In an end to three centuries of small arms leadership, Britain has announced that it will no longer make its own rifles. England has long been a leader in small arms development, both by the government Enfield factory and private manufacturers, with a storied past going back to the Brown Bess and including Civil War standouts like the .577 cal. Pattern 1853 Enfield. No more. Part of the problem was the thoroughly snake-bit SA-80 rifle, which earned a dismal reputation and eventually had to be taken over by German firm Heckler and Koch.
Tory MP Patrick Mercer, an Army officer for 25 years, said: “I understand the economic argument but losing the capability to produce our own assault rifle is a national disgrace.
“Economics are important but so is the capacity to maintain control over strategic defence issues.”
Some military historians also regretted the loss of tradition. Paul Cornish, curator at the Imperial War Museum, said: “It’s extremely sad, since Britain has had a proud tradition of developing and manufacturing small arms.
“I think the end was pretty much written when the Government privatised the Royal Ordnance factories which, until the Eighties, had been subsidised by the taxpayer.
“I suppose that if the SA80 had been more successful, orders would have flooded in from around the world and things might have been different.”
End of an era, folks. One reason, I think, is the restrictions of private gun ownership in the UK and the near-total lack of domestic firearms manufacturers.