While many gun enthusiasts will note that the major change in the rifles is a switch from 7.62mm x 51 NATO ammunition to .300 Winchester Magnum, for increased range, what fascinates me isn’t the mechanics of the change, but the doctrinal influences that mandate it.
Snipers and designated marksmen have been used to great effect in both the major theaters of the Global War on Terror, Afghanistan, and Iraq. When Iraq was the predominant theater, the emphasis was on firing out to about 600 meters, and the preference seemed to be on semi-automatic sniper rifles, such as modified M14s, and the M110 sniper rifle, which is an AR style action in 7.62mm.
The more open terrain in Afghanistan has seen a greater emphasis on traditional long-range “one shot-one kill” sniping by dedicated sniper teams. Examples such as the recent long-range record shot by a British sniper show just how important this capability is in Afghanistan. The close urban terrain of Iraq precluded the lines of sight needed to make such long range shots possible there.
What’s really interesting is that the Army, which in times of peace paid only the most minimal attention to relatively inexpensive programs like this, has quickly come up with the money and commitment to fund both a semi-auto weapon suitable for urban terrain, and a heavier bolt action weapon more suited to open terrain.