Sometimes it has to be a little more. For the shot beyond 2,000 meters or lightly armored vehicles you need larger calibers. Weapon culture has dealt with the Goliath among rifle concepts
During the First World War, the infantryman had no suitable means of defense against a new weapon of war - the tank. The first anti-tank weapons were anti-tank rifles in the form of rifle constructions in very large caliber. These weapons only became obsolete with the rapid development of armored car construction from 1940. Even so, they continued to be used against the unarmored vehicles, much more numerous on the battlefield, and against many other targets.
|Certainly the most widespread semi-automatic machine in this caliber group - the Barrett M82A1, here as the M107 Long Range Sniper Rifle of the United States Army (Photo: United States Army)|
For centuries, the combat range of simple infantry units was very short. With the progress in weapon technology during the 19th and 20th centuries, a multitude of new applications became possible. With the decline of the anti-tank rifle as an adequate anti-tank means in the European theater of war, these weapons continued to be used against all possible targets on the battlefield. Aircraft, long-range radio installations, command vehicles or fuel depots of the enemy could be hit from a safe distance. After the Second World War, the anti-tank rifles disappeared from the stocks of most armies and gave way to recoilless guns and missiles for anti-tank purposes. At the sub-unit level (train and smaller), there was now a lack of easy-to-use active agents that could cover a larger distance range at low cost. In addition to the multi-purpose use against vehicles and equipment, the fight against personal targets at great distances was also added. Improvements in telescopic sight construction made it possible to identify even small targets over ever greater distances. Due to a lack of weapons, the US sniper Carlos Hathcock made do with a heavy machine gun M2 Browning (12.7 x 99 millimeters) and a telescopic sight in Vietnam to generate hits up to 2,090 meters.
|A Canadian sniper adjusts his weapon - the McMillan TAC-50 is currently introduced as a Long Range Sniper Weapon (LRSW) in the Canadian armed forces (Photo: Canadian Armed Forces)|
In order to be able to reach the long combat distances at all, ammunition and caliber determined the development approaches of the first anti-material rifles. The caliber of heavy machine guns that had already been introduced was an option here: In NATO, this has always been the 12.7 x 99 millimeter (.50 Browning Machine Gun) caliber, which the US armed forces procured for the first time with the introduction of the M2 Browning in 1921 has been. In the sphere of influence of the former Soviet Union, a similar caliber has been used since 1934 (12.7 x 108 millimeters). In addition, an even larger cartridge (14.5 x 114 millimeters) has been in widespread use since 1941, for example as a vehicle armament. In order to achieve the desired effect on the corresponding goals, all users mainly purchase hard core and explosive fire cartridges. Only in the new millennium were some cartridges optimized for soft targets added. On the basis of this large-caliber, already introduced ammunition, conventional repeater and semi-automatic machines could be developed with relatively little effort by the industry. Only in the last two decades have newly developed calibers such as the .408 CheyTac established themselves in niche applications.
|French sniper squad during training with a PGM Hécate II (Photo: Armée de Terre)|
In addition to the destruction of high-value technical targets, the military operations in the Middle East have increased the need for long-range infantry weapons since 2001. In the stabilization operations there, the rapid change from states of peace to intense combat continues to this day - often even within a day. For the large number of surveillance tasks from field camps, in the area of permanently installed outposts as well as with motorized and dismounted patrols, appropriate agents with a long range are required. In Afghanistan in particular, there was a noticeable number of sniper missions far beyond the 1000 meter mark: in 2012, a sniper from the Australian 2nd Commando Regiment with an M82A1 (.50 BMG) hit an enemy from a distance of 2,815 meters. In May 2017, this shooter was surpassed again - a Canadian sniper from Joint Task Force 2 hit Iraq from 3,540 meters with a McMillan Tac-50 (Hornady A-Max .50 BMG). This hit is currently considered the furthest sniper hit in history. The furthest hit in the next lower caliber group (.338 Lapua Magnum) was scored in 2009 by the British sniper Craig Harrison (Household Cavalry) in Afghanistan at a distance of 2,475 meters.
|KSVK of the Russian armed forces during an exercise in December 2017 (Photo: Russian ministry of Defense)|
Most manufacturers offer conventional repeating rifles in these calibres. Prominent representatives of this category are the Accuracy International AX50, McMillan TAC-50 or the French PGM Hécate. The HS.50 from Steyr is a special case, as it was designed and produced as a single loader. In the meantime, however, this rifle is also available with a magazine. The armed forces of the Russian Federation currently use a 12.5 kilogram (excluding ZF and ammunition) bullpup development - the KSVK. The construction allows a total length of 1.42 meters with a running length of one meter. Russian special forces also have access to the VSSK "Vychlop" in the unusual caliber of 12.7 x 55 millimeters. The weapon and caliber are optimized for silencer and subsonic operation; here too, Russian designers rely on the compact bullpup principle with magazine feed behind the grip. Practically all authority users worldwide also have the appropriate signature distortion devices and night combat attachments thanks to the accessory sets for their anti-material rifles. For the increasing need to combat personal targets, there are now high-quality solutions in the .408 CheyTac caliber, such as the X3 and X4 models from Voere. The weapons weigh less than ten kilograms due to the use of modern materials such as carbon fibers.
|Mexican forces use the M82A1 in the fight against the drug cartels (Photo: Ejército Mexicano)|
The selection of calibers and bullet concepts has increased significantly over the past 30 years. More and more states will therefore in the future tender modular multi-caliber weapon systems for equipping their sniper troops in order to save costs. Weapons and calibers in the anti-material rifle class will be at the forefront of performance here for the foreseeable future. Ultimately, the gunner's recoil processing capacity and the total weight of the weapon limit the use of larger calibers by a single soldier. In the course of the rapid developments in the field of unmanned vehicles, an additional purpose is to be expected due to the comparatively cheap ammunition for anti-material rifles - fighting robots and autonomous land vehicles.
Rifle Concepts (1): Mk 12 Special Purpose Rifle
Rifle Concepts (2): Infantry Automatic Rifle
Gun Concepts (3): Anti-Material Gun
Rifle Concepts (4): The carbine
Rifle Concepts (5): Cooper’s Scout Rifle
Gun concepts (6): The anti-tank rifle
Rifle Concepts (7): Long Rifle
Rifle Concepts (8): Liberty Training Rifle
Gun concepts (9): The assault rifle