Here is something that has been in the news the last few days.
A British Army soldier by the name of Corporal Craig Harrison, of the Household Cavalry, set a new record for the longest shot in combat. Twice.
Cpl. Harrison fired two shots at Taliban machine gunners in Afghanistan. They were confirmed via GPS to be 8,120 feet from Cpl Harrison's position. That is 1.54 miles.
More than a mile and a half.
To make it even more astounding, the range was almost 3,000 feet beyond what is considered the best effective range of the weapon. At that range the bullet takes around 3 seconds to reach the target.
The previous record was set in 2002 for a sniper kill at 7,972ft. That shot was made by Canadian Corporal Rob Furlong, of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, who was using a .50BMG McMillan TAC-50 rifle.
Cpl. Harrison accomplished this feat with the above pictured weapon, a L115A3 rifle. The weapon is manufactured by Accuracy International in Britain and is chambered in the .338 Lapua Magnum cartridge. This is significant because the previous two shots that held the world record were with weapons chambered for the .50BMG. The .338 is a cartridge designed for accuracy and power beyond the range of the older 7.62mm rifles. It has a much flatter trajectory, which makes the complex trigonometry problem of finding the right arc to lob the bullet onto the target easier. It is one of several other "lighter" rifle rounds like the .300 Win Mag , .416 Barrett, and .408 CheyTac that have been designed with extreme long range shooting in mind. Of especial importance are factors such as the velocity past 1000 meters, the shape of the bullet's overall trajectory and how long the bullet will stay supersonic.
The Accuracy International Arctic Warfare .338 is a bolt action, detachable magazine-fed, precision rifle. The rifle is about 15 pounds, unloaded and without optics. It can mount a variety of telescopic sights, laser designators, and nightvision or thermal sights. In British service, it usually mounts a S&B 5-25x56mm day scope. The extra large objective lens size of 56mm gathers a lot of light, making shots possible in the dawn, dusk, or into the shadows. The L115A3 can also mount a suppressor, helping to reduce the report flash and dust from the powerful rifle. The barrel is free floated for increased accuracy and is fluted for strength and cooling without excessive weight.
You don't get all that performance cheap though. Many of the news reports about Cpl. Harrison's shot put the rifle at around $25,000. That sounds a bit high, I think a price of USD $7,500-12,000 might be more likely. But if you are including the entire sniper's kit, with nightvision or thermal optics, rangefinders, ballistic computer, etc. I might believe it. But if you put a rifle like this it in the right hands and it can hit a man sized target from 4500 feet all day. The bullet, which is heavy and very fast due to its extremely aerodynamic shape cuts through the air more efficiently than almost any other. More importantly, even at extreme range, the bullet retains its power, hitting with more force than a .44 Magnum at 25 feet.
I've had the luck to fire this weapon once (at an indoor range, unfortunately) and let me tell you, the shock wave it produces is just ridiculous. You can feel it pull air out of your mouth. However, due to its well-designed muzzle brake, recoil was quite manageable, similar to a Mosin Nagant carbine or 12 gauge shotgun. You wouldn't want to shoot it all day, but it is really not too bad.
“It was just unlucky for the Taliban that conditions were so good and we could see them so clearly. We saw two insurgents running through its courtyard, one in a black dishdasha, one in green.They came forward carrying a PKM machine gun, set it up and opened fire on the commander’s wagon. The first round hit a machine gunner in the stomach and killed him outright. He went straight down and didn’t move. The second insurgent grabbed the weapon and turned as my second shot hit him in the side. He went down, too. They were both dead."
----Corporal Craig Harrison
Cpl. Harrison had a memorable tour of duty, making the two impossible shots and having a bullet deflect off his helmet and surviving an IED blast that broke both of his arms. He is reportedly healing well, and has returned to duty.