In 2008, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) released a solicitation for a Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) designed to engage targets at 1,500 meters and beyond.
In response to the solicitation, Barrett Firearms developed the Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) precision rifle. Designed by Chris Barrett, the president of the company and son of Ronnie Barrett, the MRAD quickly became Barrett’s flagship bolt gun. Available in .338 Lapua Mag, .300 Win Mag and 7.62mm NATO, the MRAD is a modular design that allows the user to easily convert the rifle to other calibers in minutes by simply changing the barrel and bolt. The action and barrel are mounted in a two-piece aluminum chassis that features a folding stock. Last year, I had the opportunity to review the 7.62mm NATO version of the MRAD. I came away impressed with the quality and versatility of the design. The Barrett 98B could be considered the little brother of the MRAD, and I recently tested the Tactical variant in 7.62mm NATO.
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To meet accuracy requirements, Barrett starts with match-grade barrel blanks that are machined in-house to exacting standards. The 98B Tactical features a heavy-profile, 22-inch barrel with a 1-in-10-inch twist rate and a 2-inch, two-chamber muzzle brake. The 98B is available in black, OD green, brown, Flat Dark Earth and tungsten grey. I requested a test rifle in the tungsten grey color and was not disappointed.
Like the MRAD, the 98B is constructed on a hinged upper and lower aluminum chassis. The upper receiver starts as an extruded block of 7000 series aluminum that is precisely machined to exacting tolerances on one of Barrett’s many CNC centers. An integral Picatinny accessory rail with a 20-MOA taper runs the length of the upper receiver and provides a solid platform for optics and other accessories. Following the latest trend, the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock sides of the rail are smooth and feature seven KeyMod attachment points. A series of elongated slots located along the handguard reduce weight and help dissipate barrel heat.
The lower receiver and stock are machined from a billet of aluminum. The straight line of the stock follows the line of the bore. The buttstock portion of the lower receiver is skeletonized to reduce weight. An adjustable cheekpiece provides a positive cheekweld for consistent placement of the shooter’s head. The trigger is a modular design that can be fully adjusted by the user. The module can be easily removed for cleaning or replacement by simply removing the M4-style thumb safety. This allows easy access for cleaning and, if needed, replacement. The triggerguard opening is 2.25 inches in length, providing ample room if the shooter is wearing gloves. The thumb safety can also be configured for either left- or right-hand operation and, when in the “fire” position, rests at a 45-degree angle. The contoured polymer pistol grip has a storage compartment in the butt. A flared magazine well accepts Barrett’s polymer 10-round magazine, which is released via a paddle located at the rear of the magazine well.
To disassemble the 98B, the user depresses the release button located on the bottom of the lower receiver, just behind the pistol grip. The upper receiver is then pivoted upward, allowing the bolt group to be removed out of the back of the upper receiver. The bolt group is similar to an M4’s in that it consists of a carrier and a bolt. To remove the bolt from the bolt carrier, the striker tension is relieved, allowing the bolt retaining pin to be removed. The bolt is then removed from the carrier much in the same manner as an M4 bolt. The smooth bolt action is enhanced by the use of a polymer bolt guide that also acts as a dust cover when the bolt is closed.
“The aluminum chassis is impervious to weather and harsh climate conditions that could play havoc with a synthetic-stocked rifle.
Barrett shipped the 98B Tactical in a custom, foam-fitted box and was kind enough to include a Leupold 4.5-14x50mm Mark 4 LR/T optic mounted in Barrett’s massive rings. The Mark 4 features a 30mm tube, a 50mm objective, 0.25-MOA High Speed turrets and a mil-dot reticle. This optic is an ideal match for the 98B and is the choice for many law enforcement tactical teams. My Lyman electronic trigger gauge measured the average trigger pull on the test rifle at 2.88 pounds. The take-up was smooth, and the break was very crisp.
For range work, I attached an Atlas bipod and mounted SureFire’s M600P Fury Scout light. The M600P is powered by two 123A lithium batteries that provide 600 lumens of bright white light. The light is very compact, with an overall length of less than 6 inches. Like other SureFire weapon-mounted lights, the M600P comes standard with a push-button tail cap and a tape switch with a 7-inch cable. An integral mount uses a thumbscrew clamp that attaches to any Picatinny rail.
On the range, the straight-line design of the stock, combined with the muzzle brake, minimized felt recoil and allowed me to stay on target. The bolt’s large handle and smooth operation allowed each new round to be chambered in an efficient manner. Those who handled the rifle noted the ergonomics of the pistol grip, which reduces strain on the hand and wrist.
I was fortunate to have on hand a good selection of tactical 7.62mm NATO ammunition. The loads I selected included 175-grain Sierra MatchKing bullets loaded by ASYM Precision and PNW Arms. I also included some of the excellent Swiss-P Styx and Tactical loads from RUAG. The 167-grain Styx load is designed for maximum terminal ballistics with minimum penetration, while the 164-grain Tactical load is designed to be a barrier penetrator with effective terminal ballistics. The Swiss-P ammunition is unique in that both loads are designed to have the same point of impact with the same point of aim out to 200 yards.
“On the range, the straight-line design of the stock, combined with the muzzle brake, minimized felt recoil and allowed me to stay on target.”
All range testing was conducted at SOWW Tactical just outside of Waverly Hall, Georgia. This relatively new facility includes multiple firing points and a rifle range that extends out to 300 yards. The ASYM load averaged 2,636 fps while the PNW Arms load averaged 2,574 fps. Both loads had an extreme spread of 36 fps and 35 fps, respectively. The RUAG Styx load averaged 2,588 fps while the Tactical load averaged 2,762 fps. With the exception of the Swiss-P Tactical, all loads had an extreme spread of less than 37 fps.
At 100 yards, the ASYM produced a five-shot group that measured 0.74 inches while the PNW group measured 0.6 inches. The Swiss-P Styx produced a 0.69-inch group while the Tactical group measured 0.75 inches. We then moved to 200 yards and shot several additional five-shot groups. At that range, the ASYM group measured a mere 0.89 inches while the PNW load opened up to 2.07 inches. The Swiss-P Styx and Tactical groups measured 1.37 and 1.67 inches, respectively. This level of performance is indicative of both the quality and design of the 98B. Certainly, the rifle’s ergonomics and weight, when combined with a world-class optic, will negate any shooter’s excuses!
While based on a design for the military special operations community, the Barrett 98B Tactical is a multi-role rifle that is well suited for the law enforcement community. The aluminum chassis is impervious to weather and harsh climate conditions that could play havoc with a synthetic-stocked rifle. In addition, should the rifle be exposed to the elements, it can be easily stripped and cleaned in just a few minutes without any tools. It is also significantly more rugged than traditional sniper platforms. While the weight is a limitation in rural settings, in urban environments, or when used from an aerial or marine platform, the advantages and design of the 98B are obvious.
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While the 7.62mm NATO is more than adequate for most urban tactical engagements, the Barrett 98B is also available in 7mm Remington Magnum, .300 Winchester Magnum, 6.5 Creedmoor and .260 Remington for other missions and requirements a law enforcement countersniper might have. The basic Barrett 98B rifle retails for approximately $4,500. While this is a significant investment, I believe the Barrett 98B will serve its agency or officer reliably for many years of duty.
For more information, visit barrett.net or call 615-896-2938.