Weapon class


Magazine Size

20 rounds

Used by

British Army

The L1A1 SLR (Self-Loading Rifle) was the former standard-issue rifle for the British Armed Forces before the introduction of the SA80 rifle in 1985.


After the Second World War, the British Army sought a replacement for the Lee-Enfield No.4 SMLE. They briefly adopted the EM-2 bullpup automatic rifle, but it was dropped because NATO felt that 7.62mm ammunition was superior to the EM-2's .280 ammunition. This led to another search for a replacement rifle. The obvious choice was the Belgian FN FAL. The FN FAL had been trialed by the British Army, with decent results. Interestingly, the shortcomings of the FN FAL found by the US Army were not found by any other military force trialing the rifle. And so, the FN FAL was serviced under the designation L1A1 SLR (the "A1" suffix indicated it was an improved model).

.280 ER

The original FN FAL trials model that the British Army tested.

During the trials, a few models were tested. One was a .280 model that had a different handguard; it was designed with grooves in it where sand and dirt could collect rather than get stuck in the weapon's mechanism. Another model was a version with a stripper clip guide, a scope and a grenade launcher. The stripper clip guide was redundant, since the weapon was advanced enough to take removable box magazines. The grenade launcher and scope were also soon removed to reduce weight. Grenade launchers and optical sights seemed like radical and pointless changes at the time, but by the late 1960's these features would become very common in firearms production.

The final version of the L1A1 that was adopted was a semi-automatic FAL variant with wooden furniture. This would remain the mainstay service rifle for many years until another model with black synthetic furniture was produced (this reduced the weight of the weapon and would not be affected by temperatures and conditions. The wooden furniture would swell up in damp conditions, affected the user's view of the sights). Also present in later models was the SUIT scope, which allowed the L1A1 to fulfill the role of a long-range marksman's rifle.

The L1A1 saw service in the Falklands War of 1982. During the Falklands conflict, both armies used incredibly similar arsenals; the British used their L1A1s, L7A1 GPMGs (a modified version of the FN MAG) and the Browning Hi-Power pistol. In comparison, the Argentinians mainly used FN FALs, FN MAGs and a local version of the Browning Hi-Power. Almost all the small arms used in the Falklands were originally made by FN Herstal of Belgium. Shortly after the British won the war, the L1A1 SLR was withdrawn from service and hastily replaced with the then-new Enfield SA80A1.