It was the summer of 2011 in southern Helmand province, Afghanistan, and mission after mission, Sgt. Ben McCullar of Third Battalion, Second Marines, would insert with his eight-man sniper team into the berms and dunes north of the volatile town of Musa Qala.
Sometimes they would fire at a group of enemy fighters, sometimes the enemy would fire at them first, but almost immediately, McCullar explained, their team would be pinned down by machine guns that outranged almost all of their sniper rifles.
“They’d set up at the max range of their [machine guns] and start firing at us,” McCullar said. “We’d take it until we could call in [close air support] or artillery.”
An interesting problem. The Marines take sniper skills very seriously, and have long doctrinally included the sniper mission into their operations. And they essentially build their own rifles. But apparently parochialism has them wedded to the .308 round (7.62mm NATO), which limits their maximum effective range to essentially 1000m. Guess what? While 1 shot/1 kill at 1000m is very impressive, it’s also very dangerous, as most general purpose machine guns have a greater range than that.
I can understand some reluctance to adopt the popular British .338 Lapua round, as there aren’t a lot of actions in that caliber. But the .300WinMag has been around for a long, long time, and the same in house expertise that has fine tuned the M40 could easily be used on a .300WinMag.