Army Picks H&K for Sniper Rifle, Marines Go Back to Cleaning Rods

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Australian Army Pvt. Levi Mooney and his Heckler & Koch rifle in Afghanistan. (Photo: Sgt. Jessi Ann McCormick) sniper rifle

Australian Army Pvt. Levi Mooney and his Heckler & Koch rifle in Afghanistan. (Photo: Sgt. Jessi Ann McCormick)

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.

See Also: British SAS Sniper Saves Boy, Father From Beheading With Half-Mile Shot

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.

brownells buttstock cleaning kit

A basic, inexpensive rod cleaning kit. (Photo: Brownells)

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.

{ 57 comments… add one }
  • Fred Jones April 24, 2016, 6:59 pm

    I broke 2 HK-416s in one week during a training course. The first one broke a trigger spring and the second sheared off a lug on the bolt. Used a Colt for several years prior and never had an issue. HK is great, but far from perfect.

  • billy April 24, 2016, 5:50 pm

    wars are how money is made. ask any banker. world war one the government ordered Remington; Winchester and Eddystone to all built the same rifle and be with interchangeable parts. now thats production. seems I have a Eddystone from 1917 someone put a short jungle barrel on. kicks like hell. but is good for 500 yards. don’t have any complains. And all thous Remingtons and Winchester parts. ha ha ha.

  • tweedmus April 16, 2016, 9:36 pm

    Frankly, an ’03 match rifle with a Unertl scope (WW@ Marine sniper) is pretty hard to improve on for accuracy; mine shoots 1-hole groups all day (not that I do, but the gun certainly does). While rapid fire is OK for 100 yds. or less, long range accuracy is of necessity slow work and does not need to be rapid fire. The idea of 1 gun that does everything well is pretty much a pipe dream, otherwise there would only be m-16s issued.

  • boomslang4 April 16, 2016, 8:12 pm

    $12,200 for a DMR? Couldn’t bring it in for a third of that? 4 grand won’t buy enough rifle? I can buy a pretty damned good rifle for 4k, and that’s not taking into account economies of scale.

    • AC May 7, 2016, 8:26 pm

      It’s $4000 for the actual rifle, and $8200 for the corruption involved.

  • Kevin April 15, 2016, 10:36 pm

    I would like to buy a all purpose rifle, with high capacity mags, Can’t decide which 1 to buy, and store prices are out of sight I’m thinking a 308 with a drum , but just don’t know. Anyone out there can help me, please email me, bronzeone1@yahoo.com

    • james mallory April 18, 2016, 6:25 am

      bought the ruger 762 shootig 180 grain bullets I though it for 1300.00 shooting 1″‘groups at 100 yds open sight. BUT KICKS HARD ON #2 gas setting small but not light. Just a cheap 308 that runs well but I do run ever thing wet using npro7 as lubriant, including pistion parts no issues.

    • Scraggs April 14, 2017, 9:54 am

      Look into the 6.5 Grendel in the AR platform. Superior ballistics to the .223

  • Bob K April 15, 2016, 10:08 pm

    So 1st the Engines to the MRAPS are made in BRAZIL, a country with very tight ties to the Chinese and now our Snipers are going to use German Rifles…. You can’t tell me that an American Company couldn’t make solid Sniper Rifles? That’s right, Remington makes the Combat Proven M24 and I’m sure they could have made a Semi-Auto Version. So does Obama plan on UN Troops using these Sniper Rifles and those troops would of course be German. Just Saying…

    • vnvet72 April 17, 2016, 9:37 am

      I couldn’t agree more. It’s a sad state of affairs we have devolved to in what use to be, “the greatest production country”. When things get so bad that our fighter squadron mech’s have to cannibalize their jets of parts to install on others to keep sorties active and, our troops are “hot swapping” rifles, how much lower are we going to sink ?
      The spineless, ass kissing Lame Duck is hell bent on seeing to that we will collapse from within our own borders. It’s only a matter of time and getting shorter with each day before it all comes to a catastrophic end.

      • Damon April 17, 2016, 5:00 pm

        H&K make superb weapons. Many SEALs carry (by choice) the H&K 416. I’m not sure that having an American company design and produce a suitable weapon (with the trials, delays, redesigns and resubmissions inevitable in such a process) serves our fighters better than choosing an established, combat-proven, readily – accessible design. But, I’m sure, as you say, Obama is personally burning the midnight oil to accomplish this dastardly scheme.

      • william massi jr November 4, 2016, 5:16 am

        YES, YES, You Are Right. But It Is To LATE, We Are In The HOLE NOW, And If That BITCH, Get;s In, The U. S. A. As I Remember It, Will NO LONGER BE. To BAD, I Am An 83 Year Old X- MARINE. And We Be GLAD To, Go Back And HELP MY COUNTRY , To Get Back The Way It Was. THE BEST IN THE WORLD. GOD BLESS US NOW. AND It Is Going To Be GREAT To See This Ass HOLE The In In The #! Seat. GONE. YES. ??? GOOD LUCK. ??

  • Glenn61 April 15, 2016, 9:38 pm

    Wow,,, I was a marine Corps grunt from 1982-86, and we never ever thought of cleaning out M16s with anything but a steel cleaning rod and bronze or copper brush. The pull through crap was what the poor countries gave their troops, like the Morocco Marines we trained with used to clean their sub standard AK47 rifles,, ridiculous…!

    • DaveGinOly April 16, 2016, 10:30 pm

      A pull-through cleaning kit was standard issue in the Bundeswehr when they were using the HK 91.

    • Evan April 17, 2016, 3:02 pm

      I was issued an Otis kit in 2005. It was much easier to use than the cleaning rod kits (and the brushes were similar if not exactly the same), although the AP brush it came with was useless. I used the Otis kit to punch the bore, the old style AP brush, and I kept some cleaning rods because they’re always useful to have.

      • Black Knight of the Mekong April 17, 2016, 10:31 pm

        Evan. when you said, “I kept some cleaning rods because their useful to have.” you said it all. Pull throughs are for you survival kit.

      • bob April 14, 2017, 11:13 am

        As a 27yr still activeduty veteran, owner of a firearm store and a gun smith, in the right hands a cleaning rod doesn’t do too much damage, but when privates are still being taught in basic to use harsh chemicals and scrape every part of their rifles to get all carbon off, it seriously destroys equipment. Now if i was a manufacturer supplying rifles to the GOV i would want them to do this, make 2-3x the amount in repair parts and maintance.

  • SSGRick April 15, 2016, 5:03 pm

    If I had $12,200 to spend on a rifle it sure as hell wouldn’t be an H&K. I use that money to buy a BARRET .50 cal!!!

  • James F Baudier April 15, 2016, 4:55 pm

    I would be willing to bet the congressional appropriations committees seldom if ever receive nasty grams from we the people!
    I think we are all at fault for not emailing our elected officials with our displeasure of their performance. Our elected officials on the defense appropriations committees for the most part are not qualified to judge a weapon system. The majority of these people probably have purchased stock in the companies they give the contracts to. The American people have a bad habit of electing smooth talking people that boast about their qualifications. Maybe the elected officials should first have served in the military!

    • David Sommer April 15, 2016, 7:49 pm

      You should read “Starship Troopers” by Robert A. Heinlein, it is a political treatise disguised as a Science fiction book and he agrees and supplies a modernized version of the political system proposed by Plato in “the Republic”. The overall theme of the book is that social responsibility requires individual sacrifice. Heinlein’s Ideal government is a limited democracy, with aspects of a meritocracy in regard to full citizenship. Suffrage can only be earned by at least two years of volunteer Federal Service [“the franchise is today limited to discharged veterans”, (ch. XII)], instead of, as Heinlein would later note, anyone “…who is 18 years old and has a body temperature near 37 °C” The Government is required to find a place for anyone who desires to serve, regardless of skill or aptitude (this also includes service ranging from teaching to dangerous non-military work such as serving as experimental medical test subjects to military service). There is an explicit contrast to the “democracies of the 20th century”, which according to the novel, collapsed because “people had been led to believe that they could simply vote for whatever they wanted… and get it, without toil, without sweat, without tears.”

      • Andrew H. Gealt April 15, 2016, 10:12 pm

        Great comment! Robert H .was way ahead of the times in both thinking and writing style!

      • Alan April 17, 2016, 11:05 am

        I think you need to do a little more in depth thinking on Heinlein’s overall idea of Government.
        His proposed system of Government in Starship Troopers is absurd, and denies basic human rights.
        Surely you CAN’T be a Constitutionalist.
        BTW, I love many of Heinlein’s other books.

        • Damon April 17, 2016, 5:05 pm

          On the contrary, Heinlein ‘ proposed system didn’t deny anyone anything. Rather, he posited that rights come with responsibility, and the two are reverse sides of the same coin. I personally don’t believe that the ability to consume oxygen and generate feces confers many rights at all.

  • Tommy Barrios April 15, 2016, 12:51 pm

    In response to Gary’s request for Specifications
    Here is the RFP and only thing I could find right off about this new system http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2014/06/16/army-releases-draft-rfp-new-compact-semi-auto-sniper-rifle/

  • Jake April 15, 2016, 12:21 pm

    Just like the Marine Corps replacing the M249 with an HK M16 with a heavy barrel that can do sustained fire of 17 whole rounds per minute. The people making these decisions seem to know little about small arms. It takes a certain kind of genius to think fielding a short barreled carbine as a replacement for a main battle rifle sniper is a good idea. Maybe they are planning to issue these to the unqualified women they are forcing into combat arms? If people so armed were to come after me I would attempt to position myself a couple of hundred yards out of their range and rain down .30 caliber hell on them from a 24″ or 26″ barreled rifle. Ask a returning vet what it was like being outranged by many of the enemies old school small arms while they had to sit taking it with ridiculous 14″ M4’s and 249’s.

  • Buck April 15, 2016, 10:52 am

    There are at least two plans in action here. H&K is Austrian and people in Austria have been trained to not shoot the enemy streaming in. Just in case their population starts to wise up to this their armaments will be shipped to – the Americans who can pay for them with inflation, but whose military manufacturers are being closed down or shipped overseas. Just like their military manpower which keeps the stream of jihadis flowing into Europe and America.

    • dogface April 15, 2016, 1:00 pm

      H&K is German.. Glock is Austrian.

      • Rene April 15, 2016, 2:56 pm

        H&K have been around for a long time, 1890’s ??
        Who do you think made the German 98
        Mauser? That’s right, H&K in Germany.
        H&K have been known for Quality. Mausers are vey collectible. H&K’s may cost more. What is your life worth?
        It,s always been abou Kick Backs & Big Money. It will not change.
        In Vietnam we had Cleaning Kits. There just wasn’t one for everyone.
        One must remember, the military & Civilan’s that choose the model rifle or hand gun have never been in Combat & never have been shot at?

  • Mark Severino April 15, 2016, 10:49 am

    IT COMES DOWN TO WHO’S GETTIN A KICK BACK FOR A GOVT CONTRACT EVEN THOUGH H&K IS QUALITY SO ARE THE OTHER TOP RATED SASS GUNS OUT THERE….BOTTOM LINE IS M-O-N-E-Y IN THE POLITICAL HACK’S POCKET WHO IS PUSHING THEIR SPONSORS GUN!!! ITS AL BULLLLLLONEY….

  • TnDoc April 15, 2016, 10:33 am

    This is only about pay-offs to members of the Mil-Indust Complex. Period. It is the equivalent of the “multi-service, multi-role” F-35 program at a small arms scale. Our military has been completely taken over by the Corporatists and they could not care less about the poor soldier on the ground or the poor (and, getting poorer) taxpayer (serf). I hate to think what ThePowersThatBe come up with for the new Army pistol… Will probably be some needlessly complicated and disastrously over-priced paper weight…
    I vote for a return to decent 1911s… Ike and many others warned us about these bastards many years ago.

    • Bill April 19, 2016, 12:51 am

      The Marines are already going back to the 1911. The M45A1 CQBP is the new pistol chosen for them. It’s a Colt and comes with a $2400 price tag per weapon. There is a contract for 10,000 of them for Colt.

  • john r April 15, 2016, 10:30 am

    Going back to cleaning rods? Must be “Jarheads” cant figure out how to get a boot lace down a rifle barrel.

    • Matt April 15, 2016, 12:43 pm

      Simpler is better, there is no way a pull through is going to clean as well as a rod. The Marines in the field are using what works “rods”. Read the article, pull through to easy to loss parts, takes much longer to use. How do you clear a stuck case with a pull through. Why pay $100 for a system that doesn’t work as well as a $20 kit. The only thing going for it is it’s compact size, Marines are concerned with what works not what’s cool. The military is great at issuing equipment that isn’t practical in the field and the grunts get what they need at their own expense.

      • Clayton April 15, 2016, 9:22 pm

        What parts? The only thing to a pull through is the string that you pull through. Having all the rods and brushes means you have more to lose. You lose one rod and you’re screwed. $100? You can buy a boresnake for less than $20. The only thing going for the rods is the ability to clear a stuck case.

      • WillR April 16, 2016, 11:22 am

        The ONLY advantage of a rod system is the ability to clear a squib load from the bore. Otherwise, thongs are faster, simpler, fewer parts, NO moving parts, remove even the POSSIBILITY of damaging the crown, and they clean the bore a damn sight better than cleaning rod kits.

        It’s important to keep rods around to clear obstructions, but the rest of the reasons given are flat out lies that actually apply to the rod systems, not to the thongs. Why don’t we let our nostalgia override our reason some more?

    • Gunny April 15, 2016, 4:47 pm

      Seriously? Marines have been keeping weapons clean and kicking A for over 240 years. We just know what works.

  • Tripwire April 15, 2016, 9:53 am

    This whole thing is absurd! We are America! We are a nation of riflemen so why do we need to buy something not made in and by Americans? H&K??? Really? What happened to names like Winchester? Remington? Marlin? Ruger? There are companies in America today building the finest rifles in the world for under 3 K, Some of the best shooters in the world are competing with rifles custom built for them for under that 3K figure. As usual the US Army has their head up it’s ass and they aren’t even trying to hide it!
    Didn’t the same US Army procurement people announce they were going to replace the Army’s handguns with H&K? Are they telling us that American companies can’t build good weapons? most of the top shooters in the competitive shooting world are using 1911!
    This whole package is for under 4 K rifles, there are American companies that can hand make rifles for the Army in that quantity for far less,
    Somethings rotten in the Army procurement program.
    I’m an old man now but in my youth I was a US Marine, I was issued a well used M1 Garand and taught to hit out to 500 yards using iron sights! I can still do that today, not as well but not all that bad either, I was there when we switched to the M-14 and we saw qualifying scores go up dramatically, again, we used these rifles out to 500 yards with iron sights but I have no doubt a lot of my fellow Marines with superb eyesight could hit with reasonable consistency out to a 1000 yards. A really well trained rifleman doesn’t have to have a 12 K rifle to do his job. At least a well trained Marine doesn’t.

    • Duncan April 15, 2016, 6:25 pm

      Ohh Rah brotha! I’m of the M16A1/2 generation. 91983-90)

    • DHConner April 16, 2016, 1:39 am

      And before and into WW 1, the ’03 Springfield was issued and the target was 1,000 yards. And don’t pull no maggies drawers either. Those old boys, now mostly long gone, were what real Marine riflemen were – not a good idea to be out in front of them. The 14 is as good a rifle today as it was then, and a match for the Moison-Nagants the ragheads use, and the Dragunovs. Not quite as much steam as the ’06 Hathcock and others had, but a world ahead of the 5.56. $12,000 grand? I could buy at least 5 sniper grade 14’s for that, and scope ’em for another10 grand. Show me your ass – I’ll blow it off for you.(I shoot long range 600+) as often as I can, with iron sights. Yes – handloads, I can’t afford that Federal 168 or 175 gr HPBT Gold Medal Match ammo. Our sheriffs department practices with it and throw the brass away! A good scope makes , all things considered, every shot pretty much a sure thing. Idiocy is latently congenital in many of these high ranking civilians and officers who have never “seen the elephant”, as the mountain men used to say. When they get to a certain rank or pay grade, they become enamored of their status and forget what their job is, let alone to do it. For $12 grand I can get at least three one hole rifles built, and maybe four – he used to make parts for the Space Shuttles, and built 2 benchrest guns he set 2 world records with. Ol’ Bob Dodd know his business, yes indeedy he does. Better than the sub-imbecilic cretins who made this decision, that’s for damned sure.

    • Jason Norman October 5, 2016, 2:56 am

      Semper Fi Marine, it’s a travesty what the politicians, bureaucrats and fat cats have done to our nation and our military. But give any Marine any decent rifle and I bet you get your ass shot. It would behoove the aforementioned traitorous bastards that our Oaths have no expiration date.

  • Ivano April 15, 2016, 8:54 am

    This is what happens when the Army eliminates in house manufacture by talented dedicated government employees. Also, how many retired admirals and generals are on the staff of H#K??? Dig deep into the structure of H#K, I would bet it was not a genuine open competition contract but skewed to some factor… H@K only had on the rifle. OK… the M16 is junk. Originally it only cost about 200 bucks. But $12,000. for support… SORRY I disagree. Bring back government owned arsenals. Another procurement scam….plain and simple.

    • Jake April 15, 2016, 12:07 pm

      Support? What a joke. The beauty of the AR platform is that anyone with half a brain and the tools can change barrels and anything else. Most parts can simply be switched out by anyone. How about just taking that twelve grand per unit and just buy each “sniper” four Les Baer .308 SWAT monoliths and when one breaks or wears out, set it aside and take the next one out to play?

    • R Phillip April 15, 2016, 1:38 pm

      The Army has not made its own small arms in quantity since the Civil War! Repairs and other things yes, tooling up to make thousands of battle rifles, no. Modern small arm selections by Army have always been the subject of competition, testing and selection. And 20% of die hards ALWAYS get pissed off and talk about how great the previous system was. Well, mass manufacturing the 1903 Springfield, Colt 1911, M1 Garand or M14 just ain’t gonna happen. Yes the M16 was junk for years, but the Army finally figured out how to use it as a modular platform and it is as decent as anything that uses a 55 grain .22 caliber bullet can be. My only comment on that is that, in the San Bernardino attack and police shootout, both sides were using ARs / 5.56 and the bad guys fired at least 75 rounds and police about twice that before it was ended. Bet that was entirely due to those 5.56s not penetrating the Suburban effectively. If the police had been firing 7.62 NATO into that truck, the terrorist couple would have been down before they could get off a dozen shots.

    • Mark April 15, 2016, 2:42 pm

      Bring back the militia…Soldiers supply and maintain their own after the first issue.(shouldn’t be any more than 500-600$) 12,000 per copy is ludicrous, but thats the FED for you. They’ll keep doing it as long as we keep tolerating it. Congress has an 10% approval rating BUT A 95% re-election rate. Do you think maybe they get the idea that we really don’t disapprove as much as we say we do?

  • John Mangus April 15, 2016, 8:53 am

    Russians are googling “cleaning kits”

    • Deteeeee April 15, 2016, 5:17 pm

      Lol

  • Dave April 15, 2016, 7:49 am

    A fool and his money………

    • STEVE April 15, 2016, 11:20 am

      A fool and OUR money…..

  • mike owen April 15, 2016, 7:40 am

    Slo-mo retro or what? April of ’67 on the DMZ I was sure glad I had a rod to bust cases free from the POS they gave me to replace my M14. I carried it assembled and stuck in my belt .. they say the thing is better now, but if I was a snuffy now I’d do the same thing again.

  • seriously April 15, 2016, 7:15 am

    What is the point of this article? You lead with “The U.S. Army has selected Heckler & Koch to replace their well-worn inventory of M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS) rifles.” then two paragraphs below “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.”

    • Tom A April 19, 2016, 4:09 pm

      Thanks, I was wondering the same thing. News? More like speculation.

  • Rob April 15, 2016, 6:11 am

    I’ll bet you the Chinese Army is producing a knock off of this twelve thousand dollar rifle for $120!
    However, they may have to carry three of them to get one to work, so that brings the price to $360.

  • Gary April 15, 2016, 5:52 am

    Am I the only one that thinks TWELVE THOUSAND DOLLARS is a LOT of money for a rifle? I think 6 grand per would be a fair price, and that MANY makers would be happy to build a rifle to their specs for that kind of money. Maybe they would not have $5000 scopes on them, but then if the military were not their main buyers then everyone else would be able to buy the same scope for a more reasonable price as well?
    Or, I could be TOTALLY wrong. How about a list of specs for these $12000 rifles so we can see what WE THE TAX PAYERS are actually BUYING? I don’t think that is asking to much. It IS OUR MONEY after all. Too many people tend to forget that VERY important point these days.
    Be it for buying rifles for our service men, which I believe DESERVE the best there is, or if WE are paying for a chunk of highway that falls apart 2 years after it opens! (That was AFTER it already FAILED the primary inspection to open to stat with, and had to be rebuilt!) Just so it could fall apart shortly AFTER it had PASSED the tough state and federal inspections!
    Lets supply our people with the BEST equipment money can buy, and get them everything they need! But, let’s make sure we are paying for the EQUIPMENT, nothing else!

    • Richard April 15, 2016, 8:34 am

      I think a lot of people are missing the point here, the $12,000.00 price is an average of the purchase of the rifles, training, support, spare parts and anything else the Army has specified in the request. The price may still be to high but the $12,200.00 per rifle is not a true price for just the rifle alone.

  • Roger April 15, 2016, 3:22 am

    Wow! Government contracts still are absurd. $12,200 per rifle, huh? What a joke. I’ll never buy an H&K.

    • Curt April 15, 2016, 9:42 am

      Don’t hate on HK! Go to a range and shoot some HKs. I think you will find them to be amazing.

      Really well built and I went 5 years never cleaning my 1st one and it never jammed or failed to fire one time in thousands of rounds and major abuse.

      Been a fan ever since (but I do clean my new ones). 🙂

  • Jack April 15, 2016, 2:56 am

    Why try to reinvent the wheel every time they have something new com into play. The cleaning kits from the jungle of SE Asia work just fine for this system.
    I used those kits many times and have several in my collection of cleaning needs today.

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