Originally Posted by Marine sniper
I have been out of the Marine Corps for over 10 years now but still stay in contact with the sniper community. The last thing I wanted to get accomplished before I left was to get the Marines away from using the .308 for their sniper cartridge. As you can imagine it is only because of the training and weeks on the rifle range that sniper students receive are they able to make long range shots with such a cartridge.
Fast forward to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan; and not surprisingly the Marine snipers are having issues making 800 yard+ shots with the .308. This is the first conflict the Marines have been involved in where long range shots are a very common occurrence and data on the .308's long range problems is not surprising
The Marines are considering going to a different cartridge. There is a lot of experience on this board with long range hunting, rifle / caliber combinations that very closely parallel what the Marine Snipers should be using.
I have my own ideas, but am not going to express them, I am really looking for other educated opinions.
Here are the basic parameters for the rifle / caliber combination
Rifle with scope preferably weigh less than 18 pounds, 16 would be better.
Magazine or typical bolt action well feed.
Supersonic to 1500 yards with the ability to shoot accurately on man size targets at that range. Also lethal on people at that range.
In short: man packable, as long range as possible, accurate and lethel
Looking for calibers, barrel length, actions, bullets, etc. What ever you can think of. I plan on building the version of the rifle I have in my head; perhaps some opinions here will sway my thoughts when I build mine and take it to the Marines to shoot and try to pursued them.
My thoughts: (this got long winded, sorry)
A 338 Lapua Magnum set up for either 250 grain or 300 grain bullets is a powerhouse of a cartridge. I think we can all agree with that statement.
No bullet or rifle will ever make up for a failure to apply marksmanship fundamentals. Something else I think we can all agree upon.
Not everyone can shoot a 338 or larger caliber well. With that added power comes recoil which can (and often does) become abusive and leads to problems symptomatic of prolonged training/use. Flinching, anticipation, poor follow through, etc. . .
In 2004/05 I helped produce a batch of rifles chambered in 338 Lapua for the Jordanian military. It's now marketed as the "Scimitar" from Dakota Arms.
I've personally shot enough ammunition through a few of these guns during preliminary testing to say that it does get to you after awhile. 300 grainers especially. I was shooting commercially loaded 250 and 300 grain ammunition produced by Black Hills.
I'm not a "small" person. I'm just under 220lbs and stand an inch shy of six feet tall. I am fortunate to be able to shoot a great deal and cover a broad gamut of calibers. I'm used to recoil is what I'm trying to say. Adding a muzzle brake surely reduces delivered recoil, however it also increases signature which is never good for someone who needs to stay hidden. The bombardment of shock waves attacking your nasal passages also leads to some good sinus headaches after awhile as well.
Round counts per lb of ammunition carried also decreases. "Pack light, freeze at night" becomes less of an option with this cartridge.
I feel passionately that the 338 LM does have its place in a high threat environment, but I don't agree that it is the magic bullet answer.
Its difficult enough to keep match grade or special ball 308 in quantity. A "novelty" cartridge like this is only adds to the challenge. I'm in Iraq right now working as a security contractor. I've been here for almost two years and have seen first hand the hurdles and hoops that must be jumped in order to keep things on the shelf.
My Personal thoughts are why not just modify a few things with the current rifle being used?
My understanding is the M-40 uses a 1-12 twist barrel and the ammunition primarily used is either Lake City 168 white box or the 175 grain special ball.
What about 180's or even 190 grain high BC bullets such as the Bergers or the Lapua Scenars? They shoot flatter which by default means they carry more velocity. They offer less signature so they shoot inside of other bullets when on the wind.
How about bumping up to a faster rate of twist and loading these VLD (Very Low Drag) type bullets available in the heavier weights? Maybe add an inch or two to the over all barrel length and stoke the load up just a bit.
Remember that back in the day when all this stuff was initially designed, the ammunition also had to run through M-14's. Because of the way the gas system works, you can't run a 308 in an M-14 to the performance limit of the cartridge without the risk of breaking parts. Bolt guns can go a bit higher with pressure with no ill effects due to the absence of a gas system.
Here is an example of why I fell all this is possible:
The United States Palma Team competes in long distance competitive shooting events. Palma rules dictate that rifles must be chambered in 308 Winchester and they must use a 155 grain bullet. A bullet from these guns needs to have a minimum muzzle velocity of right around 2975 fps for it to stay supersonic to the target. (sea level)
The course consists of stages held at 800, 900, and 1000 yards. I've personally built Palma rifles that hold 1/3 moa at 1000 yards so I know its possible. (highly talented shooters, ideal conditions, and carefully manufactured ammunition all plays into this claim a great deal as well)
We can agree it's not realistic for Marines to be running around with 14lb single shot target guns set up with iron sights and 30" barrels. I'm not suggesting that at all.
But if a 155 grainer will hold that kind of accuracy, then it should be well within possibility for a 180, 190, or even a 200 grain bullet. I think it comes back to how the guns are built. Again, competitive long range shows us this. "Americanized" Palma shooting uses the full gamut of 30 caliber target bullets. Competitors typically use a heavier bullet because of the performance advantage. You get away with more (wind) using the heavier bullets.
I feel that all bases should be considered for a cartridge. It's not just the cartridge itself, but the end users ability to deliver it accurately. 338's are boomers and this wears a guy out after awhile.
A 6.5-284 would be an awesome candidate but again, there are problems. You only get 1000-1200 rounds max before you hang a new barrel on it (338 Lapua Magnums also suffer from this) and there are only a handful of companies manufacturing the ammunition.
Discuss. . .