Infantry: Chinese Scout Snipers


October 3, 2018: Change comes frequently and fast for the Chinese infantry, and their army in general. Since the 1990s the Chinese Army has transformed itself from a poorly equipped (by Western standards) and trained force to one that appears to be, and often is, the equal of Western infantry. Current Chinese infantry have modern weapons and equipment and when deployed for combat appear, from a distance, to be like any other modern infantry force. The Chinese infantry have camouflage uniforms, protective vests, individual radios, night vision equipment. The Chinese infantry are all volunteers. Technically China still has conscription but has not had to use it since the 1950s because there were always enough volunteers. Technically most new troops in the Chinese army are “volunteer conscripts” for the mandatory two years of conscript service. But if the new soldier wants a more interesting or better paying job they have to accept a longer enlistment. This has become increasingly true of infantry, which has a lot more specialist jobs than ever before. One such job is sniper.

For over a decade the Chinese army has been stressing accurate shooting in general. That means more time in basic training is devoted to shooting and rifle use in general. That is one reason China recently increased army basic training from three months to six. The three month course proved inadequate for many recruits. By doubling the basic training a lot of problems are solved. For one thing, no one graduates from the six month course without being physically fit and competent in basic military skills (including how to “act and look like a soldier.”) That last item has been an issue in China and the West were too many volunteers show up overweight and out of shape.

The reasons are the same as in the West; too much time on video games and not enough on exercise. Another problem is that decades of the Chinese “one child” policy produced a generation of “little princes”, young men who grew up indulged by parents and grandparents. These guys had trouble adapting to the regimented army life. Soldiers who graduate from the six month basic have also spent several months running around (often literally) in full battle gear, including the protective vest and all the accessories. You have to be in good physical shape for that. So the Chinese army found a lot of problems solved with six months of basic training, including finding out who had a talent for shooting and assigning the best of them to various sniper courses if they were headed for an infantry unit. Even before recent reforms (like adding a “scout sniper” platoon to many infantry battalions) there were already positions for a sniper in each infantry squad and a squad (six or eight men) of them in each infantry company. Many of these army snipers were using 5.8mm (the standard infantry ammo) sniper rifles. But now more of these snipers have access to 7.62mm and 12.7mm sniper rifles.

The Chinese took the scout-sniper platoon concept directly from the U.S. Marine Corps, which pioneered the concept in the 1960s. Basically the marines realized a sniper is stealthy and operates alone (actually in teams of two men) and often serve as scouts anyway. So the marines began training snipers to do recon work as well and also taught them how to call in artillery fire or air support. Suddenly the scout-snipers were much sought after and quickly became an elite force because of all the skills and special training required. The scout-snipers are part of recon units and each marine battalion has a “scout sniper” platoon of 20 men (now being increased to 28). Scout sniper is considered s secondary job to being infantry. You have to take and pass the special courses and regularly requalify.

After 20o1 the Chinese police and military began to emphasize snipers in a big way, noting the experience of American and Western troops with snipers in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Becoming a qualified sniper required a lot more training because, unlike the West, especially the United States, there are not a lot of Chinese who have hunting rifles or engage in target shooting. That is beginning to change but most of these new citizen shooter are older men with the money to try whatever they like.

By 2o12 Chinese manufacturers were building a lot of sniper rifles for Chinese police and for export. The M99 12.7mm sniper rifles were very popular and even showed up in Syria and other combat zones. At that time the Chinese Army had only recently begun receiving these weapons. Large caliber sniper rifles were first developed by Chinese manufacturers in 1999, when the M99 showed up. A few years later the M06 (an M99 with a few minor changes) appeared. A decade later another version, the QUB09, came along. All three of these are bullpup (magazine behind the trigger) designs and are built by a state owned weapons factory. China did and still does, consider these 12.7mm rifles “anti-material (especially vehicle)” weapons. Until quite recently the only 12.7mm ammo provided snipers was for hitting vehicles and equipment at ranges of over a thousand meters.

Now there are many other 12.7mm rifles available from Chinese suppliers. For example, the AMR-2 is a more conversional design (magazine in front of the trigger). The M99/M06/QUB09 all weigh about 12 kg (26.4 pounds), while the AMR-2 is a little lighter at 11 kg (24.2 pounds). The M99 series can use 12.7x108mm or 12.7x99mm rounds, while the AMR-2 only handles the 12.7x108mm cartridge. The latest, and most popular 12.7mm sniper rifle is the QUB10. This is a 13.3 kg (29.4 pound) semi-automatic weapon Add a scope and loaded magazine and you have a weapon that weighs at least 15 kg (33 pound). With the new 12.7mm “sniper round” the QUB10 is accurate out to 1,500 meters. Chinese army snipers, especially the new scout-snipers, are being issued QUB10s as optional equipment.

The Chinese consider sniping against people with 12.7mm rifles a secondary mission, and the Chinese rifles are not as accurate at longer ranges (over 1,000 meters) as similar Western models. Most of these rifles are sold to foreign customers. This includes the military, police, private individuals, and anyone with enough cash and a good excuse or convincing forged documents.

It's only recently that China has begun delivering large numbers of 12.7mm rifles to its own troops. The problem is that there are a lot of options in this area. And in the last decade there has been a lot of development action in large caliber sniper rifles. This may be one reason why the Chinese Army has not invested heavily in this weapon. But with the introduction of scout sniper platoons (of about 20 troops) and anti-personnel 12.7mm ammo that is changing.

For example, after the Barrett Company introduced the first .50 caliber (12.7mm) sniper rifle in the 1980s, there were a number of similar weapons and a lot of special ammo developed by other firms. After 2001 it finally became clear what worked (the original Barrett design) and what didn’t (most of the later attempts to improve on the original idea). It has also been found that smaller bullets (like the popular 8.6mm) give about the same range as the 12.7mm for sniping, while using a smaller and lighter rifle. Thus it appears that the Chinese waited for development activity to settle down before investing a lot of money in this type of weapon. Meanwhile the Chinese have invested heavily in teaching their troops how to shoot and that has led to the identification of talented shooters who are now directed towards sniper schools and jobs.




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