Thursday, June 18th, 2015

The Marines have not adopted a new sniper rifle in 14 years — and this has had consequences:

It was the summer of 2011 in southern Helmand province, Afghanistan, and mission after mission, Sgt. Ben McCullar of Third Battalion, Second Marines, would insert with his eight-man sniper team into the berms and dunes north of the volatile town of Musa Qala.

Sometimes they would fire at a group of enemy fighters, sometimes the enemy would fire at them first, but almost immediately, McCullar explained, their team would be pinned down by machine guns that outranged almost all of their sniper rifles.

“They’d set up at the max range of their [machine guns] and start firing at us,” McCullar said. “We’d take it until we could call in [close air support] or artillery.”

The story of McCullar and his snipers is not an isolated one. For 14?years, Marine snipers have suffered setbacks in combat that, they say, have been caused by outdated equipment and the inability of the Marine Corps to provide a sniper rifle that can perform at the needed range.

They trace the problem to the relatively small Marine sniper community that doesn’t advocate effectively for itself because it is made up of junior service members and has a high turnover rate. Additionally, snipers say that the Marine Corps’ weapons procurement process is part of an entrenched bureaucracy resistant to change.

The Marines have been using a Remington 700 bolt-action rifle chambered in 7.62×51mm NATO (.308), which they call the M40.

The Army has been using a Remington 700 bolt-action rifle chambered in 7.62×51mm NATO (.308), which they call the M24 — but there’s a crucial difference:

The primary difference between the Army and the USMC rifles is that while the USMC M40 variants use the short-action version of the Remington 700/40x (which is designed for shorter cartridges such as the .222 and .223 Remington, and the .243 and .308 Winchester), the Army M24 uses the Remington 700 Long Action. The long action of the M24 is designed for full-length cartridges, such as the .30-06 Springfield, and magnum cartridges such as the 7 mm Remington Magnum and .300 Winchester Magnum, but shorter cartridges such as the 7.62×51mm NATO (the military version of the .308 Winchester) can also be used. The U.S. Army’s use of the long action was the result of an original intention to chamber the M24 for .300 Winchester Magnum. Despite the fact that the M24 comes fitted with a 7.62×51mm NATO barrel upon issue, retaining the longer action allows them to reconfigure the rifle in the larger—longer-range—calibers if necessary (which has been the case during the longer engagement distances during Operation Enduring Freedom).

So, the Army has switched to the more powerful .300 Winchester Magnum, or even the .338 Lapua Magnum, which profoundly increases the rifle’s effective range in the hands of a skilled shooter. Its latest version of the M24 has been dubbed the M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle.

XM2010 with Dark Earth Suppressor


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    The quotes are an incoherent mess. The author clearly knows nothing about sniper rifles.

    The 7.62 NATO is good out to 1,000 m and outranges the Russian 7.62. Kills have been made out to 1,500 m. The .338 Lapua is good out to 1,500 m, and a Brit holds a record kill at something like 2,000 m. If Marines are being outgunned, the opposition is using something equivalent to a Ma Deuce, and no sniper rifle can outgun it.

    It has been noted that our enemies are being trained by our best Socom and Marines and have gotten quite good. It sounds like the Marines have met up with better infantry.

  2. Guy says:

    “It sounds like the Marines have met up with better infantry.”

    Or one with looser rules of engagement.

  3. Isegoria says:

    I agree that the original article is oddly incoherent, given that the author is supposed to be a former infantry Marine. (With a hyphenated last name?)

    The 7.62×51 NATO outranges the 7.62×39, the intermediate round used in AK-47s, but it’s ballistically more-or-less identical to the 7.62x54R, the full-power round used in Russian sniper rifles and general-purpose machine guns. Further, the same round can have a longer effective range when fired from a tripod-mounted, belt-fed. machine gun.

  4. Isegoria says:

    The Taliban have relied on machine-gun fire from a superior position to herd Marines into booby-trapped spaces.

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