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Weapons: Growing Popularity of 8.6mm Sniper Round
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October 9, 2007: The British Army is replacing most of its 3,000 7.62mm L96A1 sniper rifles with one modified to use the .338 (8.6mm) Lapua Magnum caliber round. The Accuracy International "Super Magnum" rifle is basically a L96A1 "Arctic Warfare" rifle modified to handle the larger, 8.6mm Lapua Magnum round. The new rifle (the L118A1) weighs 15 pounds (without a scope), is fifty inches long and has a 27 inch barrel and a five round magazine.


Snipers in Iraq, and especially Afghanistan, have been calling for a longer range round, but find the 12.7mm (.50 caliber) weapons too heavy. The .338 (8.6mm) Lapua Magnum round has an effective range (about 1,500 meters) about 50 percent greater than the 7.62mm standard NATO round.   The 8.6mm round entered use in the early 1990s, and became increasingly popular with police and military snipers. Dutch snipers have used this round in Afghanistan with much success, and have a decade of experience with these larger caliber rifles. British snipers in Afghanistan are also using the new round.


Recognizing the popularity of the 8.6mm round, Barrett, the pioneer in 12.7mm sniper rifles, came out with a 15.5 pound version of its rifle, chambered for the 8.6mm.


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justbill    Goldilocks and The Three Sniper Rifles   10/9/2007 10:00:23 AM
"That sniper rifle is too small...and that sniper rifle is too big...THIS sniper rifle is just right!"
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Crass Spektakel       10/10/2007 1:47:39 AM
Hopefully I don't make myself a fool by asking:

Does it make sense to use satchels with small firearms ammunition?
E.g. "firing 5,56mm bullets from a 12,7mm barrel".
This is frequently used while firing artillery rounds, but well, 155mm is a bit different from 5,56mm.

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justbill       10/10/2007 10:04:27 AM
I believe you mean sabot, not satchel. No, IMO, there isn't much if any gain in using sub-caliber projectiles in small arms, light machine guns, etc. It only starts to have value in tank guns and larger.
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doggtag    I'm curious if...   10/10/2007 11:12:55 AM
...did the Brits actually hold a competition for a new caliber,
or did they just grab at what was the most readily available from their perspective (bigger than .308, smaller than .50) ?
I don't doubt the .338's effectiveness, but I'd really be curious to read their thoughts if any of the decision makers actually went out and trialled the weapon/caliber against any competitors such as, say, the Cheyenne Tactical CheyTac .408, or Barrett's own "detuned" 50-cal round, the .416...
Not barking conspiracies, just curious.
Is/was the .338 something that UK special units were quite familiar with in the past?
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Horsesoldier       10/10/2007 12:14:43 PM

Not barking conspiracies, just curious.

Is/was the .338 something that UK special units were quite familiar with in the past?

I believe that is what the situation is about.  UKSF units have had .338 Lapua chambered sniper rifles for a while, and this new change is just the SOF unit's kit being adopted by the UK version of Big Army.
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Lawman       10/10/2007 1:23:15 PM
It could be argued that the best thing might even be to adopt a .338 machinegun, especially if an 'intermediate' round like the 6.5mm SPC is introduced. This would give a light 'gpmg' firing 6.5mm with similar effects to 7.62mm, but quite a bit lighter, and a heavier gpmg firing a much more powerful round, but without resorting to .50cal guns. The lighter 6.5mm machinegun would be great for infantry, and the slightly heavier .338 would be great for vehicle mounts! This combination would be a very good way of improving unit level firepower - there are good arguments against it, especially on cost grounds, but it would be a great boost to firepower!
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doggtag       10/10/2007 2:56:14 PM
I like where you're coming from with that idea, Lawman.
But if I was to go to a lighter-than-50-cal round that still had ideal personnel knockdown power and still at least some minimal anti materiel use, I'd go for the .408 or .416 myself.
Be interesting to just make it an even 10mm, in a high performance cartridge.
Couple that to a better-than-5.56-but-without-7.62-weight medium power cartridge for close combat and maybe out to 600-800m and you've got a good team there.
(Something along the lines of a 10mm would've been great for WW2, when there were numerous aircraft designs- Spitfire comes to mind- whose thinner wings had difficulty mounting multiple guns larger than rifle-caliber 7.7mm types: notice that later P-51s had six 50s with more rounds per gun in the wings than late model Spits with 2 or 4 slow-firing, small magazine 20mm's and still a couple 7.7mm's: triple or quad 10's with incendiary ammo in each wing of Hurricanes and Spitfires early on would've done considerably more damage than 7.7's, as well as Lancasters and other British bombers whose normal armament was 7.7mm turrets which were woefully inadequate.)
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flamingknives       10/10/2007 5:12:45 PM
The trouble with the idea of a .338" machine gun is that the ammunition is currently sole-source from Lapua and all of it is match grade.

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doggtag    mass producing .338 match grade ammo   10/10/2007 7:41:56 PM
So where's the difficulty in it?
Consider that today's numerically-controlled computer driven machine tools, stampers, dies, weight measurement equipment for getting powder loads and bullet weights precise, we could even actually machine the bullets instead of casting them, etc,..
why couldn't a modern day mass production line get it right?
If we can manufacture gear assemblies, pistons, and machine polish the cylinder walls of car engine blocks that function tens, even hundreds, of millions of times with minimal failure over the lifetime of an engine cranking out 3000-5000 rpm for 100,000+ miles, plus the gear-laden transmissions that are coupled to them,
why can't we effectively mass produce match grade ammo to the tight tolerances necessary for it to maintain its better-than-ball-ammo performances, and with minimal failed rounds for the end user?
The machines necessary to achieve this are within our developmental grasp now (it's today's technology). We just need somebody with the investment capital to build one capable of cranking out the rounds by the tens of thousands every day.
How is that any different from scores of other high speed precision machines?
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andyf       10/11/2007 2:14:21 AM
the point with .50 over cannons is wrong. it depends wht your trying to kill
 a fighter, a 50 is a quality piece of work. excellent
stopping a bomber, you need to make big holes
try IL2 sturmovik on max realism going after bombers you need cannon
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