1. Introduction

2020 was a great year for fresh UKSF reference pics, suggesting increased variety in L119A2 builds five years out from its official adoption date; and in the year where it was officially scheduled to be replaced – being referred to merely as a ‘mid-life upgrade’, after all.

While some depictions were self-evidently legit and therefore readily and easily authenticated, other pics ultimately accepted as canon were more challenging to verify. These were the ones where “It’s airsoft” or “It’s a civilian build” were never wholly convincing dismissals. Taking far longer to resolve, final determination often relied on back channels rather than a killer observation.

Why the initial dismissals? I have to fight my own knee jerk reactions, because reticence towards change/difference is natural. It’s right to be sceptical, but it’s just as healthy to be open minded, reasonable and persuadable – and it’s possible to be sceptical and do all of those other things simultaneously. Otherwise an echo chamber results; a self-reinforcing bubble of similar opinions/disbelief, which imperils both independent learning and collective knowledge. Dogma is no friend to solid research.

I think part of the problem is that we were all too comfortable with fairly conservative L119A2 builds and a culture – now comprehensively discredited – where even documented differences were seen as exotic.

When you compare UK stuff to US equivalents, the US stuff often throws up variations which seem savvy, knowing and brand conscious; and which are numerous enough to represent trends. UKSF variations, on the other hand, often feel singular, random, pragmatic and expedient. So when a cool item turns up on an L119A2, its relevance often is simply written off as anecdotal; as if all UKSF guys are somehow gucci dyslexic. That’s simply not true.

The situation is partly explained by the sheer size of the US special operations forces (USSOF) community. In addition, some elements are rightly less secretive than UKSF. So, there are a lot of open source US reference pics where correlations can be made and trends plotted. Presumably there are also more USSOF geardos in terms of headcount. Some, it’s reasonable to assume, surely must be stakeholders in procurement decisions. However, whether there is a greater number of USSOF geardos per capita is a moot point.

2. The UKSF SAS L119A2 Reference Pic

One retired UKSF guy we do know as a bone fide geardo is Obi Wan Nairobi/Christian Craighead. The pic under consideration in this article appeared in his Instagram story at the close of 2020. Everyone who I consider to be a credible analyst, who I’ve spoken to directly, thinks that on balance of probabilities this is a legit pic. I also think it’s legit, hence the article.

Remember that IG stories are ephemeral – disappearing after 24hrs. Equally, it’s not a great pic and obviously it’s heavily cropped as well. A little underwhelming as the advert some have suggested it was, but in any case that’s largely irrelevant to the focus of this article.

The story highlighted the Sig Sauer Romeo8T but it’s not the optic that I want to highlight here, aside from relating that the example shown on the L119A2 below is a T&E variant (verified via a back channel).

Pic from Christian Craighead/Obi Wan Nairobi’s Instagram Story

It’s interesting that Obi Wan seems to favour reticule optics such as the 8T (a reticule equipped Romeo4T was famously featured in the Nairobi pics and he’s also been pictured with what is assessed to be an EOTech 552).

It’s not like the Romeo8T is a niche thing. Due to its sturdy body and steel shroud, it’s incredibly durable so obviously well suited to the toughest jobs – already issued within what’s assessed to be AFSOC element.

3. Geissele Airborne Charging Handle – Desert Dirt Colour

My RS Geissele ACH in DDC, shown in commercial packaging

With all that said, what I do want to highlight on the very same L119A2 is what’s assessed to be a Geissele Airborne Charging Handle (ACH) in Desert Dirt Colour (DDC).

Pic from Christian Craighead/Obi Wan Nairobi’s Instagram Story – ACH indicated

It’s not a huge surprise, because these were already rumoured to be in use and indeed, there could be a black one in the following pic which has been widely accepted as canon (cheers to Tyrone for reminding me).

The Level Peaks/C2R pic which possibly shows a black ACH

Aside from being cool, the ACH is not cheap. Like Sig, Geissele makes top tier products and the ACH is renowned for being part of USASOC’s Upper Receiver Group Improved (URG-I) M4A1 upgrade package.

USASOC M4A1 equipped with a URG-I – pic from @btl_ltw

I think it’s reasonable to assume that the ACH in the L119A2 pic is the commercial offering with full lasered markings, but without the roll mark of the USASOC contract version – although both are available via US retailers.

Left: Colt Canada charging handle with ghetto modded (shortened) latch. Right: commercial Geissele ACH in DDC showing lasered markings

The only lasered marking on the USASOC contract version is the part number, incidentally.

USASOC issued Geissele ACH in the wild, showing lasered part number

The original, long latch Colt Canada charging handle issued with the L119A2 is great for magnified optics, where a conventional charging handle may be inaccessible due to aft overhang. However, where clearance is abundant – such as with red dots and flip to side magnifiers – something less intrusive is the order of the day.

Merged image of Colt Canada L119A2 charging handle (ghetto modded latch) and Geissele ACH

The Geissele ACH is actually optimised for SBRs and suppressed rifles, so it’s a smart choice for the L119A2. From Geissele’s website:

A taller fence at the rear of the ACH aids in redirecting gas blow back when shooting with short barreled and suppressed weapon systems.

Geissele ACH’s gas busting fence
The Geissele ACH also exhibits an aggressive checkered grip profile
Geissele ACH in use with my Systema PTW replica L119A2, using HAO’s monolithic upper kit. The latest iteration of this build can be seen here

Follow The Reptile House Blog on Facebook and Instagram