This is my initial review of the M24 Sniper Weapons System (SWS). This post will cover my first impressions and future posts will cover accuracy, load development and upgrades. My remarks in this post aren’t from a military perspective, but from that of a guy who shoots a lot. If you are a veteran who was issued an M24 and would like to offer some context I encourage you to email me your thoughts.
The Remington M24 Sniper Weapon System (SWS) was placed into service with the US Army in 1988. Like the Marine Corps M40 series of sniper rifles, it is based on a Remington 700 action, but unlike the Marine Corps rifles which were hand built by the Marines in the Precision Weapons Shop in Quantico, the M24 was mass produced by Remington. Chambered in 7.62 NATO (effectively 308 Winchester), typically a short action cartridge, the M24 retained a long action for future upgrade to a larger round like the 300 Winchester Magnum.
The M24 is equipped with a 24″ stainless steel 1:11.25″ twist barrel that is identical in profile to the M40A3/A5/A6 (the M40 series rifles have 25″ barrels).
Unique to more “modern” sniper rifles, the M24 came issued with a back up iron sight system in addition to a fixed 10X Leupold scope. The sights are retained by blind screw holes located on the top of the muzzle end of the barrel and the left side of the receiver. I have the sights but didn’t install them since they are a bit of a collectors item now.
The barreled action of the M24 feeds from an internal box magazine which can be emptied through a hinged floor plate. It is set in a Kevlar/Fiberglass HS precision stock that mates to the action with an aluminum bedding block. The stock is very similar to most varmint stocks available at the time it was designed, with the addition of an adjustable butt plate.
After gawking at M24s for decades, I was finally able to get my hands on this used rifle. The rifle has an unknown round count and is a little rough. It had a few different rattle can paint jobs over its life which adds to its character. I’d imagine this would be similar to how a military rifle would be issued, a well used rifle covered in layers of old chipped paint.
There is a certain elegance of simplicity to the M24. The HS Precision stock is similar to a 700 Police or varmint stock with the exception of the adjustable butt plate. Its peers, the McMillian A2/3/5 series-stocks are widely considered the superior option in many regards including ergonomics, nevertheless the M24 doesn’t leave you wanting for much. The issued stock is good enough for most shooters in most applications.
I headed to the range with M24 to see what it was like to get behind the iconic rifle. Autumn had returned to the Northeast, and I chose the first cold wet day of the year to shoot it. Despite the fact that I had limited time and forgot my chronograph (the most important tool a gun writer owns), I was still happy to be there. Settling down behind the M24, I found myself transported back in time nearly 30 years to my first time behind a Remington 700 Police, which was a similar gun with a fixed 10X optic.
The gun fit me well. I didn’t need to adjust the length of pull. If the previous owner was right, I wouldn’t even need to zero the gun. I built my position and loaded a factory cartridge, a Federal Gold Medal 175 grain, the standard in factory ammunition for precision rifles. From my dry firing, I know the trigger is a bit heavy and breaks at a little over five pounds. I settled down on my damp shooting mat, while water rolled off my target, a 1″ green dot printed on a piece of waterproof paper 100 yards away.
Five rounds later and I had a decent group, .725 MOA! Not bad for five rounds out of a new-to-me rifle. The previous owner was right, the rifle was shooting close to zero. The low round shown in the group above was a cold bore shot. I’m normally don’t believe in cold bore shots, however, I did punch the tube on this rifle prior to shooting it, and that may have contributed to the first round’s distance from the rest of the group. The 4 remaining rounds were well under .5 MOA.
I spent that cold, wet and rainy afternoon shooting the M24. With the fixed 10X scope and unpretentious HS Precision stock, there was a simple feeling to the rifle, it was everything you needed in a precision rifle, with nothing you didn’t. The thin piece of rubber on the adjustable steel butt plate didn’t want to be forgotten, it let you know it was there, seemingly magnifying the felt recoil of each round. The truth is I haven’t shot a 308 that had this much perceived recoil in years, a testament to the progress we’ve been making in the firearms industry.
Shooting the M24 made my mind race in a thousand directions at once. Initially, it allowed an immediate comparison of the best available technology for long range shooting in the late-80s, to the modern solutions that are available today. You’d be hard pressed to find a modern sniper rifle that wasn’t placed in a chassis with a higher magnification scope, one that would most likely be equipped with a forward rail for a night vision optic. The more I thought about the rifle, the more I began to think about its legacy. Thinking of the thousands of M24s in military service over the years and the stories the soldiers that carried them to war would tell about them was inspiring. As simple as the M24 was for a rifle, holding it was profoundly humbling, reminding me of roots of the precision shooting, decades of lessons learned, and where we have moved as an industry and as a country since that time.
Upgrading the M24 can be tricky. It is pretty easy to find parts for anything on a Remington 700 short action. But the M24 is built on a long action. To upgrade a M24 you need special parts. Normally in the firearms industry this would be a problem, but the US ARMY and foreign military users typically have deep pockets that help drive innovation. This has lead to a series of upgrades over the years, my favorite being the IDF Modernization program for the M24 (below).
I like the M24. I’ll be back with more M24 posts; including, accuracy, load development and a look at the MDT Chassis used in the IDF Modernization program for the M24.