New M110A2 Sniper Rifle Used In Army Ranger Competition

Elite U.S. Army soldiers got their hands on an M110A2 rifle from Knight’s Armament Company, or KAC, at a recent competition held at Fort Benning, Georgia. KAC, which provided the Army’s original M110 semi-automatic sniper system before losing the contract to Hechler & Koch’s M110A1, first publicly displayed its M110A2 rifle in an Army-specific configuration at the Association of the United States Army’s annual expo in October 2021.

KAC was able to showcase the newest version of its M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (SASS) during the 2022 iteration of the Best Ranger Competition, which ran from April 8 to 11, after being invited by the National Army Ranger Association, which co-hosts the event at Fort Benning, Ash Hess, KAC’s military sales rep coordinator, told The War Zone.

The Army previously released a picture showing a Ranger-qualified soldier from the 101st Airborne Division firing the rifle during the stress-shooting phase on the second day of the rigorous annual competition.

“The [National] Ranger Association reached out to us to see if we wanted to supply rifles for the competitors to use,” Hess said. “We supplied our M110A2 as a semi-automatic sniper system, because if the Army asked for more today, that’s what they’d get.”

This year’s Best Ranger Competition saw 51 teams muscle their way through 33 separate events over the three days. Other phases involved shooting various other weapons on the move, carrying a mannequin on a litter between live-fire stages, swimming, running, an obstacle source, and more. Beyond the M110A2, soldiers taking part in the event were seen shooting M4 carbines and other AR-15/M16-type rifles in custom configurations, Sig Sauer M17 Modular Handgun System (MHS) pistols, and 12 gauge shotguns

“The competitors fired our M110A2 on a challenging course that consisted of three moving targets and eight small static targets,” according to a post from Knight’s on Instagram. “This was after 24 hours of continuous movement, drills and various events.”

A stock picture of a KAC M110A2 rifle from the company’s website. KAC

The M110A2 is one of the latest evolutions of KAC’s SR-25 design, a derivative of the 5.56x45mm AR-15/M16 rifle scaled up to fire 7.62x51mm ammunition and is something of a cousin of the AR-10. A number of SR-25 variants are already in U.S. military service, including the M110 version. KAC holds a $4.6 million indefinite-quantity contract with Picatinny Arsenal — the Defense Department’s Joint Center of Excellence for Lethality — through which the Army can purchase the M110A2 at any time. Providing the weapons for use at Best Ranger was an opportunity to show the Army what technological advances KAC has made in its rifle, Hess said.

U.S. Army Christopher Ashey, 2nd Battalion, 113th Infantry, New Jersey Army National Guard, fires a KAC-built M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System during training at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Aug. 15, 2018. New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen

KAC’s website says that the default M110A2 configuration weighs in at 10.5 pounds, but this would appear to reflect a rifle without various accessories, such as a scope, or a loaded magazine. The Army’s M110A1, based on the HK417, weighs around 10.8 pounds with no accessories and an empty magazine, but this grows to 13.7 pounds when it is in its fully-loaded operational configuration.

KAC’s M110A2 sports a floating barrel and is between 39.75 inches and 43.5 inches long, depending on the configuration of its collapsible stock. Fitted with a 20-inch match barrel, the A2 version of the weapon is “purpose-built to provide precision fire on point targets past 1,000 meters,” according to the company. The A2 features an ambidextrous bolt release, selector, and magazine release, which offers left-handed shooters the same ergonomic advantages inherent to AR-15-based controls.

Knights spent time last week at Fort Benning supporting the event, but it is unclear if Ranger regiments have any intention to field the A2 version of its rifle. KAC provided the Army’s SASS rifles from 2007 to 2013. It then notably lost to H&K in a competition to field the M110A1 Squad Designated Marksman Rifle (SDMR), which beat out both KAC and Fabrique Nationale to win the $44.5 million contract for at least 3,643 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS) rifles. As we mentioned earlier, H&K won with a derivative of its HK417. The German-headquartered firm also makes the HK417’s popular cousin, the HK416, which is used by the German Army, U.S. Joint Special Operations Command personnel, and the United States Marine Corps. The HK416 fires the 5.56X54 mm cartridge while the HK417 fires the larger 7.62X51 mm round.

The Knight’s A2 version retains the barrel length of its predecessor but has a more efficient gas system, upgraded integral suppressor, and a longer, 12-inch handguard to accommodate more accessories. 

“With all the new gadgets and gizmos — thermals and night vision — they were running out of space on the old handguard,” Hess said.

A soldier from the 101st Airborne Division, competes with a standard M4 carbine during the second day of the annual Best Ranger event, April 9th, 2022. Credit: Photo by Spc. Kelvin Johnson Jr.

The A2’s handguard uses an M-LOK modular locking accessory system that allows shooters to mount rails where they were needed, “as opposed to covering the entire surface with mounting rails, which are then covered with panels,” Knights says. The system also allows direct mounting of accessories, such as fore-grips, bipods, laser-pointers, and flashlights.

Soldiers at the BRC event were firing KAC’s upgraded rifle with a scope, though the exact model is unknown. The M110A1, the HK417 derived model in service today, uses the SIG Optics TANGO6 1-6x scope.

Smoke clears from the chamber of an M110 A1 Squad Designated Marksman Rifle fired by Spc. Steven Monnat during new equipment training at Fort Drum, New York, November 5. Credit: Maj. Avery Schneider

The Army hasn’t purchased new M110 weapons from Knights in large quantities since its contract ran its course in 2013, Hess said. Knowing most of those rifles were used heavily in Iraq and Afghanistan, Knights jumped at the chance to get its new rifles in soldiers’ hands in case the Army chooses to purchase new 7.62 mm rifles, he said. Even some of the M110A1s aren’t exactly brand new anymore.

“The pricing and package, all the stuff that comes with the system is set in the contract, which makes it easy for the Army to purchase rifles without going through the whole bid process again,” Hess said.

The Army continues to experiment with new infantry weapons, as it seeks lighter, more efficient small arms that don’t weigh down soldiers while providing adequate punch. While it may have been overlooked by the Army before, KAC’s M110A2 could find its way into the inventory in significant numbers via other avenues. We will keep our eyes peeled if it pops up again.

Correction: The original version of this story stated that the U.S. Army Ranger Association had invited KAC to bring its M110A2 to the competition and that it co-hosts the event. However, it is the National Ranger Association that is the cost-host of the Best Ranger Competition and that invited KAC to attend with it its new rifle.

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