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Attention Focuses on Sniper Arena

In addition to increasing interest in sniper ammunition and terminal effects on target, the past few weeks have witnessed a flurry of joint service interest and activity focused on the small arms sniper weapons themselves.

The overt uptick in activity began in late May, when the U.S. Army Joint Munitions & Lethality Contracting Center, in support of the Project Manager Soldier Weapons, announced that it was “conducting a market survey to identify potential sources for reconfiguring some or all of existing 7.62 x 51mm M24 Sniper Weapon Systems (SWS) currently available in Army inventory…”

“The M24 SWS is a bolt action, internal magazine fed, 7.62 x 51mm rifle intended to engage and defeat personnel targets out to 800 meters,” it explained, adding that the May notice was designed to “determine if there are potential sources capable of reconfiguring existing U.S. Army M24 SWSs.”

Potential modifications could include: a rebarreled weapon or rechambered barrel optimized to accommodate .300 Winchester Magnum ammunition; replacement of existing weaver rail with a MIL-STD-1913 rail capable of accommodating both a day optic and in-line, forward mounted, AN/PVS-26 image intensified night vision device; reconfigured stock incorporating a detachable box magazine; adjustable comb and length of pull; detachable sound suppressor; and replacement of the existing day optic sight and rings with an Army specified variable power day optic and compatible rings.

Within weeks of this announcement, Rock Island Arsenal announced a proposed contract action “for 112 each M24 Sniper Rifle and 2 each Contractor Spare Part/Support Packages with a 300 percent option. The proposed action will result in an add-on to the existing contract which the Government intends to solicit and negotiate with only one source under the authority of FAR 6.302-1, One Responsible Source. The item is proprietary to Remington Arms Company…”

Meanwhile, against this backdrop, United States Special Operations Command representatives spent much of the first half of 2009 refining their draft performance specification for a Precision Sniper Rifle, Increment 1, which would “enable USSOCOM Snipers to use one or more shots to interdict enemy personnel, positions, and non-technical vehicles mounted with crew served weapons out to 1,500 meters (1,640 yards) or further, and to defeat Level 3 body armor out to 750 meters (820 yards) or further.”

“The PSR system will replace the heavy sniper rifles (HSR) in the SOF inventory for precision engagements against personnel and material targets,” explained an early version of the spec. “The current Family of Sniper Weapon Systems include a Medium weapon capable of precision anti-personnel fire out to 1,200m and a Heavy weapon capable of precision anti-material fire out to 1,500m. These systems provide SOF with the 80 percent solution to the HSR requirement. The PSR first increment (Type 1 below) extends the anti-personnel precision fire capability out to 1,500m. The final increment of PSR will meet the anti-material capability either through enhanced munitions, an additional weapon, or a variant of the Increment 1 weapon.”

However, wartime urgencies take priority over the search for new weapon designs.

Evidence of this reality was seen in the mid-July announcement by the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division of “an urgent requirement and the proposed contract action” for: 30 Remington 700P .308 Caliber, Bolt Action Rifles with 26 inch Barrel, 30 Hardigg “Storm M3300” Weapon Carry Cases, 30 Turner Rifle Slings, 30 sets of Badger Ordnance Scope Rings, 30 sets of “Uncle Mike’s Swivels,” 30 Remington Modular Accessory Rail Systems (MARS), and 30 Otis Weapon Cleaning Sniper System w/Optics Cleaning Kit.”

But the search for new sniper solutions still goes on. In late July, U.S. Army Joint Munitions and Lethality Life Cycle Command representatives at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., revealed their interest in “determining the state of the art/state of the practice of readily available (non-developmental) firearms that could serve as a Configurable Extended Range Sniper Rifle (CERSR).

With a stated survey purpose of identifying “potential sources of different types of CERSR candidate weapons that will extend a sniper’s effective range when engaging personnel targets beyond current 7.62x51mm and .300 Winchester Magnum (Win Mag) based platforms and ammunition, while also providing the option of reconfiguring the rifle to fire 7.62x51mm and .300 Win Mag cartridges currently available to U.S. Armed Forces,” the CERSR research effort focuses on “the viability of a rifle/cartridge materiel combination that will maximize personnel size target probability of hit and ensure lethality at various ranges out a minimum of 1,500 meters.”


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