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Born in the closing days of World War I, the .50-caliber cartridge came about when gunmaker John Browning was rushed to produce a heavy machine gun. To expedite things, he upscaled his already successful .30-caliber M1917 machine gun, proportionally scaling up its .30-06 cartridge and — voita, the .50 caltberl

Actually, this heavy machine gun was also the first .50-caliber sniper rifle, topped by a scope and fired single-shot during the Korean War. For the first time, an enemy could be engaged at such extreme range that he could not even hear the weapon's muzzle blast,

For lack of any other weapon that could reach the enemy soldiers he watched across Vietnam's An Lao Valley, legendary USMC sniper Carlos Hathcock similarly took the Unertl target scope off his Winchester M70 and put it atop a Browning .50 he'd selected for accuracy. Hath-cock's resulting 2,500-yard shot, the longest known sniper kill of the Vietnam War, actually was part luck, he once told me. As he explained it, the flight time for so distant a shot was about 3 seconds, requiring that he aim where he reckoned the man would be rather than where he was. As luck would have it, his target—an enemy soldier squatting to fill his canteen—stood at the last possible second. If he hadn't, that 709-grain slug would have passed harmlessly over his head.

Gunny Hathcock's long-range record stood for 30 years, until Master Corporal Aaron Perry, a Canadian sniper from the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Light Infantry, scratched an al Qaeda fighter at 2,675 yards in Afghanistan's remote Shahi Kot Valley. The shooter, a young corporal from Newfoundland, benefited from his spotter lazing the target for an exact range. His rifle was a McMillan bolt action, firing high-grade Raufoss Mk 211 ammo he'd scrounged from his American allies.

Since that 2002 shot, there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands, of .50-caliber engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, though none has yet surfaced that exceeds A Canadian sniper team in Afghanistan set a new the Canadian record. world record for long-range sniping in 2002.

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The author (R) with USMC sniping legend Carlos Hathcock, whose 2,500-yard record shot was exceeded only in 2002 by Canadian snipers in Afghanistan.

My good Special Forces friend Dr. B.R.G. Kaplan and his AMAC .50, which we fired extensively in the 1980s.

U.S. M2 ball ballistics, the British Mk 3Z, which is also a boat-tail and of identical weight and produces a muzzle velocity only 100 fps slower.

The good news is that American military snipers are no longer limited to such inconsistent ,50-caliber loads. The first of these newer rounds, the SLAP—or Saboted Light Armor Penetrator—incorporates a .30-caliber, 415-grain tungsten penetrator enshrouded by a plastic sabot. It's available as a standard round, the M903, or a tracer version, the M962. Exiting the muzzle at a whopping 4,000 fps, it's undoubtedly America's flattest-firing small-arms projectile, while also offering considerable armored steel penetration—some 3/4 inch at 1,500 yards. The downside is that the SLAP round is not compatible with some rifles becausc its greater length will not allow it to chamber or can cause damage to the throat. I've also heard stories of plastic sabot bits gumming up muzzle brakes or being blown back on spotters. The bottom line: before firing SLAP ammo in your rifle, know for certain that it fits your chamber and is not a hazard to fire.

Thanks to the assistance of a SEAL sniper based in Bahrain, you'll find on page 269 all the comeups and MOAs needed to fire M962 SLAP tracer all the way to 2,000 yards. Note that I've listed the "book" MOA comeups beside his fine-tuned "actual" MOA comeups.

You should start with the book elevations; then, like the SEAL, fine-tune them precisely for your combination of rifle, scope, and

U.S.

MILITARY .50-CAL. AMMUNITION

Type of Round

Marking

Muzz. Vel.

Max. Range

M2 Boattail Ball

No Marking

2930 fps

8140 yds

M2 AP

Black Tip

2930 fps

8140 yds

M8 AP/!ncendiary

Alum. Tip or Alum, w/ Blue

3050 fps

7117 yds

M20 AP/I nee n diary/Tracer

Aluminum Ring w/ Red Tip

3050 fps

7117 yds

M1 Tracer w/ Copper Jacket

Red/Maroon/Yellow Tip

2860 fps

6132 yds

M1 Tracer w/ Steel Jacket

Red/Maroon/Yellow Tip

3030 fps

5995 yds

M17 Tracer

Red/Maroon/Yellow Tip

3030 fps

5995 yds

M903/962 SLAP

Steel Tip in Amber Sabot

4000 fps

2500-t- yds

Mk 211 Mod 0 Raufoss

Green Tip w/ Silver Ring

2918fps

2500+ yds

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