What is a Sniper Rifle?

It’s like this: a sniper is a specialized soldier with specialized training, operating at the platoon or company level, or independently, who specializes in long-range sharpshooting; he’ll be equipped with a slow, cumbersome but accurate weapon like the M-24 bolt-action rifle. A designated marksman is a squad-level soldier armed with the same basic weapon as the rest of his squad (like an M-4), plus a light scope and maybe a bipod. His job is to provide accurate fire at the short- to medium-range, and is basically an ordinary soldier - with no special training - who is just a little more accurate than the other troops. He can operate at short ranges as well as they can, which is something a full-fledge sniper can’t do.

I get that how a rifle can be made more accurate at long range but do these refinements hurt the close-in accuracy?
In other words, how can an LE rifle “tend to be more accurate than those used by military, and are set up for short to medium range targets.”

No, a rifle that is more accurate at distance will also be more accurate close up. However, a rifle could be “set up” for shorter ranges by having, for instance, a less powerful scope with a larger field of view.

From a guy I met who trains snipers (as I best recall it):
Many rifles are optimized for accuracy at 100 yards (or 100 meters), because this is where accuracy is most commonly evaluated and reported. For best accuracy at “sniper” ranges (say, 800 meters and up), you want increased muzzle velocity and rifling twist rate, both of which can compromise short-range performance slightly.

Among long range shooters who compete at Palma and such, it is common knowledge that some bullets do not fully stabilize until they are out into what lesser marksmen consider long range. This translates to their POI being more predictable at long range than at close range.

It hardly matters, though, because snipers don’t use their rifle against anything that close.

The barrel is precision bored to very fine tolerances. just because something is drilled out doesn’t mean it’s straight or the diameter of the hole or the rifling is consistent the entire length of the barrel. All this contributes to the ability of the bullet to exit in a consistent manner. It also affects how much explosive can be used in the cartridge firing the bullet.

I see. Why don’t they equip everyone with a scoped M4, then?

[A, hopefully accurate (hehe), nitpick]
Not accuracy, but consistency.

Two seemingly identical scoped rifles, both laser bore sighted for 100yds.

Rifle A is dead-on cold bore, but its grouping gets larger and larger as the barrel heats up.
Rifle B is 2 inches high and 1 inch left cold bore, and does this consistently as the barrel heats up.

A gunsmith might be able to improve rifle A’s performance, but rifle B only needs a tweak to its scope and it’s good to go.

CMC fnord!

Cost. Optics that are reasonably soldier-proof typically cost as much or more than the rifle on which they are mounted. Here in the US there are a good many AR-15 owners who covet an ACOG but can’t justify the cost to themselves. The Austrians and Canadians, among others, deserve kudos for being ahead of the curve on general issue of optical sights.

You are exactly right.

You mean he was on target. :smiley:

This is interesting. I have some reading/research to do.

The Canadian C79 is a relatively recent introduction, around the late '90s AFAIK. The Steyr and the SUSAT on the British SA-80 were both introduced much earlier, in the early 80s. The C79 is really a terrible example that proves your point. It uses a complicated external range adjustment mechanism in the mount that is heavy, bulky, and not particularly durable. The simple fixed sights on the Steyr and the SA-80 are far superior.

I don’t know what is meant here by “fully stabilize”, it makes no sense to me. However there is such a thing as a ballistic coefficient which is a measure of how easily a bullet travels through the air, and thus how much it is affected by wind, drag, air humidity, etc. One somewhat counter-intuitive result of this is that for accurate long range shooting, it is better to have a smaller calibre, higher speed bullet, because a smaller bullet is less affected by wind, the effects of which increase rapidly with the distances involved. Thus for 600-800m the various 6.5mm/.260 cal rounds are superior in accuracy to the 7.62mm/.308, for 800m-1000m the .338 cal and ..408 cal are superior in accuracy to the .50 BMG. Hence there is now increased interest in military sniper rifles of these unusual calibres.

So if I’m reading this thread correctly, it could be said that “sniper rifle” and “assault rifle” are synonymous?

my issue with that statement is that istm even if a bullet gets more accurate the further it travels, the inaccuracy up until that point would still affect the point of impact. If a bullet is 1 moa accurate at 300 meters, how can it be sub moa accurate at 900? Even if the round is 100% consistent after 400m, the inconsistenty of the less stable flight up until then would be throwing off the overall accuracy. It can never be more accurate than the least accurate leg of its trajectory.
But I could be missing something. I will have to look in to it.

It’s not a precise definition, but yes, in some cases you can in fact say that. Remember the Beltway Snipers from a few years ago? They used a semi-automatic variant of an M-16, an “assault weapon” as it were but still a suitable example to answer your question.

A sniper is nothing more than a very highly trained shooter that targets individuals from potentially great distances. A sniper rifle is the weapon he uses, and it can be anything, though the military does designate official weapons for their snipers because they have been rigorously tested and confirmed suitable for that purpose. But there’s no reason a sniper can’t take an M16 off the rack and go to work. With better weapons available it would be silly, but he could do it.

The cost issue has been addressed, but also, did you ever try to aim a rifle at short range through a scope with even as little as 4x magnification? It’s useless, the sight picture jumps around a great deal with every little twitch. The iron sights are perfectly adequate for the average soldier whose job is to deliver volume of fire on target in conjunction with his team. Snipers are not average soldiers, and aside from their spotter they work alone, not in squads, and they don’t take positions or attack objectives. It’s a question of the right instrument for the job.

Depends on who you agree with, me or Scumpup [strike]& Airman Doors[/strike] :slight_smile:

They say a sniper rifle is any rifle used by a sniper.

I say a sniper rifle is the more popular term for what Scumpup calls a “precision rifle”, a rifle designed for accurate long-range shooting.

An assault rifle is a rifle designed for short-to-medium range shooting, usually capable of semi-auto or automatic fire. Even assault rifles can be used by good marksmen to shoot at things in a sniper-like fashion, but they weren’t necessarily designed for that role.

The problem with that is that most snipers historically, and quite probably even today, did not and do not use advanced rifles of any kind. They’re present in nations with a lot of money to burn, but less wealthy nations have snipers, too, who quite happily use well-tested hunting rifles.

Bear in mind that modern armies don’t use iron sights that much any more - the choice for the regular infantryman is either a X4 scope or a reflex sight. It’s much easier to aim quickly with a reflex sight - that’s what they’re designed for - which makes them more efficient in shorter ranges, where speed is of an essence. Aiming with a magnifying scope takes longer and is largely unnecessary at under 50 meters, where much combat takes place.