The sniper is chosen for his precision, and is a force multiplier among conventional soldiers, creating a battlefield impact far beyond the range and capabilities of a regular rifleman. His weapon must be extremely accurate, and have optics capable of great magnification and precision, to ensure less than half-an-inch of deviation per 100 yards.
Here are the greatest sniper rifles of all time:
The Barrett M82 is a semi-automatic anti-material rifle. This powerful rifle was developed in the 80s for anti-material engagements, and was fielded in 1982. Barrett quickly made mass sales of this sniper rifle to multiple state military forces, including the Swedish Armed Forces and the U.S. Marine Corps. Currently, this anti-material rifle is in service with the military and law enforcement of nearly 60 countries around the world, often for anti-personnel engagements.
However, this rifle was primarily designed for long-range destruction of sensitive and delicate equipment, like parked aircraft, radar units, trucks and various mission-critical assets. It is also used for remote destruction of explosive ordnance.
Although it was originally designed as an anti-material rifle, this weapon is also used for long-range sniper engagements. It can neutralize enemy snipers at long ranges, well beyond rifleman distance with little loss in penetrating power, so this rifle was often used to hit enemy soldiers behind cover and walls. Its powerful ammunition can penetrate through bricks and concrete at extended range.
The Barrett M82 uses the powerful 12.7x99 mm (.50 BMG) round. This ammunition was originally developed by Browning and used in the M2 heavy machine gun. Because of this, the Barrett M82 is sometimes referred as "Light Fifty."
The Barrett M82 has a unique mechanism for recoil reduction. The muzzle brake, in field testing, absorbs 70% of the recoil, reducing the forces that impact the shooter and act on internal mechanisms.
This rifle uses 10-round replaceable magazines.
To give the shooter the necessary sight accuracy, the Barrett M82 is usually fitted with 10x magnification scope, and can be also used with night vision scopes. In the event that the scope is damaged, it has a flip-up iron sight for emergency use. Recently, Barrett has included a Picatinny-type scope rail on top of the receiver.
Modern versions come with quick-detachable carrying handle, replacing the built-in handle that the original M82 had. This rifle also has a detachable bipod. This weapon can be fitted with a 3-point low-carry sling. However, due to its size and delicate optical attachments, the Barrett M82 is usually carried in a fortified case.
Accuracy International is one of the most well-known manufacturers of sniper rifles in the global firearms market. The Arctic Warfare Magnum is a superpowered version of their already-popular Arctic Warfare weapon. The original AW was overhauled to work with Winchester or Lapua Magnum-type cartridges for that extra punch, creating the AW Magnum.
It was first fielded in 1996, and continues to be fielded in 18 countries around the world. For two decades it was one of the most popular choices for snipers until recently. This weapon was used by snipers in recent engagements like Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom during the early 21st century.
The .338 Lapua version more powerful than the Winchester Magnum, with an effective range comparable to the .50 BMG round. Although it can penetrate most armored glass, is more practical for targeting combatants rather than materials, due to the lower kinetic energy and penetration power.
The Arctic Warfare Magnum had set the official record for the longest-range kill in 2009. While the record has since been surpassed, this weapon continues to be used by world-famous snipers like Craig Harrison of the British Army, who has used it to kill two Taliban combatants at nearly 2500 meters with this weapon.
The U.S. Marine Corps has recently made the switch to the M40A5 sniper rifle, having determined its advantages over previously used weapons.
The M40A5 was based on the Remington 700 hunting rifle, highly modified and chambered with .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm NATO rounds. This barrel is a custom, 1-in-12 twist, twenty-five-inch Schneider product. A McMillan A4 stock completes the build.
The rifle is complemented with a Schmidt and Bender Police Marksman II 4-16x50mm rifle scope. Its thirty minute-of-angle base is designed to stretch the range of this rifle to a maximum 1,000 yards.
The Steyr is an Austia-developed sniper rifle, created during the 1960’s. It looks much like a common hunting rifle, but was intended as standard military issue in former Soviet Iron Curtain nations. Like the Barrett, the Steyr gained popularity quickly around the world. It was replaced in production during 2015, but due to its popularity, continues to be used world-wide for sniper engagements.
There are many reasons to include the SSG 69 in this article, and the primary reason is its long life and consistent quality. This rifle has remained unchanged since its introduction 40 years ago. Its design was truly visionary, incorporating lightweight synthetic components and cold hammer-forged barrels when none of the competition considered these factors.
Between the design innovation and excellent track record for field performance, it took other models nearly a generation to catch up.
The weight efficiency is yet another advantage of the SSG 69. Newer weapons with the same durability and accuracy can often weigh twice as much.
The superb accuracy the SSG 69 achieved using .308 Winchester cartridges is the most impressive attribute. It can be reliably effective out to 800 meters and was one of the only rifles at the time to be sub-0.5 MOA accurate.
The German R93 Tactical was designed by Blaser Jagdwaffen. The framework was based on the Blaser R93 hunting rifle, but given a detachable magazine, muzzle brake and fully adjustable stock. It was fielded in 1997, and since then, versions of the R93 are used by a number of military, special forces and law enforcement units all over the world.
Blaser R93 snipers serve in the military forces of most of Europe, including Germany, Bulgaria, France, Iceland, Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. Only the new R8 bolt-action rifle replaced the R93 series rifles in 2017.
The Blaser R93 Tactical is a traditional bolt-action rifle. However this weapon has the unique straight-pull action design that was introduced in the Blaser R93 hunting rifle. This complex action is faster and more comfortable, allowing faster follow-up shots compared to traditional bolt-action rifles. This weapon does not have a traditional receiver, but rather uses a lightweight aluminum receiver block underneath the barrel and bolt assembly. As one would expect from a German company, Blaser is known for tight and accurate machining specs.
The barrel on the Blaser R93 Tactical is 600 mm (23.6"), but there is also a version with a 762 mm (30") barrel. Field operators have tested the replacement of the barrel, which can be replaced within 60 seconds.
This rifle uses detachable 5-round capacity magazines, but there are optional 10-round capacity magazines. When inserted, the 5-round magazine sits flush with the underside of the rifle body.
The R93 Tactical has a lightweight stock with fully-adjustable cheek piece and a vertical pistol grip. A monopod can also be attached.
This sniper rifle can deliver small groups with sub 0.25 MOA accuracy. This weapon has a maximum effective range of 800 meters.
Gun enthusiasts often overlook Finnish manufacturers such as SAKO, which is an oversight. This easily recognizable rifle has a right-angle pistol grip, differentiating it from angled grips.
This gun has a fairly comparable performance to the Accuracy International reviewed later in this article. And just like the AWM, It can shoot either .300 Winchester Magnum’s or .338 Lapua Magnums. It’s effective past 1500 meters, and some snipers have recorded longer distances.
The unique green stock is a special aspect of the SAKO, giving it a distinct finish. More conventional snipers can still get the all-black finish.
The SIG Scharfschutzengewehr 3000, or SSG 3000, looks like a hunting rifle, but was design as a combat oriented weapon. This sniper rifle was designed for law enforcement forces and military use in Germany and Switzerland, and is widely used by law enforcement forces across Europe and the United States. It is further fielded by military and special forces units around the world.
The SSG 3000 is a traditional bolt-action weapon, chambered for standard NATO 7.62x51 mm ammunition. This sniper rifle can be fitted with either a 457 mm (18") or 597 mm (23.5") barrel. The cosmetic appearance of the stock and body of the SSG 3000 changed during its years of production, although the differences are minor. This rifle is known for high quality, durability and excellent accuracy despite hard use.
Designed as a modular weapon, its barrel can be quickly swapped. With a SIG conversion kit this sniper rifle can be also quickly be converted to use the .260 Remington cartridge for a higher pressure load.
The safety for this rifle is on the rear side of the action. This safety mechanism completely prevents firing and bolt cycling.
This sniper rifle uses a detachable 5-round capacity magazine with visual openings to see how many rounds remain loaded. The polymer stock of the SSG 3000 does not deform under adverse weather conditions, unlike wooden stocks. The stock can be fully adjusted using a rubber buttpad and spacer system, to modify the length of pull by adding or removing spacers. The cheekpiece is also fully adjustable. The pistol grip on the SSG 3000 is nicely contoured and perfectly fits the shooting hand.
This scope rail on this sniper rifle gives it an effective range of 900 meters. Its accuracy is less than 1 MOA. With suitable ammunition it has creates group sizes under 0.5 MOA. The previous model of the SSG 3000 had auxiliary iron sights for emergency use, but the updated model lacks these sights. Even though it is no longer produced, the SSG 3000 remains a very competitive design, meeting all specifications for modern performance standards.
This sniper rifle is normally used with a bipod. and accessories attached to the rails on each side of the forearm.
This sniper rifle has got a flash suppressor on the end of the barrel to conceal a sniper's position. However it is not a muzzle brake and should not be expected to reduce the recoil felt by the shooter. The flash suppressor replaced with a sound suppressor or removed entirely.