Why the US Air Force Is Replacing All Its Current Sniper Rifles

The M110A1 marksman rifle is set to replace the M24 sniper rifle and the M110 currently in use by the US Air Force.
us air force newest rifle

These rifles have had a good run, but they are much heavier than the advanced M110A1. This new rifle definitely got the attention of the US Air Force, which is now looking to replace them after seeing the outstanding performance of the M110A1 in the US Army tests and consequent deployment.

Was it really necessary to replace these rifles? What significant advantage the M110A1 offers to the US Air Force? How advanced is this new rifle?

The M110A1 marksman rifle

New Rifles for Squad Designated Marksman
New Rifles for Squad Designated Marksman by Andrew Mallett. Public Domain.

The M110A1 is a modern rifle made by Hecker & Koch, and it is derived from the German G28. The M110A1 rifle features a 7.62 x 51 mm caliber and an empty weight of 3.96 kilograms (8.73 pounds), which makes it lighter than most rifles.

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It is considered by many experts to be a suitable option for US Air Force needs due to its lightweight and excellent maneuverability in harsh conditions and terrains.

That’s why the M110A1 rifles will replace the M24 and M110 rifles manufactured by the U.S. Knight’s Armament Company. M110A1 is well known for its high accuracy and can hit targets up to 600 meters (656 yards) away. 

It can certainly hit targets well beyond 600 meters (656 yards). However, its accuracy decreases considerably beyond this range.

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In any case, long-range shooting depends on many factors and not only on the quality of the rifle, such as the weather and the sniper’s skill. And very long-range shooting is not the adopted norm of the US Air Force either.

The M110 and M24 are top rifles but its time to replace them  

061019-A-7603F-151
061019-A-7603F-151 by Bertha Flores. Public Domain.

Since the US Army started replacing the M14 due to its poor performance in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US Air Force also considered starting upgrading its rifles.

The M110 has recently been used in global conflicts such as War in Afghanistan, Iraq War, the Syrian Civil War, and War in Iraq. But, it will now be replaced by a lighter and more compact weapon since it requires a lot of maintenance and constant changes in its parts which makes it challenging to use in the long term.

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On the other hand, the M24 is a rifle that has been in service since 1988 and has been quite successful in different wars too… But like the M110, it is much heavier than the M110A1. And has a much slower fire rate than the M110A1 due to its bolt action firing mechanism, while the latter is semi-automatic with a 10 or 20-round detachable magazine.

The M24 weighs 5.4 kilograms (11.88 pounds), making it less practical in combat zones despite having enormous stopping power.

M110 and M110A1 Specs

M110 SASS
M110 SASS by Thomas Alvarez. Public Domain.

Both rifles are quite similar in performance. However, the M110 A1 has a more modern design, and its weight and maneuverability make it easier to carry in adverse conditions.

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M110 

  • Type: Sniper rifle/Designated Marksman Rifle
  • Origin: United States
  • Service: since 2008
  • Designed: 2007
  • Manufacturer: Knight’s Armament Company
  • Mass: 6.27 kilograms (13.84 pounds) 
  • Length: 1,029 millimeters (40.5 inches) 
  • Barrel length: 508 millimeters (20 inches)
  • Cartridge: 7.62×51 millimeters  NATO
  • Action: Gas-operated, rotating bolt
  • Rate of Fire: Semi-automatic
  • Effective firing range: 800 meters (875 yards) 
  • Feed system: 10 or 20 rounds

M110A1

  • Designed: 2016
  • Manufacturer: Heckler & Koch
  • Mass: 3.96 kilograms (8.73 pounds) 
  • Length: 899 millimeters (35.39 inches) 
  • Barrel length: 414 millimeters (16.3 inches)
  • Cartridge: 7.62×51 millimeters NATO
  • Action: Gas-operated, rotating bolt
  • Rate of Fire: Semi-automatic
  • Effective firing range: 800 meters (875 yards)
  • Feed system: 10 or 20 rounds 
  • Unit cost: $12,000 per rifle

The M110A1

With this new M110A1 marksman rifle, the US Army and the US Air Force have a reliable and robust weapon – which, although not of US origin, comes from one of the world’s best weapons manufacturers.

It will give the US Air Force special units more shooting confidence at relatively long distances and superior maneuverability that could not be achieved with longer-range bulky rifles.


Feature image credit: 44th IBCT M110A1 Range by Michael Schwenk. Public Domain.

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