The M40A1 has to be the pioneer of the modern sniper rifle. The USMC has always had a leg up on the US Army when it comes to sniping (Remember, I am US Army, so it takes a lot to say this!) and the USMC realized that they needed a standard sniper rifle that could perform the job up to standard. After testing and reviews the USMC placed the initial order for 700 Remington 700/M40 sniper rifles in 1966. 550 of those had the Redfield 3-9x accurange scope mounted. As time progressed, the weaknesses of the factory M700/40x rifles began to show. The all wood stocks were very prone to shifting in changes in the weather and other weaknesses were noted. So a process began to upgrade the M40 rifles. There is no “official” date (at least that I can tell) when the M40 was replaced by the M40A1, but the process happened in the early 70’s. The wood stocks were replaced by McMillan fiberglass stocks, which are known for their ruggedness. The entire system is built by USMC armorers at Quantico, VA. The Redfield 3-9x scopes were eventually replaced by a specially designed scope built by Unertl to USMC specifications. This happened in the early 80’s and this is was the standard scope being used on the M40A1’s and the A3’s up until 2006 when the Schmidt & Bender PMII 3-12x scopes were adopted to replace the Unertls.
The M40A1 is an outstanding system, very capable of extreme levels of accuracy, though the older M118 ammo tended to hold the rifle back to about 1 MOA, but the new M118LR (designed by the USMC) really unleashed the potential of these rifles with accuracy improving to about .5 MOA. The Max Effective range of the M40A1 is listed at 800 meters by a lot of sources, but the USMC says 1000yards (915 meters) and I would have to go with the USMC on this one, as we routinely shoot past 900 meters with our M24 SWS, and the M40A1 is everybit as accurate.
The USMC has replaced the aging M40A1’s with the new M40A3’s. A rifle that has been in the developement stages for some time now. The M40A1’s have served extremely well for many years (over 30). She’ll be missed, but the A3 is a capable successor.
For those of you who would like to purchase a M40A1 for your own collection, several manufacturers make excellent reproductions of the M40A1, some even built to mil-specs. But you cannot purchase an ORIGINAL M40A1.