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Army Sharpshooters Get SEAL Sniper Rifle

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Posted almost 8 years ago


Army Sharpshooters to Get SEAL Sniper Rifle


April 15, 2009
Tactical Life|by Eric Poole
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It's not just elite Navy SEALs who get to plink their sniper targets with a new high-speed semi-auto rifle designed to replace their Vietnam-era, bolt-action predecessors. Soon even Joes scanning mountain redoubts in craggy Afghanistan will have the same tools to take out insurgents that elite Frogmen do.

Making a sharp break from the traditions of American sharpshooters in combat, the Army is fielding a new sniper rifle that blends the mid-range accuracy of the current M24 bolt-action rifle with the increased capacity and rapid firing rate of an M-16.

Modern warfare and tactics have complicated the sniper's traditional role, challenging their craft with multiple engagements from less than ideal locations on a dynamic battleground. The U.S. Army's Program Executive Office Soldier recognized this and embarked on a search for a rifle that could best adapt to modern, unconventional warfare. After extensive testing, PEO teamed up with Knight's Armament Company to rapidly develop what many are calling the current, bolt-action M24's replacement.

"The Army came out with a requirement for a rifle that they wanted that would be a semi-automatic [firing] as accurate as possible," says C. Reed Knight, owner of KAC. Knight was given a list of requirements that the so-called "Semi-Automatic Sniper System" had to feature, including at weight of less than 15 pounds; an integral silencer; an adjustable stock; ambidextrous controls and a bipod.

On September 28, 2005, the U.S. Army awarded KAC a production contract for the XM110 SASS and by April of 2007 soldiers in Afghanistan became the first in a combat zone to receive the M110.


Def Tech: The M110 Sniper Rifle

The M110 is based on KAC's combat-proven SR-25 (and similar to the SEAL's Mk-11 Mod 0) which, in turn, is loosely based on Eugene Stoner's AR-10. The M110 features many refinements over its kin aimed at maximizing parts commonality with the standard-issue M16 and M4 service rifles, improved reliability and increased accuracy.

The M110 uses a URX modular rails system with folding front back-up iron sights. Like the Mk 11, the buttstock is fixed but an adjustable buttplate gives the user the ability to set the length of pull. On both sides of the stock are integral quick-detachable sling swivel sockets positioned near the lower receiver. The changes made to the stock, the addition of a two-sided bolt catch and a locking button on the folding front sight were the only improvements made to the XM110 in its transition to become the M110.

On top of the upper is the familiar M1913 Picatinny rail system. Issued with the rifle is a Leupold scope, set in a one-piece mount featuring integral 30mm rings. The complete system includes the Leupold variable-power scope, a Harris bipod, an AN/PVS-14 night vision sight and a Leupold tactical spotting scope. On the lower receiver are ambidextrous controls including the magazine release, safety selector and bolt catch for more universal operation.

The system was optimized for the M118LR cartridge but it has been tested effectively with dual-purpose anti-personnel/armor piercing ammunition.

Advantages of the SASS

The bolt action M24 is known for its reliability and incredible accuracy, but its drawback lies in the area of rapid reloads, a feature becoming more important in the heavy insurgent environment. The M110 provides the sniper with as many as five well-aimed shots in five seconds, half the time it takes the same individual to operate the bolt action M24.

"It's a very target-rich environment for them over there," says Maj. Marc Meeker, assistant product manager for PEO.

The most obvious advantage in the M110 deals with the magazine capacity, a drawback of the M24 identified by the subsequent M24A2, which features a 10-round detachable magazine. The M110, however, comes with 20-round magazines that can be quickly reloaded. This aspect of the M110 serves the demands of the PEO program that wants "something faster but just as lethal."

In an ambush, the magazine fed M110 is superior to the bolt action where a spotter has to fight off attackers with his M4 as the sniper reloads loose rounds into the M24. "Operational testing showed that the SASS provides a 50 percent improvement in a sniper's rate of engagement versus the M24 at distances up to and including the 800-meter mark," reports Joshua Semick, lead engineer for the M110.

Besides saving the spotter's hearing, the requirement for a suppressor was a tactical choice. The SASS concept flies in the face of an important aspect of the sniper's craft -- concealment. Having access to 20 shots suggest that a sniper might use them and, after firing more than two or three, a sniper's hide has likely been compromised. The KAC suppressor reduces the audible sound signature and visible flash, thereby offering the team added protection.

A 7.62 NATO bullet leaves the muzzle faster than the speed of sound, creating a small sonic boom that dissipates over distance as the bullet slows to a sub-sonic speed. It's estimated that beyond 600 meters, a sniper can shoot and appear silent to the target. In urban areas where sound bounces off walls, the KAC suppressor assists with a sniper's concealment by confusing the source of the shots. If a sniper takes his shot at 800 meters or beyond, he could make multiple anti-personnel shots without the enemy even being aware.

Joining the Ranks

So far, the M110 has proven itself effective against enemy personnel and light materiel targets out to 1,000 meters in combat. The M110 resulted from the PEO program that identifies and adapts existing technologies in three years or less, and the rifle serves as an example of an improvement over the normal seven-to-10 year acquisition timeline.

The first soldiers to receive the M110 were snipers from the 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division who obtained their rifles in time to train before deploying with them.

"Our focus is to try to get this weapon to units prior to their deployment," Meeker said. "We don't want to field it to them in theater. We would rather train them here on the ground in a peacetime environment, and then have them outfitted with the best and newest equipment as they go forward on the battlefield."

"It's everything a sniper wants," says Sgt. Jed Christianson after training with the M110. "We're all very excited about this new weapon system because it's custom-tailored to the kind of fight we're in, in Iraq."

The U.S. Army plans to field nearly 3,000 M110s with many rifles already serving overseas. But the adoption of the M110 hasn't come without great debate. Much praise has been said for the Army's move to keep the 7.62 NATO chambering. Some argue against Stoner's AR design entirely. For those partial to the bolt action, know that the U.S. Army still plans on acquiring M24s through February 2010.

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Rate This | Posted almost 8 years ago


One of the good things militarily about the GWOT, is that its producing the most experienced ALL VOLUNTEER Army in the world.  I take my hat off to guys who will pull 20 in the Army, we should have good leadership for some time to come...good and EXPERIENCED leadership.


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Rate This | Posted almost 8 years ago

Nice little rifle...about damn time they arm our military with the good stuff!

Now all they need to do is...

*get rid of the 5.56 and upgrade to a bigger calliber (like the 6.8 SPC)

*get rid of the gas opperated M4 and go for something that's piston opperated

*Get rid of (or upgrade) the M2 .50 BMG machine gun (the oldest weapon system in the entire US Armed forces!)

*Quit issuing BALL ammunition!



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Rate This | Posted almost 8 years ago


An all around improvement to the M24 and the M14/M21 sniper/designated marksman weapon systems.  Its no surprise that the light units such as the 10th Mountain got first dibs on it....I suspect that both the 101st Airborne and 82nd Airborne are either using it or will get it next.  Looks like the Guard will be getting some nice hand me downs from the regular Army.....a batch of M24s, M14s, and M21s.