Book Review – The Last Enfield: SA80 The Reluctant Rifle
Since we are in the midst of an ongoing video series looking at the development of the SA80 weapons family, I figured this would be a good time to mention the single best source of written information on that program: Steve Raw’s book “The Last Enfield: SA80 The Reluctant Rifle”. Published in 2003 by Collector Grade Publications, this roughly 300 page work covers the SA80 program from its very earliest beginnings through the Enfield Weapons System days (in 4.85mm), the transition to the 5.56mm SA80, troop trials, adoption, the Gulf War revelations of its problems, and the HK A2 redesign.
As one would expect of a Collector Grade book, this work is extremely thorough, showing in detail the design changes that were made and explaining their circumstances. Its covers not just the standard L85 Individual Weapon and L86 Light Support Weapon, but also the various special models that were prototyped (carbines, grenade launchers, etc) as well as accessories like blank firing adapters and bayonets (and much more).
Until you read through The Last Enfield, you will not fully realize the catastrophe that was SA80. It is truly mind boggling just how badly wrong this weapon’s development path went. Each chapter is a new litany of disasters, as the gun in many ways became (unbelievable as this may be) worse as it progressed through development and trials. For anyone interested in weapons design and military procurement, this is an essential story to know, and The Last Enfield is without any doubt the one comprehensive explanation of that story.
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