Soon after arriving to Afghanistan with their new M110 SASS (Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle System), soldiers began sighting in the rifle alongside the venerable M24 SWS. Many snipers expressed reluctance to field such a departure from the bolt-action design but quite a few in the 82nd Airborne were anxious for the opportunity to test its mettle.
At an undisclosed location in southern Afghanistan last year, a sniper team armed with the new M110 deployed well ahead of a convoy in a known insurgent environment. Running along the supply route were steep and jagged mountains that provided the enemy with concealment and elevation. A specific point along the convoy’s path to an FOB (forward operation base) was often targeted by insurgent RPG and mortar teams who would shell the convoy before escaping through the mountains. Pursuit of this group was prevented by a river that ran along the road.
After an arduous hike onto a mountain opposite of the one used by the insurgents, the sniper team set up and observed. A long range rifle like the M110 would be necessary to cross the open valley that ranged more than 700 meters. As the convoy approached, the sniper team noticed movement through their Leupold optics as three insurgents scrambled to set up their position.
The first two shots were missed as environmental factors played an unexpected role on each bullet’s flight path. If the M110 hadn’t been suppressed, soldiers report that the enemy might have heard the audible crack and fled. On the third shot, contact was made and the bullet reportedly devastated the body. Before the enemy could flee, the semi-automatic design proved its value to the snipers by dropping a rapid follow-up shot on target. It was at this time, a young lieutenant opened fire with his M249 SAW and killed the third.
—Report By Eric R. Poole