Today, we’ve got another first: we were invited to Barrett HQ to get our hands on the MRAD variation that will be the new sniper weapon system for special operations soldiers.
Here’s a hint: it’s awesome and we want one! Full video walk-through coming soon.
Special Ops Sniper Rifle
The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has had a rocky history lately with sniper rifles.
First, the Army upgraded their M24 rifles (Remington 700 Platforms) with 300 Win Mag barrels and nice chassis systems. These increased special operations sniper capabilities without technically being a “new” rifle because the old rifle receivers were re-used.
Then, SOCOM sought a multi-caliber sniper weapon system in 338 Lapua, 300 Win Mag, and 308 Win. Remington won this contract for the Modular Sniper Rifle (MSR) contract with their switch-barrel design. I was an officer in Remington at the time and, unfortunately, was part of this contract.
I write “unfortunately” because the MSR rifles were plagued with such problems that SOCOM cancelled the program and started a new competition for the ASR (Advanced Sniper Rifle) that had some new requirements, namely the calibers being 338 Norma, 300 Norma, and 308 Win.
As we broke the news last week, Barrett won the ASR contract with SOCOM. This means that all U.S Special Operations snipers will be carrying this new MRAD variant as their sniper rifle.
Barrett MRAD Sniper Rifle
My go-to rifle for most long range work is my Barrett MRAD (full review coming soon).
I’ll admit that at first, it seemed a bit, well, clunky/blocky. However, it seems that Chris Barrett (the designer of the MRAD) was ahead of my time – once I started really putting the MRAD to use, I fell in love with it.
I like it so much that I took it on my elk hunt last year chambered in the new 300 PRC, I bring it to training courses, and I’ve long (a couple years at least) predicted that SOCOM would pick the Barrett MRAD as their new sniper rifle.
The Barrett MRAD is robust, accurate, super easy to change calibers, and the bolt runs fast and smooth (a huge plus for me).
The standard Barrett MRAD rifle is unlike anything else on the market (we bet that will change now that folks are figuring out what makes the MRAD so special).
Most bolt-action precision rifles in this category (pistol-grip chassis style, detachable magazines, AR-like fore-ends/hand-guards for mounting accessories) are still based on standard-ish rifle receivers which are then bolted into a chassis system. This system works (this is why so many companies do it) but they are all effectively the same: a bolt-action rifle receiver with a barrel bolted into a chassis.
The Barrett MRAD is different: the lower receiver is similar to an AR-style receiver (it’s much bigger, of course) in that it is milled out of aluminum and it provides the housing for the fire control group (trigger and safety), it is attached to the buttstock, and it is what accepts the magazine.
The upper receiver is also similar to an AR style in that it contains the bolt within it and attaches to the lower receiver for on cohesive enclosed fit. The MRAD bolt rides within the aluminum upper much like an AR bolt moves within its receiver.
The MRAD uses a plastic sleeve around the bolt to solve two issues: first, it reduces friction and makes the bolt easy to operate (even in harsh conditions) and second, it rotates as the bolt closes to cover the channel/opening for the bolt handle to keep debris out of the action.
The MRAD gives all the accuracy of a premium bolt-action rifle but in a package that is enclosed and as familiar as a large AR.
Even better, the MRAD allows for easy caliber and barrel changes.
Instead of requiring a gunsmith for headspacing a new barrel, the MRAD’s barrels have barrel extensions (again, much like an AR) so that headpsace is already set from the factory. Two torx screws are loosened, the old barrel slides out and the new barrel slides in. Then, the old bolt head is removed from the bolt body and the new bolt head is installed. Closing the bolt into the barrel pulls the barrel into the correct position (the bolt’s lugs are angled slightly like a screw) and then the barrel’s torx screws can be tightened to spec. That’s it… new caliber!
I shoot my personal MRAD in 308 and 338 Lapua – not many rifles have that kind of flexibility.
GunUniversity was invited to Barrett to see how the MRAD variant that won the ASR contract differs from the currently available commercial MRAD.
SOCOM’s New Barrett MRAD – ASR Variant
Barrett’s MRAD variant for the ASR contract (it hasn’t received an official military designation yet), has a few variations from the standard MRAD.
Let’s explore the differences between the standard MRAD and the MRAD that SOCOM is adopting as their new Advanced Sniper Rifle (ASR) starting from the muzzle and working to the butt-stock:
Silencer: The ASR MRAD silencer has a new dual-locking mechanism per the contract. This really helped POI shift.
Barrels: The ASR MRAD barrels are fluted and come in 338 Norma, 300 Norma, and 308 Win.
Handguard: The standard MRAD has Barrett’s proprietary mounting system whereas the ASR MRAD comes with M-Lok attachment points. Good work, Barrett! M-Lok is the new standard.
Trigger: The ASR MRAD trigger is one pound lighter than the standard MRAD trigger and comes in a black finish as a protective coating. Both versions have an optional two-stage trigger.
Buttstock: SOCOM’s new sniper rifle buttstock has a bag-rider mount/cover for the standard picatinny rail (per the contract), it has a vertically adjustable buttpad, and . All three of these are welcome upgrades and nice touches!
Color: Barrett’s ASR MRAD comes in a coyote brown instead of FDE. At first, it looked odd, but it grew on me and I preferred it over the standard MRAD color within a couple of minutes.
|Feature||Standard MRAD||ASR MRAD|
|Silencer||Single Lock||Special Dual-Lock Mechanism|
|Barrels||Available in Various Calibers||Available in 338 Norma, 300 Norma, 308 Win|
|Handguard||Barrett Proprietary Mount||M-Lok Attachment Points|
|Trigger||Adjustable Single-Stage Trigger (3.5 pounds)||Fixed Single Stage Trigger (2.5 pounds)/Black coating|
|Buttstock||Picatinny Rail Bottom||Bag Rider Pic-Rail Cover|
|Adjustable Comb||Friction Lock||Incremental Mechanical Lock|
|Color||Barrett FDE||SOCOM Coyote|
The Complete kit for the SOCOM ASR includes the Barrett MRAD and all the barrels and magazines:
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