We frequently get asked what weapons SEALs and other special forces operators use in the field, so we’ve pulled together a list of the most common ones used.
But there’s no argument that whatever their mission is, SEALs and Special Forces teams always have the most bada** weapons to carry it out.
Carbines / Assault Rifles
M4A1 – 5.56mm x 45mm Carbine
Manufactured by Colt, the M4A1 Carbine is a variant (shortened, lighter) of the M16A2 assault rifle, also manufactured by Colt. It was officially adopted by US Forces in 1999.
The M41A is a 5.56mmx45mm NATO caliber weapon with a gas operated, rotating bolt action, typically using 30-round STANAG magazines.
While standard M4s come with a trigger group of safe/semi-auto/3-round burst, the M41A has safe/semi-auto/full automatic.
A version with a 10″ barrel / upper receiver, known as the CQBR (Close Quarters Battle Rifle), is also in use with Special Operations Forces, including the US Navy SEALs. (See below).
The M41A uses a Picatinny rail is used on the weapon’s falt-top receiver to mount scopes, sights or a carrying handle. The M4 is also capable of mounting the M203 and M320 grenade launchers.
Mk 13 CQBR – 5.56mm x 45mm Carbine
The CQBR, designated Mk 18 Mod 0, is a variant of the M4 family of carbines. It is manufactured by Colt Defense.
While the M4 typically has a barrel length of 14. 5, the Mk13’s length is significantly shorter—10.3 inches (262mm).
Originally, the CQBR was used only by Naval Special Warfare units (mainly SEALs, shown above using suppressors). However, the rifle is now frequently used by other teams such as the Green Berets, the Coast Guard Maritime Security and Safety Teams.
CQBR’s purpose is to provide operators with a weapon the size of a submachine gun, but able to file rifle cartridges. Its use includes any CQB situation, including VIP protection and urban warfare.
Because of its shortened barrel length, the Mk 13 requires special modifications. Among them, the gas port has been widened from .062 in to 0.070 in (1.6 to 1.8 mm). Instead of three gas rings, a slinge one is sued, and the 4-coil extractor spring has been replaced with a 5-coil one.
MK 16 SCAR-L – 5.56mm x 45mm Carbine/Rifle
The MK 16 Mod 0 SCAR-L was introduced into military use in 2009. SOCom (Special Forces Operations Command) intends to use it as a replacement for the M4A1 and the CQBR.
Instead of requiring two separate rifles (M4 and its CQBR variant), the MK 16 has a barrel that can be changed quickly in the field, giving it the option of a CQBR, an assault rifle, or a light sniper rifle.
It also has an adjustable stock, allowing for extension, to be collapsed, or to be folded over.
The MK 16 can use several different Picatinny rails for the mounting of accessories–such as the the MK 13 Mod 0 40mm grenade launcher.
MK 17 SCAR-H – 7.61mm x 51mm Carbine/Rifle
The MK 17 Mod 0 SCAR-H is a 7.62mm x 51mm carbine/assault/sniper rifle.
The rifle has three variants, and like the MK 16, the barrels can be quickly exchanged:
Standard length barrel of 16 inches
CQC version with a 13-inch barrel
Light sniper with a 20-inch barrel
The rifle has 4 Picatinny rails (top, L/R sides and bottom), which allowing for optics, foregrips and a MK 13 40mm grenade launcher.
M14 EBR – 7.61mm x 51mm Assault Rifle
The M14 EBR (Enhanced Battle Rifle) variant (lighter, more compact) of the 7.62mm x 51mm M14 rifle. It’s manufactured by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division.
The rifle is chambered for the 7.62×51mm NATO cartridge. The rifle includes a collapsible stock with telescopic rails. Original noise issues have since been corrected.
MK SAW LMG
The M249 SAW LMG (light machine gun) is manufactured by FN Herstal.
The original, full-length SAW is gas-operated and air-cooled and features a 18.3 inch barrel and fixed carrying handle. It fires the 5.56×45mm NATO cartridge, generally combining M856 tracers and four M855 ball cartridges.
They are fed from M27 linked belts, which are held in a hard plastic or soft canvas box attached to the underside of the weapon.
A magazine well is fitted in order to accept STANAG magazines typically used in M16 / M4 rifles.
M249 PIP: Full-length M249 featuring a fixed plastic stock similar in style to the M240 machine gun. Other improvements include better heat guards, softened sharp spots, folding hand guard and a hydraulic buffer to cut down on recoil.
M249 Para: A more compact variant of the SAW, designed for airborne troops, the Para features a collapsible stock and a 13.7 inch barrel.
Special Ops Variants: M249 SPW / MK 46 and the MK 48 Mod 0 / Mod 1.
MK46 Mod 0
MK 46 MOD 1 is the lightweight U.S. special operators’ variant of the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW).
It’s an open-bolt gun, and fires 5.56x45mm NATO cartridges.
MK48 Mod 0 – 5.56mmx45mm / 7.62mmx51mm
The MK 48 is a gas-operated, air-cooled, lightweight belt-fed machine gun, firing 7.62×51mm NATO cartridges from a belt. It’s manufactured by Fabrique Nationale Manufacturing, Inc., a division of FN Herstal in the United States.
The gun was developed in partnership with USSCOCOM (US Special Operations Command), which has adopted the weapon and started its fielding process, beginning with special operation divisions such as the US Navy SEALs.
M240 7.62mmx51mm Belt-Fed Machine Gun
A medium-sized/weighted machine gun, the M240 is typically mounted on a tripod, or on vehicles such as the GMV, as well as on helicopters and boats such as the SOC-R. It is also carried (such as by the US Army Rangers).
It fires 7.62mmx51mm NATO rounds from a a belt.
As shown in the above video, when the M240 is mounted on a tripod and fitted with a grip trigger and sight, it can be used in a sustained-fire mode.
M2 .50 Heavy Machine Gun
Often mounted on SEAL vehicles.
The history of the M2 (M2 Browning) dates back to its original creation by John Browning in the 1920s. The overall design has changed little over the past 90 years, and has been notably used by the US in conflicts such as WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and, more recently, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are several different types of ammunition used in the M2HB and AN aircraft guns.
During WWII and the Vietnam War, From World War II through the Vietnam War,Browning used with standard ball, AP (Armor-Piercing) and API (Armor-Piercing Incendiary) rounds.
Currently it uses M33 Ball (706.7 grain) for personnel and light material targets, M17 tracer, M8 API (622.5 grain), M20 API-T (619 grain), and M962 SLAP-T (Saboted Light Armor Penetrator).
In addition to lethally penetrating standard vehicles and being able to level a jungle, the M2 can pierce 1.34 inches (34mm) of hardened steel plating at a distance of 550 yd (500m), .91 in (23 mm) at 1,300 yd (1,200 m) and .75 in (19mm) at 1,600 yd (1,500 m).
SIG Sauer P226R – 9mm Pistol
The SIG Sauer P226 is the standard carry of the US Navy SEALs, and is also used by military units and law enforcement agencies worldwide. It has several variants.
Its design is basically the same as the SIG Sauer P220. The P226 is a higher capacity weapon, using double stack magazines, rather than the single stack used in the P220.
HK45CT – .45 ACP Pistol
HK45CT (Compact Tactical) is a compact pistol chambered in .45 ACP. The MK 24 Mod 0 has been adopted by US Naval Special Warfare Command, including SEAL Team 6 (DEVGRU). It is manufactured by the German company, Heckler & Kolch in Newington, New Hampshire.
Features include high-profile sights (front and rear), as well as an extended threaded barrel, allowing for the fitting of suppressors. The HK45CT uses 8-round magazines, but has the option of a 10-round magazine.
The Picatinny rail allows for the fitting of laser sights, laser pointers and white lights. The grip is also customizable by backstraps that are interchangeable.
Mk 12 Mod 1 – 5.56mmx45mm Sniper Rifle
The Mk 12 SPR (Special Purpose Rifle) is a semi-automatic variant of the M16. It was created from the need of the US Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces for a compact and light light sniper rifle.
The rifle has a threaded-muzzle, match-grade, free-floating stainless steel heavy barrel, and it fires a specially-modified Mk 262 Open Tip Match Mod 1, and is fed from a STANAG (STANdard AGreement) magazine, with either 20 or 30 rounds.
The rifle is modular, and can be customized to needs of the user–such as a range of optics, butt stock sizes and suppressors. The rifle’s accuracy is increased by coupling the free-floating barrel with free-floating hand guards.
The Mk12 has been used by US Special Operations (such as the US Navy SEALs and US Army Rangers) in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also used by the US Marines.
Mk 11 (SR25) – 7.26x51mm Medium Sniper Rifle
The Mk 11 (SR25) is a semi-automatic, medium sniper rifle, used by Special Forces operations such as the Navy SEALs and Delta Force, as well as regular military. It’s also used by US Marine scout snipers, and is manufactured by Knight’s Armaments.
Variants used by other US military branches:
US Army: The M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System
US Marine Corps: Mk 11 Mod 0
US Navy – Mk 11: Mod 0 Sniper Weapon System (see above)
The M110 has been used by Delta Force snipers operating in the mountains of Afghanistan, most notably during the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in Tora Bora, Afghanistan in 2001. US Navy SEAL snipers used Mk 11 Mod 0 rifles to take out pirates holding Captain Richard Phillips hostage in 2009.
Mk 13 .300 WinMag (Winchester Magnum)
The Mk 13 is a bolt-action sniper rifle used by US Navy SEALs and other special operations units. The rifle is a variant of the Remington 700 long action and fires .300 Winchester Magnum (WinMag) rounds. The rifle is assembled at NSWC Crane.
The Lilja precision barrel which can be fitted with a Mk 11 suppressor manufactured by Knight’s Armament. A 3-sided MARS (Modular Accessory Rail System) allows for the mounting of optics, in addition to 1913 Picatinny compatible accessories. The Mk 13 also has a a folding bipod.
Recent design changes have allowed the rifle to have a range of up to 1640 yd (1500 m).
M91A2 – .300 WinMag Bolt-Action Rifle
Also based on the Remington 700 long-action, and the favored weapon of Chris Kyle, US Navy SEAL and author of American Sniper. He used the manual bolt-action variant. It’s manufactured by Redick Arms Development.
Its development came about from the US Navy’s request for a long-range, bolt-action sniper rifle that could be used by NSW units.
M91: a less common version in the teams, chambered in 7.62mmx51mm
M91A2: chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum (Win Mag)
TAC-338 – Chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum
Also used by Chris Kyle and US Navy SEALs.
The McMillan TAC-338 is chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum, and is designed to engage soft targets at longer ranges than the cartridges used by the .300 Win Mag—up to 1750yd (1600m).
However, due to the weapon’s accuracy, a few marksmen have hit targets more than 2187yd (2000m) away.
Chris Kyle hit an insurgent at a distance of 2300yd (2100m).
Based on the McMillan G30 long action, the McMillan TAC-338 is a heavy-barrel, bolt-action rifle.
It has a tactical stock with adjustable cheek plates. A rail system allows for the attachments of optics, such as night scopes, to be mounted on it.
Mk 15 Mod 0 Long Range Bolt-Action Sniper Rifle
The Mk 15 Mod 0 SASR (Special Applications Sniper Rifle) is the US Navy designation for the McMillan Tac-50. It is a long range anti-material rifle used by US Navy SEALs. It’s a manually-operated, rotary bolt-action rifle, chambered in .50 BMG. It is manufactured by McMillan Firearms Manufacturing.
Mk 15 fires a .50 BMG round that can achieve long ranges. Three of the top five longest-range sniper kills were made with the Mk 15, including the one made by a Canadian Joint Task Force 2 sniper who recorded the longest sniper kill in history in Iraq— made the longest recorded sniper kill in history with this weapon in Iraq. 3,871 yd (3,540 m).
The second-longest record kill shot was 2,707yd (2,475m), set by British sniper Craig Harrison in 2009.
Navy SEALs previously used the McMillan M88 SASR is the anti-material role.
Used with a bipod, the rifle can engage a wide range of targets—from personnel to armored vehicles, and features a fluted heavy match-grade barrel and an adjustable, removable, fiberglass butt stock and operates with a manual rotary bolt action. The rifle is designed to be used with a bipod.
M82 .50 Caliber ELR Anti-Material Rifle
The Barrett ELR (Extreme Long Range), also known as the M82(a1/a3), M107 and “light fifty”, is a .50 (12.7mm x9mm NATO) caliber rifle used by US Special Operations Forces. It is manufactured by Barrett Firearms Manufacturing.
It has a range of up to 1,800 m (1,969 yd).
The Barrett is considered an “anti-material” weapon as it can engage a wide variety of targets, including personnel wearing body armor.
SOF snipers have used the M82 to take out targets behind walls, as well as disable a large truck’s engine block. The rifle has also been used to take out a power generator, a communications array—and has penetrated armored vehicles.
EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) operators have also used the Barrett to disable IEDs from a safe distance.
The M82 is a semi-automatic weapon; the standard feed is a 10-round box magazine.
It is the predecessor of the M107 rifle. The US Marines have fielded a version of the Barrett designated the M82A3, and the US Navy SEALs use the M82A1.
Missile / Rocket Launchers
The M136 AT4 is a disposable launcher that uses 84mm rockets. It’s used by all branches of the US military. It is manufactured by Saab Bofors Dynamics in Sweden.
One of the most common anti-tank launchers in the world, it operates as a single-shot, portable, smoothbore weapon and has no recoil. The rocket is stabilized with fins.
The M136 has the option of being preloaded, and can use a number of different projectiles, including:
- HEDP (High Explosive Dual Purpose ) rockets, which are used primarily against bunkers and buildings–such as in Afghanistan and Iraq.
- HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank) rockets, used for the engagement of light-armored vehicles (up to 420mm-thick armor)
- HP (High Penetration) for targets/vehicles with 600mm-thick armor.
The FGM-148 is an anti-armor system mused by regular US troops, as well as SOF.
The Javelin consists of a disposable launcher tube assembly. The design allows for the protection of the missile during transportation, and is then attached to the CLU (Command Launch Unit).
The CLU has an optical viewer as well as an infrared targeting system. Once the target is designated, the CLU sends the data to the missile’s thermal seeker head. The target is now locked, and the operator can fire the missile.
The Javelin is a “fire-and-forget system”. This means that, once the missile has been launched, the operator does not control any further aspect of its flight.
Additionally, the javelin missile holds a HEAT warhead (High Explosive Anti-Tank). It can decimate modern anti-missile systems (like reactive armor) found on tanks by first ejecting a smaller warhead that penetrates reactive armor; this creates a hole for the larger, main warhead to enter and defeat the target.
The Javelin is used by US military SOF such as the Rangers and Delta Force by carrying them on their GMVs (Ground Mobility Vehicles.)
The missile’s operation allows for a small strike force to take out, at a long distance, any armored threats that would otherwise necessitate withdrawal from the area.
The Javelin was also used by coalition SOF units during the opening theaters of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
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