Sniper to 500yds: Practical Accuracy
While the video gaming aspect of this video is a lot of fun, I am actually sharing it point out the GP90 ammunition that the SG 550-1 is designed to use and the SG 550’s role in Switzerland, it’s nation of origin. Because that ammo is neat.
The Swiss culture around firearms is one of the more permissive in the world, especially on the European stage. They use a national militia structure where all of their young men, with women volunteers, are a conscripted part of the on call Swiss military and thus receive firearms training. The Swiss military functions much like the Reserve/National Guard here in the US, drilling on an abbreviated schedule.
Their issued rifle is the SG 550, a classic 80’s Sig from the Swiss arm of the company, and the ammunition they use is the GP90 5.6x45mm. This round is interchangeable with 5.56x45mm NATO ammunition, but is optimized for the native 1:10 twist barrels of the SG 550 rifles. SG 550’s with 1:7 barrels are also in circulation for use when integrated with NATO forces or for clients who had wanted the use of the Swiss rifle but the NATO standardization on ammunition. The slightly heavier and GP90 round does well in barrels and is an accurate 63gr lead core FMJ, instead of the 62gr SS109 Belgian round with steel under the jacket.
Recall that the 1:7 barrels were chosen not for the SS109/M855, but to accurize the companion M856 tracer, which is a much longer bullet. So 1:10 at 63gr does very well, just as 1:8 twist barrels become increasingly popular here in the states because the 55-77gr commercial loads that we shoot (or shot… RIP ammo availability) stabilize very well in that twist rate. We aren’t dealing with the long tail of the tracer rounds.
That isn’t to say 1:7 guns aren’t accurate, they are very accurate, but choices in equipment design were made for a reason and among those reasons was that the overly tight rifling rate wasn’t overly detrimental to the non-tracer ammunition while providing the needed stability for the tracers that slower twists didn’t.
So the 5.6×45 GP90 is a “5.56 NATO” round in function, the rifles can also shoot 55-77gr .223 Remington. Ammunition that is available to Swiss citizens to shoot their service rifles should they want, a common Swiss pastime and national competition.
But back to the 550-1
During the latter half of the 20th Century several terroristic and hostage incidents worldwide highlighted a need for a “Police” sniper rifle that, while precise, needed to operate in a very different manner from military weapons. The environment and mission goals were changed.
Where military snipers needed precision and observation power at distance and to be able to deliver damage on target to kill, wound, or disrupt enemy actions, the police sniper was/is a rescue tool. Police snipers worked at much shorter distances and with very complicated environments where there were often small moving targets next to hostages and with backstops that would not stop a missed shot, making it an increased hazard also. Rifles and rounds specialized for these environments were different animals than the 800, 1000, or 1400 meter effective range systems the military utilizes.
The 550-1 was a system intended to serve police in that role. It has since been overshadowed by the DMR concept guns that the military has utilized to great success, but with ammunition suited for the complex material environment of the police sniper. Systems evolve and as missions blend, gear does too. The role of the police precision rifle vs. the military precision rifle are still quite different, but the capability parallel and overlap is not.
The military precision rifle, the Mk12 or M110A1 DMR’s, allow a squad about a square (circular) mile of coverage where they can observe and deliver precise direct fire to disrupt enemy action. This could be offensive or defensive fire in nature and will almost certainly be used in combined arms to support to direct conventional infantry to engage at closer range and/or heavier supporting fires from CAS, IDF emplacements, or naval support.
The police precision rifle is for the more tailored mission where an individual might need to be shot to generate the best possible outcome and end a threat to the community, officers, or even the suspect themselves.
While taking place at much shorter ranges the environment is filled with intermediate obstacles, not all of which can be removed. Glass, vehicle panels, even thin walls might all need to be shot through. These intermediate barrier scenarios are often a reason semi-autos are a valuable tool. One round takes care of the barrier and the second or subsequent rounds deliver the effect on target, which may not be lethal as seen above. It does, however, require precision.
A missed round in combat happens, follow up, you are disrupting enemy action and driving the enemy. A missed round in a police action may trigger the absolute opposite outcome from intended, and may do so in very short order. That isn’t to say military snipers will never be in a situation where positive first round effect on target is essential, but in police action it is almost exclusively first round must have desired effect and, if planned, follow on rounds also.
The military sniper or DM does tremendous damage with a low round count. The police sniper does the absolute minimum amount of damage necessary to achieve the desired outcome. Sometimes both of those situations require doming someone.