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L119A1/A2 Special Forces Individual Weapon (SFIW)

The L119A1 / L119A2 Special Forces Individual Weapon (SFIW) is a carbine in widespread use by United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF).

These Canadian-made weapons serve as the Special Air Service's standard assault rifle, replacing the venerable M16 in that role. The weapons were initially manufactured by Diemaco, who have since become Colt Canada. UKSF started to use the SFIW in the late 1990s / early 2000s.

Other users of the L119A1 design include the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG), Pathfinder Platoon, 43 Commando Royal Marines and the Royal Military Police Close Protection Unit.

Like the M16 it supplants and the M4a1 carbine it resembles, the L119A1 is based on the ArmaLite AR-15 design. The weapon features a flat-top receiver with a rail system for mounting scopes or iron sights. Another set of rails on the handguard allow for the use of accessories such as lasers, torches, grips and grenade launchers (UKSF are reportedly using the HK AG-C (L17A1) grenade launcher). The carbines feature a multi-position telescoping buttstock.

The L119A1 fires a 5.56x45mm NATO caliber round and uses 30-round magazines. The L119A1 comes in 2 flavours: one with a 15.7 inch barrel / upper receiver and a more compact version with a 10 inch barrel / upper.


UKSF armed with C8 carbine
UKSF operator armed with SFIW (view full image)

Based on the Diemaco C8, this weapon features a heavy, high accuracy, 15.7-inch-long, with 1 turn in 178 mm (7 inches) rifling, cold hammer forged barrel that is designed for operation in arctic conditions.

L119A1 CQB Carbine

UKSF also use shortened version of the L119A1 with a 10 inch barrel and associated upper, known commercially as the C8 CQB. The CQB's shorter length makes it suitable for close protection work and room clearing. Royal Military Police Protection Units carry the C8 CQB. The C8 CQB features a vortex flash suppressor on the end of its barrel.

Although not confirmed in any photos, it is beleived that the SAS/SBS use the CQB in the counter terrorism (CT) role, mostly replacing the MP5 sub machine gun in the role.

SAS L119a1 rifles
Photo of 2 L119A1s as used by British Special Forces (SAS, SBS) or SFSG soldiers in Iraq. These are fitted with sound suppressors, laser pointer / illuminators, fore grips and Trijicon ACOG scopes topped with mini red dot reflex sights.
photo source: internet/photographer unknown

Royal Marines with C8 CQB
Royal Marines with 43 Commando Recapture Tactics Team (RTT) pictured with L119A1 CQBs.
U.S. DoD photo by Master Sgt. Chad McMeen

L119A2 Upgrades

In July 2013, the MoD contracted Colt Canada for a £2.8 million mid-life upgrade of the L119A1 fleet. According to the Colt Canada website, the upgraded carbines, designated as L119A2, feature:

  • custom monolithic upper receiver
  • custom flash hider
  • ambidextrous controls
  • custom tan camo grip / buttstock
  • custom buttstock
Royal Marines with C8 CQB
Colt Canada L119A2 standard / CQB carbines.
photo: Colt Canada

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