A Corporate Rivalry: Enfield vs. Sterling

By Jonathan Ferguson (ARES)

First Steps

In 1951, the United Kingdom chose to abandon the advanced E.M. 2 (today generally rendered “EM-2”) self-loading rifle chambered for the intermediate 7mm (.280 British) caliber, which had been briefly adopted as “Rifle, No.9,” and instead sought the promise of NATO standardization in the Belgian FN Herstal FAL and the 7.62 x 51mm cartridge. This resulted in adoption of the semi-automatic only L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle (SLR) in 1957. Subsequently, drawing upon practical experience in Vietnam, the U.S. went its own way and adopted the ArmaLite AR-15, chambered for the small-caliber, high velocity (SCHV) 5.56 x 45mm cartridge. The AR-15 was initially adopted as a substitute service rifle (as, indeed, it was adopted by the British in 1963) and latterly as the standard issue self-loading service rifle. With the SLR already becoming costly and difficult to maintain by 1970, the British Ministry of Defence initiated a new effort to find its eventual replacement, envisaged as replacing the SLR from 1980 onwards. The 7.62mm SLR was seen as too heavy and too long for contemporary mechanized warfare and too hard-recoiling to train troops to shoot well. In common with many “Western” nations, Britain sought a new, lighter infantry weapon with reduced weight and size, still providing adequate lethality but increased hit probability. The AR-15 was to serve as a benchmark, but no serious thought went toward off-the-shelf procurement or licenced manufacture. There seems to have been a strong desire to design and build something in Britain, at a time when the UK still had the industrial capacity to do so. Cost was an issue, so a pressed steel and polymer construction was assumed from the outset.

Wooden Mock-Ups

Today, firearms designers will use digital 3D modeling and, increasingly, additive manufacturing (3D printing) to design and test the general arrangement and ergonomics of a proposed weapon or accessory in three dimensions. This allows for an initial assessment, the ease of operation, approximate weight, balance, “handiness” and other characteristics and influences the finer points of design. Traditionally, gunmakers would craft a wooden mock-up to achieve the same...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V23N4 (April 2019)
and was posted online on February 22, 2019


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