Also referred to by its earlier designation - The Enfield Weapon System (EWS)

Bullpup design creatively decreases total weapon length compared with standard assault rifles. It is comfortable to use not only on the battlefield, but also in areas with limited space, such as armoured personnel carriers.

In 1951 the British officially adopted the EM-2 bullpup design as the "Rifle, Automatic, No.9 Mk.1". However, American insistence on the use of 7.62x51 NATO cartridges as the NATO standard meant that the rifle, which used 7 mm rounds, was shelved and the Belgian FN FAL rifle adopted. It was expected that the US would also adopt the FAL then under trial as the T48 but they selected the M14. Another Enfield attempt in the 1970s was the L64/65.

Britain started a programme to find a family of related weapons to replace the L1A1 battle rifle and the Bren gun titled "Small Arms for the 1980s" or SA80. The L85 is designed for the 5.56 x 45 mm NATO cartridge. The gas operated action has a short stroke gas piston, located above the barrel with its own return spring. The gas system has a three position gas regulator, one position for a normal firing, second for a firing in adverse conditions, and the third for launching rifle grenades (gas port is shut off).

The L85A1 was improved in 1997 after constant complaints from the troops. The main problems were difficult maintenance and low reliability. Improvements were made during 2000 - 2002 when 200,000 of the existing 320,000 L85A1 Automatic Rifles were upgraded. Improvements were made to the working parts (cocking handle, firing pin etc.), gas parts and magazines. A very small number of L85A2's were designed for left hand users for their tactical advantage in situations such as moving clockwise around a building.

The improved rifle is named L85A2. It is regarded by many as the most reliable and accurate standard rifle in service. During the 2003 International shooting meet at Bisley, the British Army team won after firing over 62,000 rounds with no stoppages. During active service, the A2 can be fitted with a 40 mm grenade launcher, a light attachment and a laser red-dot sighting device. Sighting systems include the SUSAT; (pictured) with 4x magnification and a Trilux gas filled conical reticule or Iron Sight; consisting of a foresight and rear sight with adjustable rear sight for low light conditions.

It is anticipated that the SA80 will remain in front-line service well into the second decade of the 21st Century.