December 28, 2009:
The British Army has adopted an U.S. (LMT) semi-automatic rifle as a "sharpshooter" weapon, designating it the L129A1. Weighing 11 pounds (5kg), the L129A1 7.62mm rifle has a 20 round magazine and an effective range of 800 meters. The weapon is 37 inches (945mm) long and equipped with rails for scopes and such. About one soldier per squad or platoon would be a sharpshooter, armed with an L129A1. Soldiers must be good shots to begin with, and take a training course, to be a sharpshooter, which is sort of "sniper lite." But while snipers concentrate on being hidden, as well as doing the job with one well aimed shot, the sharpshooter is mainly concerned with hitting the target with one shot at long ranges. This is essential in Afghanistan, where enemy fighters are often encountered at ranges the standard 5.56mm assault rifle has a hard time dealing with.
Semi-automatic rifles are often used as sniper rifles as well. And not just recycled M-14s. The L129A1 is very similar to the American SR25 sniper rifle, adopted by the U.S. NAVY SEALs over three years ago. This weapon is officially known as the Mk11 Sniper Rifle System (SRS).
The Mk11 is a 7.62mm weapon based on the M-16 design (created by retired USAF Colonel Stoner in the 1950s). About half the parts in the SR25 are interchangeable with those in the M-16. The Stoner sniper rifle achieves its high accuracy partly by using a 20 inch heavy floating barrel. The "floating" means that the barrel is attached only to the main body of the rifle to reduce resonance (which throws off accuracy.) The semi-automatic, 41 inch long rifle weighs 10.5 pounds without a scope and uses a 20 round magazine. This is considered the most accurate semi-automatic rifle in the world. It's popular with Special Forces and commandos because it allows a good shooter to take out a number of targets quickly and accurately. The commercial SR25 has a 24 inch barrel, but the navy wanted a shorter one for better use in urban warfare. The rifle was initially purchased for Navy SEALS and marines, but is now used by snipers in all the services, including the navys new infantry force.