Bermuda’s Unique SA80

In 2015 the Royal Bermuda Regiment began to field the British L85A2 bullpup. Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory and is one of several territories to have its own British Army-affiliated home defence regiment.

The regiment’s transition to the L85A2 was completed in early 2016, with the replacement of the last Ruger Mini-14s which had been in service since 1983. If you haven’t seen our earlier video/article looking at the Royal Bermuda Regiment’s Mini-14 service rifles, do check it out. 

A Royal Bermuda Regiment recruit with a Mini-14, c.2012 (RBR)

The search for a weapon to replace the Ruger began in the 2010s with the German Heckler & Koch G36 and the US M4 both being tested. The HK G36 was reportedly selected but budget constraints saw the British L85A2 adopted instead.

A Royal Bermuda Regiment recruit at the range with an L85A2 (RBR)

Reports suggest that 400 rifles were transferred along with 1,600 magazines, while over 400 ACOGs and red dot sights were also donated to the regiment by the British government. News reports at the time stated the value of the donated equipment was $1.4 million.

The Bermudan L85A2s have a somewhat unique configuration. The rifles appear to have a mix of the original L85A1 hand guards and the HK-designed conventional L85A2 plastic hand guards which were designed to be more durable. The older, original, hand guards are reportedly replaced at the unit level when they are broken.

Comparison of the old and newer rail-less plastic hand guards

The newer style of hand guard can be identified by its four rather than two hinges on its top portion, which allows access to the gas system, and by the slight slope forward at the front of the hand guard compared to the original.

An RBR L85A2 is handed back into the armoury, c.2017 (RBR)

Many associate the A2 configuration with the Daniel Defense railed forend but these are only introduced as an urgent operational requirement for operations in Afghanistan in 2009.

A member of 26 Engineer Regiment with the Brigade Reconnaissance Force in Afghanistan in 2009 with an L85A2 TES with an ACOG/red dot combination (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

Interestingly the Royal Bermuda Regiments rifles all appear to have been provided with Trijicon ACOGs, previously most commonly seen on what became known as the Theatre Entry Standard (or TES) upgraded L85A2 rifles. These optics replaced the original 4x SUSAT (Sight Unit Small Arms, Trilux) and in 2011 were in turn replaced by ELCAN SpecterOS 4× Lightweight Day Sights (LDS). TES represented a new base-line standard for configuring the rifle for front-line service rather than being a new iteration of the weapon itself.

An RBR L85A2 with an original hand guard and ACOG at the range (Royal Bermuda Regiment)

The Bermudan rifles have a riser Picatinny rail for mounting the optic on the rifle’s original NATO-spec (non-1913 Pictatinny) rail, this was initially developed for British issued TES L85A2s. In British service the ACOG had been procured first for special forces use and subsequently as a wider urgent operational requirement where it was paired with L85A2s, L86A2s and L110 FN Minimi.

Recruits introduced to the L85A2, note the sight riser with ACOG mounted (RBR)

On top of the ACOG is a CQB red dot sight, this appears to be an early Shield Mini Sight Reflex optic housed inside a sight protector. The ACOGs donated to the Royal Bermuda Regiment probably came from surplus stores.

A Royal Bermuda Regiment soldier at the range with an L85A2, note the IW-LSW marking on the side of the ACOG (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nicholas Dutton)
Royal Bermuda Regiment soldiers at the range, 2021 (USMC)

We can see on some of the photos released by the regiment that the ACOGs are marked ‘IW-LSW’ indicating that they were procured to be paired with the British Army’s L85 Individual Weapon and the L86 Light Support Weapon.

Other British Overseas regiments, like the Royal Gibraltar Regiment or the Falkland Islands Defence Force, are also equipped with L85A2s but their configurations typically use older SUSATs or the newer ELCAN Specters which suggests that the Royal Bermuda Regiment’s configuration is somewhat unique.


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Bibliography:

RBR Recruits at the range with Mini-14s c.2013, BDA Sun, (source)

Rifles worth $1.4m donated to Regiment, Royal Gazette, (source)

RBR Soldiers Get to Grips with Rifles, RBR, (source)

Royal Bermuda Regiment Training, USMC/Lance Cpl. Joel Castaneda, (source)

Thorneycroft To SA80, J. Ferguson (2020)

UK Has Procured Chinese AKs to Train Ukrainian Troops

In recent weeks we’ve examined how the UK has procured various 7.62x39mm AK-pattern rifles for use in training Ukrainian troops in the UK. The latest video and photographs from the training the UK is providing show that alongside the previously identified AK variants a number of Chinese Type 56-1s have also been procured.

Ukrainian troops with Type 56-1s at the range undertaking marksmanship training and completing weapon handling tests and passing the ACMT live firing assessment (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

On the 9th July, the UK’s Ministry of Defence announced that as part of its agreement to train 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers it had acquired a significant number of AK-pattern rifles. The MoD’s original press release stated:

“The Government has rapidly procured AK variant assault rifles for the training programme, meaning Ukrainian soldiers can train on the weapons they will be using on the front line. This effort was supported by the Welsh Guards, who tested more than 2,400 such rifles in 17 days to ensure they were ready for the Ukrainians to commence their training.”

From imagery published by the MoD we previously confirmed that the AKs procured included: Zastava M70 (or M70B)s, milled receiver M70As, folding stock M70AB2s, Hungarian FEG AK63Ds and East German MPi KMS-72s. The latest photographs released, which appear to have been taken in late July at Salisbury Plain Training Area (SPTA), and show a type of rifle we haven’t seen previously – the Type 56-1.

Ukrainian trainees conducting weapon drills with Type 56-1 (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

They show rifles with under-folding stocks, stamped receivers, rivet positions and enclosed front sights which indicate them to be Chinese Type 56-1s. Where did the UK procure these rifles from? While it has been suggested that the UK may have seized the rifles during operations to interdict the arming of Houthi rebels in an earlier statement to The Armourer’s Bench the MoD said that the rifles has been “rapidly procured… through a combination of international donations and private purchase.”

Ukrainian trainees conducting weapon drills (magazines off) with Type 56-1 (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

The same cadre training at SPTA were also seen undertaking Fighting In Built Up Areas (FIBUA) training with British L85A2 rifles. It is believed that the British bullpups are being used for exercises requiring blank firing due to a likely combination of a shortage of AK blank firing adaptors (BFAs), blank ammunition, and the AK BFAs not being deemed safe enough for British training areas. The MoD previously stated that the L85A2s and their BFAs were being used to ‘maintain strict safety conditions for both British and Ukrainian soldiers during training and to meet the urgency of the training requirement.’

As with the other AK-pattern rifles procured by the UK for the training of Ukrainian personnel the Type 56s won’t be returning to Ukraine with the trainee soldiers, the UK MoD has stated that they are providing uniforms, protective kit and other equipment but not individual weapons.


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Ukrainians Training with SA80s

In a recent video/article we looked at the AK-pattern rifles that the UK Ministry of Defense has procured to train Ukrainian troops with in the UK. In that video I touched on the use of British SA80/L85 pattern bullpup rifles used during the training of the Ukrainian troops. With fresh imagery it seems that the British rifles are playing a significant role in training the Ukrainian personnel at several training centres across the UK.

Ukrainian soldier seen with an SA80A2 with SUSAT during training, when visited by the Prime Minister in late-July (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

The SA80 rifles were first seen in the initial imagery released around the announcement of the training scheme but have appeared again since. They featured in photographs of Defence Minister Ben Wallace’s visit in early July and again a couple of weeks later during another visit by General Sir Patrick Sanders’, Chief of the General Staff. The rifles were seen with iron sights and fitted with blank firing adaptors. Interestingly, at least some of the Ukrainian personnel have been shown how to field strip the British rifles. 

Deputy Defence Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Havrylov with visits Ukrainian troops training in the UK, 19 July (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

On 19th July, imagery from a visit by the Deputy Defence Minister of Ukraine, Volodymyr Havrylov, also showed Ukrainian troops equipped with SA80A2s fitted with blank firing adaptors. As before the rifles were not fitted with optics.

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that while AK-pattern blank firing adaptors have been procured, SA80’s with blank firing adaptors have also been used to ‘maintain strict safety conditions for both British and Ukrainian soldiers during training and to meet the urgency of the training requirement.’

Ukrainian troops field stripping and cleaning SA80A2s in early July (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

Because the rifles don’t have railed forends some thought they might be the earlier SA80A1s. We can tell that these rifles are SA80A2s from the up-turned scalloped tear drop charging handle which also doubles as a brass deflector. The rifles have the non-railed green polymer handguards fitted.  While the Daniel Defense produced railed forends have come to characterise what many thing is the A2 configuration, these were actually developed in response to an urgent operational requirement for troops deploying in Afghanistan. Many of the rifles overhauled by HK to the A2 standard retained the classic green handguards. Some, like those recently provided to the Royal Bermuda Regiment, actually have a green handguard designed by HK. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Ukrainian troops (Andrew Parsons/No.10 Downing Street)

We can easily identify British troops involved in the training, as we can see that they are equipped with the new SA80A3 with the characteristic new MLOK forends and Cerakote finish. 

On the 21st July, the UK Prime Minister’s office released photos and video of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to Ukrainian troops training in the North East of England. The imagery showed Ukrainian troops training in urban combat, known by the British Army as Fighting In Built Up Areas or FIBUA. This supports the theory that they are being issued for FIBUA and field exercises that require blank firing. Unlike in the earlier imagery the Ukrainians were armed with SA80A2s largely equipped with SUSAT sights. 


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Bibliography:

‘Defence Secretary Ben Wallace visits Armed Forces of Ukraine as training programme starts across the UK’, UK MoD, 9 July, 2022, (source)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the North East, UK Govt., (source)

Deputy Defence Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Havrylov meets with Ukrainian trainees in UK, UK MoD, (source)

UK Purchases AKs To Train Ukrainian Troops

On the 9th July, the UK’s Ministry of Defence announced that as part of its agreement to train 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers it had acquired a significant number of AK-pattern rifles. Initially sharing only one, fairly low res, photograph the official announcement stated that:

“The Government has rapidly procured AK variant assault rifles for the training programme, meaning Ukrainian soldiers can train on the weapons they will be using on the front line. This effort was supported by the Welsh Guards, who tested more than 2,400 such rifles in 17 days to ensure they were ready for the Ukrainians to commence their training.”

Ukrainian soldier at the range July 2022 (UK MoD / Crown Copyright)

The types of AK-pattern rifles procured was not announced but from the initial photograph released it was clear that at least one of the rifles was a Serbian-produced Zastava M70AB2, chambered in 7.62x39mm.

The programme is the latest phase of Operation ORBITAL, the British Army’s name for the long term support and training programme undertaken since 2015. To-date ORBITAL has reportedly trained some 22,000 Ukrainian personnel, with the initial phase being run in Ukraine until early 2022 when the threat of imminent invasion saw the training personnel in Ukraine withdrawn. At the same time Canada and the US have run similar programmes in Ukraine. T he UK has agreed to train 10,000 Ukrainians within 120 days and in comments to the press the Uk’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace saying that “if the Ukrainians ask for more, we’ll be open to more”.

Ukrainian soldiers seen here receiving training from 3 RIFLES, July 2022 (UK MoD / Crown Copyright)

The rifles procured will likely be retained in Britain to train successive cadres of Ukrainian personnel, however, the UK has gifted a substantial amount of uniform and kit with the Ministry of Defence’s 9th July statement saying that each soldier will be issued with:

  • Personal protective equipment including helmets, body armour, eye protectors, ear protectors, pelvic protection, and individual first aid kits
  • Field uniforms and boots
  • Cold and wet weather clothing
  • Bergens, day sacks and webbing
  • Additional equipment required for field conditions including ponchos, sleeping bags, and entrenching tools

The training is being undertake by around 1,050 UK service personnel largely drawn from 11 Security Force Assistance Brigade. The brigade was formed in 2021 and is tasked with “building the capacity of allied and partner nations”. Personnel from the 12th Armoured Brigade Combat Team and 1st Armoured Infantry Brigade as well as Ukrainian-speaking interpreters are involved.

The course the Ukrainian troops are undergoing is a condensed basic infantryman course which includes weapons handling and marksmanship fundamentals, battlefield first aid, fieldcraft, patrol tactics and the Law of Armed Conflict. From the file dates on the imagery released it appears that many of the photographs were taken in late June and early July.

British instructor with M70 rifle (UK MoD / Crown Copyright)

From examination of further imagery released it appears that the AK-pattern rifles procured for training the Ukrainian troops are all chambered in 7.62x39mm and the 2,400 rifles procured include: wooden-stocked Zastava M70 (or M70B)s, milled receiver M70As, folding stock M70AB2s, Hungarian FEG AK63Ds and East German MPi KMS-72s.

Interestingly, some photographs and video suggest that as part of the training at least some of the Ukrainian personnel have been shown how to field strip the British SA80/L85 rifles. These are believed to have been used with blank firing adaptors during training this theory was supported by Ukrainian troops being pictured with SA80/L85 pattern rifles, with the easily recognisable yellow blank firing adaptors fitted, during a visit by General Sir Patrick Sanders’, Chief of the General Staff, to meet Ukrainian troops doing Fighting In Built Up Areas (FIBUA) training. The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that while AK-pattern blank firing adaptors have been procured, SA80’s with blank firing adaptors have also been used to ‘maintain strict safety conditions for both British and Ukrainian soldiers during training and to meet the urgency of the training requirement.’

Ukrainian soldier at the range July 2022 (UK MoD / Crown Copyright)

The reasoning behind the procurement of rifles chambered in 7.62x39mm rather than the more regularly issued 5.45x39mm AK-74 pattern rifles is also unclear. Perhaps this was due to weapon availability and regardless of calibre the manuals of arms remains the same. There is no indication that training with support weapons such as general purpose machine guns or light anti-armour weapons is being provided.

When approached for comment on the sources and types of AK rifles procured, the Ministry of Defence told The Armourer’s Bench:

“The Government has rapidly procured AK variant assault rifles through a combination of international donations and private purchase, meaning Ukrainian soldiers can train on the type of weapons they will be using on the front line. All weapons were tested in accordance with UK legislative and safe working practices.”

While this doesn’t offer much detail it does suggest that the rifles were procured via donations and private purchase – the scale of the donations and private purchases remains unclear.

It has also been confirmed that elsewhere British personnel are training Ukrainian mechanised troops on various vehicles including Spartan, Husky and Mastiff at Bovington as part of ‘Project Spring Generation’. It was confirmed by the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, on 18th July, that the first cadre has now completed its training in the UK. Wallace also noted that Dutch personnel will be joining the British effort to train Ukrainian troops in the future.


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters – including custom stickers and early access to videos! Thank you for your support!


Bibliography:

‘Defence Secretary Ben Wallace visits Armed Forces of Ukraine as training programme starts across the UK’, UK MoD, 9 July, 2022, (source)

‘First Ukrainian Volunteer Recruits Arrive In UK For Training’, Overt Defense, (source)

Video 11 July, 2022, UK MoD, (source)

Video 12 July, 2022, UK MoD, (source)

Video 15 July, 2022, UK MoD, (source)

‘Thousands of Ukrainian ‘battle casualty replacements’ are being trained in England’, Sky News, (source)

‘British troops training Ukrainian forces seen ‘huge improvements”, Forces News, (source)

Ruger Mini-14: The Royal Bermuda Regiment’s Service Rifle

Formed in 1965 the Royal Bermuda Regiment (RBR) is a territorial line infantry battalion, whose primary role is internal security. The regiment is essentially a territorial or Army Reserve battalion with around 600 part-time troops. Bermuda itself is a British Overseas Territory and is one of several territories to have its own British Army overseas regiments. Initially equipped with the British Army’s L1A1 self-loading rifle, the Mini-14 was selected by the Royal Bermuda Regiment in 1983 to replace the L1A1. The 1980s saw a number of other British Army affiliated units move away from the L1A1, with the Falkland Islands Defence Force selecting the Steyr AUG.

A Royal Bermuda Regiment recruit with a Mini-14, c.2012 (RBR)

The Mini-14 GB (Government Barrel) semi-automatic rifle was purchased from Ruger. The Mini-14 GB had a thicker profile barrel with a a flash hider and mounting lug for the US M7 bayonet. The Royal Bermuda Regiment issued the Mini-14s with 20 round magazines. They were initially shipped with standard wooden stocks but in the early 1990s black polymer stocks with pistol grips were procured from Choate. Another unique attribute of the Regiment’s Mini-14s is the regimental crest stamped on the left side of the receiver. Less than a thousand rifles were produced for the Royal Bermuda Regiment.

In terms of drill with the Mini-14 it is unclear what drill the RBR adopted with the wooden-stocked rifles though it likely drew on British Army drill with Lee-Enfield pattern rifles. Since the refitting of the rifles with the Choate stock it appears that the Regiment adapted the drill laid down for the L1A1. Both rifles have pistols grips, long butt-stocks and exposed barrels which project from the forend.

A Royal Bermuda Regiment recruit reassembling a Mini-14, c.2012 (RBR)

The Mini-14 was developed in the late 1960s by L. James Sullivan and William Ruger, chambered in .223 Remington / 5.56x45mm it is a gas operated rifle with a rotating bolt. The rifle was essentially developed as a scaled-down M14 with a cast receiver and a simplified gas system and bolt. 

Soldiers of the Royal Bermuda Regiment, c.1993, (Seán Pòl Ó Creachmhaoil)

The search for a weapon to replace the Ruger began in the 2010s with the German Heckler & Koch G36 and the US M4 both being tested. The HK G36 was selected but budget constraints saw the British L85A2 adopted instead. In 2012 the Royal Bermuda Regiment had entered into an agreement with the UK’s Ministry of Defence procurement office to allow purchase of some equipment such as the new Multi-Terrain Pattern (MTP) uniforms which replaced Combat Soldier 95 DPM uniforms. It was announced that in the future other personal equipment including boots, body armour and webbing could also be procured via the UK procurement system. This closer cooperation likely paved the way for adoption of RBR configuration L85A2s. The rifles, along with 1,600 magazines and over 400 ACOGs were donated to the regiment. News reports at the time stated the value of the donated equipment was $1.4 million. The switch to the L85A2 began in 2015 and was completed in early 2016.

The rifles appear to have the HK-designed conventional L85A2 plastic hand guards instead of the 2009 A2 configuration which saw the instillation of the Daniel Defence railed forend. The SUSAT sight has been replaced by an ACOG, most commonly seen on what became known as the Theatre Entry Standard (or TES) upgraded rifles. The Bermudan SA80 has a riser picatinny rail for mounting the optic, this was initially developed for British issue L85A2s. In British service the ACOG had been procured earlier first for special forces use and subsequently as a wider urgent operational requirement.

An RBR L85A2 is handed back into the armoury, c.2017 (RBR)

On top of the ACOG is a CQB red dot sight, the ACOG has subsequently been replaced in British service by the ELCAN Spectre. The ACOGs donated to the Royal Bermuda Regiment probably came from surplus stores. We can see on some of the photos released by the regiment that the ACOGs are marked ‘IW-LSW’ indicating that they may have previously been paired with the British Army’s L85 Individual Weapon and the L86 Light Support Weapon.

Recruits introduced to the L85A2, note the sight riser with ACOG mounted (RBR)
A Royal Bermuda Regiment recruit at the range with an L85A2, note the IW-LSW marking on the side of the ACOG (RBR)

The Royal Bermuda Regiment’s intriguing use of the Mini-14 represents one of the few military procurements of the rifle.

This video/article was adapted from my original article over at www.historicalfirearms.info


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters – including custom stickers and early access to videos! Thank you for your support!


Bibliography:

RBR Recruits at the range with Mini-14s c.2013, BDA Sun, (source)

Rifles worth $1.4m donated to Regiment, Royal Gazette, (source)

RBR Soldiers Get to Grips with Rifles, RBR, (source)

Regiment Soldiers Continue Training Overseas, BerNews, (source)

Island Warrior 15 B-Roll, USMC/Staff Sgt. Albert J. Carls, (source)

Royal Bermuda Regiment Training, USMC/Lance Cpl. Joel Castaneda, (source)

50 Years Strong! The Royal Bermuda Regiment at 50, Royal Bermuda Regiment, (source)

‘Regiment’s New Uniforms’, BerNews, (source)

Thorneycroft To SA80, J. Ferguson (2020)