Sniper Weapon Systems

snip-logo2.jpg (4393 bytes)

Photo Gallery

History


When the IDF was formed in 1948, its limited financial resources resulted in the procurement of used WWII weapons. Accordingly, the IDF first standard issue SWS was the Mauser K98 7.92 mm. Ironically, some of these weapons were originally used by the Wehrmacht and were imported to Israel with the Nazi Swastika symbol still carved on them. However, the original German made K98 were a minority, while the majority of the rifle were Czech made replicas. The K98 was fitted with a Wild X4 day scope and was considered a reliable and accurate weapon that remained in service as the IDF standard issue SWS until the mid 1970’s when it was replaced by the M14.

As Israel was under a British regime prior to its official formation, British weapons were also easily accessible. Accordingly, the IDF also made wide usage in the renowned Enfield No. 4 Mk 1 (T) as a sniper weapon during its early years. The British background of many IDF officers had also contributed to the adoption of the No. 4 Mk 1 (T).

During the October 1973 Yom Kippur War, the U.S. airlifted large quantities of weapons and gear to Israel, including thousands of surpluses M14. After war ended, the IDF followed the U.S. Army M21 program and decided on converting the M14 into a sniping platform. However, the M14 provided were extensively used with barrels’ damage requiring additional work. IMI was granted with the contract, tested all M14 in inventory and out of about 35,000 M14 originally shipped at the airlift, 10,000 were hand picked according to their barrels’ status and other accurization factors and converted to SWS. The rest were taken down for spare parts.

The M14 was fitted with an El-Op 6X40 Nimrod scope, a bipod, a cheek piece and a rubber butt-stock. In addition, the weapon's full auto capability was disabled. The modified M14 SWS was issued to all snipers, replacing the Mauser K98. As a semi-auto weapon with a large capacity magazine, the IDF snipers’ role during the M14 area shifted from that of a classic sniper to that of Designated Marksman. IDF Snipers were even officially renamed as “Charging Sniper” (“T’zalaf Sahar” in Hebrew). The M14 remained in service as the IDF standard issue SWS until 1997 when it was replaced in this role by the M24.

 

Sniping Platforms


Bolt Action

The adoption of the M14 by the IDF created a void as no accurate bolt action sniper rifle was available. This pushed the IDF SF to procure a large variety of sniper rifles during the 1980’s and the 1990’s, the most prominent ones being the Mauser 66SP and Mauser the 86SR that served as the IDF SF standard issue close range SWS from the early 1980’s until recent years, when they were replaced by the SR25.

In addition, SF units also required long range SWS and procured a variety of custom bolt-action rifles. Known in the Israeli SF community as “Remington" or “McMillan”, most of these weapons weren’t actually procured from Remington or McMillan, but were highly customized platforms built by the SF units’ own armorers or ordered from overseas custom shops. These platforms were typically built around the Remington 700 7.62mm action and McMillan stocks, which gave them their generic name. When the standard issue M24 was adopted in the late 1990’s the need for those weapons diminished and they were disbanded.

Integrated Suppressor

While detachable suppressors for SWS were available since the late 1970’s, integrally suppressed platforms are a more recent development, with several PGM Précision Ultima Ratio procured by SF units in the past decade. The Ultima Ratio performance proved highly impressive, but has limited availably due to its high-cost and being non-applicable for US FMS funding. The experience with Ultima Ratio combined with the IDF custom approach to weapons and gear have spawned a unique Israeli SF project in which disbanded Mauser 86SR SWS were converted by SF armorers to an Ultima Ratio-like design, including a lightweight skeleton type chassis and an integrated suppressor.

Semi Auto

While the IDF adoption of the semi-auto M14 in the mid 1970’s led to the IDF SF procurement of bolt-action SWS, the adoption of the bolt-action M24 in the late 1990’s created the need for an accurized semi-auto weapon. While few such platforms were already in service, most notably the Galil Sniper Rifle, they didn’t provide the required performance and availability. As a result, following the U.S. experience with the KAC SR25, it was officially adopted by the IDF and was mass issued.

Large Caliber

In the late 1980’s few IDF SF units were interested in extending the sniper's engagement envelope and began limited procurement of large caliber SWS, starting with 0.300 Win Mag and 0.5 caliber weapons in the 1990’s, followed and 0.338 Lapua Magnum platforms in the 2000's, with the primary provider being McMillan.

In 2008, following the successful yet limited deployment of large caliber SWS by SF units for almost two decades, the IDF officially adopted the H-S Precision Pro Series 2000 0.338 Lapua Magnum as its first standard issue large caliber SWS. This particular platform selection took some in the SF community by surprise as H-S Precision was unknown compared with McMillan, which platforms have been successfully deployed in the IDF for years. In the SF community, the H-S continues to face strong competition from other platforms including McMillan (TAC-0.338, TAC-0.5) and to lesser extent PGM Precision (PGM 0.338, Hecate 2 0.5 SWS).

With the H-S introduction and the increased awareness of the large caliber platforms capabilities, extreme long-range systems for anti-personnel or anti-material usage are likely to play a bigger role in the IDF SF in the future. That said, without advanced extreme long range sniper training and corresponding 1000M+ sniper training grounds to match the new platforms capabilities, their full potential will remain untapped.

IDF SF McMillan 0.300 Win Mag seen here during range training. Note a compensator. Seen in the background are a Leupold X12-X40 spotting scope and a M4A1.

 

McMillan TAC-338 (left) and TAC-50 (right) seen here on display during a live fire demonstration for the Israeli SF community.

 

Sniping Evolution


In 1997 the IDF began a long due upgrade to its sniping capabilities:

  • 1997 - The M14 was replaced by the M24 SWS as the IDF standard issue SWS.

  • 1997 - The Barrett M82A1 rifle was issued to all units as a long range anti material weapon. However, in recent years the Barrett was phased out of service. In select SF units, which required a 0.5 platform, it was replaced by the more accurate McMillan TAC and PGM Precision Hecate 2 0.5 platforms.

  • 1997 - The Mauser 86SR entered service replacing the Mauser 66SP as the IDF SF units standard issue bolt action SWS for close-range CT applications. However, in recent years the Mauser 86SR was largely disbanded and replaced by the SR25.

  • 1997 – while SWS mounted NVD were in very limited supply in the past and issued almost exclusively to SF snipers, in 1997 all snipers and Designated Marksman were issued NVD, dramatically increasing their nighttime capabilities. Snipers were issued the Aquila X6, while Designated Marksmen were issued the Aquila X4, which is currently gradually replaced by the Noga Light Lior X3 NVD.

  • 1997 – Supporting sniping gear such as Leupold X40 Spotting Scopes, laser rangefinders and Kestrel weather meters were issued, primarily for SF snipers.

  • 1997 - Additional emphasis was placed on feildcraft and camouflage, including the introduction of the IDF Personal Camouflage Suit and Ghillie suits.

  • 1997 - Organizational changes in the IDF infantry resulted in the transition of snipers from the platoon level to all-snipers squads at the a company or battalion level. The snipers number was also significantly increased.

  • 2001 - After it was in limited usage by IDF SF for several years, the KAC SR25 SWS was officially adopted by the IDF as its standard issue semi-auto SWS for its SF units. Since then the SR25 replaced most other sniping platforms in service by the SF units including the Galil Sniper Rifle, the Sardius M36/TCI M89SR and the Mauser 86SR.

  • 2006 - Following lacking deployment of IDF snipers in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, several changes were made including: a new course for sniper team leaders, teaching how to best deploy their snipers; an increased focus on sniper and spotter work; a new selection process for snipers; deployment of sniper instructors in conflict areas so they can gain real world combat experience.

  • 2008 – The H-S Precision Pro Series 2000 0.338 Lapua Magnum was selected as the IDF first standard issue large caliber SWS.

As is often the case in IDF and as is evident by the changes listed above, the IDF sniping roadmap was dramatically influenced by its vast SF community. The IDF SF deployment of custom bolt-action rifles, accurized semi-auto and large-caliber SWS, all led the way to the IDF adoption of the M24, the SR25 and the H-S in 1997, 2001 and 2008 respectively.

 

Status


The primary sniping platforms used in the IDF today are:

  • SR25 SWS - up to 800 meters.

  • M24 SWS - up to 800 meters.

  • H-S SWS – up to 1200 meters.

Weapons Guide