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Review

G&G L85A1
  • Manufacturer 
     G&G
  • Model 
     L85A1
  • Capacity 
     450
  • Weight 
     3780 g
  • Power 
     392 fps
  • Motor 
     Not specified
  • Hop-up 
     Adjustable
  • Battery 
     8.4 V large custom
  • Shooting Mode 
     Semi and Full Automatic
  • Construction 
     Steel, aluminum and plastic

Pros

-Solid overall construction
-Good performance
-Trigger action and pre-cocked semiautomatic mode
-Easy takedown without tools
 

Cons

-Lack of accessories and upgrade parts
-Blowback not actually useable
-No threads on the barrel, lack of minor details
 

Verdict

One of the better AEGs from G&G with above average performance, improved build quality, and impressive design innovation. G&G is still haunted by minor glitches but shows clear signs of improving manufacturing quality. Metal gearbox constructed with impressive parts and holds greater upgrade potential than the STAR SA80. The gun of choice if your loyalty lies with the Queen of England!

 

Introduction

If possible, the SA80 weapons family divides opinions even more than AR-15 type rifles and carbines. While originally designed for a 4.85 mm caliber, it became the 5.56 NATO service rifle of British troops in 1984.

The adoption of a small caliber wasn't the only change over the trusty old SLR, which is basically an FN FAL with imperial measurements. The new rifle was also the first standard infantry rifle in British service to have a selector setting for full automatic, and it featured an optical sight, the SUSAT.

While it's notorious for the heavy weight, troublesome cleaning procedure and other more peculiar flaws, it is also credited for accuracy and good balance. The L85A1 by G&G replicates an earlier model, which should suit different kits better from a historical point of view.

First Impressions

The L85A1 comes neatly packaged inside a colourful cardboard box, the gun and accessories being protected by Styrofoam. The instruction manual is a small booklet with clear photos and English text. It lacks an exploded diagram and parts list.

Upon lifting the rifle from the box, the first reaction is a bit frightening. The gun is really heavy, and most of the heft is in the back of the gun where the gearbox lies. On a real L85, there's an additional weight inside the handguard. In G&Gs case the battery serves the purpose, and brings the gun to balance.

On the outside the L85A1 actually looks and feels like a real gun. Despite the "G&G ARMAMENT, Made in Taiwan" marking on the left side of the receiver (which doesn't really stand out, mind you), you get the feeling that this thing could actually fire something quite else than a 6 mm BB. There are no actual trademarks that would require removal when imported to the US. Being as the attitude towards trademarks is less uptight in the UK, where the primary market of this rifle obviously is, realistic trademarks would have been a very nice touch.

Having handled a real L85A2 briefly, I have to admit that the G&G feels a bit lighter, but then again the real counterpart of this AEG feels clearly heavier than it should for the size. The receiver is a bit matte compared to the real gloss, but the stamped and welded construction is light years ahead of my previous encounter with an airsoft L85, which was a TM FA-MAS gearbox assembled into a plastic springer shell.

When I grabbed the pistol grip and butt-plate of the gun and twisted the gun along its length, some flex was to be felt. This is not alarming at all, as in any other direction the receiver is solid as rock. That in combination with the one piece outer barrel makes the rifle sturdy enough that you can swing it holding it only by the front, without fear of breaking anything. The pistol grip, cheekpiece and handguard have a nice texture, and the buttplate is rubber.

While not perfect, the overall look of the gun is quite good.
The rifle from the left side. Markings referring to G&G don't stand out too much.
The rifle field-stripped to its main components. Takedown is quick and easy, and requires no tools.

A Closer Look

Those who pay great attention to detail will notice minor quirks with some of the details on this gun. The receiver pins are grey, while the trigger is painted black. It should be the opposite. The magazine catch seems to be from an L98A1, and also black, when it should be grey on the real gun. Upon opening the top of the hand-guard, you will notice that the movable gas piston is also black, although not painted but blued.

There's nothing wrong in demanding accurate details, but these things are rather easy to correct with a little detailing work with sand paper, paint or plain rationalizing. While it is true that some of the details are not exactly A1 spec, it doesn't necessarily make the gun unrealistic. During the couple of decades of service and action that this rifle has seen, it's practically guaranteed that parts will wear and lose the original coating, and may be exchanged for different (but suitable) parts by unit armourers.

First Shots

Because airsoft manufacturers are limited by the appearance of the real counterparts, every now and then you may run into compromises in airsoft guns. In the case of SA80s, the battery space isn't too generous for standard battery configurations. You might as well argue that the AK-47S uses a custom battery (AK-type stick battery), neglecting the fact that it can be used on a couple of other guns. At least the custom batteries for SA80S are usually of the large kind, so you will be saved from the hassle of switching batteries in the field.

After opening the top of the hand-guard and removing the front sling attachment with a flathead screwdriver, the left half of the hand-guard can be removed. You now have a total of three power supply options to choose from:

-Use a 7.2 V large battery and sacrifice rate of fire.

-Use an 8.4 V 600 mAh battery. Not really an option for heavy skirmishing, but possible.

-Get a custom battery that was meant for this rifle. The manual includes an illustration of what kind of a battery you need, so you can easily make one or have one made for you.

Loading the supplied 450 round hi capacity magazine is no different from any other. The magazine well has plastic inserts on both sides, so the magazine slides in and out without binding or scratching. It clicks positively in place and drops free out of the gun when the magazine catch is pressed for fast reloads. The magazine is similar to the length of a real STANAG magazine, which means it sticks out of an AEG about 20 mm more than a regular type. If this concerns you and you're a MilSim fan, is might be worth noting that Marui magazines fit this gun as nicely as the original G&G one. Should you suffer problems with any other brands, the magazine well should be easy enough to compress in a vice, or you can carve material off the plastic inserts to make it wider.

After inserting a battery and a magazine there's not much else to do than start shooting at will. The cross bolt safety is intuitive to use if you?ve ever used other tools like a drill. The selector switch is rigid and snaps positively into fire modes, but there's an extra click right before it goes fully down for automatic fire. This is also the case with the STAR L85A2, simply because of how the selector works in all electric guns.

Upon pulling the trigger for the first time, I started to question whether I had pushed the safety far enough. No, it was all the way to the left, yet there was resistance after some take up. A slightly stronger squeeze resulted in a clearly felt click and the sound of the gearbox turning, but still no BBs. A lockup on a new AEG? Nope. When I completely pulled the trigger the second time, the rifle shot instantly and re-cocked the action. Then it dawned on me that this gun employed the same concept as a Marui PSG1 and pre-compressed the spring after each round, so that firing is instantaneous without any kind of winding up. Pulling the trigger actually releases the piston forward, which is the opposite on most other AEGs where the piston only begins to wind backward when you pull the trigger. Subsequent shots followed the same pattern over and over, bringing a smile to my face. A trigger pull with at least some feel, and a greatly reduced response time! There is a spring tension release button inside the magazine well (silver in color so you can easily spot it). When you are done shooting for the day and want to store your gun, remember to push this button to un-cock the spring. Leaving a gun in cocked mode is both dangerous and can cause serious damage to your gun.

After a few shots I wasn't so surprised by this feature anymore, and started noticing the moving bolt carrier and charging handle. This might tell you something about how impressive the blowback action is - in other words, I did not really notice it since the movement is not that impressive. The bolt carrier moves about half of the real travel length, just like the Marui PSG-1 and Guarder Auto Back. Some recoil is to be felt if you want to feel it. With simple methods you just don't get good recoil action when you use an AEG. To quote someone at a certain airsoft discussion forum, it's like an EBB on acid. I wasn't expecting much from this feature, so I wasn't disappointed either. At least the gun shoots first and then cycles the moving parts.

With the hop-up set for 0.2 g BBs, the gun clocked an average of 377 fps (115 m/s), 384 fps being the highest and 369 the lowest. The manual said it would shoot 80 m/s (262 fps), which is an understatement. This was about the performance I had expected, but we'll get to that later.

The hop up is easily accessible and holds the setting.
A peek into the magazine well. The spring release lever is found here.
The notorious consumable hook, and how it finds the way into the mechanism. Notice how the piston isn't fully relaxed.

Technical Tests

Switching to full auto, I looked at the charging handle just to see it move. After a few shots it died. Knowing that this can't be a good sign, I instantly stopped firing and took the gun down. A die-cast piece that looked like a hook had snapped in half, but due to the amount of grease on the parts it didn't drop into the mechanism and cause further damage. This hook is located on top of the gearbox, which itself is an open design allowing full access to the gears. Had this broken piece dropped into running gears, it would have jammed up the entire system and possible stripped most of the internal parts! Obviously expecting this to happen, G&G supplies the gun with two spare hooks and springs, so I installed another one and repeated the test. Dozens of shots on semi showed no problems at all, but on full auto it failed instantly. My guess is that the bolt carrier is still moving somehow when the piston starts retreating (perhaps it bumps back a bit after hitting the front position), and that's what caused the failure on full auto. While the rate of fire was good, it does not look like the piston caught the moving parts on their way forward.

G&G calls these hooks consumables, but the problem is that the broken metal bit is highly likely to find its way into the gears to cause real damage. Because the blowback action isn't impressive from any point of view except for the complex design effort that went into it, I think it's best to disable it before actually skirmishing with the gun. In a gaming situation it will only use up your battery faster due to the increased loading. Shoot the gun a few times on semi to see what's it about, but beyond that take my word and disable it, it's easy to do.

To field strip the gun, you don't need tools of any kind, and it won't take more than a minute. First disconnect the battery, remove the magazine, set the gun on safe and press the spring release lever inside the magazine well. Then grab the upper and lower receivers firmly, push out the takedown pin located between the cheek piece and butt-plate, and pull it out from the left side. Note it's a bit tight, which prevents it from getting lost in the field. Slide the upper receiver assembly forward (relative to the lower receiver) until it stops a couple of centimeters later, and lift it straight up. If the upper receiver won't come up easily, check that the hop up chamber hasn't moved along with the upper receiver. The barrel and hop up chamber can now be pulled out to the rear.

The weak blowback hook as described above is located on the top of the gearbox. You only need to remove the black hook and the spring with it. You can tape the sliding metal coloured part back if you like to avoid losing it. Alternatively, removing the rearmost screw of the cylinder assembly will allow you to take the whole slider off. Disabling the blowback won't affect the muzzle velocity, and you will still be able to lock the bolt carrier back to access hop up. While we did not make exact measurements, the rate of fire is expected to go up after you disable the blowback function.

The real SA80 is fired from the right shoulder exclusively, so left-handed people with realism in their minds need to adapt to that. With the blowback disabled, the rifle can be shot from the left shoulder comfortably so it's not an issue. At this point I had shot the rifle enough to get factory lubrication moving, so I cleaned the barrel with the supplied rod using silicone. I zeroed the hop-up and sprayed silicone from the feed tube into the barrel. Then I pushed cleaning patches in and out from the front until they came out clean and dry like they were on the way in. The hop up chamber is an M16 type one-piece design. It's plastic, but the gun feeds well and is airtight. The adjustment dial turns without tools, and holds the setting positively even with the vibration of full-auto shooting.

After adjusting the hop up back to 0.2 g setting, I measured the muzzle velocity again. The velocities were more consistent, and the gun clearly shot harder. The highest reading was 394 while the lowest was 389, which is quite impressive for a factory AEG. The average was 392 fps (119 m/s). That represents more than a 2% gain just by cleaning the barrel! While folks in the US and other parts of the world may be excited to hear this, our fellow UK airsofters may need to downgrade the power to the required 328 fps level with 0.2 g BBs. Fortunately the access to the cylinder assembly to do this is quite convenient.

We conducted accuracy tests in a sitting position from 20 meters with Marui 0.2 g BBs. Without time to fully run in the hop-up rubber after our barrel cleaning process, we noticed some minor vertical spread which is likely due to residual silicon spray still sitting on the hop-up rubber. Once the hop-up dries and starts gripping the BB consistently, that spread should reduce. The horizontal deviation was only 86 mm, which is very good at this distance. The deep crowning of the barrel and the stable muzzle velocities are probably part of the reason why the gun can deliver this kind of accuracy.

RedWolf is offering the option to pre-downgrade the rifle to 1J so that UK players can get a skirmish-legal gun right out of the box. As part of this downgrade, RedWolf will also disable the blowback to reduce the risk of gearbox damage.

Push the piston all the way forward with the takedown pin before proceeding.
The cylinder assembly opened. The parts are made to high standards and provide a good airseal and stable muzzle velocity.
Insides of the cylinder assembly. Notice the flat headed spring, a sign of good quality. The ported piston head looks certainly funky, but works well.

Getting Into The Guts Of It

After field stripping the gun, I was curious how far the gun can be disassembled without tools. Against the advice of the manual, I started getting into the gearbox. Before going further, I made sure the piston was all the way forward. Press the spring release lever and help the piston forward with the takedown pin if necessary. The spring of the test gun didn't have enough force to push the piston all the way to the front against the gears. This might be because the spring is relatively weak in its fully extended mode, as the travel is longer (PSG-1 type). I later discovered that the gears rotate smoothly, so too tight shimming isn't to blame.

Failing to fully decompress the spring is not a problem in normal use, because springs can be partially compressed for years without weakening, but removing the cylinder assembly without having the piston all the way forward will damage the piston teeth for certain.

Using the takedown pin and a bit of force, push out a small pin near the rear of the gearbox. It has to be wiggled a bit, but will come out without a fight. After disconnecting the spring of the bolt catch, tilt the cylinder assembly a little up from the rear, push forward and lift completely off.

Just like the cylinder assembly, the lower gearbox is far closer to a Marui PSG-1 than regular AEGs, save for the different shape. The trigger unit has a similar electronic brake system to stop the piston more quickly when it's in the desired rear position. The sector gear has the same number of teeth, which engages the piston - but the whole gear train seems to be designed specifically for this gun only. Finding suitable upgrade gears will require a lot of research or trial and error unless there are L85A1-specific upgrade parts coming, but to be honest the original gears look quite strong. If you keep the gun ?stock? at almost 400 fps / 120 m/s, or especially if you have it downgraded to 1 Joule, the gears should hold on for a very long time. The gearbox features solid 8 mm metal bushings, so basically there's no reason to dig into the gun. If you do, make sure you know what you are doing because working on the lower gearbox requires more skill than your typical V2 and V3 gearboxes. The lower gearbox is also removable without tools. Pushing out the pin behind the magazine catch and removing the bolt catch is all it takes.

Accessories

Putting a RAS and an array of more or less useful add-ons like a waffle iron and furry dice on an SA80 is for people who keep dark secrets in their closets and attics. I believe most people would agree when I say the SA80 should be equipped only with a sling and SUSAT sight. Therefore I can't say that the lack of accessories is actually a flaw. Just like you eat fish n' chips with salt and vinegar, possibly ketchup, you enjoy the SA80 as it is without bells and whistles.

The rail on top of the receiver measures 19.5 mm in width, which doesn't follow any standard rail measurement (non-RIS standard). The STAR SUSAT sight does not fit unless you remove some material from the top of the rail. The rail measurement is in fact very close to a Weaver, so you aren't completely restricted from using mounts and sights built for a Picatinny or Weaver rail. If only the claws of the mount or sight have enough travel to go below 20 mm, it will fit over the edges of the gun's sight rail. A real EOTech sight went on without any hassle, as did a couple of other sights that I tried. If you are worried about compatibility with your existing sight, the rail is attached on the receiver with three screws so you can replace it with another one.

The flash hider is sadly attached in a semi-permanent fashion with a pin. There are no threads underneath which means you cannot attach a threaded silencer. The muzzle pop of such a long barreled rifle isn't loud enough to necessitate a suppressor, and the inner barrel is as long as you'll ever need. Still, for those who want a suppressor, the possibilities are narrow unless you have threads machined on the barrel. The thin part of the outer barrel is 13.5 mm, so the standard 14x1 mm thread has to be done on the outer barrel behind the flash hider, effectively shortening the outer barrel.

Has The Jury Reached a Verdict?

For anyone replicating a British soldier from '84 to modern day (save for the most recent conflicts), the G&G L85A1 is a good choice. It's historically more correct than an A2, despite minor inaccuracies. The build quality is impressive, and the gun looks realistic and good enough for anyone who doesn't actually have a lot of experience with a real SA80. A bit more gloss on the receivers would fix that, which is funny because usually airsoft versions are the ones that are too shiny.

From a skirmishing point of view, the blowback mechanism is a problem only if you want to stick to it. You don't lose much if you have it disabled at least until a reinforced part becomes available. For those who need to comply with the lower 1J limit, the gun needs a little downgrading but that is not a complicated procedure. The gun shoots well, and especially for lovers of the semiautomatic mode like me, the pre-cocking action and 'breaking' trigger is a two thumbs up -feature. I'm not a fan of the SA80, but the G&G L85A1 got me looking if there's a small Brit living somewhere inside of me.

As you can see, the 'breaking' trigger is done in a very simple fashion. We would like to see innovations like this in other guns too. Note the solid 8 mm bushings.
The gearbox from the inside. While the gears seem unique, they are strong and should last for a long time.
Accuracy is not bad at all. The vertical deviation should decrease once the hop up settles better. The target paper is A4 and the black area can be entirely covered by a grown man's palm.

Update 30.11.-06, from the manufacturer:

G&G L85 Notice!

Please make sure to read the following notice about L85 A1
This is to HELP all our customers worldwide understand how to avoid problems.

Recently, we receive some feedback from G&G L85 A1 owner regarding the piston damaged easily.

We found the reason is caused by using the lithium battery, or much bigger battery (over 8.4V)

Why?

If the L85 use the lithium battery, or over 8.4V battery, the gear set will run much faster then the piston moving. Finally, it will cause the piston be tear, or the gear set damaged.

How to avoid the situation:

1. To upgrade the spring to increase piston speed. This lets the piston catch up with the moving gear set.

2. To use more thin O-ring on the piston to reduce the air compression -> increased piston speed. This lets the piston catch up with the moving gear set.

Update 12.12. -06, from RedWolf's "Bat Cave"

After careful design and trial work, the piston problem has been solved. Our tests showed that the rifle would develop wear on the piston very quickly if the power level was dropped to UK legal level, because the piston speed would be slowed down too much. This caused the sector gear to engage the piston before it was fully forward. If you use a 7.2 volt battery you don't need to worry about this, but we know a lot of people would not accept the drop in the rate of fire. Neither did we!

We are now offering a 1J downgrade service, which improves reliable action when the AEG is downgraded to 1 joules. The downgrade does not sacrifice efficiency, like porting the cylinder or using a thin piston head O-ring does. This means that the mechanism will not be subject to the stress caused by a strong spring! Another benefit is the ability to use any after market reinforced pistons made for standard V2 and V3 gearboxes!

After installing a custom machined part, MS90 spring and modifying an existing part in the gearbox, we fired the AEG for over 1000 rounds (2x regular M16 magazines and 2x 450 rounds hicaps) on continuous full auto with a 9.6V 3300mAh battery at a velocity of 328 fps with 0.2g BBs. Even after this torture test, the standard Marui AEG piston showed no signs of wear, and the rate of fire was tremendous!