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The current British L144 A1 Cadet Small-bore Training & Target Rifle
Manufactured by Savage Arms
This rifle is the replacement for the long serving Lee-Enfield Rifle No.8 and has been purchased by the M.O.D. (Ministry of Defence) from its Canadian/U.S. manufacturers under a contract awarded by the British Government in 2016.
There was rumour that the initial mooting of nomenclature for this new rifle was "No.9", to follow on directly from the No.8 but, quite probably because someone somewhere took the trouble to look up the history of the Rifles No.8 and No.9, it was recalled, and quite likely from this very reference site, that the designation had been made before; indeed, more than once.
See the Rifle No.9.
With its final titling of L144 A1 Cadet Small Bore Target Rifle .22in., CSBTR for short, the equipment looks resplendent and purposeful in its transit case, although the new rifle has attracted a mixed reception by members of the various units to which it is being issued.
Whilst it is to be regretted that British industry has not been in a position to fulfil the multi-million pound contract to replace the last of our long line of historically significant and faithfully serving home produced .22RF single-shot training and target rifles, the decision to purchase a lightweight import, the very base model of which has sold for around $150.00 in Walmart stores in the U.S.A., has not received universal approval. That even Anschutz withdrew from tendering, reportedly due to difficulties in supplying the quantity required, was a disappointment to many. Whether, in the light of Savage's tender, Anschutz could have brought their usual high quality product down to a competitive price may also have been a factor.
Although the operator's manual is largely identical to a standard Savage booklet, the document is currently classified, and therefore cannot here be reproduced.
The manual is entitled "Mark I N8RR", representing the nomenclature initially written into the rifle specification (No.8 Rifle Replacement),
and used for the trials rifles prior to the allotment of the issue nomenclature of L144A1.
The main label on the lid of the Plano Gun-Guard transit case gives the equipment number and the rifle's serial number,
and records the rifle's Canadian manufacture.
A second label shows the CES (Complete Equipment Schedule) Nomenclature already mentioned,
along with batch and contract numbers.
We have been advised that the equipment NSN (National Stores Number), 1005-20-009-5077, of the rifle here displayed, and to be seen in the above image of the CES label, has been superceded by the current L144A1 equipment, carrying the NSN 1005-20-010-0117, and which is now issued in a (considerably cheaper?) canvas carrying sleeve.
The rifle on its own, without ancillaries, is NSN 1005-20-009-5075.
Below is the case manufacturer's logo.
To reminisce for a moment, the No.8 rifle has provided a realistically configured, reliable and proficient equivalent to the Lee-Enfield No.4 Service rifles, for which it afforded training and small-bore competition shooting, across all but fifty years. First issued in 1948, the No.8 rifle paralleled the 1930's design of .303" then 7.62mm Service rifles that was still in use in the Falklands War of 1982 - and even after. That kind of service cannot easily be emulated, and there are certainly doubts, amongst involved military units, that such longevity will be matched by the new Cadet Rifle.
Perhaps, in this 21st. Century climate, earlier obsolescence and more limited service periods have become the norm, and, whilst some of the Savage-provided components of the rifle appear likely to last for a lesser time than those they replace on the No.8, the FVT based rifle is oft acknowledged to be a reliable and accurate piece of equipment.
It is just that some parts, such as sights, may suffer rather more than hoped at the hands of the less careful of its many users over the next few years. Nothing is forever, but if replacement parts are as economical as they ought to be with a comparatively high volume civilian production item, then perhaps the procurers can be forgiven, rather than accused of penny-pinching. Nothing (particularly a rifle) can ever be all things to all men (or women of course - forgive the near verbatim employment of a very old saying).
Knowledge of this seems to have caused some consternation in U.K. circles, when it was reported that the initially rumoured main contract for up to 10,000 rifles was to be awarded at a believed cost of near 6 million pounds. While the addition of wood furniture, an adustable butt, the unusual 3-piece stand, a fore-end accessory rail and an agreeably substantial transit case will significantly add to the overall unit purchase price, one has to wonder how the supposed approximate unit contract price of £600.00 was arrived at, bearing in mind the US CMP price of, admittedly for a more basic rifle only, less than a third of that. It has to be said that at this point we are not privy to details of the spares and maintenance provisions that may have been included, and there was no doubt an importer's commission to be added. If you have more concrete figures we would be pleased to hear them.
In 2016, it was officially announced that a contract had been awarded by the M.O.D. "to provide over 8,000 units and spares, of the Savage .22LR bolt-action rifle."
It is worth reminding ourselves at this point that the original issue of No.8 rifles throughout the late "Forties" and the "Fifties" was in the order of 75,000, of which somewhere in excess of 10% are believed to have still been in service prior to their current withdrawal period.
Two or three years prior to this, when it had been decided that a replacement rifle was needed for the long-in-the-tooth No.8, because spares and maintenance were becoming problematic, rather than for any other particular reason, a required specification was prepared and subsequently issued to prospective candidates for the procurement contract. It read as follows:
Stated specification for l144a1 ca 2014
Rifles. Number 8 Rifle Replacement (N8RR), the UK MOD has a requirement to replace the current in-service Number 8 Rifle due to obsolescence. The rifle must meet but are not limited to the following Key System Requirements (KSRs):
The system shall be able to fire the following current, in-service .22in Long Rifle (.22LR) rimfire cartridges: ‘Round .22 inch ball’ L5A2 (ADAC – 10501-02) and ‘Round .22 inch ball Tenex Ultimate’ L9A1 (ADAC – 10502-02)
The system shall not be able to accept a magazine of any type.
The system shall be based around a manually fed, bolt-action rifle that is designed to be fired from the right shoulder.
The system shall have a manual safety catch that is separate from the bolt and trigger action.
The system shall be suitable for firing from the following positions: Prone
The system shall have a discrete, civilian appearance.
The weapon system shall have a modular iron sight sub-system that offers ‘Basic’ and ‘Advanced’ capability.
The system’s peak instantaneous (C weighted) noise level at the firer’s ear shall not exceed 135dBC during firing.
The system shall not be adversely affected when dropped from height in accordance with DEFSTAN 07-85, Part 4, Issue 1, Para 8.14, Para 10.4 (Drop Test).
The system shall pass a DOSG Design Safety Assessment.
The final decision on the replacement rifle, and the award of that contract, is already history; the continuing history may result in much "I told you so" comment, but the proof will be in the pudding, and all could yet turn out to be far better than some are suggesting. Can all those North American purchasers be entirely wrong?
We should now look more closely at the rifle itself, made possible here because just one hundred sets of equipment were permitted to be sold into the civilian market at the time of first issue. These were sold to a few fortunate Registered Firearms Dealers by the importers, the Liverpool based Edgar Brothers, who have long been the U.K. distributor for Savage Arms. This company therefore holds the contract for the supply of spares and, presumably, the immediate responsibility for any corrective action that may prove necessary were any shortcomings to present themselves in the near future.
Here is an opportunity to view every aspect of the rifle.
The next two images can be rotated and zoomed, either as initially loaded or full-screen for higher definition.
Slide cursor < > to rotate, and Click to zoom.
The upper image shows the plain single-aperture eyepiece on the rear-sight, and the butt slightly extended.
The lower image shows the German made "Centra" aperture adjustable eypiece fitted (further detailed later), and the butt in its closed, shortest position.
The complete disassembled equipment is illustrated below.
The various components will be further discussed further down the page.
Click the image for a higher definition view.
The origin of this rifle was initially reported to be in the Savage FVT Mk.II rifle - in single-shot form. The FVT Mk.II is of course a magazine-fed model, and its receiver is appropriately slotted, whereas the Mk.I is single-loading, with only apertures for the ejector and drilled holes into which trigger and bedding mounts affix, andinto which the loading-platform clips. Inspection of the rifle, and comparison with the various Savage rifles' exploded views, suggests a rather more complex situation. The barrelled action certainly seems most akin to that of the Mk.1 model, shown below , and is indeed actually marked as such.
The trigger mechanism seems identical on each model, but the trigger-guards of both the Mark 1 and II rifles are shown as a pressed steel item, while the Cadet rifle has a diecast unit that appears similar to that used on the Savage "Rascal" model.
The two action drawings are shown below for comparison: Mark I - left; Mark II - right.
It may be observed that the apertures on the underside of both the Mark I and II receivers above are identical, with the exception of the Mk.II's magazine way. However, the previous drawing of a mark I barrel and action is at variance, although the cut-outs are apparently the same as those of our Cadet rifle, the configuration of which is illustrated below. Neither of the two exploded drawings above show the irregularly shaped hole through which the ejector prongs protrude into the bolt-way. Whether this may be down to the currency of the drawings, or alterations in design, is unclear, but the drawings are understood to be the latest publicly available from Savage. There certainly seeems to have been minor modification of the receiver from what is shown in the drawings, but it would be interesting to compare the Cadet rifle with a current commercial model to see if there is any difference.
There are two barrel bedding bolts, the rearmost of which also acts as the front trigger-guard fixing, while the forward bedding bolt is close to the front of the action body - passing through the fore-end wood just over an inch aft of the accessory rail. The rear lug of the trigger guard is fastened with a simple wood screw. The two large bush-like bolts, at the lower centre of the above photograph, hold the extractor plate against the underside of the receiver; the rearmost (left hand) one of these is also the front mounting bolt for the trigger mechanism. These bolts are internally threaded, and the rear barrel bedding bolt screws through the trigger-guard into the latter one. They are tightened into the receiver by an internal Allen-type hex-key. Whilst not knowing the actual torque figure for setting these screws, it was notedt on removal that they were unexpectedly easy to undo.
It may be worth reporting our thoughts on the best and the worst of the rifle. Most components are well made and of good quality materials. The stock is of a finely grained and hard timber that will doubtless take the knocks well, although the finish may prove less hard-wearing. We have heard that the butt extension has occasionally parted company with the butt when enthusiastically drawn out, but that this is due to a failure of adhesion of the glued-in retainer that is straight-forward to remedy. Nonetheless, this is supposed to have been built as a military service rifle; although it is well known that some of the most sophisticated and heavily tested service rifles have, in the past, not been without teething troubles ......
The performance of the alloy sights over the rifle's lifetime remains to be seen, and the fore-sight elements are unlikely to fare well if being changed by clumsy or inexperienced hands - they are very thin by comparison with their Parker-Hale predecessors. The Williams target sight on the rifle tested was initially very stiff to adjust, and had the most appalling windage adjustment, with serious tight spots with each full turn of the knob. It was practically impossible to properly count detent clicks at these points when rotating the spindle. The rifle and equipment was brand new, and the rifle had never been fired since proof. Neither had the sight ever been fitted, as the mounting screw was missing from the kit, along with the front sling swivel. The sight was fitted to the rifle directly from its bubble-wrap envelope, but gave the impression, on this first use, that the spindle was bent or some other part was heavily binding. Not what one would expect or hope for in a new rifle. Lubrication of all the rotating and sliding surfaces improved the elevation adjustment considerably, but not the windage. A dial gauge set as near as possible to the centre of the spindle, with the eye-piece mounting- block fully wound to either side, suggested about three "thou" (0.003") run-out. Feeler gauges used between the spindle and the inner face of the windage arm confirmed this to be the case. Very careful pressure applied with a soft spatchelor between thread and frame to straighten the spindle resulted in a considerableimprovement, although it is still not perfect. That such work proved necessary is hardly a recommendation. Many other new target sights acquired from various manufacturers, over many years of shooting, have never presented such a problem; this has only ever been achieved by knocking over a poorly placed rifle - a summary lesson!
There is no doubt that the weight-saving in the rifle's construction, and the easily adjustable butt length, will enable its comfortable use by the younger and smaller cadets. Not long ago, an armourer was required to change the whole butt of a No.8 rifle, from a limited number of size options, to suit the age and build of the user. However, having shot solid-butted and latter-day adjustable butt-length rifles for more than sixty years, the author found the Savage's adjustable butt to allow the rifle to wobble in the shoulder. The customary gentle rocking of the rifle, to bed the butt-plate firmly in the shoulder for a firm hold, results in the rifle rotating around the but - which remains where first contact is made with the shoulder-pad, and gives the "hold" a rather insecure feel. It was found that it was possible to almost "unlock" the adjusting spindle's detent while "settling in"; whether the detents could be made to lock more positively needs to be investigated. There is no doubt that a twin rod "over-and-under" butt-extension system, with a positive lever locking arrangement, such as that found on most proprietary modern target rifles, is a far superior arrangement.
The matt finish of the steel-work has a pleasing appearance, and seems to clean easily. Perhaps a Cadet Unit will report on the longer-term ability of the wood and metalwork to take the knocks of handling and shooting on the range. There should be no transport damage whatsoever if the substantial transit cases stay in use with their rifles.
The dense stock is well-machined, affording an excellent, tight and traditional bedding for the action body. The barrel is free-floating.
The provided single and two-point slings are such as you would expect of shoulder carrying straps rather than target-shooting slings. They are barely an inch-and-a-quarter wide, and of a synthetic webbing with plastic or nylon buckles akin to the straps on a cheap knapsack. We are aware that some cadet units have already been making their own alternative provisions.
There is here what may be considered by some to be an oversight in the specification of a rifle defined specifically both as a training and "target" model. Almost every such rifle for target use, including all the Lee-Enfield marks used by the military to date, has hitherto been capable of being fitted with a trigger-guard swivel to which the rear of a two-point target sling can be fitted. Presumably the specifiiers considered that the additional expense was not justified now that most target shooters use single point slings; thus the provided, or indeed any, two-point sling can only be used between the hand-stop and butt swivels.
The slightly strange and jig-saw-like three-piece suite that comprises the collapsible tripod is certainly ingenious. It is shown in advertising shots being used as a static rest for the rifle, but is not ideal for this, leaving the rifle pointing high in the air and not prevented from twisting from side to side. As a shooting rest it perhaps makes more sense, but it is rather low for such a purpose and, as one senior correspondent notes on a Cadet forum, since the rifle has been graced with an accessory rail, a traditional bi-pod would have made more sense, affording both a stable shooting rest and static rest stand in one. On-line imagery of the rifle in use by cadets on the range shows that some units have already fitted standard low bi-pod stands into the accessory rails, which stands permit the safe and stable horizontal resting of the rifle on the ground. Such Parker-Hale style bi-pods have served the U.K. target shooting community well over many decades, and have evidently yet to end their useful life.
Finally, the very best and the worst. The rifle's 8-groove bore is a delight to behold; the finish of the buttoned rifling is as good as you will see anywhere, and this and the well-built barrelled action are indicators of why these rifles have an acknowledged high degree of accuracy. This accuracy became evident when the first thirty or so rounds were fired on the range. However, the unwanted rotation of the butt in the hold, the uncertain sight adjustment, and insufficient range time to permit perfect settling in with a non-issue single-point sling (deemed more suitable and effective than the issued webbing version), meant that this accuracy was not fully obtained.
And the worst? Well, the snap-in red plastic insert, that forms the single-loading platform, is quite the most disappointing fitting we have seen anywhere on any reasonable quality rifle other than a toy. Unlike so many finely engineered loading platforms on well-known target rifles, one cannot simply drop the round into the receiver and expect the cartridge to centre in the groove and feed directly into the chamber on bolt closure. Even early Twentieth Century Martinis were easier to load, quite apart from the ease with which the likes of the current Walther and Anschutz products can be loaded. Having the cartridge occasionally locate itself to one side or the other of the receiver, necessitating the employment of a finger-tip to centralise it and help it into the chamber, should be a thing of the past. One has to admit though, that if this is the most serious criticism, then there is a good chance the rifle itself should survive the vagaries of training use for a few years yet.
DATA TABLE - ALL MEASUREMENTS AS VIEWED EXAMPLE
|Designation or Type :||
Military Style Cadet Target Rifle
|Serial No :||
|Action Type :||
|Nomenclature or main marks:||
.22RF Long Rifle
7 lbs. 7 ozs.
|Length - Overall :||
38¼ inches + 3½" extension
97.2 + 8.9 cms
|Length - Barrel :||
12 to 15½ inches
30.5 to 39.4 cms
|Spare row :||
|Rifling - No. of Grooves :||
|Rifling - Twist & Direction :||
1 turn in 16 inches - RH
1 turn in 40.64 cms
|Rifling - Groove width :||
|Rifling - Land width :||
|Rifling - Groove depth at muzzle :||
|Sight - Fore :||
Williams globe tube sight with post and ring elements
|Sight - Rear :||
Williams alloy target sight with plain and variable apertures
|Sight - Radius :||
An enlarged crop of the previous photograph of the complete disassembled kit more clearly shows the bolt components.
The action is "cock on opening" in exactly the same way as the old No.8 rifle.
It is only necessary to lift the bolt handle and lower it again to cock the action,
as opposed to those rifles with which the bolt has to be withdrawn to the fully open position, cocking as the bolt is closed.
The bolt is removed from the rifle using the time-honoured method of holding the trigger on withdrawal.
The action is fitted with a late version of the patent Savage Accutrigger which receives good reviews Worldwide, and which the makers claim "can't accidentally discharge if jarred or dropped — even at the lowest setting" - although they do qualify that by adding "when properly maintained and adjusted".
It could be said that some parts, by comparison with preceding British training rifles, are lightly constructed, and many components are stamped from sheet.
Nonetheless, this Savage rifle system has given sterling service in its home country over many years.
The main and secondary extractors, and the firing-pin, fall into that lightweight pressed-steel category, as does their retaining spring-clip;
however, the system has merit, in that these components can be easily replaced if damaged.
Replacement does not require disassembly of the bolt, merely the removal of the spring clip,
sliding out of the broken component, and speedy fitment of the comparatively cheap new unit without special tools.
The military practice of clearing a weapon by closing the bolt and pulling the trigger, even on a .22" rimfire single-shot target rifle, may prove this to be a very useful factor.
Above, the moulded plastic loading platform that is held in place by a round barbed lug like a split--rivet that simply snaps into a drilled hole in the base of the receiver.
Whether the red coluring was specified by the M.O.D. is not known, and the latest fad of black-coated cartridge cases will certainly show up better but, as far as the plastic moulding is concerned, the phrase "a ha'porth of tar" is brought to mind. Range officers relying for safety checks on seeing the supplied red flags in the receivers will now need to look twice.
For those adventurous and inventive individuals out there, any idle thought of removing the platform, cutting a hole through the stock, and fitting the Mk.II magazine is not a practical proposition without a machine shop.
The video play > icon below will show a short embedded video of re-assembly of the dismantled bolt unit.
The bolt comes stored seperately in the transit case, in an internally lubricated clear plastic bag with a finger-hole near the open end.
Safety and installation instructions are printed on the bag as shown below.
Here are four aspects of the bolt
Followed by three views of the bolt face, each clearly showing the three components; firing-pin (top), the main extractor (left),
the secondary extractor - or "cartridge assistor" (right), plus their retaining spring-clip.
The eagle-eyed amongst our readers may have noticed that the pictured bolt carries a serial number at variance with the rifle displayed on this page.
We discovered this as soon as the kit arrived and the components were disassembled for photography. The supplier had purchased two rifles, and on despatch mixed up the bolts, which had been stored separately for security.
This bolt was duly exchanged for the correct one, of precisely the same configuration, and matching the rifle number.
It was not considered worth the trouble of re-photographing the latter unit.
The barrel marking on the left hand side clearly states "SAVAGE MARK I. CAL. .22 S.L. & L.R."
i.e: .22 Single Loading - Long Rifle,
followed by their Canadian manufacturing address of Lakefield, Ontario, and below that the notice of importation to their Westfield, Massachusetts address in the U.S.A.
The barrel's right-hand-side is marked with a warning that the owner's manual should be read before using the rifle, and that such manual is available from Westfield.
When imported to the U.K. from abroad, any firearm is required by law to be proved safe by one or other of the Government Proof Houses - in London or Birmingham. Once successfully tested by firing with an over-pressured proof round, and assuming there is no structural damage as a result, the rifle is stamped and/or engraved with the appropriate "Proof Marks". Some military weapons, when manufactured within a Government Ordnance facility, can be tested at the factory and issued to the military with specialist proof marks acceptable to the MO.D. for service use only. If firearms are purchased from a civilian importer they would usually be expected to pass through a Proof House. Those firearms sold out to the public would certainly require this to be done.
The Cadet rifle has a rather unusual and comprehensive set of proof marks, with even the rifle's M.O.D. nomenclature included in the engraving.
This engraving is to be found beneath the barrel in front of the fore-end wood.
From left to right: the CIP over N mark is the European proof mark of the "Commission Internationale Permanente" or the International Proof Commission, introduced in 2014; thus the rifle's proof should be accepted anywhere with the European Union. The BNP under a crown is the "Birmingham Nitro Proof" mark. The "crossed swords" interspersed with four characters include the "B" for Birmingham at the top, the athwartships date code 1 and 6 for 2016, and an inspectors code "5" at the base. These marks are followed by the rifle's "L144 A1" nomenclature, under which is an M.O.D. serial number.
The manufacturer's serial number "A 2692626" is stamped only on the rear LHS of the action body as shown below.
Strangely, as is usually the case for firearms sold in the U.K., the barrel itself does not also carry the manufacturer's serial number, but only the bolt, which carries only the last four digits of the serial number, as can be seen in the earlier photographs. The crowned BNP proof mark is, though, stamped a second time on the barrel beneath the muzzle, on the side of the action/receiver body, and on both halves of the bolt, covering every eventuality. The observant amongst our readers will have noticed that the rifle and bolt seperately illustrated on this page are not matching. Indeed, the bolt is from another rifle twenty-seven units on in the production series.
The elevation and windage adjustable Williams Gun Sight Company's rear-sight is shown below from both sides.
It is manufactured from aircraft grade aluminium alloy, and weighs merely 1½ ozs (42.5 grammes). There is only basic calibration, without a vernier scale.
There are understood to be an unusual (by the British target-shooting norms of 4, 8 & 16), 6 clicks per minute of angle on 48 tpi threads.
The single mounting screw attaches the sight to the mount that is factory-fitted to the rear of the action body.
The aforementioned German "Centra" variable aperture eyepiece adusts from 0.5mm to 3mm.
The supplied equipment also includes a plain single aperture eyepiece of .050" (1.2mm) peep-hole diameter.
The tube foresight is also of aluminium alloy, and affixes to a mount base set in a lateral dovetail on the barrel.
The selection of ring and blade foresight elements can be seen in the earlier images of the equipment. These are supplied as a stamped sheet from which each can be broken out like a model plastic kit. There is no suitable container in which these could then be safely kept, so something like a small circular pill box would be a useful addition to the kit.
Perhaps worth pointing out, is how little has really changed in some aspects of the construction of Savage rifles over more than eighty years.
To illustrate the point, we have photographed the rear-sight mounting arrangements of both the Savage NRA Model 1933 and today's L144-A1
Yes, the materials of which the rear-sight has been made have altered, and some aspects of appearance, but the basics are little changed.
The fine bore is shown below, from the muzzle. Apologies for the poor wiping out; the trimmed 4x2 left some of itself behind.
Even modern felt bore cleaners left fuzz in there, and we don't have a compressor!
The barrel was "slugged" with a plain lead .22 bullet.
Below left is the whole slug showing the rifling lands' impressions in the driving band and heel.
To the right is a microscopic image of one land impression. By comparison with some earlier barrels, the grooves of the bore are quite shallow, and vernier measurement of the slug provided approximate dimensions for the rifling. These have been entered into the data table about half-way down this page.
The smoothness and cleaness of the impressions on the slug confirm the high quality of the bore's finish.
The slug dimensions suggest a bore diameter of exactly 0.220" with a groove depth of 0.003" at the muzzle, and an approximate groove width of 0.048"
Finally, the clever butt extension system is certainly not to be ignored.
A 90 degree clockwise twist of the butt-plate releases the lock, and permits withdrawal of the rear section of butt to the chosen length. The return of the butt-plate to the upright position firmly locks the extension in place.
To ensure consistent resetting for any particular individual, the seven extended positions are marked with metric calibration (probably not something the American manufacturer would have done out of choice).
This has resulted in a rather strange selection of figuring, of which the spacing varies between 12 and 13mm, and is likely an indication of how U.S. half-inch indexing is tricky to convert to metric divisions in whole numbers!
Nonetheless, the alloy spindle and its supporting tube in the butt are complex pieces of machining. The spindle sports a snazzy row of Allen grub-screws locating the spring-loaded indexing-pins opposite (out of view), and the arrangement works extremely well on a new rifle, with just the already mentioned caveat that the locking into detent is insufficiently firm to completely prevent rotation of the rifle in the hold, when the butt is in the shoulder.
Time will tell how the system bears the wear of regular use
Our rifle barely been fired, but we will add some performance and accuracy data in due course.
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