The M40A1 Rifle
When I enlisted in the USMC my goal was to graduate Sniper School and carry the famed M40A1. At the time it was the only, truly dedicated sniper rifle out there. Developed in the late 70s and featuring the much sought after Unertl MST-100. I not only carried it, I was fortunate enough thave return stock built around an MST-100 to complete the package. August is the anniversary of my enlistment so let's look back at the M40s and see what all the fuss is about.
While it still has some DNA from the hunting rifles used during Vietnam, this purpose built sniper rifle started it all. The 10X Unertl was designed for speed featuring a Bullet Drop Compensating turret that also includes a Fine Turn lever giving the shooter +/- 3 MOA. It was also the first US Sniper Scope to have a Mil Dot Reticle. The wire reticle had wax dots dripped on them which when warm spread to an oval pattern. Many confuse the oval dots as the difference between the USMC Mils and Army Mils when in fact it was the base mil value that was different. The Army used the Military Mil of 6400 where the USMC used the true value fo 6283. This created the difference and not the design of the dot. The Military Mil was used for artillery.
Some may question the use of the Remington Action, but I found it very reliable. To this day I have a soft spot for a well built, trued Remington 700 Rifle.
The McMillan Fiberglass stock was used to prevent a moisture issue found with wooden stocks. The USMC is a often in and around water, wood is prone to changes when subjected to wet conditions. Another point of trivia, the stock had no ability to use a bipod. This is why we used to use our packs as a prone support. To this day we get people who ask about shooting off a pack. And while it is no problem in the field, especially when you just shoot a few shots, (Snipers were taught no more than 3 shots from any one location) it will move and compress under recoil upsetting the consistency of the shooter. It's not intended for long strings of fire. Our unit was known to use our Tent Poles tied together creating a tripod. We found this much more consistent than using a pack.
When it came time to upgrade the M40A1, the USMC made small changes to the usability of the rifle. This started off as simple change to the stock. Instead of a fiberglas hunting stock, they went with a more tactical type stock. They wanted the square fore-end to better support the front of the rifle. They added a several sling studs to reposition the sling as necessary, and it included a bipod. Also they added an adjustable cheek to better fit the shooter.
Keeping the Unertl scope which saw service with the USMC for better than 30 years, the action was upgraded to have a picatinney rail replacing the fixed rail and rings used in the A1. Around this time we had clip on type Night Vision scopes instead of using a scope that only fit on the M16. So with the addition of the SIMRAD you had a mount added to the Badger Rings to hold the Scope in place.
Once 9/11 happened the USMC Saw the need to again upgrade the M40. We started to learn a lot more about sniping and the limitations of the M40 as a fighting rifle began to show.
A bit of Trivia, Sniper's Hide was the launch point for the Badger Bottom metal that used the AICS Magazine. George Gardner from GA Precision and Myself convinced Marty from Badger to produce the bottom that would eventually be added to the M40. This removed the 5 round internal magazine, adding the ability to use 10 round mags as seen above.
Next it was time to replace the MST-100 with an updated scope. John Unertl had passed away and the fixed 10x was no longer optimal. So the USMC turned to Premier Reticles and Schmidt and Bender to add a 3-12x PMII Scope to the rifle. Featuring the Gen 2 Mil Reticle as well a MTC Turret to help the Marines rapidly manipulate the turrets. The S&B M8541 is a Mil Based Scope, using Mil Adjustmenst along with a Mil Reticle. Sniper's Hide was advocating hard to go Mil / Mil and some one was paying attention, literally.
Another small but important change, the Leather Turner Sling was replaced with a Nylon TIS (Tactical Intervention Specialists) Sling. Leather does not like saltwater I was always surprised it lasted as long as it did. Nylon is a much better option.
Other small changes were also made, like the addition of the Surefire Suppressor and the NV Bridge. The big and heavy SIMRAD was being replaced by smaller more effective clip on units, so the stock needed a bridge to work.
Still the rifle remained 308.
The next version will be the M40A7. This is taking the same barreled Remington Action and dropping it into a Remington Chassis. As I understand it, the barrel will again be chopped back and it will continue to have a suppressor.
Things are moving forward but the big question is, is the 7.62 the best caliber for the job ?
Lots of speculation about the future USMC Sniper Rifle. Some say they will simply turn to the Army PSR Rifle, the Remington MSR with the ability to go from 338, to 300WM to 308 thus for going the need to contract a new rifle. Others feel the USMC should continue to stand on their own. There were never a follower when it came to Sniping. Unfortunately they have fallen well beyond the World Wide Sniper Curve.
The Quesiton, where do you think they will go and should they simply adopt the Army Rifle ?
(I understandf I am skipping the M110, the SASR, and the XM-3, the topic is just the fate of the M40)
PPS (Told the A7 is actually gonna be an A6, blasphamy going to an even number)