The M82 is a recoil-operated, semi-automatic anti-materiel rifle developed by the American Barrett Firearms Manufacturing. A heavy SASR (Special Application Scoped Rifle), it is used by many units and armies around the world. It is also called the "Light Fifty" for its .50 caliber BMG (12.7 mm) chambering. The weapon is found in two variants—the original M82A1 (and A3) and the bullpup M82A2. The M82A2 is no longer manufactured, though the XM500 can be seen as its successor, in that it also employs a bullpup configuration.
Barrett Firearms Manufacturing was founded by Ronnie Barrett for the single purpose of building semi-automatic rifles chambered for the powerful 12.7×99mm NATO (.50 BMG) ammunition, originally developed for and used in M2 Browning machine guns. Barrett began his work in the early 1980s and the first working rifles were available in 1982, hence the designation M82. Barrett designed every single part of the weapon personally and then went on to market the weapon and mass produce it out of his own pocket. He continued to develop his rifle through the 1980s, and developed the improved M82A1 rifle by 1986.
The first conventional military success was the sale of about 100 M82A1 rifles to the Swedish Army in 1989. Major success followed in 1990, when the United States armed forces purchased significant numbers of the M82A1 during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in Kuwait and Iraq. About 125 rifles were initially bought by the United States Marine Corps, and orders from Army and Air Force soon followed. The M82A1 is known by the US military as the SASR—"Special Applications Scoped Rifle", and it was and still is used as an anti-matériel weapon and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) tool. The long effective range, over 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) (1.1 miles), along with high energy and availability of highly effective ammunition such as API and Raufoss Mk 211, allows for effective operations against targets like radar cabins, trucks, parked aircraft. and the like. The M82 can also be used to defeat human targets from standoff range or against targets behind cover. However, anti-personnel use is not a major application for the M82 (or any other .50 BMG rifle, for that matter). There is a widespread misconception that a number of treaties have banned use of the .50 BMG against human targets, and recruits have been advised by generations of drill instructors to only aim a .50 BMG at an enemy soldier's web gear or other equipment worn on his body. However, the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's office has issued a legal opinion that the .50 BMG and even the Raufoss Mk 211 round are legal for use against enemy personnel.
The latest derivative of the M82 family is the M82A1M rifle, adopted by U.S. Marine Corps as the M82A3 SASR and bought in large numbers. This rifle differs from M82A1 in that it has a full length Picatinny rail that allows a wide variety of scopes and sighting devices to be mounted on the rifle. Other changes are the addition of a rear monopod, slightly lightened mechanism, and detachable bipod and muzzle brake.
Another variant of the original weapon is the M82A1A Special Application Scoped Rifle, an almost identical model but specifically designed to fire the Raufoss Mk 211 Mod 0 round, a type of API (Armour Piercing Incendiary) ammunition.
Barrett M82 rifles were bought by various military and police forces from at least 30 countries, such as Belgium, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and others. The M82 also is widely used for civilian .50 caliber long range shooting competitions, being fired accurately out to 3,000 feet (910 m) and even farther.
The United States Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron uses a version of the Barrett M82 to disable the engines of go-fast boats carrying illegal drugs. Similarly, Barrett M82 rifles have attracted attention from law enforcement agencies; they have been adopted by the New York City Police Department. If it becomes necessary to immobilize a vehicle, a .50 BMG round in the engine block will shut it down quickly. If it is necessary to breach barriers, a .50 BMG round will penetrate most commercial brick walls and concrete blocks.
According to the documentary The Brooklyn Connection, M82s smuggled into Kosovo by sympathizers in the United States have quickly become popular long range sniper rifles in the Kosovo Liberation Army. In Northern Ireland during the 1990s, the South Armagh Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) used Barrett rifles against the British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary police.
As a side note, the Barrett M82A1 rifle was used in 2002 as a platform for the experimental OSW (Objective Sniper Weapon) prototype. This weapon was fitted with a shorter barrel of 25 mm caliber, and fired high-explosive shells developed for the 25×59 mm OCSW (Objective Crew Served Weapon) automatic grenade launcher. The experimental OSW showed an increased effectiveness against various targets, but the recoil was beyond human limitations. This weapon, also known as the Barrett "Payload Rifle", has now been designated the XM109.
The XM107 was originally intended to be a bolt-action sniper rifle, and it was selected by the U.S. Army in a competition between such weapons. However, the decision was made that the U.S. Army did not, in fact, require such a weapon. The rifle originally selected under the trials to be the XM107 was the Barrett M95.
Then the Army decided on the Barrett M82, a semi-automatic rifle. In summer 2002, the M82 finally emerged from its Army trial phase and was approved for "full materiel release", meaning it was officially adopted as the Long Range Sniper Rifle, Caliber .50, M107. The M107 uses a Leupold 4.5×14 Mark 4 scope.
The Barrett M107 is a .50 caliber, shoulder fired, semi-automatic sniper rifle. Like its predecessors the rifle is said to have manageable recoil for a weapon of its size owing to the barrel assembly that itself absorbs force, moving inward toward the receiver against large springs with every shot. Additionally the weapon's weight and large muzzle brake also assist in recoil reduction. Various changes were made to the original M82A1 to create the M107, with new features such as a lengthened accessory rail, rear grip, and monopod socket. Barrett has recently been tasked with developing a lightweight version of the M107 under the "Anti-Materiel Sniper Rifle Congressional Program," and has already come up with a scheme to build important component parts such as the receiver frame and muzzle brake out of lighter weight materials.
The Barrett M107, like previous members of the M82 line, is also referred to as the Barrett "Light Fifty." The designation has in many instances supplanted earlier ones, with the M107 being voted one of 2005's Top 10 Military Inventions by the U.S. Army.
A commercial development of the "new" M107, the M107CQ is specifically designed where the firepower of a .50 caliber rifle is required, but the bulk of the M82/M107 series prevents the weapon from being used. The M107CQ is 9" shorter in overall length (all in the barrel) and 5 pounds lighter than the M107. According to the manufacturer the M107CQ is suitable for use in helicopters, force protection watercraft, tactical scout land vehicles, and as an urban soldier's combat multiplier for close quarter battles.
In Oct 2010, Barrett unofficially reported production of the M107 had ceased; and in January 2011 the company announced its successor, the M107A1 was available for commercial release. Significant enhancements include a reduction in weight of 4 pounds, a new cylindrical titanium muzzle break and titanium barrel key/recoil buffer system which allows the weapon to operate with a Barrett designed suppressor, and other functional modifications that increase durability and operator utility.
A U.S. Army sniper using an M107.
Demonstration of an M82 during a training course at Hurlburt Field, Florida.
The M82 is a short recoil semi-automatic firearm. When the gun is fired, the barrel initially recoils for a short distance (about 1 in/25 mm) being securely locked by the rotating bolt. After the short travel, a post on the bolt engaged in the curved cam track in the receiver turns the bolt to unlock it from the barrel. As soon as the bolt unlocks, the accelerator arm strikes it back, transferring part of the recoil energy of the barrel to the bolt to achieve reliable cycling. Then the barrel is stopped and the bolt continues back, to extract and eject a spent case. On its return stroke, the bolt strips the fresh cartridge from the box magazine and feeds it into the chamber and finally locks itself to the barrel. The striker also is cocked on the return stroke of the bolt. The gun is fed from a large detachable box magazine holding up to 10 rounds, although a rare 12 round magazine was developed for use during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
The receiver is made from two parts (upper and lower), stamped from sheet steel and connected by cross-pins. The heavy barrel is fluted to improve heat dissipation and save weight, and fitted with a large and effective reactive muzzle brake. On the earlier models the muzzle brakes had a round cross-section; later M82 rifles are equipped with two-chamber brakes of rectangular cross-section.
M82A1 rifles are fitted with scope mount and folding backup iron sights, should the glass scope break. The U.S. military M82 rifles are often equipped with Leupold Mark 4 telescopic sights. The M82A1M (USMC M82A3) rifles have long Picatinny accessory rails mounted and US Optics telescopic sights. Every M82 rifle is equipped with a folding carrying handle and a folding bipod (both are detachable on the M82A3). The M82A3 is also fitted with a detachable rear monopod under the butt. The buttpad is fitted with a soft recoil pad to further decrease the felt recoil. M82A1 and M82A3 rifles could be mounted on the M3 or M122 infantry tripods (originally intended for machine guns) or on vehicles using the special Barrett soft-mount. The M82A1 can be fitted with a carry sling but according to those who carried it in the field, the M82 is too uncomfortable to be carried on a sling due to its excessive length and heavy weight. It is usually carried in a special carry soft or hard case.
The M82A2 differed from M82A1 mostly in its configuration—that the pistol grip along with trigger had been placed ahead of the magazine, and the buttpad has been placed below the receiver, just after the magazine. An additional forward grip was added below the receiver, and the scope mount has been moved forward too.
The maximum range of this weapon (specifically the M107 variant) is 7,450 yards (6,812m). The maximum effective range of the M107 is 2,000 yards (1,829m). This is, in fact, the distance as quoted in the owner's manual that should be allowed downrange for bullet travel. Fifty caliber (and larger) rounds have the potential to travel great distances if fired in an artillery-like fashion, necessitating the observance of large safety margins when firing on a range.
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