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.
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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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Congress wants a closer look at US special operations after 2 decades of secret missions and scandals

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., speaks as the House reconvenes to debate the objection to confirm the Electoral College vote from Arizona, after protesters stormed into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.
Rep. Ruben Gallego speaks during House debate of an objection to Arizona’s Electoral College vote, after protesters stormed into the US Capitol, January 6, 2021.

  • Sprawling and secretive military operations over the past two decades have been a target for criticism.
  • With a new House Armed Services subcommittee, Congress hopes to provide more scrutiny.
  • “The landscape has changed in terms of what threats are out there,” Rep. Ruben Gallego told Insider.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The US military’s special-operations units have fought around the world over the past two decades, a period during which their successes have been marred by scandals and misconduct.

Now, with a new subcommittee on the House Armed Services Committee, lawmakers hope to exercise greater oversight over those shadowy operations and other emerging challenges.

“The landscape has changed in terms of what threats are out there and what the capabilities of our near-peer competitors are,” Rep. Ruben Gallego told Insider.

Gallego, the highest-ranking person of color on the Armed Services Committee, a Marine veteran, and progressive Democrat, will chair the new subcommittee.

“We’re right now having to be able to continue with the traditional roles [of the] military but then also having to figure out how to deal with hybrid warfare,” Gallego added.

Gallego and committee chairman Rep. Adam Smith announced the new subcommittee, officially called the Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations, on February 3.

ISO emerges from a split of the Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee, along with the Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems.

“A lot of the work in warfare that’s going to be coming up is going to be found in these two subcommittees,” Gallego said.

‘Very serious and sticky situations’

Ruben Gallego immigration Dreamers
Gallego and Dolores Huerta, right, outside the Supreme Court during oral arguments on then-President Barack Obama’s executive actions to help defer deportation for undocumented people, April 18, 2016.

The ISO subcommittee is responsible for military and national intelligence, countering weapons of mass destruction, counterterrorism, and special-operations forces. Special operations and military intelligence are likely to get the most attention.

“They both feed into each other” and “into the bigger portfolio in terms of preparing us for the great-power competition,” Gallego said. “We’re going to not neglect our actions in other areas, but making sure that those two areas are primed and ready to go, I think, is going to be really important.”

Demand has grown for more oversight of military operations conducted under the banner of counterterrorism. Special-operations forces, such as the Navy SEALs, are a minority among troops overseas but carry out many of those missions.

The lack of clarity about what they’re doing and the legal justification for it has been a major point of criticism.

“It definitely is a problem,” Gallego said of that opacity. “They are special operators, but they are still under the purview of civilian authority, and I also don’t appreciate that they’ve been essentially used to … go around Congress’s ability to wage war.”

“So we are going to bring that under control as much as possible. We want to see more transparency when it comes to their usage,” Gallego said. “At the same time, we also want to make sure that we guard their usage, because their consistent rotations, I think, [are] actually debilitating towards their effectiveness.”

Lawmakers have expressed concern about that high operational tempo. Like other troops, special operators face increasing mental and physical strain from frequent deployments. That strain, plaudits heaped upon those forces, and a lack of accountability have been blamed for repeated cases of misconduct – especially among SEALs.

Edward Gallagher
Navy SEAL Chief Edward Gallagher with wife Andrea after being acquitted of most of the serious charges during his court-martial at Naval Base San Diego, July 2, 2019.

Those units’ high profile may help recruiting, Gallego said, but it can also make policymakers “more likely to use them in very serious and sticky situations that they don’t necessarily want ‘normal’ forces in.”

In January, the Pentagon announced an evaluation of whether US Special Operations Command, which oversees those forces, and US Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, implemented programs to reduce potential violations of the laws of war and whether violations that did occur were reported.

Accountability is needed for “any type of abuse” uncovered by that probe, Gallego told Insider, “but mostly what we want to see come from this probe are steps and checks to make sure that we don’t find ourselves going into mission creep in terms of use of our special forces.”

Policymakers have a habit of deploying those forces without public debate, hoping that “they never get ‘caught’ or create situations where then they have to answer to the public,” Gallego said.

In that respect, the Pentagon’s review “will be extremely important,” Gallego added, pointing to Congress’ inquiries after the October 2017 ambush in Niger that killed four US Army Special Forces members. (That incident prompted a restructuring of special-operations leadership to allow more civilian oversight, which was implemented by the Trump administration and is now being reviewed by the Biden administration.)

“Members of Congress were surprised that we had military in Niger,” Gallego said. “The fact that it is that pervasive, abuse of our military, that even people in the Armed Services Committee did not know that we were actively involved there is a problem.”

‘Toe-to-toe with any military’

Rep. Ruben Gallego

While special operations will be a priority for the subcommittee, challenges related to intelligence-gathering, cyber intrusions, and disinformation loom large after the 2016 and 2020 elections.

In a joint statement announcing the new subcommittee, Gallego and Smith singled out “the disruptive impact of disinformation attacks” among the “unprecedented threats” the US faces from “adversaries and competitors.”

Disinformation is a particular challenge because it spans “the civilian-military divide” and is created by both domestic and international actors, Gallego said.

“We are going to have to address it. How we address it with the assets that we have currently on deck, I think, is going to be really important,” Gallego added. “We have the capability. We have the talent. We don’t necessarily have the authorities nor the true understanding of how deep and problematic this is.”

Gallego mentioned the Defense Intelligence Agency as a partner for the subcommittee. DIA is one of 18 organizations in the US intelligence community, the size of which has been a source of internal confusion and external criticism.

The community’s size isn’t the problem but rather its responsiveness, Gallego said.

“If you’re big and you don’t move, that’s a problem. If you’re small and you don’t move, that’s still a problem,” Gallego added. “So I’d love to be able to work with all these different elements and make sure that they are interoperable, they’re talking to each other, and they actually want to have action and operations, instead of just informing the military … and us what’s going on.”

Ruben Gallego Capitol Hill building siege attack riot
Gallego directs traffic as staffers and House members get safety hoods from under desks as protestors breach the Capitol building, January 6, 2021.

The Trump administration resisted assessments from those agencies about the role foreign influence operations had in the 2016 election. Disputes about those assessments persist, and domestic actors, including Republican lawmakers, continue to invoke baseless allegations about the integrity of the 2020 election.

Gallego said he didn’t see that as an obstacle to working with Republicans on matters before his subcommittee.

“I think that was very much a Trump administration-led problem,” Gallego told Insider. “Now that Trump has gone, I think that is no longer an issue, and I think people want to work together across party lines to make sure we take care of that serious threat.”

The new subcommittee was announced a day before the Pentagon announced a review of the US military’s “footprint, resources, strategy, and missions” around the world, which Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said will inform his advice to President Joe Biden “about how we best allocate military forces in pursuit of national interests.”

The relevance of that review extends to information warfare and emerging technologies, Gallego told Insider.

“I’m sure we can go toe-to-toe with any military when it comes to man-to-man, hand-to-hand combat, but are we going to be able to win the hacking war of the next 20 years? Are we going to be able to win the quantum-computing competition that we may be already losing right now? What happens if China turns the corner when it comes to AI?” Gallego said. “These are the things that would have to have a full review.”

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National Guard snipers crushed in competition, beating even elite special operations sharpshooters in a test of their skills

Staff Sgt. Bradley Beeler, Arizona National Guard, lays still as stone before sending each shot downrange with devastating accuracy as the time to true each weapon was winding down one the day before the start of the 50th Winston P. Wilson and 30th Armed Forces Skill at Arms Meeting Sniper Championships
Staff Sgt. Bradley Beeler, Arizona National Guard, lays still as stone before sending each shot downrange with devastating accuracy as the time to true each weapon was winding down one the day before the start of the 50th Winston P. Wilson and 30th Armed Forces Skill at Arms Meeting Sniper Championships.

  • Snipers from across the US military recently participated in competitions that tested almost every aspect of what it means to be a one-shot warrior.
  • The All Guard Team representing the National Guard had the highest score by far, besting even special operations snipers.
  • “We’re all just trying to be the best that we can be and make everyone all around us better,” said a California National Guard staff sergeant on the winning team.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The results of recent sniper competitions revealed that some of the US military’s best snipers are in the National Guard.

Thirty-five sniper teams, each consisting of a shooter and a spotter, competed in the 50th Winston P. Wilson Sniper Championship and the 30th Annual Armed Forces Skill at Arms Meeting earlier this month.

The latter competition involves sniper teams from across the military, and the National Guard teams emerged victorious, beating even the special operations snipers.

Grabbing his weapon Staff Sgt. Jared Ramey, Ohio National Guard, prepares his equipment before stepping off toward his objective during the Stalk event December 9, 2020 at the 50th Winston P. Wilson and 30th Armed Forces Skill at Arms Meeting Sniper Championships hosted by the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center, with the help of the U.S. National Guard Sniper School, which were held at the Fort Chaffee Joint Maneuver Training Center December 4-10, 2020.
Staff Sgt. Jared Ramey, Ohio National Guard, during the stalking event.

The sharpshooter competitions hosted by the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center together with the US National Guard Sniper School at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas are designed to test sniper skills, such as shooting and marksmanship, fieldcraft, and other relevant skills. They serve as a kind of training exercise and are intended to mimic certain aspects of real-world combat.

For example, there are exercises like call on fire, infiltration and exfiltration, and stalking, among others. In total, there are 28 events in the AFSAM competition alone.

In the AFSAM, California National Guard Staff Sgts. Demetrios Iannios and Eric Vargas scored a 625.5, which put them in first place ahead of the Special Warfare Training Group Team and the Marine Raider Training Center Team, which came in second and third place respectively.

Sniper teams put rounds down range.
Sniper teams put rounds down range.

The 2nd place winners were Sgt. 1st Class Jeff D. and Staff Sgt. Bj J., members of the special operations community who currently serve as instructors, according to a public affairs spokesperson at Fort Bragg who withheld their last names to protect their identities as SOF soldiers. Their final score in the competition was 500.

And, the Marine sniper team that came in 3rd place in this competition was Staff Sgt. Dylan P. Deano and Gunnery Sgt. Eduardo L. Ocampo. Their score was 455.

Sgt. Triston Ivkov, Colorado National Guard, has a confirmed hit on a timed night fire event
Sgt. Triston Ivkov, Colorado National Guard, has a confirmed hit on a timed night fire event.

In the Winston P. Wilson Sniper Championship, which is just for National Guard participants, sniper teams from the Colorado National Guard, Iowa Guard, and Utah Guard took the top three spots.

The overall winners of the competitions were the California National Guard team with its score of 625.5. They were followed by the Colorado National Guard team, Sgt. Triston Ivkov and Spc. Max Miller, with a score of 546.5 and the Iowa National Guard Team, Spcs. Aaron M. McAndrews and Kyle R. Thies, with a score of 504.

“We’re all just trying to be the best that we can be and make everyone all around us better,” Vargas, humble in victory, said in a statement.

“We all wear the same flag on our right shoulder, and that’s what it is all about,” the staff sergeant said. “Coming together. Doing what we need to do. Being masters at our craft, shooting well, and just getting the mission accomplished the best way we can.”

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