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Corps tracks deployment of new sniper rifle

Mar. 25, 2013 - 08:39AM   |  
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The Marine Corps is watching closely as U.S. Special Operations Command fields a new sniper rifle designed to provide marksmen with greater range and more stopping power, but officials say there are no near-term plans to procure the weapon for infantry units.

Known as the Precision Sniper Rifle, or PSR for short, the program was led by SOCOM with considerable input from the Marine Corps and Army. The multi-caliber weapon is made by Remington Defense, with whom SOCOM signed a contract in March to purchase an expected 5,150 PSRs over the next 10 years, along with nearly 4.7 million rounds of Barnes brand ammunition.

The acquisition will likely total nearly $80 million. Remington’s Modular Sniper Rifle beat out Sako’s TRG M10 for the contract.

For now, the PSR will be used exclusively by special operations forces, including personnel with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. It’s meant to fill a gap between moderate 7.62mm cartridges and behemoth .50-caliber rounds.

The rifle’s effective range depends on the cartridge a shooter uses. Using a quick-change bolt-head system and interchangeable barrels, it can switch between 7.62mm NATO, .300 Winchester Magnum and .338 Lapua Magnum cartridges. The hard-hitting .338 Lapua can reliably drop targets at 1,500 meters when fired by a skilled marksman with a precision weapon. That makes the rifle highly adaptable for short-range shots in an urban environment or long-range shots in open country.

“The capability represented by the Precision Sniper Rifle exceeds operational requirements, which are being met by current systems and enhanced sniper training,” said Col. Sean D. Gibson a spokesman for Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Va. “The Marine Corps will continue to observe the development, fielding and employment of the PSR, but has no plans to procure it.”

For Marines, the PSR’s range and heavy-hitting cartridges would likely assuage complaints from scout snipers who say their current M40 rifles and 7.62x51mm cartridges aren’t powerful enough to consistently take down enemies at considerable distance. Scout snipers with 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., outlined these perceived deficiencies in a position paper sent up their chain of command. They shared a copy of that paper with Marine Corps Times, which embedded with the unit in Afghanistan last fall.

Snipers with 1/1 said the M40’s 7.62mm rounds lose some of their lethality past 800 meters. That is a problem in Afghanistan, where enemy machine gunners routinely engage Marines with 7.62mm PKM machine guns out to 1,200 meters. The PSR, or a similar rifle chambered for magnum rounds, would put those insurgents in lethal range.

The PSR is built on the Remington Arms Chassis System, which the Corps is investigating as a potential upgrade for its M40 platform, in use since the late 1960s. If RACS is adopted, armorers would drop in the tried-and-true Remington 700 action and barrel to provide Marine snipers with a foldable stock for operations in restricted spaces, and to provide more flexibility to affix modern accessories and optics.

The Marine Corps has pursued its own enhanced sniper rifle program, dubbed Sniper Rifle 21st Century, which would provide Marines with a harder hitting, long-range weapon. Marine officials declined to discuss where that project stands.

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Staff writers Rob Curtis and Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.

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