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U.S. Army M24 SWS
|Calibre:||7.62x51mm NATO (.308 win)|
|Feed:||5-Round internal magazine|
|Weight:||12.1 lb (5.49 kg) empty without telescope|
|Sights:||10x42 Leupold Ultra M3A telescope sight (Mil-Dots),
plus detachable emergency iron sights. (Redfield Palma International)
|Barrel:||416R Stainless Steel, 24" length, 1:11.2" twist, 5 radial land grooves|
|Stock:||HS Precision - adjustable length.|
|Max Effective Range:||800 meters (875 yards)|
|Expected Accuracy:||1 MOA with M118
.5 MOA with M118LR
Thanks to Major John Mende (Ret.) who provided much of the development history of the M24 for this article.
The M24 Sniper's Weapon System (SWS) represents a return to bolt action sniper rifles by the US Army. As in the USMC M40A1, the M24 uses the Remington 700 action, although the reciever is a long action made for adaptation to take the .300 Winchester Magnum round. The stock (HS Precision) is made of a composite of Kevlar, graphite and fibreglass bound together with epoxy resins, and features an aluminium bedding block and adjustable butt plate. A detachable bipod (Harris) can be attached to the stocks fore-end. The metal finish is powder coated for extreme durability
The rifle had a very quick development cycle as the US Army had decided it wanted to get snipers back into the US Army and was in the process of developing the B4 identifier and the school to award it. There was a major short fall of M21's which was the standard sniper rifle at that point of time and the Army figured it would need 10,000 sniper rifles of which they didn't have nearly that many M21's. So a new sniper rifle was developed at the same time and it was done in a record 22 months. The Weapon System Matrix Manager for the M24 was Major John Mende and he explains that the long action actually had nothing to do with the ability to convert to a .300 Win Mag but was a product of that quick development time. The rifle was intended to be chambered in the .30-06 as the -06 was a type classified munition for the Army unlike the .300 WM at the time. They wanted to have a high power load for the .30-06 eventually developed. As development of the system was moving forward they discovered that there was not enough .30-06 ammo in a single lot in the Army's inventory to test and develop the system so they quickly changed to the 7.62x51mm NATO (308 Win) and left the action the same as there was not enough time for the manufacturers of the stock and floorplate to make the change to short action. They also fully believed they would later do a product improvement update and convert all the M24's to .30-06. The fact that they could convert them to .300 Win Mag was an unexpected benefit to the SF groups and was never actually designed into the system.
The actual rifle requirements for accuracy were .35 MOA from a machine rest and according to Major John Mende (ret.) this accuracy had to be maintained to 10,000 rounds. He stated, "Interesting side note was there was a 10,000 round requirement for the barrel to maintain the original accuracy. In fact after some 10,000 round tests we discovered the accuracy improved. A few barrels were tested past 20,000 and accuracy never went below the original accuracy requirement." I would have to say that is very impressive! The US Army barrel life states 5000 rounds and that sounds like they are being conservative. Based off of the experience I have, the rifles do shoot quite well if the shooter does his part. Apparently there were several other rifle makers who said they could build a better rifle for the required price, but they were not interested once they heard it would be 10,000 rifles and that they would be required to provide maintenance on those rifles for at least 5 years and with an Army option for 2 additional procurements. Remington was able to do it.
This is the one that I have a lot of experience with. I have used the M24 SWS extensively while a sniper in the US Army National Guard and find the rifle to be of very good quality. The entire system as a whole is very functional. I do NOT like the fact that it has a long action (even if it is adaptable to .300 Win, which the Army has no plan of doing beyond the few Special Forces groups that have done so) it causes feeding problems with the M118 & M118LR (7.62x51mm) if the rounds are not pushed all the way to the rear of the magazine. Throughout all of my use of this system, I have consistently maintained 1 MOA with M118, which is saying a lot when all we use is M118 ammo. The M118LR (175gr BTHP) performs considerably better and shoots about .5 MOA in the M24. I whole-heartedly believe that we have one of the best sniping SYSTEMS in the world.
The M24 & M118LR combination has proven itself very effective during OIF and Afghanistan. There have been kills made beyond 1100 meters, though those are not standard fair. But under 800 meters the system has proven everything that was hoped for. The US Army has accepted a new sniper rifle known as the XM110 which is a 308 semi auto built by Knights Armament. It is unclear whether this rifle is intended to replace the M24 or not, as there have been conflicting reports. One thing is clear, the field reports on the M24 have been very good and there was a strong outpouring of support for the M24 from field snipers when news of the XM110 was spread.
A second contract for the M24 was issued to Remington around 2001 (give or take a year) for some more systems with some minor changes. These changes included two piece leupold mk4 bases instead of the one piece on the first series rifles, and a swtich from Redfield international palma aux sights to another manufacturer (perhaps OK Webber?). Redfield was out of business by then, so a change had to happen. One important thing that happened when Remington redid this contract, and that was that there was no exclusion clause and Remington was and is now able to sell the M24 to others without US Army approval. So, the M24 can now be purchased by Law Enforcement agencies, and even civilians. They are expensive, but they are available. It is also worth noting that in the 1990's, Isreal purchased and used M24's. I believe they are still in Isreali use today.