M42 Sniper Rifle

The M42A and M42C rifles. Note the difference between the M42A’s bolt handle and matching cut-out in the receiver compared to the M42C’s charging handle and straight receiver, and the gas block and gas tube mounted on the M42C’s barrel.

The M42 sniper rifle family is the US Armed Force’s primary sniper rifle. It is used in two different variants: the bolt-action M42A and the gas-operated semiautomatic M42C. A highly unusual feature of the M42 family is the integral underslung secondary weapon, which is based on a cut-down MP5K, for the operator to use for personal defense.

Weapon Designation:Rifle, .420 Caliber, Combination, M42A
Rifle, .420 Caliber, Combination, M42C
Type:Sniper Rifle/PDW Combination
Place of Origin:United States
In Service:2038-present
Production History:
Manufacturer:Barrett Firearms
Weight:22.1 lb (10.03 kg) (M42A)
22.3 lb (10.07 kg) (M42C)
Length:45 in (1,143 mm)
Barrel Length:29 in (737 mm) (rifle)
4.5 in (114 mm) (PDW)
Cartridge:.420 Barrett (rifle)
9x19mm Parabellum (PDW)
Action:Bolt-action (M42A) (rifle)
Gas-operated, semiauto (M42C) (rifle)
Roller-delayed blowback (PDW)
Rate of Fire:900 rounds/min cyclic (PDW)
Muzzle Velocity:3,950 ft/s (1,204 m/s) with M42-425 round (rifle)
1,550 ft/s (472 m/s) with M990D fluted round (PDW)
Muzzle Energy:14,726 ft/lbs (19,966 Joules) with M42-425 round (rifle)
480 ft/lbs (651 Joules) with M990D fluted round (PDW)
Effective Range:2,300 m (2,515 yd) (rifle)
100 m (109 yd) (PDW)
Feed System:10-round detachable box magazine (rifle)
15-round detachable box magazine (PDW)
Sights:Colt Arms 5-25x50mm scope (AN/TTS-17)


The M42 rifle family is a development of the Barret M95 0.50 BMG rifle. It was designed over the course of three years and was accepted into service in 2038. Although a definite improvement over contemporary rifles, it was still within the limits of the Future Weapons Development Ban and so its development and adoption were not a violation of the Cooperative Exploration Treaty.


The M42 consists of two main components: the parent rifle, and the underslung personal defense weapon. The parent rifle is virtually identical to the Barrett M95; the most obvious differences between the two are the M42 being chambered in .420 Barrett, a necked-down version of the 0.50 BMG using the same casing, and the M42 having a wider magazine well to accept double-stack 10-round magazines. A less-obvious difference is the M42’s heavy use of polymers and advanced alloys, which make it lighter than the M95, even with the inclusion of the PDW. The M42A is a slightly improved version of the M42, while the M42C, or “M42 Close”, is a semiautomatic version named for nominally being more effective for close-range combat because of its semiautomatic operation.

However, the M42A and M42C are not truly intended for any type of use in close-quarters. If the operator is attacked at close range, the underslung personal defense weapon is meant to be used instead of the parent rifle. The PDW is built into the rifle’s frame and as such does not have a separate designation. It is essentially an MP5K receiver grafted onto the bottom of the M42’s frame ahead of the trigger guard, minus the sights, pistol grip, and trigger assembly. Both the parent rifle and the PDW are fired electronically; therefore, the same trigger can be used to fire both weapons. The M42 has a three-position selector switch which can be set to safe or to fire the rifle or PDW. The PDW fires in full-auto mode only, is fed from 15-round magazines, and is effective out to 100 meters. The M42 family is typically used with a Colt Arms 5-25x50mm scope designated the AN/TTS-17 (Army-Navy Telescopic Targeting Sight), while sighting for the PDW is done with a laser sight integrated under its barrel. The AN/TTS-17 has target-recognition components similar to the M336 targeting computer used on the M45/M56 Smartgun family and can exchange targeting information with other snipers, smartgun operators, and sentry guns in the area.

Both the M42A and M42C are used by the United States as they have different advantages for different applications. The M42A is viewed as more accurate and more reliable, particularly when operating in desert areas, but the M42C has the ability to take faster follow-up shots, and so their use is at the operator’s discretion. Both rifles are widely used by Reconnaissance In Force Teams when a full-powered sniper rifle is called for, as well as by conventional snipers.

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