1. Introduction: Wise Words
A comment from a friend inspired this article:
…a lot of people going for a particular build to make an accurate impression will often skirmish an entirely different setup.@andys_gasworks
While I enjoy the challenge, craft and rules-based order of building a clone blaster, choices are obviously and self-consciously limited by canon. And because we’re talking about the L119A2 (a UKSF variant of the Colt Canada C8) I list my personal canon publicly, here.
2. The Problem
Limits often entail ergonomic compromises and I’m not about to compromise on the ergonomics of a build that also gets used. I’m not a glass case type of person, as keen eyed readers have noticed from the superficial wear and tear my L119A2 has undergone in quite a short space of time.
The truth is, my bones, muscles and tendons won’t thank me for using something that’s sub-optimal ergonomically for any duration.
3. The Solution
The first part of the solution is a set of parts which satisfies my drive for cloning and those times where I want to indulge the authenticity side of things. That could mean plinking in the garden; a morning at a game before switching to a more optimised configuration; or when I’m testing a new clone layout (because one of my rules is that within its limitations a clone build has to actually work).
The second part of the solution is an alternative set of parts which offers a fully realised, optimised build. With these parts in situ, the blaster fits me better and as such leverages usability gains.
3.1 UXV1.1 And Experimentation
I blogged about my optimised build a few weeks back, calling it UXV1.0 – or Unity eXperimental Version 1. That name has stuck. It came from my experimental use of a Unity Tactical mount. Since then I’ve added another Unity Tactical item; an incremental change which revises the name to UXV1.1. – because it’s safe to say that I still am, and always will be, experimenting.
For example, much as I like the Magpul CTR stock of the clone build, in the optimised build I’ll soon be testing the lighter, slimmer and more ergonomic Mission First Tactical (MFT) Battlelink stock – an old favourite of mine. It’s less cumbersome than the CTR (not that the CTR is particularly cumbersome, but it is relative to the MFT) and the butt’s rolled toe is extremely comfortable from what I remember.
What reminded me of the MFT was the wealth of modern reference pics which support its use not with UKSF but elsewhere. And – because I have decent mates – a friend to whom I’d gifted my original MFT heard I was on the lookout for one and sent his back to its original owner free of charge (cheers John of JTAC Custom).
My Magpul MOE K2 grip while not strictly L119A2 canon is a feature of both my clone setup and UXV1.1, as is whatever foregrip I’m using at the time (in this case a Magpul AFG2). Similarly the RSA QD, Inforce WMLx (REVIEW) and Element LA5 are perennials; as is the Magpul CTR stock – at present.
The changes, then, concern the optic cluster and suppressor cover.
The clone’s legit Aimpoint 33mm spacer and LRP mount, on the other hand, is switched out for a decidedly non-canon Unity Tactical FAST Micro mount – the benefits of which are discussed at length here.
Suffice to say it’s a massive upgrade on the Aimpoint item in terms of ergonomics, field of view and situational awareness; notwithstanding being a no-brainer for those who use NODs.
Complimenting the FAST Micro mount on UVX1.1 is a Unity Tactical FAST FTC Aimpoint magnifier mount (REVIEW). Clearly it’s non-canon, but the Aimpoint 3XMAG-1 that it enables is wholly legit. To be fair, only the lack of an Aimpoint TwistMount prevents me from using the 3XMAG-1 in the clone setup – something for the future, perhaps.
4.2 Suppressor Cover
The original reason for using it on the optimised build was because, simply, it looks good with the chunky Unity Tactical accessories. However, it proved its worth ergonomically because it adds useful heft to the front end – an unintended, positive consequence.
That heft isn’t required with the clone build – because of its different setup – so the Manta is not a feature.
An overriding concern I have with any build – clone or optimised – is that it must be aesthetically pleasing by my standards.
It’s a lot easier with a clone build, as there’s a guiding rule-set. It’s more difficult with an optimised build, where the user can employ any accessory they choose.
For me, my optimised setup hangs together quite well, while also hitting the ergonomic mark. That said, the observer must think outside the original clone context. This is fine in general, because most people wouldn’t know a legit L119A2 if it bit them in the arse (and I mean that in a nice way, because we don’t all waste our time poring over reference pics).
5.1 The Future
I think this is the longest I’ve kept a clone build without selling it or transforming it into something completely different. I love the L119A2 and it’s not easy to source genuine Colt Canada parts, making this a unique build in the context of my past clones which have been H&K or Colt based. Bear in mind, however, that this L119A2 is actually my HAO HK416A5 with a different skin. How long did the A5 last? Not very long at all.
Without a complimentary worn impression, a gun being in one form gets really, really boring. So, if you’re not tied to an impression but want to do clones, it actually makes more practical sense to go with a modern US build rather than a UK one. The US military ecosystem just has so much more variation to keep someone interested. And, if there’s one clone I absolutely regret selling it’s my AFSOC-inspired M4A1.
In terms of ongoing variation my friend Jack (F17 of Gray Fox) has it down to a fine art. He does an NSW impression which robustly underpins his actions, but he keeps a wide variety of legit alternative accessories on hand to completely and creatively transform his clone builds. That’s cloning done right.
Who knows what my next project will be? I certainly don’t as nothing much appeals right now. As I said to begin with, however, the challenge, craft and rules-based order of building a clone is just as important as the outcome.