M24 7.62mm Sniper Weapon System

The M24 Sniper Weapon System is a 7.62mm, bolt-action, 6-shot repeating rifle (one round in the chamber and 5 rounds in the magazine). It is used with either the M3A telescope (day optic sight, usually called the M3A scope, a 10x fixed Leupold M3 Ultra telescope) or the metallic iron sight. Various night vision optics can also be fitted, such as the AN/PVS-10 Sniper Night Sight. The stock is made of a Kevlar, graphite, and fiberglass composite bound together with epoxy resins, and features an aluminum bedding block and adjustable butt plate. A bipod can be attached to the stock's fore end.

The rifle weighs almost 15 pounds with a loaded magazine, scope, and sling, and about 12 pounds by itself. It is about 43 inches long, with a 24-inch barrel. The barrel's rifling has 5 lands and grooves and 1 twist in 11.2 inches. The weapon's maximum effective range is set at 800 meters, but it can fire a round up to about 1,200 meters away, and hit the target depending on the skill of the shooter.

The M3A scope was an optical instrument that the sniper uses to improve his ability to see a target clearly in most situations. Usually, the M3A scope presents the target at an increased size (as governed by scope magnification). The M3A scope helps the sniper to identify the target using 3 dials to hone in: elevation, focus and wind ranges.

The M24 rifles was designed to use the specialized M118 cartridge, a special ball cartridge with a bull consisting of a gilding metal jacket and a lead slug. It is a boat-tailed bullet, that is to say that the rear of the bullet is tapered, and weighs 173 grains. The tip of the bullet is not colored. The base of the cartridge is stamped with the year of manufacture and a circle that has vertical and horizontal lines, sectioning it into quarters. The shot spread for a 10-shot group was to be no more than 12 inches at 550 meters when fired from an test barrel in a test cradle.

Regular 7.62mm ball ammunition was to be used in the rifle only in an emergency situation. No damage would occur to the barrel when firing regular 7.62mm ball ammunition. However, the M3A scope's bullet drop compensator was designed for M118 special ball, and there would be a significant change in zero. Therefore the rifle would not be as accurate when firing regular 7.62mm ball ammunition. For reference, snipers were instructed to test fire 7.62mm ball ammunition from the weapon and record the ballistic data in their weapon's data book.

The M24 Sniper Weapon System was to always be cleaned before firing. Firing a weapon with a dirty bore or chamber could multiply and speed up any corrosive action. Oil in the bore and chamber of an M24 could cause pressures to vary and first-round accuracy to suffer. Firing the M24 with oil or moisture in the bore could also cause smoke that might disclose the firing position. Snipers were instructed to clean and dry the bore and chamber before departure on a mission and use extreme care to keep the M24 clean and dry en route to the objective area.

The M24 Sniper Weapon System also had to be cleaned after firing since firing produced deposits of primer fouling, powder ashes, carbon, and metal fouling. Although the weapon's issue ammunition had a noncorrosive primer that made cleaning easier, the primer residue could still cause rust if not removed. Firing left 2 major types of fouling that required different solvents to remove. These were carbon fouling and copper jacket fouling. The M24 had to be cleaned within a reasonable time after firing. Snipers were instructed to use common sense when cleaning between rounds of firing. Repeated firing would not injure the weapon if it was properly cleaned before the first round was fired.

The M24 Sniper Weapon System, fielded in 1988, represented a return to bolt action sniper rifles by the US Army. As in the US Marine M40A1, the M24 used the Remington 700 receiver group. The draft letter requirement for the Army's M24 sniper rifle required a probability of hit (PH) at 800 meters of 95 percent. The market research indicated the required probability of hit might be too high to attain. After evaluating the market investigation data, the acquisition team recommended that the requirement be relaxed. It was reworded to indicate a required PH of between 85 and 95 percent at the 800 meter range. The team's logic was that 95 percent was the original requirement and a PH of 85 percent was at least comparable to the PH of the existing USMC M40A1 sniper rifle. The team also recommended reducing the service life of the rifle from 15,000 to 10,000 rounds based on their market research.

The original Basis of Issue Plan for the M24 Sniper Weapon System was for it to be used by trained marksman to delivery precision fire at selected targets in support of assigned missions requiring engagement of designated personnel or materiel objectives up to 800 meters. The M24 would replace the M21 Sniper Rifle System on a selected basis throughout the US Army. A total of 45 would be authorized for the US Army JFK Special Warfare Center and School and 22 would be authorized for the US Army Infantry School. Each Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (SFOD-A or A Detachment) would be authorized 2, as would the Scout Platoon in the Light Infantry Battalion. One would be authorized to the Rifle Company in the Mechanized Infantry Battalion and to designated individuals in Military Police Special Reaction Teams. Ranger Battalions, Mountain Infantry Battalions, and the Cellular Sniper TOE would all see the M21 replaced on a one for one basis with the M24.

Although chambered for the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge, the M24's reciever had also been made for adaptation to take the .300 Winchester Magnum round. By 1990, the US Army was exploring options to rebore the M24 to the .300 Winchester Magnum round, hoping to eventually replace some or all of the 7.62mm M24s with weapons in this caliber.

The US Army put out a request for proposals for a Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS) in 2004, to replace the M24 Sniper Weapons System. The weapon would supplement the sniper's role to support combat operations with greater firepower and greater possible standoff ranges to improve sniper survivability. In late 2005, the contract for the SASS was awarded to Knights Armament Company, with the weapon being designated as the XM110. The SASS was intended to dramatically improve sniper operations with a higher rate of fire than the M24 Sniper Weapon System and better address the target-rich urban environments in Iraq and Afghanistan, with a weapon of comparable weight.

The requirement again for a rifle fitting the M24's basic description, but chambered in a more powerful cartridge was spelled out in the Operational Needs Statement submitted by the 10th Mountain Division on 14 March 2006, while conducting operations in Afghanistan. The resulting M24E1 Enhanced Sniper Rifle (ESR) initiative was a congressionally mandated effort to upgrade the M24 Sniper Weapon System with a Headquarters, Department of the Army directed urgent requirement to outfit deployed Operation Enduring Freedom units with a sniper system capable of firing .300 Winchester Magnum ammunition. The Army put out a sources sought notice in May 2009 and a request for proposal in January 2010. Remington Arms was selected as the contractor for the weapon in September 2010. In October 2010, the M24E1 was redesignated as the XM2010, when it was determined that the weapon was distinguished by its advanced design and represented a quantum upgrade over the existing M24.

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