US Marine Corps considering new sniper rifle

U.S. Marine Cpl. Roberto Sauceda shoots a sniper rifle during a deck shoot aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex.


By THOMAS GIBBONS-NEFF | The Washington Post | Published: July 25, 2015

WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps is looking to field a new sniper rifle but has yet to identify what type and caliber, according to a Marine spokesman.

"We are looking at a number of available options, to include the Mk.21 Precision Sniper Rifle," said Maj. Anton Semelroth in an email. "The Marine Corps continues to evaluate the need for improved capabilities for our snipers and to consider solutions being pursued by the Army, other services and [Special Operations Command]."

Semelroth's remarks come a little more than month after The Washington Post published a report detailing the shortcomings of the Marines' current sniper rifle.

That rifle, the M40A5, has an effective range of about 1,000 yards and fires a .308-caliber bullet. The Mk.21, however, can be fitted to fire a .338-caliber bullet and hit targets at more than 1,600 yards. The Mk. 21 is also in use by various special operations units.

The Marine Corps is the only branch in the U.S. military and in NATO still fielding a .308-caliber rifle as its primary sniper rifle. In 2011, the Army upgraded to the M2010, a rifle chambered in .300-caliber that can fire accurately to 1,300 yards.

Although there has yet to be a firm decision on what rifle the Marines will field next, the Marine Corps sniper community has rallied to push for a new one.

"There has been more talk and pro-active actions from the [snipers] than there has ever been," said a Marine close to the acquisition process. "This is the closest we've come to seeing a new rifle."

The Marine, who spoke under the condition of anonymity to discuss the program frankly, added that tentative plans have recently been made to build a 2,000-yard range at the Marine sniper school in Quantico, Virginia.

The range he said, will be a welcome addition "if there's a future rifle coming into the Corps that can fire past 1,000 yards."

The range, while being ideal for a rifle such as the Mk.21, will primarily be built for the Marine Corps current training standards.

"There have been discussions at Weapons Training Battalion regarding a 2,000-yard range at Marine Corps Base Quantico to meet the training and readiness standards for the .50-caliber special applications scoped rifle," Semelroth said. "At this time, no decision has been made."

Additionally, the sniper community wants to have a "sniper summit" in the coming months to help address — in addition to acquiring a new rifle — manpower and professional development issues.

"I don't see anything solid right now," he said. "But I think the process is going to take some time, and we need to be patient about it."

Staff Sgt. Micah Hitchcock, U.S. Special Operations Command air operations noncommissioned officer in charge, instructs Assistant Secretary of the Army Heidi Shyu, on how to fire the Precision Sniper Rifle MK 21 MOD 0 during the Special Operations Forces Acquisition Summit held at U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill AFB in 2014.

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