First Pattern SA80 Magazine

One of the weaknesses of the L85A1 rifle (amongst many) was the poor quality of the magazines issued with the rifle. Previously I have covered the second pattern magazines produced by H&K during their rebuilds of the SA80, and the modern polymer magazines, but today we turn to the original magazines:

Technically this was not in fact the first SA80 magazine, as early issues were of American made Colt produced M16 magazines, however by the mid 1980s magazines were being produced in the UK by Radway Green. The magazines held a nominal 30 rounds, but were usually filled with 28 to allow them to operate more smoothly. These magazines are made of a relatively light gauge of steel, stamped and welded together. A small hole is punched near the top to allow the magazine catch in the rifle to engage:

The follower inside the magazine is distinctive in having a half cartridge stamped into it:

The base of the magazine has a button that must be depressed to slide out the floor plate. The letters RG for Radway Green are moulded into the plastic here:

With the floor plate removed the magazine can be disassembled into its constituent parts:

Amongst the many criticisms of these magazines, two major problems were that the springs lost pressure over time and so found it harder to feed rounds and the magazine follower was poorly designed with just one guide prong so could twist and jam:

It is interesting to compare the three generations of the SA80 magazine. The early pattern have now been completely disposed of, but the H&K and polymer magazines are both still in service:

It would be erroneous to lay all the problems with the SA80 at the magazine- there were far more issues than just the one that led to the failure of the A1 version of the rifle- however a poorly designed magazine is a major handicap to any rifle design and the early magazines suffered from both a poor design (the angles of feed for cartridges was poor so led to jamming) and they had a truly poor build quality that did the rifle no favours.


  1. As I recall, the RG mags weren’t disposed of. As far as I know, many were rebuilt into the “blank magazines” we had for training in the late 2000s & early 2010s (which is when I left).

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