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Army Looks Abroad for Lighter Sniper Rifle Barrels

The U.S. Army continues to expand its search for lightweight sniper barrel technologies, seeking assistance from both domestic and international developers.

Under a recent “sources sought” announcement released on March 23, 2012, the Army’s Contracting Command New Jersey, located at Picatinny Arsenal, revealed its interest “in determining the state of the art/ practice of readily available foreign barrel technologies that reduce overall barrel weight but still maintain its lethality and survivability features.”

“The purpose of conducting this survey is to identify potential sources of foreign types of readily available barrel making technologies that shall reduce overall barrel weight and dimension while maintaining the required muzzle velocities and design safety factors associated with existing barrels,” it stated, adding that “The two overarching objectives of this research effort are to 1) ascertain the short term viability (less than one year) of implementing the lightweight barrel technologies for low rate of fire weapon systems such as bolt action sniper rifles and 2) quantify and characterize limitations and tradeoffs associated with light weight barrel technologies.”

The tradeoff characteristics associated with system performance that government hopes to evaluate include: accuracy and dispersion, heat dissipation, erosion, barrel harmonics, muzzle velocity, endurance and recoil.

The announcement states that potential foreign barrel candidates will meet several specific criteria in the areas of:

  • technical readiness levels;
  • technology and technical approach;
  • caliber;
  • interfaces for both action and muzzle brake;
  • length, and;
  • pressure resistance.

In the case of readiness levels, for example, the announcement specifies that any design offered will be “ready to work in its final form and under expected conditions and the manufacturer currently has the required tooling/machinery to fabricate and deliver small sample quantities within 90 days after contract award for government evaluation.”

Technology/technical approach criteria specify that the weight reduction not be accomplished solely by removing steel from the barrel through fluting or tapering but also “in the use of alternative barrel materials and/or processes to include, but not limited to, carbon fiber wrapped or low density alloy composite barrels and/or new manufacturing methods that enable the use of alternative barrel alloys to reduce weight and maintain or improve barrel stiffness.”

Remaining criteria include:

  • caliber chambering to accommodate a .300 Winchester Magnum caliber cartridge;
  • ability to interface with a Remington 700 action, and;
  • ability for the technology to achieve barrel lengths of 22.6 inches.

A separate “sources sought” announcement issued 30 minutes later called for the same technologies/information from domestic sources.

Both domestic and international firms are encouraged to submit their capabilities and qualification data no later than April 23, 2012.


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