The distance record for sniper kills has been broken again, this time by two Australian snipers in Afghanistan using M82A1 12.7mm (.50 caliber) rifles. In a coordinated shot at a Taliban leader 2,800 meters away the two snipers fired simultaneously and six seconds later the Taliban chieftain fell dead. It will never be known which of the two shots got him. The victim would not have heard the shot, the rifles were so far away and the bullet was travelling faster than the speed of sound. About two seconds later anyone with the dead Taliban man would have heard the two shots, but faintly as the shooters were nearly three kilometers (two miles) away.
The previous record shot was made in November 2009 by a British sniper (corporal Craig Harrison) who killed two Taliban in Afghanistan, at a range of 2,620 meters (8,596 feet). He did this with a L115A3 rifle firing the 8.6mm Lapua Magnum round. Before that the record was held by a Canadian soldier, corporal Rob Furlong, who dropped an al Qaeda gunman at 2,573 meters (7,972 feet) in 2002, also in Afghanistan with a 12.7mm rifle. These weapons are good at 2,000 meters or more, but weigh twice as much as the 6.8 kg (15 pound) 8.6mm rifles.
In 2007 the British Army began replacing most of its 3,000 7.62mm L96A1 sniper rifles with one modified to use the .338 (8.6mm) Lapua Magnum caliber round. This Accuracy International "Super Magnum" rifle is basically a L96A1 "Arctic Warfare" rifle modified to handle the larger, 8.6mm Lapua Magnum round. The L115A1 weighed 6.8 kg (without a scope), was 1.27 meters (fifty inches) long and had a 686mm (27 inch) barrel and a five round magazine.
Snipers in Iraq, and especially Afghanistan, had been calling for a smaller long range round because they found the 12.7mm 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. Like most long range rounds, if the weather (clear) and winds (calm) are right, you can hit targets farther away. Those were the conditions Harrison encountered when he took his three shots (the third one hit the machine-gun the two Taliban were using.)
The 8.6mm round entered use in the early 1990s, and became increasingly popular with police and military snipers. Dutch snipers have also used this round in Afghanistan with much success, and have a decade of experience with these larger caliber rifles. Recognizing the popularity of the 8.6mm round, Barrett, the pioneer in 12.7mm sniper rifles, came out with a 7 kg (15.5 pound) version of its rifle, chambered for the 8.6mm.