U.S. Army looks to new sniper ammunition

The U.S. Army is exploring new ammo options to enhance the lethality of snipers equipped with the latest model sniper rifle

U.S. Army looks to new sniper ammunition

(Photo courtesy of DVIDS)

The U.S. Army is exploring new ammo options to enhance the lethality of snipers equipped with the latest model sniper rifle.

According to an August 14, 2014 announcement, the Army’s Office of Project Manager – Soldier Weapons is seeking information and attempting to identify qualified sources to produce .338 Lapua Magnum (LM) Armor Piercing (AP) ammunition.

The announcement explains that “Snipers are required to execute Combat, Combat Support and Combat Service Support missions across the Range of Military Operations that include conducting and supporting Joint Land Operations, Operational Movement and Maneuver, Reconnaissance, Anti-terrorism, Force Protection, Direct Action, Unconventional Warfare and Special Operations. In addition, Warfighters often conduct collateral activities such as Law Enforcement, Protective Service, Resource Protection, Civil Affairs, Peacekeeping  / Peace Enforcement operations, foreign and domestic humanitarian assistance and counter-terrorism operations.”

It adds that the new .338 LM AP ammunition would provide snipers with the ability “to effectively achieve the above mentioned mission out to 1,500 meters.”

The ammunition would most likely be employed in the MK21 Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR). In September 2013 the Remington Defense Division of Remington Arms Company announced that it has received the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) contract award to provide 5,150 PSRs and 4.6 million rounds of precision ammunition.

.338 LM is one of the selectable caliber options in the PSR system.

The recent announcement implies that the primary target set for the new AP ammo will be individual body armor, with the stated requirement to “reliably defeat body armor when fired from the MK21 Precision Sniper Rifle, both suppressed and unsuppressed, within a temperature range of -65F to 160F.”

Other identified minimum requirements include:

  • Velocity greater than or equal to 1340 ft/s at 1250m of travel
  • Unsuppressed precision of 2 MOA Extreme Vertical Spread (EVS) 5 round shot group at 914 m and a 2.5 MOA EVS 5 round shot group at 1500 m when fired from PSR in an accuracy fixture under ideal meteorological conditions 40 F to 125 F
  • 1000 ft-lbf of kinetic energy at 1500 m
  • Ability to defeat level IV body armor at 400 m
  • Ability to defeat both 3/8-inch rolled homogeneous armor (RHA) and 1/2 inch cast iron at 0 degrees obliquity and a range of 800 m

Interested respondents must not only describe how their .338 LM AP ammunition meets the stated performance specifications but also provide evidence of their capabilities for production and delivery of one million rounds of that ammo.

In addition to the recently stated AP ammo requirement, the Army has previously identified interest in exploring more radical sniper ammo designs. Specifically, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) Science & Technology “Gaps List,” which was released in October 2013, noted a requirement for “advancement in projectile design that will increase range and accuracy” of long-range ammunition.

Identifying what it described as “current limitations” in its long-range ammo, the gaps list stated that Army special operations forces currently use “100+ year old bullet technology for their standard precision projectiles in sniper applications,” further identifying that technology as “a lead core with a copper or gilding metal jacket that is formed/pulled around the core.” The announcement adds that “This technique works well but there are limitations to achieving a high Ballistic Coefficient (BC), balance, and weight consistency.”

That gaps list went on to identify possible materiel solutions and future / long term technical approaches, including: solid copper turned bullets, (bearing copper for lubricity / hardness); sub-caliber, sabot type projectiles; smooth bore capable projectiles either rifled or finned; and exploration of other nonabrasive/non-smearing metal or alloys for solutions.

In the meantime, respondents to the .338 LM AP announcement have until September 15th to submit their qualification data.