Update: Detailed photos of the prototype rifle have been released by NSWC-Crane exclusively to TechLink. Three of the 42 new photos have replaced the file photos originally posted with this story. -Troy Carter, Jan. 29, 2019
CRANE, Ind. – The U.S. Navy has prototyped and tested a special sniper rifle that can fit inside a laptop case and is looking for a business to finalize development.
They’re known as takedown rifles, and special operations forces in the military have long desired one that could fit into a small package. While several manufacturers have built takedown rifles, first shot accuracy at distances up to 500 meters has been inconsistent.
Michael Jones was cutting grass at home when he realized how he could meet the military’s exacting requirements. Cut the receiver in half behind the locking lugs, he thought, and stop detaching the barrel and scope. That way the rifle won’t need re-zeroed after assembly.
“In other words, I decided to cut the rifle behind all of the pressurized components,” Jones told TechLink. “In most of the designs for takedown guns I’d seen before the barrel comes off. And the barrel receiver interface, that’s your accuracy, and in every other rifle I’d seen tested that was the problem, when you put the barrel back on before you just don’t have the accuracy, the reliability that you’re going to hit what you’re sighted in for before you took the gun apart.”
Jones is a small arms engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division. His 16 years of experience include management of the SOPMOD upgrades to the M4 carbine for the U.S. Special Operations Command.
During the conception of the improved takedown rifle, Jones looked at the Remington 700 receiver. “The rear portion of the receiver is basically just the bolt up to the lugs,” he said.
Leadership approved Jones’ idea for further research and development. In the storage locker, Jones found a Mk13 sniper rifle and took it to his colleagues in the machine shop to make a very fine cut in the receiver, breaking the rifle in half.
The two pieces reconnect with fairly simple hardware, a lever type compression latch, two alignment pins and two thumb screws, he said, but it’s an area where final development might see improvement.
Jones test fired the prototype and was very pleased. Nothing unexpected happened.
“But honestly the .300 Win Mag is a pretty hot cartridge. There’s quite a bit of gas and powder coming out the end of a 15-inch barrel. For me the optimal cartridge would probably be a .308, but if you were going for a longer barrel for a backpack gun you can tailor it. I had made it so it can fit in a briefcase,” said Jones.
Navy leaders liked Jones’ work so much that they filed for a patent in 2016, which was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in January. And the Office of Research and Technology Applications at NSWC-Crane is now seeking businesses who will license Jones’ invention and turn it into an available product.
“Mike Jones is an absolute genius on this. And the fact that there’s a working prototype proves the opportunity,” said Brooke Pyne, head of NSWC-Crane’s technology transfer office.
TechLink is helping Pyne look for interested businesses.
When a business realizes the opportunity, TechLink’s staff will help gather materials for evaluating the design, assist the business in navigating the patent licensing process, and support the preparation of the license application and commercialization plan.
“We think if there was a product out there, there would be a market for it. Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, they’ve all looked at takedown guns, but nothing has met their requirements,” said Sean Patten, senior technology manager at TechLink. “We’ll do everything we can to help Mr. Jones get this design to a business that will supply the warfighter.”
Jones isn’t actively working on the project now, but said he believes in its potential and still wants to help.
“I take it to the range and everyone I’ve shown it to loves it,” Jones said. “I’d have no issue helping a company, I’d like to see this happen. If we can fill a niche I’m happy. Getting the gear out to the guys, that’s supporting the warfighter in the ultimate way.”