Every so often on firearms forums I see people talk about how great the L85/SA80 is, and how much of a shame it is that no one sells them in the United States. They then proceed to claim that if someone were to offer a semi-auto version, they could make a fortune off all the guaranteed sales.
To put it bluntly, they are wrong. When I was in the Corps, I got to cross train with the Royal Marines. They got to try out our M16A2s, and we tried their SA80s. We have the better rifle. Most of the appeal of of the SA80 is due to our not being able to buy one. Other then that, it is crude, heavy, bulky. The SA80 is around 11 pounds unloaded with SUSAT optic. While it balances well when shouldered, that is still plenty of extra weight to carry. This rifle isn’t all that good looking too, the design is rude and crude. Mag changes are slow and awkward, more so then other bullpups. If these were to be sold in the U.S., some people would buy them for fun or collection, but most would turn it down due to its weight, poor appearance and controls, and the higher cost of a less common rifle.
Waaaaaay back before I hit puberty, I made sure the 1st thing I did before I worried about girls was to make sure I had a colt AR15. Being a college kid later on I was like every other college kid, I was poor. Liking guns plus being poor equals only one thing. 22 Long rifle. In an effort to get more out of my AR15 trigger time, I found and quickly bought this colt .22 conversion kit.
well, not this one, but one just like it. The first one I had was identical. I shot it thousands of times and it never failed me. It was a dream come true for a kid that could not afford new 5.56 ammo and had no way to get surplus ammo. It was easy to put in, take out and needed little cleaning, The only down side was the one 10 rounds mag that came with it. Later one, once I got older and got a job and a little money, I lost interest in it and sold it off. Fast forward to a few years ago when ammo prices skyrocketed. Conversion kits sprang up every where and became hugely popular again. This made me remember my humble old colt conversion kit and all the fun I had with it.
After looking around online and spending a little money I managed to get two more of my fun little buddies. I even got lucky enough to find an extra mag. 30 rounds!!! and I only had to reload 2 times!! But, one was in such good shape I just opened it and made sure it was fine. The other became the work horse for plinking.
After using the kit for fun I started thinking in terms or using it to train with in place of 556 ammo, and of course in doing so, the 10 round factory mags just would not cut it. Around the time I started thinking this, a company known for making 25-30 round mags for various conversion kits became known to me. The company is Black Dog Machine. They had a rep for making some pretty good stuff an I wished for a 30 round mag for my ancient colt kits. One day on a gun board they maintain a forum in, the rep posted they would be selling a mag to fit my beloved kit soon. about three years passed before they actually had something ready. Sadly it was billet aluminum and was 60 bucks a pop. Waaaay to high for me to bother with. i mean 60 bucks a mag? Who would? That is 6 USGI mags. But they did promise a plastic mag that would soon follow. A couple of years later it finally did, and it was priced right so I got on the phone and ordered one. When it finally arrived, I popped in my kit and loaded the mag. Went outside and went to chamber a round and ….FTF.. tried again..FTFeed again. I did manage to get maybe three rounds in a row to fire and cycle but had a lot more problems. SO after waiting for around three years for this mag, when I got it, it was a complete piece of garbage.
I tried to Email the company to see if I could get help. Nothing. After a few emails and phone calls and even IMs on ar15.com I still have gotten no response from them. I do not know if they do not sell enough to feel the need to service these mags or what, but I was very let down. Looking at the mag which holds around 25-28 rounds, it has some nice features. It is solid, has steel feed lips, the ability to take spring tension off for easier loading and just feels well made. It however, does little more then look awesome. Now, I have used the BDM in other brand conversion kits and they did fine. But this mag is so out of spec its crazy. The kit is not the problem because it works with all the factory mags and they are what the BDM tries to copy. The factory mags are built like tanks and are the very definition of reliable. Sadly to this day no one at BDM has deemed it, or me worthy of a response to help me fix the mag. I do not want a refund, I want a hi-cap mag for my Colt conversion kit. But I suppose it is not to be, and BDM will have no more of my money.
Now for the kit itself, if you can find them they do not work with the old airforce mags, the ceiner kits or the old military conversion kit mags. They always come with a 10 rounder though since it was intended for plinking and hunting. You will not get benchrest accuracy out of any conversion kit and a 1/7 twist does less to help, but thats not the point. However, it is squirrel hunting accurate within 25 yards with a SP-1 or M16 1/12 twist barrel. Mine have never let me down ( not counting the BDM mag) and have been the 1st rounds fired by my girl friend and younger kids. If you can find one of these fine old Colt kits and the price is right, I highly recommend it. It will be a lot of fun thats cheap to shoot and a nice example of colts past and the early days of the AR15 making its first inroads to the sporting/civilian world.
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