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The SIG-Sauer SSG 3000 Sniper Rifle -- A Step in the Evolution of Sniper Rifles

By John D. Taylor
American military sniping can be traced to the Revolutionary War with the "Kentucky" rifle playing a dominant role. Evidence exists that some of these hunting rifles were e uipped with

riflescopes. !niping became more prominent during the "ivil War as evidenced by several regiments of sharpshooters on both sides of the conflict. Rather than relying solely on hunting rifles# battle rifles with the accuracy of target rifles were preferred $$ the %$lb Whitworth representing the rifle of popular choice. &any Whitworths were fitted with a '($inch )avidson telescopic sight that was mounted offset on the left side of the rifle.

*hus the American sniper rifle began its evolution as a scoped hunting rifle# which was then followed by a highly accurate scoped battle rifle during the "ivil War. *he next stage of evolution was the adoption of a scoped turn$bolt battle rifle that may or may not have been e uipped with a target barrel. +or example# the %$lb !pringfield '%,- served as our battle rifle from its inception up to the beginning of World War ... .n its enhanced# scoped configuration# it also served as our sniper rifle during World Wars . / ..# the Korean "onflict# and saw service during the early stages of the 0ietnam "onflict. *he emergence of two semi$automatic battle rifles1 i.e.# the %.2$lb &' 3arand and the ''.42$lb &'(# resulted in enhanced# scoped versions of these rifles 5 e.g.# &'"6&') and &4'7 that were also made for sniping1 however the turn$bolt rifle remained the core of American sniping during this period. !ome similarities in sniper rifle evolution $$ derived from a turn bolt battle rifle can be found with 3reat 8ritain# 3ermany and to a lesser extent with !oviet 9nion due to its adoption of the )ragunov in '%:- 5for review# see '$-7.

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)uring the 0ietnam "onflict# a number of "trial and error" modifications were performed on both commercial hunting and battle rifles 5for review# see 4$(7. *his resulted in some modifications being adopted# which later served as the foundation for subse uent stages of sniper rifle evolution up to the present. ;owever# the abandonment of the battle rifle in favor of a target rifle configuration as

exemplified by the adoption of Remington <,, action# the repeater version of the Remington (,=# crystalli>ed the future direction for the subse uent two decades. +or the 9! &arines# this adoption was in the form of the :.?$lb &(, $$ later changed to a heavy barrel that resulted in the '(.2$lb &(,A'. +or the 9! Army# it was the adoption of the magnum action with a heavy barrel in the form of the '4.'$lb &4(.

!ince that period# numbers of highly accurate sniper rifles have emerged $$ most taking their origins from target rifles 5for general descriptions# see 2#:7. *hus# what we have witnessed during the past score of years is# to a large extent the emergence of repeater turn$bolt sniper rifles that were designed primarily for target shooting 5 i.e.# precision action and target barrel7 and then modified for sniping. *he manufacturer@s logic was to convert a highly accurate target rifle to a highly accurate sniper rifle. 3ood logic# but many of the target accessories were transferred to the sniper rifle version# which may have enhanced# may have been superfluous or may have degraded the rifle@s capability in a tactical situation.

&anufacturers directed their modified target$to$sniper rifle conversion to two audiencesA military and law enforcement $$ each with different re uirements. *he military# particularly the 9! military# has kept its sniper rifle conversion simple as evidenced by Remington@s design giving rise to the &(,A' and the &4(. 3enerally# 9! law enforcement 5BE7 has followed the military lead for two reasonsA '7 many BE snipers were trained by the military and why change something if it worksC And# 47 the desire by the BE agency to keep costs low. .t is for this reason# we see the Remington &odel <,,D in the hands of many 9! BE snipers.

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*hus far . have reviewed two sniper rifles# which have target rifle origins. *hey are the !.3 8laser R%- *actical 5<7 and the !ako *R3$4' 5?7. .@m uite high on both rifles# but . uestioned whether some of the accessories with target rifle origin are beneficial to the overall composition of a highly accurate sniper rifle. Bet@s examine a third sniper rifle that does not take its origins from a target rifle# but instead from a highly accurate hunting rifle.

Recently !.3AR&! introduced the !.3$!auer !charfschEt>engewehr 5!!37 -,,, sniper rifle to the American market in the .-,? Winchester caliber. *his model differs from its European counterpart# primarily with a &c&illan fiberglass tactical stock instead of a non$warping wood laminate stock.

!ince its introduction# the !.3$!auer !!3 -,,, experienced limited military field service. Reports have surfaced that the !.3$!auer !!3 -,,, was used in Kosovo by the Albanian KBA $$ all rifles privately purchased by sympathi>ers living in !wit>erland and 3ermany.

*he !.3$!auer !!3 -,,, follows in the footsteps of its predecessor# the !.3$!auer !!3 4,,,# which is highly regarded as an excellent sniper rifle. *he origin of the !.3$!auer !!3 4,,, was not a target rifle# but instead the !auer &odel %, action# an upgrade from the &odel ?, action# both with a hunting origin.

!chwei>erische .ndustrie 3esellschaft or !.3 5Feuhausen am Rheinfalls# !wit>erland7 purchased G. D. !auer / !ohn 5EckenfHrde6;ostein# 3ermany7 during the '%<,s thereby overcoming the !wiss@ government restrictions placed on the export of firearms. !auer / !ohn began manufacturing the !.3$ !auer !!3 4,,, during '%?- in several calibers. .t was manufactured to provide !.3 with a sniper rifle for export# which at times resulted in some rifles being marked !.3$!auer !!3 4,,,1 while at other

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times# being marked only !auer !!3 4,,,. *he '(.:$pound rifle was constructed with a '6'4" twist# heavy 4(" cold$hammered barrel fitted with a combination mu>>le brake and flash suppressor. *he barrel is mated into the receiver and locked by three cap$head bolts. *he wood stock includes a thumbhole with stippled pistol grip# an adIustable shoulder plate# and an adIustable comb controlled by an elevating wheel. *he rifle is e uipped with a set$trigger. +inally# the maga>ine holds four cartridges based upon center feeding for maximum reliability.

*he bolt configuration centers on hinged lugs mounted to the rear of the bolt# which when engaged opens outward to lock into the receiver and then to retract into the bolt upon the elevation of the bolt handle. 8ecause the bolt is non$rotating# the lug engagement is achieved by an action of cams driven by the rotation of the bolt handle. Rotation of the handle is :2J# which facilitates rapid and smooth movement of the bolt by the shooter.

. examined a !.3$!auer !!3 -,,, at the '%%% !;K* !how held in Atlanta. . was impressed with the rifle and as a result# ordered one. *his article deals with a new rifle $$ not a demonstrator# and its shooting characteristics during the barrel break$in and its performance with one brand of ammunitionA 8lack ;ills ':?gr &atch &oly. &y experience with new rifles is that if broken in properly# one can tell by 4,, rounds how well they will perform in the future. . fired less than 2, rounds before writing this article. *he rifle@s performance suggests that it@s an extremely accurate rifle.

*he !.3$!auer !!3 -,,, is chambered only for the .-,? Winchester using a '6'4" twist# moderately heavy barrel 5+igure '7. *he 4-.:" cold$hammer$forged barrel is fitted with a combination mu>>le brake and flash suppressor. *he brake@s parallel slots are closed at the bottom in order to prevent a dust signature when firing prone. Bike many recent rifle designs# the !.3$!auer !!3 -,,, is

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constructed along the modular principle# where the barrel is detachable via a screw clamp as well as a detachable trigger assembly.

8uilt around the !auer 4,, action# the bolt with a :,L lift is locked into the barrel by two rows of lugs $$ the same diameter as the bolt located on the bolt head 5+igure 47. *hese engage into recesses located in the barrel when the bolt handle is rotated to the down position. *he logic for moving away from the hinged lugs of the !.3$!auer !!3 4,,, to one using a front$locking system was to improve accuracy. Bocking the bolt head into the barrel rather than the receiver is becoming popular with European rifles and in my view# is more desirable than using a receiver to lock lugs either located on the rear of the bolt or located on the bolt head.

*he bolt face is fully encased with a heavy$duty eIector and extractor. When cocked# a red indicator is visible below the bolt shroud. Kne gas port is located toward the front of the bolt. Working the bolt to insert and then lock a cartridge as well as to unlock and eIect a spent cartridge is extremely smooth and wobble$free.

*he receiver housing is manufactured from a single steel billet to insure rigidity# which serves as a conduit to lock the bolt into the barrel 5+igure -7. *his results in recoil forces being transferred directly to the stock# bypassing the receiver. )uring the !.3$!auer !!3 -,,,@s development# aluminum was offered as an optional material for the receiver# but was dropped as it was felt that the demand for steel would be greater than the demand for an aluminum receiver. "learly# aluminum would have lightened the rifle without compromising the rifle@s integrity. 9sing an aluminum receiver was a successful path taken by the !.3$8laser R%- *actical rifle. +inally# the rifle is e uipped to accommodate a mirage band $$ an accessory that is associated with a target rifle.

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Bike its predecessor# the !.3$!auer !!3 -,,, is designed for rapid barrel replacement# which is achieved by first removing the stock and then loosening the three clamping screws in a prescribed se uence $$ described in the owner@s manual 5+igure 47. Knce the barrel is removed# a new barrel can be inserted by utili>ing alignment marks located on the barrel and receiver. *his is followed by retightening the clamping screws to < to % ft$lbs $$ in a prescribed se uence# again outlined in the owner@s manual while at the same time cycling the bolt to insure a proper fit.

8ecause the barrel is relatively easy to change# the !.3$!auer !!3 -,,, should be ideal for other calibers1 e.g.# .44- Remington and .4(- Winchester. A single rifle firing several calibers clearly extends the usefulness of the weapon and makes it more attractive to potential buyers# providing that barrels in other calibers are available. At this time they are not available. *he European version of the !.3$!auer -,,, offers a .44 BR conversion kit for short range shooting# which is outlined in some detail in the owner@s manual. +rom my perspective# changing barrels on the 8laser R%- *actical 5see < for details7 is easier than changing barrels on the !.3$!auer !!3 -,,,. *his point remains moot as !.3AR&! advertises replacement barrels in other calibers for the 8laser R%- *actical1 but as yet# none are available. A highly accurate sniper rifle being able to accommodate both the .44- Remington and the .-,? Winchester would make a lot of people happy# including me.

*he modular trigger system and its safety system are excellent. AdIustments include trigger position# take$up# let$off and pull weight. A nice feature is the trigger positioning# which allows the shooter to fit his hand by moving the trigger forward or backwards along a longitudinal axis. *he safety is composed of a !afety Kn and a !afety Kff catch 5+igure -7. Bocation of the !afety Kn catch is on the right side of the receiver# next to the bolt. Assuming the shooter is right$handed# it can be accessed with the thumb by pushing down. *his moves the !afety Kff catch down into the space within the trigger

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guard in front of the trigger. Fow the !afety Kff catch can be accessed with the trigger finger to push up. *he safety locks the bolt closed and must be released in order to open.

*he five$round detachable# single stack maga>ine possesses two guide shoulders to prevent any proIectile tips from being damaged during recoil 5+igure (7. *he maga>ine is removed by pressing a plunger located directly in front of the maga>ine well. *he maga>ine is well made and because it is protected by the stock# it should provide flawless service# an important point when a rapid second shot is re uired.

!.3AR&! offers Warne M.). -, mm or '" rings for direct mounting to the receiver. .nstead# . purchased their Weaver Rail Adaptor in order to accommodate -,mm !tandard Rings from &W3 "o. *hese rings insure maximum stability between scope and rail 5+igure 27. .n addition# . installed &3W@s Anti$"ant device 5A")7 $$ an inexpensive simple carpenter grade bubble level. "anting of the rifle during firing leads to misplacement of the proIectile $$ misplacement is amplified at longer distances. *he A") is mounted to the body of the scope in a position where the non$sighting eye can visuali>e it during target ac uisition. *o achieve maximum benefit# it is advised that the shooter establish a behavior of utili>ing the A")# no matter whether the target@s distance is near or far. Kne is mounted on each scoped rifle that . own. *he !.3 !auer !!3 -,,, was scoped with a Beupold 0ari$= ... (.2$'( BR* 2,mm with mildot reticle 5+igure :7. .n my Iudgment# this model is the most versatile tactical scope available for targets with a wide distribution of ranges.

*he European version of the !.3$!auer !!3 -,,, is e uipped with either a single piece or laminated wood stock resulting in a final weight of ''.% pounds. *he adIustable cheek piece is designed for height# offset and cant# while the buttplate is adIustable for height and length. +our lateral slots are

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located on each side of the forearm to facilitate air circulation around the barrel. .n addition# the forearm encloses a rail that accommodates a hand$stop# sling or bipod.

*he American version is e uipped with a black &c&illan fiberglass stock based on the &model# but specifically designed for the rifle. *he maIor design difference between the standard &- and the stock found on the !.3$!!3 -,,, is a modification that accommodates as well as protects the five$ round maga>ine. *he stock is e uipped with an integral adIustable cheek piece for height# offset# but not for cant. .n addition# the &c&illan buttplate is a standard non$slip rubber without adIustments for height and length. An accessory rail is located along the bottom of the forearm. *he lateral slots# found on each side of the forearm laminated wood stocks are also missing from the &c&illan stock. +inally# Kelly &c&illan indicated that early versions of the stock are slightly different from current versions $$ the difference is not noticeable. With the &c&illan stock# the weight of an unloaded rifle without scope is ''.4 pounds.

*he &c&illan stock translates into a slightly lighter rifle when contrasted to the wooded stock of the European version1 this may become important to the sniper who must carry his rifle for extended periods of time. *he absence of the lateral slots on each side of the forearm is a plus# as . can envision extraneous material accumulating between the barrel and forearm. With the European !.3$!auer !!3 -,,, the removal of the stock would be re uired for cleaning. Note *he "hoate *arget and !niper !tock# designed by &aIor Gohn Dlaster# has similar lateral slots# which are advertised to tie$down camouflage as well as to cool the barrel.

*he &c&illan stock provides a cheekpiece adIustable for height and offset to best fit the sniper@s cranial topography# but the design is flawed. When the cheek piece is centered and raised to a height of

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,.-<2" or greater# the bolt hits the cheek piece# preventing the cycling of a new round. When the cheek piece is offset either to the right or to the left# and then raised to a height of ,.4,'" or greater# the bolt again hits the cheek piece preventing the cycling of a new round 5+igure :7. Why did . raise the cheek piece to heights greater than theseC 8ecause greater heights best fit my cranial topography# which may also be the case with other shooters. 9nder these conditions# the only way to cycle is to remove the cheek piece and then replace after chambering a new round $$ hoping that the original height could be found rapidly. "learly# this is unacceptable for a sniper rifle# which may re uire a fast follow$up shot.

. asked Kelly &c&illan to review my findings. Kelly responded# "*he more you allow for clearance of the bolt the uglier the comb. We do the best we can and then leave a little for the shooter if he wants any more." . asked his views on removing a portion of the cheek piece. ;e replied# "Nes# if the shooter wants some hori>ontal adIustment that is hindered by the bolt operation# by all means remove whatever portion of the cheek piece is necessary to effect the change needed. .t won@t hurt the stock and can be touched up with any black paint." With minimal tools# . suspect the Iob can be completed within -, minutes.

8ecause of the '6'4" twist# . broke$in the rifle with match cartridges launching ':?gr proIectiles. . have always found 8lack ;ills cartridges to be first class and as a result# the !.3$!auer !!3 -,,, was broken$in with 8lack ;ills ':?gr &atch &oly cartridges using a protocol modified from that used by the 9.!. &arine "orps. With sniper rifles# . try to perform all of my testing shooting in the prone position using a bipod# but this time# after breaking in the barrel# . continued shooting from the bench. *rigger control was excellent and recoil was minimal due to the rifle@s weight and combination brake and flash suppressor. .n my hands using a 0ersa Dod bipod 5Keng@s +irearms !pecialty7# the rifle@s first four -$shot groups at ',, yards were ,.?4"# ,.<2"# ,.2-" and ,.(2". &ost rifles improve with time after identifying a

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load best suited for the rifle# which . assume will be true here as well. *his rifle has all of the early signs of an extremely accurate rifle.

+rom my perspective# the !.3$!auer !!3 -,,, is a uality turn$bolt sniper rifle. Kverall# it is an improvement over the !.3$!auer 4,,, because of the location of the locking lugs at the front of the bolt. A comparison of the laminated wood stock offered with the European version alongside the &c&illan stock would be interesting. &y guess is that . would prefer the &c&illan stock with a modified cheek piece. *he American version appears to be well suited for the military and police sniper#

!.3AR&! offers the !.3$!auer !!3 -,,, in three packages. Bevel ' is the base model with carrying case# but no bi$pod# or scope. Bevel ..# the rifle comes with a Beupold 0ari$= ... -.2$',x(,mm duplex reticle scope# ;arris bi$pod and carrying case. With Bevel ...# the rifle comes with a Beupold &ark ( &'$',x(,mm mil$dot scope# ;arris bi$pod and carrying case. *he !.3$!auer -,,, demonstrates all of the characteristics of becoming a serious contender for those snipers desiring a rifle that offers something more than an unmodified Remington <,,# new from the box.

We have witnessed that sniper rifles evolved from hunting# target and battle rifles. )uring this evolution# modifications $$ primarily from target rifles were added to the sniper rifles with the goal to improve the rifle@s accuracy. Kne of the constants during the evolution of sniper rifles since the 0ietnam "onflict is the constancy of the weight of the rifle $$ ranging from '' to '4 pounds. .t seems reasonable that the next step would be to reduce this weight. .n those rifles where the bolt locks directly into the barrel# aluminum alloy receivers are being used. A second approach that we are beginning to see is the utili>ation of a graphite$coated barrels.

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3raphite coated barrels were championed by "hristensen Arms as a means to improve the accuracy of the rifle. Weight reduction was a byproduct. As a side note# our ongoing research utili>ing a repeater turn$bolt for testing our new .(,? "heyenne *actical cartridge has contrasted two Krieger barrels# which were manufactured at the same time. Kne barrel@s outer diameter was turned and subse uently graphite coated by "hristensen Arms. *he second Krieger barrel was fluted only.

Experiments are ongoing but at this point# the graphite$coated barrel is more accurate than the non$coated. .n addition# the graphite$coated barrel reduced the rifle@s weight by five pounds.

What about a de novo design $$ does one existC .t may be difficult to come up with a true de novo design unless the action is novel. .n my Iudgment# the rifle currently available that comes closest to a de novo design is the Erma !R ',, designed by 3Enter KirnstOtter. *his uni ue design# with a readily exchangeable barrels# bolts and maga>ine units permits chambering in the .-,? Winchester# the .-,, Winchester &agnum# .--? Bapua &agnum and the '4.< Anthis. .n the .-,? Winchester# the Erma !R ',, is five$shot sub$teen rifle at ',, yards. *he Erma !R ',, may be the first evolutionary step in a new line of sniper rifles designed by KirnstOtter. *he latest is the A&D )!R Fo. '# which is uite different in design and appearance from the Erma !R ',,. At this time# the rifle is in prototype configuration only. *his highly modular '4.?$pound prototype will also accommodate the .-,? Winchester# the .-,, Winchester &agnum# .--? Bapua &agnum and the '4.< Anthis. At a later date# . shall review the Erma !R ',, and shall keep a keen eye on the development of the A&D )R! Fo. '.

John D. Taylor! "h.D. "rofessor! #ayne State $niversity Detroit! %i&hi'an ()*0* #or+s , (-(0

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'. !enich# D. R. '%?4. The German Sniper, 1914-1945. Daladin Dress# 8oulder# "K. 4. !enich# D. R. '%??. The Complete Book of U.S. Sniping. Daladin Dress# 8oulder# "K. -. 3ilbert# A. '%%(. Sniper. The World of Com at Sniping. !t. &artin@s Dress# Few Nork# FN. (. !enich# D. R. '%%(. The !ong-"ange War - Sniping in #ietnam. Daladin Dress# 8oulder# "K. 2. Forris# G. '%%<. "ifle$ % Com at Shotg&n$ - '$$a&lt % Sniper "ifle$. 8rassey@s# Bondon# 9K. :. ;ogg# ..0. '%%?. *he World@s !niping Rifles. 3reenhill 8ooks# Bondon# 9K. <. *aylor# G. ). '%%%. *he 8laser R%- *actical Rifle and .ts Fovel 8olt $$ *he +errari of !niper RiflesC *actical !hooter# 0ol. 4# Fo. 2# pp. -<$(-. ?. *aylor# G. ). '%%%. !ako@s *R3$4' !niper Rifle. &inute of Angle# 0ol. '# Fo. (.

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.or a++itional infor/ation! &onta&tA 8lack ;ills Ammunition D.K. 8ox -,%, Rapid "ity# !) 2<<,%$-,%, 0oiceA :,2$-(?$%?4<$ "hristensen Arms '%4 East ',, Forth +ayette# 9tah ?(:-, 0oiceA (-2$24?$<%%% Keng +irearms !pecialty# .nc. ?<2 Wharton )rive D.K. 8ox (((,2 Atlanta# 3eorgia -,--:$'(,2 0oiceA ?,,$?(?$(:<' Krieger 8arrels# .nc. F''( W'?:%< "linton )rive 3ermantown# Wisconsin 2-,44 0oiceA ('($422$%2%Beupold / !tevens# .nc. D.K. 8ox :?? 8eaverton# KR %<,<2$,:?? 0oiceA 2,-$24:$2'%2 &c&illan +iberglass !tocks 4'(4' F. '(th Ave.# !uite 8 Dhoenix# AP ?2,4< 0oiceA :,4$2?'$-?42 &W3 "ompany D.K. 8ox %<'4,4 &iami# +B --'%< 0oiceA -,2$42-$?-%httpA66www.shadow.net6Qmwg !.3AR&! .nc. "orporate Dark Exeter# F; 0oice :,-$<<4$4-,4

Page fourteen .i'ure 0e'en+s

+igure '. !.3$!auer !!3 -,,, sniper rifle in the .-,? Winchester caliber e uipped with a (.2$'( x 2,mm BR* Beupold scope# &W3 rings and 0ersa Dod bipod.

+igure 4. A / 8. 8arrel and receiver are clamped together by screws in a prescribed se uenced outlined in the owner@s manual. " / ). *he bolt 5'7 is locked directly to barrel 547.

+igure -. *he safety is an integral part of the trigger mechanism. A. Dush down with the thumb on safety KF catch 5'7 results in the safety K++ catch 547 to slide downwards where it can be felt by the trigger finger. 8. Dush up on the safety K++ catch 547 with the trigger finger and the safety KF catch 5'7 slides upward which exposes a visible red warning mark.

+igure (. *he !.3$!auer !!3 -,,, single column maga>ine designed for precise chambering. *he maga>ine will almost# but not uite accommodate it .-,, Winchester &agnum cartridge.

+igure 2. Beupold (.2$'( x 2,mm BR* scoped mated to Weaver rail adaptor with &W3 rings. *he rail adaptor is locked to the receiver and provides ade uate height to accommodate the 2,mm obIective lens of the scope.

+igure :. When the cheek piece elevated and offset to the right or left# it hits the cheek piece thus preventing the bolt from cycling a new round 5arrow7.