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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Long-Shot Rifle That Can Drop a Taliban Fighter from 1.5 Miles Away


1.54 miles. That's the world's longest recorded sniper strike. It's the distance at which British Corporal Craig Harrison eliminated a Taliban machine gun team in Afghanistan in 2009. This is the gun he used: the L115A3 rifle.

Dubbed the Arctic Warfare Super Magnum, it uses a .338 Magnum caliber shell that combines the power and range of the traditional .50 BMG round with the maneuverability of the smaller 7.62 x 51 mm NATO cartridge. While the AWSM's rounds lack the overwhelming impact of their .50 cal brethren, they produce less recoil, report, and muzzle flash when fired (keeping the sniper better concealed) and are still strong enough to penetrate armored glass. They come in FMJ, hollow point, Armor Piercing and Armor Piercing Incendiary varieties.

The bolt-action AWSM has a 27-inch barrel constructed of a proprietary blend of stainless steel with an aluminum chassis and polymer stocksides. Its detachable steel magazine holds five rounds. The rifle is designed for accuracy up to 1,600 yards—wait, so how did Cpl Harrison eliminate the Taliban machine gun team with consecutive shots at nearly that double that distance?

As he described to the Times Online, while providing cover for providing covering fire for an Afghan national army patrol south of Musa Qala in Helmand Province, Afghanistan,

We saw two insurgents running through its [the Taliban compound's] courtyard, one in a black dishdasha, one in green...They came forward carrying a PKM machinegun, set it up and opened fire on the commander's wagon...Conditions were perfect, no wind, mild weather, clear visibility. I rested the bipod of my weapon on a compound wall and aimed for the gunner firing the machine gun.

The first round hit a machinegunner in the stomach and killed him outright. He went straight down and didn't move...The second insurgent grabbed the weapon and turned as my second shot hit him in the side. He went down, too.

At that distance, the rounds took nearly three seconds to hit their targets despite exiting the barrel at three times the speed of sound. The official range per GPS measurement: 2,475 meters, or roughly 27 football fields.

The AWSM has also been credited with another incredible long-distance shot as well. British Corporal Christopher Reynolds killed an Afghan warlord suspected of coordinating attacks against British and American troops at a distance of 1.15 miles (1856 meters) in 2009. It was the previous longest sniper kill in the Afghanistan conflict.