Sharp shooting: best sniper rifles in the world

Talal Husseini 11 April 2019 (Last Updated January 20th, 2020 07:41)

Sniper rifles allow specialist soldiers to hit intended targets from long distances and can be used to take down enemies, destroy sensitive equipment, and carry out controlled detonations of explosives. What are the best sniper rifles in the world today?

Sharp shooting: best sniper rifles in the world
Sniper rifles allow specialist soldiers to hit intended targets from long distances. What are the best sniper rifles in the world today? Credit: US Army.

Arctic Warfare Magnum – UK

The Arctic Warfare Magnum (AWM) is a high-precision sniper rifle specifically designed for operability in Arctic temperatures. UK firm Accuracy International built many variants of the Arctic Warfare sniper rifle, including the AWM and the AW50.

The AWM’s unique feature is its Magnum cartridges, which are larger and more powerful than found on traditional rounds. The AWM exists in both .300 Winchester and the .338 Lapua variants held in a five-round detachable box magazine. The latter is designated as a super long-range sniper rifle and has a long effective firing range of 1,500m-1,700m.

For super-long range firing, the AWM Lapua can incorporate a detachable aperture-type iron sight and day and night thermal optics for low light conditions.

British Army Sniper Corporal of House Craig Harrison achieved the record for the longest sniper kill in November 2009, unleashing a critical shot from a range of 2,475m from an L115A3, the British Armed Forces’ designation for the AWM. This record would be beaten in 2017 by another sniper rifle on this list – the McMillan TAC-50.

McMillan TAC-50 – US

The McMillan TAC-50, US military designation Mk15, is a long-range anti-materiel and anti-personnel sniper rifle used by US Navy SEALS and has been the standard sniper rifle of the Canadian Army since 2000.

A bolt-action sniper rifle, the TAC-50 includes a heavy 73.7cm match-grade barrel, which is fluted allowing for quick heat dissipation and an effective muzzle break to minimise recoil. Despite the heavy barrel, its stock is made from fibreglass and in all the rifle only weighs 11.8kg. While it has no permanent open site, the TAC-50 can support a range of telescopic and night sites.

Notably, the TAC-50 was the sniper rifle used by the ‘American Sniper’,  US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, whose book account of his tour in Iraq was made into a 2014 Hollywood film.

It is also a record-breaker as of 2017. A Canadian Joint Task Force 2 sniper took the record of longest sniper kill during the Iraq War, from a distance of no less than 3,540m.

SAKO TRG 42 – Finland

Finland will always occupy a place in sniper rifle history due to World War II sniper Simo Häyhä, who, as the legend goes, successfully took down 505 enemy soldiers over the winter of 1939-40, using only his Moisin-Nagant M28/30 sniper rifle and a KP/-31 submachine gun.

The Finnish-built SAKO TRG 42 is a bolt-action sniper rifle that weighs around 5kg-6kg depending on the variant.  Like the Steyr SSG 08 design, the TRG 42 features a cold-hammered barrel and receiver for maximum durability at minimum weight.

The TRG 42 uses either .338 Lapua Magnum or .300 Winchester cartridges housed in a five-round or seven-round detachable magazine respectively. The Lapua variant is slightly longer ranged, being most effective at a distance of up to 1,500m.

In 2018, SAKO released the TRG 42 A1, which benefits from a modified folding stock that is more robust and eliminates instability in the firing position.