British forces in Afghanistan are to receive a new Sharpshooter rifle with improved long-range firepower that will hopefully give troops the edge during long-range firefights with the Taliban.

The UK Ministry of Defence has bought more than 400 of the semi-automatic Sharpshooter rifles, which fire a 7.62mm round, under a £1.5m urgent operational requirement.

Training on the rifles will begin this month and the first batch will be sent to Afghanistan in 2011.

Minister for Defence Equipment and Support Quentin Davies said the Sharpshooter will provide troops with a precise, long-range capability.

The Sharpshooter will also have new sights including ACOG 7.62 mm x 6 day sights and Magnum Universal night sights from US-based companies, as well as personal laser range finders from Vectronix of Switzerland.