Special Operations Firearms
The Special Forces of the United States, organized under USSOCOM, have a leading role in combating terrorism in addition to direct assist to conventional military forces of the U.S. and its allies. USSOCOM organizes, trains, and equips special operations forces to be provided to Geographic Combatant Commanders, American Ambassadors and their country teams.
Ranger, United States Army Special Operations Forces, 75th Ranger Regiment.
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Special Operations Forces Firearms
The unconventional role of USSOCOM requires special skills as well as weapons that may or may not be identical to those used by regualr forces. This page introduces some of the weapons employed.
See also U.S. Sniper Rifles, Edged Weapons and the Special Operations/Intelligence page.
M-4 Carbine w/o Grenade Launcher.
The Carbine, 5.56mm, M-4/M-4A1 is a lightweight, gas operated, air cooled, magazine fed, selective rate, shoulder fired weapon with a collapsible stock that fires the standard 5.56mm ammunition. A shortened variant of the M-16A2 rifle, the M-4 was introduced in 1988 to provide the individual soldier operating in close quarters the capability to engage targets at extended range with accurate, lethal fire.
For more information regarding the M-4 Carbine and its use by Special Forces, see these Olive-Drab.com pages:
Heckler & Koch developed a modification of the M4 Carbine, called the HK416. The HK416 uses the HK-proprietary G36 design for its gas piston operating system. The HK416 has been shown in tests to significantly reduce malfunctions and to extend the life of operating parts, making it far more reliable than the M16/M4. The HK416 is used by U.S. special operations troops, including the Army Delta Force who replaced the M4 with the HK416 in 2004. The HK416 is available as a complete carbine or rifle. Alternatively, a 'drop-in' HK416 upper receiver module is available to upgrade M4/M16 type weapons using their existing lower receivers and parts.
Other Special Operations Weapons
Special Ops units may carry the same weapons as regular units or may be equipped with special armaments in addition to or instead of the TOE issue. Complete, specialized weapons systems as well as add-ons such as flash suppressors, silencers, and advanced optical or electronic gear are all possibilities, designed to give tactical surprise, leverage, and advantage to the force. Standard equipment that has been modified (for example, noise suppressed) is sometimes referred to as "SOPMOD" -- Special Operations Peculiar Modified. Depending on the mission, the SOF may operate separately or combined with regular light or heavy units employing weapons from standard firearms to heavy armored vehicles, aircraft or naval vessels.
The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Custom Firearms Shop at Fort Benning, GA, produces top-quality, match-grade rifles, pistols and shotguns, as well as much of the ammunition for the Army Marksmanship Unit. The shop has a long history of research and development, including developing and testing the M-21 and M-24 Sniper Systems, Special Reaction Teams Rifles, testing and maintaining the Barrett M107 .50-caliber Sniper Rifle and development or modification to special operations forces weapons.
The M-249 SAW, derived from the closely related FN Mk.46 model 0 - a variation of the Minimi SPW, with additional Picatinny rail on the heat shield and the different butt, was developed originally for US Special Forces. The Heckler & Koch MP5, one of the best known and widely used submachine guns in the world was adapted for SEAL use under a special contract from the US Navy. The MP5N or "MP5 Navy" variant features a fully ambidextrous trigger group, a telescoping stock, and a threaded barrel for accessories. In addition, HK replaced many of the metal parts on the MP5N with lighter and corrosion resistant plastics. Other H&K rifles and submachine guns, including other models of the MP5 are in use by U.S. Special Forces and realted units.
Combat shotguns are another choice for Special Operations. Over the years many models of shotgun have been utilized by the U.S. military, since the Model 97 "Trench Broom" of World War I. Although not exclusively used, the M-1014 Joint Service Combat Shotgun was adopted in 1999 to replace other service shotguns previously used by the Marine Corps and Special Forces.
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