New Cadet L144A1: It’ll be dry fired to death

3 June 2016 – Following on from yesterday’s news that the new .22″ cadet forces rifle will be called the L144, UK Shooting News’ author wonders how many weeks it’ll be in use for before the entire fleet is out of service awaiting spares.

Yesterday UKSN also became aware of a photo album from Somerset ACF depicting the new L144A1 in some detail.

Towards the end of that album is a sequence of photos showing the Normal Safety Precautions drill, carried out every time someone picks up an unattended rifle (and on a very long list of other occasions, including the start and end of every range session).

In essence, you pick up the rifle, open the bolt, check the chamber is clear … and then close it before firing it off (“in a safe direction”).

This is stupid. Rimfire rifles, unlike centrefire rifles, are not designed to be capable of dry firing. The No.8 happened to be OK with that treatment because of its very generous headspace (of up to 50 thou), meaning the striker could not peen the chamber face, and its two-piece firing pin. If the pin shatters, it is a two minute job to unscrew the bolt head and drop in a replacement.

The Savage rimfire firing ‘pin’ is actually a rectangular strip of metal that slots into the top of the bolt body (the slot at 12 o’clock on the bolt, as seen here) rather than a pin as such – the bottom forward corner of the  rectangle strikes the cartridge. Does the L144’s design guarantee that it will not contact the face of the chamber when dry fired? If not, the MoD’s stupid drills will knacker their new rifles more or less overnight.

Where does this idiotic requirement to constantly dry fire the rifle come from?

Small arms drills are written, in the military, by the Small Arms School Corps. They are a corps of professional skill at arms instructors who write the weapon training pamphlets used to teach soldiers how to safely fire machine guns in the field at night. Unfortunately for the cadet forces, the SASC does not understand target shooting at all.

Cadets use the MoD weapon training system and philosophy devised by the SASC. This is built around drills; a sequence of actions you go through in response to a stimulus. If your rifle misfires, the drill is to wait on aim for 30 seconds. If the RCO shouts “unload”, you apply the safety, take the mag off, check the chamber, etc.

One key part of this philosophy is that the unload drill must include dry firing the firearm. This makes sense when you are dealing with SA80 rifles, where the chamber is not easily visible, or the GPMG, where the chamber cannot be seen at all unless the feed tray cover is open. You fire off the action to a) ease the tension on the main spring, and b) physically prove the chamber is empty. If you are about to start walking around the Middle East with your bolt forward and a magazine or belt fitted to your gun, this is a sensible precaution to prevent negligent discharges.

It makes absolutely no sense on a static, level, well-lit target shooting range with bolt action rifles where all shooting takes place under close personal supervision.

It is to be hoped that a grown-up somewhere in the military or cadet hierarchy takes another look at these silly drills and orders them to be changed to fall into line with real world practice: the only time the bolt should be closed and the trigger operated is when there is a round in the chamber and the rifle is about to be fired. Anyone who closes the bolt and starts pulling triggers on my ranges after I order “unload, show clear” is likely to get a size 11 up their arse closely followed by being physically removed from the range. Ditto anyone who follows the cadet-endorsed practice of leaving the bolt closed when removing the rifle from the firing point.

Cadets should be taught to handle their bolt action rifles in accordance with sensible and safe civilian practices and not some mis-applied military philosophy intended for use with automatic weapons in warzones. That will lengthen their rifles’ lifespan and help stop them engaging in dangerous practices on civilian ranges and in civilian competitions.

11 thoughts on “New Cadet L144A1: It’ll be dry fired to death

    1. Jerry

      A snap cap for a Rimfire is as simple as reinserting a fired (empty, discharged) piece of brass. You’re probably standing up to your ankles in the stuff.


      1. Gary E Nelson

        Very good point. They used to do that in the US Military until someone put a live round in the chamber and they stopped that right away. The use of either snap caps or,as you illustrated, use a spent shell, would prevent a lot of broken firing pins. Question: does the British Military use clearing barrels?


      2. Martin King

        Understandable but…. when someone inserts an unfixed or misfired round by mistake and a cadet, or worse an instructor is injured or worse….drill rounds are red plastic an tuppence a million and would provide a much clearer indication and protect the firing pin.


  1. Glen watkins

    The NSP for the L81 does not involve firing of the action. Simply opening the bolt and inspecting the chamber. I would imagine this will be the same when the PAM is written


  2. Ann Millett

    The PAM was written back in May 2016. I can confirm it is going to be dry fired to death.
    No8 NSP was: safety off, open the bolt inspect the chamber. Job done. Unload drill involved firing off the action.
    L144A1 NSPs include ‘Ease springs’ – so it’ll be dry fired during NSPs and Unload drill. Oh and there’s a function test, so it’ll be dry fired during that as well.
    L81A2 – there’s no dry firing…..but then that pamphlet was written by someone sensible.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. DR

    It’s very easy to sit back and criticise the Cadet Corps for how they handle and fire weapons but remember this…they have no control over range and weapon practices …the use of ALL weapons including drill and non firing weapons is controlled by the MOD …The weapons belong to them and they say what can and cannot be done with them and when…it goes further…I am a qualified RCO (civilian) I can run a range firing 50 cal at 1700mtrs on a military range for a civilian club but I cannot run a range for Cadets firing anything on any range…in order to do so I have to go through the whole MOD RCO course…no if’s no but’s.


  4. Martin King

    While agreeing with all that you have said it should not be beyond the wit of man to arrive at a set of drills which suit the particular characteristics of the weapon concerned. There was precious little carry over from No8 to L98A2 and while L98, L85 and L86 are family members there is presumably little carryover to GPMG?

    As regards RCO training and accreditation although I haven’t done an NRA RCO course, I can see that there may well be military specifics which the NRA may not instruct and that there may well be things that the NRA teach which is not applicable in a Cadet / Military world, it is interesting though that a military RCO can get an NRA ticket on production of his or her military ticket without further training. This suggests that the NRA recognize that the military training is of a higher standard.


  5. John Mons~White.

    I was a Cadet range conductor for many years, what one must take into account when instructing young Cadets is that they are YOUNG. You will always get “one” in every group and nomatter how strict the rules are running a range be it full or small bore is like hearding cats. I used to insist that ALL drills were carried out twice, sounds like “overkill” but try explaining to an irate parent why their offspring has a hole where there should not be one.The idea of a snap cap is OK but i have never seen this ued on a cadet range, and as there is no alternative to Dry Fire Drill , we must stick tothe B R. Thank you


  6. Charles

    I’ve been teaching rifle shooting at schools for about 40 years.
    99.9% of shooting is with bolt action rifles,
    0.1% is with semi-autos for a special treat, and to demonstrate semi-autos do not shoot such small groups as most bolt actions.

    By far the SAFEST situation for any bolt action rifle is BOLT OPEN AND BREECH FLAG FITTED. In a rifle range, the bolt should never be closed except on the firing point, AND only after permission to commence shooting has been given.
    But lots of people (experts all) know better.


  7. Jim

    As has been stated earlier, despite the SASC being SMEs I don’t think they have a grip on Target Rifle shooting, I have very very little but I listen to those that do.

    There is no cleaning/maintenance kits nor any spares package. For cleaning we have been instructed to use the appropriate 5.56mm parts of the so called universal cleaning kit…

    As to drills, they seem to be a mash up of L98A2 & No. 8, there’s a Tap forward drill, in line with the L98A2, there is no longer a stoppage time.

    No drill rounds and no comment has been made WRT the, sensible, use of snap caps so as stated firing ‘pins’ will start breaking left right and centre, along with the extendable butt, which comes all the way out…

    Apparently the weapon is ‘calibrated’ for 100m but most cadet firing will be done on indoor 25mm ranges, there isn’t enough adjustment in the sight…as has been found out.

    I’m going to stop there as this is in danger of turning into a rant.



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