2,000 Yards Away: The M82 Sniper Rifle Has an Amazing Range

2,000 Yards Away: The M82 Sniper Rifle Has an Amazing Range

Kyle Mizokami

Security, Europe


Very powerful.

Key point: This long-range rifle has served well.

One weapon system not only revolutionized the field of military sniping but also created an entire new category of weapon systems. Using an existing large caliber bullet and adapting it to the precision rifle platform, the innovative Barrett M82 sniper rifle practically created the category of large caliber rifles that equip military snipers worldwide to this day.

In 1982, Ronnie Barrett was a professional photographer taking photos of a military patrol boat on Tennessee’s Stones River. The patrol boat was armed with two M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun mounts. Barrett was intrigued by the guns and wondered if a rifle could be designed to fire the .50 BMG bullet.

With no firearms design experience or training, Barrett hand drew a design for a .50 caliber rifle. Barrett drew the rifle in three dimensions, to show how it should function, and then took his design to local machinists. Nobody was interested in helping him, believing that if a .50 caliber rifle was useful someone would have developed one by then. Barrett finally found one sympathetic machinist, Bob Mitchell, and the two set to work. Less than four months later, they had a prototype rifle.

Barrett’s first rifle, the Barrett .50 BMG, was completed in 1982. The Barrett .50 BMG was a shoulder fired, semi-automatic rifle designed around the .50 BMG cartridge. Unique among firearms, Barrett rifle’s barrel recoiled backward after firing. A rotating-lock breech block equipped with an accelerator arm used part of the recoil energy to push back the block on firing. This cycled the action, cocked the firing pin, and loaded a new round from a ten-round steel magazine.

The result was a weapon that should generate sufficient recoil to make repeated firings uncomfortable, but the use of recoil energy to cycle the action and the weapon’s weight reduced felt recoil. A double baffle muzzle brake that vented exhaust gasses to the left and right was added later and further reduced recoil.

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