VICTORIA, Australia -- There are staples of weaponry in the armory of the Marine Corps that define the battlefield. One of these weapons is the M40 sniper rifle, which is the premier weapon of choice for the Marine Corps for long-range enemy engagements.
Based off of the Remington 700 bolt-action rifle, the M40 is a bolt-action rifle that fires .308 caliber rounds. The weapon has been in use in the Marine Corps since 1966, with the latest M40A5 variant introduced in 2009. This is the weapon that snipers with the Marine Corps Shooting Team grow accustomed to and are expected to be experts in operating it during competitions, such as the Australian Army Skill at Arms Meeting 2016 at Puckapunyal Military Area in Victoria, Australia.
“The M40 is a great weapon because it’s a bolt action so there’s less moving parts when you’re actually firing the weapon,” said Cpl. John Luze, a competitor with the MCST. “It’s built from the ground up at Precision Weapons Section so the parts fit together better. Being a bolt action, it’s easier to clean and holds a better group than other sniper rifles.”
Considering the expectations of proficiency, Marine snipers learn extensively about the M40 among other things at Scout Sniper Basic Course. The length of time before a Marine is qualified to operate a sniper rifle can vary, according to Luze.
“I was in the Sniper Platoon for about a year and a half before going to sniper school, and it took me two tries to get into sniper school,” said Luze. “Some guys will get into the platoon and go to Pre-Sniper School, which is a six-week course, before going to the basic course. So from the time they get into the platoon until they actually become snipers can be five to six months, however the average time is about a year.”
During their time in school, a student will learn other weapons systems besides the M40.
“We also train with the M110 (Semi-Automatic Sniper System), which is an AR-10 platform that fires .308 caliber rounds,” said Luze. “The M110 is good for what it was designed for, which is rapid target engagement and closer distances in an urban environment, but comparing it to the M40 for a long distance rifle the M40 beats it.”
Being a bolt-action rifle, the M40 carries some disadvantages with it that other sniper rifles do not have.
“It depends what your mission is,” said Luze. “One disadvantage is that we’re only issued five rounds per magazine, which means that’s only five shots and then you have to reload.
“Another disadvantage is that it’s heavy and is a bolt-action rifle so it’s a lot harder to engage targets rapidly.”
Because it requires precise firing on targets, snipers are expected to make the carrying and use of the M40 second nature, according to Luze.
“All shooters should have the rifle become an extension of themselves,” said Luze. “When I’m shooting and I’m not perfectly aligned then I’m not shooting as well as normal because I’m fighting it.
“You need to get to the point where whatever you’re thinking and wherever you move your rifle moves too.”