(A) U.S. Army study found that the 5.56 mm bullets fired from M-4s don’t retain enough velocity at distances greater than 1,000 feet (300 meters) to kill an adversary. In hilly regions of Afghanistan, NATO and insurgent forces are often 2,000 to 2,500 feet (600-800 meters) apart.
Afghans have a tradition of long-range ambushes against foreign forces. During the 1832-1842 British-Afghan war, the British found that their Brown Bess muskets could not reach insurgent sharpshooters firing higher-caliber Jezzail flintlocks.
Soviet soldiers in the 1980s found that their AK-47 rifles could not match the World War II-era bolt-action Lee-Enfield and Mauser rifles used by mujahedeen rebels.
“These are important considerations in Afghanistan, where NATO forces are frequently attacked by insurgents using … sharpshooter’s rifles, which are all chambered for a full-powered cartridge which dates back to the 1890s,” said Paul Cornish, curator of firearms at the Imperial War Museum in London.
The heavier bullets enable Taliban militants to shoot at U.S. and NATO soldiers from positions well beyond the effective range of the coalition’s rifles.
Adapt, improvise, innovate, overcome:
To counter these tactics, the U.S. military is designating nine soldiers in each infantry company to serve as sharpshooters, according to Maj. Thomas Ehrhart, who wrote the Army study. They are equipped with the new M-110 sniper rifle, which fires a larger 7.62 mm round and is accurate to at least 2,500 feet (800 meters).
An improvement over the M24, bolt-action sniper rifle, the M110 is a gas operated, semi-automatic rifle chambered in 7.62 NATO, capable of carrying a 20-round magazine and weighing in at just a hair over 15 pounds full dressed. It has received an enthusiastic reception from early adopters in the Af, especially those who favor the option of shooting back once having been shot at.
That’s a goodly piece of kit.