UK Royal Marines Get First Sharpshooter Rifles

British L129A1 Sharpshooter Rifle

We reported on our sister site Defense Tech back in January (which was a tipoff from our other sister site across the pond) that the UK was set to field a new designated marksman rifle to its troops in Afghanistan that fires a 7.62mm round.

Well, the British MOD announced recently that the first unit to receive the Law Enforcement International-made (a US company, by the way) guns will be the Royal Marines’ 40 Commando deployed to Afghanistan’s volatile south. (Correction: the contract is with Law Enforcement International who will sub out to Lewis Machine and Tool to make the 440 rifles)

The British government will purchase about 440 of the AR-style rifle — dubbed the “Sharpshooter rifle” — which is intended to give UK troops more “reach out and touch you” capability than their 5.56 SA-80A2 assault rifles.

As Royal Marine Sergeant Baz Evans of 40 Commando put it in a UK MOD release:

“I have fired over 1,000 rounds on the rifle in training; accurately hitting targets over 800 metres away. The new Sharpshooter rifle provides quick and accurate fire, with the flexibility of using it in the assault rifle role as well. It’s hoofing.”

[I don’t know what “it’s hoofing” means, but it’s just so Brit, I had to leave it in there]

Does this move add to the caliber debate over what’s best for longer-range fights like those in Afghanistan? I hope so. But it also mirrors the US Army’s move to outfit some Soldiers with the M-14 Enhanced Battle Rifle chambered in 7.62 for exactly the same reason. It’s an augmenting capability, not a replacement. If anything, it adds ammo (pun intended) to the argument that a bigger round might be best…

  • Don

    Is it just me, or does anyone else agree that this conflict in Afghanistan where extended range engagements are the norm will be a one-off?

    The trend seems to indicate any conflict of any scale in the future (22nd century?) will be fought predominantly in urban environments and close-quarters.

    If that is the case, what’s the point of replacing 5.56×45?

    • moronotopia

      No replacement. Augmentation. Which is reasonable and proper.

  • David Jones

    We should stop pussy footing around and go back to the 7.62 round and issue troops the old fashion bandoleers for extra ammo capacity. Geez…I can’t understand all of this freaking debate about what is best and what is worst. The 7.62 is a superior round hands down. It stops cars in their tracks, and shoots through mud huts. So what if the ammo weighs more. In a fire fight you don’t worry about weight…just saving you and your battle buddy’s ass. The gun makers are now making M4 versions of the AR-10 (7.62). Stop the debate and take the plunge and go back to a real rifleman’s rife-oops that would be the M1 Garrand! 7.62 versus 5.56? What is the issue!

    • Bob

      Weight, recoil and accuracy. 7.62 weighs too much, recoils too much and because of #2 is not as accurate for the average GI to shoot. Better answer is the 6.5 Grendal, or 7mm BR. They will outshoot and out range the 7.62, and do just as much damage in a lighter package that does not recoil near as much. There have been ballistic advances in the past 60 years since the 7.62 Nato was invented. If you think weight and recoil don’t mean anything, than you have never humped the boonies in 100+ weather, and never tried to shoot accurately very much.


        we used the old 7.62 SLR sucessfully for years and found it a terrific weapon, i am a British Vet by the way lol, prob with the bias of an old soldier towards his personal weapon/best friend, but it really was effective and i for one was sorry to see it go, myh son enlisted in my old regiment (Queens Own Highlanders) and was issues with the latest infantry weapon the SA80, and agreed that although effective it was sadly lacking the punch and range of the 7.62, and thats not to mention the common sense approach of a uniform round that is equally used with the GPMG.

      • David Jones

        On the contrary Bob, I have spent 28 years in the military both as a Marine 0311 and a Army 11B. I have done more than my share of “humping”. Chances are I was humping a 100lb Alice pack with an M60 machine gun up the southern Cali hills of Camp Pendleton when you were still in school. Btw, I am a competition shooter. I shoot both M1 Garand and M1A at NRA shoots. Cheers.

    • It’s superior when you hit, but you have half as many chances to hit because of the lower tactical rate of fire and the heavier, bulkier weapon. Besides, the round is only half the factor when it comes to stopping power. The main consideration is where the target is hit. (This from a study by the Operational Research Office.) A 5.56 does the same as a 7.62mm when it hits the central core: kills the target.

    • kkcollin

      It’s about fire suppression and maneuverability; the more ammo you have the more you can “”fire suppress” the enemy and maneuver around them to get the advantage. You have a good argument but the there should be a balance between its lethal capabilities and the amount of ammunition you have.

    • Jason Blotsky

      If you are accurate (and if youre in this game you should be) then when you hit with the 5.56 vs the 7.62 is no huge difference. Sure the 7.62 has more power when shooting at an engine block, but when you shoot and hit the core of a bad guy, 5.56 or 7.62 they are going down. The 5.56 gives you even more accuracy from the less weight and recoil.

    • Ernie

      That’s the reason there’s artillery guns, tanks, machine guns, rifle and hand guns, they all have their own mission requirement capabilities. I am a sailor but understand use the best equipment available suitable for a mission on hand.

  • StevetheBrit

    “Hoofing” means “the mutt’s nuts”, or jolly good.

  • chas

    I love the Brit slang terms. According to… it means Brilliant or Fantastic.

  • LEI

    The picture, taken last October, is one of the trials weapons.

    Final specification is furniture in tan, retractable stock, stainless barrel (black).

    See link below.


  • Mike

    The rifle in the picture is the LMT MRP .308 or at least a clone of it. I’ve read elsewhere that LMT was chosen, so is Law Enforcement International a LMT subsidiary?

    • Hey Mike, good catch…see correction in the post…

  • LEI

    Picture is one of the trials guns, taken in October last year. Adpoted version uses a retractable stock, and all furniture is in tan.

    Barrel is still stainless steel, but now blacked.

    • Bob

      The rifle is most likely also more accurate than either a M-14 or FAL either one. Looks like an ideal rifle for a SDM.

  • Ex-REME

    The 7.62 FAL ( or SLR to Commonwealth guys) is one of the most sought after rifles in the USA by those who know their guns . Sure its heavy , but it makes bad guys very dead , not just wound their poodles like the M16 . If you can’t handle a real gun , get out of the army!

    • Bob

      I doubt that the FAL is very sought after, other than by mall ninjas. Try spending some time around the rifle shooting community to ones that actually shoot rifles in competition. You will see a few MIAs (civy M-14), but few, if any FALs. “If you can’t handle a real gun, get out of the army”, shows your lack of shooting experience.

  • I was in the Canadian Army during SARP – Small Arms Replacement Program. I was trained with an FN-FAL, then we migrated to the M16 (C8 in Canadian parlance). I’d take the M16 any day. Lighter, faster, easier to carry, easier to bring to bear on the target, you can carry twice as much ammo, higher magazine capacity. Power is great – on the range. But combat isn’t a firing range.

    • Bob

      Power isn’t even great on the range, unless the rifle is so heavy that you can’t carry it around. Heavy recoiling target rifles generally weigh in excess of 14-15 pounds, that ain’t practical for the average, non-sniper grunt.. For shooting that requires speed, maneuver, and accuracy, you will find the lighter weight and lighter calibers prevail. You are dead right about the M-16, or M-16 type for actual combat.

      • derek young

        hi bob, as i remember the 7.62 SLR (FAL) weighed in at around 9 pounds, i had no difficulty as i remember using it very effectively and it was used successfully in the followingVietnam War Cambodian Civil Wa r Six-Day War Portuguese Colonial War South African Border War Northern Ireland Troubles Rhodesian Bush War Falklands War Gulf War Balkan Wars Cenepa War Sierra Leone Civil War Yom Kippur War Rwandan Civil War, i do however admit to the loyalty and bias of an old soldier lol

        • Bob

          I admit to being partial to the M-14, but because I like to win, I would not use one in competition. I sure don’t want to carry one again, not with a 240 round basic load, water, rats, body armor, extra batterys, extra MG ammo, grenades, and all the other stuff they load your down with.

  • 14thBrooklyn

    I think on average you need a different mix.
    5.56 mm is good for the average trooper who will just blast out shots to suppress. But you need a weapon that has a longer reach and better accuracy at long ranges to complement the rest of the squad or section. The Russians saw that decades ago and gave one man in 8 a Dragunov. Not to make him a sniper, but to give the unit effectiveness in a range bracket their AK´s were ineffective in. I think the intorduction of Sarpshooterrifles in the UK and scoped M14 in th US is the right move there which should be followed by more of NATO. Not just for Afghanistan, but in general. Even if conflicts of the future might mostly be fought in urban areas, you still need to get from town A to town B.

    The thing that really bleeps me off though is that all of NATO seems to be moving away from real MG´s to the SAW / Minimi / MG-4 with only a few 7.62mm MG´s at higher levels. MG´s do not only have the role to suppress, but also do that and enegage at a range longer then the average troppers. That is being taken away from troops these days. And I think this is the problem why troops get the feeling they need larger calibre rifles.

  • Bob

    Hi Derek, When I first came in the army I trained on the M-14 and carried one on DMZ patrol in 1965. That was fairly open country and the 14 was Ok. Also we were not fighting pitched battles.
    The average U.S. grunt doesn’t get enough range time to be truely effective with a full size battle rifle and past 350 yards or so can’t hit much with iron sights. A light recoiling rifle is easier for the average troop to shoot and hit with. Now I agree that we probably need something a little more robust than the 5.56. You Brits had the right idea with your 7mm short back in the late 1940s. Something along that line, or the 6.5 Grendal, or even the 6.8 would be better than either the 5.56, or the 7.62. With a 130-140gr round the Grendal has enough range and whomp to be a GPMG round and double as a sniper round out to 1000 yards. Hell, I regularly outshoot people using the 7.62 at 800 to 1000 yards with my 6mm BRX. Beyond 1000 you need a big thumper like the 30o WinMag, or 338 Lapua, and those rifles ain’t no lighweight.

  • ramos dave

    the riffle sound like some soft crack ….it very accurate and easy to handle, you have this convineince when you on it

  • JOE

    What if the enemy is in a vehicle is the .223 woodchuck round gonna save your 1* ? The 7.62×39 will go through vehicle doors and kill the enemy. If you want to just wound someone aim center body mass out to 800 yrds and shoot them with a .223 woodchuck rnd.If you want to kill your enemy let them come in a little closer and shoot them in the upper torso with a 7.62×39.If your going to kill make your shots count and make them humane.We aint in Nam shooting at paddy rat sized enemies anymore .the 9mm will shoot farther than the 45 but Id rather kill someone with the 45 because it has one shot stopping power.The .223 tumbles and will reach out farther but neither is humane if you dont have stopping power.This spray and pray crap is whats getting us killed!!!

    • Bob

      The 6.5 Grandel is a modified, higher velocity, version of the original 7.62×39 case. The 7.62×39 won’t shoot through vehicles if they are other than point blank range. In rifle form it has an effective range of about 300 meters, at best.

  • Bruce Lancaster

    Thw WWII rifle squad used:
    30-06 for M1 , Springfield, BAR, and perhaps one of several BMG variants
    30 M1 Carbine, totally different from 30-06
    .45 for several variants of pistol and submachine gun
    Sometimes .38 for substitute standard pistols

    Note that the carbine eventually became available in full automatic, a real poodle gun substitute
    Note that the mix is then similar to many of the suggestions above, lots of close in full auto, lots of long range heavy including sniper variants of basic rifles, the intermediate capabilities of the M1/M2 carbine, and a number of pistols scattered through the squad. I believe riflemen got basic hands-on training in all the weapons.
    History suggests the wild mix was very effective, and that the seemingly ridiculously complicated supply needs didn’t bring the army to a halt.

  • VHJM

    Do you guys ever talk to your allies, or is it all “America, America”?
    If you don’t even know that your US “designated marksman” is called “sharpshooter” in the UK, you don’t know much about the guys fighting next to you. That’s not only a shame and a disgrace, it will be lethal at times.
    Good luck going it all on your own!

    When I did my stint in the RNLA, Arm’d Inf., 1976, we all had FALs. That thing kicked! Every soldier was required to hit a head at 400 m., a body at 500-600 and those who could do more were called, you guessed it, “scherpschutters.” Those guys were issued a scope and they could hit a man at 800 m. Mortar platoon, drivers, cooks etc. had 9 mm. UZIs and there were usually more than a pair of 9 mm. FN HPs in every squad. RNLMC had full auto FALOs. RNLMILPOL used the M-1 carbine and they could hit a matchbox at 200 m.

    I remember the planned change-over to the 5.56. It was advertised as designed to wound and maim, keep medics busy and upset the enemy squad. All the talk of weight and handling came later. That’s the way it was.

  • MSG Tom

    Maybe the next thing they’ll come out with is laser gun like is Star Wars! LOL!

    As a multi tour Vietnam Vet of 23 years service, I’ll take the 7.62 first and foremost but some of these other goodies sound like they could really kick ass as well. Bottom line is….YOU need to be a good shooter and the weapon must be realiable. That combination will allow you to come home in one piece no matter what you’re using. Hoo-yah!

  • Alec

    I was in the Royal Engineers when the SA80’s were being phased in, I could and still can shoot bloody well, give me SLR any day of the week. .223/5.56 has its uses over a 9mm for body armour but then why not look at the MP7 with is 4.5mm bottleneck round.
    Because of the when I did my training we had lots of Falkland Vets as NCO’s one from 9th airborn said he would have prefered to have his deer rifle (.308) and his shotgun because it was either miles away or smelling distance. we already carry loads of 7.62 in link for the GPMG’s whats the harm in adding these. Maybe we could bring back the Bren’s next?

  • Naval_aviator

    alec…. who on earth are the “9th Airborn”

    I call walt

  • 0zz

    The 9th US Airborne Division was a not-existing unit created as a part of the 1st US Army Group. This unit was created to mislead the Germans in beleaving that the Allied-forces would land near Calais.

  • Infidel4LIFE

    yes, they are funny, a strange sense of humor too. God Bless ’em all..

  • Infidel4LIFE

    nobody want the 6.8mm? This rifle looks like something Hk made. Nice.

  • Guest B

    We’ve nearly come full circle, the L129A1 is not unlike the original Armalite Rifle 10. Strange how the 5.56mm caliber’s main selling point was information gleaned from the mountainous Korean battlefields. That information being; soldiers do not start shooting at the enemy until he was inside 300yards/meters distance, so a 30-06 or .308 was power and mass that was counterproductive. So now, half of the enemy engagements are beyond 300yards/meters. I guess the ones who survived eventually figured out that being inside the 5.56mm’s most effective range was not the place to be.

    I suspect the L129A1 is performing well since I haven’t encountered any complaints about it attributed to UK sharpshooters.

  • JJ

    That is not an RM in the pic either. Marines wear green berets. So it would seem not only RM’s are getting them.