The 6 deadliest rifles in the US military’s arsenal


Assault rifles, combat rifles, they’re all there.

While some of the rifle rigs entered service during the Cold War, some have been updated and improved for the 21st century – and they’re part of why the U.S. military is so deadly.


M4A1 army soldier rifle

A soldier fires an M4A1 rifle during a stress shooting exercise, April 23, 2018.

US Army / Steven Stover

No conversation about U.S. military rifles is complete without mentioning the M4 carbine, the smaller and more compact version of the iconic M16 rifle.

While the M16 and M4 are quite similar, the M4 is overall lighter and shorter, a design that optimizes the platform for situations where a smaller, more compact weapon would be an advantage, such as in close urban spaces. , or for soldiers riding in and out of cramped armored vehicles.

Like the M16, it fires the NATO standard 5.56 x 45mm cartridge, although thanks to the M4’s shorter 14.5-inch barrel, it has a slightly lower effective firing range. The M4 design has proven to be popular and is used by a wide variety of countries across Latin America, the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere.


Army green beret FN SCAR

A green beret pulls on an FN SCAR during training in Lomo Nord, Ivory Coast, November 14, 2019.

US Army / Sgt. Andrew Adaire

The SCAR family of rifles originated in response to a request from the United States Special Operations Command for a modular family of rifles chambered in 5.56 x 45 mm and 7.62 x 51 NATO-standard cartridges. mm.

The FN SCAR is therefore in fact two different rifles, the SCAR-L for the light and the SCAR-H for the heavy.

Both rifles can be used as designated sniper rifles, or for close range weapons thanks to the three available barrel lengths: Close-Quarters Combat, Standard and Long Barrel.

Although the rifles are outwardly quite similar, the SCAR-L uses standard NATO STANAG magazines, while the larger SCAR-H is powered by FN designed magazines.

M27 infantry automatic rifle

Marine Norway Arctic M27 Rifle

A U.S. Navy fires an M27 during cold-weather live-fire training in Setermoen, Norway, November 20, 2020.

US Marine Corps / Cpl. William chockey

The Marine Corps’ new M27 is perhaps one of the US Army’s most accurate standard rifles, giving new meaning to the Navy’s mantra “Every Marine is a Rifleman”.

The IAR benefits from a 16.5 inch floating barrel and short stroke piston action which gives the M27 improvements in accuracy, range and reliability over the M16 rifle and M4 carbine. .

The parent rifle of the M27 is a German-designed Heckler & Koch 416, which was used to take down Osama Bin Laden during the famous SEAL Team Six raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The Marine Corps further improves the lethality of the M27 by issuing effective flow suppressors that allow firing at low volume without the possibility of burnt powder and bullet trash flying in front of the shooter.


M14 US Navy

A sailor fires an M14 rifle during weapons qualification aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Nicolas C. Lopez / US Navy

Although the reputation of the M14 suffered during the United States’ involvement in Vietnam, the rifle itself is quite robust and offers good accuracy and stopping power thanks to its larger 7.62 NATO cartridge. x 51 mm.

Although the rifle was not well suited to war in the humid jungle of Vietnam – it was too heavy, too long, and its wooden butt prone to warping – these two rig updates yielded with the gun a new life.

Improved Combat Rifle Mk 14

Improved Combat Rifle Mk 14

A Soldier fires the Mk 14 Enhanced Combat Rifle during the Team Designated Sniper Course on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, July 20, 2017.

Department of Defense

The Army and Special Operations Command redesigned the M14 from scratch, giving the combat rifle a new adjustable stock, pistol-style grip, foldable bipod, as well as Picatinny accessory rails and optics. modern, to give the old M14 a better range as well as to lighten the rifle.

M39 Enhanced Sniper Rifle

Marine Corps M39 Enhanced Sniper Rifle

A Marine Scout sniper fires an M39 enhanced sniper rifle during marksmanship training in Kuwait, Nov. 12, 2012.

US Marine Corps / Cpl. Timothy childers

The Marine Corps had the same idea as the Army, although they decided to modify the M14 a little differently, which resulted in the similar M39 EMR.

This modified rile also featured an adjustable stock and foldable bipod as well as an accessory rail that could mount optics.

This was, however, an interim measure and has since been largely replaced in Marine Corps service by new designs of designated sniper group-ups.

Caleb Larson is a defense writer based in Europe. He holds a master’s degree in public policy and covers US and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.

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