The Army wants deadlier, more destructive ammo to go with its new sniper rifle

US Army sniper during a sniper competition
A US Army sniper during a sniper competition.

  • The Army just picked a new, multi-caliber sniper rifle: the MK22 Multi-role Adaptive Design, or MRAD.
  • Now it wants a new class of ammunition to make snipers deadlier and more destructive against enemy personnel and equipment.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Army just picked a new, multi-caliber sniper rifle. Now, it wants a new class of ammunition to make snipers deadlier and more destructive against enemy personnel and equipment.

Under its Precision Sniper Rifle, or PSR, effort, the service awarded a $50 million contract in late March to Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Inc. for the MK22 Multi-role Adaptive Design, or MRAD, sniper rifle, which can be chambered for .338 Norma Magnum, .300 Norma Magnum and 7.62×51 NATO ammunition.

“A lot of the capability that we are looking for in the PSR is really resident in the ammunition,” Lt. Col. Christopher Kennedy, chief of the Lethality Branch at Fort Benning, Georgia, told an audience Wednesday at the Maneuver Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate’s Industry Day. “And while we are going to field [the MRAD] with commercial, off-the-shelf ammo, we are actually looking for a lot more capability, especially out of the .338.”

The MRAD will allow Army snipers to shoot out to 1,500 meters with the barrel chambered for .338 Norma Magnum. That’s 300 meters farther than the current M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle, chambered for .300 Winchester Magnum.

The new rifle is scheduled to replace the M2010 and the Barrett .50 caliber M107 sniper rifle, which snipers have used to attack enemy soft-skinned vehicles and other equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So as part of the new ammo effort, the Army is “going to be pursuing some anti-materiel [ammo] in the .338 caliber,” Kennedy said.

Mk 22 MRAD rifle
The Mk 22 MRAD sniper rifle.

The service also wants “some improved performance rounds – think highly lethal against human rounds – in all three calibers,” he said, adding that it also will need new subsonic ammunition for suppressed sniper shots.

“I don’t want to say silent because nothing is silent, but some very quiet ammunition that is chambered on all three of those calibers,” Kennedy said. “We have done a lot of market surveys, the [product managers] looked around, and the stuff that we are looking for just doesn’t exist or at least we don’t know about it. So, there are some real opportunities if you are in the ammunition-making business.”

Army maneuver officials used the industry day to give defense firms an idea of what the service needs both in the near term and over the next decade.

In the short term, the Army will be looking for reduced-range ammunition for the Next Generation Squad Weapon, or NGSW, which will fire a special 6.8 mm projectile.

The service is in the final phase of evaluating NGSW rifle and auto rifle prototypes, which are slated to start replacing the 5.56 mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2022.

Textron Systems, General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., and Sig Sauer have delivered prototype systems and ammunition for the competitive effort.

Each vendor’s design is unique and fires a different version of the common 6.8 mm ammunition, which is being designed to exceed the 600-meter maximum effective range of an M249 on point targets. The M4A1 has about a 500-meter maximum effective range on point targets.

The Army has no current plans to extend its marksmanship ranges, so the service will need a reduced-range training round chambered in the 6.8 mm, Kennedy said.

“We are really looking and saying how are we going to train this weapon?” he said. “We are not going to be able to go to a tank-round range to do live fires with these weapons all the time, so I am looking for something that has an [estimated range] that’s more like traditional 5.56 mm … but we can shoot it out of that new weapon.

“If not, we are literally going to be having to go to larger and larger ranges to do what the Army has traditionally done on a lot smaller ranges.”

– Matthew Cox can be reached at

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The Army is buying thousands of the ‘awesome’ new rifle that is fast becoming the sniper weapon of choice for the US military

A student of the Special Forces Sniper Course at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School moves quietly while avoiding detection during a stalking exercise at Fort Bragg, NC, on January 27, 2011
A student of the Special Forces Sniper Course at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, January 27, 2011.

  • The Army is buying 2,800 new Mk 22 Multi-Role Adaptive Design sniper rifles from Barrett Firearms.
  • SOCOM has also ordered this weapon, and the Marines have expressed interest as well.
  • The MRAD is a light, modular, multi-caliber rifle that offers extreme range and greater flexibility.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Army is buying thousands of a new rifle that Marine and special-operations snipers also want – the Mk 22 Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) rifle.

The service awarded Barrett Firearms Manufacturing in Tennessee a five-year, $49.9 million contract for 2,800 MRAD sniper rifles under the Precision Sniper Rifle program, which also includes the Leupold & Stevens Mark 5 HD scope and sniper accessory kit, the Army said Wednesday.

The main difference between the MRAD and other sniper rifles is that it can be chambered in 7.62 x 51 mm NATO, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum ammunition, giving the shooter greater flexibility without changing weapons.

“Army snipers will be able to conduct a barrel change and select calibers based on their mission operating environment,” the Army said in a statement Wednesday.

The new rifle is, according to the Army, “an extreme range weapon system that is lighter than current sniper rifles and includes features that will mask the sniper signature for improved survivability.”

Mk 22 MRAD rifle
The Mk 22 MRAD sniper rifle.

The Mk 22 will replace the Army’s bolt-action M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle from Remington Arms and the M107 Long Range Sniper Rifle from Barrett.

“It’s an awesome gun,” an experienced Army sniper told Insider last year. “I can tell you I never saw anything on that gun that I didn’t like. It shoots phenomenally well. What it does, as far as barrel changes and things like that go, is pretty exceptional.”

The Mk 22 is a “good gun coming at a good time that is going to increase efficiency and capabilities,” he said. “We’re excited about it.”

Special Operations Command was the first to express interest in the new modular, multi-caliber sniper rifle. In March 2019, SOCOM awarded Barrett a $49.9 million contract for the MRAD rifle through its Advanced Sniper Rifle program.

The command sent an initial production order for the new rifles to Barrett in November 2020 after the company completed production qualification and operational testing, meeting the requirements of the Department of Defense.

“We are pleased to have reached this milestone with the project and look forward to providing our warfighters with this highly capable platform,” Joel Miller, Barrett’s director of global military sales, said in a statement at the time.

The Marines has also shown interest in the weapon.

The Marines expect the new rifle to “replace all current bolt-action sniper rifles in the Marine Corps,” according to last year’s budget request.

In the budget documents, the Marines wrote that the new rifles offer “extended range, greater lethality, and a wider variety of special purpose ammunition.”

The Army said in its budget request that the weapon “increases stand-off distances ensuring overmatch against enemy counter sniper engagements and increases sniper capability.”

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The Marines are honoring the type of rifle and scope used by the Corps’ deadliest sniper

A Marine Corps sniper in Vietnam
An unidentified Marine Corps sniper in Vietnam

  • The Marine Corps celebrated the history of the M40 sniper rifle with Redfield scope at Camp Lejeune.
  • The M40 rifle was the same type of weapon used by Marine sniper Sgt. Charles “Chuck” Mawhinney.
  • Mawhinney is the deadliest sniper in Marine Corps history, with 103 confirmed kills.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The Marine Corps recently honored a rifle and scope long used by its snipers, including one of the service’s deadliest marksmen.

The Weapons Training Battalion (WBTN) at Marine Corps Installations East-Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune has chosen “Redfield” as the call word for the Stone Bay ranges in recognition of the impact the M40 rifle equipped with a Redfield 3x9x40 scope has had on Marine Corps history.

Call words are a standard part of range control. Other examples include “Bearmat” at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twenty-nine Palms and “Longrifle” at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

“Redfield” was chosen for the Stone Bay ranges because WBTN specializes in marksmanship, the Corps said in a post on the naming ceremony. It was also chosen because it celebrates the history of Marine Corps marksmanship.

“We must remember where we came from,” a retired Marine told the Corps. “Those marksmanship skills we’ve honed over the many years, we must continue to grow and make them better.”

Charles Mawhinney
Charles Mawhinney

The modern Marine Corps sniper program was born in the jungles of Vietnam, when legends like Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock, Master Sgt. Eric England, and Sgt. Chuck Mawhinney proved just how effective a marksman trained in the art of stealth, camouflage and concealment could be in battle.

For the Marines, Hathcock is by far the most famous of the legendary snipers. He had 93 confirmed kills with countless more unconfirmed, he set a record for the longest kill shot that held until the early 2000s, and he was a pioneer alongside others like Maj. Edward James Land in Marine Corps sniper training.

It was long thought that Hathcock, armed with his Winchester Model 70 .30-06 caliber rifle equipped with an 8-power Unertl scope, was the deadliest sniper in Marine Corps history, but that title belongs to Mawhinney.

The sergeant primarily waged war in Vietnam with one of the new M40 sniper rifles, a modified version of the Model 700 Remington 7.62mm bolt-action rifle that was first introduced in 1966. The early Marine Corps M40s were equipped with Redfield 3-to-9-power scopes.

Charles Mawhinney
Charles Mawhinney

Mawhinney is the son of a World War II Marine veteran. He joined the Corps in the summer of 1967 and trained as a scout sniper before he deployed overseas.

He spent almost a year and a half in Vietnam, but when he returned home to Oregon in 1969, he kept the details of his service a secret. Mawhinney was not recognized as a Marine Corps legend until more than two decades later.

In the early 1990s, former Marine sniper Joseph Ward credited Mawhinney with setting a Marine Corps record with 101 confirmed kills in his book “Dear Mom: A Sniper’s Vietnam.”

Further investigation, however, revealed the number to be inaccurate. Mawhinney actually had 103 confirmed kills, along with 216 probable kills.

Mawhinney’s rules of engagement were simple. “If they had a weapon, they were going down,” he previously told The Los Angeles Times. The sniper believed that with each kill, he was saving the lives of his brothers in arms.

One of the things that haunted Mawhinney after he returned home from war was an enemy soldier that slipped away after a Marine armorer made adjustments to his rifle, affecting his shot.

“I can’t help thinking about how many people that he may have killed later, how many of my friends, how many Marines,” he said in an interview. “It’s one of the few things that bother me about Vietnam.”

Chuck Mawhinney posing with a M40 rifle replica, the same type of rifle he used in Vietnam
Chuck Mawhinney posing with a M40 rifle replica, the same type of rifle he used in Vietnam

Mawhinney is one of a handful of outstanding snipers that modern Marines aspire to be, not simply for his skills in battle, but also because of his humility and professionalism.

An infantry weapons officer and WBTN gunner recently told the Corps that he hopes that when Marines hear the call word “Redfield,” they will remember not just the M40 rifle, variants of which have been used for decades, but also legendary Marine marksmen like Mawhinney.

Mawhinney’s M40 sniper rifle has been on display at the National Museum of the Marine Corps since 2006.

The Corps replaced the M40A6, the latest variant of the M40 sniper rifle, with the Mk13 Mod 7 Long Range Sniper Rifle in 2019. The service is, however, looking to replace that weapon with the Barrett Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) rifle.

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