When I was younger I spent quite a bit of time reading about military sniper rifles. While these rifles would function well with the specialized match ammunition they were designed for, I have always wondered about their accuracy with standard ball ammunition (full metal jacket). While this would only be necessary in the advent of dire situations in desperate need of resupply, I still wondered how it would play out. Getting my hands on a used M24 Sniper Rifle allowed me to put some rounds down range to test this out.
This is my test rifle. A new to me, but used M24 with a fixed 10X scope. Accuracy with match ammunition has been excellent as you can see in the image below.
These 5-shot groups were all fired at 100 yards, with Federal Gold Medal 175 Grain SMK ammunition. Overall the rifle shoots well under 1 MOA with factory ammunition and .5 MOA with hand loads. I grabbed some M80 Winchester 147 grain full metal jacket ammunition and headed to the range. The M80 is the standard US Military ball cartridge that would be commonly encountered on belt fed weapon systems like the M240G.
Ten rounds later, I had the information I wanted, this batch of M80 in this M24 shot 2.572 MOA! Average muzzle velocity was 2,803 feet/second with a standard deviation of 17.8. While I had expected a degradation in accuracy, I hadn’t quite expected it to be this severe. I also noticed how close my measured velocity was that which was specified by the military (only a 3 feet/second difference).
I ran my velocity data for the M80 147 FMJ through my ballistic application. The table above shows the data in 100 yard intervals out to 1,000 yards.
In the chart above, I plotted it (M80 yellow, 2803 feet/second) against the 175 SMK (blue, 2600 feet/second) and the 168 SMK (red, 2756 feet/second). While the lighter M80 doesn’t fair as well as the heavier match rounds in the wind, its drop is similar, this is likely due to the higher velocity making up for the lighter mass of the round.
While I won’t be shooting much ball ammunition out of rifles in the future, it is nice to see how a rifle would perform with it. While 2.5 MOA accuracy isn’t anything to write home about, in an emergency, it is better than nothing.