back to article Penetration tech: BAE Systems' new ammo for Our Boys and Girls

BAE Systems is, for the first time in many years, offering new types of small arms ammunition to the armed forces. It all boils down to achieving better penetration and pleasing the customer. Famous as the home of British military ammunition production since its 20th century days as a state-owned Royal Ordnance Factory, Radway …

  1. Richard 81

    There's something rather odd about discussing the toxicity of a bullet.

    1. James 51

      Think of it in a hearts and minds kind of way. The locals are less likely to stay on the sidelines if you're poisoning the water they drink and the food they eat.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. WraithCadmus

      It does seem rather odd I know, but really it's about not polluting firing ranges etc.

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        While not "polluting firing ranges" can only be seen as a good thing, I'm not certain that ranges are greatly polluted anyway. Gallery ranges have backstops that contain fired rounds (barring odd strays that ricochet) and because these backstops "fill up" (sometimes causing the aforementioned ricochets) they are periodically dug out and the spent rounds sifted out for recycling.

        Field firing ranges are a bit different because they don't have backstops so there is a clear possibility of pollution. At the same time they are, or certainly can be, wildlife havens with all sorts of species thriving because (odd as it may seem) they are wild open spaces with little to disturb the wildlife.

        Counter - intuitive, yes, but still true. IIRC the MoD has Wildlife Officers whose function is to make sure (insofar as is practicable) that nature has a fighting chance. Pun deliberate.

        1. Smooth Newt Silver badge

          Reducing lead pollution

          Environmental friendliness is also a surprising but very real concern for the ammunition industry.

          I won't mention depleted uranium if you don't.

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Reducing lead pollution

            Enviromental concerns are mostly about the recreational shooters in places like the US shooting at abandoned quarries and the like where lead concentrations can be dangerously high but openly exposed to seeping into the groundwater. There are videos of people "mining" dozens of pounds of lead from quarries frequented by recreational shooters.

            1. Yesnomaybe

              Re: Reducing lead pollution

              Back in the day, I must have pumped hundreds of kilos of lead shot (Number 9) into the countryside, going clay-pigeon shooting with my mates. We would routinely pick up 2 to 3 thousand rounds for a weekend of shooting. Thinking about it now: It probably wasn't so good...

        2. Tim Jenkins

          Fullbore indoor pistol ranges were always a bit on the toxic side; the hole under Court Garden Leisure Centre in Marlow comes to mind. Lots of soft lead wadcutters impacting steel baffles, with a suspiciously heavy dustpan when sweeping up.

          Having said that, it was always the noise that felt more hazardous, particularly when the chap with the Mauser C96 was in; the muzzle crack from 7.63x25 is not nice to be alongside....

          1. W4YBO

            Re: Fullbore indoor pistol ranges were always a bit on the toxic side...

            I've never worried about the pollution downrange, since most of the indoor ranges I've been to were very well ventilated. I do have some qualms about Lead Styphnate and Fulminate of Mercury (pre-1950s manufacture) in the primers.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            80% of the energy of the Tokarev 7.62x25, which itself is not to bad. Particularly if you have earplugs under muffs.

            When the fellow with the .500 S&W comes in, however, I take a break till he's done. That thing is absurd.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          At the same time they are, or certainly can be, wildlife havens with all sorts of species thriving because (odd as it may seem) they are wild open spaces with little to disturb the wildlife.

          Over successive generations, do the wildlife in these areas lose their sense of hearing? :D

        4. Paulus.Maximus

          So why not just use a "non-toxic" steel training cartridge at the ranges. No need to compromise performance with lead-free bullets for actual war fighting.

      2. attoman

        Not quite

        It's about lead in ground water. Such poisoned groundwater can be injurious to animals and young children.

        Steel is a poor choice both as a penetrant and non-pollutant. The best choice used by U.S. forces is tungsten.

        You can eat tungsten all day without the slightest harm except a feeling of sluggishness.

    3. jason 7

      Odd? Well the old .303 rounds sometimes had a wooden filler in the bullet. The wood was steamed to sterilise it.

      So I've been told.

      1. Dave Bell

        Possibly "bulleted blank", a wooden bullet to increase the gas pressure so something such as a Bren gun could operate, giving the right shape to reliably feed into the chamber, and depending on a muzzle attachment to shred the bullets.

        One of the factors in all this is the cost of making the steel bullet. Casting lead is an old and fairly cheap technology. The steel bullets will need totally different machines. Even the gilding metal stage will need some changes.

        1. Commswonk Silver badge

          Possibly "bulleted blank"

          Please forgive me for pointing out that if you know about these then your age may be showing. As indeed is mine for knowing that you're right about them.

          That said I don't think there was a muzzle attachment; ISTR that the use of bulleted blanks required the use of a special barrel that had a cruciform "cutter" built in at the muzzle, but I could be mistaken. Certainly later weapons (L1A1 SLR, L4A4 LMG (a Bren derivative) L85A1 & 2 and so on) used blank firing attachments to enable the use of non - bulleted blanks.

          1. Zimmer

            ..bulleted blank..

            OK, so my age is showing..

            ..when I last fired bulleted blanks (cadets v regulars!) I distinctly remember the half closed (semi-circle opening) on the muzzle end of the Bren I was using ... it still shredded the bushes I was hiding behind, set them alight and provided a brown trouser moment for the two regulars who had sneaked up on the position in the dark. I did not see them as we were 'turned out' and told to open fire, so I did...

            The debriefing went something like...' Who was the bloody idiot with the Bren?'

            I do not wish to repeat the experience, lugging the great heavy thing about was a nightmare in the dark for an 8st weakling and his not dissimilar mate (truth is the Padre helped us out and carried it at one point, as we were exhausted and falling behind...bless him.)

          2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

            "bulleted blank"

            The 0.303 Bren gun used bulleted blank. The wooden bullet was necessary to cause the build up pressure in the barrel to cycle the self loading mechanism. A flash hider at the end of the barrel was cone shaped with a semi circular plate at the end to smash the wooden bullet. Bulleted blank was quite dangerous if mistaken for rifle blank, not only for the "target" but it sometimes blocked the rifle barrel and caused a bolt blow back.

            The introduction of the 7.65mm SLR required a normal blank that would feed in an automatic rifle . Thus it would feed happily in the GPMG and also the converted 7.65mm Bren gun. A blank firing attachment was needed to cause a build up of pressure in the rifle/gun barrel that could cycle the self loading mechanism. On the GPMG this was accomplished by using a special barrel.

            I suspect the wood was sterilised to prevent the blank deteriorating in storage, not to protect the environment. After all a quicker rotting down is better.

            As an aside, the "blank" used for mine layer training was filled with fertiliser so that farmers would allow training on their land.

        2. bpfh Silver badge

          Wooden core on a lead or copper bullet. Would mushroom out nicely when shooting through the Indian sub-continent if you were working in the East Indian Company's private army...

          Of course though, the wooden core was sterlilised - unclean wood splinters could give an enemy tetanos after being shot, and we would not want that would we now, old boy? Us British are above that sort of unsportsmanlike behaviour!

        3. Daniel 18

          But bulk steel production and fabrication is relatively cheap, and after a couple of centuries, now routine.

          As for materials cost, lead is rougly 4 times as expensive as steel (4.4 times in 2010). Handy, particularly if you can get the customer to pay more for an 'enhanced product' that in the long run, costs less to make, after upgrading your plant for the new process.

      2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Re: Jason 7

        "....the old .303 rounds sometimes had a wooden filler in the bullet...." True. The design of the .303 British Ml VII round was in response to the French "Balle D" round, which was the first military rifle round that gave up a round nose for the more pointed style common today, giving higher velocity and better long-range performance. However, the British had a lot of experience fighting colonial wars and wanted a bullet that didn't just punch a small hole and narrow wound channel straight through a man, but something that did damage more akin to the hand-made "Dum Dum" bullets the British soldiers made in India. The problem was The Hague Convention outlawed "explosive" expanding bullets like the Dum Dums. So the British came up with a fully-jacketed bullet that was stable in flight, but would deflect upon impact and even tumble when passing through a man, creating a much more damaging wound channel, and expanding more energy in the target. To do so, they created a bullet with the majority of its weight to the rear by making the inside of the tip hollow. Worried that this might get them in trouble with the Convention, they made some with steam-treated wood pulp in the tip, some with cellulose, and the majority with aluminium. The resulting round was infamous for its wounding capability.

    4. Black Rat

      Jobs for the boys

      You should see the adverts for SS109 ammunition in the "NATO's sixteen nations" magazine from the late 80's. They actually boasted about its ability to punch a hole through a US Army helmet one kilometre away. Shortly afterwards a big contract for improved helmets appeared.

      1. collinsl

        Re: Jobs for the boys

        Helmets are intended merely to protect the wearer's head from shrapnel and objects which have been thrown up in shell bursts, plus the obvious hitting the head on things bit.

        They were and are not supposed to stop well aimed rounds - in a few cases they've caught bullets that might otherwise have killed the wearer but these tend to be richochets or rounds that have almost run out of energy.

        It's good that we have them, but they're not supposed to stop bullets.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Jobs for the boys

          "They were and are not supposed to stop well aimed rounds."

          It is correct that the original (WWI) British army helmets were designed to deflect shrapnel, not bullets. German-army helmets of the same era were a totally different shape and were designed to provide a degree protection from snipers, which is why they extend down to the neck at the back. Quite how effective they were with non-glancing hits is another question. Modern US army helmets will stop a 9mm pistol round at point-blank range, but not a rifle round ...

        2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge


          "They were and are not supposed to stop well aimed rounds"

          as was demonstrated really well by Donald Sutherland in "The Eagle has Landed"

    5. JLV

      True, but on the opposite end of the spectrum, the Depleted Uranium rounds fired by the A-10s gun makes for really bad PR after the fact. Lots of current wars end up being waged in a counter-insurgency context and excessively messing up the place up for the locals is not a clear path to hearts and minds.

      So, if it's all the same, why not clean it up? Though I totally get and appreciate your quip!

    6. Ian Michael Gumby

      @Richad 81

      "There's something rather odd about discussing the toxicity of a bullet"

      I guess that comes from not being allowed to own guns and shoot.

      Lets talk about shotguns. Lead Shot vs Steel Shot.

      Which shot would you rather have in your game bird?

      Shooting clays?

      In Chicago, there once was a trap range where they flung the targets over the lake.

      They phased out lead shot because of its polluting the environment.

      Or that deer?

      Shooting .22lr?

      There were a lot of rumors swirling around about the shortage of .22lr ammo.

      Seems that they increased the weight (amount of lead) due to EPA regulations. Ironically they increased the amount of lead (weight) in the rounds.

      The point is that beyond military applications, you have sport shooters and range time where you will expend more ammo than during a military conflict. That's where you want to keep your environment healthy.

      But back to the article...

      Steel core bullets aren't new. Most ranges will not let you shoot with steel in them because they cause more damage to the indoor retaining walls and materials. Some outdoor ranges won't allow it because steel core / tipped rounds may cause sparks and fires.

      A larger issue with non military rounds is controlled expansion. When you hunt, you want to kill the animal as quickly as possible.

  2. JonP

    Presumably this coincides with a new range of bullet proof vests and body armour?

    mine's the one with the 9 mm steel plates...

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "I don't think Mr Apple does that all the time"

    How cute. A weapons manufacturer trying to justify extensive testing by comparison with civilian, not-for-killing manufacturers. And that from a company producing a product that is guaranteed to sell, especially these days.

    I'm glad to know that there are such stringent standards in place for ensuring that the rough transport conditions of deadly weaponry will not result in haphazard explosions and useless loss of limb or life. It is particularly reassuring to know that the Death industry is very, very attentive to only bring death when it is specifically requested (by pulling the trigger).

    But really, guys, comparing with an iPhone ? Come on, Apple doesn't need such standards (nor does Samsung). A broken phone is one that will be replaced, so it's a business opportunity. That's the view. It's okay to have phones that break (from a manufacturer's point of view). It is not okay to have bullets that go off by themselves (from a soldier's point of view).

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: "I don't think Mr Apple does that all the time"

      I think you have it backwards there, the point is to ensure that the round can go through all of that mistreatment and still go off when the operator requires it.

      I think he was using Apple because they have a reputation for quality and to make an illustration of the importance of his quality control.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "I don't think Mr Apple does that all the time"

        aand ... once you factor in all of the procurement and Q & A evaluation stages where DOD cronies have to be present and housed and entertained each round costs about the same as an iPhone does when leaving the factory.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          " DOD cronies have to be present and housed and entertained"

          Not forgetting "proprietary BAE Systems design,"

          So you'll be getting the BAE Systems price, not the price from the other dozen (or more ) mfgs round the world who can make SS109.

          MoD procurement.

          23 000 staff with a collect IQ of what?

      2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        @Chris G

        No, I don't think I have it backwards.

        "It is particularly reassuring to know that the Death industry is very, very attentive to only bring death when it is specifically requested (by pulling the trigger)."

        I do believe that covers your "go through all of that mistreatment and still go off when the operator requires it".

  4. james 68

    Interestingly the soft lead "ball" round was originally specced so that it would only penetrate "light cover" and NOT overpenetrate and become a danger to civvies (i.e. it stops in the target or whatever is behind the target, like a wall, instead of travelling through the target and several walls coming to rest in some unlucky sod uninvolved with whatever nastyness is taking place).

    I guess collateral damage is no longer bad thing.

    1. Dave Bell

      I have seen WW2 figures for how much brick is needed to reliably stop a bullet. People were told that they needed four bricks thickness, a bullet would go through the equivalent of a cavity wall. At least walls were often corbelled out at the base, partly because of the different building of foundations.

    2. Chez

      Actually, that's only relevant for handguns, and generally in the context of police. If you have to fire in a crowded area, you don't want overpenetration, as you risk injuring civilians. When you're talking about rifle rounds, they almost always overpenetrate, as even intermediate rifle rounds are vastly more powerful than mainstream pistol rounds - and 7.62 NATO is much too large to be considered intermediate.

      What's intriguing about this is the trend of penetration over cavitation. They're following the 5.45 model, penetration instead of tumbling and cavitation (causing more damaging wound channels). And they're going for a heavier round as well, for a less flat trajectory. Strange choices to make, really - stuff that the russkies have been doing for decades.

      1. Eddy Ito

        I believe the penetration is for defeating armour so as to be able to produce a wound at all. Tumbling and cavitation are all well and good but only if you get to the target first.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Actually, the soft lead "ball" is a carry over from the earlier muskets. However, jacketed lead does give the bullet "weight" and also it deforms when hitting something. So called "stopping power" by a bullet is due in large part to that deformation or mushrooming of the bullet. I'm suspecting that the new steel bullets will just punch a nice round hole in the fleshy target and not "knock them down".

      1. Danny 14

        since 7.62 is mainly used in the UK for MGs then penetration is needed more than cavitation anyway.

  5. Nairda

    End User?

    “We're focused on improving performance for the customer and end user,”

    I would have thought the end user was the guy with a hole in his chest. I am sure he will be pleased with the improvements. :)

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: End User?

      But at least he won't die of "lead poisoning"...

      1. Tony Haines

        Re: End User?

        ... then again, he might rust instead.

      2. Adam Oellermann

        Re: End User?

        Collateral damage? At BAE Systems, we prefer to think of it as offering free iron supplements to the local population.

    2. Ken 16 Silver badge

      Re: End User?

      No, the customer is the one with the hole in his chest, the end user is the one who served him with it.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Re: Ken 16 Re: End User?

        "No, the customer is the one with the hole in his chest, the end user is the one who served him with it." The customer is the people who paid for the round, in this case HMG's MoD, and the end user is the soldier shooting the round. The fun bit is when the customer's idea of what to buy does not correspond with the soldiers' views on what kit they should be getting.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It's the sort of testing that goes on with the computer equipment as well.

    Image a high-end graphics workstation with the latest Intel, PowerPC and/or NVIDIA chips - your dream gaming machine. Then get it to work via board edge cooling only - fans are a complete no-no. Then get it to start up at -55C and stay working when the ambient temperature reaches +85C (or visa-versa). Then shake it like hell. All in a card the size of a mobile phone. Welcome to the mil-aero-space world :-)

    The main UK manufacturer of this kit is Abaco Systems - it's US rival being CW

    1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge


      Err.. Abaco is headquartered in Huntsville, Alabama (it's the old GE Intelligent Platforms group). And CW owns Penny+Giles in Christchuch, Dorset as well as other UK offices. So both Abaco & CW are US companies. For the real UK equivalent, look no further than BAE Systems!

  7. Unep Eurobats

    "improving performance for the ... end user"

    Yes, I'm sure they will definitely appreciate the extra efficiency ... for a very brief moment.

    1. Smooth Newt Silver badge


      because steel is substantially cheaper than lead, the new ammunition costs less. Right?

  8. Mephistro

    "...achieving better penetration and pleasing the customer."

    I see what you did there.

  9. jason 7

    Amazing the amount of research and design...

    ....that goes into something that in 99% of armed battles just means "throw as much noise, chaos and lead down range at the other guys in the hope they give up or run away first!"

    Studies after the Korean War found that past 50m you were just as likely to get hit by a stray bullet or shrapnel than you were an actual aimed bullet. It's not about accuracy in most cases, its about ripping up whatever you hit, aimed or otherwise, as much as possible.

    Not that I'm saying I wouldn't want better bullets in my weapon to spray downrange.

    1. Dave Bell

      Re: Amazing the amount of research and design...

      The British Army has long had a preference for soldiers hitting what they shoot at. Some of it has taken on an element of myth, but even something such as the "Mad Minute" was judged by counting hits on the target rather than shots fired, and the soldier could get extra pay.

      And part of why there is all the fuss about getting the ballistics the same is that it lets the soldiers keep hitting the target. You can get more penetration by increasing the velocity, but that changes the path of the bullet. And that means new sights, and makes the stocks of old ammunition less useful.

      Most of the effect of the new round has to come from the difference between steel and lead when it hits armour.

      1. jason 7

        Re: Amazing the amount of research and design...

        "The British Army has long had a preference for soldiers hitting what they shoot at. Some of it has taken on an element of myth, but even something such as the "Mad Minute" was judged by counting hits on the target rather than shots fired, and the soldier could get extra pay."

        When was that? 1914? When it was desired to use a round big enough for the average squaddie to unrealistically hit something 1300yds away?

        In the heat of battle with noise, mayhem and adrenalin going at 400%, accuracy tends to go out the window.

        Spray and pray.

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: Amazing the amount of research and design...

          For all of those down voters, and remembering that resupply of ammunition in difficult circumstances is often easier, have a look at the number of rounds fired/caualties by both the British and the US in Afghanistan. That is a lot of lead being thrown around.

          1. jason 7

            Re: Amazing the amount of research and design...

            Exactly. Aimed headshots are the realm of computer and console gamers.

            1. Danny 14

              Re: Amazing the amount of research and design...

              bollocks. In my section, if there was a spray and prayer then he was doing extra ranges and drill all weekend (and guard duty) until he learnt to follow orders. Spray and pray is a waste of a section member and putting others at risk, you aim and you shoot unless told to put a volume of fire down. doctrine might have changed a lot since I got out in 92 but im sure modern soldiers are told to aim.

              As for adrenaline under fire, TBH the problem is more AFTER the engagement when you realise what you have done and what could have happened. That is when you need to get your troops out of "the shakes" and onto doing something.

  10. Arthur the cat Silver badge


    (Serious question for those who know this sort of thing.)

    I'm mildly amused that what is basically a pointy cylinder is still referred to as a "ball". When was the last time spherical ammunition was the norm in the developed world? Late 18th century? Early 19th?

    1. NotBob

      Re: Ball?

      Certainly not the norm, but still in use. We have a dedicated season for flintlock and a season for all muzzleloaders with respect to hunting. Some such ammo is, in fact, spherical.

      They even have it at the local Walmart

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Ball?

      I'm mildly amused that what is basically a pointy cylinder is still referred to as a "ball".

      This is due to several hundred years of tradition unhampered by progress.

  11. Domquark

    And the point is?

    While I applaud British design and ingenuity, what's the point, when you are putting it in the piece of crap that is the SA80 (L85A1 or L85A2)? For a start, the SA80 only has an effective range of 300m. I used to train regularly at 300m (with open sights) on the SLR (L1A1) and that is rated at 800m!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And the point is?

      It's alright - I can carry twice as much ammunition, the rounds fragment more rather than just punching a hole straight through, and whilst Irons only give you an effective individual range of 300m, section fire is a lot further and more importantly - nobody uses irons on them anymore. You can definitely put down a target further than 300m with a Susat. Unless the Susat is broken. Which they always are because they're older than me...

      1. Domquark

        Re: And the point is?

        I have a couple of friends serving, both hate the SA80 with a passion! OK, it is possible to drop a target at 300m+ with the SA80, but you are at the range limits of the weapon. My point about the irons though, was to emphasise the reduced range compared to it's predecessor (the excellent SLR).

        Yes, the 5.56 round is smaller and lighter, but with vastly lower penetration capabilities - especially when over 300m. If I was given the choice, I'd prefer to carry less ammo and use a more accurate longer range weapon. As for fragmentation, the steel rounds in the article will have no fragmentation whatsoever against a "soft" target, so the 5.56 round (up to 300m) would behave more like a standard 7.62 round and punch straight through. Agreed though, at less than 100m, fragmentation would be preferable.

        I thought the Susat was being replaced with the Elcan LDS?

        1. Commswonk Silver badge

          Re: And the point is?

          Yes, the 5.56 round is smaller and lighter, but with vastly lower penetration capabilities - especially when over 300m.

          In fact I believe that most engagements are at a rather shorter distance anyway. At 300 yards a human sized target (OK: a Figure 11) is remarkably small and aiming an effective shot requires that the target is exposed (I nearly wrote "exposes itself" but thought better of it) and immobile for long enough for a decent aim to be established and the shot released. In turn that may leave the firer at least partially exposed to return fire.

          At any sort of "long range" a well concealed sniper complete with a decent telescopic sight is a much better bet for effectiveness. Suppressing fire can be effective at any range but can be an awful waste of ammunition.

          0.338 Lapua anyone?

        2. The First Dave

          Re: And the point is?

          The penetration of the 556 round is dependant on the target, but according to the test video we were shown when it was introduced, was _better_ than 762 against anything solid, due to the steel tip.

          And against flesh, it really doesn't matter; besides for a squad weapon you are mainly shooting as a deterrant - no man has ever stood up when rounds are passing overhead, measured one, and then said "its ok, they're only 556!" - so what matters is being able to keep bullets in the air for as long as possible, not something the SLR was up to, even if you had enough ammo.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

            Re: The First Dave Re: And the point is?

            "The penetration of the 556 round is dependant on the target...." Not just that, but also the weapon it is fired from. The old NATO 5.56mm SS109 bullet was designed for longer-barreled rifles, which was great until the US forces started standardizing on the M4 carbine. The new RG round's development may be because the UK does want an "environmentally-friendly" round, but doesn't want the US's new M885A1 round, which is optimized for the M4's shorter barrel.

            The M885A1 has a steel penetrator nose and an all-copper base, the steel nose helping with penetration of hardened targets. It also has "added lethality" in that, when it hits a soft target and the bullet decelerates, the soft copper base's momentum pushes it against the steel nose and the round mushrooms, enlarging the wound channel. I suspect the new RG steel round will perform better in the majority of NATO rifles which, like the SA80, have longer barrels than the M4 carbine, and will be cheaper than the copper M885A1, but the M885A1 will be more lethal.

            1. Danny 14

              Re: The First Dave And the point is?

              I joined in 84 (QLR infantry) , the SLR and GPMG was used in initial basic training but we were all on conversion courses for L85 and the absolute joke of an LSW. I was given the section LSW until I made lance jack and it was a fucking terrible weapon. I believe most of the shitness has been ironed out now (by replacing it with another weapon), the worst being the magazines, you simply couldn't load 30 rounds as the springs weren't good enough to be reliable. 25 at most and with an LSW that is just rubbish- no belt feeds here. The barrels were heavy and the whole weapon was front heavy, the rear handle dug into your ribs constantly, the bipod would fly open at a random times and of course you had plenty more cleaning to do over the regular L85. Gas parts were always on fully open as they gummed up pretty rapidly and I know of two people who put the gas parts in their L85 upside down (thus killing the rifle).

              The only decent thing about the L85 was accuracy in single shot and the SUSAT. You could engage at 600m accurately, 300m was a cinch. Sneak the bipod down on the range and it was centre line at 300m all the way - even with your respirator on :) I certainly had no issues on the range qualifying with the LSW, they only problems I ever had was using it as a support weapon - even when you got used to loading 25 rounds and having your magazines lined up, you still couldn't keep a decent volume of fire down.

      2. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: And the point is?

        Susats (Trilux) sights were good, I think they date back to the sixties, the tri in trilux refers to the radioactive lumi nous tritium that was in them. Keep them out of trouser pockets if you want to be a dad.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And the point is?

          @ Chris G

          "the tri in trilux refers to the radioactive lumi nous tritium that was in them. Keep them out of trouser pockets if you want to be a dad."

          Tritium is used in some watches. The output doesnt penetrate skin. Very clear in the dark and doesnt rely on draining a battery (and giving off a bright light) or UV.

    2. The First Dave

      Re: And the point is?

      The longest sight setting on an SLR was/is 600m

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And the point is?

        > "The longest sight setting on an SLR was/is 600m"

        Depending on the model of FN SLR... the C1A1 had a 600m disc sight, the C2A1 had a 1000m disc sight.

  12. phuzz Silver badge

    "Not, however, that [civilians will] be getting their hands on these rounds."

    I dunno, go down to your local base and start shouting that you have a bomb and you might get to see some close up...

    (Don't do this, it's a terrible idea, see icon >>>>>>)

    1. Ian Mason

      Re: Not selling ammo to civilians

      That of course doesn't stop the Army giving it away. Myself and some friends were down at Bisley just after the Army's Skill at Arms competition and just before the civilian 'Imperial Meeting' with the intention of getting our eyes in for the latter. An Army Sergeant drove a Landie over to our firing points and dumped down an ammo box with a few hundred rounds of RG green spot in it. "My officer says this isn't worth taking back to camp with us - nasty and heavy and all that - and wondered if you gentlemen would be kind enough to dispose of it for us?"

      Needless to say we did. With 7.62 running at around 70p a round at the time it made for a very cheap day's shooting and more to be spent in the pub later. God bless the British Army.

      P.S. This was the same day that the red flags went up because some idiot ignored about a gazzilion signs and walked their dog out of the woods and along the backstop of Century range - directly just above the targets and lots of hot flying lead.

      1. Tim Jenkins

        Re: Not selling ammo to civilians

        Never encountered stray dog walkers on Century, but the most memorable afternoon was shooting Long Rang Pistol there* when bullets started zinging overhead; turned out someone to our right and a few hundred yards further back had a badly adjusted optic on an AR15, and was bouncing rounds off the track in our direction. We did ask for permission to return fire (those in the 'Free' class firing .308 could probably have reached out and touched quite effectively), but the R.O. wasn't amused...

        * or possibly Siberia; it was nearly 30 years ago, I shudder to realise ; (

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not selling ammo to civilians

          Some years ago a friend of mine in the police was on a firearms training course on a purpose built and well fenced mock housing estate the force in question used for that purpose. They blasted the heck out of the place and were just packing up when two youths who had broken in for a mess about broke cover and scarpered; they'd been in there all the time and were very lucky to not be full of holes.

          1. Danny 14

            Re: Not selling ammo to civilians

            The paperwork for returning ammo is quite nasty. our RQMS went mad if we brought ammo (and god forbid pyro) back. Even worse if you are returning from a large exercise. Normally it isn't 7.62 or 5.56 but 9mm that you have boat loads to get rid off - officers don't fire their pistols so you always have a few thousand 9mm rounds given to you to get rid of. Even with 8 guys on decent ranges it takes a good day to get rid of that much ammo - you do end up pretty proficient at snap shooting though!

      2. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: Not selling ammo to civilians

        That of course doesn't stop the Army giving it away.

        I can assure you and other readers that that wasn't a completely isolated incident, although discretion demands that I do not reveal the location, the donor unit, the recipient club, and the calibre involved.

  13. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    " It all boils down to achieving better penetration and pleasing the customer."

    hurr , hurr , Fnarr Fnarr

    thats what she said ... etc ...

    make your own joke up

  14. IsJustabloke

    "so it can be functioned through the GPMG"

    *sigh* would it have killed him to say "it can be fired through a GPMG" ?

    If anyone gets a chance to have a play with a GPMG I urge you to do so :D

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: "so it can be functioned through the GPMG"

      i once read the phrase "he took the ammo to the face" , when the "phrase some murdering bastard killed him in cold blood without warning by shooting him in the face three times" would have been much more appropriate.

      "took the ammo to the face" . makes it sound like he had a choice.

  15. Packet
    Paris Hilton

    "...achieving better penetration and pleasing the customer."

    I am shocked, shocked to find that no one has used the Paris icon on here yet

  16. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "non-toxic bullet" - you just gotta love that.

    BTW, the time I was in the army coincided with the time petrol with lead-based additives was phased out. There was a campaign to promote the all-new lead-free petrol. They had stickers with slogans around the lines of "lead-free is the way to go, I'm all for it" etc without specifically mentioning that this was all about petrol. Some joker plastered dozends of those stickers all around the shooting range.

  17. Chuunen Baka

    Lead-free shot

    The British Army can have lead-free bullets but apparently it's a step too far for the huntin' & shootin' brigade. They want to carry on their tradition of poisoning the country side.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Lead-free shot

      Over here in the States, shotgun shells are have steel shot. Non-lead hunting rounds for rifles still contain lead.

      1. cray74

        Re: Lead-free shot

        Over here in the States, shotgun shells are have steel shot.

        Which I've heard is leading to a revival of the 10-gauge, since it throws the same weight of steel shot as a 12-gauge firing lead shot.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Lead-free shot

      As far as I know the British Army only uses shotguns in jungle warfare, usually for the guys on point. That would mean using something like SSG a few quite large (9mm) lead balls to penetrate brush at close quarters.

      British hunters can buy Eley bismuth shot but bismuth being about 15% less dense than lead means shorter range and effectiveness, however bismuth shot is always used for hunting wetland birds. The only other real alternative to lead for density would be tungsten, not only very expensive but would destroy a shotgun barrel quickly, although it is used in military anti-materiel rounds like the British AS 50 .

      I think the Dutch have banned lead shot completely.

      1. WraithCadmus

        Re: Lead-free shot

        As far as I know the British Army only uses shotguns in jungle warfare

        Yes, we bought a crate or two of Benelli M4s for use in the Green Zone in Afghanistan too.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lead-free shot

        > "The only other real alternative to lead for density would be tungsten, not only very expensive but would destroy a shotgun barrel quickly,"

        Which is why the normal advice if using steel shot, is to go up two sizes. Then to recover pattern density you add half an inch to the shells, which is why there are now a lot of shotguns with 3.5 inch magnum chambers. Cheaper than bismuth, almost as effective.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "[...] the HP bullet can penetrate an 8mm steel sheet out to about 400m, whereas its predecessor could only manage it at half that distance."

    In the 1960s a friend was a member of a UK Army reserve. Every year they had a rifle competition between the various groups. The target was a scoring one - but at the start it was blocked by a large vertical sheet of steel. The first person in each group had to hit the sheet at the very top to tip it over.

    One year no one could knock their sheet over. It transpired that it had not been tested with their new 7.62 rifles - which had replaced their previous .303 ones. The bullets were just going through the steel.

  19. JLV

    Good article, but one thing I would have liked more details about is how the round ended up being _heavier_ as a result of cutting out lead.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      I presume because they also made the round longer. After all, it is supposed to achieve greater penetration to please the customer...

  20. darklord

    New barrels please

    So accuracy will go out of the window pretty quickly when the barrels worn outand the chokes are blown to bits too.

    Watch this space itll happen

  21. darklord

    cost as well

    Steel and allow rounds are considerably more expensive so BAE are on a winner here.

    ITs not all about weight of the bullet its about energy retention down rage will give better penetration. reduce friction etc and less energy is wasted through air flow. the round is probably faster with faster burnng propellant thus increasing muzzle energy.

  22. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Spanners Silver badge

      Do we have some actual reviews?

      The USA? I believe that they like to test these things on their fellow citizens.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Been there, done the factory tour

    Went round some 20 years ago on a factory tour. I was amazed how the entire place was just like a home loading set up, up scaled. Metal detectors on the doorways, of course.

    The only bit of BAE that makes stuff from the raw materials right the way through to the end product. Bet they'll not be smelting the steel on site though now, which they used to do with the brass.

  24. bobajob12

    Still amazing that we do this, really

    Amazing that our progress as a warring species still comes down to throwing something at the other guy with more kinetic energy than we did last time around. And trying to find ways to absorb their energy without becoming an immobile lump (see armour, plate - and hockey goalies).

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