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Preview – M40A1 Renaissance

Two Versions of the Classic Marine Sniper Rifle

If you close your eyes and try to imagine a sniper rifle, you’ll probably come up with something like the M40A1. Though there were precursors, this heavily customized Remington Model 700 was the longest-serving standard-issue Marine Corps sniper rifle. It was fielded from the early 1970s all the way until the early 2000s, though some still saw limited use later. It could safely be called the prototypical sniper rifle, and the only one of its kind for quite a long time. Every precision bolt-action rifle would be compared to the M40A1 from that point on, for better or for worse. The grandson alongside is the M40A5.

Both of these rifles featured were expertly hand-crafted at C&H PWS (CHPWS) by Dave Clark. Clark was in the Marine Corps for more than two-and-a-half decades, and a good portion of it was spent in Quantico building these very guns for warfighters as a precision weapons technician.

Starting with Remington 700 Short Actions, Clark goes through each build process meticulously — precision-fitting each barrel, lapping lugs, and bedding everything properly to specifications. All of the metal parts are finished in black oxide per USMC specs, but they will deviate a bit and finish in Cerakote if a customer requests it. Though CHPWS has branched out into customizing and building all sorts of guns, they stay busy with their M40 builds. And it’s for a reason.

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Of course we have newer and more capable rifles than the M40A1 across the whole spectrum of precision shooting, but there’s just something about this old rifle that causes stirrings. Perhaps it’s just that it was around for so long — a sign of stability. Even the currently issued M40A5 pictured here is being replaced after only six years in service.

One sniper we know said, “Oh sh*t, that’s my jam right there!” upon seeing the M40A1 that you see here. Though he carries a different precision rifle for work these days, he still has a strong affinity for the one he went through Scout Sniper Basic Course (SSBC) with so many years before. Like a race car driver remembering their first fast car.

To be certain, warfare pushes and drives innovation through sheer necessity — not only in the development of weapons themselves, but how they’re deployed and outfitted. And remember, we’ve been at war for a decade and a half so there are bound to be some changes along the way. Though both rifles featured are extremely accurate and are about as featherweight as your typical anvil, there are some obvious differences we’ll get into.

You’ll notice that the M40A5 has a standard rail for optics mounting as well as a bridge mount to ease the attachment of clip-on thermals, night vision, and other electronic devices. With the M40A1, mounting solutions were far less wieldy and more cumbersome. Also, note the threaded barrel topped with a SureFire muzzle device for use with a suppressor as a further sign of modernization.

The stocks themselves are quite different, with the M40A5 having far more options for attaching bipods or slings. More than that, Ben Alicea, a retired Marine Scout Sniper who has experience with both models had this to say, “Back when they came out I would have told you that whoever approved the A3/A5 (stock) was obviously getting some kind of kickback. I have learned how wrong I was over the years,” he elaborated.

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For the rest of this article, subscribe here: RECOIL Issue 28


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