The Army has purchased several hundred new .50 caliber sniper rifles, many
of which were shipped to Iraq at the outset of the war.
The weapon has not yet been “type-classified” as an official acquisition
program, but urgent requests from light-infantry and special-operations units
prompted the Army to accelerate the deployment of the so-called XM107 long-range
The rapid fire, semi- automatic rifle works at standoff ranges of 1,000 to
When the war broke out in Afghanistan, the Army bought 50 XM107 rifles for
Army Special Operations units, for the 82nd Airborne and the 101st Airborne
divisions. Since that time, “several hundred XM107s have and continue
to be fielded to select units” fighting in Operation Enduring Freedom
and Operation Iraqi Freedom, said Army spokeswoman Beth Sarratt.
She said the XM107 is scheduled to be type-classified in the coming months,
with a large-scale production contract to follow shortly afterwards. The manufacturer
is Barrett Firearms.
The Army hopes to begin fielding the rifle in late 2003, upon successful completion
of various tests, said Sarratt. The Army could order as many as 3,000 XM107s.
The XM107 is considered a “commercially available, non-developmental
item,” which makes the procurement less cumbersome than Army-unique weapons.
“Both technical and operational test and evaluation have been conducted
to certify that the weapon meets Army operational requirements,” she added.
“Independent system evaluations are currently in progress as a precursor
to any type-classification action.”
The XM107 is designed to replace the M82A3 sniper rifle, said small-arms expert
The 23-pound, 4-foot long XM107 is both lighter and shorter than the M82A3,
also made by Barrett. Both the Army and the Marine Corps have used variants
of the M82 sniper rifles for more than 20 years.
Army and Marine snipers typically employ .50 caliber rifles to disable parked
aircraft (by shooting at the engine), destroy radar vans and mobile communications
systems. Special operators in Afghanistan, however, employed the XM107 as anti-personnel
weapons against Taliban fighters.
Additionally, the .50 caliber rifle commonly is used to destroy unwanted unexploded
The ammunition for the XM107 is a .50 caliber BMG (Browning Machine Gun) 12.7
x 99 mm round. The services, nonetheless, are considering other types of rounds,
This month, the Army is beginning the process of selecting a new night-sight
and a new telescopic day-sight for the XM107. The night-sight will be a military-unique
3rd Generation image-intensification scope. For the day-sight, the Army is expected
to select a commercial off-the-shelf optic.
Until the new sight is available, XM107 shooters are using a thermal weapon
Ideally, snipers would like to have a combined thermal/image intensifier sight
in their weapon, a technology that is still in early stages of development,
said Maj. Roy Manauis, a procurement officer for Army soldier systems. “Snipers
like to positively ID the target,” he said.
The thermal sight works OK at night, but the resolution is not as sharp as
snipers would like, Manauis said. Snipers also would like for the night sight
to clip on the day optic. “They don’t want to have to take off the
day optic” when they are using the night sight.