23 March 2016 – US arms company Savage Arms has won the £6m contract to replace the .22″ No.8 Enfield in UK cadet forces service, UK Shooting News can reveal.
The new British cadet rifle will be a lightly modified Savage Arms FVT in a new wooden stock.
Sources familiar with the matter told UKSN that the rifle will initially be issued to Army Cadet Force units in Wales, Ireland and north east England starting from next month. The initial order is for about 750 rifles, sources tell us, with the full order for 8,500 rifles – not the 10,000 floated in the original invitation to tender – due to be completed by next year.
The current civilian production FVT features a 21″ barrel with a 1:16″ right hand twist. A single shot, hand fed bolt action rifle, it weighs 5¾lbs in its factory configuration with a plastic stock, though UKSN understands the UK cadet model will be supplied with an ambidextrous wooden stock which will be adjustable for length through a screw thread system. This is likely to push its weight up to more than 6lbs, or 2.6kg. The stock will also have an accessory rail on the bottom for handstops and sling attachments.
In comparison, the No.8 in as-issued configuration (without precision sights) weighs 8lbs 14oz, or just over 4kg, with a 23.36″ barrel which also has a 1:16″ right-hand twist – but it does not have an accessory rail. The weight difference means the new Savage rifle will be much easier for younger, weaker cadets to use.
Barrel length is unimportant because cadets do not shoot .22″ at any distance greater than 25yds, so their performance at longer distances – which is where the extra barrel length comes into play – is irrelevant. The marginally shorter sight base won’t make a difference at 25yds, and the shorter barrel will make handling slightly easier.
The FVT’s sights are a simple aperture backsight with windage and elevation adjustment, combined with a 22mm tunnel foresight. Close-up photos of these sights can be seen here. This allows for conventional ring elements, as used by civilian target shooters, to be used by cadets.
Sights are mounted on the side of the FVT’s round receiver via a rail screwed to its side, though four screws are provided on the top of the factory-spec FVT for a sight rail to be fitted. It is unknown whether the UK rifles will be drilled and tapped for these holes, though the tender document specified that the rifle must be able to mount basic and advanced sights. A third party after-market in adapter rails to fit precision sights seems likely.
The Savage rifle has a safety catch fitted on the right hand side of the receiver and cannot accept a magazine. Readers will be interested to know that brand new Savage FVTBs are on sale in the UK for around £430.
It is unknown what progress has been made on developing drills and procedures for the new rifle. It will be issued with a rifle case, handstop and sling.
Rumours abound about the rifle’s official service designation; UKSN expects it to be the Rifle, .22-in, L___A1, with the L number yet to be announced, though well-placed sources say it will be called the No.9 rifle. This designation has already been used for the Royal Navy’s .22″ Lee Enfield.
Savage Arms’ parent company, Vista Outdoor, did not respond to a request for comment.