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Marine Corps looks to field new sniper rifle

Marine Scout/Sniper Cpl. Chad Vasquez(R)-2nd Bn, 8th Marines, in his ghillie suit keeps a watchful eye on the ‘enemy’ through the cross hairs of his M40 with his spotter Sgt. Micah Glover(L), of 3rd Force reconnaissance. (Frank Johnston, The Washington Post)

The Marine Corps is looking to field a new sniper rifle, but has yet to identify what type and caliber, according to a Marine spokesman.

“We are looking at a number of available options, to include the Mk.21 Precision Sniper Rifle,” said Maj. Anton Semelroth in an e-mail. “The Marine Corps continues to evaluate the need for improved capabilities for our snipers and to consider solutions being pursued by the Army, other services and [Special Operations Command].”

Semelroth’s remarks come a little more than month after The Washington Post published a report detailing the shortcomings of the Marines’ current sniper rifle.

[Why the Marines have failed to adopt a new sniper rifle in the past 14 years]

The current rifle, the M40A5, has an effective range of around 1,000 yards and fires a .308 caliber bullet. The Mk.21, on the other hand, can be fitted to fire a .338 caliber bullet and hit targets at more than 1,600 yards. The Mk. 21 is also currently in use by various special operations units.

The Marine Corps is currently the only branch in the U.S. military and in NATO, still fielding a .308 caliber rifle as its primary sniper rifle. In 2011 the Army upgraded to the M2010, a rifle chambered in .300 caliber that can fire accurately to 1300 yards.

While there has yet to be a concrete decision on what rifle the Marines will field next, the Marine Corps sniper community has rallied around the problem to push for a new rifle.

“There has been more talk and proactive actions from the [snipers] than there has ever been,” said a Marine close to the acquisition process. “This is the closest we’ve come to seeing a new rifle.”

The Marine, who spoke anonymously to discuss the program frankly, added that tentative plans have recently been made to build a 2,000-yard range at the Marine sniper school in Quantico, Va.

The range he said, will be a welcome addition “if there’s a future rifle coming into the corps that can fire past a 1000 yards.”

The range while being ideal for a rifle like the Mk. 21, will primarily be built for the Marine Corps current training standards.

“There have been discussions at Weapons Training Battalion regarding a 2,000 yard range at Marine Corps Base Quantico to meet the training and readiness standards for the .50 caliber special applications scoped rifle,” said Semelroth. “At this time, no decision [to build the range] has been made.”

Additionally, the sniper community wants to have a “sniper summit” in the coming months to help address — in addition to acquiring a new rifle — manpower and professional development issues.

“I don’t see anything solid right now,” he said. “But I think the process is going to take some time and we need to be patient about it.”

This post has been updated to reflect additional comments by the Marine Corps regarding the creation of a 2,000 yard range at Marine Corps Base Quantico.