This rifle is a late production L98A1, better known as the Cadet General Purpose Rifle, which is essentially a straight-pull bolt-action version of the L85A1 or SA80, (Small Arm for the 80s), the standard issue rifle (and machinegun) to the British armed forces.
This one has been fitted with a flash hider and SUSAT (Sight Unit Small Arms Trilux), however the standard L98A1 is fitted with iron sights and has no flash hider. The SUSAT is the standard sight fitted on SA80s issued to infantry units in the Army.
For the purposes of a shooting test, there isn't much difference between the L85A1 and the gun pictured here, the main difference between the two guns is that the L98A1 lacks a gas system, however, about 90% of the components between the two guns are identical.
The remaining version of the SA80 adopted by the British Armed Forces is the L86A1 Light Support Weapon (LSW), essentially a version of the rifle with a longer barrel and bipod fitted on an outrigger, as well as a rear grip. There is another version of the SA80 not adopted by the armed forces, which is basically the LSW with the Cadet rifle's straight-pull system. This gun has been sold on the commercial market for target shooters.
A very fast straight-pull rifle, quicker than other straight-pull rifles that have appeared since the 1989 ban on semi-autos. Rapid aimed fire with this rifle is only slightly slower than a semi-auto, although obviously you can do "spray and pray" much faster with a semi-auto. Operation is very simple, simply pull back the handle all the way and release, the springs are still in there so the bolt goes forward automatically.
From the picture you can also see the push button cross-bolt safety just at the top of the picture. This has been made considerably stiffer to operate compared to early SA80s, to prevent being accidentally knocked into the "on" position.
Early magazine releases were prone to being depressed accidentally when rubbing up against a soldier's clothing or webbing, causing the magazine to drop out accidentally. Royal Ordnance solved this by putting in a much stronger spring and recessing the front of the magazine button, as shown in the picture.
The plastic cover on top had a habit of popping open on its own, this rifle still has the old fore-end, but current issue SA80s have a new cover opening which is extremely difficult to open, even when you want to! On the L98A1 there is seldom any need to do so as there is no gas system, thus there is no need to open the cover.
This L98A1 also has a rather good sight on it, the SUSAT.
This is the newer scope mount, with a drum on the left that can be used to raise the SUSAT for longer range shooting. SUSAT has a tritium element in it that illuminates the sight post in weak light. The SUSAT can be adjusted fore and aft on the scope rail. The x4 magnification makes shooting at targets 100m easy though if you don't want a SUSAT there are always the iron sights.
Although it looks plastic there is a lot of steel in this rifle, it weighs in at about five kilos, which is heavier than the old L1A1 SLR! Plus the weight is to the rear, which makes muzzle control more difficult, despite the heavy barrel. Although it is possible to like the SA80, after a fashion!