Sunday, December 11, 2016

"Hunting Rifles for a SWAT Sniper? Not Any More"

An article by Mark Lang at Officer.com, that, at its root, is a call for police snipers to ditch the Remington 700 (although he does not name names). Instead, he calls for police snipers to use rifles that have fully adjustable stocks on which accessories can easily be mounted, detachable magazines, aren't subject to accidental discharge, and shoot something other than .308.

The author probably has some valid points which, unfortunately, are undercut by his obvious ignorance of the history of the firearm and caliber he is criticizing. For instance, he writes: "The .308 hunting bolt rifle was designed to kill varmints not people." I'm not sure whether this is a criticism of the round or the rifle, but he is incorrect in either case.

The .308 was designed to kill people--it was originally developed to serve as a military cartridge to replace the .30-06, eventually being adopted with some very minor modifications as the 7.62 NATO. While it may be used in varmint hunting, it is primarily used by hunters for medium sized game (although quite capable of putting down larger animals). Bolt action rifles were originally developed as military rifles, including the design from Mauser upon which most modern bolt actions are derived. Moreover, despite his gripes about the basic Remington 700 action, that is what the Marine snipers have been using using since Vietnam and continue to use.

Unfortunately, other than requiring that it have fully adjustable stocks and detachable box magazines, and the ability to mount various accessories, the author does not describe what is acceptable in a police sniper rifle.

Should it be semi-auto? Or is a bolt-action acceptable? It is not clear from his article whether his particular gripe is with the Remington 700 in particular, or bolt actions generally; or if the issue is not bolt action rifles, per se, but the limited magazine capacity of most bolt action hunting rifles (3 to 4 rounds, generally, depending on the caliber).

And if not .308, then what caliber? By calling the .308 a varmint round, is the author suggesting that police need larger rounds? If so, why? And what round? The author has, in a different article, advocated that police snipers use the .50 BMG round for an anti-material role, but I assume that he is not suggesting the .50 as the standard police sniper round. While military snipers are often called upon for long range shooting, sometimes over 1,000 yards, the police sniper will be shooting at no more than 200 to 250 yards, and generally much closer than that. Thus, there seems little need for the police sniper to be using .338 Lapua or, even, .300 WinMag, let alone .50 BMG. In fact, in most cases they would probably do well to use a smaller, higher velocity round than the .308.

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