The Army and Marine Corps are officially going ahead with procuring a new standard sniper rifle in 2021, courtesy of longtime defense contractor Barrett Firearms.
Instead of fielding multiple rifle platforms of varying calibers to fulfill a wide range of missions, both branches have selected Barrett’s multi-caliber MRAD to serve as a centralized platform from which they can either up- or down-gauge their cartridge calibers as needed.
The MRAD was initially developed by Barrett to fulfill requirements set out by SOCOM for a new precision sniper rifle. Based on the company’s earlier — and wildly popular 98B bolt-action rifle — the MRAD’s most important feature and biggest selling point is that it can be easily refitted to fire different cartridges at the end-user level using just a single tool.
This offers sniper teams the ability to swap calibers to better conform to the mission requirements or changes while in the field, without the need for any intervention at the armorer level. It also zaps maintenance and parts costs by reducing the number of unique platforms fielded by sniper teams to just one that relies on interchangeable parts.
While the MRAD can utilize 6 different cartridges, Jane’s reports that both branches will buy the rifle with the intention of using the longstanding 7.62x51mm NATO round, in addition to .300 and .338 Norma Magnum plus the conversion kits required for the last two rounds.
MRADs are already in use with SOCOM snipers, having been picked up as part of a $50 million dollar 5-year contract cemented just last year with Barrett.
Dubbed the Advanced Sniper Rifle, or the Mk22 in official parlance, the Marine Corps’ 2021 budget estimation sheet states that the “ASR will replace all current bolt-action sniper rifles in the Marine Corps.”
This includes the ages-old M40 platform, which has faithfully served as the Corps’ go-to sniper rifle since 1966, during the height of the Vietnam War. While the M40, currently on its 6th iteration as of 2014, was actually slated to be replaced by the Mk13 Mod 7 — an Accuracy International chassis mated to a long action Remington 700 receiver — it would appear that the Mk13 might also be on its way out, thanks to the MRAD.
US Army snipers will see the replacement of their M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifles as well as the .50 caliber M107 rifle with the MRAD (or Precision Sniper Rifle per the Army’s replacement program name). According to Task & Purpose, the Army indicated a considerable upgrade in terms of hit percentage over greater ranges with the PSR than with their current ESR.
The Army plans on buying 536 rifles for $10.14 million, while the Marines plan to buy 250 rifles for $4 million next year, though those numbers will more than likely rise over time while armories gradually phase out their older rifles.
In addition to the the Mk22 ASR/PSR, the US Army also has its sights set on buying Heckler & Koch’s CSASS to replace the Knights Armament M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System, ostensibly as part of a major overhaul of the branch’s sniper hardware.