Squad Advanced Marksman Rifle (SAM-R)
The US Marine Corps Squad Advanced Marksman Rifle (SAM-R) initially consisted of the Trijicon Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG) mounted on top of a M16A4 with a match-grade heavy barrel and Harris bipod. It was intended as an interim solution. These weapons were produced by the Precision Weapons Section, Weapons Training Battalion, Quantico, Virginia. At the time, US Marine rifle squads had 2 sets of distinct weapons: 3 grenade launchers and 3 squad automatic weapons. If the Squad Advanced Marksman (SAM) experiment proved successful, they could get 3 SAMs as well.
Some squads used SAMs for effective long-range shots against single targets. Others put SAMs in over-watch positions to cover a squad's movement to an objective, while some used them to scour avenues of approach, gathering on-scene intelligence. The scope, which had a unique reticle pattern with a red chevron for a 300-meter aiming point, also improved the ability to range targets at unknown distances. The chevron's upside-down V fit squarely over the shoulders of a man-sized target at 300 meters. The 400-, 500- and 600-meter bars just below the chevron also fit within the outer limits of a man's shoulders at that distance. Marines, shooting the M16A2 with iron sights, had a first-shot hit rate of 45 percent on targets between 137 and 432 meters. With the SAMR, those rates were 88 percent.
The rifles were first distributed to II Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF). As there were not enough rifles to distribute to I Marine Expeditionary Force, a number of standard M16A4 rifles were equipped with bipods and the Trijicon ACOG, being referred to as the "West Coast SAM-R," in reference to I MEF's home station of Camp Pendleton, California. The original SAM-Rs, built in the eastern United States in Quantico and distributed to the II MEF, with its home station at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, were subsequently known as "East Coast SAM-Rs."
In support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) fielded equipment in response to Urgent Universal Need Statements (UNS), which provided additional capability to I MEF. At the request of the Combat Assessment Team, MCSC provided 3 officers to assess UNS / legacy system items. This was the second trip supported by MCSC personnel in theatre. One of the items evaluated was the West Coast SAM-R, which I MEF had taken with them to Iraq.
All personnel interviewed were extremely pleased with the performance of the West Coast SAM-R, and felt it "answered the mail" for the role of the Squad Advanced Marksman (SAM). All said the fixed 4-power ACOG sight that was included was the perfect solution. It gave them the ability to identify targets at distance, under poor conditions, and maintained ability to quickly acquire the target in the close in (MOUT/room clearing) environment. As above, many "stacked" it with the AN/PVS-14 to get a true night capability. No Marines present in interviews knew of any situation where the shooter could shoot the gun to its full capability or outshoot it.
Interviewees included STA platoon leadership and members who were school trained MOS 8541 Snipers. They saw no need for the accuracy and expense involved in the version being built for the East Coast SAM-R at Quantico. The standard M16A4 with issued optic more than satisfied their requirements. Distribution among battalions varied. One battalion received (6), one went to each of the 3 line companies and 3 to STA Platoon for the spotters. Other battalions received one per rifle squad.
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