The iconic image of a military sniper is similar to the one above, where the muzzle of a highly-accurized bolt-action rifle pokes out between blades of long grass and the rough burlap of a ghillie suit.
So why is the U.S. Army purchasing something that’s less accurate and shorter-ranged?
The Army has chosen a new semi-automatic sniper rifle, replacing the M110 which entered service in 2008.
According to reports by the Army Times, the winning rifle was the Heckler & Koch G28. According to the the company’s website, the G28 is a version of the HK 417 battle rifle — itself a variation of the AR-10 rifle.
This came after a 2014 request for proposals for a more compact version of the M110. The M110 is being replaced despite the fact that it was named one of the Army’s “Best 10 Inventions” in 2007, according to M110 manufacturer Knight’s Armament website.
So, what is behind the replacement of a rifle that was widely loved by soldiers after it replaced the M24 bolt-action system? According to Military.com, it was to get something less conspicuous as a sniper rifle. The M110 is 13 inches longer than a typical M4 carbine, something an enemy sniper would be able to notice.
Amusingly, Heckler & Koch doesn’t consider the G28 a sniper rifle.
G28 | A DMR-System – far more than just another rifle with a scope
The G28 is a military version of the civilian semi automatic competition rifle MR308. Deployed in the established 7.62 x 51 calibre, the “Designated Marksman Rifle” (DMR) ensures accuracy of 1.5 MOA whilst enabling a full night fighting capability. Providing a maximum effective range and a high first round hit probability up to 600 meters, the G28 will also allow suppressive fire against man size targets accurately up to 800 meters.
A designated marksman rifle (DMR) is a shorter-ranged, slightly less-accurate system designed to be used by sharpshooters within infantry platoons and squads, to provide accurate, longer-ranged aimed fires than are possible with the current generation of intermediate-caliber assault rifles. They are not as accurate as true sniper rifles (which today are capable of of sub-MOA accuracy with factory ammunition), and military snipers have been moving away from 7.62 NATO for some time due to the shortcomings of the cartridge. More recently, American military snipers have used the .300 Winchester Magnum, .338 Lapua Magnum, and .50 BMG cartridges.
So why are we adopting another semi-automatic sniper rifle, when we’re saving 2.5″ and three pounds?
I have a guess.
The G28 also would seem to fit the role of another weapon system that the U.S. Army is interesting in reviving, that of the battle rifle. The G28 is at heart a battle rifle, and would presumably be a contender for a much wider deployment in that role. Adopting the G28 as a sniper rifle would let the Army put the weapon through it’s paces before adopting it as the Army’s new battle rifle.
It’s important to note that the Army’s new battle rifle is a mid-term solution, and only for an interim period. Both the current generation of assault rifles and the interim battle rifles will eventually be replaced by a next-generation assault rifles featuring longer-ranged intermediate-caliber cartridge like the .264 USA, which has longer range than the 7.62 NATO and more power than the 5.56 NATO.