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Friday, March 11, 2016

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Weapons of the War in Afghanistan: Sniper & DMR Part II

Weapons of the War in Afghanistan

View from fighting position overlooking LZ at Firebase Vegas, Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.
In the world of war, weapons and technology are ever changing, each war is characterized by the weapons and tactics used to fight it. As new environments and enemies are encountered, the parties to those wars develop new - more effective tactics, technologies, and weapons to counter and defeat their adversaries. The ingenuity seen in war has existed since (and most certainly before) the first wars of recorded history and continue to this very day. 

Keeping with that theory, let’s take a look at the weapons that have characterised the wars and conflicts that the United States has been a party to over the course of it’s history. During the course of this series, I aim to breakdown the weapons used in each conflict by their classification, and to which party they were employed by. Having served in combat operations in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, I would like to start our series with the War in Afghanistan. 

For our second installment, let’s take a look at the most commonly encountered Sniper & DMR (Designated Marksman Rifle) rifles from the War in Afghanistan. Sniper and DMR rifles are those weapons with the capability to reach out further than the rifles/carbines of the common rifleman. These weapons are used mainly for medium to long range engagements, and are utilized in anti-material, anti-personnel, reconnaissance, counter-sniper, and supporting fires roles. Sniper and DMR rifles come in many varieties, and maybe bolt-action or semi-auto in function and design.

At the extended ranges that a large amount of engagements with the enemy in Afghanistan take place at, sniper & DMR rifles are a must.

View towards the South of the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.

Part II: Anti-Coalition Forces/Anti-Afghan Forces


The Lee-Enfield rifle is one of the most commonly found rifles in Afghanistan; however, it is not encountered in combat as often as others due to the low availability of the .303 British ammunition it fires.

The Lee–Enfield is a bolt-action, magazine-fed, repeating rifle. It was the main firearm used by the military forces of the British Empire and Commonwealth during the first half of the 20th century. It was the British Army's standard rifle from its official adoption in 1895 until 1957.
  • Cartridge: .303 British (7.7×56mmR)
  • Effective Range: Effective range 503 m, Maximum range 2,743 m
  • Weight: 8.8 lbs (4 kg)
  • Rate of Fire: 20-30 aimed shots per minute
  • Capacity: 10 round magazine
Abandoned village of Hanok Banday in the Korengal Valley.

Tac Shield Pivoting BiPod


The Mosin-Nagant is also a commonly found rifle in Afghanistan. Unlike the Lee-Enfield, the Mosin-Nagant fires the 7.62x54mmR round that is easily acquired in Afghanistan. Though most of the ammunition available is standard ball (not many 7N1 Sniper rounds), it is still plentiful and allows the enemy to reach out farther with a more powerful round than they can with the AK, AKM, or AK74 rifles. 

The Mosin–Nagant is a five-shot, bolt-action, internal magazine-fed, military rifle, developed by the Imperial Russian Army in 1882–91, and used by the armed forces of the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and various other nations. It is one of the most mass-produced military bolt-action rifles in history with over 37 million units produced since its conception in 1891, and in spite of its age it has shown up in various conflicts around the world even up to the modern day, being plentiful, cheap, rugged, simple to use, and effective, much like the AK and its variants.
  • Cartridge: 7.62x54mmR
  • Effective Range: 500 m Iron Sights, 800+ m w/ Optic
  • Weight: 7.5-9.0 lbs (3.4-4.1 kg)
  • Rate of Fire: N/A
  • Capacity: 5 round magazine
View of Hanok Banday from OP Rock (Firebase Vegas) via Leupold Mk 4 on an M14 EBR-RI.

Rifle Scope Rings and Mounts

Karabiner 98K

Not nearly as commonly encountered as the Lee-Endfield and Mosin-Nagant rifle, but can be found in Afghanistan, though usually with little to no ammunition to accompany it.

The Karabiner 98 kurz is a bolt-action rifle chambered for the 7.92×57mm Mauser cartridge that was adopted on 21 June 1935 as the standard service rifle by the German Wehrmacht. It was one of the final developments in the long line of Mauser military rifles. Although supplemented by semi- and fully automatic rifles during World War II, it remained the primary German service rifle until the end of the war in 1945. Millions were captured by the Soviets at the conclusion of World War II and were widely distributed as military aid. The Karabiner 98k therefore continues to appear in conflicts across the world as they are taken out of storage during times of strife.
  • Cartridge: 7.92x57mm Mauser
  • Effective Range: 500 m Iron Sights, 1,000 m w/ Optic
  • Weight: 8.2-9.0 lbs (3.7-4.1 kg)
  • Rate of Fire: N/A
  • Capacity: 5 round magazine
View of the eastern side of the Korengal Valley. The mountain tops to the right of the picture (Sawtalo Sar)  are the area in which Operation Red Wings, and Red Wings II took place.

Galati 35 inch XT Rifle Case


In use during the Soviet-Afghan War, the SVD can still be found in Afghanistan today. 

The Dragunov sniper rifle is a semi-automatic sniper/designated marksman rifle chambered in 7.62×54mmR and developed in the Soviet Union. The Dragunov was designed as a squad support weapon since, according to Soviet and Soviet-derived military doctrines, the long-range engagement ability was lost to ordinary troops when submachine guns and assault rifles were adopted.
  • Cartridge: 7.62x54mmR
  • Effective Range: 800 m
  • Weight: 9.5 lbs (4.3 kg)
  • Rate of Fire: 30 rounds per minute
  • Capacity: 10 round detachable magazines
View of Korengal Valley to the southeast showing the Abbas Ghar towards the top of the picture, with the high point of the Sawtalo Sar to the right.

Rifle Scopes and Binoculars


The PSL is a semi-automatic sniper/designated marksman rifle chambered in 7.62×54mmR, of Romanian creation. It is also called PSL-54C, Romak III, FPK and SSG-97. Though similar in appearance to the SVD Dragunov, the PSL rifle is actually based on the RPK light machine gun, and has zero parts interchangeability with the SVD. The project to develop the PSL commenced after the Soviet Union ceased sharing technical information and exporting military equipment (including the SVD Dragunov) to Romania, as a consequence of Romania's refusal to join the Invasion of Czechoslovakia.
  • Cartridge: 7.62x54mmR
  • Effective Range: Effective range 800 - 1,000 m, Maximum range 3,000 m 
  • Weight: 9.5 lbs (4.3 kg)
  • Rate of Fire: 30 rounds per minute
  • Capacity: 10 round detachable magazines
Chinook Helicopter bringing supplies via sling load to Firebase Vegas, Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.

Viking Tactics Sniper Sling - with Cuff


While not super common, from time to time you may run across a G3 rifle in Afghanistan. This is probably due to the fact that they are also produced right next door in Pakistan, and have probably made their way into Afghanistan through theft from the Pakistani Military and smuggling. 

The G3 is a selective-fire automatic weapon that employs a roller-delayed blowback operating system. The two-piece bolt assembly consists of a breech (bolt head) and bolt carrier. The bolt is held in battery by two sliding cylindrical rollers that engage locking recesses in the barrel extension. The breech is opened when both rollers are compressed inward against camming surfaces driven by the rearward pressure of the expanding gases upon the bolt head. As the rollers move inward, recoil energy is transferred to the locking piece and bolt carrier which begin to withdraw while the bolt head slowly moves rearward in relation to the bolt carrier. As the bolt carrier clears the rollers, pressure in the bore drops to a safe level, the bolt head is caught by the bolt carrier and moves to the rear as one unit, continuing the operating cycle. The rifle is hammer fired and has a trigger mechanism with a 3-position fire selector switch that is also the manual safety toggle that secures the weapon from discharging (fire selector in the "E" or "1" position – single fire mode, "F" or "20" – automatic fire, "S" or "0" – weapon is safe). 
  • Cartridge: 7.62x51mm NATO
  • Effective Range: 500 m 
  • Weight: 9 - 12.2 lbs (4.1 - 5.5 kg)
  • Rate of Fire: 500-600 rounds per minute
  • Capacity: 20 and 30 round detachable magazines, 50 round drum
View north from Chichal Village area of the Korengal Valley, in the distance you can see smoke from the burn pit at Firebase Vegas.

Shawn G
Firebase Vegas, Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.

For more info on these and other weapons
Technical specs compiled from:

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Shawn in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

For more info on these and other weapons
Technical specs compiled from:

"The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."


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