The PGM Hécate II .50BMG anti-materiel rifle

It is generally accepted that the first serious attempts at using the .50BMG (or 12.7x99mm, if you’re into metrics) round for long-range sniping dates to the Vietnam War era, first using actual, scope-fitted Browning M2HB machine guns, and at a later stage some improvised bolt-action guns in that chambering. The whole thing would eventually lead to the U.S.-made Barrett family of guns that emerged in the early 1980s with the M82 “Light Fifty”, which would later become the M82A1 used by the American military in the Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations as the SASR – Special Applications Scoped Rifle for anti-materiel and ordnance disposal use. Since then, those heavyweight guns have proliferated worldwide in different calibers, configurations, origins, manufacturers, and, of course in use by varied operators. At the same time, the term HTI – Hard Target Interdiction has become generally accepted to describe the primary duties of such weapons, much more politically correct than simply blasting an enemy head from very far away.

One of such specialized guns comes from France: the Hécate II from the PGM Précision company, a long-time (over 20 years) developer and manufacturer of high precision rifles for the military, LE, and sports communities. The gun’s name comes from a goddess of Greek mythology, translating into English roughly as “she who operates from afar” or “she who launches darts far.” Enough said. It has been in active service with the French Army since 1993, with recent recorded combat participations in Afghanistan and Mali, for example. In addition to the country of origin, the “Greek Goddess” has also found its (her?) way into the inventories of several international forces, one of these being Brazil’s Corpo de Fuzileiros Navais (Marine Corps), whose Batalhão Tonelero, the SpecOps unit, some time ago allowed me to take a closer look at the gun, fire it, and bring some technical details to you.

The .50BMG Hécate II is an ugly beast by most standards, but also highly accurate and destructive. Length overall, with the adjustable stock extended, is 1400mm, while weight is 16kg.

The rifle has a general skeletonized configuration that utilizes aircraft-grade aluminum alloy in its girder chassis, but featuring a tempered-steel receiver to cope with the high pressures generated by the .50 BMG round. The receiver, incidentally, has overpressure vents to protect the shooter from powder gases in the event of a cartridge case rupture. The match-grade, fully free-floating barrel is 700mm long, has a tapered profile and eight-groove, 1:15-inch-twist rifling, claimed by the manufacturer to have a lifetime of 12,000 shots. A large reverse-flow muzzle brake reduces felt recoil by around 50 percent, and this can be easily removed in the field with the use of a hex key to install a dedicated PGM-made suppressor, the QMS-50. This unit is 470mm long (extending the gun’s overall length to 1800mm) and weighs 3.9kg, which brings up the Hecate II’s weight to just over 18kg. A foldable carrying handle is provided for carrying the bulky weapon. The removable (for transportation purposes), length-adjustable stock has an equally-adjustable cheek rest, plus a folding butt spike and a fully-regulating bipod for stabilization. A Picatinny tri-rail structure is provided. The top rail, where a Schmidt & Bender 3-12x50mm PMII scope is fitted, is of an extended type to allow for add-on items, such as a Carl Zeiss NSV 600 night sight, as available for the Brazilian Marines’ guns. Operation of the Hécate II is of the conventional bolt-action type, the weapon feeding from a detachable seven-round steel magazine.

Up-close view of the massive muzzle brake. Its simple removal with the use of a hex key allows the dedicated sound suppressor to be quickly attached.

With the sound suppressor in place, the gun becomes 1800mm long and weighs 18kg, a price for maximum tactical effectiveness.

The scope used in the Brazilian Marines’ guns is the German-made Schmidt & Bender 3-12x50mm PMII with a first-focal-plane reticle, thus permitting adequate distance evaluations all the way out to 1,500 meters. Note barrel fluting just ahead of the chamber area.

Having learned that trained marksmen using the Hécate II do regularly shoot with accuracy at 1,500-1,800 meters in the anti-materiel role, I was more than anxious to lay my hands on the French beast. No, sir, I’m NOT a trained marksman, just a very plain shooter/scribe who frequently fires different guns! And there I was in the field with a bunch of “navais” (how the local leathernecks are usually called) to fire the gun, not in a very technical, serious test routine, but rather to have a general feel of it. To make my appraisal writing on the PGM Hécate II concise:

  • The gun is heavy and bulky, not intended as a weekend toy for a 75-y-o senior.
  • Once in position for firing, the bolt is pretty smooth to operate, the rounds feed effortlessly, and the factory-adjusted, two-stage trigger pull is 1-1.5kg.
  • When firing, the huge muzzle brake turns the recoil generated by the .50BMG round into a viable proposition, while at the same time generating considerable side blast for bystanders and raising dust and debris (don’t forget to take the appropriate concealment steps, when in enemy grounds!)
  • The massive sound suppressor makes the gun longer and heavier, but is a great asset to make your actions behind enemy lines as inconspicuous as possible. Oh, yes: it does increase felt recoil. I had a light scope bite to prove that, since I had not properly adjusted the butt’s length to my size.
  • I consistently blasted some rocks situated uphill from my firing position about 350-400 meters away, the farthest distance available that day.
  • I loved it!

Sequential screen captures of a Batalhão Tonelero sniper firing the Hécate II, hot gases hitting the muzzle brake and some dust and debris following.

Sound-suppressed Hécate II, sniper & spotter: one helluva fighting trio.

Author in the field blasting some uphill rocks with a suppressor-equipped Hécate II. Scope bite was earned in this series of shots … Adjust the stock, buddy! (Images by André Olive)



Ronaldo Olive

Ronaldo is a long-time (starting in the 1960s) Brazilian writer on aviation, military, LE, and gun subjects, with articles published in local and international (UK, Switzerland, and U.S.) periodicals. His vast experience has made him a frequent guest lecturer and instructor in Brazil’s armed and police forces.


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  • MrFN

    Needs the wooden stock and grip, for true Desert Ranger status. Anybody know how difficult it is to get one in the states? This is like a dream gun for me, cool to learn that there’s also a dedicated suppressor too! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1185a190168c2d56d063538f72e23491f01cf7316009384a03fa60e25b41c8a1.jpg

    • Twilight sparkle

      As far as I know France has exported anything since the commercial famas that was imported by century, that ended up a failure monetarily for the French so I doubt they’d bother jumping through hoops to get these over here.

      • Xtorin O’hern

        there’s 2 that i know of here in the states, but neither are the wood stock varients

        • Twilight sparkle

          Do you know how they got here?

          • Xtorin O’hern

            probably purchased by some LE agency or privately imported

    • PK

      The only examples I’ve seen in the USA haven’t been in private hands. They were in police inventory.

  • JoelC

    Can’t see this without thinking about Sword Art Online II…

    • Xtorin O’hern

      same… sadly…. Sinon’s ass…

      • Phillip Cooper

        You mean the entire lack thereof?

        • Xtorin O’hern

          did you WATCH the anime? there was sorta a focus of that aspect of her character design…

          • Phillip Cooper

            No, as I was at work.
            Did google it though. Not much there.

          • Xtorin O’hern

            it’s there, her whole introduction sequence kinda had a focus on it

          • Phillip Cooper

            Link please?

  • Sermon 7.62
    • Brett baker

      As a Damn Yankee I’ll stick with a Barrett.

      • Dan

        Barretts are cool but not cool enough to discount other offerings especially more accurate offerings which there are many

    • jono102

      For an AMR/AMW a QCB is largely unnecessary apart from carriage/stowage maybe but that’s about it.

      • Sermon 7.62

        It’s OCB, not QCB. Meaning OSV in Russian. The OSV-96

        “Specialized high-accuracy 12.7×108mm 7N34 59.0 gram FMJ and AP sniper cartridges have been developed for Russian .50-caliber sniper rifles such as this rifle.”

        “The rifle is capable of engaging infantry at a distance of up to 1800 meters and can combat material targets at ranges up to 2500 meters. As an effective anti-sniper weapon, OSV-96 keeps the shooter outside of the effective range of conventional calibers providing a distinct advantage over lower caliber rifles.”

        “Large caliber machine gun cartridges can also be used for firing, but with limited accuracy. The OSV-96 folds in half in between the barrel/chamber and receiver compartments to shorten its length for ease of transportation. The rifle features a free-floating barrel in combination with a large muzzle brake to greatly decrease its recoil.”

        • jono102

          My mistake. Do you know what is the optic mounted on it and what angle they have in the rail or scope mount?

          • Sermon 7.62

            Nope

  • .45

    A beast. I notice hearing protection is being worn with the suppressor. I take it that it is still plenty noisy even with it?

    • Phillip Cooper

      No, he’s just protective of his hearing. A suppressor doesn’t make it silent, or quiet. Just quietER.

      • .45

        I know that, which was why I wanted a better idea of how much quieter it actually is.

    • When it appears in the next Jason Bourne movie it’ll make a noise like a cat sneezing.

  • Rusty S.

    Yeah, eye relief is not too generous on certain Schmidt and bender optics. angled shots with a .50 are a good recipe for scope bite.

    • Gary Kirk

      One of the last times I got bitten, was with an old McMillan M 87 shooting prone, uphill with an S&B.. Don’t remember the model of said scope..

      • Giolli Joker

        “Don’t remember the model of said scope..”
        I thought it was well printed in your head…

        • Gary Kirk

          I could possibly give you the diameter of the eyepiece housing.. But don’t feel like shaving my eyebrow off to measure..

    • jono102

      It would be worse with the likes of the Accuracy International AW50. It has a shock absorbing system in the stock that compresses partially into the stock so the optic can get further back to give you a “Bite”. A key point to remember is not to “Gorilla”it and take some of the play out of the stock before the shot.

  • DanGoodShot

    That is one sweet 50! Thanks for yhe write up. Wheres the photos of the scope bite! We wanna see blood! Lol.

  • iksnilol

    I got heartaches by the number, troubles by the score…

  • Gary Kirk

    All this talk of fifties today is making me wanna go dump $3-4 per trigger pull, and leave the range with my teeth hurting.. But DAMN, it’s fun. ;-)))

  • deserada

    Thank you.

  • Hecate Owner

    There were approximately 11 brought into the country by FN back when they were the importer for PGM. Some of those ended up in private hands.

  • Phil Elliott

    Article said “Vietnam era” first use of a .50 for Sniper use, recall a story from the 50’s Korean war era of a N. Korean sniper using ranging fire to harass a U.S. camp. Some enterprising GI sandbagged a .50 in and made a rudimentary Scope mount for it. It was said it only took 2 shots to hit him and Boom no more harassment!

    • Iggy

      It did say ‘serious attempts’ there had been prior experimentation, including some re-barrelling of captured PTRD’s in Korea, which apparently were half-decent but didn’t end up going anywhere.

  • B. Young

    Great post with great pictures!

  • Kulibin762

    Does this barrel look free-floated? The picture with a floated barrel is of a different gun.