A History and My Experience with the Barrett M82: When it comes to sniper rifles of the 21st century — especially as pertaining to the Global War On Terror (GWOT) — arguably none is more famous (infamous to the surviving comrades of its victims) and iconic than the Barrett M82A1 AKA M107A1 .50 caliber. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that the Barrett is to 21st century sniping what the Mosin-Nagant, Remington Model 700, and Winchester Model 70 were to 20th-century sniping. (With all due love and respect to the fans of the .338 Lapua Magnum out there, of course.)
Birth of Big Booming Barrett M82
The Barrett uses the .50 BMG (Browning Machine Gun) round, which is indeed the same chambering as used by the legendary “Ma Deuce,” i.e. the M2 .50 caliber machine gun. Now, before any hoplophobe out there kvetch that that’s overkill for individual marksmanship work, bear in mind that no less than the legendary U.S. Marine Corps Vietnam War sniper Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Norman Hathcock (God rest his soul) used the Ma Deuce for a kill shot at 2,500 yards back in 1967, which stood as a military record for the longest confirmed sniper kill shot all the way until 2002 when it was finally broken by Cpl. Rob Furlong of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
Hard to believe as this may seem, but the designer & inventor, Ronnie Barrett, actually designed the weapon back in 1980 and began producing it in 1982. A total of three variants exist: the original M82A1, the bullpen M82A2, and the mil-spec M107A1.
The weapon has an overall length of 57 inches (1448 mm), a barrel length of 29 inches (737 mm), and a rail length/MOA of 23 inches (584 mm)/27 MOA. It weighs 32.7 pounds (14.8 kilograms) and holds a magazine capacity of 10 rounds.
Unfortunately, nearly a decade before, the weapon earned its well-deserved fame as a tango-popping (that’s slang for “terrorist-killing’) tool in the GWOT with the U.S. Armed Forces but, unfortunately, a terrorist group, that being the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA AKA “Provos”) during “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland.
That tragic bit of history aside, the Swedish Army was the first legitimate government entity to purchase the Barrett, doing so in 1989. The following year, the U.S. Armed Forces followed suit, just in time for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Fast-forward by 15 years, and the U.S. Army selected the M107 variant as one of the “2005 Top 10 Inventions.” And some Hollywood filmmakers have taken quite a shine to Ronny Barrett’s invention as well.
Barrett M82: I Fired This Sniper Rifle
Back in 2011, I had the honor and pleasure of being able to fire a Barrett M82 at the Burro Canyon Shooting Park in Azusa, California. It was pretty memorable, to say the least.
Although I work out regularly — including upper-body workouts — and am in reasonably good physical shape, I’m pretty sure that my shoulder would not hold up to an extended firing session with one of these big ballistic beasts…and neither would my bankbook (more on this in a moment). That said, the two or three rounds I did first were definitely a worthwhile shooting experience, and ditto for the Browning M2 I fired in the same range session.
I owe the honor and pleasure to my friend Pulgas (he asked that I only use his first name for the purpose of quoting him in this article), a USMC veteran who’s doubly lucky enough to own both a Barrett AND a “Ma Deuce” (semi auto-only, but still!). Here’s what he had to say about owning this modern-day legend of a rifle:
“I can confirm it is a ‘chick’ magnet at the range (hahah) – as long as you can afford the $3-7 per round.” On a more serious note, Pulgas added, “in my opinion, Ronny Barrett was about as innovative as John Garand.”
So, for the benefit of our dear readers who’d like to fire a Barrett M82 but have neither (A) a personal friendship or professional acquaintanceship with Pulgas or (B) can’t afford the whopping $8,700.99 USD price tag to buy your own, take heart: you can go to so-called “Sin City” and rent one at Battlefield Vegas for the comparatively reasonable price range of $35.00 – $165.00 (depending if you want to fire just one round or five).
Long story short, as stated by Travis Smola of Wide Open Spaces, “Almost every major firearms development in the United States has come from someone who has a crazy dream. That is the case with Barrett rifles. The development of the Barrett Model 82 is a true American success story.”
Christian D. Orr, a Senior Editor here at 19FortyFive, has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.