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Desert Storm Navy Snipers?

2182 Views 50 Replies 21 Participants Last post by  Pidilious
I had seen one of these pictures floating around the forum, I believe the stated source was USA Today paper from back in the day ‘On the Road to Kuwait’. Came across more of the photos online. Were these Navy guys or Army? The McMillan M88 looking rifle makes me think Navy Seal. I guess it would be a PSSR not a M25.

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Thanks for the post. Either Navy NSW guys, or (correction) US Army Special Forces operating under USSOCOM command, given that the NSW/SEALs share weapons with SOCOM missions, which includes US Specials Forces (& Army Rangers). Those weapons were made at Crane, and (on edit) these are Special Forces guys per the picture captions. (large knife in first picture almost looks like a US Navy Mk 3 diving knife, but the pommel is a little different. It definitely ain't a US Army issued M9 bayonet/knife).

Peter Senich's book, The Long-Range War (1996) shows one of these M14 rifles which he called "The Navy version of the M25" - but that is not quite technically correct as the Navy never adopted that nomenclature, it was an M14 Sniper Rifle or M14 Physical Security Sniper Rifle (PSSR). His picture caption suggested that 3rd or 5th Special Forces Group used these Crane-built sniper rifles in Desert Storm, hence my suggestion that those pics are either NSW or SF under SOCOM command.
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Ok, I found the original captions, and those soldiers are US Army Special Forces guys, using SOCOM weapons. The M14 does indeed have a SIMRAD rail so it was clearly set-up for night missions, which makes sense given they were securing the off-shore oil platforms at night during that conflict. SIMRAD was cutting edge back then. The African American solider also has a very early Litton hand-held laser range finder, which was also new and cutting edge technology back in Feb 1991. Definitely SOCOM gear that came out of Crane. Glad these pics were posted.

(Personally I don’t think they were posed pics, based on what was happening in late Feb 1991. My now retired contact at Crane said he remembers when those pics were published. It’s the only ones I’ve seen of Desert Storm snipers under SOCOM).

Btw, the Feb 27, 1991 photo caption in USA Today only referred to them as “US military snipers take aim at retreating Iraqi forces.” My guess is per Operational Security they didn’t or wouldn’t reveal their identity or branch to the US photographer, hence the rather ambiguous “US military snipers” reference used in the newspaper.

I need to find a SIMRAD scope ring for my replica:
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There is some kind of fancy camera all the way to the left in the picture
Actually that is an early Litton or Laser Systems hand-held laser range finder. (I don’t know what model; Mk 1, 2, 3, etc). Accurately reads distances in meters out to a few kilometers, probably for use with that 50 BMG M88 “anti-material rifle”. I’ve read that it’s mil-spec laser is very strong (dangerous). Here’s a newer version of what’s in that picture:
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…Cutting edge back in 1991. Random fyi.
 

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I hate to see the M14-type being treated like that! Looks like it is being passed around like a cheap who-are. Everybody taking a turn. Makes me think this is a staged pic. What sniper would pass his M14 around to all the other guys?
It could be staged pics. Or it could be the 10x scope on the M14 was being used for just observing the enemy, who might be well out of range. The effective range w/ M118 was about 800 meters or so. The single shot M88 (in 50 BMG) has a 16x scope and an effective range of 1800 meters, or maybe a little more with a trained SF sniper. Maybe only the big 50 BMG was being used? and perhaps the M14 optic was in a "spotting" role?... The fact one soldier got out the laser range finder suggests they might have been trying to figure out range/ballistics for that big 50 BMG...at least that is one theory.

The soldier on the far right, based on his pistol holster in the first picture being on his right leg - is right handed. However, in the below picture he is weakly holding the M14 - with his left-hand. Why? Not sure, but I suspect the other two guys are trying to protect their ears from the blast of that 50BMG M88 which, I suspect is about to be discharged..and he appears to be using the M14 optic for battlefield observation. Could it be a staged picture? Yes of course, but the somewhat grimaced faces look pretty legit to me, and it explains what he is doing with his right hand in this picture, which is not holding the M14 rifle - as would be natural in a "posed" picture. Just a random observation...
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Anyhow, what is super neat about this thread? These are the ONLY known public pictures of the black-stocked SOCOM M14 sniper rifle being used in action (or perhaps staged in a combat theater). There are no other pics of this rifle being used in Desert Storm in 1991. None that I could find. Anyhow, note caption of this artist rendering, which was likely based on those photographs taken in late Feb 1991:
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This picture in that same book by Peter Senich was the inspiration for my second M14 sniper rifle replica that I began to assemble in early 2017....
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...two years later I had completed this replica of a somewhat obscure M14 - based on that above pic.
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...and that's why I like this thread and those high quality pictures from Feb 1991...
 

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Of course those are posed photos!
Nope, they were taken on a key day of Desert Storm - Feb 25, 1991. It seems they were taken by an embedded photo journalist during the offensive to rid Kuwait City of Iraqi forces. Fwiw, I happened to be in college at the time, and in the spring of 1991 I was taking a course 'US military history 1865 to present'. The professor made all students read the NYT newspaper every day during that war (this was pre-Internet)...and at night I watched coverage on CNN, which had become famous for all their embedded reporters in that conflict, etc. I kind-of remember that climatic week. I ended up earning a minor in history, with a concentration in military history... Anyhow, here's the source of pics/info:

Captions:
American Soldiers Aiming Weapons During Ground Offensive
American Special Forces, accompanying Saudi and Kuwaiti coalition troops, watch the horizon with weapons ready during a ground offensive. (Photo by Patrick Durand/Sygma via Getty Images)

(FILES) US sharpshooters aim at frontline
(FILES) US sharpshooters aim at frontline Iraqi forces in the Kuwaiti desert 25 February 1991 as allied forces continue to advance on Kuwait City occupied by Iraqi army. (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP via Getty Images)

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...That was Kuwait City on the horizon, and from February 25-27, 1991 there was the final offensive to push the Iraqi military forces out of Kuwait City...which was successful - and resulted in the so-called 'Highway of Death' during the evening of Feb 26th-27th.
 

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RG, notice that the soldier shooting the M14 sniper rifle has an M1956 Universal Ammunition Pouch on his equipment belt
As Special Forces guys, they probably had some discretion about using those old M14 pouches from a different era. What I find curious is the guy on the left appears to have two M12 holsters...although I think one on top is empty...just a random observation. (Maybe saving it for a Iraqi war trophy?)

BTW, the guy on the right is the same SF solider in the first pic - with that interesting Gerber knife, just missing his hat in that later shot - but the knife is the same as is all that OD green tape. Fwiw, I used a Navy Mk 3 as a display item with my Navy/SOCOM M14 sniper.
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Here's what I put together a few years ago...my tribute build of a Desert Storm SOCOM M14 sniper.
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RG, very nice display. Your Mk 3 is the later version with the more robust tip. Definitely an improvement over the first blade profile.
Thanks. Since that pic was taken years ago of my Navy M14 display stuff, I was able to acquire the "earlier" style Navy Mk 3 Mod 0 diving knife. The retired Navy vet (from this forum) said he got the diving knife in either 1986 or 87'. (The early style blade is on the left, with the 'later' style blade from a "1990s era" Mk 3 Mod 0 is on the right). I have never been able to figure out when the machining on the blade tip was changed, presumably to make it a little less prone to breaking off at the sharp tip - everything else re these two knives, their markings, and their sheaths are both identical. I guess I'm just slightly curious when that change occurred. (Here's a comparison pic for anyone curious)
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It was intended primarily as a dive knife and dive knifes are used as prying tools at least as much as cutting tools.
Yep, that is true. A long time ago (my 20s), I did recreational reef and wreck diving. A diving knife was indeed an important tool if you wanted to pry, or loosen-up something, on the seabed. I was also trained in the event of an emergency, use the blunt pommel of your diving knife and bang it against the side of your air tank to alert your diving partner (or others) of an issue...be it some sort of equipment issue that was urgent, or perhaps the appearance of some shark(s). Of course I was so much younger back then...and I definitely don't do those things anymore...but I digress.
 
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