5.56x45 SNIPER RIFLE?
Question: A student wanted to buy a .223 for use as a sniper/precision rifle. He asked if he should buy a bolt action or a semi auto?
My Answer: If you are going BOLT, go with a 308. If going 223, I would go AR platform and never consider a bolt. I DO like the 223 as a sniper round if the shots are not going to exceed 700 yards. We have hit steel repeatedly at that distance with 75 and 77 grain Match 223 rounds.
If you want the attributes of the .308, AR-10 based rifles are more available than ever. I suspect the Bolt Action rifle will go the way of the Revolver in a decade...insofar as Sniping Goes.
In my research for Guerrilla Sniper, it became clear that for every 1000 yard sniper kill, there were tens of dozens inside of 500 yards, many taking place at 300 or so. Those who have attended the class know this has to do with target visibility more than anything else. So, shots across Afghan canyons excluded, the tactical need to reach out to a grand is more academic than tactical. Inside those distances, a properly designed, and launched 223 bullet will do a great amount of damage, as is evidenced by historical analysis. As well, consider the use of the 77 grain OTM by many of our service people with good effect. Our own M4 Sniper instructor John Chambers can verify this.
Additionally, in discussions with recently returned US Snipers, they tell me this. "Nobody wanted to leave the wire with a five round (or ten round) bolt gun. Everyone that had access to an M4 Sniper or an SR-25, would get those instead". The rapidity of fire and capacity of a semi auto (and an M4 based system in particular) cannot be ignored and offers a great advantage over the bolt action rifle. Accuracy standards a given (which they are with the M4 system properly arranged) a semi auto will beat a bolt gun for tasks at realistic distances and conditions. An SR-25 will do anything the best 308 bolt gun can do, and much more due to its platform attributes. And as we said, a 223 will stay right up alongside a 308 unless distances exceed the capability of the caliber.
Wind issues do have the 308 prevailing to a degree, but again, the use of heavy 223 bullets will mitigate wind effects dramatically. Comparing an M193 to a Federal 168 BTHP is not the goal, and what often happens in this discussion. But a comparison of 75 or 77 grain Match 223 rounds to 308s at the discussed distances will be very enlightening. The 308 does have an edge in wind...but not as much as you would think at the distances involved.
Other Tactical Issues outside the normal considerations. In the book Fry The Brain, the author describes the affinity for the AR-15 for "black ops" type missions..
It could be broken down into two pieces for covert and innocuous carry. It could be assembled and deployed in a very short time period. The trigger and system lended itself to easy accurizing. And this last, not as applicable to the discussion, but interesting nonetheless - the ability to exchange a "used upper unit" for a fresh one, prevented taking a forensic signature from one mission to the next.
This last is an asset to the sniper trainee in that he can have a fresh and little used Sniper Grade upper unit, and a training upper unit as well...and perhaps even a 22 LR upper unit for close range informal practice. All can be set up with similar optics and of similar sizes.
I know it seems odd for me to be making the case for 223, but damn if we don't keep learning and realizing new things we didn't consider.