<XMP><BODY></xmp>7mm rifles for Police Marksmen

Police Marksman’s Rifles

This article grew from discussions for sniper rifles for the 21st Century Rifle Controversy page.

The usual approach to making a better sniping rifle is to increase the weight of the round and/or increase its velocity. Large heavy bullets may make sense if your targets are likely to include BTRs, but what about other applications such as the weapon of a police marksman.

I decided to try thinking on a different track. Rather than increase power, investigate how the power can be used more efficiently?

Various sources have told me that 7mm bullets have very good flight characteristics.

The following is a comparison of the 7.62mm NATO/.308 Win round, the .300 Win Magnum and the 7mm Rem Magnum

Terminal Effects.

All three rounds have proven effective against humans and larger animals for both head and torso shots.


165gr .308 180gr .308 165gr .300 Win Mag 180gr .300 Win Mag 140gr 7mm Rem Mag
17.9ftlbs 18.6ftlbs 25.1ftlbs 26.7ftlbs 19.1ftlbs

Recoil levels of the 7mm Rem Mag are close to that of the .308 or a .30-06.

Maximum Point Blank Range (MPBR)

Range at which bullet does not pass more than +3" or –3" from line of sight.

165gr .308 180gr .308 165gr .300 Win Mag 180gr .300 Win Mag 140gr 7mm Rem Mag
264yds 259yds 303yds 303yds 310yds

7mm Rem Mag shoots flatter than a .300 Win mag but has considerably less recoil.

Ballistic Coefficient and Muzzle Velocities.

165gr .308 180gr .308 165gr .300 Win Mag 180gr .300 Win Mag 140gr 7mm Rem Mag
.410 .483 .410 .483 .485
2700 fps 2610 fps 3120fps 3070 fps 3150 fps

The higher the ballistic coefficient the slower the tendency for the bullet to be slowed by the air. The ballistic coefficients of the .30 180gr and 7mm 140gr are virtually identical, so all rounds will lose velocity at a similar rate. The 7mm starts off with more velocity, so flight time will be shorter. A shorter flight time reduces the effects of wind and target movement.

Out to at least 300yds the 7mm Rem Mag performs slightly better than the .300 Win Mag while producing only the recoil forces of a .308. I don’t have any figures for performance beyond this range, but during the Boer war 7x57mm Mausers were effective at more than 800yds. The 7mm Rem Mag fires an identical round at a higher velocity.

Since I wrote the above section, I’ve discovered the ballistics calculator at www.realguns.com that is linked to below. The differences in velocity and ballistic coefficient of the 180gr .300 Win Mag and 140gr 7mm Rem Mag do not seem to be significant. Out to 1000yds flight time is the same for both rounds. At 1000yds the .300 has more energy, while the 7mm has dropped less. Both still have more than enough energy to be lethal.

There is no reason why police forces should be restricted to military or NATO-standard ammo. In fact they are neglecting their primary job of public safety by using such rounds if more effective alternatives are available.

It could be argued that the 7mm Rem Mag has too much range for certain police operations. In such cases the round can be down-loaded to produce velocities similar to the 7mm-08. Even such a reduced power round will still shoot better than a .308 :

7mm-08 140gr at 2860 fps has a MPBR of 285yds.
7mm-08 120gr at 3000fps has a MPBR 291yds.

For certain situations heavier, shorter-ranged bullets may be needed:

Sectional Densities

140gr 7mm 165gr .30 180gr .300 Win Mag 200gr .300 Win Mag 175gr 7mm Rem Mag 250gr .338
.248 .262 .271 .317 .310 .313

The 200gr round is the heaviest loading for the .300 commonly available. It will be noted that the 175gr 7mm rounds compares very favorably with both this round and the 250gr .338 Lapua Magnum.

I’ve used the 7mm Rem Mag for purposes of illustration. There are other rounds with similar performance: the 7mm Rem SAUM and 7mm WSM. The 7mm-08 and the .270 Win are both superior to the .308/ 7.62mm NATO for shorter-range shooting.


Chuck Hawk’s Rifle Page
Ballistic Calculator

Results with the ballistics calculator will be most accurate if the actual, rather than nominal calibres are used.

The .223 Rem. actually uses a .224 bullet. The 7mm Rem Mag and 7mm-08 both use .284. The .308. 30-06 and .300 mag use a .308. The .270 Win uses a .277 (which oddly is closer to 7mm than the “7mm” rounds!) .338 does appear to use .338.

John Nystrom
, police officer and rifleman reports:

“The USMC pre-Vietnam was using Remington 721 and Wincester mod. 70 rifles in .30-06 AND .270 WINCESTER for sniper work. .270 Win. is very close to 7mm Mag. velocity with less recoil. My feelings from having shot and owned them was that the .270 was much more comfortable to shoot than the recoil numbers indicated. The .270 also was slightly more accurate for me (I think it was the belted mag case). .280 Remington gives you .270 ballistics with 7mm bullets and no case belt. You may also want to look at 6.5mm bullets. The match rifle shooters I know are switching from .308 to .260 Remington and other 6.5mm cartridges for long range shooting. Very accurate with reduced recoil. Service rifle shooters (who shoot the same course of fire as match rifle shooters) have switched from .308 to m-16/ar-15 clones shooting very heavy bullets through barrels with fast twists. Also, a friend of mine who is a 7mm Mag fanatic says that he prefers to shoot ONLY 175 gr. bullets for everyting for prairie dogs to elk and bears because he has the bullet drops to ranges all memorized and never has to worry about changes in BC.”


According to this Game Sourcepage the US Secret Service has seen the merits of the 7mm Rem magnum as a sniping round.

Further Thoughts on Police Precision Rifles (PPRs).

223 Rem.

While I’ve tried to make the point that police should not restrict themselves to military calibres, there is one chambering that does have a place in a police marksman’s gun rack. This is the .223 Rem, aka 5.56x45mm. The .223 has some shortcomings as a combat round, and will hopefully soon be replaced in this role by something like the 6.5mm MPC or 6.6 GPC. It does, however, have considerable merit as a short to medium range marksman’s round.

Most police marksman missions take place at much shorter ranges than military snipers operate at. “70 yards” is often quoted as a figure but seems to be based on a mythical report. Reported here is that the American Sniper Association 2007 report on nearly 20 years of police-involved shootings shows the average distance of police marksman shots was 54 yards. The majority of police marksman engagements are probably at less than 100yds, with 200yds being unusual. This is a good application for the flat-shooting 5.56mm.

When they were first issued, standard M16A2s were found to shoot tighter groups than the army’s sniper rifles. Longer barrels, heavier barrels and free-floating barrels can improve on this further and such parts are widely available and can convert a standard AR-15 into a precision weapon for a few hundred dollars. The two guns shown on the right have 24" barrels but it is debatable if this is worth paying extra for in a police application. A 24" barrel in 5.56mm seems to add about 120-150fps more velocity compared to a 20" barrel. This is unlikely to significantly add much to the terminal effects or penetration of the round. Using the ballistic calculator this suggests only a 12yd increase in Mean Point Blank Range when using 62gr FMJ.

Buffer technologies produce an Accu-wedge for a few dollars. This improves the fit between the two AR-15 receiver halves and writer Chuck Taylor has claimed this increases accuracy by 35%.

.223 marksman’s rifles are most likely to be used at ranges of less than 400m, although they are capable of accurate fire to much greater ranges. The rifle should have rifling with a 1 in 9” twist to allow use of the full range of 5.56mm rounds. For this application, the heavier bullet weights such as the 77gr and 80gr seem the obvious choice.

Chuck Taylor favours a .223 load using the 45gr Barnes XLC, a hollow point round with very good exterior and terminal ballistics. This round has a ballistic coefficient of 0.203, an actual calibre of .224 and a muzzle velocity of 3480fps. Such a “fast and light” load may be more suitable for use in built-up areas. With a 200yds zero it has a mid-range trajectory of only an inch.

Police forces are not subject to the Hague convention, so can legitimately use JHP and JSP rounds. Because of the small calibre of the .223 the use of such ammo should be mandatory. The only justified use of potentially lethal force is to protect human life from an immediate threat. In such a situation such force must be applied as effectively as possible.

AR-15/ M16A2 weapons are not the only suitable weapon in this chambering. I’ve heard it claimed that the unchromed barrels of the AR18 shoot even better than standard chromed barrelled AR15s. Unchromed target barrels for the AR-15 are available. There are also various bolt-action varmint rifles available in .223.

Other chamberings of centre-fire varmit rifle are also worth consideration. Weapons designed for this sort of hunting tend to be flat shooting and very accurate. As well as .223, .222, .22-250, .220 Swift and possibly .22 Hornet weapons may prove useful. Many of the loadings in these chamberings use hollow-points intended for small game which may not have sufficient penetration against a human cranium. Since all centre-fire cartridges of nominal .22-.224 calibre are in reality all .224, bullets such as the 45gr Barnes XLC can be used.

According to the Wikipedia Article on the .22-250:

“Both the British Special Air Service and the Australian Special Air Service Regiment used Tikka M55 sniper rifles chambered in .22-250 for urban counter-terrorism duties in the 1980s, in an attempt to reduce excessive penetration and ricochets.”

.270 Win.

Along with the .223 this is likely to be the main workhorse of the marksman’s section. The .270 Win fills a similar niche to the .308, but shoots flatter, faster, reaches further, hits harder and kicks less. The .270 would mainly be used for medium to long range shooting.

An interesting trend recently is the .270 is being offered in several self-loading weapons, such as the AR-10B. Although an anathema for “traditional snipers”, in a hostage situation a rapid follow up shot may be required.

Extended Range.

In rural settings or terrain such as golf courses it may be desireable for a weapon with a shorter flight time or more down range energy than the .270 Win.

A common choice is the .300 Winchester Magnum, although the 7mm Rem Magnum does offer several advantages.

In actuallity the .270 equals the .300 and 7mm in speed out to beyond 1000yds, and still has more than enough energy to be effective.

Heavy PPR.

Most police departments don’t have a requirement for the capabilities of .50 BMG rifles but there are applications for weapons with greater anti-material effects than the chamberings already suggested. For example, there may be a need to disable the engine of a truck or boat.

The .338 Lapua Magnum, .338-378 Weatherby and .408 Cheyenne Tactical all may have police applications.

It is probable that only a police department that is very well funded, or operates under a wide range of conditions will have all four types of rifle suggested above. Even then there is only likely to be a couple of examples of the extended range or heavy PPRs.

There is some overlap of capabilities in the suggested weapons, and this is no bad thing. It means that if the tactical situation is slightly different to that reported the marksman will still have a weapon that can do the job. Probably the best advice to smaller departments is “pick any three of the above”.

The .300 Whisper®

Although gun magazines like to show .300 Win Mags, .300-378 Weatherbys and .300 WSM as police rifles, the vast majority of shots are made at under 200yds.

At this range even the .308 Win is over-powered. A miss or over-penetration can travel long distances and be a danger to the innocent. The .223 Rem, on the other hand, will over penetrate some materials and underpenetrate others, and still has the potential to travel more than 800m.

A round with great potential for police applications is the .300 Whisper® from SSK. This mounts a .30 rifle bullet of between 125-240gr in a .221 Fireball case, which is a shortened .223 case. The .300 Whisper® will fit in any 5.56x45mm weapon –although sometimes the magazine needs minor modification.

With a 125gr bullet the .300 Whisper® gives AK47 type ballistics, but is considerably more accurate. 150gr has more down-range energy, and is probably a better choice for general use. The heavier bullets are subsonic, which offers numerous tactical options as well as allowing discrete animal control. All bullet weights shoot to 1 MOA or less.

As well as being a good round for a marksman’s weapon, the .300 Whisper® is also available in an AR 15-based SMG. With a 150gr bullet the 10" barrel gives 1200fps. This translates as more than twice the muzzle energy of a 9x19mm SMG, and due to the better ballistics of the rifle bullet the .300 Whisper® retains more energy down range. The .300 Whisper® SMG is also quieter than a 9mm.

By the Author of the Scrapboard :

Attack, Avoid, Survive: Essential Principles of Self Defence

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