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Tactical Rifles Semi Auto

How to Configure the 7.62mm Sniper System

by Kyle Lamb   |  December 17th, 2013   |   8

These days there are many choices in the gas-operated 7.62mm sniper system world, which sometimes makes it confusing as you begin your quest for the perfect setup. I have spent plenty of my own money for lessons learned, so hopefully you won’t have to.

There are a few tricky parts and accessories that attract attention, but my intention is to always have a rifle that is reliable, accurate, simple and lightweight. “Simple” is a relative term. To me it’s a system that translates nicely from the M4-type carbine to the sniper system. Not only are the controls similar, but my accessories will be identical or extremely close. In the past these systems were available, but weight and reliability left us wanting. Thankfully, we now have a few choices that can cut the mustard in the lightweight sniping world. My lightweight choice is the LaRue PredatAR. This system is truly revolutionary due to the fact that you don’t need a weight belt or a series of P90X workouts to be able to move effectively in a tactical environment. Running-and-gunning with a sniper system briefs well in the Team Room, but if you are blowing snot bubbles by the time you need to take a shot due to the weight of your rifle, well, that just won’t work. At the very least it will make you less effective when your mates need you most.

More than just a little thought should go into the selection process of your 7.62 sniper system. The evaluation of the platform itself is obviously the most important, a reliable system that will work well with the ammunition you choose to employ or the ammunition that your department or unit issues. I normally shoot 175-grain M118LRs. As this ammo launches a 175-grain Sierra MatchKing bullet, I must ensure that the twist fits the bullet. In this case I prefer the 1:11. Actually, I have chosen the LaRue PredatAR, which has a 1:11.25 twist. This ammunition is used for two reasons. First, it is the issue ammunition for many of the military folks we train at VTAC. Second, it is very accurate. If I decide to take the same system into the hunting field — for the four-legged type of animal, that is — I jam my Magpul magazines with the Hornady 165-grain GMX load. The LaRue PredatAR is in love with this ammunition. If you haven’t checked out the GMX bullet, it performs superbly when shooting through glass or into flesh. These bullets are gilding metal, which equates to a smoother bullet than solid copper and will result in less fouling.

Now that twist is confirmed to fit the weight and profile of our selected projectiles, we should look at the operating system. I am not really picky other than the rifle needs to be light, reliable and — often overlooked — ergonomically correct. Ergonomics of the AR may not be for everyone, but for those of us who cut our teeth in the military with the M16, it feels pretty natural. Reliability is an easy fix these days, but light weight is a completely different issue.

Here is where the LaRue PredatAR smokes everyone, at 7¾ pounds for a 16.1-inch-barrel 7.62 semiautomatic rifle. This equals a very attractive package for those who will be carrying more than shooting. If you plan to lie on your belly and shoot paper all day, get the behemoth blasters with heavy barrels and gadgets galore. Now that I have hung up the uniform, I spend several months a year in the mountains with a rifle, either hunting or teaching high-angle shooting and pack-animal courses. Some days are spent backpack hunting where extra weight can determine whether you get to your prey. Other times I am riding, and the extra weight is easily carried by the horse when the rifle is in a scabbard. But if you have to sling the rifle, it can crush you after a few long days hanging on for dear life. Even if you are tooling around on an ATV or snow machine, weight matters. The abuse I receive from a heavy rifle just isn’t worth it for the amount of shooting I will be doing. So if you are like me and will be moving and shooting, light weight is the ticket.

Part of the weight-loss program for the LaRue PredatAR is the removable railed free-float system, which allows you to have a modular system that can be changed to fit your mission. In the past I have often been mocked for choosing this type of system. Now it is standard fare for most rifle manufacturers. Funny how things change.

Since semiauto is the selected system, we also need a trigger that is reliable for the operation of this rifle. LaRue has selected the Geissele trigger, which works out well since that would be the trigger I would choose anyway for this type of setup.

OK, the rifle is good to go. What else will we need? Optics: Leupold Mark 6 3-18X, period. There isn’t a scope on the market that has the pedigree of the Mark 6. Built to the rigid specifications of U.S. Army Special Operators by a highly respected U.S. manufacturer, this glass is 11 ounces lighter, even with a 34mm main tube, as well as 1½ inches shorter than its competitors. Ounces make pounds for sure in this case, and I don’t want to carry the 11 ounces without any noticeable enhancements. There are several reticles you can choose from. My favorite is the H58 that is a gridded milliradian pattern that makes hold-offs a breeze. The Mark 6 also has a pinch-and-turn locking elevation dial that is calibrated to .1 mil. This system is intuitive and only requires you to pinch the turret and turn, no pulling up or pushing down. The windage is covered, as it should be on a 7.62 sniper system, no accidental adjustments while fast-roping or crawling. This is key. If you are required to shoot long range with the H58 reticle, you will see no distortion at the edges of the glass.

Optics and rifle make a nice package, but to truly get your money’s worth out of the system there are a few enhancements that I won’t leave home without. First would be a good weapon-mounted light. I use a VTAC-L4 that is made by SureFire. I prefer to use the protected push button vs. a pressure pad, which ensures that there won’t be a white-light accidental discharge while moving into my final firing position or during normally required crawling and climbing. I mount the SureFire in a VTAC light mount. Made from glass-filled nylon, it is also light and rugged. Next would be backup iron sights. I have found that the Troy DOA is one tough sight that can stand up to daily abuse. Some believe backup sights are not needed for this type of setup. All I would say is, “You never know.” If your optic were to fail, you can’t simply transition to your sidearm and make a 300-yard shot.

For sound and flash suppression, I favor the SureFire muzzlebrake, which adapts to the SureFire suppressor. This system will help keep you on target during rapid-fire situations and makes attaching and removing your suppressor extremely easy. Using the suppressor with full-up ammunition will not make the rifle completely quiet, although it will help to confuse the enemy as to where the shot came from and help eliminate muzzle flash. Either way, the bad guys should be confused, and that is what we are after.

A couple of other ancillary pieces of kit that are a must on the 7.62 rifle are the sling and the bipod. Of course, I use the VTAC MK-2 padded sling or the VTAC sniper sling, which is essentially the same setup with the addition of a quick-release cuff, which comes in handy in certain shooting situations. This sling allows you to use it as a shooting aid and can be quickly tightened to hold the rifle securely on your back when climbing.

The bipod I use is the Harris. Although not very sexy, it is extremely reliable and not too heavy. I have tried a few others, but I keep coming back to this setup. More notable is the use of the bipod and where you attach it. There are a few tricks I have learned along the way, one of which is to turn the bipod backward so the legs point to the rear when collapsed for rural movement. This will alleviate the issues of vegetation continuously opening or grabbing your bipod legs.

Once in position, you can easily disconnect the bipod and turn it around if you see fit. Additionally, I prefer to keep the bipod in a position closer to the magazine of the rifle when operating in an urban environment. By simply moving the bipod to the rear six to 10 inches, you are able to transition much faster from target to target as well as elevate or depress the rifle when shooting over parapets or from rooftops. This also puts the bipod closer to the center of gravity, making the rifle feel a little lighter. If you haven’t tried this, I highly recommend you give it a go. You will immediately see a difference in the amount of movement you can get from this simple change.

The last bit of advice I would give you as a former Special Forces sniper would be this: Get on the range and shoot. Don’t lie down and shoot groups. Get a solid zero, then shoot from realistic positions. And shoot a lot.

The best way to learn is by doing.

  • petru sova

    I will take the M1A (M14) heavy national match gun over any AR. 308 because of its utter reliability. Original system gas-impingement systems spray too much burnt powder all over the inside of the action which when mixed with rain water will jam any AR up tight. As far as the gas-piston AR guns, Night Manufacturing claims they do not holdup very well because of a bending of the carrier against the bolt which causes excess wear on the components. They do not seem to shoot as well as the National Match M1A’s either.
    There are many scopes to choose from but few want to spend the big bucks for the Leupold scope that you mentioned. The “latest and greatest” electronic Christmas tree light scopes add weight and complexity to the scope and you know Murphy’s law, batteries go dead, circuits corrode and go bad and in an emergency you will probably not have time to fool with such things anyway. Many of Leupolds lower price scopes work just fine. One is the very economically priced VX-1, 1-4x20mm shotgun scope with extra thick duplex crosshairs. I have used this scope in rain and snow with no fogging or loss of zero and set on 1 power it literally lights up the darkest corners of the woods and it costs about 4 times less money too and I never felt I needed the Christmas tree lights either. If it gets so dark you cannot identify your target you do not want to turn on led lights and shoot someone or some animal that you shouldn’t be shooting anyway. For civilians, hunting after dusk it is illegal too.
    As far as heavy weight bullets in the 175 grain weight a 1 in 10 twist is far better than the 1 in 11 or 1 in 12 twist barrels. Springfield Armory compromises by using a 1 in 11 so you can shoot 150′s or heavier but the 1 in 10 twist will shoot the 150 grain bullets every bit as accurately.
    For the well healed week end sand bag plinker who never shot a 3 position NRA across the course match the “latest and greatest” AR15 wonder beast with all the electronic wizardry will dazzle the ladies and amaze the arm chair commandoes but its not really necessary, but good marksmanship in standing, sitting and prone positions are what really counts. After all Ozwald used a Carcano carbine with a cheap Japanese scope on a mount that you could bend with your fingers but his shooting skill even at a moving target proved that even with a doggy setup like that he was able to carry out his evil deed. I think this is all lost on todays weekend warriors who believe that by buying the latest in technology this will cancel out any practice in 3 position shooting as they will become without practice the instant reincarnation of Daniel Boone, Sergeant York and Carlos Hathcock. Most never heard of such a thing as off hand shooting. Hugh? What’s that, they usually exclaim in complete bewilderment?

    • F. Macomber

      Maybe you should do a little reading on the author before you start giving him advice on the subject.

      • petru sova

        Reading comprehension my boy. The 3 position info was not about him.

    • F. Macomber

      Maybe you should do a little reading on the author before you start giving him advice on the subject.

    • Alan

      In some States, raccoons can only be hunted at night – not very sporting to shoot them during the day sleeping. Feral hogs can also be hunted at night in many States. Hogs are a major problem to farm crops, wildlife habitat, and farm animals; they are vermin. Land owners with hog problems don’t care what weapons are used to kill the hogs; use night scopes or star burst flares with fully automatic rifles – just call the Sheriff and let him know what is going to happen and where and that the land owner said ‘go get em boys.” Yes, I have hunted hogs and raccoons at night with dogs (54 years ago) – too old and too fat to do it now.

  • jose_a_velez

    as a former Marine Corps sniper I prefer the SR 25 also I like the LR 308 kinda happy de la 308 with the bull barrel 24 inches but one heck of a rifle DPMS put out there’s a lot you can do with it check DPMS out DSR 25 and yellow 308 magazines are compatible there’s a lot you can do the about 30 8 with the 2400 barrel now you gotta remember that you have a longer barrel the rifle with about a total of 11 pounds but it does the job

  • jose_a_velez

    excuse the typo lol no but I prefer the LR 308 is heavy but it does the job every time is 1 10 twist but it does the job opera for the heavy rifle of course not everybody can handle heavy rifle but if you work out like the Marines though your carry that bad boy anywhere you want to I like the DPMS LR 308 with a 24-h bull barrel a little bit heavy in the front but let me tell you one thing that bad boy is right on target now that’s a lotta rifles out there more expensive but comparing the price like the SR 25 by night armaments that’s one hell of a rifle but the LR 308 does not for short at all it does the job all the time for A 762 3:08 it does the jobI myself I’m happy with the DPMS lol 308 lr 308 will bUll barrel barrel but that’s just my choice a lot of men are not used to having rifles that’s okay but one thing about Henry rifle is that every where you lay down it stays down so me myself I particularly like a heavy rifle of course not everybody can handle a heavy rifle it will get your tire so if you going to carry and Ally 308 with a 24-h bull barrel then you better get in shape and that’s were real soldiers do hope you enjoy this comment this is just my preference

  • Pete Wallace

    I have a DPMS .308 that I will put up against your M1A. I’m not a good shot but it will put bullet after bullet through the same hole and make the prettiest four leaf clovers on the paper….. JMO BW I have an M1A also, shame on me….

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