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THE BEAST; EXCLUSIVE We test the Army's latest sniper rifle being used in war on Taliban.

Byline: BY RUPERT HAMER DEFENCE CORRESPONDENT

IT'S the latest weapon in the battle to beat the Taliban - the deadliest rifle in the world that can kill at 1,500 metres.

That's nearly TWICE the distance of the previous sniper rifle used by British forces.

And I became the first journalist to fire it at the Army's Land Warfare Centre in Warminister, Wiltshire.

Lying prone on the frosted ground, I stare down the sights of the brand new L115A3 Long Range Sniper Rifle Colour Sergeant Yuppie then orders me to take up "first pressure" - pulling the trigger back to the firing point.

As I squeeze a little harder the rifle erupts, jerking upwards and slamming into my shoulder. I feel as if I've just fired a cannon, not a rifle. Amazingly Yuppie, a sniper with 19 years' experience, is impressed: "Great shot" he says, with a grin. In that second a heavy 8.59mm round has been hurled down the elongated barrel of this killing machine, travelling at 936metres per second.

The new rifle, already dubbed The Beast by some squaddies, has been fine-tuned for conflict at the Army's Warminister base. But Sniper Colour Sergeant Dean, of the 1st Battalion, The Coldstream Guards, has seen the havoc it can wreak first-hand in Afghanistan's Helmand province.

"You can take out a Taliban fighter with a single shot and you can see the effect," he says. "Put it this way - the rest don't hang around."

"For us it is all about the 'perfect shot'. One shot, one kill. That is what we are trying to achieve every time.

"Snipers are a cut above your average soldier. They know how to think and act for themselves.

"You need that hunting instinct. You have to want to get dressed up in camouflage and then be able to spend hours and hours just waiting for your target to appear."

And their powers of concealment are extraordinary.

After 15 minutes of being briefed by the officer commanding the sniper division, he tells us there are two snipers very close to us. We fail to spot them.

Captain Frank orders them up. They are barely 20 feet away in "grass uniforms".

Soon Dean could be returning to Afghanistan on another tour but until then he will remain at sniper school teaching the next generation of sharp-shooters.

SILENT KILLER

Long Range Rifle L115A3

Calibre: 8.59mm

Weight: 6.8kg

Length: 1,300mm

Muzzle velocity: 936m/s

Feed: Five-round box, can include armour piercing rounds

Effective range: 1,100m to 1,500m

Attachments: Suppressor to reduce flash and noise

CAPTION(S):

Adjustable cheek piece: Allows sniper to align eye with scope; Folding stock: Reduces length when being carried in backpack; 5-round magazine: For rapid fire; S&B 5-25x56 day scope: Magnifies target up to 25 times; Adjustable bipod: Allows sniper to support weapon in set position to locate target; Supressor: Reduces flash and noise making it harder to detect; Deep cover.. Sgt Yuppie dressed for action; Rupert takes aim with new rifle, watched by Sgt Yuppie; Our man Rupert in his grass uniform
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 15, 2009
Words:513
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