The Science of Russia's New Silent Sniper Rifle

Seriously quiet and seriously deadly.

image by David Hambling VITALY V. KUZMIN

Once a year, giants of the Russian arms industry gather outside Moscow to show off their latest technology and display their vision for the future of human warfare at the Russia's Army Expo.

This year's event featured future vaporware like a giant combat walker robot and other concepts far off into the future, such as chameleon camouflage. But a more significant weapon made a much more quiet appearance: the MTs-116M suppressed sniper rifle. Designed to mask noise and muzzle flash, it’s the most advanced version yet of one of the modern battlefield’s deadliest weapons.

The MTs-116M has been around for twenty years. It is a well-proven if unexceptional bolt-action, 7.62mm weapon with an affective range of 700 meters (about 2,300 feet). The new version, unveiled at Army 2018, keeps the basic design but converts the MTs-116M into a silenced 12.7mm weapon. It’s a major and appropriately quiet feat of weapon engineering.

Why Go Quiet?

In Hollywood, silencers reduce the sound of a shot to a mere “pfft,” making weapons nearly inaudible over nearby conversation. In real life, suppressers are far less effective, but they are becoming increasingly useful in covert operations.

Military suppressed weapons have been around a while, notably silenced 9mm pistols issued to U.S. Special Forces in Vietnam. But as Kevin Dockery notes in his book Special Warfare, Special Weapons, these pistols were nicknamed “Hush Puppies” because they were far more likely to be used on dogs—or occasionally noisy ducks—than on human targets.


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