Sniper Rifles

M24 Sniper Weapon System: More Than Just a Military Rifle

Eric Sof

U.S. Army sniper team with the M24 SWS

The role of a sniper in military operations has always been crucial. They provide long-range precision fire to support operations and can take out key targets with minimal risk to their own unit. For this purpose, the United States Army developed the M24 SWS, a rifle specifically designed for sniping. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of the M24 SWS, including its history, specifications, and how it compares to other sniper rifles.


The M24 SWS was developed in the 1980s to replace the Springfield Armory M21, primarily used in Vietnam. The M24 was designed to be a complete weapon system, meaning that it came with a detachable telescopic sight and a range of tools and accessories. This was a significant improvement over the M21, which required the addition of a scope and other accessories.

The M24 was first fielded in 1988 and quickly became the primary sniper rifle used by the US Army. The US Air Force also adopted it. The M24 replaced the M21 due to its improved accuracy, range, and durability. The M24’s long action design allowed it to be reconfigured to fire larger rounds, and variants chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum, and .338 Lapua Magnum were developed to take advantage of this feature.

An 82nd Airborne Division soldier with a patrol cap in Universal Camouflage Pattern training with a M24, while another 82nd soldier with a UCP-patterned boonie hat aims with his XM110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System
An 82nd Airborne Division soldier with a patrol cap in Universal Camouflage Pattern training with an M24, while another 82nd soldier with a UCP-patterned boonie hat aims with his XM110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (Photo: XY)


The M24 SWS is a bolt-action rifle with a detachable box magazine holding either 5 or 10 rounds, depending on the model. The rifle is chambered for the 7.62x51mm NATO round and can fire machine gun-grade ammunition. However, this is generally avoided due to poor accuracy. Match-grade ammunition, such as the M118, M118LR, and MK 316 MOD 0 “Special Ball, Long Range,” is preferred.

The M24’s barrel is made of 416R stainless steel and has an unusual rifling pattern with 5 grooves rather than the more common even number. This design reduces bullet deformation, theoretically improving accuracy. The rifle’s accuracy is close to 1 MOA with match-grade ammunition at most distances, and the barrel is designed to maintain accuracy up to 10,000 rounds fired. The accuracy reportedly continues to improve up to 20,000 rounds.

The M24 has a Leupold Ultra M3A 10×42mm fixed power or a Leupold Mk 4 LR/T M3 10×40mm fixed power scope. The rifle is also fitted with iron sights as a backup for the scope. The M24’s furniture is all composite, with a fixed cheek piece, adjustable LOP, and hinged floorplate, and comes in the form of the H-S Precision PST-024 stock. The cheekpiece is fixed, while the buttplate is extendable up to 2 inches. The M-1950 Weapon Container for Airborne Operations is the standard container for the complete weapon.

M24 sniper rifle, equipped with an AN/PVS-10 Sniper Night Sight (SNS)
M24 sniper rifle, equipped with AN/PVS-10 Sniper Night Sight (SNS) (Photo: U.S. Army)

The M24 has an effective range of 800 meters, although shots have been successfully made at distances beyond 1,000 meters. The rifle’s accuracy and range vary slightly depending on the ammunition used, with accuracy as low as .35 MOA from a machine rest.

Comparison to Other Sniper Rifles

The M24 SWS is often compared to other sniper rifles, such as the Remington 700, the Accuracy International Arctic Warfare, and the Barrett M82. Each of these rifles has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the choice of the rifle will depend on the mission requirements.

The M24 SWS is a bolt-action sniper rifle developed specifically for sniping and is used by the US Army and Air Force. Here’s how it compares to other sniper rifles:

  1. Remington 700: The M24 is derived from the Remington Model 700 rifle. The Remington 700 is a popular bolt-action rifle used by military and civilian shooters. However, the M24 is designed explicitly for sniping, and its accuracy and range are superior to the standard Remington 700.
  2. Barrett M82: The Barrett M82 is a semi-automatic sniper rifle chambered for the .50 BMG round. It has a more extended range and greater stopping power than the M24 but is heavier and more expensive.
  3. Accuracy International AW: The Accuracy International AW is a bolt-action sniper rifle that is widely used by military and police forces around the world. It has a shorter effective range than the M24, but its accuracy is comparable and more modular, allowing for easier customization.
  4. Sako TRG: The Sako TRG is a bolt-action sniper rifle that military and law enforcement agencies worldwide use. It is comparable to the M24 in terms of accuracy and range but is more customizable, with a broader range of calibers and stock options.
  5. Dragunov SVD: The Dragunov SVD is a semi-automatic sniper rifle used by military and law enforcement agencies in Russia and other countries. It has a shorter range and lower accuracy than the M24 but is more reliable in harsh conditions and has a higher rate of fire.

The M24 is a highly accurate and reliable sniper rifle used by military and law enforcement agencies worldwide. While other sniper rifles offer greater range, stopping power, or customization options, the M24 remains a popular choice for its balance of accuracy, reliability, and versatility.

Upgrades to the M24

In 2010, the US Army initiated a program to upgrade its existing M24 sniper rifles to the M24A2 and M24A3 configurations. These upgrades were performed by Remington Arms, the original manufacturer of the M24, and included modifications to the barrel, stock, trigger, and other components to improve accuracy and reliability. The M24A2 and M24A3 also featured a detachable box magazine, which could be quickly and easily replaced in the field, as well as an improved scope mount and bipod.

However, the Army ultimately decided to replace the M24 with the M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle (ESR), which Remington developed in response to a requirement for a more capable and versatile sniper weapon system. The M2010 ESR is based on the same Remington Model 700 action as the M24 but features many upgrades and improvements, including a more accurate barrel, a detachable box magazine, and an improved stock with adjustable cheek and butt plates.

Israel Defense Forces snipers with the modernized M24 SWS
Israel Defense Forces snipers with the modernized M24 SWS (Photo: IDF)

The M2010 ESR is chambered for the .300 Winchester Magnum cartridge, which provides greater range and stopping power than the 7.62x51mm NATO round used in the M24. It has an effective range of up to 1,200 meters and can fire various match-grade and armor-piercing ammunition. The M2010 ESR is also equipped with an advanced Mark 4 6.5-20x50mm ER/T scope from Leupold & Stevens, which features a first focal plane reticle and tactical turrets for precise adjustments in the field.


The M24 is a series of sniper rifles produced by Remington Arms. The XM24A1 variant, which was chambered for the .300 Winchester Magnum round, was not adopted by the US Army due to concerns about the availability of special ammo. The Redick Arms Development company continued researching this concept, leading to the RAD M91A1 and M91A2 rifles adopted by the US Navy SEALs.

Remington has also developed improved versions of the M24 rifle, including the M24A2, which features a detachable 5-round magazine, adjustable Picatinny rails, barrel modifications, and an improved H-S Precision PST-026 stock. The M24A3 SWS is another variant of the M24, which is chambered for the .338 Lapua Magnum round and comes with a 5-round detachable box magazine. It can use detachable front and rear Back-Up Iron Sights in an emergency.

M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle
M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle (Photo: Flickr)

In 2009, the US Army solicited proposals for reconfiguring M24 Sniper Weapon Systems, including rebarreling the rifles to accommodate Mk 248 .300 Winchester Magnum ammunition, replacing the existing weaver rails with MIL-STD-1913 rails, and reconfiguring the stock to incorporate a detachable box magazine, adjustable comb, and length of pull. The US government purchased MK 248 MOD 1 match-grade ammunition in 2009 for use in .300 Winchester Magnum sniper rifles, which should increase the maximum effective range of .300 Winchester Magnum sniper rifles to 1,370 m.

In 2010, the US Army awarded Remington a contract to upgrade up to 3,600 M24 Sniper Weapon Systems to the M24E1 Enhanced Sniper Rifle (ESR), later classified as the XM2010. The major configuration change for this system was the conversion from 7.62×51mm NATO to .300 Winchester Magnum ammunition, which exploited the M24’s “long action” bolt to provide additional precision and range. This rifle is considered a “total conversion upgrade,” which includes changes to the barrel, stock, magazines, muzzle brake, suppressor, and more.

Technical specifications

Country of origin:United States
Manufacturer:Remington Arms
Entered service:1988
Caliber:7.62×51 mm NATO
Weight (empty):5.4 kg
Length:1 092 mm
Barrel length:660 or 686 mm
Muzzle velocity:790 m/s
Magazine capacity:5 or 10 rounds
Sighting range:varies depending on the scope
Range of effective fire:800 m
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