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Corps seeks modular stock for sniper rifle

M40 upgrades make it ergonomic, deadly

Aug. 11, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
(Courtesy of Remington Defense)
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The Marine Corps' M40 sniper rifle, in use since the Vietnam War, will get a radical upgrade to make the rifle more adaptable, compact and ergonomic for shooters of all builds. It will also become more deadly.

The Marine Corps' M40 sniper rifle, in use since the Vietnam War, will get a radical upgrade to make the rifle more adaptable, compact and ergonomic for shooters of all builds. It will also become more deadly.

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The Marine Corps’ M40 sniper rifle, in use since the Vietnam War, will get a radical upgrade to make the rifle more adaptable, compact and ergonomic for shooters of all builds. It will also become more deadly.

A solicitation to industry for the M40 Modular Stock Program, released July 25, makes official the service’s effort to improve the current M40A5.

The new rifle, which will be designated the M40A6, will include a full-length rail to accommodate modern battlefield optics and accessories. It will also feature a foldable stock that will make the rifle more compact for transportation or for maneuvering in and out of confined spaces, like Humvees.

Approximately 1,100 stocks will be purchased to upgrade the Marine Corps’ entire inventory of M40A5s, according to Barb Hamby, a Marine Corps Systems Command spokeswoman at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. A contract award is expected between September 2014 and February 2015 with delivery to begin about three months after the award.

The rifles would then go to scout snipers throughout the Marine Corps.

The current rifle offers just a few inches of rail over the receiver, which can accommodate a standard scope, a night vision optic and little, if anything, else. With a full length rail, Marine snipers will be able to use a host of other accessories. That will make the rifle more deadly because snipers will be able to put more rounds on target under any conditions.

The new stock must be compatible with current M40 actions and barrels, meaning the guts of the rifle will remain the same — at least for now. However, the new stock could pave the way for a future upgrade to the harder-hitting .338 Lapua Magnum cartridge, which would answer concerns from Marines in Afghanistan that 7.62 NATO cartridges aren’t accurate or lethal enough at long ranges.

“The modular stock should assemble and function with a .338 Lapua barreled action to facilitate potential future M40 upgrades,” according to the purchase description released to industry and posted to FedBizOpps.gov.

Basic requirements detailed in the solicitation say the new stock must:

■ Accommodate current M40 components including the Remington 700 right-handed, short-action receiver.

■ Weigh less than 6.3 pounds, but preferably less than 5.

■ Be sand colored.

■ Measure less than 40.5 inches, but preferably less than 36 inches with the stock folded.

■ Allow operators to field strip the rifle without tools preferably in 30 seconds, or less, and reassemble it in the same amount of time, or less.

Which manufacturers will enter the competition, and the stocks they will compete, remains to be seen. When a request for information was posted in October, companies listed as interested vendors included Remington, McRees Precision and Bill Wiseman and Co.

The Remington Arms Chassis System — RACS — appears to meet or surpass Marine Corps requirements and was part of the rifle system that recently won the competition for U.S. Special Operations Command’s Precision Sniper Rifle. SOCOM signed a contract in March to purchase 5,150 PSRs and 4.7 million rounds of high-end Barnes brand ammunition over the next decade. The contract could eventually total nearly $80 million. RACS’s streamlined cousin, Lightweight RACS, could also fit the bill. It is similar in appearance, but is a slimmed down and skeletonized version of the beefier RACS.

At the time SOCOM purchased the PSR, Marine officials said that while they were watching the rifle’s procurement closely, they had no near-term plans to purchase the weapons system for infantry units.

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

For now, the multi-caliber PSR will be used exclusively by special operations forces, including personnel with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. The rifle has a quick-change bolt head and barrels that allow the rifle to be quickly converted between three calibers — 7.62 NATO, .300 Win Mag and .338 Lapua . The intent was to fill the gap between the modest 7.62 NATO and behemoth .50-caliber Browning Machine Gun cartridges.

If the Marine Corps adopts RACS for the service’s M40s and later upgrades to the .338 Lapua, Marine scout sniper unitswould have a rifle that looks like the PSR, and has similar ballistic capabilities. That would address complaints from scout snipers that their current rifles and cartridges cannot reliably drop targets over long distances. It’s a problem they have encountered in Afghanistan, where they sometimes take fire from across large fields or from neighboring compounds.

Scout snipers with 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., outlined the deficiencies of the cartridge in a position paper they sent up their chain of command. They shared a copy with Marine Corps Times, which embedded with the unit in Afghanistan last fall. Beyond 800 meters, 7.62 NATO cartridges lost some of their lethality, the paper said. That posed a significant problem when 7.62 x 54mmR rounds from a Russian-made PKM machine guns were fired at them from up to 1,200 meters away.

The Precision Sniper Rifle, or a.338 Lapua receiver and barrel dropped into the Marine Corps’ future modular stock, would put those insurgents well within in lethal range. The .338 Lapua can reliably drop targets at 1,500 meters. Its heavier bullet weight makes it less susceptible to environmental factors like wind and gives it a devastating punch even after traveling nearly a mile.

In addition to a stock overhaul, the M40 rifle upgrade could also be accompanied by higher capacity, detachable box magazines, providing Marines with 10 rounds instead of five before reloading.

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