The U.S. Army has selected Heckler & Koch to replace their well-worn inventory of M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS) rifles. At the same time, the Marines are rolling back the clock when it comes to cleaning rifles: they’re going from pull-through kits back to cleaning rods.
The hunt for an improved Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS) began in 2012. The program’s goals included finding a reduced weight, reduced length rifle with improved accuracy and reliability. One of the CSASS program’s concerns was rifle reliability and longevity in extreme environments where abrasive sand and dust pose a real threat to rifle performance.
Details including what rifle and accessory package was selected for the role have not been released, but it stands to reason that it’s the HK417 or a variant. Heckler & Koch 417-based semi-automatic sniper and designated marksman rifles serve with armed forces all around the world including the German Bundeswehr and the British SAS.
It’s also possible that the Heckler & Koch developed an Army-specific rifle to compete for the CSASS contract. Part of the updated solicitation included an upgrade path for existing SASS rifles still in inventory, so the winning design could be a hybrid Knights’s Armament/Heckler & Koch rifle.
The completed solicitation also clearly states that not one but two rifles have been accepted for the CSASS program. This could allow for both new rifles and upgraded guns built on SASS components or completely different rifles for different roles as required by the CSASS agenda.
No matter what rifles wind up replacing the SASS, the CSASS contract is a big win for Heckler & Koch. The two-year, fixed firm price contract worth up to $44.5 million to build a maximum total of 3,643 CSASS packages.
The main option includes instructor and key personnel training, spare parts and depot support. There is a second option for acquiring the technical detail package, or TDP, as well.
While the Army is looking for new solutions, the Marines are going back to an old fix–a Vietnam-era fix. The Marines are beginning to phase out newer pull-through cleaning kits in favor of simpler rod-and-brush kits.
“Quite frankly, they don’t work as well as the old rods we had that you just screw together,” said Col. Tim Parker, commander of Weapons Training Battalion to the Marine Corps Times. “This is what the fleet was telling us, so we said ‘All right, we tried a good idea — now let’s go back to the original one.’”
What the Marine Corps found is that specialized cleaning tools in the newer kits are easily lost and not used, and in turn, rifle maintenance suffers. The rods are better at scrubbing off fouling and can be used to clear a stuck case quickly and easily.
It doesn’t hurt that the rod kits are a lot less expensive. A basic rod cleaning kit costs about $20 where a premium Otis soft pack kit can cost close to $100. The original rod kits were made to store in the buttstock compartment of M16 rifles.