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New “Game Changing” Army Rifle Starts Bridging Sniper Gap

In addition to the recent activities swirling around the Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) program, some of the individual services have undertaken their own sniper rifle activities. One example that came to fruition over the last year was the XM2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle (ESR) developed for the U.S. Army.

Under the XM2010 award, Remington Arms Company, Inc., is taking some number of existing 7.62 mm NATO (.308 Winchester) M24 Sniper Weapon Systems and upgrading those bolt-action rifles to .300 Winchester Magnum. The new round reportedly gives U.S. warfighters a tactical advantage in the “ridgeline to ridgeline” battles in theater, and planners point with pride to the fact that the first systems arrived in Afghanistan around the beginning of this year.

XM2010 enhanced sniper rifle

The ESR is equipped with a Leupold Mark 4 6.5-20x50mm scope. The variable power scope includes a first focal plane reticle so when the user dials in, the reticle pattern scales with the zoom enabling the sniper to estimate range at any power setting.  The targeting stadia reticle allows for simultaneous elevation and windage holds that eliminate the need to dial in adjustments. Photo courtesy of PEO Soldier

Highlighting the program during the October 2010 Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting & Exposition, Robert Galeazzi, chief of the Precision Weapons Division within the U.S. Army’s Office of Product Manager for Individual Weapons observed, “It was an opportunity. And, quite honestly we are looking at this [XM2010] as a technology test bed. This is a ‘bridge the gap’ capability between what we have got now and where we are going in the future.

“Precision Sniper Rifle is our ultimate goal here, where we probably want to go 1,500 meters with probably something like a .338 round,” he said. “So this is a great capability to bridge that gap. And, because of the small quantities and the niche capability that we are looking at, to introduce some new technologies that the guys can home in on and say, ‘Hey this is great. We want to keep it. Let’s go with it.’”

One of the new supporting technologies highlighted by Galeazzi was the Leupold Mark 4 6.5-20×50 mm Extended Range/Tactical riflescope that is fielded with the AN/PVS-29 Clip-on Sniper Night Sight.

“It’s got a more high-powered optic on it – a 6.5-20 power optic,” he said. “That’s a big game changer because now we’ve got the ability to use the scope for the entire range of operations.”

XM2010 enhanced sniper rifle right elevation

The .300 Winchester Magnum XM2010 is in some ways a bridge technology leading to the Precision Sniper Rifle at an even more powerful round with a flatter trajectory. Photo courtesy of PEO Soldier

He added, “We’re getting away from ‘mil dots.’ That was a ranging capability. So now we’re down to mils [Mil Radians]. We’re actually working on mils. It’s got a Horus reticle in there that Leupold has incorporated. So now you can get your range and just use ‘hold offs.’ You can say, ‘The target is now 2 mils up and 2 mils left – and that’s where you need to shoot.’

“Horus Vision has done a great job of coming up with a holdover reticle that allows the operator to have a follow-up shot in a very fast manner,” echoed Ray Brock, Leupold tactical product line manager. “It’s a quick acquisition, re-engagement, holdover type reticle … This reticle is an H58. It has a grid pattern. So if an operator is working with a spotter who also has the same reticle, he can look and see where the splash or first hit went, quickly move that grid pattern over the top of where the splash was, re-engage, and be right on target.

“What makes this reticle a little bit different is that instead of having a grid all the way out and down the reticle, there are points,” he continued. “So, instead of having lines and points, now there are just points to those areas. And it’s not such a difficult reticle to use for observation any longer. Now a sniper can go out on his own, without a spotter, and use it in the same manner.”

“Our patented, two-dimensional grids evolve reticles beyond outdated crosshairs and mil dots,” according to Horus Vision, LLC., literature describing the reticle. “Unlike bulky dots, fine grid marks do not obscure targets. And unlike simple crosshairs, optical grids eliminate manual adjustments [clicking knobs]. Our reticles are intuitive and so easy to use, they actually reduce training time to mere hours. Built with ergonomically-precise, high-quality optics, Horus reticles increase both accuracy and ease.”

Asked about the decision to incorporate the H58 Horus reticle into Leupold’s Mark 4 design for the XM2010, Brock pointed to the very broad wording in most government solicitations.

“The armed services can’t tell you exactly what reticle they want,” he explained. “They can just give you parameters to work within. And industry does a good job of going out and building those reticles, working through the issues. Horus already had that reticle out there. There are some other reticles as well, like a Tubb. And there are some other types of reticles that are similar. But we just chose that [Horus] reticle after listening to feedback from some of the shows and some of the operators we had been around at those shows and other places. We also have some consultants who work for us that are kind of ‘in the know’ regarding operator needs. After obtaining input from everyone, we thought that was the direction that everybody wanted to go. And we just went down that road.”

This sidebar first appeared in The Year in Special Operations: 2011-2012 Edition.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...