Problems with the Semi-Automatic M110 Sniper Rifle?

Steve Johnson
by Steve Johnson

Jack Murphy, former Special Forces Soldier and author, has claimed that many of the special forces community are unhappy with the Knight’s Armament Company M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System. This is the first time I have read or heard of issues with the M110, other than that they were not supplying enough of them!

M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System

Murphy says that the lack of a forward-assist is frustrating for snipers who chamber a round slowly, to prevent noise, and then use the forward assist to ensure the round is in battery. Apparently the SOP is to use a cleaning rod to push the bolt forward. Using a thumb or finger to push the bolt forward would also work.

Another problem, according to Murphy, is that the scope selected for the M110. This is not a problem with the M110 rifle or even the scope itself, just with the specifications. If it was a big enough problem Leupold could retrofit the scopes with zero-able turrets.

Ultimately, a semi-automatic sniper rifle is not going to be as reliable, accurate or light as a bolt action. Conversely, a bolt action is never going to be able to achieve the same rate of fire as a semi-automatic. Murphy wrote

The M110 was developed and fielded for legitimate purposes, but in the rush to field a semi-automatic rifle I think that the Army lost sight of the big picture. In my opinion, replacing bolt-action sniper rifles with a semi-auto is short sighted.

There is a place for both semi-auto and bolt-action sniper rifles. The best possible solution would be to have enough of both so that sniper teams could select the best weapon for their mission.

[ Many thanks to Lance for emailing me the link. ]

Steve Johnson
Steve Johnson

I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!

More by Steve Johnson

Join the conversation
2 of 54 comments
  • Carl Carl on Feb 14, 2012

    A sniper keeps his rifle loaded pretty much all the time. There really would not be many situations where a sniper would need to "quietly load his rifle." After all, once the shooting begins the need for silence becomes a moot point. When I was sniping in Viet Nam or on patrol with an XM-21 NM rifle, it was always loaded unless I was in the perimeter "cleaning it." By cleaning it I mean dusting it off, oiling the outside of it and so on. We never took our rifles apart because that would ruin the accuracy of the system. Most of the snipers I have talked to in recent years like their M-110 type rifles. They are accurate, sturdy and reliable. I was thinking about getting another M-21 style rifle like a high quality M-1A for me but I am now thinking about maybe getting a good AR-10 and making my own kind of M-110 SASS. Where I live noise suppressors are not allowed by state law so going with a good AR-10 makes more sense than trying to land a true M-110 rifle. A good rifle, good scope, high quality ammo and some range time should set me up right once I have the rifle broken in to my liking.

  • Dennis Crawford Dennis Crawford on Nov 07, 2012

    As to the m110 I know for a fact that this weapon has a small lest of problems one that I do know of is after about 3000 or 4000 Rounds the lower will crack in one of the holes that are there for ambidextrous Mag and bolt release. I know this I was in on the testing of it and others for SF out of FT Bragg NC.