Here are three of the coolest sniper rifles ever used by the U.S. Military.
The Armed Forces of the United States have a long and storied history on the pages of firearms folklore. From the Civil War and both World Wars, to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, sniper rifles have played a key role in these conflicts.
In the hands of highly-trained U.S. Navy Seals or U.S. Marines, these rifles were (and some still are) used to put incredible skill and accuracy towards good intentions.
From our eyes, and surely those of gun historians around the country, these are three of the coolest sniper rifles ever used by the U.S. Military.
1. The M24 Sniper Weapon System
This bolt-action sniper rifle is basically the law enforcement and U.S. Military equivalent of the Remington 700, one of the most popular rifles ever designed. This style of rifle has probably downed as many deer as it has enemy combatants.
The M24 has seen use with the Army and the Air Force and is chambered primarily in 7.62x51mm NATO. There are also some variants chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum as well (that version of the rifle is known as the M24A3).
The M24 initially saw action in the hands of American servicemen in the first Gulf War, and has been used in every major conflict since then. Eventually, the U.S. Army decided to upgrade to the M2010 sniper rifle in 2010.
Still, the M24 rifle system has proved itself as a long range sniper rifle again and again, even as most armies are moving towards larger and much faster rounds than what traditional bolt-action rifles have been able to provide. In the proper hands, this rifle has been shown to easily hit targets at over 1,000 yards.
On September 27, 2005, Army Staff Sergeant Jim Gilliland used an M24 to record an incredible 1,367 yard confirmed sniper kill of an Iraqi insurgent who was later found to be responsible for the death of Army Staff Sgt. Jason Benford.
"He was visible only from the waist up. It was a one in a million shot. I could probably shoot a whole box of ammunition and never hit him again," Gilliland later told reporters.
2. The Barrett M82
This is pretty much THE gun most people think of when they think of sniper rifles these days. The Barrett, also known as the M107, is chambered in the devastating .50 BMG round. It's a semi-automatic rifle that can hold a magazine of up to 10 rounds. The muzzle velocity of this rifle is an astounding 2,800 feet per second!
Barrett Firearms first designed this rifle in 1980 and like the M24, it first saw conflict with the Army in Desert Storm. But this rifle is such a good design that the Marine Corps and Air Force soon started using it too.
It weighs nearly 30 pounds and civilian versions can cost upwards of $10,000. Make no mistake, this rifle is a beast.
Granted, the M82 was actually designed for more of an anti-material role against light armor and tanks. It wasn't really meant to be an anti-personnel rifle, but still, the Barrett M82 appears more than once in the list of longest sniper kills ever.
In October of 2004, Sgt. Brian Kremer used an M82A1 in Iraq to record a kill at 2,515 yards. That's over a mile and a half! And that's just the record for a U.S. Serviceman.
In 2012, an unnamed Australian special forces sniper used an M82A1 in Afghanistan to record a kill at the unbelievable distance of 3,079 yards! It's worth noting that the often-cited effective range of this rifle is just a little under 2,000 yards.
At this point, the M82 has taken on a legendary status. And it will likely make this rifle as iconic as other famous service firearms like the M16 and M1 Garand rifle.
3. The McMillian Tac
How does the Barrett not have the record for longest recorded sniper kill? Well, it's because the record belongs to the McMillian Tac-50.
Like the Barrett, this rifle is also chambered in .50 BMG, although there is a variant called the Tac-338 chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum. It's an incredibly simple bolt-action design with a fluted, match grade barrel and machined action. But that simple design also means it's one of the smoothest and farthest shooting rifles ever created.
Just like the Barrett, this rifle is on the heavy side at around 26 pounds. It is the sniper rifle of choice for the U.S. Navy Seals.
Of course, the most notable use of this rifle by a U.S. serviceman was by Chris Kyle in Iraq in 2008. This kill was featured prominently in Kyle's book and the subsequent movie: "American Sniper." That day, Kyle used a McMillian Tac-338 to take out an Iraqi insurgent at 2,100 yards, a shot he later described in his book as "luck."
The McMillian has proven especially deadly in the hands of Canadian special forces. In Mach 2002, Corporal Rob Furlong used a Tac-50 to take down a member of the Taliban in Afghanistan at 2,657 yards. That same month, Master Corporal Arron Perry pulled off an incredible 2,526-yard kill of his own.
But in May 2017, an unnamed Canadian special forces sniper re-wrote the book on exactly what is possible with the Tac-50. Canadian Special Operations confirmed one of their snipers took out an Islamic State insurgent in Iraq with an unbelievable 3,871-yard shot taken from the roof of a high-rise building with a Tac-50 using Hornady A-Max ammo.
The McMillian Tac's reputation speaks for really speaks for itself and we have no doubt the rifle will continue to see action not just with U.S. Armed Forces, but likely the armies of the world as well.