US Marine snipers are known for their deadly skill. But their skill is often compensating for inferior equipment. Speaking with the Washington Post, current and former Marines say they've suffered in combat for 14 years with a sniper rifle that fails to perform accurately at the necessary range or hold up against weapons used by the Taliban and ISIS. While deployed in Afghanistan in 2011, Sgt. Ben McCullar says he was part of an eight-man sniper team that would exchange fire with Taliban fighters. "They'd set up at the max range of their [machine guns] and start firing at us," he says. As the team’s sniper rifles had a range of just 1,000 yards, "we really couldn’t engage them." The Marine Corps recently upgraded from the M40A5 to the M40A6, with a .308-caliber bullet, but the weapon still has a range of 1,000 yards, compared to 1,600 yards for the Chinese M99 and British L115A3.
"It doesn't matter if we have the best training," says a sniper. "If we get picked off at a thousand yards before we can shoot, then what's the point?" McCullar says the .300 Winchester Magnum used by the US Army offers a 1,300-yard range and better accuracy in bad weather. So why aren't they using it? Some point to Precision Weapons Section, a component of the Marine Corps contracted by Marine Corps Systems Command to build the M40. Its sole purpose is to build and repair Marine weapons, and eliminating it would mean downsizing the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps Systems Command says it has "evaluated several options for replacing the M40 series sniper rifle; however, the weapon continues to meet our operational requirements." Without a change, however, a current instructor warns "the Marines Corps is going to learn the hard way what happens when you bring a knife to a gunfight." (Read more Marines stories.)