Best Sniper Rifles, as picked by our own in-house former member of U.S. Special Forces: There are a lot of factors that go into producing a truly dedicated sniper rifle, and those have evolved over time.
Back in World War II, the combatants used either current or obsolescent infantry rifles that were outfitted with scopes.
As time wore on, the world’s armies began developing and producing dedicated sniper rifles, and the weapons improved by leaps and bounds over their grandfather’s weapons.
But the rifle is only a part of being an effective sniper or dedicated marksman. The training and experience that goes into training today’s snipers worldwide is really what separates the wheat from the chaff.
The World’s Best Sniper Rifles Of All Time
What are the top sniper rifles of all time?
The one caveat to these types of pieces is that the lists of “best of all time” is that they tend to be subjective. With that in mind and, in no particular order, here are the best sniper systems from here.
World’s Best Sniper Rifles: McMillan TAC-50
When compiling this list, one has to start with the rifle that currently owns the longest sniper shot in history. A Canadian Special Forces operator with the elite JTF2 used the McMillan TAC 50 to kill an ISIS fighter at 3,540 meters, or 2.2 miles.
The weapon was first designed in the 1980s and is used by several countries due to its accuracy. However, it is a hefty weapon and weighs 26 pounds. The rifle is a precision anti-materiel weapon that fires the .50 BMG (12.7×99 mm) caliber cartridge.
The TAC-50 uses a bolt action design and comes with a heavy match-grade barrel, 29 inches fluted to reduce weight and cool the weapon rapidly, and is fitted with an effective muzzle brake, which reduces recoil.
The stock is made from fiberglass, and the weapon has a detachable 5-round box magazine, as well as a folding bipod.
M24SWS (Sniper Weapon System), M40A6
The Army’s M24 SWS and the Marine Corps M40A6 both were based on the Remington 700. The M-24 replaced the Army’s M21 and was first fielded in 1988. The A1 and A3 models have a detachable 5-round box magazine, while the A2 has a 10-round magazine.
The M24’s “long action” refers to the weapon’s ability to be configured to either the 7.61x51mm NATO round, the .300 Winchester Magnum, or .338 Lapua Magnum. The stock is made from composite material with a fixed cheekpiece, while the buttplate is extendable up to 2 inches.
The bolt action design also has a free-floating stainless steel barrel with 5 grooves. The weapon has a folding bipod and uses the Leupold Ultra M3, Ultra M3A, or Mk.4 LR/T M3 scopes.
The M40A6 was adopted by the Marine Corps, and the main difference is that the USMC M40 models use the short-action version of the Remington 700/40x, which is designed for cartridges having an overall length of 2.750 inches (69.85 mm) or less (such as the .308 Winchester/7.62×51 mm NATO), the Army M24 uses the Remington 700 Long Action which allows for the use of different calibers.
World’s Best Sniper Rifles: Accuracy International L115A3:
This weapon also had some of the longest kills during the war in Afghanistan. Craig Harrison, a UK Corporal of Horse, a member of the Household Cavalry, killed two Taliban machine gunners from 2,700 meters away in 2009. In 2013, a British sniper in the Coldstream Guards killed six Taliban with one shot in a firefight with about 20 Taliban in southern Afghanistan.
From about 800 meters, this soldier killed a Taliban fighter wearing a suicide vest. The vest detonated and killed five other Taliban fighters standing nearby. The sniper also killed a Taliban fighter from more than 1,340 meters earlier in his deployment.
The weapon was developed by British Olympic shooting Gold medalist Malcolm Cooper and Accuracy International. The weapon weighs 15 lbs and is chambered in .338 Lapua for the UK forces, while other countries use the .300 Winchester Magnum.
It has a 5-Round detachable box magazine and has an effective range (with the .338 Lapua) out to 1,500 meters. The rifle has a stainless steel, fluted, 27.0-inch barrel, which was found to be the best compromise between muzzle velocity, weight, and length during tests.
The weapon is outfitted with the Schmidt & Bender 5-25×56 mm PM II LP/MILITARY MK II 5-25×56 telescopic sights, suppressors, folding stocks, adjustable cheek pieces, and an adjustable bipod.
Barrett M82/M107 .50 Caliber:
The Barrett M82 is a semi-automatic anti-material rifle designed and developed by Barrett Firearms Manufacturing company in 1982; it was a commercially designed weapon but was soon adopted by several countries’ militaries. In the US, it was dubbed the M107 Long Range Sniper Rifle.
At the time, the thought of a .50 caliber shoulder-fired weapon was considered way out-of-the-box thinking. Now dozens of countries use the cartridge.
The rifle was designed to take out parked aircraft, radar units, trucks, and various other essential enemy targets at long range. It is also used as a long-range anti-personnel sniper weapon.
The M107 is chambered for powerful 12.7×99 mm (.50 BMG) ammunition that was used in the M2 .50 caliber Browning machine gun (known as “Ma Deuce”). The M107 has a semi-automatic action that uses recoil operation. With each shot, the barrel moves rearward with the bolt slightly before stopping and being returned forward by a set of large springs.
The weapon is fed from a 10-round detachable magazine, has Picatinny rails, and is usually outfitted with Leupold Mark IV telescopic sights. The Marine Corps uses US Optics sights. It is another heavy weapon weighing 29-35 lbs, depending on the model.
There are two different barrels, 20 and 29 inches, that are fluted and have a large muzzle brake that improves heat dissipation and reduces weight and recoil.
World’s Best Sniper Rifles: Barrett Mark 22 MRAD
For a new weapon, this newest sniper system looks to be the best one yet. In 2016, the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) put out specific specs that they wanted in a new precision sniper rifle.
Barrett once again was chosen and was awarded the $50 million contract for a version of their MRAD (Multi-Role Adaptive Design) bolt-action rifle. The MK22 came with three barrels: 7.62x51mm, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum. SOCOM, the Army, and the Marine Corps are all purchasing the newest Barrett.
The Mk22 is a very advanced, extremely accurate, and allows the shooter to easily adjust the trigger to his/her preferred pull weight, modify the manual safety for right- or left-handed operation, extend the stock and cheek rest to a preferred, comfortable position, and collapse the buttstock.
The three different calibers allow the shooters to train with the more plentiful (and much cheaper) 7.62x51mm cartridge. The barrels are easily swapped out by simply removing two Torx bolts, the weapon comes with the needed torque wrench. Barrel lengths are 20 inches for the 7.62x51mm, 26 inches for the .300 Norma Magnum, and 27 inches for the .338 Lapua Magnum.
There is a 23-inch Picatinny rail mounted on top of the barrel. The stock folds to protect the bolt during field conditions. It comes with a 10-Round detachable box magazine. It weighs 15.2 lbs, has an adjustable polymer cheek piece.
Honorable Mention: The Soviet/Russian Dragunov sniper rifle has been a long-serving successful weapon. The Russians have also copied the .50 caliber design and have a new DXL-5 Ravager system that they have typically claimed is superior to the Barrett.
Expert Biography: Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. A proven military analyst, he served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer in the 7th Special Forces Group. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 11 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.
From the Vault