It's Not The Rifle, Stupid

Thomas Gibbons-Neff penned an article in the Washington Post Saturday called Why the Marines have failed to adopt a new sniper rifle in the past 14 years.

The Marine Corps is known for fielding older equipment. In the 1991 Gulf War, when the Army was driving the brand-new M1A1 Abrams battle tanks, the Marines crossed into Kuwait with the aging Pattons — tanks that rolled through the streets of Saigon in the ’60s. In 2003, when they entered Iraq again, Marine snipers carried the M40A1 sniper rifles, many of which began their careers shortly after the end of the Vietnam War.

Today, the Marines’ primary sniper rifle, a newer variant of the M40, still shoots roughly the same distance: 1,000 yards.

Current and former Marine Corps snipers say their hardware doesn’t match the capabilities of the other services, not to mention what is in the hands of enemies such as the Taliban and the Islamic State.

“It doesn’t matter if we have the best training,” said one reconnaissance sniper who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not permitted to talk to the media. “If we get picked off at a thousand yards before we can shoot, then what’s the point?”

Gibbons-Neff hammers the current Remington 700-based M40A5 and soon to be adopted M40A7 as inadequate tools for the job, but that isn’t really the problem.

Overlook the fact that neither the SVD nor the Zijiang M99 are anti-personnel sniper rifles, and look closely at the rifles between them in the graphic .

It’s a mislabeled indictment of the Marine Corps. They are equipping some of the best scout/snipers in the world with not the wrong rifle—the M40 series has always been incredibly accurate and reliable—but is the wrong caliber for modern warfare.

The biggest limitation on the M40 series isn’t the platform, but the Marine Corps insistence on sticking with the short-action .308 Winchester at a time when military forces around the world are upgrading to magnum calibers with much better bullet designs, more down-range energy, better wind-bucking capability, and much greater overall range.

The Marines don’t even have to give up their preference and years of experience with the Remington 700-series action to get a harder-hitting, longer-ranged caliber; the Army is already fielding the Remington Defense M2010 in .300 Winchester Magnum, and SOCOM is using the Remington Defense Modular Sniper Rifle in .338 Lapua as the Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR).

Our Marine scout/snipers deserve to have rifles that allow them to shoot to the limits of their training, not to artificial limits set by a rifle caliber now increasingly obsolete for modern sniper warfare. It would seem to be a “no-brainer” to equip the Corp with M2010 and PSR rifles.

Let’s make that happen.