The USMC M40 Sniper

The USMC decided to replace the Winchester model 70/Unertl combination  in late 1965  due to the recent changes to the M70 from the  pre 64  version and for a lighter  rifle scope combo that made quick first round  hits easier.  The MTU was tasked with coming up with a rifle suitable for the Corps needs for the new sniper program. The MTU conducted tests comparing COTS rifles and  scopes  currently on the market in December 1965 and January  1966. The testing concluded that the Remington 700- 40x target rifle and the Redfield accu-range 3x-9x  rifle scope the best  choice for standard sniping issue at the time.

The urgency for the testing resulted in only COTS rifles and optics to be tested by the MTU.  Due to the  pressure for a fast decision, the MTU worked with the following self imposed assumptions.

The cartridge used would be the the 7.62 NATO.

Most shots would be made at 600 yards or closer.

The scope would be adjustable  to 1000 yards

The rifle/scope should be capable of  2 MOA

The combo should be simple and robust and easily trainable.

After the MTU  finished the report they recommended that the rifle used be the remington m700-40x. The stock have a dull oil finish. Swivels be military type non removable. The rifle finish to be dull non=glare. The rifle barrel should be 1/10 inch twist, free floating and the action be clip slotted. The USMC wanted a 308 caliber rifle with a medium heavy barrel in a sporter stock and remington company made every effort to give them exactly that,

On April 7th 1966 the remington M700 with redfield scope was adopted for sniping use in south east asia. The USMC stated that nothing about the rifle was unique, just the right combination of parts.

The rifle was planned to be in service by June of 1966. the rifle had a expected service life of 10 years and was to manufactured entirely by remington which would furnish all support equipment for the rifle including optics, carry case and ammo.

The amount of M40 rifles produced by remington for the USMC by year is as follows:

1966/700 rifles

1967/62 rifles

1968/87 rifles

1969/137 rifles

1970/8 rifles

1971/ 1 rifle

By 1973 according to official documents, there was only 425 total density of M40 rifles still in service by the USMC.

The M40 was issued to be used with the Lake City M118 special ball match ammo. the USMC was the fist to use specialized match ammo dedicated for sniper use and the US Army followed.

The rifle was well liked upon first issue by personnel in the sniping and marksmanship community. Reports of the rifle easily shooting 2 MOA from bags with match ammo were normal.  Some problems with the redfield scope had already started to surface however, with complaints that it was not easy to adjust for range, would loose focus if turned to 9x and  the range finder in the scope would melt if the sun  was directly on the objective. The rifle can be uncomfortable during recoil with its light weight and metal butt plate. Marine sniper school students often used rubber shower shoes under their Tshirts during practice to damped the recoil and cut down on the pain.

The rifle was sent to Vietnam and was issued to scout snipers  who loved it early on.  A number of  famous snipers used the M40 to great affect. Chuck Mawhinney made his record 109 kills  using the M40 for most of his time and Carlos Hathcock using a M40 for his 2nd tour.

After  being issued and seeing service, the problems with the rifle/scope started to show. The rifle, nor the optic were meant for the tropical climate of asia or combat use but did preform well over all. The problems normal for the rifle was  the stock warping and putting pressure on the barrel, rust, the scope fogging and the ranging scale melting in the sun. To help the situation Marine RTE armorers were assigned to take care of the rifles and optics while the sniper were responsible for standard PM.  The rifle were soon found that they needed to be glass bedded often. The barrel channel had to be constantly check and rasped to keep the barrel free floated and the stock water proofed.  The trigger needed to be checked along with the action. Lube was needed often as it was with everything in asia and special “hot lockers” were made by the RTE personnel to dry out the scopes over night after operations to make sure they did not fog up when needed.

RTE personnel soon traveled to keep a check on the rifles and help keep them working. It was found not all losses were combat related. Sometimes a rifle could be out of action just from a ride in a truck. Most being out of action due to scope failure. Most scopes would be out of focus over 8x so the snipers learned to  focus only as high as 7x or 8x. Another problem was the optics would sometimes freeze in place if left at one power setting too long.  Eventually the snipers learned to watch the optics and glass bedding was authorized for the M40. The stock would warp so badly with  the un bedded actions that armorers would take the gun apart and find the action screws tightened so tight that they would not be making contact to the stock from warping and shrinking in the heat. Once glass bedding was OK to do the barrel was floated with 1/8 inch space between barrel and stock and waterproofed. Much of the problems were controlled with careful PM and use.

After most of the problems were understood the general attitude for the M40 was that accuracy was fine and the gun worked as meant and did well. Most liked it fine and felt the gun was almost the equal of the M70 used by earlier Marines. Few had the time and experience to have used both for sniping during the course of the war but Carlos Hathcock who did have the chance  thought the M70 better at the time but liked one as well as the other.

After the war the M40 was retained as sniper standard for the USMC and upgrades were made to the original rifle. Improvements included at SS match barrel, a Mcmillian fiberglass stock with a woodland camo patter and a 10x Unertl scope to name a few. The rifle was renamed the M40a1 and has remained in service now in the M40A5 form.

The gun used in the pictures in the remington 2006 scout sniper association re issue. A limited number were made to the same specs as the original. The gun came with a letter ot authenticity from Iron Brigade Armory who helped make sure it was correct. IBA has long been THE source for USMC sniper history.  The rifle came correct with the oil finished walnut stock, metal butt plate, barrel parkerized with matching receiver finish. The action is the remington 40x action that has been clipped slotted for stripper clips and has the left side drilled and tapped for rear peep sights. The serial number begins with the SSA ( scout sniper association ) prefix and has the correct U.S. stamped above it.

Standing in for the original redfield accur-range USMC contract scope is a modern redfeild painted green to resemble the original which is very hard to find. The original M40 came with the original redfield JR bases and rings along with the scope.  Badger arms made a limited run of these bases and rings for the M40 limited re issue and Leupold has a small run of green finished 3x-9x scopes for the same rifle. Neither was completely correct in make or type but was close enough for most wanting a clone or the original and a considerable amount cheaper.

Above is a picture of the original SHOT SHOW remington flyer for the M40 signed by 3 famous Vietnam USMC snipers  and members of the SSA, one being the president at the time, for the author. To the left is the gold scout sniper challenge coin that came with the rifle depicting a USMC sniper in the setting position with a winchester M70/Unertl.

The remington M40 re issue is a nice  rifle and a piece of history. They made a very small run  but if you are interested in sniping history  or the history of the M40 in USMC service it is worth your time to track one down. In 2006 the rifle was around 1100 dollars but would be higher today as everything is. But its a fast way to get started on a sniper rifle collection.

The COLT LE901-16S A DETAILED LOOK PART I

Everyone knows Colt.  Colt started a little over 175 years ago and is now one of our country’s oldest gun makers. In the 1960s, Colt secured the rights to the Stoner/Armalite AR15 and AR10.  Back in ’09 Colt introduced the LE6940 to the market as the first major change to the family since the intro to the wildy successful and popular M4 carbine we see everywhere today.  The 6940 had a lot of parts in common with the M4 (known as the 6920 in semi-auto dress). The major difference was the new upper.  The  6940 upper is monolithic and free floats the barrel.  The receiver and the rail of the ’40 are all machined from a one-piece forging and offers the ability to set optics anywhere on the rail and have total stability.  This helps to keeps your zero, well, zeroed.  Another addition was the folding front sight that replaced the fixed military legacy front sight base that dates back to the originals.

Right or wrong, a desire for more power than the 5.56 arose over the last decade because of the GWOT and because our soldiers are sometimes involved in long range contacts.  The tired old M14 was pressed into service in hopes of extending the range of SDMs and to give a little more confidence to those who felt the 5.56 was not quite enough.  In the years since, a lot of companies have started to ramp up and offer their own versions of the AR-series in 30 caliber and anything else they can squeeze into the magazine well of the rifle pattern.  The Armalite AR10 has been around for a while, the KAC was adopted as a sniper weapon by both the US Army and the USMC, and the LMT MWS has seen limited success as a DM rifle for the British military.

It is in the midst of this 30 caliber revolution that people noticed one name oddly absent from the 7.62 AR market game–Colt.  The company had not forgotten or ignored the trend, but it had to make sure to fill contracts worth millions for the US Gov, including the M4 and recent awards for M240 machine guns.  Now that the war seems to be winding down and Colt has more breathing room, they’re expanding and are stating to fire up their impressive R&D again.  Remember that this is a company that has brought out some of the most legendary firearms of the past 175 years.  After the release of the 6940, rumors started about a version chambered in 308 all over the internet with some links to patents to support the rumors.  Then over a year ago at the SHOT show we saw the 901 for the first time. It was shown in several different barrel lengths and finishes.  Now over a year later the 901 is ready to  hit the market.

What makes the Colt LE901 special is not only is it a 308 rifle, but it can be very easily converted to take any milspec 5.56 upper available and made to quality. Colt considers this their “Modular carbine” and it most certainly is.

With a adapter block (which is installed very easily), the modular ambi lower will take any upper you can find.  One extra part and a swap of the buffer spring and buffer give you unlimited combos with the 901.   The rifle takes the SR25 pattern magazines so it will take the Pmag, (and therefore the KAC and LaRue mags as well).  The barrel is 16 inches long and the button-rifled barrel and chamber are chrome-lined.  As with all Colts, the barrel is MPC and proofed–not just in batches, but every single one of them.  The twist rate of the gun is 1/12 which gives you a pretty wide range of bullet weights to use.

Like the 6940 the  901 has a monolithic upper.  It also has a few upgrades the 6940 does not have. The rail of the 901 has QD sockets not just in the front of the rail, but also in the rear of the rail.  Most people want this and it is great to see this added to the rifle. The front sight is like the 6940’s in that it folds, but the difference is that the 901’s front folding sight is not lockable in the up position for those who worry it might fold down in harsh use right when you do not want it to.

As written above, the lower of the rifle is also ambi.  This is another trend that has started in the last decade and one that will be sticking with us in my opinion. The controls are well placed and easy to use.  None of them are stiff or require so much force as to make them useless.  The gun comes standard with a Colt marked troy BUIS.

A nice feature in the lower is the absence of a web blocking the installation of a RDIAS. So if you have one, full auto fire in a colt 308 can be a reality. The FCG parts are all standard Milspec with all the typical colt quality and testing that goes with that. The 308 marked buffer in the gun can be seen in the picture above.

The 16 inch barrel is described by colt as a HBAR but I would call it more of a medium heavy with a straight taper unlike the taper of older colt HBAR carbines of the past. The rail comes off like the 6940 by depressing the lock on the bottom rear with a round or punch. The rifle sent to me by colt defense also needs a screw on each side of the rail taken out for further stripping.  This helps keep the rail from moving at all for  reliability when using IR lasers or other force multipliers.

The bolt carrier group comes apart just like any other AR but with a few slight upgrades. The firing pin has the addition of a firing pin spring that colt advises not to remove.  The gas rings on the bolt are also one-piece instead of three rings like the 5.56 bolt.

The rest of the BCG is  no surprise. It is made to the same standards as any colt rifle meant for hard combat use with everything tested to milspec and Colt’s TDP that has served millions of military, LEO and civilian personnel for years.

The conversion kit that lets you use the 5.56 upper of your choice comes in three parts. The adapter magazine well block, the 556 buffer spring and the standard Milspec  M4  “H” buffer.  It takes less than a minute to convert the rifle over to 556 and having it operate just like your favorite 556 slayer.  Some people are already saying to use the 308 buffer for a softer shooting carbine but this is a bad idea and I will go out on a limb and say if something goes wrong with your rifle in this configuration of 556 with 30 buffer parts, Colt may not warranty it.  That is PURE SPECULATION on my part, but we all know how companies view such things.

The 901 receiver extension or “buffer tube” as it is commonly called, is standard M4 all the way with the normal colt 4 position. In the picture above is the 308 buffer inside its spring on the left with the 556 buffer to the far right. The 5.56 spring is far left next to the block.

The upper can be tilted down for removal of the BCG and cleaning without taking the entire gun apart. If you’re in a hurry, it’s the way to go although it’s easy to remove the upper completely with the block still on the upper.  The pin is captured so there is no fear of losing it.

Picture shows 556 upper opened as far as it will go with block installed and attached to the lower.

A few people have voiced concerns over what mags the lower with adapter block may or may not take. I found every mag tested will work, including uncommon mags.

Above is a pre-ban colt upper in 7.62×39 with a  ’39 mag in the well. The gun runs flawlessly with the commie caliber upper and magazine fit.

Here is a 6940 upper with the surefire 60 round magazine showing off its stuff and working perfectly.

The world standard 6920 ( M4) upper and the beloved 5.56 Pmag in the 901 lower and working 100 percent.

Finally the Colt  HBAR ELITE  CR6724 24 inch barreled precision upper takes a turn on the lower. All uppers ran as expected with no trouble.

In part two I will write about shooting the 901, its recoil, accuracy and how it does out to 1000 yards along with pictures of targets in testing.

The Colt LE901 A Look at the Parts

I got a few pictures of the BCG  stripped to show the differences in the parts and the size compared to a 5.56 and other  308 pattern rifles.

The BCG stripped for cleaning. The firing pin retaining pin slot has a very nice recessed slot to protect it.

Firing pin and firing pin spring. Colt says DO NOT remove firing pin spring from the firing pin.

901 bolt with firing pin.   You can not tell from this picture but the gas ring on the bolt is one piece.

Front view of the bolt face. Notice how thick and strong the lugs are. This is a heavy duty  part and shouts QUALITY.  Just like all Colt rifles, the bolt is MP inspected, proof fired and hardened. Not in batches, but every one.

The inside of the carrier still looks clean even after 500 rounds fired with no cleaning or lube.

Massive cam pin.

Here is the charging handle. Notice the ridge, or lip on the bottom rear.

A look up into the upper receiver. If you look close you can see the part added for piston conversion on later models.

Check back for more testing of the 901’s accuracy out to 1000 yards coming up.

Colt LE901 1st Impressions

Loose rounds was sent  the new modular 308 rifle from our friends over at Colt Defense today.  This is the new gun that has a 308 upper and a lower that can take a 5.56 upper to with a slight addition of an adapter block.  I got the gun and did a few groups with it and took some pics to get them up for everyone to see. Much much more to follow in the weeks to come!!

I set it up for the groups using a Leupold in Larue mounts. Shot at 100 yards with match ammo.

A lot more to come. I will be running it pretty hard and shooting it out to 1000 yards. More if I can pull it off. But this is a hint of things to come.

and yes, the 901 will take a bayonet