A precision shot on a suspect with multiple hostages in close proximity: That is probably the ultimate scenario for which police snipers equip and train. How many rounds of match-grade rifle ammunition are fired in basic sniper training and practice to prepare for such a shot? How many hours spent behind a rifle looking through a magnified optic until such a shot is possible? How long until man and rifle become one?
Precision is not possible with just any rifle. In days past, police snipers used rifles that looked very much like their civilian counterparts’ hunting guns because that is exactly what they were. Many tactical team personnel in the beginnings of SWAT teams used their own rifles. Many had learned their craft as military marksman or had an interest in civilian rifle shooting such as the Nationals at Camp Perry.
Over time, specialty rifles were built just for the art of sniping by the custom shops at rifle manufacturers. Designs were changed or modernized as wooden stocks gave way to synthetics, and more design features were modified as feedback from real-world police and military operators reached the designers. Accuracy was enhanced with sub-minute groups not only possible but regularly repeatable. Gone were the days of buying a base rifle and then spending hundreds of dollars retrofitting it with the setup necessary to perform.
One of those modern military and police rifles designed from the ground up as a precision sniping arm is the SIG SAUER®
SSG 3000™. My first chance to shoot this rifle was a few years ago during a writer’s tour of the company’s state-of-the-art academy in Epping, N.H. SIG SAUER Academy instructor and sniper rifle specialist Scott Kenneson introduced both the futuristic Tactical 2™ and the SSG 3000 to us. We were able to shoot both rifles, and I was totally impressed. Obviously, SIG SAUER engineers had taken real-world operational feedback and applied it to their designs. SIG SAUER SSG 3000
Recently, SIG SAUER sent an SSG 3000 for testing and evaluation. As I had already fired a few rounds downrange, I gave the rifle to a lawman friend, sniper instructor and gunsmith Drake Oldham. In addition to being a burgeoning gunsmith, Oldham is an excellent rifle and pistol shot, having won, among other awards, the ILEETA cup at the 2010 annual conference of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA).
The rifle is manufactured by JP Sauer in Germany. The SSG 3000 weighs in at 12 pounds without the five-round magazine. It features a 23.5-inch barrel with a 1-in-12-inch twist and integral compensator. The finish is a non-glare black oxide. SIG SAUER chose the excellent McMillan fiberglass stock to use with its system. The McMillan stock has a fully adjustable cheek piece as well as stock length and an ergonomically designed pistol grip. The adjustable cheek piece is a definite plus. The stock comes with an accessory rail on the undercarriage that allows placement of a bi-pod or sling as the user’s needs dictate.
The SSG 3000 is chambered strictly for the ubiquitous .308 Winchester (7.62x51mm NATO) cartridge; however, a .22 Long Rifle barrel and magazine conversion is available. The rifle includes a five-shot steel magazine that gives the shooter a six-round capacity with one in the chamber.
The safety can be operated two ways. An external push down (on safe) or lift up (off safe) lever is mounted on the upper right of the receiver just aft of the bolt. To quickly disengage the safety in operational mode, SIG SAUER has designed a lever that drops down inside the trigger guard. The shooter simply pushes up with his trigger finger to take a shot.
The larger-than-average bolt knob can be more easily operated with gloves. The bolt throw is short at 60 degrees. SIG SAUER designed what it describes as a “massive six-lug lockup system” for enhanced accuracy and strength. SAUER has also engineered a lightweight firing pin, which it claims increases performance due to its extremely short lock time of about 3 milliseconds.
Shooting the SSG 3000
The two-stage trigger of the SIG SAUER SSG 3000 was found to be very favorable. Once the slack was taken up, a crisp second stage of only 3.5 pounds and a short throw was all that was required to fire the rifle. The trigger is fully adjustable for both length and take-up weight.
The SSG 3000 came equipped with a 7.5-inch M1913 rail system on top of the receiver. This made mounting a riflescope fairly simple. We topped the SIG SAUER with a Rapid Reticle scope from the Pride Fowler optics line and set out on a cold and snowy day to the range. The accessory rail made installation of a Harris bi-pod a simple matter.
After quickly sighting in the rifle at 100 yards in less than ideal conditions, the result was a ragged hole, five-round group. From 200 yards, the result was four out of five bullet holes touching. Shooting Federal Match® grade ammunition and Hornady TAP® through the rifle showed a more favorable disposition for the Federal 168 grain fodder.
The ability to have magazines available with different ammunition, should a shot either through glass or out in the open be possible in the same mission, gives the SSG 3000 a one-up on rifles that must be manually loaded with each round.
The business of police sniping is all about making man and rifle one. Through time on the line and thousands of repetitions, a sniper can place that precision shot on a deadly threat suspect and stop him. Ending an incident by putting an end to a violent criminal suspect or terrorist’s reign of terror—such performance is not possible with just any rifle. But it is with the SSG 3000 from SIG SAUER—a precision rifle for the precision rifleman.
Kevin R. Davis is a full-time officer with 29 years of experience. Assigned to the Training Bureau where he specializes in firearms and tactics instruction, he is a former team leader and lead instructor for his agency’s SWAT team. He can be reached at kd1@advanced tacticalconcepts.com.
PRIDE FOWLER OPTICS
If you’ve been around the shooting business for any length of time, you’ll recognize the names John Pride and Mickey Fowler. John Pride (LAPD ret.) was a perennial winner of the Bianchi Cup shooting championships, and Mickey Fowler was a several-time Bianchi champion as well. Both Pride and Fowler are designated Combat Master action shooters, so it’s no surprise they would team up and start their own optics company.
The Pride Fowler line of optics includes micro red-dots, the SOPS-33 reflex sight and a variety of riflescopes. The Rapid Reticle™ line includes the RR-800-2, which is a 10x42mm fixed power scope specifically designed for use with the .308 cartridge. The Rapid Reticle Aiming System is designed to ease the shooter’s ability to get accurate fire on target at different ranges.
With clear range crosshairs from 800 yards at the bottom to 100 yards at the top, the reticle looks like a Christmas tree. With crosshairs, lines and dots, the Rapid Reticle is designed to be used without the shooter removing turret covers and making corrections by moving the elevation turret up or down. Our only criticism is that the most common police scope distance is 100 yards (or just less) and this crosshair was at the top, not the center, of the reticle. The RR-800-2 is just more than 13 inches long, weighs 8 ounces, and has one-fourth MOA adjustments.