Tag Archives: marine sniper

Pour One Out for the Scout Snipers…

Marine Sniper with a Springfield 1903A1 and Unertl 8-power scope. Note the length and size of the objective lens. In 1943, the Marines established the first “Scout and Sniper” schools at Greens Farm in California and New River in North Carolina during World War II, the basis of today’s Scout Sniper program.

The Marine Corps is dismantling its iconic dedicated Scout Sniper platoons – a facet of each infantry battalion for generations – and is doing away with the coveted 0317 Military Occupational Specialty.

The product of a grueling training pipeline that yields field-ready precision marksmen qualified on the M40, M110, and M107 series rifles, the Marine Scout Sniper program is facing permanent disbandment as a result of a shifting focus in the country’s amphibious warfare service.

A leaked Feb. 21 unclassified message from Lt. Gen. D. J. Furness, the deputy commandant for plans, policies, and operations, detailed that the current 18-member Scout Sniper Platoons assigned to the Corps’ infantry battalions will quickly transition to 26-member Scout platoons – in other words, cutting the snipers in favor of a unit that would provide more “continuous all-weather information gathering.”

Spots in the Scout Sniper Basic Course will be zeroed out in the coming fiscal year while a nascent sniper capability will be continued in the Corps’ Reconnaissance and Marine Special Operations units under a new Military Occupational Specialty – 0322 MOS (Reconnaissance Sniper) – via a revamped, shorter training program.

The problem with that is, as these groups typically operate detached from standard infantry units, the highly specialized skill will in effect vanish at the battalion level

which will be left to get by with the current designated marksmen already at the company level. Under current doctrine, DMs typically only have a three-week course under their belt and train to engage targets out to 500 meters, rather than the much longer ranges that Scout Snipers train to achieve. 

The USMC Scout Sniper Association is urging the Commandant of the Marine Corps to reconsider what the group terms an “ill-advised” policy decision that will gut the program that has been tweaked and perfected over the past 80 years.

“This announcement by the Deputy Commandant, Plans, Policy, and Operations on Tuesday is the result of misguided assumptions and decades of neglect of the community of men who are Scout Snipers,” said the Association.

“It’s unlikely that any officer who commanded and employed Scout Snipers in combat agrees that removing a sniper capability from the infantry battalion makes sense. Replacing an 18-man Scout Sniper Platoon with a 26-man Scout Platoon will not solve the ‘all weather information gathering’ problem. Retaining the skill set and the combat capability of Scout Snipers by offering a viable career path to Scout Snipers and providing them with more engaged leadership might.”

The shift away from having dedicated sniper platoons in each infantry battalion comes as the number of battalions themselves is dwindling. 

The Corps’ three active-duty divisions would field a total of 27 infantry battalions between them if they were at full strength, but that hasn’t been the case for a long time. Long reduced to just 24 battalions all told, in 2020 the current commandant unveiled a plan to case the colors of three additional infantry battalions and the 8th Marine Regiment to make room to form a new Marine Littoral Regiment, the latter optimized to leapfrog rapidly across islands and coastal spaces with a smaller footprint when compared to the current force.

The result is a Corps with just 21 active-duty infantry battalions, shortly, in addition to cuts in tiltrotor, attack, and heavy-lift aviation squadrons and disbanding of all of the branch’s tank battalions. 

1945: ‘A sniper is near’

“A Sniper is Near, and the Man Pointing has Located Him, Directing the Sharpshooter to his Whereabouts,” by Marine combat artist Harry Reeks (1921-1982). Via Prints, Drawings, and Watercolors from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.

Description: A Marine sharpshooter stands in profile with a rifle in hand, as another Marine points in front of them. The background of the image is left blank.

Neighborhood Watch

Cpl. Robert Lea, a scout sniper with 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, sights in with his M40A6 Bolt Action Sniper Rifle during an unknown distance range as part of Exercise Sea Soldier. Scout snipers are Marines who are highly skilled in marksmanship and can hit long-distance targets with great precision from a hidden location.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. April Price)

Note the difference in the A6, above, and the A5, below.


The “Alpha 6” was fielded beginning last summer and brings a lot of modularity (rails) to the legacy M40A5 as well as improved ergonomics and an easily adjustable (folding!) stock which makes carry a lot more efficient.

More on the gun below.

Endangered Marine XM-3s being preserved via CMP

In 2004, the Marine snipers deployed in the sandbox needed a rifle that was shorter and lighter as well as quieter, than their standard M40s.

This led a small group of sniper wonks including Steve Reichert (then SNCOIC of the 2nd Marine Division’s Pre-Sniper course) and others to hammer out what was known as the DARPA XM-3 rifle, using an 18.5″ Hart 416R Stainless Steel (Mil-Gauged) barrel that was suppressor ready.

That's a full length rifle

That’s a fully asssembled sniper rifle…

What was so special about them?

From Steve Reichert:

-The receivers were clip slotted to accept the reverse-engineered titianium picatinny rail (IBA Design) to fit firmly.
-The receivers’ internal threads were opened up to 1.070” to allow a perfectly true alignment with the bolt face and chamber/bore dimension. The chamber was cut to accept M118LR ammo.
-The titanium recoil lug was built with the 1.070” diameter opening for the larger-barrel threads and surface ground true.
-The stainless steel magazine box was hand fitted and welded to eliminate movement when assembled.
-The stocks were custom made for the project.
-The barreled actions were bedded in titanium Devcon and Marine Tex to allow for decades of hard use without losing torque or consistency.
-Nightforce made a full 1 MOA elevation adjustment on their NXS 3.5-15X50’s to allow for faster dope changes at distance. These scopes had 1/4 MOA windage.

While successful and a hit with the Devils who got to use them, the 56 or so XM3’s were all pulled from service by 2014.

Thankfully, some have made thier way to the CMP and, as surplus bolt-action rifles, can be sold to the public.

They just auctioned off XM-3 rifle, serial number S6534025 with a factory green stock finish, built at Iron Brigade Armory by D. Briggs, USMC (Ret), 2112.

The rifle included the scope, sniper data book with some firing information; PVS22 Night Vision Device and other goodies.

xm-3-rifle-serial-number-s6534025-has-a-factory-green-stock-finish-and-shows-signs-of-use-but-was-well-maintained-and-cared-for-was-built-at-iba-by-d-briggs-usmc-ret-2112 pvs-22

Talk about functional history…

Calling Camp Pendleton….Calling Camp Pendleton

The first Marine Corps snipers in Vietnam often found themselves using rifles forwarded from stateside shooting teams, such as this classic Model 70 with it’s huge 14x Unertl Sniper.

While Marine snipers after WWII were stuck with Korean War-vintage M1C Garands with offset mounted 2x optic, competitive rifle teams in the Corps eschewed the M1C for special order target model rifles such as the Winchester Model 70, for use in National Match events.

The example Ian with Forgotten Weapons above has a serial number that places it in the 1956 era and was owned by a retired Marine colonel who was Captain of the Marine Corp rifle team at Camp Pendleton around that time.

One Marine who came from just such a rifle team environment and went to Vietnam, where he used a similar Model 70 (with an 8x Unertl) for a time was Gunnery Sgt. Carlos N. Hathcock II, who won the Wimbledon Cup trophy at the 1965 National Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio with a M70.

Into Infamy…

Back in 2011 the Scout Sniper Platoon of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. was lead not by an officer but by a career Senior NCO, SSG (E6) Joseph Chamblin.

Scout/sniper 3/2 did a lot of revolutionary stuff on their Afghan deployment that year. They had more than 223 confirmed kills including high value targets. They did a lot of doctrinally different things, like being a main force engager rather than a supporting arm. They were the evolution of ten years of marine sniper in the war on terror lessons learned.

By January 2012, Chamblin was up for promotion to gunnery sergeant and set to re-deploy to Afghanistan. Within weeks, however, his career was in ruins after a video surfaced, showing him and three other scout snipers urinating on Taliban corpses they were ordered to recover during a patrol in Helmand’s Musa Qala district on July 27, 2011.

Then the fit hit the shan.

From a very enlightening interview in Marine Corps Times

Q. Do you think this video hurt the Marine Corps’ reputation?

A. Well, it depends on what your idea is of what a Marine should be. If your idea of a Marine is a real fancy-looking guy in
uniform that does snap and pop with a rifle and looks real pretty, then yeah, it probably hurt. But if your idea of what a Marine should be is the enemy’s worst f—ing nightmare, then I don’t think it did. But you can’t have both.

Your thoughts?

Flying Snipers in the Sky

Sniper school in the Marine Corps is one of the most challenging assignments any young “Devil Dog” is likely to gain entrance to.  One of the neater courses now being offered is the Special Operations Training Group Urban Sniper Course. This four week adds some skillsets to these precision marksmen that could be called…uplifting.

This specialized course is designed to give warfighters in the fleet the best chance at being a so-called ‘force-multiplier’ in a small package. Typically, marine sniper teams will involve just two or sometimes three specialists in a small group of snipers and spotters. In the four weeks of the course they take scout-snipers who have already proven themselves capable of advanced operations and giving them some different tactics they will need in a new world.
Read the rest in my column at Firearms talk.com

airbinre snipr