I read a recent article about modern sniper rifles and their battlefield mission. It’s true that the role of the sniper has expanded during current conflicts. Sniper programs were done away with after our world wars, forcing the military to rebuild them when new conflicts arose. Since then we have seen the importance of marksman with the sniper’s field craft and kept the programs alive.
The War on Terror has be a real game changer. We have the need for urban sniping like no time in history. The reason for the up surge is that we’ve finally learned their value. Setting troop movements so they are guarded by one or more sniper teams, drawing the enemy into the sniper’s range, setting advancements so it can be watched over by a sniper, all techniques formally only used by high speed units. Now it’s far more commonplace.
That brings us to the rifles used.
Sure we have upgraded it to have a 10 round box magazine but it’s still half of the rounds held by a semi auto. Yeah, they are accurate to a fault and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Semi autos have come a long way in both reliability and accuracy. I would prefer one myself.
I differ from the author of the article, though. I see these two rifle types as having two purposes and therefore room for both.
Urban work I believe requires a semi auto. You need the ability of rapid follow up shots and a higher magazine capacity. You never know how many targets will present themselves at one time. The happy medium of power and lighter recoil that you find in the semi auto 7.62 is great for this job. For the mission of these snipers they have a lot of opportunity to choose an approximate target distance (for instance covering movement toward a “T” in the road letting them know their maximum distance). I looked up Winchester Match ammo. Their .308 168gn boattail match rounds still have 1190 ft lbs of energy at 500yds. That’s still enough to take down an elk much less a human target. For the every day mission of the Scout Sniper I believe the 7.62 still has their back and having it in a semi auto, like they are being issued today, is a great match.
Bolt actions are more of a specialty tool these days. You need someone to slip in and take out a cartel boss, for instance. It looks like the .408 Cheytac, the .300 Win Mag, or the .50 BMG. Precise and extremely powerful. This is not something that every mission needs. This is something special.
So, dump the Bolt Action? No. Re-purpose it from the main battlefield sniper’s weapon. Yes, or at least that’s my armchair commando opinion.