Experts: New rifle not answer to sniper issues

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http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/10/marine_rifle_102609w/

Marine combat developers are eyeing a new sniper rifle that would almost double the range of the Corps’ existing model, but the service’s weapons experts don’t want it and believe fielding something more powerful could exacerbate existing problems with marksmanship.

The SR21 should not be adopted unless existing problems with sniper training are addressed, said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jeffrey Eby, the Corps’ senior gunner. The new rifle would offer a “significant capability,” but the gunner community is concerned that adopting it would put even more pressure on snipers already struggling to satisfactorily use existing 7.62mm M40 rifles, he said in an e-mail to Marine Corps Times.

Marine Corps Combat Development Command, based at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., is considering the SR21 and, along with the Army and U.S. Special Operations Command, developing caliber requirements and other specifications for the weapon, said Charles Clark III, an infantry weapons capabilities integration officer at MCCDC. The weapon would be an option for engaging targets out to 1,500 meters (almost one mile), a weakness Marine officials identified in a 2007 assessment of the sniper community. The M40’s maximum effective range is about 800 meters.

There are several reasons, Eby said, why snipers are not as good as they should be with the M40, a bolt-action rifle that was introduced to the Corps in 1966 and is based on a commercial model, the Remington 700.

First, the Corps lacks enough training facilities with “realistic targets,” which hinders efforts to adequately replicate combat scenarios, he said. Moreover, many snipers don’t get enough time to fully develop their skills on the M40, and the Corps is struggling to retain them long enough to perfect the craft, he said.

“Until we resolve the training and personnel problem, we do not support exacerbating the problem by increasing the training challenges associated with extending the range and switching the weapon for the Marine sniper,” Eby said.

Performance statistics were not immediately available, but MCCDC considers training “the cornerstone of rifle marksmanship” and the gunner community central to that training, said 2nd Lt. Brian Villiard, a spokesman for MCCDC. The command is still considering options to meet the 1,500-meter need and has not yet sent desired guidelines to acquisitions officials at Marine Corps Systems Command, he said.

Marine officials declined to provide specifics about the SR21, but a rifle by that name is sold commercially by Heym USA, a gun maker based in Dallas. A company official said he does not know if the Corps is indeed interested in its SR21, but noted that the weapon is available with a sniper configuration. An online catalog says Heym’s rifle can be chambered for the .300 and .338 Winchester Magnum rounds, both of which are common in longer-range sniper rifles.

The SR21’s development coincides with Army efforts to assess its options for engaging targets beyond 800 meters. In August, the service gave gun makers notice that it wants to see proposals for a modified M24 sniper rifle chambered for .300 Win Mag rounds. The M24 has many similarities to the M40, but is not fielded by the Corps.

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The Corps may be considering Heym USA's SR21 sniper rifle in its quest for a rifle that would work from as far as 1,500 meters away.
 
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