The official British Army designation for the current version of this weapon is the L7A2 GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun) but it is affectionately known as “The General” or “Jimpy”. The L7 was adopted by British forces as a replacement for the long-serving Vickers machine gun (in the medium role) and the Bren (in the light assault role), following trials in 1957. License-built derivatives of the FN MAG they were originally manufactured by the Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield Lock and currently by Manroy Engineering. The L7 serves in the British Army, the Royal Marines and with the RAF Regiment. There have been two main variants, the L7A1 and L7A2, developed for infantry use, with the L7A2 having superseded the earlier variant and is the variant shown in the pictures.

Several other variants have been developed, notably the L8 (produced in the L8A1 and L8A2 versions) which was modified for mounting inside armoured vehicles (the L37 variant was developed for mounting on armoured vehicles). Although intended to replace the Bren entirely, that light machine gun (re-designated as the L4) continued to be used in jungle terrain where there was no requirement for the medium machine gun role, and also with secondary units, until the adoption of the L86A1 Light Support Weapon (LSW). The LSW is the Long barrelled bi-pod mounted version of the L85, (see L85 pictures) and was intended to replace both the L7 and the L4 in the light machine gun role, but dissatisfaction with the L86's sustained fire capabilities and its reliability resulted in combat units continuing to utilize the L7 whenever possible (although neither it, nor its 7.62×51 mm NATO ammunition were supposed to be issued to infantry platoons).

British forces have since been issued with the L110A1 (FN Minimi Para) to replace the LSW as the light section support or fire support weapon. This uses the same NATO-standard 5.56×45mm ammunition as the L85 assault rifle. However 7.62 mm L7 variants continue to be used in both dismounted roles and mounted on some British military vehicles, naval vessels, and aircraft.

Andy Claesens