FORT A.P. HILL, Va. -- Scout Snipers from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit's Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Bn., 2nd Marine Regiment, fired their new rifles for the first time on a range here today.
The BLT Marines will use the new MK-11 semi-automatic sniper rifle simultaneously alongside the bolt-action M40A3, a descendent of the Vietnam-era M40.
The rifle resembles an M-16 on first glance, and Sgt. Gerald V. Gavin, Scout Sniper Platoon commander, said the resemblance can benefit operations on today's urban battlefields.
Gavin said the distinct look of the M40A3 makes identifying a sniper in an infantry patrol easier. The MK-11 allows the sniper to better blend in with the infantry, making them less vulnerable.
Gavin said the semi-automatic action on the new rifle, as well as the addition of a suppressor system that reduces muzzle flash and report, make it a valuable addition to the inventory.
The MK-11 comes fitted with the Scout Sniper Day Scope (SSDS), which the Marine Corps also is attaching to its existing inventory of M40A3s.
Gavin said the new scope improves the snipers ability to engage targets, offering enhanced sighting ability and ease of use. "It's a great piece of glass," he said.
Lance Cpl. James K. Dagenhart agreed with Gavin's opinion of the MK-11, and said he prefers the MK-11.
"I like it because it's semi-auto, and I love the scope. . . the new scope is money," Dagenhart said.
The MK-11 weighs 18.29 pounds fully loaded with its two-pound suppressor attached, while the M40A3 weighs in at 18.5 fully loaded.
Both rifles fire the same 7.62 mm round, and the MK-11 is accurate up to 800 yards.
Gavin said he thinks the MK-11 is a great weapon, although he is still partial to his experience with the M40A3.
The BLT and Scout Snipers will continue to train with the MEU's Aviation and Logistics Combat Elements here until the end of the month. The training at Fort A.P. Hill is the MEU's first step in a six-month pre-deployment training process designed to merge the disparate elements of the MEU into a cohesive, rapid reaction force. The 26th MEU will continue to prepare for an early 2007 deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
For more information on the 26th MEU, go to www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.