From December 2001, the Ministry of Defence began phasing in the A2, a modified SA80 design, to improve the reliability of the weapon under heavy usage in different climates. The A2 differs from the A1 as follows:

  • New bolt assembly to improve extraction and ejection
  • More durable firing pin (the original tended to snap after heavy use)
  • Reshaped cocking handle (the original could snap off if you cocked it too enthusiastically)
  • Modified hammer and internal mechanism to improve stability
  • Stronger recoil spring
  • All-steel magazine, improved feed (the original magazine tended to fall off if you ran with the weapon)
  • Wider feed and extraction paths
  • Heavier barrel to improve durability and heat dissipation
  • New gas parts to improve cycling of weapon (the originals were prone to clogging)

The A2 is specified to fire 10,000 rounds over a service lifecycle, but on average fired over 12,000 in simulated battlefield conditions before failure. This makes it the most reliable 5.56mm rifle in the world, a vast improvement over the A1. The MoD have ordered approximately 200,000 modified SA80s at a cost of £92M. The first batch of A2s were rushed into service for use by the Royal Marines in Afghanistan.