The military has been upgrading its standard precision rifles at a steady pace, phasing out a hodgepodge of platforms that date back to the Cold War. 

The Army's Picatinny Arsenal earlier this month announced it has ordered an additional 485 of the service's newest bolt-action sniper rifles, the MK22, from Barrett Firearms in Tennessee. Also known as the Advanced Sniper Rifle and the Precision Sniper Rifle, the MK22 is based on Barrett’s Multi-role Adaptive Design, or MRAD, platform. 

Barrett, who has long been a supplier to the Army for the M107 .50 Caliber Long Range Sniper Rifle – a military variant of Barrett's M82A1 light fifty – in 2021 was awarded a $49.9 million five year contract to supply as many as 2,800 MK22s to the Army. A modular platform, the Army says the MK22 will be fielded in either .338 Norma Magnum, .300 Norma Magnum, and 7.62 NATO depending on the mission.

The MK22 is part of the Army’s Precision Sniper Rifle Program, which also includes the Leupold Mark 5HD 5-25x56 optic – complete with a flat dark earth coating and the Army’s patented Mil-Grid reticle – on a Badger Ordnance mount, along with a suppressor and a sniper accessory kit. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Picatinny Arsenal said the latest 485-gun order is the third placed to date for the new rifle, following two last year. Barrett has previously disclosed it shipped the first batch of MK22s to the Army last Fall. Snipers with the 82nd Airborne Division and Special Operations Command have been evaluating the new gun in the field, including in parachute tests. 

Special Forces and Airborne snipers have been getting a feel for the Barrett-produced MK22 sniper rifle in recent months, where the rifle's folding stock has come in handy. (U.S. Army photos). 

According to the Army's PEO Soldier office, the MK22 will replace the service's existing Remington-made M2010 bolt guns, as well as the M107. 

Air Force SDMRs

In a program just a few minutes older than the MK22, Heckler & Koch was selected in 2019 by the Army to deliver 6,000 new M110A1 Squad Designated Marksman Rifles, a variant of HK’s 7.62 NATO G28/HK417 rifle. Intended to fill the gap between the standard 5.56 NATO M4 and a dedicated bolt-action sniper platform – ideally owning the space between 300 and 600 meters – the SDMR includes offset backup sights, a Geissele mount, OSS suppressor, Harris bipod, and Sig Sauer’s 1-6x24mm Tango6 optic. The HK rifle is replacing legacy systems such as the M110 SASS, M14 EBR, M24 SWS, and M20A1 ESR.

While the Army has been busy outfitting both active and reserve marksmen down to the squad level with the SDMR, the Air Force has similarly purchased some 1,464 SDMRs of its own, and reports it is almost finished distributing them to assorted units that specialize in having more feet on the ground than in the air. 

Squad Designated Marksmanship Rifle (SDMR) on a range at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., April 13, 2022.
The Squad Designated Marksmanship Rifle (SDMR) on a range at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., April 13, 2022. Approximately 1,464 SDMRs have been purchased and will be distributed across the service for a variety of uses. (Photo: Shaun Ferguson/U.S. Air Force)

The Air Force is using the SDMR to replace the legacy bolt-action Remington M24 Sniper Weapon Systems in use with base ground security forces. Additionally, it will replace the Knights M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper Systems rifle with the service's elite pararescuemen and Guardian Angel recovery teams, reportedly shedding 5 pounds in gear while on missions. Finally, it will replace older platforms used by explosive ordnance disposal Airmen for what is termed standoff munitions disruption.

Banner image: A sergeant with the 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team fires the M110A1 Squad Designated Marksman Rifle (SDMR) at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (Photo: Spc. Michael Schwenk/New Jersey National Guard)

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