SOCOM (Special Operations Command) was created in 1987 to manage our nation’s special operations elements. The War on Terror has soldiers from SOCOM deployed at the sharp end of the spear around the world, in both rural and urban environments. The unprecedented OPTEMPO (operational tempo) has required SOCOM be given an adequate budget to ensure that the men who do the war’s heavy lifting are adequately trained and equipped. SOCOM units also operate in rapidly changing conditions, using methodologies and techniques not ideally suited to larger conventional units due to their complexity and risk. After carefully factoring in all the above considerations, SOCOM recently opened a solicitation for a new PSR (Precision Sniper Rifle) that would be required to perform out to 1,500 meters. The rifle you see featured here is Remington’s patent-pending response.

remington2Mission Essential Needs Statement
SOCOM generated their list of requirements based on input from the soldiers serving in that command. The rifle can weigh no more than 18 pounds with a loaded five-round magazine, the stock has to be removable or foldable, no component can be longer than 40 inches, M1913 rails are required and the barrel must be changeable by the operator in less than 20 minutes. The rifle must be capable of 10-round shot groups with less than 15 inches of vertical dispersion at 1,500 meters. All in all, SOCOM is asking for a lot.

SOCOM did not specify a caliber in this solicitation, but it’s a safe bet that the rifle will eventually be chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum. The BC (ballistic coefficient) of the .338 Lapua is exceptional, as is its muzzle velocity. Some would argue in favor of other calibers that might outperform the .338 Lapua in either the BC or muzzle velocity. What none of those other calibers offers, however, is compatibility with our NATO allies, meaning that we, alone, would bear the logistical burden of keeping our guns fed on the battlefield.

Big Green’s Multi-Cal Response

The people at Remington responded to SOCOM’s solicitation with their entirely new MSR (Modular Sniper Rifle). I recently had an opportunity to spend some time with the MSR evaluating its features and sending some rounds down range in the process. I wish to congratulate the folks at Remington for answering the call from SOCOM and hope that this rifle is selected for the contract. I served for a few years as a Special Forces team leader (including a couple years on a sniper team) and can see how much this rifle has to offer the community.

Let’s take a look at the rifle. The feature that immediately drew my attention was the interchangeable barrel and bolt face. This feature enables the operator to rapidly switch between 7.62mm NATO, .300 Win Mag and .338 Lapua Mag using just one action and chassis. The operator can also choose between barrels ranging from 20 inches to 27 inches. This feature alone makes the rifle a front-runner for SOCOM.

SOCOM soldiers often operate far away from the larger bases and for extended periods of time. They are also notorious for outrunning their logistical support when a war starts, such was the case in both operations OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom) and OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) during the opening months of each. In Afghanistan, they man remote firebases that are often only re-supplied by air. Space for supplies is precious and weight is always an issue. Ammo is heavy and a pain to move, so the special operations crowd frequently runs low, or out of, specific types of ammo. I remember several times having limited quantities of specific types of ammunition at our firebase because of the supply issues associated with ammunition. At one point we quit training with our 9mms for fear of running out.

With the specialized ammo required by snipers, it’s a safe bet that at some point the firebases in Afghanistan will run low or maybe even out (it’s happened before) of a newly fielded caliber like the .338 Lapua. With Remington’s MSR the operator can change it to 7.62mm or .300 Win Mag, confirm their zero and keep shooting. Any other rifle would become a paperweight. This flexibility in weapon systems should become a benchmark for all SOCOM solicitations. The soldiers perform a wide variety of missions under impossible conditions, and so should their weapons.

Another issue Remington solved with the easily re-barreled MSR is the time lost when Special Operations snipers have to send their rifles out for new barrels. The sniper team I served on had several different types of weapons assigned to it. Some 14 weapons were bolt action rifles (M-24s and M-40XBs) and at any given time, three or four of them needed to be sent out for re-barreling.

Over the course of several months, one of the team’s weapons sergeants made more than one trip to the arms room to arrange for re-barreling. Each ended with a lot of profanity and some hurt feelings. The manufacturer was willing to re-barrel, the team needed the work done, but typical guv’mint bureaucracy morphed a simple-enough request into a convoluted and time-consuming process. The result was that the rifles sat for an extended period of time, unavailable to the men who needed them. With the MSR, the weapons sergeant can do the job himself in the team room or at the firebase in about three and a half minutes.

Unique Features
Another prominent feature of the MSR is the chassis. It has a tubular fore-end and side-folding stock and represents one of the most comfortable systems I’ve had the pleasure to shoulder. The tubular fore-end can be changed to a variety of different lengths and has several attachment points for M1913 rails, enabling the operator to mount lasers and illuminators wherever he so desires. There are a plethora of stocks available to today’s sniper. Most are conventional stocks.

If you’ve ever carried one of these stocks for days at a time or tried to do any positional shooting with one, you know that they’re a terrible choice for a tactical rifle destined for combat. The square fore-end does not fit the non-firing hand well and quickly becomes uncomfortable to the point of distraction. The inability to collapse or fold most stocks on sniper rifles, also makes them unwieldy when getting in and out of vehicles or helicopters or when jumping from an airplane. When slung across one’s back, the non-folding stock will hang up in every doorway and low wall that the operator encounters, making for slow and frustrating movement.

Remington is one of only two manufacturers that currently produce a folding chassis with tubular fore end designed to work with bolt-action rifles. The chassis on the MSR represents what a sniper on the battlefield needs from his rifle. The ability to mount lasers, illuminators and a bipod at multiple points provides the operator the ability to configure his rifle to meet mission requirements. The foldable stock makes it easy to transport. The moveable M1913 rails also allow the operator to attach the rifle, using a LaRue QD mount, to a camera-or spotting-scope tripod for em­­­­ployment in urban hides. This is a feature previously only available to AR-style rifles and enables the shooter to employ a solid rest for kneeling or standing positions.

The MSR is also unique in that it’s the only sniper rifle that I’d want to jump exposed during military free fall operations, thanks to its short length and one smooth side. While this is of no particular concern for us civilians, it is a big deal to SOCOM who requires snipers to be free-fall qualified. What’s a sniper to do after his high-speed low-drag HALO insertion if he can’t jump with his sniper rifle? Throw rocks? Use strong language?

The MSR makes this all possible by having a folding stock that pivots to the working side of the gun and encapsulates the bolt handle. This leaves the opposite side of the rifle free of any protrusions that might snag on a riser and also makes the rifle short enough to jump exposed. Weapons must be jumped exposed on free-fall operations because a weapons case on one side of your body in free fall will act like a wing. Said wing would make it impossible to stabilize (and spin you like a top) upon exiting the aircraft. Until you hit the ground…at about 120 mph.

The folks at Remington also thought far enough ahead to make the detachable box magazine long enough to accommodate the .338 Lapua Mag, plus future VLD (Very Low Drag) bullets currently under development. The magazine can accommodate .338 rounds loaded to an overall length of just a hair more than 4 inches, significantly longer than the standard 3.68-inch overall cartridge length commonly found in this caliber. The SOCOM solicitation has generated a lot of interest in the .338 from several bullet manufacturers and a few VLD bullets with their correspondingly higher ballistic coefficients are under development. Fortunately for Remington, the MSR is the only rifle currently designed and configured to shoot them.

Shooter’s Evaluation
I couldn’t wait to put a few rounds through the MSR. Making adjustments to the stock was quick and easy. The stock has an adjustable cheek rest and length-of-pull: Both were intuitive and easy to adjust. The horizontal surface area near the toe of the stock is perfectly sized for a sand sock or rear bag for those who shoot off a bipod, as I did.
The action is made from titanium and the bolt has a short 60-degree throw thanks to the three locking lugs. I give the trigger pull high marks for having an acceptable weight and minimal creep. The magazines slid in and out of the mag well quickly and easily.

The MSR comes with cut-rifled barrels of varying lengths. The barrel we had for the day of shooting was new and had yet to be broken in. However, this same rifle had on previous occasions averaged .3 MOA at 300 meters with the .338 Lapua and .5 MOA at 1200 meters with the .300 Win Mag. That was in the hands of Todd Hodnett from Accuracy First. Todd is a well-known instructor in the Special Operations community.

Firing the rifle in .338 Lapua Magnum myself, I found it to be a pussycat. The .338 generates minimal recoil that poses no complications for lengthy range sessions. The monolithic rail running along the top of the receiver and chassis has a 20 MOA bias that is interchangeable to 40 or 60 MOA. There is no threat of running out of come-up adjustments on your scope should you decide to shoot out to 1500 meters with this rifle.

Of note, SOCOM will be taking all accuracy measurements for the PSR solicitation at 1,500 meters. A successful contender must be able to hold 1 MOA vertical dispersion at that distance. This is a first for the sniping community and reflects SOCOM’s belief that we should train as we fight. If the rifle will be fired on the battlefield at 1,500 meters, then we should make sure it’s accurate enough at that distance to be effective. Based on preliminary accuracy tests with the MSR, Remington has nothing to worry about.

What’s Next?
The folks at Remington’s Military Products Division have created a truly innovative and adaptable contender for the SOCOM solicitation. While others might be content to focus merely on producing an accurate rifle, Remington did that and with this rifle also simultaneously solved some of the military’s lingering supply, support and employment issues. The ability to jump this rifle and then use whatever ammo is available once on the battlefield without relying on any external support makes the MSR the rifle to beat. It also offers the Special Operations community a long-awaited solution to their sniping woes. The MSR is the first rifle capable of meeting every mission set presented to SOCOM’s snipers.

I’m very gratified to see the firearms industry develop products that offer unequivocal advantages to our nation’s soldiers. It’s a tall order to design and manufacture such a product, but Remington did it with the MSR. While initial production will be exclusively for the military, Remington plans to offer the MSR to the civilian sector in the near future. Remington, please put my name at the top of the list when these become available.

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