By: Warren Gray

Copyright © 2024

“The ELR-SR system is intended to replace legacy M107s and MK15s

for anti-personnel and anti-matériel targets. The ELR-SR weapon

 system will have a precision-fire capability of 2,500 meters

(approximately 2,734 yards).”

— USSOCOM contracting notice, December 19, 2023.

The U.S. Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM, or just SOCOM) Special Operations Forces Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Center (SOF AT&L) in Tampa, Florida, recently announced their exacting requirements for a brand-new, Extreme Long-Range Sniper Rifle (ELR-SR). It should be a bolt-action weapon no more than 56 inches long (50 inches preferred), and weighing no more than 22 pounds (18 pounds preferred), with a peak, recoil energy of 25 foot-pounds or less. The rifle is intended to replace existing Barrett M82A1 and M107 rifles in .50 BMG, as well as the Navy’s Mk 15 Mod. 1 (McMillan Tac-50) in the same caliber, and it will be shorter and lighter than either model.

The preferred caliber of the ELR-SR has not been specified, but, “If the primary system caliber is not a current, DOD-approved munition, (the) system shall be capable of transitioning to a current, .300 Norma Magnum, DOD-approved munition with a quick-change kit.” Furthermore, it will have a desired effective range of 2,500 meters, and should include a “sound suppressor, ballistic computer, operator manual, cleaning kit, tool kit, bipod, and…(TSA)-approved, locking, hard carrying case.” The suppressor must be no more than 8.5 inches long, and should reduce the rifle’s report to 140 decibels or less. Required accuracy is .75 MOA at 100 yards with supersonic ammunition.

These are very tough specifications to meet, but two existing sniper rifles could possibly measure up. The first is the brand-new Barrett MRADELR (Multi-Role, Adaptive-Design, Extreme Long-Range) in .416 Barrett chambering, an evolution of the existing Barrett MRAD Mk. 22 Mod. 0 ASR (Advanced Sniper Rifle) in .338 Norma Magnum, for the U.S. Special Forces, in service since 2019. The U.S. Army also adopted the Barrett MRAD Mk. 22 as their PSR (Precision Sniper Rifle) in 2021. MRAD rifles are also in military service with Israel, New Zealand, Norway, and Ukraine.

The only problems are that the $10k MRADELR is simply too long, at 62 inches, with a 36-inch heavy barrel, and too bulky, at 23 pounds. However, a very simple solution would be to substitute the 29-inch, fluted barrel of the semiautomatic Barrett M82A1 in .416 Barrett, or single-shot Barrett M99 barrel, also at 29 inches, thereby shortening overall length to an acceptable 55 inches, and reducing weight by at least a pound in the process. Muzzle velocity will be reduced slightly, but that’s an acceptable compromise to reach the desired SOCOM specifications.

Barrett MRADELR in .416 Barrett. Photo credit: Barrett Firearms

The MRADELR has the advantage of familiarity, since both USSOCOM and the U.S. Army have recently been using Barrett MRAD Mk. 22 rifles in .338 Norma Magnum, with conversion kits for .300 Winchester Magnum and 7.62x51mm NATO, so the size, shape, and controls are known factors. Also, the .416 Barrett cartridge is quite powerful, with extreme long-range capability. However, the rifle is still too long and heavy, and requires modification to meet the new SOCOM ELR-SR requirement.

Perhaps a better, near-term choice might be the Cheyenne Tactical (CheyTac) M300 Intervention (Carbon-Fiber) in .408 CheyTac or .375 CheyTac, designed with lightweight materials, such as aluminum and carbon-fiber, with a standard, 29-inch, fluted barrel, an overall weight of 21 pounds, with no modifications required, and an effective range of over 2,500 meters. This exceptional weapon already holds the world record for the best three-shot group, at the astounding range of 2,122 meters. On March 19, 2023, Eric Sof, writing for Special Ops Magazine, called the CheyTac M200, “One of the best sniper rifles in the world…making it a go-to for many of the world’s most-elite snipers.”

David “Mac” McCutcheon, CEO of CheyTac USA, and a decorated U.S. Air Force security forces veteran, stated that, “At 21 pounds, the exclusive (M300 Carbon-Fiber) chassis makes it the most-lightweight rifle in our collection.”

Versions of the CheyTac Intervention M200 or M300 rifle are currently in active military service with elite, special forces units in the Czech Republic (601st SF Group), Italy, Poland (GROM unit), Singapore, Turkey (Maroon Berets), and the United Kingdom (SAS). In 2017, the London Daily Mail reported that a British Special Air Service (SAS) sniper had used a CheyTac M200 rifle to eliminate an ISIS terrorist from 1.5 miles (2,640 yards, or 2,400 meters) away, achieving “one of the most-difficult kills in the regiment’s history.” This was a classified mission, so it was never entered into the official record books, but it unofficially represents the seventh-longest sniper kill in history.

CheyTac M300 Intervention (Carbon-Fiber). Photo credit:

As required by the SOCOM contracting notice, the CheyTac M300 comes with a factory-supplied “sound suppressor, ballistic computer, operator manual, cleaning kit, tool kit, bipod, and…carrying case.” The CheyTac Advanced Ballistic Computer is a small, hand-held, portable, sophisticated device, critical to long-range sniper operations, specifically programmed with ballistic data for the .408 CheyTac cartridge, and the CheyTac M200 and M300 Intervention rifles.

It accurately calculates numerous variables, including atmospheric conditions, ballistic drop of the bullet, wind speed and direction, and target distance, providing the shooter with a real-time, precise firing solution. The computer receives input from Leica Vector IV laser-ranging binoculars, and a Kestrel 4500NV hand-held weather-tracker device. This results in a consistent accuracy level of .75 MOA at 2,000 yards, and all groups out to 3,000 yards are less than 1 MOA.

The $12.5k CheyTac M300 Intervention (Carbon-Fiber) is a modernized rendition of the combat-proven M200, featuring a seven-round, detachable magazine and free-floating, 29-inch barrel, but custom barrel lengths are also available, as required. The .408 CheyTac’s Balance Flight Projectile design uses a unique, solid-copper bullet with an ultra-high, very-low-drag, ballistic coefficient (BC) of .945, for accuracy and precision at extreme ranges. The bullet remains at supersonic velocity out to 2,200 yards.

The special Timney Elite Hunter trigger on the M300 is fully adjustable for 1.5 to four pounds of pull weight, and a removable McArthur PGRS-1 muzzle brake reduces felt recoil. It can be readily replaced by an OPSINC suppressor, or the newer, aptly named SureFire SOCOM408-ELR titanium unit.

On January 14, 2018, Bill Poor, age 41, a blacksmith and knife maker of Tuscola, Texas, hit near the center of a 53-inch target from exactly three miles (5,280 yards) away, on a ranch near Midland, Texas, using a Vestals’ Custom Rifles, bolt-action, single-shot weapon chambered in .408 CheyTac, with a 390-grain bullet. It took him eight attempts, but his last shot connected with the square, white target about four inches to the right of his one-square-foot, orange bullseye. The bullet was in flight for a full 14 seconds!

Unfortunately, the Guinness Book of World Records does not recognize any rifle shots made with a scope. However, this dramatic achievement clearly demonstrated the extreme range and accuracy potential of the mighty, .408 CheyTac cartridge, with a top-quality rifle.

Bill Poor stands in front of his three-mile target, 2018. Photo credit: Bill Poor/Facebook

The $15k Accuracy International (British) AX50 ELR in the traditional, .50 BMG caliber is another possibility, with an acceptable overall length of 53.9 inches, and 27-inch barrel, but it tips the scales at a hefty 26.5 pounds empty weight. Conversion kits are available for .408 CheyTac and .375 CheyTac, but the rifle still has a weight problem by SOCOM standards. This still leaves the CheyTac M300 Intervention (Carbon-Fiber) as the only viable, unmodified candidate at present.

The U.S. Armed Forces have been increasingly concerned about a sniper gap with Russia since the illegal invasion and annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. A U.S. Army report on Russian military tactics in 2016 discovered that Russian snipers had become “far more advanced than the precision shooters U.S. formations have encountered over the last 15 years” during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, primarily because Russian sniper teams utilized “sophisticated weapons, comparable to rifles in the U.S. inventory.”

Russian forces fighting in Ukraine, for example, were already using high-end, Lobaev DXL-4 Sevastopol or SVLK-14M Sumrak (“Twilight”) rifles chambered in .408 CheyTac, with great success, with a demonstrated combat range of over a mile and a half!

Therefore, this new, USSOCOM contracting notice represents a significant shift in the special operations community’s precision rifle usage, away from the heavy, time-honored M82A1s, M107s, and Mk. 15s of the past few decades. A leaner, lighter rifle and bullet than the venerable, .50 BMG weapons offer is definitely a step in the right direction for achieving extreme long-range accuracy in this era of modern warfare, and SOCOM is clearly moving in the right direction.

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Author with Barrett M82A1 sniper rifle, 1993. Photo by author

Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism, and is an NRA member. He served in Europe and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, four college degrees, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author, historian, and hunter.