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L119A2 Paint Jobs – Addendum

As seems to be the case when publishing articles about a subject, new information has come to light on elements the L119A2 paint jobs article.  Often the article provokes comments and discussion and a few more things are unearthed or information conveyed subsequently.

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It seems the coating I attributed to being ‘Cerakote’ in the article is probably FDE Duracoat, a coating which is not dissimilar, but does not seem to require baking in the same way.  It also seems the colour tone used in the mock up, which matched the reference image I had, was too dark, and true colour is closer to FDE than Coyote Brown.  All other elements of the article, including those on the Signals L119A2s, seem to be correct.

The original article has been revised, and a new visual substituted (See above), however I felt when changing some of the key details of an article after publication it was worth highlighting it.

 

 

L119A2 Paint Jobs

Throughout its service with UKSF, the L119A1 has been painted all sorts of colours depending on theatre, resources and the preferences of individual operators, from carefully put together and almost artistic patterns to (more usually) rough and ready application of paint to break up the outline of the weapon.

The L119A2 it seems is no different, with approximately half of those seen in use with UKSF so far having been painted a variety of patterns.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with leaving them unpainted, as issued, but some guys just love painting their rifles, and others won’t particularly like the ‘two-tone’ effect the tan/dark earth parts lend the L119A2.

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This article will try and draw out broad themes with the painting of weapons, and usual caveats apply regarding the still small sample sizes in terms of L119A2 reference, although it is getting better in that regard.  It is also worth noting that while I will mention general themes here, painting of weapons is hugely individual, and will remain so in most cases.  Colour choices, method, and level of prep will differ between users, and many building replicas see painting as a way to exercise another level of creativity, or make builds appear more authentic.

Yet again photoshop has been deployed to illustrate things which are shown in images I have undertaken not to share.  Photoshop has also helped add a degree of clarity to the patterns shown, and comparison between them, which might otherwise be lacking.

Shades of tan and brown are still predominant, as with the L119A1, although there is perhaps abit more green now added to paint jobs, possibly a reflection of focus slowly shifting away from sandy theatre’s, although it is evidently not far.

Generally I have found the below to be useful considerations when painting anything.

  • Consider what not to paint.  Mask off areas of the item which you do not wish to paint – it is up to you how precisely or roughly you do so, that will depend somewhat on the type of paint job you want to deliver, but as a general rule, don’t paint flash hiders, bolts and triggers – certainly don’t paint lenses on lights and optics.  Consider which accessories you do and don’t want to paint, not painting an accessory or even an item of furniture on an otherwise painted gun can give it a ‘dropped in’ look.  Painting accessories on the weapon (so there are gaps in the rails when they’re removed) is also another style which can give a particular look – it’s been seen commonly, but it’s also obvious some guys remove every accessory and paint separately.  Apparently this may in part be to do with ensuring there is no paint on rails where accessories need to be zeroed, although is has also been seen on flashlight and grip attachment points, so in some cases it must simply be guys not bothering, or wanting, to remove accessories before painting.
  • Personally I always use a range of paints from different manufacturers to get the colours I want – I think using entirely Krylon can often seem very ‘airsoft’.  Krylon,  Fosco, Tamiya and NFM are all good choices.  Paints used by the real guys will be from various sources, and might not look too much like the small range at a local airsoft shop.  Don’t go overboard with 10 different colours though, no one has time to do that for real.
  • I always like dark brown Krylon for a base coat, and will have mid earth and tan colours over, then darker browns and a green to finish off.  I tend to suggest avoiding light base coats, and don’t overuse tan Krylon.
  • Don’t do the ‘dusty look’ – it never looks good, it is always too consistent, it is fine to have a weapon which has had multiple paint jobs chipped and flaked off, but real operators don’t let their weapon look like it’s been through a cement mixer.
  • Unlike many people I am not against artificially wearing a paint job, even if you airsoft religiously you likely won’t put a rifle through a fraction of the use a military rifle gets, so to avoid it all looking too pristine, artificial wear can be useful.  The problem is that almost everyone does artificial wear badly.  Paintjobs wear in a variety of ways, surfaces which are touched constantly in the operation or cleaning of the weapon will wear down naturally.  Flat surfaces will often scratch, exposed ridges will chip – some in more protected areas will remain untouched – good artificial wear will replicate all of them, and consider where the wear will realistically occur.  Don’t use white spirit or anything to wear a paint job.  Handle it when the paint has only just dried (not when it is tacky, or it will leave smears and marks) – run through a few drills, rub the paint where you usually touch and hold the weapon, dabbing with paint stripper gel can make it look like an area has naturally worn, but it’s strong stuff, a few dabs with a gel soaked J-cloth, then a minute or so later wiping it off with a dry one often works well.  A kitchen scourer is often good at scuffing and knocking paint at exposed areas, the edges or rails, mag wells, projections, edges of iron sights, sling mounts etc before paint is fully dry.  Don’t go knocking or scuffing it from areas which wouldn’t normally get a decent amount of abuse.  A few scratchs and chips to dry but not completely cured paint can be achieved using a plastic ruler, don’t use anything too hard since you don’t want to scratch the surface below, and concentrate here on flatter surfaces like on the receiver where it might scrap against a branch or rock.  Also don’t be too concerned about everywhere on a rifle being equally worn – consistency will look artificial.

The below images have been based on real reference photos – not every spray and dab is replicated, but the general themes of the various paint jobs are featured in reference photos.

Please ignore the choice of accessories on the rifles, and whether they are painted or not.  With the exception of the rubber hand guard and flash hider, in reality the mags/BUIS/sling mounts etc could be painted or not, depending on preference.  The choice of accessories is simply what was on the base image I worked from.

The first is a simple 3/4 colour pattern using a couple of tan/earth colours, a darker brown, and a mid green, with no major use of any stencils or scrims.

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The second shows a lighter tan scheme, with darker brown and/or green applied in splashes of spray through a scrim.  Army laundry bags give a great honeycomb pattern (my personal preference), while scrim scarfs will give a more rectangular ‘scale’ like pattern.

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This is where things get a bit interesting, and different from L119A1s – L119A2s have been seen sporting Kryptek inspired paint jobs.  This seems to be a combination of more traditional paint techniques over stuck on Kryptek stencils, as sold by Ballistic Designs IOM via their website and Ebay.  These stencils are stuck down over the base colour you would want the pattern in, the paint job is continued over the top, and then finally the stencil stickers are peeled off to reveal the pattern below.  If going for this method, don’t overdo it, every inch of the weapon shouldn’t be the Kryptek pattern, just flashes of it.

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I’m unable to share pictures of L119A2s with Krypek paint jobs, but the below SFSG HK417 gives an indication.  This one looks so sharp I initially thought it was a hydrodip, although it is in fact paint, the A2s seen appear a little less striking.  The method certainly appears to be in vogue among the real guys though, and can look awesome.

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Finally, although not a spray job per say, Cerakote is something many use to finish receivers after having modifications made of engraving done, and it gives a thin, hard wearing and consistent surface finish.  Most often this is simply back to a black colour – however there is another option if doing a signals kit.

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Signallers attached to other UKSF elements from 18 Signal Regiment use L119A2s which have had their receivers duracoated FDE, with suppressors and optics also cerakoted.  Ergo grip and CTRs are retained in their stock colours, magazines appear to remain black, and pins, controls and sling plate are also black – the buffer tube and nut however seem to be coated.

This believed to be particular to signallers due to restrictions on painting their weapons, and so would represent a unique touch for those building signals impressions.

This article was edited for after new information came to light post publication.  Check out the addendum to see what changed.

HAO L119A2 Upper Series on The Reptile House Blog

The long anticipated HAO L119A2 Upper has been released, and Rich at The Reptile House was provided a Beta release of the upper to test and review, which has provided a slew of fascinating articles.  Check them out below:

Part 1        Part 2         Part 3        Part 4         Part 5        Part 6

I first blogged about the HAO L119A2 upper some time ago, and I’m pleased to see it released, I know many who had been eagerly awaiting it.  From the photos and articles pertaining to it, it looks an excellent product, and certainly one which would interest me greatly were it for a platform I used – PTW owners have something special here.

There’s a number of very minor discrepancies with the upper, contrary to assertions made on other reviews (not TRH), although nothing critical which cannot be tweaked.  I know the Angry Gun rail likewise has a number of small inaccuracies.

Ultimately, comparisons will always be drawn, but both products had different appeals, design intents and markets, and do their respective jobs admirably.  While a huge fan of what Angry Gun launched onto the L119A2 fandom market a year ago, as a designer I am likewise hugely impressed by what HAO have done here, it looks stunning.  Ultimately more attention to the replica L119 market is always a good thing, especially when it is as good looking as this.  It’s going to be interesting too seeing Rich’s build develop.

HAO’s L119A2 upper can be checked out, and bought, here.

They also provide a range of L119A2 accessories and parts separate from the main upper package.

 

Welcome to the Jungle

A few weeks ago a couple of pictures surfaced showing a mix of UKSF and regulars training in the jungle. The guys in the pictures appear to be predominantly UKSF.

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These features a number of A2s in rather interesting setups, different from the rather kitted out states we are used to seeing them in.

A couple had only flip up BUIS attached, with no LA-5s or optics, and paracord slings used – although to be honest some rather ghetto sling setups appear to be an enduring feature of UKSF setups, no matter how nice the kit they are issued. The rational for short rifles with no optics in the jungle is well established – they are less snaggable, well suited to short range engagements and the lack of optics reduces issues associated with high humidity. Also lurking in the pictures however is a much more conventional setup of LA-5 and ACOG. The L85 carried by a regular also uses just iron sights. If you’ve looked over my UKSF FAQ Vol 1, you’ll begin to see jungle setup weapons seem somewhat erratic still. These pictures show the first BUIS (although here they are the primary sights) used on A2s, and while Magpul MBUS Pro and MATech have been seen on L119A1s, atleast one of these appears to be a KAC 300m BUIS – it is hard to be completely definitive given the quality of pictures however.

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One L119A2 features a pace counter secured round the magwell, which has been seen before, and is just a manual counter of the sort used by doormen – available cheaply on ebay. These are used for navigating in the jungle.

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A final note on some of the kit on display, there appears to be a mix on MTP and multicam, with Taiga Jungle Uniform and a Patagonia L9 shirt among the stand out pieces of gear. Webbing appears to be used, and helmets on show are an Ops Core Carbon and Maritime, and a Virtus lid which presumably belongs to one of the regulars.

Many thanks to the person who originally shared the pictures for his permission to use them (I have cropped them and doubled down on the persec).  He didn’t want his name shared, and he subsequently pulled the pictures, so wanted anonymity when they were reposted.

Reveal – L17A3 Grenade Launcher

Continuing the theme of covering the overhaul of the UKSF armoury, first with Glock 19s phasing out Sigs, then L119A2s replacing L119A1s, now we have the L17A3 (there may well be another rifle floating about too – but more on that another time). It is worth noting all the above have been used a while, and it is only comparatively recently that good reference material has come to light. It is hard to pin point the exact date things entered service, and indeed entering service does not necessarily mean wholesale adoption.

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SFSG training with L17A1s on L119A1 SFWs.

The L17A1, for those unfamiliar, is the underslung grenade launcher, manufactured by Heckler and Koch, which was fitted to the bottom rail of L119A1 SFWs – it is similar in concept and operation to the AG36 UGL. It has been in use since the early days of the L119 and the Afghan invasion, and represented the replacement of the M203 grenade launcher – the L17A1 in turn seems to have now been replaced, at least in part, by a new evolved variant. I saw textual reference to an L17A3 long before I’d seen a picture, which was pretty recently, but didn’t assign any particularly significance to it, indeed some ‘upgrades’ which warranted new ‘A’ numbers have been so outwardly inconsequential as to be near unnoticeable aesthetically. Recently however a mention of the weapon on a Facebook interest group, and later a picture, have clarified exactly what the weapon is.

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A US Service M320 Grenade Launcher.

The general trend in grenade launchers, most obviously seen by the US adoption of the M320 (made by HK under the commercial name GLM) launcher, is for smaller standalone launchers which can be carried and used independently of an assault rifle. This has numerous benefits in terms of flexibility and weight, cutting the weights of an individual’s weapon, which will reduce fatigue and in turn increase accuracy – this will I’m sure be especially important given the number of other accessories now fitted to individual weapons. Additionally, the weapon can be stowed in vehicles and packs, passed between team mates and holstered with much greater flexibility than was possible before.

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L17A1 slung by the side of an SFSG soldier.

Indeed, before the adoption of the L17A3, there is reference material showing the L17A1 slung as a standalone unit. It is not clear from the picture if the weapon is fired like that, or fitted to a rifle, however given it is slung handily from a belt, it suggests to me the weapon was used independent of any other system.

The L17A3 itself appears, in precis, to be an L17A1 with the stock and folding fore grip functionality of the M320/GLM.

The keen eyed will have noticed the feature picture accompanying this article is not in fact a photo of a L17A3, I am unable to share the photos of that which I have. The featured picture is a Photoshop mock up I produced using the reference for the L17A3, using an M320 picture as a base.  A number of precise details may not be perfect, the stock pad in particular, however this hopefully illustrates, broadly, what the L17A3 looks like and what grenade launcher is currently used by UKSF.

The Reptile House Anniversary V – My top five TRH articles.

The veritable institution which is The Reptile House Blog is celebrating its fifth anniversary, and Rich has been asking a few regular readers for their five favourite articles to reblog.  I was delighted to be ask, visit TRH below to see the five(ish) choices I picked out.

All are great reads, plus the other Anniversary V post throws up some more gems from the back catalogue.

Words: Jay I really liked the idea of a reblog series when Rich Norman – lead writer and curator of The Reptile House – invited me to contribute; and certainly, having an excuse for trawling the back catalogue was a reward in itself. I turned up a few articles I had forgotten about, and re-read […]

via Anniversary V: Jay’s Top Five Blogs — The Reptile House

Review – Special Forces: In the Shadows Exhibit

I visited the National Army Museum’s Special Forces: In the Shadows exhibition last week, taking an afternoon off work to go and see the museum, which I hadn’t visited since its refurbishment. I got rather engrossed in the one exhibit, so didn’t take in the rest of the museum, so will certainly have to go back.

This article will, in short, be a brief write up/review of the exhibit. I won’t share many of the photographs I took of the displays, since I would strongly encourage people to visit themselves.

As far as I am aware, but for a few small displays in regimental museums this is the most in depth curated display that has been publically opened relating to UK Special Forces, and while many books have been published, and the IWM has touched on elements of unconventional warfare with its SOE and Intelligence exhibit, I think this is a first.

Obviously I have a keen interest in UKSF, specifically much of the gear, and also design, so this review is certainly a geek’s eye view. I would characterise the exhibit as being a lot of ‘filler’ in relation to the ‘killer’ (no pun intended). However the ‘killer’ is really, really good.

Firstly I will address the problems I perceived with the exhibit before going on to highlight what it did really well.

The most prevalent problem was that the really good bits of the exhibition were somewhat concentrated spatially, with no real discernible ordering thematically or chronologically.

I believe the general structure was meant to run as follows:

  • Introduction to the concept of Special Forces and need for them.
  • Basic structure of UK Special Forces.
  • The origins of the regiments and units (and precursors) which now make up UKSF.
  • The types of men who join, and the selection criteria they must satisfy.
  • Pretty much everything else.
  • Special Forces in the media.
  • Reflection on why their work remains secretive.

The first four sections were done pretty well, and the stories of the originals were striking, if familiar. I found the inclusion of a couple of artefacts relating to that period arresting, specifically ‘The Complete Folbotist’ written by Captain Roger Courtney, founder of the Special Boat Section, is a concise, witty document which conveys perfectly the period in which it was written.

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It is the ‘pretty much everything else’ section which is problematic. There are some absolutely intriguing and great displays in this section, including a display cabinet with weaponry used by UKSF (I was told before I arrived these were airsoft – they weren’t, everything was 100% real), and an interactive display on Op Barras, moving on to kit setups for SBS MCT operations, SAS assault kit from the 2000s and Op Nimrod, kit from the Malayan Emergency, and SFSG assault kit (this did feature an unfortunate airsoft M4). These displays though were scattered rather haphazardly about however, and the area was dimly lit, with the lights on the glass casing occasionally obscuring the displays (mostly an issue when the kit in the display cases was dark, such as the MCT kit).

Huge amounts of wall space were devoted to ‘interactive’ activities or simply window dressing graphics, for instance between the weapon display case and Op Barras screen, there was a series of large ‘spot the sniper’ pictures of the type occasionally shared around the internet. On the reverse wall a huge manifestation showing the silhouettes of soldiers moving through a jungle took up a large proportion of that section. There was also a ‘special forces game’ played on 4 iPads inset into peli cases – the less said about that the better…

I realise there was likely a requirement to include a number of interactive features, and the exhibit has to cater to a range of people with diverse existing knowledge of the subject, and ages, but the space devoted to these games seemed inconsistent with their worth, and caused the genuinely fascinating things to be condensed and people to jostle around them.

In order to curate such an exhibition, I imagine you would have to balance detailed information with interactivity, and ensure that while people can flow round a space, it wouldn’t become congested at peak times, so not every inch of space can contain detailed, and sometimes too specific, information. I felt that while individual artefacts and displays were very engaging, the whole didn’t quite work. It would have been informative for instance to directly contrast Op Nimrod kit with the more modern CT kit, and highlight the differences and evolutions. Likewise the development of SFSG, and their various setups and missions would likewise have been an interesting section. The contrast between older gear, missions and tactics and newer ones would have been fascinating had they been presented as linked to one another, and it would have made for a clear narrative. It would also have highlighted where things haven’t changed, and much of what worked decades ago may still hold true. The evolution of the threat and what it takes to counter it, and how the skills and dedication of the men must remain at the pinnacle would have been compelling.

The scattered approach to display and lack of any discernible interrelation or narrative between them was perhaps the exhibition’s biggest weakness.

There also appeared to be a degree of pruning in terms of what was covered, with more controversial conflicts such as those in Northern Ireland and Iraq being largely omitted, despite the fact these are among the most publically known. Certainly the omission of Task Force Black seemed incongruous given the media coverage it has received in Mark Urban’s book of the same name (which was lacking from the gift shop section to accompany the exhibit) and ITV’s Exposure: The Kill List.

 

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Despite the above criticism of the layout and relative attention paid to various elements, the exhibit is a must see for anyone with even a passing interest in the subject matter who lives near or is visiting London. At £8 for a full price ticket, and less for the various concessions, it is excellent value, and that’s not even addressing the entire rest of the refurbished and remodelled museum, which is free.

The access the museum has secured to a number of interviews was likewise impressive, from 1Para paratroopers after Op Barras to members of the Special Forces from the 80’s until recently. The genuine attention paid to the founders of the various units who forged the ethos that lives on today is also something that stays with you, and has encouraged me to read more about the unit foundings, as well as their more contemporary exploits.

Unlike many displays of similar items, the kit was authentic and attention to detail excellent, while it had at times a really personal , evocative and occasionally tragic insight into the people behind the various units featured.

I’d strongly recommend any who are interested in UKSF past or present drop the museum a visit, take in the exhibit, and drop a few quid in the donation box at the end.

 

Find out more about the National Army Museum, how to get there and what’s in the museum at:

https://www.nam.ac.uk/

And find out more about the Special Forces: In the Shadows exhibit at:

https://www.nam.ac.uk/whats-on/special-forces-shadows

The Special Forces: In the Shadows exhibit opened on 17 March 2018 and runs until 18 November 2018.