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Ivory tower thinking on sniper rifles

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Ivory tower thinking on sniper rifles

Postby fastback65 » Sun Oct 27, 2013 9:50 am

If you hang around the internet gun forums for a while, you'll come across some noob who says, "I want to get into shooting, what can I buy that will get me to a thousand yards?" And when you ask questions they don't even own a 22 or air rifle to practice fundamentals on and don't have a clue how to even boresight a scope. But people across the world sometimes fall into the belief that gear makes up for skill.

With that in mind, I was reading a classification on the sniper rifles of the world. The article was written as a technical article, and it classified sniper rifles into four categories based on the "capabilities" argument and goes like this:

Low Tech, 600 meters effective. Iron sights or 4x or under optic.
Medium Tech, 800 meters effective. 6x-10x optic.
High Tech, 1200 meters effective. Variable power optic.
Very High Tech, 1500 meters effective. Thermal or night vision capable optic.

These are just "guidelines" and some sniper systems blur the capabilities between categories. The advances in bullet manufacture and construction have made the 308 Win an extremely viable 1,000 meter round, while at the same time pushing the envelope of the 300 Win Mag right up to that of the 338 Lapua.

The vast majority of rifles in the world, no matter how quality, fall into the "low tech" category simply because the vast majority of rifles are old milsurp beaters that have flooded the market by the millions. From the K98 and 1903 Springfield to the SMLE to the M16 family and AK-47, these have all been used as the basis for "sniper" rifles, although many of them fall into the "Designated Marksman" category. On the flip side, with a Mauser, Mosin, or SMLE you can still make a damn fine sniper rifle that can hit "above its weight class" so to speak. A 1942 1903 Springfield with an 8x optic may not always make the 1 MOA sniper standard, but it will sure put a hurting on anyone who falls into the dot. A 1.5 MOA rifle/ammo combination will do just fine here. These rifles are not purposely built sniper rifles, but they were pressed into service as sniper rifles.

Next up are the "medium tech" offerings. These are specialized rifles like the M24, M40, Druganov, M21, Sako TRG22 sniper rifles. The category here requires that the rifle be in 7.62x51 or 7.62x54 and in a specially designed rifle/optic combination. Note that the Druganov kept the 4x power optic, but is also capable of attaching any other optic in the ComBloc inventory. The M40 and M24 are also capable of attaching night and thermal sights.

High Tech sniper rifles see an upgrade in caliber to "something bigger" like 300 Win Mag, or 338 Lapua, or in the case of Russia the 9.3x64. Both of these rounds shooting heavy pills are capable of 1500 meter shots with high first round hit probability. Examples given were Accuracy International, Sako TRG42 and the latest Russian sniper rifle.

Very High Tech. Pretty much 338 Lapua and up, with advanced electro optics. Same example as before, but with better optics.

After reading through the article the conclusion was that "due to militaries across the world upgrading their official sniper capabilities lower tech systems will filter out into the grey market or black market." Which to me was a "no duh" statement if I'd ever read one.

Now I would like to point something else out.

Low Tech = 300 bucks or less on the used marked, not including optic.
Medium Tech = 1000 bucks or so, not including optic.
High Tech = 4000 to 8000 bucks, including optic and support contract.
Very High Tech = 15000 bucks on up, mainly for the optic and support contract.

These are US dollars on the US market. Elsewhere will be different depending on supply and demand.

Once again, some rifles will blur the lines. The SR25, supposedly a "medium tech" rifle costs in the High Tech range. And a Savage BA110 in 338 Lapua is barely twice the cost of a "medium tech" rifle (about the same cost as a Remington 700 heavy barrel 338 Lap option). Upgrading old "medium tech" rifles with "high tech" calibers and mounting top of the line optics on them creates the same "technology upgrade" that keeps us flying B-52 bombers. Sometimes if it works, don't replace it, just upgrade the ordnance that it fires. The M40 has been around the block, but with upgrades to the system, plus upgrades to the ammunition, is still going strong. Although I seriously doubt that the US Military will be buying sniper systems in 7.62x51 in a bolt action variety in the future. The 7.62x51 is going semi-auto, and the bolt guns are going 300 Win Mag and 338 Lap.

What this really means is that High Tech, and Very High Tech sniper rifles with top end electro optics will be the toys for developed nations, and that Low Tech and Medium Tech will be the toys for the developing and third world.

Tactically this means bupkiss. Snipers will continue to grab the rifle that best suits the mission they are given, or simply grab the rifle they have. When a Swede M41B, a definite "low tech" sniper rifle can easily make 900 yard shots then the only thing a newer rifle will do is possibly be easier to move, easier to shoot, or have a better optic. Sniper operations have not changed significantly since WWII added snipers to the maneuver warfare mix. Understanding the fundamentals is key, no matter the equipment you use.

I am much more afraid to be in the crosshairs of a skilled shooter at 800 meters with a "low tech" sniper rifle than an utter noob with a "High Tech" 338 Lapua at 700 meters. So far they haven't made a sniper rifle high tech enough to do the mission on its own.
"Never, under any circumstances, ever become a refuge... Die if you must, but die on your home turf with your face to the wind, not in some stinking hellhole 2,000 kilometers away, among people you neither know nor care about." - Ragnar Benson
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