Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO
Weight: 7.3 kg empty, with SUSAT optical sight
Length: 900 mm
Length of barrel: 646 mm
Feeding: detachable box magazines, 30 rounds
Rate of fire: 610 – 775 rounds/min
The development of the SA-80 (Small Arms family for 1980s) was started in Britain by the late 1960s, with the search for the "ideal" small-bore ammunition. By the mid-1970s British designers developed a 4.85x49mm cartridge,intended for the SA-80 system, and consequently designed a SA-80 IW rifle and SA-80 LSW light machine gun for this ammunition. The 4.85mm LSW appeared in the prototype form circa 1976, but the NATO trials, held in the 1978-1979, resultedin adoption of the 5.56mm cartridge as a common NATO ammunition, so British designers from the RSAF Enfield redesigned their weapons for 5.56mm NATO rounds.The LSW was based on the SA-80 IW design, which is covered in the Assault Rifles section on this site under the L85A1 topic. The final version of the SA-80 LSW was adopted by the British Army in 1986, and total slightly over the 22 000 LSW weapons were manufactured before the production of both L85 IW and L86 LSW was ceased.
The L86A1 was plagued by the same problems as its sister, L85A1 rifle. In fact, the L86A1 was more suitable as a semi-automatic para-sniperrifle, than the LSW / LMG, due to the poor reliability in full automatic fire,relatively small (by machine guns standards) magazine capacity and the lack ofquick detachable barrels.
Current British troops prefer much heavier and belt-fed 7.62mm L7A1 GPMG (a license-built copy of Belgian FNMAG general purpose machine gun), and at the present time the exist ingstocks of L86A1 are complemented with the 5.56mm FN Minimi belt-fed LMG in the short-barreled Para configuration. The L86A1 will be used mostly as a longer-range aimed fire weapons, while the suppressive fire functions will be conducted using more effective FN Minimi.
General design of the L86A1 is mostly similar to the design of L85A1 rifle, except for the following. The L86A1 has longer barrel, with the steel stock extension under it, that carries the folding bipods. The bolt and trigger system are modified, so the gun can be fired from open bolt. The butt is fitted with folding shoulder support. The vertical grip is attached below the receiver,behind the magazine housing. The L86A1 could not be fitted with bayonet.