This New Russian Sniper Rifle Is Redefining 'a Safe Distance'
Popular Mechanics, 8.12.2017
By David Hambling
A new report warns that a new new Russian sniper could change the shape of future battlefields.
Common Russian battle tactics, currently on display in Ukraine and elsewhere, uses three rows of snipers in battle. Although the first two rows present a challenge for even the best marksmen, it's the back row—which can be around 2,000 yards away from a target—where Russia places its most elite. Now a U.S. Army report says that this last row of warriors have become even more deadly, thanks to a new weapon—the T-5000 Tochnost rifle.
The report, called the “Russian New Generation Warfare Handbook," warns that Russian snipers are “far more advanced than the precision shooters U.S. formations have encountered over the last 15 years" and can't be thwarted by usual anti-sniper tactics of locating and pinning down the sniper. To be put simply, the Army is being outgunned.
Before the T-5000, Russia used the Dragunov, a good quality rifle but with poor optics. Where the American McMillian TAC-338 could hit a target at 1,700 yards, the Dragunov maxed out at just 800 yards.
The T-5000 doesn't share those limitations. Using the .388 Lapua Magnum ammo, replacing the Dragunov's old ammo that's been around since Imperial Russia, the rifle delivers 5,000 foot-pounds of energy. A familiar round used by the Army, it delivers twice the amount of energy as the rifle that came before it.
ORuzejnyje SIStemy (ORSIS), the Moscow-based designers of the rifle, started production in 2011. The company benefits from expertise from Russia's hardcore National Federation of High-Precision Shooting and has shown uses the most advanced technology available in the world. ORSIS claims to have unique tools and equipment, including machine tools which can carve metal into very precise shapes, digitally-controlled ovens, a cryogenic chamber, and “the only cutter-grinding machine in Russia with a video measuring system."
Better materials, better ammo, and better optics means a sniper that's vastly more accurate and can put a bullet inside a one-inch circle firing from 200 yards. This “0.5 minutes of arc" means the T-5000 remains deadly accurate at 2,000 yards, which is likely why it's also becoming a favorite at international shooting competitions.
Marco Vorobiev, former member of an Soviet Spetsnaz special forces unit, now a firearms and tactics instructor and author, describes the T-5000 as a gun “that can compete with any custom-built bolt action precision rifle out there...It is well designed and built in small batches. More of a custom rifle than mass produced."
And those small numbers have appeared in conflict zones around the world, including Iraq and Ukraine. It's now being bought up by Russian regular army and the Federal Security Service (the old KGB), the Federal Protective Service (like the U.S. Secret Service), and the National Guard. Deliveries were originally due in 2020 but have been brought forward, with some units receiving their rifles this year.
In an era of 122mm rocket launchers and drone strikes, being pinned down by a sniper may not seem like a big deal. But on the battlefield, it can mean a unit being annihilated by a rocket strike within minutes. As described in the “Russian New Generation Warfare Handbook," teams of snipers pinned down opposing forces, and when immobilized, were then attacked from multiple rocket launchers.
For now, the solution is simple—run. The report advises breaking contact immediately when a unit is engaged by a modern Russian sniper. Any hesitation will mean more casualties, either from sniper fire or from artillery. This disadvantage of this tactic is that “any enemy marksman in an established position will create a minimum of two casualties per engagement with little to no repercussions."
The report also says the Army needs improved tactics to handle the new threat. These new ideas could include smoke grenades, issuing troops with special weapons, or relying on portable tactical drones like the Switchblade to find and attack snipers.
But the T-5000 is really only beginning, even more powerful snipers are currently in the works. Lobaev Arms, claimed a world record with a Sumrak (Twilight) rifle, hitting a target from 3,720 yards away in 2015. Last month, the company topped this with a 4,600 yard shot. Although requiring detailed knowledge of the exact winds as well as a correction for the rotation of the Earth, these snipers will redefine the idea of “a safe distance" and become new masters of the battlefield.