Inter-service rivalry has existed since the United States Marine Corps was founded on November 10, 1775. Matters weren’t helped much when Army Chief of Staff Dwight D. Eisenhower championed a plan to disband the Corps after World War II. However, there now appears one thing the U.S. Army and USMC are likely to agree on, and that is the adoption of a new multi-caliber sniper rifle.
“In the FY2021 budget estimates, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps announced their intention to procure the Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) rifle, following in the footsteps of the U.S. Special Operations Command,” Thomas Ford, Weapons analyst at Jane’s told ClearanceJobs.
Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Inc.’s MRAD is a bolt-action weapon that is designed to fire 7.62x51mm NATO, .300 Norma Magnum and .338 Norma Magnum ammunition. It features a heavy-duty metal chassis that is made of 7000-series aluminum, and it is fed from a 10-round magazine.
It features a shoulder stock that is designed to fold to the side when not in use, which allows the weapon’s overall length to be substantially reduced, making it easier to transport in a vehicle or to be used during parachute operations. It also offers adjustments in cheek rest height and length of pull, and features a full length Picatinny rail to mount optics and image intensifiers among other aiming tools.
The MRAD offers a large trigger well that can accommodate a shooter wearing gloves in colder weather, while an Atlas bipod allows the shooter to maintain a stable aiming position while in a prone position.
The rifle, which weighs between 13 and 14.5 pounds not including optic, bipod or accessories, was chosen by the U.S. Special Operation Command and is capable of killing enemy personnel and piercing soft-skinned vehicles. This new sniper rifle will eventually replace all existing sniper rifles and even heavier anti-material rifles that are in the inventories of select U.S. ground forces.
“Our current plan is to place an order for 536 Mk22 systems in FY21 based on the current funding profile,” said Alton Stewart, spokesman for PEO Soldier, via Military Times. “The MRAD Mk22 will replace the M107 sniper rifle and M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle (ESR) systems.”
Out With the Old
The M2010 bolt action sniper rifle – formerly known as the XM2010 – has been in service with the U.S. Army since 2011, and it is chambered for the .300 Winchester Magnum (7.62x67mm); while the Barrett M107, also known as the Barrett M82a1, is an anti-material semi-automatic sniper system chambered in the .50 BMG.
The .50 caliber sniper rifle has been used in combat since the early days of the U.S. Army’s involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, the .338 Norma Magnum cartridge has been considered to be potent enough to replace that weapon system, which is why both the Army and USMC have opted to replace the M107 with the MRAD.
“The move by the Army to replace the proven Barrett M107 rifle is a very bold one,” said Jane’s Ford. “The .50 BMG is famous for its destructive power and range, and the M107 found a great deal of service in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army’s decision to discard it may meet with strong resistance among soldiers who have had to rely on the dominating round to achieve their objectives – no doubt that the first battle this rifle will face will be for the respect of the men and women it is serving.”
The USMC may also keep the M107 around for a while.
“The USMC has not stated a desire to use the MRAD as the Advanced Sniper Rifle (ASR) to replace the M107s that it still has in service, however it has opted to replace the Mk 13 Mod 7 rifle very, very quickly after procuring it in 2018,” Ford told ClearanceJobs. “The M40 sniper rifle family has seen service in the USMC since the mid to late 1960’s and was in desperate need of serious modernization or replacement, with the USMC opting for the latter. However, the decision to do so this quickly after finding an apparent replacement suggests that either the corps’ snipers, or its senior leadership found enough fault with the Mk 13 Mod 7 that they felt it necessary to begin the procurement process all over again.”
The Mk13 Mod 7 was only adopted in April 2018 to replace the older M40 sniper rifle that had been in service with the Corps since 1966 during the Vietnam War. In addition, the Army may maintain the M2010 for a while longer too, as it just awarded a $10 million contract to Sig Sauer Inc. to produce .300 Winchester Magnum ammunition.
The caliber of MRAD can be changed simply by swapping barrels – which generally requires a trained gunsmith to do, and not something typically done in the field. In the case of this rifle it can be done with the use of a single tool anywhere, anytime!
The MRAD Mk22 will provide Army snipers with the ability to shoot at up to 1,500 meters, which is about 300 meters further than the M2010 ESR.
“The universal adoption of the MRAD also reinforces the general trend of procuring multi-calibre systems, reflecting a perceived need for flexibility for sniper teams, and for soldiers in general,” noted Jane’s Ford. “It also implies that the countries procuring these weapons are expecting to need to change ammunition natures very quickly, meaning they anticipate rapidly changing threats.”
Business Insider reported that the Army and USMC have placed orders for a combined 768 MRAD rifles, in a contract worth around $14 million. The individual cost of each rifle is approximately $16,000 and that includes a sound suppressor and a variable power rifle scope. Last year the U.S. Special Operations Command had purchased $50 million worth of MRAD rifles, designed the M22 Advance Sniper Rifle.