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Gun Legends: The Best 3 US Marine Corps Sniper Rifles

Mk13 Mod 7
Sergeant Alexander M. Tryon scans the surrounding area for enemy forces during a vertical assault Dec. 10 at Combat Town. After acquiring a strong foothold within the town, the Marines cleared all of the buildings and searched for simulated high-value individuals. Tryon, from Cortland, Ohio, is a scout sniper with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan C. Mains/Released)

Best 3 Marine Corps Sniper Rifles: Every Marine is a rifleman first and they must successfully put a lot of rounds downrange before they qualify to truly serve. With that said, US Marine Corps snipers have their go-to rifles that stand above the others. And, in fact, at present, I would argue these are the top 3 at present: the M40, the Mk13 Mod7, and the Barrett M82. The below is a short history and explainer on each rifle and why they matter.

M40 Dates Back to the Jungles of Vietnam

Talk about a long history, the M40 rifle makes many marine snipers sentimental. Turn back the clock to the Vietnam War and you can see why the M40 became ubiquitous throughout the Corps. Let’s feature Charles Mawhinney from the marine sniper hall of fame, who swore by his M40, which was a newer sniper rifle at the time.

Sergeant Mawhinney had 103 confirmed kills and 216 probable kills as one of the most accurate snipers in Marine Corps history. Mawhinney once executed a night operation where he hit 16 targets with 16 rounds in an amazing 30 seconds.

The M40 was based on the civilian Remington Model 40X bolt-action rifle. Scout snipers utilized it beginning in 1966. It has since been upgraded several times and is now known as the M40A5. It fires a .308 (.62mmx51mm NATO) round with a maximum effective range of 1,000 yards. Many marines still train on the M40A5 and like its feel, reliability, and accuracy, although there are some complaints about the stopping power of the .308 cartridge.

The M40A5 barrel is 25-inches with a suppressor and made of stainless steel from Schneider with a 1:12 twist rate. Its action is based on the Remington 700 with a McMillan A4 stock.

The M40 is tough. Nick Irving from SOFREP says “This weapon is a fighting precision rifle. You can bang it up, drop it, lug it around the mountains of Afghanistan or the streets of Iraq, and when it comes time to perform and place a single round where it needs to be, it will do so.”

M40 Sniper Rifle

Image: Creative Commons.

Finally, a heavier long-distance round: Meet the Mk13 Mod 7

Next up is the Mk13 Mod 7, which is replacing the M40A5. Navy SEALs and Marine Special Operators (MARSOC) were fond of the Mk13, and it proliferated to Marine Corps infantry and force recon units in 2018. The Mk13 fires the heavier grain .300 Winchester Magnum that stays supersonic over long distances. The greater range of the Mk13 solves one of the problems with the M40A5 – low range. Insurgents in Afghanistan stayed out of the M40A5’s range, and that was frustrating for marine snipers. Now the Mk13 can take out targets at greater than 1,200 yards.

The bolt-action Mk13 sports the Nightforce Advanced Tactical Riflescope and the grid-style Tremor 3 reticle. This allows marines to set up shots with appropriate windage for many targets and various ranges. Snipers can quickly adjust to different targets with miles per hour readings. Individual marines gave ample input to get their hands on Mk13s, and the .300 Winchester Magnum is a popular caliber. If you are a civilian from Alaska, you know not to go anywhere without a heavy-hitting .300 WinMag rifle for possible bear encounters.

M82 Is Heavy Duty When Snipers Need to Target Objects Rather than People

Most gun enthusiasts associate snipers with engaging human targets. Sometimes you have the need to take out enemy vehicles, boats, or grounded helicopters, for example. That’s where the Barrett M82 .50 caliber BMG rifle comes in. The M82 can send a round right through an engine block to remove it from action. Its M33 round has a velocity of 2,750 feet per second and produced 1,169 foot pounds of power. This gun is long and heavy at 57 inches and 30 pounds.

The M82 barrel moves backward after firing. A rotating-lock breech made with an accelerator arm uses some of the recoil energy to send the block rearward after the trigger squeeze. This cycles the action, primes the firing pin, and sends a new .50 caliber bullet into the chamber from a ten-round magazine.

M82 Sniper Rifle

Cpl. Kaden Prickett, machine gunner and team leader with Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command, fires a .50 caliber Special Applications Scoped Rifle at a target 1,200 meters away, in the Central Command area of operations, Jan. 6, 2015. Marines and sailors of Golf Company spent time on the range getting acquainted with various weapons systems and cross-training one another in their respective areas of expertise. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carson A. Gramley/Released).

151023-USAN-2994B-014 – SIERRA DEL RETIN, Spain – A Dutch Marine sniperfires a Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle during live fire target practice in Exercise TRIDENT JUNCTURE 2015. The Royal Netherlands Navy is being certified to lead the amphibious forces in the 2016 NATO Response Force. Ships in Task Group 445.03 include the landing platform dock (LPD) HNLMSJOHAN DE WITT, the frigate HNLMS TROMP, the hydrographic survey vessel HNLMS SNELLIUS, and Dutch Marines. Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Commander David Benham (Released)

Barrett M82

Barrett M82 in 2006. Image: Creative Commons.

The M82 has a range of nearly 2,000 yards or over one mile. With a Leupold 10x magnification scope, at least two American snipers have made confirmed kills over 2,000 yards throughout the years in Iraq and Afghanistan. The round can penetrate through brick and concrete to engage enemy combatants who are hiding behind walls.

The marines are well-equipped with sniper rifles. Determining the best of the three depends on the mission – whether the tactics are against people or area targets. The M40 is simple to use and extremely reliable in jungle or desert environments. The M14 Mod 7 is a formidable replacement for the M40. And the M82 is the less compact and portable of the three but is easily the most powerful.

Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, Ph.D., is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.