A total capacity of five rounds—one in the chamber and four in the fixed magazine—is adequate for a sniper rifle. Single-shot, hand-fed weapons may be suitable for benchrest competition, but they're just too limiting for sniping. Still another useful feature is a hinged fioorplate to facilitate safe unloading.
The majority of sniper rifles, including the Remington in its many military and police variations, fit this bill. If I had my way, however, all sniper rifles would employ short, detachable magazines that fit close to the receiver. Not only would this speed reloading but also provide a rigid container for protecting ammo. It would also allow the sniper to segregate specialized rounds, such as tracer or barrier penetrators, which he might need on short notice.
Remington fielded rifles with detachable box magazine a few years ago, but after testing several and observing student rifles at Gunsite, I just wasn't satisfied that the magazines were rugged or reliable enough for sniper operations. The latest Remington M24A2 sniper rifle uses a much more rugged detachable magazine. Some custom rifle builders, including McMillan and Robar, incorporate 20-round or chopped-down 10-round M14 magazines on some rifles, which fits this requirement to a tee.
A number of European sniper rifles—such as the Sako TRG-41 and the Accuracy International AW—-have solidly built, compact 10-round magazines. The Steyr SSG employs a five-round rotary magazine that also prevents bullet tip damage from recoil, which I like a lot. Its larger 10-round version protrudes beneath the stock and could interfere with some shooting positions, so it's probably not as practical.
Talking about protruding magazines, I urge USMC and U.S. Army Squad Designated Marksmen to scrounge old 20-round magazines for their scoped Ml6s. I've been in a lot of gunfights with both 20- and 30-roundcrs and can attest to the advantage of the shorter magazine for getting your body close to the ground. That's one of those little things that can make all the difference when someone's shooting at you.
Rifles lacking detachable magazines are still effective weapons, but I've never seen either a military or law enforcement sniper practice rapid manual reloading, and that troubles me. In fact, most live-fire range practice involves hand-feeding one round at a time. If these snipers must ever completely reload while under stress—especially the stress of hostile gunfire—they likely will move clumsily and much too slowly.
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Deer hunting is an interesting thing that reminds you of those golden old ages of 19th centuries, where a handsome hunk well equipped with all hunting material rides on horse searching for his target animal either for the purpose of displaying his masculine powers or for enticing and wooing his lady love.