Employed by the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, snipers play a highly-specialized role in military combat operations. They are used primarily to engage key targets at long range from concealed positions and are also crucial for gathering information and monitoring enemy troop movements.
Often positioned hundreds of meters from enemy targets, snipers have to account for multiple factors – including gravity, temperature, humidity, altitude, wind, and even Earth’s rotation – before pulling the trigger. And delivering an accurate shot at a distance requires both months of training and a precision rifle.
Every sniper rifle used by the U.S. armed forces has gone through rigorous testing to ensure optimal accuracy, range, and reliability under varying conditions and circumstances. Because requirements vary by both mission and service branch, the military has over a dozen sniper rifle variations, either actively in service or recently retired from service.
Using data from a range of sources, including military handbooks, government press releases, and firearms publications, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 16 sniper rifles used by the American military. Some rifle models that have been recently replaced or are being replaced were also considered. Rifles are listed in the order of their estimated effective range, from lowest to highest.
Several of the rifles on this list are similar to one another but have been modified for use by a specific branch of the armed forces. For example, the Army’s M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle, the Marine Corps’ M40 Sniper Rifle, and the Navy’s M91A2 Sniper Rifle are all based on the popular Remington 700 hunting rifle but have been tailored to better suit the needs of each service branch
While most of the rifles on this list are anti-personnel weapons, capable of shooting targets anywhere from from 700 meters to over a mile (1,600 meters), some are also designed to be effective against different materials. These rifles, often chambered for .50 caliber ammunition, are capable of penetrating brick and concrete walls and even the engine blocks of some armored vehicles. (Here is a look at 20 of modern warfare’s most lethal weapons.)
Every sniper rifle used by the U.S. military is either semi-automatic or bolt-action, and each variation has its own advantages and limitations. While bolt-action rifles are traditionally considered to be more accurate than semi-automatics, they are also less adaptive, as shooters are more limited in their ability to fire rapid follow-up shots. As a result, many of the longest range rifles on this list are bolt-action, while shorter range sniper rifles, like those used by designated marksmen in Army and Marine squads are semi-automatic or select fire. (Here is a look at the evolution of automatic rifles in the U.S. Army.)
Click here to see every sniper rifle currently used by the US Military.
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