Infantry Weapons

UK Royal Marine unit ditches the SA80 for Colt C8

04 March 2016
The Colt Canada C8 tactical carbine now equips the Royal Marines' 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group instead of the SA80. Source: Colt Canada

A high-profile UK Royal Marine unit has been re-equipped with the Colt Canada C8 carbine to enhance its ability to protect the Royal Navy's nuclear deterrent submarine base and nuclear weapon convoys.

The move makes the unit the first British non-special forces unit to completely drop the bullpup L85A2 (SA80) rifle used by the rest of the regular forces. Various UK special forces units already use the C8, which is designated the L119 in British service.

Details of the re-equipment effort were revealed by the commander of 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines, Colonel Graeme Fraser, in a briefing document to service members distributed in February.

He said all of the unit's operational squadrons, which have the task of protecting UK nuclear weapons at HM Naval Base Clyde at Faslane in Scotland or when they are being move around the UK, had been equipped with the Canadian weapon. The 790-strong commando unit also serves as the Royal Navy's specialist naval boarding unit. The "roll-out of the weapon" had been completed by the end of 2015, said Col Fraser.

43 Commando already used small numbers of L119s, as well as other specialist weapons such as the H&K MP5 submachine gun, but the move now confirms the L119 as the unit's standard weapon. A senior Royal Navy source told IHS Jane's that 300 more C8s had been purchased to fully equip 43 Commando. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) was unable to provide IHS Jane's with the cost of the acquisition.

The logic behind the move was because the L119 has "reduced ricochet, limited collateral damage" features. Both the L119 and L85A2 are chambered in the NATO-standard 5.56x45 mm round, indicating that 43 Commando will be using a low-velocity round for its L119s.

The Royal Navy said this was a "one-off" purchase and was not a signal that the Royal Marines 3 Commando Brigade was going to be re-equipped with new weapon.

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