Response to "Sniper Gripe"

By Richard (Rick) Boucher

While the author of the letter to Armed Forces Journal International is an exceptionally intelligent individual, he has come to some very debatable conclusions on the M24 Sniper Weapon System (SWS). I will try to debate each point as he brings them up and attempt to show where the author came to his conclusions. While I have shot in competition I would not call myself a target shooter cum dilettante sniper. I have experience, something I know the author does not. I worked with him at SOTIC in 1985 86 when he left the Army (the first time).

The first point he brings up is the H&S Precision stock on the M24 SWS. He states, unequivocally, that the stock "chips, cracks, and splits under normal banging around and the foam filling gives it the rigidity of styrofoam." We have had two stocks break during the 10 years that SOTIC has had the M24 SWS. Those two stocks were on weapons that were dropped by jumpers at 500+ feet above the ground. It should be noted, however, that we have had more than 15 weapons dropped under identical circumstances without breakage. The student used one of those weapons after the drop the next morning, for the final shot. He did not re-zero the weapon and he got a first round hit. Another weapon was run over by a deuce and half truck. That weapon's bolt was sticking through the gun case due to the pressure exerted on the weapon inside of the case. That weapon was fired and found to be fully functional and zeroed. The weapon was still used by students attending SOTIC 8 years after the incident. Next is the foam filling. If the weapon can support a 2 and 1/2 ton truck, how much rigidity is required? Of course I guess the aluminum-bedding block that runs from forestock to just behind the pistol grip doesn't add any rigidity. His complaint on the adjustable butt plate is nonsense and functions exactly as designed. The adjustable butt stock was designed to give "some" adjustment while allowing it to fit into the 1950 weapons container for airborne operations. If the butt plate is adjusted out to the very end of the adjustment than the butt becomes wobbly. This is a function of training not design flaw. The beaver tail forestock and swelled grip is a matter of taste and, again, training. The author's "technique" was to grip the forestock tightly and twist counter clockwise while simultaneously gripping the pistol grip and twisting clockwise in a counter twist manner. Try the technique!! It may work for him (though if it did I never witnessed it), but it does not work for most people. His final problem with the weapon was the aluminum-bedding block that does not return to zero. I do not know where his experience came from with the bedding block. WE disassemble weapons during SOTIC all the time. This includes on the range when the student has a problem. The weapon always returns to zero or at worse is .5 MOA out. This, of course, requires the weapon to be re-assembled exactly the same way as before zeroing. This is again a matter of training. I have found the M24 Stock to be a very durable stock that returns to zero as advertised. The author feels that the only way to have a sniper rifle is to bed the stock. This is the very thing that caused so many problems with the M21. The bedding is not durable enough for a stay in the boondocks over an extended period of time. Especially when gunsmith support is far far away. The requirement of assembly and disassembly cycles for cleaning in the boonies could have some negative impact on the accuracy of the weapon. Then again the author does not have that experience. His answer to the adjustable stock is a fixed stock that would require disassembly of the weapon to place in the 1950 weapons container for airborne operations. Of course unsupported bedding of a bedded stock impacting on the ground would be quite interesting and quite possibly, mission ending.

Next is the odd statement that the M3A is a joke. Hmmm. Guess a lot of people have bought that joke. We decided on the full MOA adjustments to negate the need to rotate the elevation dial more than one full rotation. "Experienced" snipers knew from experience that, under the stress of combat, it was very easy to be one full revolution, or 15 MOA, off on your elevation. This is of course a miss. Also, since 1 MOA adjustments means that you can only be 1/2 MOA out on your zero at most than the expected error would be 4" at 800 yards. This DOES NOT mean a miss. As far as the adjustments being sticky and mushy and do not equate to corrections placed on the weapon, I do not know which scopes he messed with but ours adjust fine and are accurate. If not then they are replaced. The parallax adjustment is required on any scope if true accuracy is to be obtained and if the scope shifts zero with adjustment then get rid of it. I have seen this shift one time and we replaced the scope. Again the scope does return to zero with mounting and dismounting if the correct procedures are followed. The scopes at SOTIC still return to zero after dismounting even though they have over 60,000 rounds of recoil cycles on them. The author's ideal scope is a 6 8 power fixed scope with post reticule and fixed parallax. Unfortunately he couldn't hit movers or snap targets past 500 with 500 on the scope. The post hid the target.

The long action for the M24 was the decision of Fort Benning to allow for adoption of longer cased ammo such as the 300 Win Mag. This is unfortunate since this does cause a problem with jams if the 308 is not properly loaded into the internal magazine. Oh, this is a function of training isn't it. The 308 is iffy at best at 800 meters and it was recognized that a weapon was needed for the intermediate ranges of 800 to 1200 meters. The other problem is night shooting where reading the wind is next to impossible. The larger round bucks the wind better and is more forgiving of a bad wind call. The 300 Win Mag was one of the choices and to save money the army decided to plan ahead. This can be debated but clubbing to death is ludicrous on the face and criminal in intent. It had absolutely nothing to do with "Target Shooters".

The "Pet Rock" that the author so lovingly mentions was to allow the sniper team two sniper rifles, and fire power not afforded by two bolt action weapons. Anyone with the smallest amount of combat experience knows that two bolt guns will not defend a team. Somalia, unfortunately, drove this home and people with no sniper experience, such as the author of "Sniper Gripe," is what killed the Security Sniper System. Maybe the cloth that the author speaks of is shrouding his ability to reason.

About the Author

Mr. Boucher is presently a civilian GS-9 ("Government Servant") instructor with the Special Operations Target Interdiction Course (SOTIC) at Fort Bragg North Carolina. He helped start SOTIC in 1985 and was the NCO in charge until 1989. He worked on the M24 project and helped test it prior to it being adopted by the Army. He was a sniper in Special Forces from 1968 until 1990, working real-world missions in some rather exotic locales. He trained snipers with 7th SFG (A), 75th Rangers, 7th Infantry Div. and 82nd Airborne Div. for Operation Just Cause. Mr. Boucher also deployed to Panama with the 7th SFG (A) for Operation Just Cause. Following his retirement from the military in 1990, he contracted to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm as an instructor for the Royal Guard in Counter Sniper Techniques in the protection of the King and the Royal Family.

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