6 July 2016 – The maintenance contract for the L81A2 Cadet Target Rifle has expired, sources tell UK Shooting News, posing difficulties for cadet units shooting ISCRM and the Schools’ Meeting at Bisley.
An email seen by UK Shooting News which was sent to cadet units reads:
The current contract to inspect and repair the Cadet Target Rifle has expired and will not be renewed till later this year early next year. The knock on effect of this is that weapons will not be taken from the teams after this year’s shoot at Bisley but will return to unit armouries till further instructions are issued regarding weapon inspection and repairs. This will also mean that when the current 12 month inspection date lapses the weapons [sic] will be taken off line and quarantined till inspections are carried out.
This is an embarrassing cockup by the Ministry of Defence. The normal procedure is that teams shooting in the summer Bisley competitions hand their rifles to the contractor at the end of the competition and get them back some 3-6 months later, after the rifles’ annual servicing period.
Instead it seems that units will be expected to retain their rifles – no serious hardship, except in a few cases where post-Bisley transport plans did not include custody of MoD firearms – and they will be deemed unserviceable after 12 months without the attention of a contractor armoury.
It is the ‘going unserviceable’ part that will become the biggest problem, particularly if incumbent contractor Babcock doesn’t win the renewed contract and a new contractor has to get up to speed on the rifle.
That said, you’d think a single shot bolt action rifle wouldn’t be hard to maintain – but this is the MoD we’re talking about.
The L81 was originally built by Parker Hale and was roughly based on the M82 sniper rifle design. In its L81A1 configuration it used up a lot of spare service rifle parts, such as No.4 backsights and even chamber cleaning sticks, which were issued as part of the rifle’s cleaning kit. According to various reports online the L81A1 was withdrawn after a receiver was found to have cracked and the cause was traced to faulty metallurgy.
A political decision to keep the ailing Parker Hale firm afloat ensured they were given the contract to “re-engineer” the rifles. This consisted of removing the Mauser-style bolt from the old rifles and building a completely new rifle around them, as seen by the serial numbers of the current issue L81A2s which are all in the format UP 99 A xxxx – 99 standing for the year 1999.
With ongoing difficulties over the No.8 out-of-service date and the speed of introduction of its replacement, the .22″ L144A1, cadet shooting may be in a serious hole by the end of this year.