.50 Browning Machine Gun (.50 BMG)

Just the mention of a .50 cal sniper rifle conjures up the imagination of 2500-meter kills on human targets. We need to be honest, routine kills at those extreme ranges are rare and unique. Yes, there are occasional accounts of human targets being hit at extreme ranges (everyone has heard of the Canadian shot at 2400+ meters), but these are not the norm, and we always fail to hear how many times targets at those ranges were missed prior to and after those confirmed hits. The main purpose for the big .50 sniper rifles is to engage hard targets at extreme range, much like the British SAS used Barrett M82A1’s to engage Scud missile launchers in the first Gulf War. In this realm, the .50 excels. When you consider the cost, size and weight (usually over 30 lbs) of the rifle as well as the ammo, it becomes difficult to justify designating the .50 solely as an anti-personnel rifle. The recoil and report of the rifle are two other drawbacks to the big .50’s that prevent it from being employed as a serious everyday sniper rifle. Stalks are not much fun and a hot exfiltration becomes a very physically demanding activity. But put that 30lb rifle a few hundred meters behind the lines in a defensive position, and you can really cause some havoc, or have a designated SPR team take one out hunting for hard targets. There is great accuracy potential with the new crop of rifles and ammo, but there is a lack of Match grade ammo available to military snipers. There are a few civilian ammo makers that do load match ammo for .50, but beyond Special Operations, none of the main line forces have access to it.

Recommendation: For military extreme long range anti-hard target and occasional anti-personnel purposes the .50 BMG is a good choice. This cartridge is not recommended for close range Law Enforcement use unless penetrating armored barriers.

Military Applications:

Note: We have selected two different 50 BMG loads to demonstrate here. The Hornady 750gr AMAX bullet has become popular with its very high ballistic coefficient and is typically the choice for extreme ranges beyond 1500 meters. We also included the HSM T-50 773gr Solid Lathe turned bullet as this load makes an excellent long range choice combined with good penetration due to the solid bullet construction. There are other specialized rounds such as the Raufoss and Depleted Uranium tipped rounds that can be considered for anti-material armor penetration, though accuracy is not as good.

  • AMAX = Hornady 750gr AMAX at 2820fps
  • T50 = HSM 773gr T-50 Solid at 2650fps
Bullet Drop (Inches)
100y 91m 200y 183m 300y 275m 400y 366m 500y 458m 600y 549m 700y 641m 800y 732m 900y 824m 1000y 915m 1100y 1007m 1200y 1098m 1300y 1189m 1400y 1280m 1500y 1372m
AMAX +23.9 +44.6 +60.4 +70.8 +75.6 +74.4 +66.7 +52.1 +30.0 Zero -38.6 -86.4 -144.1 -212.4 -292.3
T50 +27.3 +50.9 +68.8 +80.7 +86.2 +84.8 +76.0 +59.4 +34.2 Zero -44.0 -98.6 -164.5 -242.7 -334.1
Energy (Muzzle – AMAZ – 13241Ft-Lbs., T50 – 12051)
AMAX 12429 11659 10929 10235 9574 8947 8354 7793 7262 6761 6288 5843 5423 5027 4656
T50 11305 10596 9920 9278 8670 8095 7550 7036 6550 6092 5659 5252 4869 4514 4185
Wind Drift (Inches) 10 mph Crosswind
AMAX 0.3 1.2 2.8 5.0 7.9 11.6 16.0 21.3 27.4 34.4 42.4 51.3 61.3 72.4 84.6
T50 0.3 1.3 3.0 5.4 8.5 12.5 17.3 23.0 29.6 37.2 45.8 55.5 66.4 78.4 91.6