Modern British Military Weapons

Updated April 17, 2017

Managed by the U.K. Ministry of Defence, the British Army consists of 194,440 men and women (as of August 2010) and is currently on operations in Afghanistan. The British Military is also deployed to numerous locations around the world, including Kenya, Cyprus and the Falkland Islands. As the British military is involved in both warfare and peacekeeping, it uses an array of weapons to meet these complex and challenging needs.

Small Arms

The modern British Military uses a range of small arms. The Browning 9mm pistol is standard issue and has been in use since World War Two. It is a reliable and accurate gun with an effective range of up to 45 meters. The British Military's standard issue rifle is the L85A2, commonly known as the SA80. On its introduction to the Army, marksmanship tests had to be redefined as it was such an accurate rifle. British snipers are equipped with the L115A3 Long Range rifle, a large calibre weapon with all-weather sights. First introduced into Afghanistan in 2008, the L115A3 has an effective range of 1100 meters.

Automatic Weapons

The British Military relies on a wide range of support weapons. These include the L7A2 General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG), a 7.62mm belt-fed machine gun. It has an effective range of 800 meters when fired from a bipod and 1800 meters when tripod mounted in a sustained-fire role. Other support weapons include the Heckler & Koch 40mm Grenade Machine Gun (GMG) which fires 340 round per minute and the L1A1 12.7mm (.50 calibre) Heavy Machine Gun (HMG), an updated version of the Browning M2. After the recent experiences of the British Military in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Minimi Light Machine Gun was introduced to add firepower to smaller units.

Anti-Tank Weapons

The primary man-portable anti-tank weapon used by the British Military is the LAW 80, an unguided anti-tank rocket launcher which fires a 94mm warhead to a range of up to 500 meters. The L2A1 ILAW is another unguided anti-armour rocket. It is designed to be used a single soldier. It has an effective range of 300 meters and has been used by the Royal Marines in Afghanistan and Iraq. Finally, the U.S.-made Javelin is the British Military's medium-range anti-tank missile. It is a "fire-and-forget" missile which, once fired, finds its own way to the enemy target using an infra-red seeker light. It was used by the SAS in Iraq to great effect.

Mortars and Hand Grenades

Also in current use by the British Military are hand grenades and mortars. The L16A2 81mm mortar can be fired at 15 rounds per minute and provides accurate high explosives, light and smoke at a range of 5,650 meters. Modern hand grenades include the L109A1 HE fragmentation grenade, introduced in 2001. It is filled with nitramine and uses a fuse delay of three to four seconds. For signalling purposes, the British Military uses the L64, L65, L66 and L67 smoke grenades, which release a coloured smoke. Finally, the White Phosphorus Grenade can be used to both attack and defend by creating smoke screens or acting as a useful tool for clearing compounds and trenches.

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About the Author

Kaye Jones has been a freelance writer since 2009, specializing in history, education and mental health. Her undergraduate dissertation was published by the Internet Journal of Criminology. Jones has a first-class honors Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Manchester.