Category Archives: Weapons

Mk 3/1 Cotton Bandolier

In the 1950s the British army introduced an update to their cotton ammunition bandoliers. The end of World War II had seen the MK 3 bandolier introduced with a light webbing carrying strap, the MK 3/1 added an extra row of cotton across the bottom edge to reinforce it. Originally issued to carry .303 ammunition, these bandoliers remained in service for the 7.62mm rounds as well. This example is typical of the post war bandoliers:imageThe bandolier has five individual pockets, each secured with a brass wire hook, passed through a hole in the cotton and folded over to secure it:imageEach pocket would carry two five round chargers, giving a total of fifty rounds per bandolier. The webbing strap is 1 1/8″ wide herringbone twilled webbing:imageThe reinforcing strap is clearly visible across the bottom:imageThe bandolier has a number of stamps, this one dates the bandolier to 1967 and shows it is a MK 3/1:imageA stamp on the rear shows it was filled by Radway Green on 20th June 1967:imageThere is also a random circular stamp which is poorly stamped so impossible to read:imageThese bandoliers remained in service throughout the SLR era, the rounds being used to refill magazines during quiet periods. Here troops in the Falklands War can be seen with the disposable bandoliers slung over their chests:imageThis account from the Falklands by Vince Bramley describes using these bandoliers:

The weight of the webbing was cutting into my shoulders, the bandoliers cutting into my neck. By resting the SLR on my webbing, I could reach up and pull then straps from my neck to help relieve the agony they gave me.

About three kilometres into the march, we stopped. I sat down quickly and swapped the bandolier straps over to my other shoulder, longing to rest for those vital five minutes we were given.

SLR Sight Protector

When used on parade it is not unusual for specialist accessories to be used with rifles to prevent them from damaging expensive and intricate parade uniforms. Rifles are hard metal objects with many protruding parts that can easily catch and damage lace, embroidery and epaulettes on a parade uniform so special covers are often developed. The SLR was no exception and a special pressed metal cover was available to go over the front sight:imageThis was designed to slip over the front sight and attach to the barrel to keep it in place:imageThe connection to the barrel was through a stiff spring clip:imageThis clip was notorious for damaging the blueing on a barrel with repeated use and following advice from my fellow collectors I have decided that mine will not be going back on the rifle after these photographs were taken.

Inside the top of the cover are a pair of small triangular metal tabs that go either side of the front sight blade:imageThe stores number and date are stamped across the back of the cover, here dating it to 1960:imageIn this photograph of a corporal of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment at Buckingham Palace in 1971, the sight cover can be clearly seen on his rifle:FullSizeRender

L4 Magazines

As has been discussed in the blog before, the L4 light machine gun was an updated version of the Bren gun for the NATO 7.62mm round. The shape of this round was quite different from the older .303 as it was a rimless rather than a rimmed round. This required a brand new magazine and the familiar banana shaped Bren magazine, where the rims necessitated a sharply curved shape, was replaced with a much straighter design for the new cartridge:imageEach magazine holds thirty rounds of 7.62 and is made of pressed steel. One important feature of the magazines insisted upon from the earliest development of the L4 was that they were to be interchangeable with those of the SLR. Side by side the L4 magazine is clearly larger:imageBut the attachment points and feed lip geometry remain the same between the two designs with identical feed lips and follower design:imagePrimarily this was designed to allow troops to put SLR mags in the LMG, but this worked equally well in reverse and an L4 magazine will fit in an SLR:imageUnfortunately as the L4 is designed to feed downwards, assisted by gravity, the spring inside it struggles to feed rounds upwards and into an SLR although it was not unknown for troops to modify the springs by stretching them to better work with the SLR. The magazine when sited on the L4 sits vertically above the main receiver:imageThe L4 magazine has a locking tab on the front:imageAnd a corresponding hook for the magazine catch on the rear:imageThe base of the magazine has a button that can be depressed with a cartridge tip to allow it to be disassembled for cleaning:imageAt least two variations of the L4 magazine can be found. Early examples are seamlessly welded, whilst later production examples have a faint seam down the rear where the two stampings have been welded together:imageThe magazines are each marked on their bodies with their designation, date of manufacture and the combined ‘E’ and ‘D’ logo of Enfield:imageThe L4 magazine lacks the iconic status of its forebear, however it is a hard to find magazine now and commands high prices on the collector’s market. Filling a full 12 magazine box with L4 magazines therefore presents a much harder challenge than it does for the earlier Bren box.

SLR Sling

The sling issued for use with the Self Loading Rifle was an update of the design that had been in service with the British Army since before World War One. Although the basic design did not change, instead of pre-shrunken cotton webbing, the new sling used heavy duty woven nylon that was dyed a dark green:imageThis material had a distinctive shine to it, making it easy to distinguish from the earlier patterns which had a Matt finish. The brass fittings at either end of the sling remained unchanged except they were now blackened rather than being left as plain brass, they were however still attached with a pair of brass rivets:imageLike most rifles, the SLR had a pair of sling swivels. One securely attached to the butt which could only move back and forth:imageAnd a second one towards the front of the rifle, just in front of the gas block, which was on a swivel so could rotate around the axis of the barrel:imageIn Northern Ireland it became common to attach the sling to just the rear sling swivel of the SLR, the free end being strapped around the soldier’s wrist to prevent someone from snatching the rifle and trying to run off with it. Alistair Mackenzie was a soldier in Northern Ireland in the mid-1970s with the Parachute Regiment and in his book ‘Pilgrim Days’ he remembers:

The primary weapon was the 7.62 SLR, and one end of the sling was attached to the butt of the rifle, with the other end attached to the holder’s wrist. This was to stop the weapon being snatched away in a melee.


This sling has the faintest indications of a black ink maker’s stamp on it, but it is too faint to read and doesn’t provide enough contrast for the camera to pick up.

5.56mm Blank Rounds

When the. 5.56mm round was introduced into British Army service for use with the new SA80 rifle there was of course a blank round introduced alongside it. Initially the British Army used the L1A1 blank which was boxer primed and had a load of 0.5 gr as of NPP30 double-based propellant. This came into service in 1985 but was replaced by the L1A2 blank in 1992 which had 0.48 grams of nitro-cellulose single-base propellant. Around the turn of the 21st century the specifications changed again and the British Army now uses L18A1 blank ammunition, although I have been unable to find out exact specifications for this ammunition. The rounds themselves are made of brass, with. The same overall length as a live round:imageThe heads of each round are crimped, with a waterproofing agent to seal the end of the round from moisture entering:imageThe head stamp of the round indicates it was made by Radway Green in 2011 and is the L18A1 round:imageThese rounds were issued in cardboard boxes, each holding twenty rounds. These boxes were broken open and magazines loaded from these. The SA80 has specialist blank magazines that only work with blank ammunition and cannot take ball rounds for safety purposes. In order to load it was typical to empty the rounds out into a safe receptacle such as a helmet or beret so they didn’t get lost or dirty before the magazine was filled.

L4 Spare Parts Wallet

The L4, like the Bren before it, had a dedicated spare parts wallet containing items that were used to clean the LMG and make simple field repairs to keep the weapon in action. The wallet was very similar to its predecessor, but with different pockets and contents to reflect the different needs of the L4. The wallet was made of webbing, pre-dyed green:imageThe wallet rolls up and is secured with two staples and tabs:imageA number of pockets are inside the wallet to hold the various contents:imageInside the wallet are a number of different accessories:L4 Spares WalletLike the earlier Bren wallet, there is a pocket for the oil bottle:imageAn un-flapped one for the pull-through:imageOne pocket for the takedown tool:imageAnd one for the spare parts tin:imageThe spare parts tin is now made of plastic rather than metal. The big change from the earlier design however, is that there is a pocket to carry the multi-piece cleaning rod:imageThe L4 had a chromed barrel so no spare was carried and the spare barrel bag often ditched in favour of just the spares wallet, hence the need for a multi piece cleaning rod in the spares wallet to allow it to be maintained with just the smaller wallet.

The 1978 army pamphlet on the L4 lists the contents as:

Spare parts wallet

Top left – Combination tool

Centre – Oil can containing rifle oil

Top right – Pull through, flannelette and tube of graphite grease (if carried)

Bottom – Spare parts tin

Inside flap – Cleaning rod in two sections for cleaning the barrel and chamber.

Spare parts tin. This contains the following items:

Extractor, extractor stay and extractor spring.

Firing pin spring

Clearing plug

In addition the following SLR spare parts may also be carried in the spare parts tin:

Extractor, extractor spring and extractor plunger

Firing pin

Gas plug

H82 7.62mm Ammunition Box

The 7.62mm GPMG ammunition belt was covered on the blog last month here. These belts were provided in a number of different forms of packaging, but the tradition metal ammunition box was the most common, a belt of 200 rounds of ammunition fitting neatly inside a H82 can:imageThe ammunition box is identical to the .30 cal version we looked at here but with different markings to reflect that it was for use with 7.62mm ammunition:imageThe top of the can has a large pull out handle that allows it to be carried:imageA large catch is fitted to one side of the can to secure the lid:imageThis also allowed the box to be mounted alongside a GPMG when it was used aboard a vehicle in a special mounting. Beneath this the box’s designation, H82, and the year of manufacture 1964 are stamped into the metal:imageThe contents of the can are marked on the side in yellow paint, 200 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition:imageThe markings indicate that for every four ball rounds there is a single tracer round and that the rounds are linked together. The ball ammunition is L2A2 whilst the tracer is L5A3. These markings had been overpainted with the same brown as the rest of the can, careful scraping with a sharp blade revealed them again, but has resulted in a rather jagged appearance to some of the markings.

The rear of the can has another small stencilled marking that is presumably the lot numbers for this batch of ammunition:imageThe H82 was a remarkably strong ammunition box, even when the ammunition within was subject to intense heat. One former soldier remembers:

I had to deal with the same in Basra about ten years ago.. The fire was intense and there was not much left apart from the gear box and engines. All the ammo on the pintle mount GPMG had cooked off as had the contents of the packed 7.62 link. The H82 ammo boxes had swelled with the pressure, but nothing had come out.