This, boys and girls and whatever, is the most iconic sniper rifle/giant bullet launching device ever made. This is a Barrett M82. This is probably the most successful sniper rifle ever made, cause most of the world uses it in one way shape or form. The US Armed Forces, England, most of NATO, hell Mexico’s soldiers march with the damn thing.
But how does this gun come into existence? Was it a long series of prototypes made in the 1970′s to give America a firepower edge? Or maybe a modern weapon made for long range sniping?
None of those are correct, Ronald Barrett, the founder of Barrett firearms did it because no one else had made a semi-automatic rifle in .50 BMG. So he effectively made it on a bet.
So Ronald Barrett, native to Tennessee and looking more like someone’s dad rather than the dealer of anti-material rifles started as a professional photographer and while taking photos near the Stones River saw a river patrol boat with dual .50 Brownings on the bow. Besides winning him an award, he began thinking of the idea of a .50 BMG caliber rifle.
Now the idea of the heavy machinegun caliber rifle is an idea dating to WWI and the Imperial German T-Gewehr, chambered in 13.2 TUF and made to pierce WWI era tanks. This launched the idea of the anti-tank rifle, a giant rifle firing a large round going absurdly fast to sail through tank and vehicle armor.
Every country made or bought their own model, the Finns had the 20mm Lahti L-39, the Russians had the single shot PTRD-41 and semi-auto PTRS-41, the Germans had the PzB 38 and 39, the British had the Boys AT rifle. The problem came when tanks started increasing armor. Most AT rifles could only pierce 20-30mm of armor and with the increase of armor, a new idea was needed. The US made the M1 Bazooka and thus the trend went from big rifles to rocket propelled weapons.
Explanation over, back to the tale of the M82. Ronnie Barrett began drawing cross-section pictures of his design, allowing him to edit what needed to be edited as well as going to nearby machine shops to see if they would make it themselves. He ran into Bob Mitchell, a tool and die shop owner in Smyrna, Tennessee who agreed to help him make the first prototype rifles. Spending time there as well as a nearby sheet metal manufacturer, Ronnie Barrett had his first firing prototype in less than 4 months.
He used this to make a second gun, better than the last and sent a video of him firing it to a gun show in Houston, Texas. There three people placed deposits for him to make them guns. With limited money, Barrett managed to crank out around 30 guns from his garage. When he placed an ad in Shotgun News, he sold out his first batch of guns. After that, the CIA called to place an order of some M82′s for sale to the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan.
With these sales, this allowed Barrett to continue revising his rifle to the M82A1, which got rid of the very futuristic looking exterior to the design we all know and love. And in 1989, he made his first sale to the Swedish Military. Even better was in 1990, when the US Military began buying the rifles for work in Iraq during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Shield, where it went by the name of the SASR, the Special Applications Scoped Rifle. The first order of 125 to the USMC soon was met with orders from the other branches and the M82A1 was being bought by most world militaries.
Ever since that, the M82 series has seen wide sales and use across the world. It’s primary use is for dealing with unexploded munitions, bombs, mines, IED’s etc. It could also be used against radar cabins, trucks, parked aircraft, helicopters and human targets alike. And with a maximum range of 1,830 meters to 4,000, it means the M82 will be still firing when other’s have stopped due to range. It’s also semi-automatic, giving a higher rate of fire in comparison with slower single shot or bolt action anti-material rifle designs.
The M82 has a number of other design versions. There’s the US adopted M107, the bullpup M82A2, the tan painted M107A1, the modern M82A1M and M82A3 and the bolt action M95 and single shot M95. There’s also a number of prototypes, including the XM500 and the XM109 in 25mm that is locked in DoD limbo. If HMG rounds aren’t your forte, there’s also the M98 Bravo in .338 Lapua.
The M82 also has some other users besides most world militaries not using the KSVK, there’s a number of police departments, who use them for car disabling and the US Coast Guard, who use them for disabling drug running boats. Other more impetuous uses were by the Kosovo Liberation Army, the Bosnian Army and rather infamously, the Irish Republican Army had shipments of both original and M90 models shipped over for use on British Army soldiers, specifically in South Armagh from 1990-97. In fact the final British soldier killed by the IRA in Northern Ireland during the troubles was killed by an M82.
Another place the M82 is spotted is media. But not just it’s slew of uses in Video Games, but in movies.
Oh yes, from the megaslums of Detroit to the sands of Iraq, the M82 has made a very noticeable impression on the silver screen. With it’s first use in 1987′s classic Robocop as the “Cobra Assault Cannon”, it’s filmography is a long one. The Mechanic, The Hurt Locker, The Keeper, Elephant White, when a film needs a gun that’s big and can punch through concrete, people and cars, the Barrett’s likely to show up.
And yes, video games have their fair share of M82 rifles. With the rise of the modern combat video game, the M82 is destined to show up. From Ghost Recon to Call of Duty, there’s probably been just as many digital representations of M82 rifles than those stamped in steel. From the Bozar of Fallout 2 to the Heavy Sniper of GTA V, whatever it’s name, if it’s a big caliber sniper rifle, it’s most likely a M82. If not, it’s another Barrett model like the Thanatos of PAYDAY 2 or the absurdly powerful M99 AMR of Killing Floor. No matter what the name, they all share a similar feel of heavy, powerful and accurate. From the streets of a city to the zombie-filled forest, nothing banishes fear like a Barrett.
And that is the story and legacy of the M82 rifle, from the concept art and early prototypes to the #1 selling Anti-Material rifle in the world. The M82 is a weapon with an imposing profile, so good Tennessee made it their state rifle and whether it be on the streets of Baghdad, Sao Paulo, or Pittsburgh, the name “Barrett” will signify power and whatever model it is, whether original M82 or a M107, a particular phrase will always ring true.
“Big whoop I’m spooning a Barrett .50 cal, I could kill a building!”