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Weapons: U.S. Army Upgrades To .300 Winchester Magnum
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October 7, 2010: The U.S. Army has ordered 3,600 upgrade kits for its M24 bolt-action sniper rifles, which will convert them to the M24E1. This will turn the existing 7.62mm M24 rifles into ones capable of firing the .300 Winchester magnum (7.62x67) round. This is a more powerful round than the NATO 7.62x51 round currently used in the M24. The conversion kit includes a new receiver and barrel, a new scope, a new flash suppressor and a folding buttstock. The conversion will take five years and will cost about $7,800 per rifle.

Last year, the army ordered 38.4 million rounds of .300 Winchester magnum ammunition for its newly modified M-24 sniper rifles, as well as similar SOCOMs Mk13 models. The new ammo costs about $1.30 per round. The .300 Winchester magnum ammo is ordered in minimum lots of 56,160 rounds (117 boxes of 480 rounds each). The entire 38.4 million rounds will last a while.

All this is in response to requests from snipers for a longer range weapon, but not one as bulky and heavy as the 13.6 kg (30 pound) .50 caliber/12.7mm  rifle (which is good to about 2,000 meters). Thus the army is modifying existing M24 rifles to fire the more powerful .300 Winchester Magnum round. It was felt that this gave the snipers all the additional range they needed, without requiring a much heavier rifle. SOCOM has been using this approach since the early 1990s.

The calls were loudest from snipers operating in Afghanistan, where U.S. Army and Marine Corps shooters wanted a sniper rifle that can consistently get kills out to 1,800 meters. The current 7.62mm round was good only to about 800 meters. The 300 Winchester magnum is a more powerful, but not much larger, round than the current 7.62mm one. An improved version of the magnum round is expected to extend that range another 200 meters or so.

There was another option, and that was to replace the barrel and receiver of the M24 sniper rifles to handle the .338 (8.6mm) Lapua Magnum round. Thus you still have a 17 pound sniper rifle, but with a round that can hit effectively out to 1,600 meters or more. British snipers in Iraq, and especially Afghanistan, have found the Lapua Magnum round does the job at twice the range of the standard 7.62x51mm 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, having converted many of their 7.62mm sniper rifles. 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. But the U.S. preferred the lighter .300 Winchester magnum solution.

This is not the first time the U.S. Army has quickly responded to sniper needs. Two years ago, in response to requests from snipers operating in urban areas of Iraq, the U.S. Army began issuing the M110 SASS (Semi-Automatic Sniper System). Urban snipers often have multiple targets, at relatively short ranges. They needed a semiautomatic rifle. Previously, many snipers have had success using tuned up M-14s (from the 1960s) as sniper rifles. While semi-automatic and rugged, the M-14 wasn't designed to be a sniper rifle. The M110 was a better semi-automatic sniper rifle, since it is inherently more reliable and accurate. As far back as World War II, it was known that there were many situations where a semi-automatic sniper rifle would come in handy. But it's taken over half a century to solve the reliability and accuracy problems.

The M110 is a based on the AR-10 rifle. The U.S. Navy has been buying a similar weapon, the SR25. This is also known as the Mk11 Sniper Rifle System (SRS). These new semi-automatic sniper rifles are 7.62mm weapons based on the designs of M-16 creator, Gene Stoner. The basis for the M-16 was the AR-15, and a 7.62mm version of that weapon was called the AR-10. About half the parts in the SR25 are interchangeable with those in the M-16. The Stoner sniper rifle achieved 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 M110 weighs 7.9 kg (17.3 pounds) in combat, and about 32 kg (70 pounds) with all components of the system. The M110 can use a ten or twenty round magazine. The 128 cm (40.5 inch) long rifle can have a 15 cm (six inch) tube attached to the barrel, which reduces the noise and flash made when the rifle fires, and largely eliminates nearby dust rising into the air, which often gives away the snipers position.

The M110 will gradually replace many of the bolt-action M24s, while the remaining M24s will be converted to fire the .300 Winchester Magnum, for those snipers working somewhere, like Afghanistan, where more range is needed.

 

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Tamerlane    acquisitions baloney   10/7/2010 8:38:12 AM
hohoho  this is a 1/2 ass replacement (new acquisition) gussied up as a PIP to try to streamline the process and hoodwink congress.  "Scope, barrel, stock and receiver "upgraded."  Krikey, what's left?  The trigger group!  Why punt with a marginally more powerful round when the 8.6 has proven itself so well.  A train the trainer core could go out & work w allies already using 8.6 and meld it in carefully.  Remember, we are the nation who faced off against Spaniards firing 7x57 mausers using stripper clips while our boys were shooting .45-70 Trapdoor Springfields a few had clunky .30-40 Krag-Jorgensens) that would not have looked strange to Lee and Grant.  The training and logistics costs will go up, but it's well worth it.
 
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Dr. Clawmute    Exactly   10/7/2010 11:01:11 AM

hohoho  this is a 1/2 ass replacement (new acquisition) gussied up as a PIP to try to streamline the process and hoodwink congress.  "Scope, barrel, stock and receiver "upgraded."  Krikey, what's left?  The trigger group!  . . .
EXACTLY my thought.  And at $7,800 a pop, what is the logic here?
 
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Colonel Korg       10/7/2010 11:16:57 AM
I think the Army suffers from the NIH syndrome (Not Invented Here). I agree the 8.6mm round and the Barrett system would be a better choice.  Fantastic range, light weight (very helpful when your climbing mountains to get to a good perch in Afghanistan.)  Don't know why they choose to go with the 300 magnum.  Would have been cheaper to buy all new Barrett rifles. 
 
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JFKY    Yeah Korg   10/7/2010 12:27:47 PM
the Beretta 92F,
the Belgian M-249,
the Belgian M-240,
the British 81mm mortar,
 the Israeli 120mm mortar,
the British 105mm Howitzer, and
 the British 155 mm howitzer
all demonstrate that NIH is rampant in the US Army.  What if the goal isn't to provide a .50 caliber-equivalent to every sniper team, i.e., the 8.6mm Lapua, but rathre an upgraded 7.62mm round?  It doesn't ahve to involve the "Stoopit" Army or a corrupt procurement system...there might be a valid technical/tactical argument for .300 Magnum, rather than 8.6mm.
 
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doggtag    That's the shameful nature of the US defense procurement system   10/7/2010 3:21:28 PM



hohoho  this is a 1/2 ass replacement (new acquisition) gussied up as a PIP to try to streamline the process and hoodwink congress.  "Scope, barrel, stock and receiver "upgraded."  Krikey, what's left?  The trigger group!  . . .


EXACTLY my thought.  And at $7,800 a pop, what is the logic here?


The conversion will take five years and will cost about $7,800 per rifle.
Very shameful indeed.
 
Not that many SP front page articles are to be taken as gospel,
but if this is even remotely true, it wreaks of fraud, waste, and abuse.
 
Surely there are complete, from-the-ground-up, rifles systems that, scope and carrying case included, barely hit the $7800 mark.
And in this case, we're only, supposedly, talking about upgrading an existing system,
but the description of "...The conversion kit includes a new receiver and barrel, a new scope, a new flash suppressor and a folding buttstock" pretty much equates to an entire weapon, not just upgrade parts...
 
For te record, there's a full list here
(ht*p://www.vandykerifles.com/rifle_pricing.htm)
of .338 Lapua-capable rifles, all costing, for a complete rifle, barely half of what
is being suggested as an upgrade to the current M24...
 
 
Better yet, here's Barrett's 2010 Pricing List.
( ht*p://barrett.net/pdfs/Price-List.pdf  )
 
$7800 for an upgrade?
 
Seriously, WTF?
 
(Any mention anywhere of who got this contract?)
 
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JFKY    Well, $7800   10/7/2010 3:30:47 PM
could be the PROGRAM cost, for 20 years...gear, spares, and training...it's a very popular thing to do to programs you dislike.  The F-16 becomes a $200 million dollar fighter, IF you cost it on a program/20 year basis.  The real questions are, who says it is going to cost $7,800 and how is that number arrived at?
 
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Mike H.       10/7/2010 4:47:39 PM
I'm in 100% agreement with the folks commenting on the procurement system for the US Armed Forces in general. Having survived some of the past idiocy from the Civilian leadership (Robert Macnamara comes immediately to mind), I cannot say that I'm surprised. Angry, saddened, indignant, and several other discriptive  adjectives come to mind...but surprised? No. Obviously the .338 Lapua would be the first choice, but, with a bit of investigation, I would be equally unsurprised to find the hand (and sticky fingers) of a Senator or Congressman in this decision. Pretty sad to see this happening still... 
 
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doggtag    Caliber specifics   10/8/2010 10:01:20 AM
That's another argument entirely:
what says .338 is the be-all solution?
What says .300Mag is?
 
This is in the same boat as the 5.56-vs-7.62-vs-something-in-between debate.
 
Many snipers have sworn by the big 50-cal rifles, even though years ago many people questioned the rationale behind a rifle that could precisely single-shot 12.7mm rounds at targets.
 
We see Barrett with its .416,
Cheyenne Tactical with its .408,
and the various guns built around the .338 Lapua.
 
Question is: what/who is to say which one of these rounds is the best for the job?
 
Procurement anymore too often comes down to who knows who and how to get money/jobs/kickbacks to a given legislator,
not necessarily what is the most effective/most capable weapon for a given job.
 
Was there a shoot off to determine the .338 was the best to have?
Or the .300?
 
 
 
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JFKY    People...   10/8/2010 11:15:26 AM
Why does it have to be, .338 or .300 Magnum...that's like saying "It must be either the 25mm or the 120mm."  Really, the M-2 needs a 120mm or the M-1 needs a 25mm?  So too here, has it occurred to the Soldiers for the Truth types here that the SNIPERS THEMSELVES may have pushed for .300 Magnum?  That .338 Lapua is a very massive round, and that the weapon firing it is equally large, and that all jobs don't require a Framing Hammer, but some jobs can just as easily be done with a smller hammer?
 
Rather than SPECULATE, on "corruption" would anyone care to comment on the technical/tactical distinctions between the two rounds?  Again, .338 Lapua may be great for shots at 1,500 metres, HOWEVER, most sniping, even in Afghanistan may NOT occur at 1,500 metres...mayhap something a little less powerful and therefore less heavy and bulky might be useful.
 
Finally, please note it's NOT .300 Magnum and NOTHING ELSE...it's the replacement of some or all, 7.62mm with .300 Magnum...that, in and of itself, does not preclude the use of .338 Lapua or 12.7mm BMG....only that some or all 7.62mm rifles are being converted.
 
So please, fewer complaints about "Stoopit/Corrupt" Army procurement and a few more facts, would be nice....
 
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Tamerlane    JFKY   10/8/2010 11:37:34 AM
The 7.8k$ is reasonable cost if that is life cycle, but that is not expressed.  If this is just the PIP cost, it is NOT justified.  The 8.6 is not much heaver than M24.  Some Von Braun is always gonna be coming up with a hotter, cooler round every week.  The thing is, is it used widely enough that the buyer is not gonna paying huge $ for some goofy exotic ammo.  Don't know bout other svcs, but the Gyrines load their own sniper ammo of all types to get the consisitency they demand, thus cost for this or that is not a factor.  It's already gonna be an expensive round.  This is not like taking away all the elephant rifles (7.92, .303. 06...) at the end of WWII cause the "riflemen" couldnt hit **** past 75 yds.  IF u are gonna goto all the bloody trouble and $ to field a SNIPER then give a ******* rifle that lets him do his job.  When you care to send the very best, right now it's 8.6.  I did not mention corruption, but ACQ managers got lots o tricks.  Some yahoo might have said "No new rifles for YOU" so they came up w a PIP as a getover. 
 
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