank firing attachment or an L1A1/A2 ENERGA rifle grenade
Rifle grenade
A rifle grenade is a grenade that uses a rifle-based launcher to permit a longer effective range than would be possible if the grenade was thrown by hand...

 launcher.

Initial production rifles were fitted with walnut furniture, consisting of the pistol grip, forward handguard, carrying handle and butt. The wood was treated with oil to protect against moisture, but not varnished or polished. Later production weapons were produced with synthetic
Synthetic fiber
Synthetic fibers are the result of extensive research by scientists to improve on naturally occurring animal and plant fibers. In general, synthetic fibers are created by forcing, usually through extrusion, fiber forming materials through holes into the air, forming a thread...

 furniture, The material used was Maranyl, a nylon 6-6
Nylon 6-6
Nylon 6-6, also referred to as nylon 6,6, is a type of nylon. Nylon comes in many types, the two most common for textile and plastics industries are: nylon 6 and nylon 6,6.- Composition :...

 and fiberglass
Fiberglass
Glass fiber is a material consisting of numerous extremely fine fibers of glass.Glassmakers throughout history have experimented with glass fibers, but mass manufacture of glass fiber was only made possible with the invention of finer machine tooling...

 composite. The Maranyl parts have a "pebbled" anti-slip texture. The Maranyl butt has a separate butt-pad, available in four lengths to allow the rifle to be fitted to an individual user's "length of pull." There was also a special short butt designed for use with Arctic clothing or body armour, which incorporated fixing points for an Arctic chest sling system. After the introduction of the Maranyl furniture, as extra supplies became available it was retrofitted to older rifles as they underwent scheduled maintenance. However this resulted in a mixture of wooden and Maranyl furniture within units and often on the same rifle. Wooden furniture was still in use in some Territorial Army units until at least 1989.

The SLR selector
Safety (firearms)
In firearms, a safety or safety catch is a mechanism used to help prevent the accidental discharge of a firearm, helping to ensure safer handling....

 has two settings (rather than the 3 that most metric FALs have), safety
Safety (firearms)
In firearms, a safety or safety catch is a mechanism used to help prevent the accidental discharge of a firearm, helping to ensure safer handling....

 and semi-automatic
Semi-automatic firearm
A semi-automatic, or self-loading firearm is a weapon which performs all steps necessary to prepare the weapon to fire again after firing—assuming cartridges remain in the weapon's feed device or magazine...

, which are marked S (Safe) and R (Repetition.) The magazine from the 7.62 mm
7.62 mm caliber
7.62 mm caliber is a nominal caliber used for a number of different cartridges. Historically, this class of cartridge was commonly known as .30 caliber, the Imperial unit equivalent, and was most commonly used for indicating a class of full power military main battle rifle cartridges...

 L4 light machine gun will fit the SLR; however, the L4 magazine was designed for gravity assisted downwards feeding, and can be unreliable with the upwards feeding system of the SLR. Commonwealth
Commonwealth
Commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. Historically, it has sometimes been synonymous with "republic."More recently it has been used for fraternal associations of some sovereign nations...

 magazines were produced with a lug brazed onto the front to engage the recess in the receiver, in place of a smaller pressed dimple on the metric
Metric system
The metric system is an international decimalised system of measurement. France was first to adopt a metric system, in 1799, and a metric system is now the official system of measurement, used in almost every country in the world...

 FAL magazine. As a consequence of this, metric FAL magazines can be used with the Commonwealth SLR, but SLR magazines will not fit the metric FAL.

Despite the British, Australian and Canadian versions of the FAL being manufactured using machine tools which utilised the Imperial measurement system, they are all of the same basic dimensions. Parts incompatibilities between the original FAL and the L1A1 are due to pattern differences, not due to the different dimensions as incorrectly thought. Confusions over the differences has given rise to the terminology of "metric" and "inch" FAL rifles, which originated as a reference to the machine tools which produced them. Despite this, virtually all FAL rifles are of the same basic dimensions, true to the original Belgian FN FAL. In the USA, the term "metric FAL" refers to guns of the Belgian FAL pattern, whereas "inch FAL" refers to one produced to the Commonwealth L1A1/C1 pattern.
SLRs could be modified at unit level to take two additional sighting systems. The first was the "Hythe Sight," formally known as the "Conversion Kit, 7.62mm Rifle Sight, Trilux, L5A1" (L5A2 and L5A3 variants with different foresight inserts also existed) and intended for use in close range
Close quarters battle
Close quarters combat or close quarters battle is a type of fighting in which small units engage the enemy with personal weapons at very short range, potentially to the point of hand-to-hand combat or fighting with hand weapons such as swords or knives...

 and in poor lighting conditions. The sight incorporated two rear sight aperture leaves and a permanently glowing tritium foresight insert for improved night visibility, which had to be replaced after a period of time due to radioactive decay
Radioactive decay
Radioactive decay is the process by which an atomic nucleus of an unstable atom loses energy by emitting ionizing particles . The emission is spontaneous, in that the atom decays without any physical interaction with another particle from outside the atom...

. The first rear sight leaf had a 7 mm aperture which could be used alone for night shooting or the second leaf could be raised in front of it, superimposing a 2 mm aperture for day shooting. The second sight was the L2A1 "Sight Unit, Infantry, Trilux" (SUIT), a 4x optical sight
Telescopic sight
A telescopic sight, commonly called a scope, is a sighting device that is based on an optical refracting telescope. They are equipped with some form of graphic image pattern mounted in an optically appropriate position in their optical system to give an accurate aiming point...

 which mounted on a rail welded to a top cover. The SUIT featured a prismatic offset design, which reduced the length of the sight and improved clearance around the action
Firearm action
In firearms terminology, an action is the physical mechanism that manipulates cartridges and/or seals the breech. The term is also used to describe the method in which cartridges are loaded, locked, and extracted from the mechanism. Actions are generally categorized by the type of mechanism used...

. Also, the SUIT helped to reduce parallax
Parallax
Parallax is a displacement or difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight, and is measured by the angle or semi-angle of inclination between those two lines. The term is derived from the Greek παράλλαξις , meaning "alteration"...

 errors and heat mirage
Mirage
A mirage is a naturally occurring optical phenomenon in which light rays are bent to produce a displaced image of distant objects or the sky. The word comes to English via the French mirage, from the Latin mirare, meaning "to look at, to wonder at"...

 from the barrel as it heated up during firing. The aiming mark was an inverted, tapered perspex pillar ending in a point which could be illuminated by a tritium element for use in low light conditions. The inverted sight post allowed rapid target re-acquisition
Target Acquisition
In the military, target acquisition denotes any process that provides detailed information about enemy forces and locates them with sufficient accuracy to permit continued monitoring or attacking it....

 after the recoil
Recoil
Recoil is the backward momentum of a gun when it is discharged. In technical terms, the recoil caused by the gun exactly balances the forward momentum of the projectile and exhaust gasses, according to Newton's third law...

 of the firearm raised the muzzle. The scope was somewhat heavy, but due to its solid construction was durable and robust.During the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, the British SUIT scope was copied by the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and designated the 1P29 telescopic sight.


The SLR was officially replaced in 1985 by the bullpup
Bullpup
Bullpups are firearm configurations in which the action is located behind the trigger group and alongside the shooter's face, so there is no wasted space for the buttstock as in conventional designs. This permits a shorter firearm length for the same barrel length for improved maneuverability, and...

 design L85A1
SA80
The SA80 is a British family of 5.56mm small arms. It is a selective fire, gas-operated assault rifle. SA80 prototypes were trialled in 1976 and production was completed in 1994....

 assault rifle, firing the 5.56x45mm NATO
5.56x45mm NATO
5.56×45mm NATO is a rifle cartridge developed in the United States and originally chambered in the M16 rifle. Under STANAG 4172, it is a standard cartridge for NATO forces as well as many non-NATO countries. It is derived from, but not identical to, the .223 Remington cartridge...

 cartridge
Cartridge (firearms)
A cartridge, also called a round, packages the bullet, gunpowder and primer into a single metallic case precisely made to fit the firing chamber of a firearm. The primer is a small charge of impact-sensitive chemical that may be located at the center of the case head or at its rim . Electrically...

. The armed forces were re-equipped by 1994 and during this period the L1A1 rifles were gradually phased out. Most were either destroyed or sold on, with some going to Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone , officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea to the north and east, Liberia to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and southwest. Sierra Leone covers a total area of and has an estimated population between 5.4 and 6.4...

. Several thousand were sent to the USA and sold as parts kits, and others were refurbished by LuxDefTec in Luxembourg and are still on sale to the European market.

: Produced under license, replaced by the F88 Austeyr.: Produced under license. Replaced by the C7 Rifle: Uses them as standard issue infantry rifle alongside M16 assault rifle: Uses various British and Australian L1A1s.: Used until the 1990s and replaced by the HK 33, Beretta AR70 and M16A1: Used Australian built L1A1s from 1960, replaced by Steyr AUG
Steyr AUG
The AUG is an Austrian bullpup 5.56mm assault rifle, designed in the early 1970s by Steyr Mannlicher GmbH & Co KG . The AUG was adopted by the Austrian Army as the StG 77 in 1977, where it replaced the 7.62mm StG 58 automatic rifle...

 in 1988. Used Australian built L1A1s./ Rhodesia: Adopted in the 1960s, replaced in regular military units with South African R1 FALs after post-UDI arms embargo, SLR used by reserve military and police units until the end of the Bush war.: Used by the British Army until 1987, then replaced by the L85A1. The rifle has since been phased out of service from the British Army.

See also

  • List of battle rifles
  • AR-10
    AR-10
    The AR-10 is an American 7.62 mm battle rifle developed by Eugene Stoner in the late 1950s at ArmaLite, then a division of the Fairchild Aircraft Corporation...

     - An American 7.62mm battle rifle design from the same period
  • CETME
    CETME
    CETME is an acronym for Centro de Estudios Técnicos de Materiales Especiales , a Spanish government design and development establishment. While being involved in many projects CETME was mostly known for its small arms research and development...

     - A Spanish 7.62mm battle rifle
  • Heckler & Koch G3
    Heckler & Koch G3
    The G3 is a 7.62mm battle rifle developed in the 1950s by the German armament manufacturer Heckler & Koch GmbH in collaboration with the Spanish state-owned design and development agency CETME ....

     - A German 7.62mm battle rifle derived from the CETME
  • M14
    M14 rifle
    The M14 rifle, formally the United States Rifle, 7.62 mm, M14, is an American selective fire automatic rifle firing 7.62x51mm NATO  ammunition. It was the standard issue U.S. rifle from 1959 to 1970. The M14 was used for U.S...

     - An American 7.62mm battle rifle
  • MAS-49 - A 7.5mm French semiautomatic battle rifle