Thought Exercise: Counter Sniper (9-Hole)

Scenario Brief no.1: Counter Sniper // AI + MP5 vs SCAR Heavy (***Black Friday Code for SBI***)

I don’t know if the SBI code is still operational at this time but I do like this as a thought exercise. What platform for an isolated counter-sniper mission.

Now, a few obvious caveats: The SCAR set up is not 2007 technology. Neither is the AI/MP5 setup as optics, at the very least, have advanced in the decade plus since then.

But the scenario itself is fairly simple. Urban counter-sniper operation up to 72 hours in duration on your own.

2007, Baghdad, Iraq. You are a CIA Special Operations Group officer working on an overall human intelligence mission when JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) reaches out for help to canvas the city of Baghdad for the sniper nicknamed “Juba”. JSOC intel suspects that he is operating west of the Green Zone trying to pick off targets between the BIA (Airport) and the US embassy. Due to the time constraint and needing to cover a large amount of rooftops, JSOC sniper elements are stretched thin, and are split onto separate rooftops to: 1, observe/identify targets and 2, provide overwatch for US forces on ground searching. Some JSOC shooters are forced to work solo and you expect a high possibility to be on your own in the next 72 hour + operations.

1, AI AE Mk I (Suppressed) + MP5A3
2, SCAR 17 + Nightforce 1-8x ATACR

So, would you rather have an accurate battle rifle with an LPVO optic, an ATACR, which nearly matches the performance of the Leupold Mk4 MR/T 2.5-8 and the 3.5-10 that were on the Mk12 and M110 respectively around that time period (and in certain places still are today) or would you rather run two guns, one is a dedicated CQB mobility gun and the other a dedicated precision rifle.

I plan to jump in and watch the live stream if I have the time, and participate in the discussion too.

But I know my answer. It is biased by a number of factors, not the least of which is my personal love of the SCAR 17. But it also comes from the available technology, the environment, and my personal proficiencies. I am simply most proficient with and comfortable with an assault rifle/carbine/battle rifle whatever term you want to use and the same can be said of using LPVO optics.

So, that said my choice is the SCAR. But I am rifleman, not a trained sniper, and there could be solid factors to consider for the CS mission that would make the Accuracy International AE Mk1 a viable tool also.

So let’s break down what we are given.

  • Up to 3 days on your own, food water, ammunition, etc.
  • Primary threat is a trained/proficient enemy sniper
  • Secondary threats are standard militants and their support network

I am going to make a few assumptions here that are not specifically given in the short scenario, but for clarifying my position and the gear choice. The first is I will assume I am also carrying a pistol regardless of “primary weapon” selection. Second I am assuming that while you/I may be alone in our position/hide, there is support around. Other counter-sniper positions, ground forces teams, and with enough spin up time air cover/support, but that nothing is available to you immediately. Third, I am assuming the SCAR will also have a suppressor.

With that in mind you are looking at covering allied movements in urban terrain over short to medium distances against the enemy sniper and his supporting militants. You may be firing on a single target or small groups at various ranges and you will be in range of return fire. You could encounter that threat at distance by observation in a position or during movement from position to position. Hostile threat could also find, close with, and engage you while you are looking for them.

Your weapon choices for the counter-sniper part of the mission are either a large, long, heavy low fire rate .308 with minimal signature and precise observation capabilities or a shorter high fire rate .308 with moderate signature reduction and moderate observational capabilities. The SCAR is quicker, the AI is more precise. Both have a similar effective range envelope that will cover urban environments although the SCAR’s is going to be slightly shorter due to velocity. Most of your available distances and angles will not be near maximum range, long streets and roof top to roof top may though.

For CQB and movement your weapon choices are a 6-8lb 9mm submachine gun with a good track record, probably dot and light, or a 9-11lb select fire .308 with a very nice 1x and light. This is while either dragging another rifle (with MP5) or using your flexible primary and the supporting gear. While supporting militants and the sniper are not likely to be wearing high grade armor, it has happened. The MP5 (and sidearm) would be the easier to armor up against.

For movement, getting into and out of positions will be quicker with the consolidated SCAR system. You are not “packing and unpacking” the AI. Managing two ammunition supplies in 20 rounds magazines and pistol magazines will be logistically easier than three ammunition supplies out of 5 round or 10 round AICS mags (assuming it uses them), 30 round MP5 magazines, and pistol magazines. Sniper rifles were starting to make that transition but this was early on. The AI AE did however as it was based on the L96, the Mk III variant standardized it to AICS as well instead of a proprietary magazine.

The largest change and probably the greatest point of debate will be the optic and its counter-sniper suitability. Modern Sniper optics like the Leupold Mk 5 max at 18x and 25x which give far more detailed information to the shooter. However, the optics of 2007 were generally 10x fixed power or 3-9x variable power. So the ATACR 1-8x on the SCAR is giving near what was available at the time plus the added low power flexibility of the LPVO and the upgrades in reticle and glass.

Now back to the mission objectives:

  1. Force Protection
  2. Locate the enemy sniper

For the force protection mission a precise weapon with a high rate of fire to engage small groups who are threatening vehicles and foot patrols is desirable. The ability to rapidly relocate and provide fire support on a new angle is desirable. The SCAR would be the quicker and more mobile weapon.

For the counter-sniper mission. The higher magnification, even by 2007 standards at 10x or so or todays standards of 25x, available on the AI will allow for greater detail of observation and greater distances. For specifically locating the HVT who will also be engaging at range, that is a desirable feature.

In this case however, it would be one I personally forego to gain the other benefits. My network and the ground elements I am protecting can also be utilized to find the enemy sniper. I can effectively engage still with 8x within my effective .308 range.

Other alternatives include utilizing a 3-18x type optic (Razor or Mk5) and an offset dot on the SCAR. I see this as preferable to the “two primary” system, especially when the MP5 doesn’t have an armor defeat capability against the most likely armor protections of the militants. An M4 or 11.5 AR variant would change the equation some, so would having the AI in a caliber other than .308 but those are not given parameters and I have made enough assumptions.

Even if the SCAR was not available with suppression I would still pick it, gunfire is its own form of communication. It would let supporting forces paying attention know a threat was engaged and fire rate would clue them to if the threat was down. Ground forces in support would be in communication and radio traffic could confirm the situation. If the AI is the only suppressed system that is something to consider, also whether or not the MP5 is suppressed or not. If we are sticking to the given information than it is not, just like the SCAR, and firing it will generate signature for friend and foe alike.


The SCAR 17 gives the most flexible platform to engage the widest variety of threats in short order while still granting good observational optics for ranging and communication with ground forces. It simplifies your logistics loadout and will be quick to move with.

Limitations – The SCAR, especially suppressed, will be a fairly long rifle to move with, on the order of an M16A4. Certainly manageable, but not MP5 levels. With the 8x top end zoom target ID limitations will exist. With the SCAR being primary both for distance and close it will have to be brought out of the position to fight with along any axis not covered from your current spot, this could be slower than switching to a secondary in which an MP5 would be better than a standard 9mm pistol.

The SCAR offers several capabilities that neither the MP5 or the AI AE Mk1 can, but it also has an effective range limitation shorter than the AI AE Mk1 for both observation and engagement and has certain mobility limitations in use that the MP5 doesn’t. You wouldn’t be wrong with either toolset.

But I would run a 17.

Keith Finch
Keith is the Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Group A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. A Certified Instructor since 2009 he has taught concealed weapons courses in the West Michigan area in the years since and continues to pursue training and teaching opportunities as they arise.