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Image: U.S. Army

The Army is shipping powerful new rifles to its snipers in Afghanistan to kill insurgents who are firing from greater distances and shooting at troops more frequently than in the early years of the war.

The XM2010 sniper rifle can hit a target 3,937 feet away, which is a quarter-mile farther than the current Army sniper rifle shoots.

The added distance is important because insurgents have been shooting down from ridges and mountaintops where gravity helps their bullets travel farther and beyond the range of Army snipers.

“They’re not outgunning us, but they are putting our soldiers in a predicament where 800 meters (2,625 feet) may not be enough,” said Col. Douglas Tamilio, referring to the maximum range of the current M24 sniper rifle.

“Because of the expanse, you can see so far and you can engage so far,” Tamilio said. “You want to give guys the capability to do those things they need to do at those ranges.”

Afghan insurgents appear more willing to shoot at U.S. troops than in the past, according to Pentagon data. Gunfire attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan have spiked over the past year and in July 2009 topped 1,000 for the first time in the war. That mark has been topped several times since.

Afghanistan is full of craggy mountains, broad valleys and desert where insurgents can hide and shoot from long distances.

“There’s an enormous amount of terrain there that favors snipers,” said John Pike, a military analyst and director of Globalsecurity.org, a website dealing with defense matters.

Source: Tom Vanden Brook for USA Today.

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Image: U.S. Army The Army is shipping powerful new rifles to its snipers in Afghanistan…