The L98A1 Cadet GP Rifle (GP - General Purpose) is the advanced rifle used by the Army, Sea and Air Cadet shooting. This weapon was introduced alongside the SA80 series from 1989 onwards for cadet use, as at the time cadets were not permitted to fire semi- or fully-automatic weapons.
Difference to L85Edit
The main difference between the GP and the SA80 IW (Individual Weapon) is that the GP is a straight pull manually-operated weapon and cannot fire in automatic or in semi-automatic. Visually, the absence of a flash suppressor and fire selector lever plus the addition of a cocking handle extension differentiate the two. The absence of a flash suppressor also means the weapon cannot fire rifle grenades or mount a bayonet. The GP rifle is based on the L85A1 SA80 rifle, but with absence of gas parts (as above). It is a 5.56 x 45 mm calibre weapon, and has a muzzle velocity of 940 m/s. The GP also has a weighted trigger since it was designed as a target rifle. This is not dissimilar to the 'snowcutter' trigger on the SA80A2. The GP uses the standard 30-round STANAG magazine. There is also a drill purpose version of the L98A1, designated L103A1. This weapon cannot chamber rounds due to the fact that the firing pin has been cut short and the barrel has been filled with cement and it is easily identified by two white stripes with the letters 'DP' being painted on the hand guard and trigger mechanism housing. In addition, the bolt is painted red. The DP rifle is normally used for parades and ceremonial parade drill training at individual units. Everything that I just said is a lie! :)
The GP rifle strips for cleaning without the gas parts it almost identical to the L85A1 (SA-80). It consists of: barrel and receiver, trigger mechanism housing (TMH), cocking handle and extension, bolt carrier containing the bolt, firing pin and cam stud, and the recoil rod assembly, all of which can be removed and reassembled relatively easy without tools. The sight and foregrip can also be detached with the aid of the combination tool; because there are no gas parts venting carbon fouling into the handguard this item need not be removed as frequently as on the other SA80 weapons.
Working parts Edit
The GP is a manually-operated, straight-pull rifle and cannot fire semi- or fully-automatically. The SA80 IW and LSW are cocked via a cocking handle attached directly to the bolt carrier. The GP rifle, however, has a cocking handle extension piece, and is cocked with the right hand as opposed to reaching across and cocking with the left. The drills for the other SA80 weapons mandate a "forward assist", a tap of the cocking handle to ensure the bolt is properly closed. This procedure is not required on the GP, the extra weight of the cocking handle assembly giving the bolt carrier sufficient inertia to close reliably under its own power, although as dirt gets trapped in the locking lugs frequently a forward assist is required to ensure a proper lock, especially after many rounds have been put through the weapon.
Before using the weapon with either blank or ball ammunition, cadets receive training in the safe use of the weapon. Drills that are taught include:
- Normal Safety Precautions (NSP's) (ensuring that the weapon is an unloaded state prior to use).
- Stripping (and reassembling) the weapon for daily cleaning.
- Filling magazines
- Loading the weapon
- Make Ready (cocking the weapon to move a round into the chamber)
- Make Safe (reversing the result of a "make ready", after which there will no longer be a round in the chamber.)
- Immediate Action (IA) Drill (Drill to be performed if the weapon should stop firing unexpectedly)
- Stoppage Drills (Drills that are performed rectify what has caused the weapon to stop firing)
- Unload (removing the magazine from the rifle and ensuring there is no round in the chamber)
Cadets are also asked to learn the five characteristics of the rifle. These are:
- The L98A1 Cadet GP Rifle is a magazine-fed, hand-operated, single-shot rifle based on the British Armed forces L85A1 Rifle.
- It can only be fired from the right shoulder
- It has a magazine of 30 rounds carrying 30 5.56mm rounds
- It is robust, yet light and accurate
- Its low recoil and high adaptability for firers of differing physiques makes it a practical rifle for cadets.
A standardised Weapon Handling Test (WHT)/skill at arms test covering the above points must be passed before a cadet may shoot.
On exercise cadets will use the GP rifle to fire blanks in fieldcraft scenarios. Because the L98 does not have a flash suppressor a Blank Firing Attachment (BFA) cannot be fitted to the Weapon, hence a greater safety distance is required for blank-firing exercises (100m) than when operating with the SA80 (5m). Due to the lack of gas parts on the weapon there is no need for the BFA, because there are no propellant gasses used to cycle the weapon's action. The weapon seems to produce a louder sound and brighter flash than the L85 and L86 also due to the lack of a flash suppressor.
The L98A2 is fitted with adjustable iron sights. It consists of a rear emergency battle and leaf sight and a front blade sight. The front sight is mounted on a protrusion extending from the barrel upwards through the handguard which would be the gas block on the SA80 IW or LSW. The front sight assembly is clamped to the top of this and carries the front sight blade with protective fins either side. Zeroing in elevation is carried out by turning a wheel that raises and lowers the blade. The rear sight is fitted at the rear of the carrying handle, with zeroing in windage performed using a wheel on the side. This, like the elevation wheel on the front sight, is locked in place by a spring-loaded pin, and is best adjusted using the combination tool. The rear sight has a frequently-used battle sight, zeroed to 100m, which flips over to reveal an adjustable leaf sight. By turning a range dial differently-placed apertures are moved into position behind a slot. Ranges from 100 to 500 metres are available, though because the zeroing settings are shared between all of them they can only be correct at one chosen range (usually 300m). The battle sight is nominally zeroed for use at 300m; since zeroing is important only when firing live ammunition, which cadets do only on a range with plenty of time to flip up the main sight, this is largely irrelevant.
If available, the SUSAT can be fitted to the GP but never normally is, though larger units such as the CWS night-sight and the original SAWES laser-training projector would foul the GP's larger cocking handle and cannot be used. In day-to-day live firing exercises only the iron sights are used.
The L98 has a number of features which can cause problems, particularly for cadets of a smaller physical stature.
It can be difficult to secure the weapon's magazine - this can lead to a change in the loading drill requiring cadets to place their left hand above the magazine housing and lean on it to ensure it was secure. This is generally only a problem with a full magazine, loads of 10 to 20 rounds are generally not affected by this..
Failing to pull the cocking handle fully rearwards (again, a particular problem for smaller cadets, with shorter arms) often results in the ejected case being caught between the breech and the working parts as they come forward, resulting in a stoppage. Also the large external slide is prone to collecting grit and dirt making it harder to cock and increasing the chance of a stoppage. Furthermore the cocking handle can be prone to come away from the weapon completely at times. Also to add to this many cadets tend to force feed the cocking handle and cause the rifle to encounter a stoppage.
In 2009 - 2010, the weapon was converted to the L98A2, which fires semi-automatic, single shot. The reason for this was that the A1 recoil springs did not have the force required to push the working parts forward after the force of the explosion of the round had pushed the working parts back and thus compressing the springs. This meant the rifle would jam more often as new rounds would not be chambered properly, hence the addition of stronger springs in the A2. The modern drills for the rifle where cocking the weapon is required, there is still a forward assist added to ensure the working parts are fully forward. This can produce tighter groupings (without the need to cock after each shot). Upgrading to semi-automatic would also reduce the most common cause of stoppages when firing the GP, namely incorrect operation of the extended cocking handle. This would cause the weapon to fall within Section 5 of the 1968 Firearms Act, although the 1988 Amendment to the Act specifies that cadets may use Section 5 firearms when on duty with the cadet forces. Army Cadets can only use Section 5 firearms at training 3 star level, and must be over 16, whereas ATC and Combined Cadet Force cadets only need to be 14, have completed dry training for the L98 and hold a current weapons handling test for the weapon, also previous experience on the No.8 rifle is preferable. Cadets in the Sea Cadet Corps must pass test and training for the L98A1 before they are allowed to take part in blank or live firing. There has also been talk of rifles for cadet use being sidelined in favour of clay pigeon shooting, though many argue this is restricting cadets from improving on marksmanship principles.
Conversion kits exist which, when fitted to the weapon, enable it to fire .22 rimfire cartridges instead of the standard NATO cartridge. This allows the weapon to be fired live on .22 ranges, as might be used for No.8 rifles, when full size military ranges are not available. The kit consists of a modified bolt carrier assembly, a special magazine that is the same size and shape as the standard 5.56mm magazine, is actually mostly a solid mass of plastic with a much smaller .22 magazine held inside it, and a special adapter, shaped like a 5.56mm cartridge, which is fitted into the L98A1's breech and itself contains a smaller breech into which the modified bolt inserts the .22 cartridge. The modified magazine locks into the magazine housing exactly as a normal one would, the normal extended cocking handle is connected to the modified bolt carrier, and the method of operation is exactly the same as when using 5.56mm ammunition. The conversion is not permanent and the kit can be fitted or removed from the weapon in as little time as it takes to normally strip and reassemble it. The conversion also has the effect of making the weapon semi-automatic, with the cocking handle only needed to be pulled back once.