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Old January 26, 2011, 07:04 PM   #1
ripnbst
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Military Snipers and their Ammo

Ok so the other day I got to thinking. All the people who shoot distance are more often than not shooting hand-loads that are much more precise than store bought loads.

Then there are people who say store bought is better than Mil Surp.

Quick breakdown for those who are distracted by shiny things that make noise:

Handload-Best
Store bought-Better
Military Surplus-Good


My question is when our military snipers are shooting are they shooting rounds that are out of a military stockpile of ammo or are they shooting hand-loads that they formulated for their specific rifle like many civilian distance shooters do?

Seems like we give ourselves an unfair advantage by having months to work on loads until it is best matched to the one specific rifle it will be shot through as possible. I say unfair advantage speaking as advantage over military snipers but not in the sense of competition. More in the sense of "Military snipers make 1000yd shots and so do I." The difference being they are doing it with Mil-surp and you are doing it with handloads. Or are they? That's my question.
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Old January 26, 2011, 07:12 PM   #2
Rob3
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Military sniper ammo is custom made and held to much tighter tolerances than regular machine gun ammo, which is linked. It comes in different packaging and has a different DODAC.
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Old January 26, 2011, 07:29 PM   #3
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OK I'll give you my take on the subject.

Mil Surplus is fine. the M118LR (the current sniper 308 load) is standard and there are companies who make a civilian version. You also have M 852 which is pretty much the same thing on 168 grn SMKs (the 118LR is 175 Grn SMKs).

They had M118 Special Ball, which was the 173 Military Match bullet. Over the years tooling for this bullet has worn out and it isn't so hot any more. It use to be all right with they called it Match and came in White Boxes, but it started going south and the Army came up with the 852 stuff for matches and then put the M118s in brown boxes calling it Special Ball. Still sucked so the army developed the M-118LR.

Hornady as well as others make comperbal ammo to match the M852 & M118LR.

It's pretty standard. Most hand loaders try to duplicate those two rounds for their 308s, Tweaking them a bit for their individual rifles.

There is a lot of "surplus ball" out there made by the government and others, including other countries. Some is good, some isn't. Just shop around for what suits you and your rifle.

Personally I like to load my 308s to match the Lake City stuff. 168s for HP to 600 yards and 175s to 1000 yards.

As for the M16 series ammo, there are different loads for different purposes. If one is serious about duplicating 5.56 long range ammo then the 77 SMKs are what the Army uses in their SDM Rifles. This is also popular with High Power shooters up to 600 yards. Most use 80 or 90 grn bullets for 600 & 1000. The 80 & 90 grns are designed to be loaded longer and wont fit in the mag. That's OK for matches but the army has to load theirs to fit in the mag so 77s are the max.

Anyway, after having said all this. Find what works in your gun and use it. If you are going in the military they'll give you a gun and tell you what ammo to use.
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Old January 26, 2011, 08:00 PM   #4
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Kraigwy and Rob3 covered this pretty well. There is a special "accurized" round that the military will issue to snipers that is not the same they use for other purposes. However, they do not custom load ammo for their field rifles. The exception might be competition teams. I have seen documentaries where (at least some) of the military competitive shooting teams have their ammo made up "in-house." It was actually pretty impressive, they had like 3 different techs that would verify the powder load and dimensions on a round during assembly.

Overall in the military, if the gun your shooting doesn't work well with the provided ammo for whatever reason and cannot be tuned by an armorer to do so, they will most likely issue you a new rifle that will. I remember hearing that the military standards for precision rifles require only around 1MOA, which is within the range that should be expected from a nice rifle and good factory ammo.
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Old January 26, 2011, 09:23 PM   #5
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You can tailor your loads for your rifle. The military--and most police departments--do not do this.

The military cartridges are every bit as accurate as handloads. As a matter of fact, the military cartridges are loaded to the same spec as the cartridges you can buy off the shelf.

Examples:

Cartridge, M118LR = Federal GMM2; 175 grain MatchKing loaded to 2600 fps.
Cartridge, M118 = Federal GMM; 168 grain MatchKing loaded to 2650 fps.

And, just for information, I have not found a handload yet that will shoot as well--or match the performance of--the Federal 175 grain Match load. This round is the standard issue round for my Department.
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Old January 26, 2011, 10:17 PM   #6
kraigwy
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Quote:
Cartridge, M118 = Federal GMM; 168 grain MatchKing loaded to 2650 fps.
Correction: The M118 was the military match using the 174 military match bullet. Same as used in the M72 30 cal Match.

The 168s are the M852, which is pretty close to the Federal GMM
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Old January 26, 2011, 10:46 PM   #7
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I will also add that most of the Military Sniper Rifles are top of the range which helps.
Here in Australia the ADF mostly use Accuracy International AW's (7.62 Nato, 50 BMG) that are made under licence in Australia but we also have Knights Armorments SR25 (7.62 Nato), Blaser 93 Tac 2 (338 LM) and I think we have or had a few Barrets M82 (50 BMG) to test out.
All are a lot better for sniping than your average Ruger M77 or Remington 700
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Old January 26, 2011, 10:47 PM   #8
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Military sniper ammo is hand made to the SPECIFIC GUN tested and retested till they can shoot 2 inches at 1000 yards. No sense spending all that money on their training and equipment and giving them crap ammo to shoot.


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Old January 27, 2011, 07:46 AM   #9
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Quote:
Military sniper ammo is hand made to the SPECIFIC GUN tested and retested till they can shoot 2 inches at 1000 yards. No sense spending all that money on their training and equipment and giving them crap ammo to shoot.
+1. From what I saw, the military hand loads their own.
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Old January 27, 2011, 07:57 AM   #10
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Military snipers around the world use cartridges like the 7.62 NATO, 338 Lapua, 50 BMG and even the old 6.5x55 which has been around since 1894 !!
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Old January 27, 2011, 09:27 AM   #11
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Quote:
Military sniper ammo is hand made to the SPECIFIC GUN tested and retested till they can shoot 2 inches at 1000 yards. No sense spending all that money on their training and equipment and giving them crap ammo to shoot.
Quote:
+1. From what I saw, the military hand loads their own.
This is my understanding of the matter as well. That's not to say that they don't use some standard ammo provided by the military in some circumstances.
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Old January 27, 2011, 09:47 AM   #12
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Quote:
Military sniper ammo is hand made to the SPECIFIC GUN tested and retested till they can shoot 2 inches at 1000 yards. No sense spending all that money on their training and equipment and giving them crap ammo to shoot.

Speaking from the USMC side of things, our snipers do not use hand loads.
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Old January 27, 2011, 10:31 AM   #13
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O.K., so I'm not trying to start anything but 2in @1000 yds? That's a .2 moa group,did I miss something?
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Old January 27, 2011, 02:43 PM   #14
Rob3
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Gotta throw the BS flag on that as well. I have never seen military snipers handload rounds, though I am sure a few may have done it for training ranges. Two inches at 1000 meters? Big flag on that one.

Snipers are not issued a rifle to themselves, they are TO&E equipment assigned to the unit. One rifle might have several snipers over the course of a year as personnel get promoted, PCS, ETS, etc. I have never heard of a specific rifle having a specific load worked up for it. Where would you keep that ammo? In a special ASP? Would you trust ammo that someone else hand loaded, especially if you never even met that person? Even if you did, that load would change when deployed to another environment overseas. It's a lot more practical to get new dope as soon as you hit the ground with the ammo available to you.

Last edited by Rob3; January 27, 2011 at 02:52 PM.
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Old January 27, 2011, 02:56 PM   #15
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When I was working with Army snipers during Desert Storm, we never handloaded ammo. We'd just crack open another box of M852 (IIRC, it might have been M118) and load the rifles.

They did issue us ammo in case lots, so that we had the same lot number to work from.
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Old January 27, 2011, 10:32 PM   #16
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Quote:
Military sniper ammo is hand made to the SPECIFIC GUN tested and retested till they can shoot 2 inches at 1000 yards. No sense spending all that money on their training and equipment and giving them crap ammo to shoot.
No, it's not. I handled ammo for the SOTIC committee in the SFG I was in, among other responsibilities, and the above quote is just wholly inaccurate and wrong. Kraigwy provided a good overview of how it really works, with M118LR being the workhorse round for sniping these days (augmented by 5.56mm, .50 cal, and 300 Win Mag stuff). I never, ever, ever saw one single round of hand loaded stuff issued for training or part of anyone's go to war load.

And of course they wouldn't -- it's simply not logistically feasible for any sort of serious initial or sustainment training on sniping skills even without any consideration of battlefield usage. I can tell you that production has been strained just about to the limit getting enough factory production sniper ammo out there to support training and combat operations. There's no way whatsoever that handloads developed for specific long guns would be remotely sustainable.

Last edited by HorseSoldier; January 28, 2011 at 01:22 AM.
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Old January 27, 2011, 10:40 PM   #17
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Military sniper ammo is hand made to the SPECIFIC GUN tested and retested till they can shoot 2 inches at 1000 yards. No sense spending all that money on their training and equipment and giving them crap ammo to shoot.

That's interesting...considering that the world record for 1000 yards in that category is held by the 6.5x284 Improved, with a group size of 3.4 inches for 5 rounds.

The military does NOT issue handloads.

Where did you get that information?
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Old January 28, 2011, 09:37 AM   #18
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Having an Ammo Handler's MOS, special handloads don't seem to exist in the system. No NSN, no Type description, no ammo. Since the bureaucracy of the Army requires it to be purchased on contract from an open bid supplier, handloads would circumvent law.

While the sniper might be able to arrange flying into a foreign country with ammo in his possession (cargo,) contrary to a lot of transportation regs and bypassing the normal ammo supply system, how does he make more after a few months? They don't bring the reloading gear, they only get two duffel bags and a backpack.

Where does the non-standard powder, brass, primers, and bullets come from? And if we're shipping canisters of gunpower, it's going with the ammo shipments, not separately.

Much less, where does the sniper get the time to reload? Aren't they out on multiday missions on overwatch on roads, trails, etc?

The comment goes to this: only one in one hundred in today's US population have served, meaning 99 likely haven't a clue. That's one of the disadvantages of not having mandatory military training.
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Old January 28, 2011, 10:41 AM   #19
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I was not a sniper in the army. But, it is very easy to sneak a few boxes of a little insurance ammo to a real deployment.....so in theory a sniper could do the same but don't see a good reason why....from my experience military ammo functions well and most inaccuracies were from the shooter.
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Old January 28, 2011, 10:46 AM   #20
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On the history channel it had a special on all the new special rifles and new calibers. I believe the company that makes the guns and has designed this special ammo makes the ammo also.
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Old January 28, 2011, 12:03 PM   #21
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warbirdlover...

You may be correct in a limited sense. There are some units that can requisition special equipment. But, these are VERY few and far between.

99% of the units (in the Army, at least) have what is known as a TO&E (which means Table of Organization and Equipment). This list defines down to the nut and bolt what each unit is supposed to have. The main item listed (also known as major end item or simply item) comes as a component package with what is known as BII (Basic Issue Items).

As an example, if you have in your unit Rifle, 5.56x45mm, M16A2/3/M4/etc., each rifle comes with a sling, cleaning kit and magazines. These are BII.

There is also an AAL (Additional Authorized List) that lists equipment that you MAY have for each weapon. Blank adapters and repair parts may be included in this category.

Strangely enough, ammunition is an end item in itself. Known as Class V supplies, ammunition of various types is classified, categorized and stored. Any non-standard ammunition has to be specially ordered or requested.

Ammunition for a non-standard rifle in a non-standard caliber is a nightmare to get--unless you are in a unit that can tap directly into the supply pipeline and is authorized to make the request.
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Old January 28, 2011, 01:31 PM   #22
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I'm not a sniper, but I cannot imagine in any way that snipers only use ammunition tailored to their specific rifle or that that a sniper would bring an extra box of ammunition that he had zeroed his weapon with. I'm with kraig on this one.
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Old January 28, 2011, 03:38 PM   #23
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I'm not a sniper, but I cannot imagine in any way that snipers only use ammunition tailored to their specific rifle or that that a sniper would bring an extra box of ammunition that he had zeroed his weapon with

Didn't know you could get 300 Win Mag and 338 Lupa off the PX shelf.

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Old January 28, 2011, 03:50 PM   #24
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I was never a sniper in the Army, and I met only one graduate of Sniper School, and that was about 1980 or so. Knowing what I do of the Army (OK, I retired from the Reserves in 1998 and am way out of touch) I know that support from sniper programs waxes and wanes and is probably one of the first things cut when defense budgets are cut, and I have known quite a few people who joined the Army with the intent of going to sniper school and left in disgust when they couldn't get a slot.
It seems to me that what distinguishes snipers are 1. The quality and rigor of their training, and 2. The skill of their armorers. Those of us who have served know that you usually have to make do with what you get rather than getting what you'd like. Bench rest shooters can carefully tune their ammunition to their needs, carefully trim their cases, ream out primer pockets to what they find is the optimum death, carefully weigh each powder charge, choose from a wide selection of powders and bullets. Military snipers and their armorers-I doubt it. Perhaps they get match ammunition, that's it.
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Old January 28, 2011, 03:52 PM   #25
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The PX has very little to do with the military supply system.

The only thing close to re-loading components that I've seen in "common" use are shotgun primers, as we use them to initiate shock tube when setting off a charge.

Maybe Tom Clancy and Dick Marchinko said that our military snipers handload, but the truth is 99% of them do not. Perhaps some of the super secret squirrel groups do, but speaking as a Reconnaissance Marine who has had snipers working for me, handloading does not happen.

I've heard rumors of some of the Rifle teams handloading, but that has nothing to do with snipers.
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