Few shoulder-fired .50-calibers have proven more adept at long-range precision than the McMillan TAC-50 sniper rifle.
What Sets The TAC-50 Apart From Other .50-Calibers:
- Owns the longest confirmed kill.
- As opposed to many other shoulder-fired .50-caliber rifles, the TAC-50 is a bolt-action.
- Despite its size, the rifle is a relatively light 26 pounds.
- Fairly widely utilized by militaries around the world.
The shot and the sniper who delivered it are shrouded in mystery. Tight-lipped, the Canadian military has never released the soldier’s name, nor the circumstances under which he pulled the trigger. What is known, the marksman from the Joint Task Force 2 connected at 3,871 yards (3,540 meters) in Iraq during the country’s 2017 civil war. Also established, what was on the sniper’s shoulder—the C15 Anti-Material Sniper Rifle. You might know it as the McMillan Tac-50.
Outside of military gearheads and ultra-long-range aficionados, the rifle is somewhat undeservedly mired in obscurity. Blame another shoulder-fired .50-caliber rifle for this—the Barrett M82—given in the realm of improbable sniper shots, it sucks the air out of the room. But the staple of Canadian and a rash of other nation’s sharpshooters, the Tac-50 has more than squared itself away as a legend. It is death from beyond incarnate.
McMillan TAC-50 Development
For the most part, when the McMillan Tac-50 was being designed in the late 1980s, the concept of an anti-material rifle was out of style. It wasn’t World War II and longer and a TOW missile was a better bet against approaching armor than any shoulder-fired weapon. Then a funny thing happened. Heavy heads in the upper brass figure what was formally known as an anti-tank rifle might have a second life taking shots at something else.
Turns out thin-skinned aircraft on the ground, radar installations and communications equipment don’t fare well when poked through with .50-caliber bullets—particularly the explosive kind. As an added benefit, putting this high-priced equipment out of service sowed chaos in the enemy, perhaps even more so than taking out any single soldier or even a platoon. Thus was born the anti-material rifle (AMR).
At the vanguard was the Barrett M82, in particular the M82A1, which first entered U.S. Military service as the M107 in 1990. Just in time for the first Gulf War.
While the semi-automatic .50-caliber rifle could shoot a country mile—actually, a couple of them—it did suffer from accuracy issues. Loaded with match-grade ammo (often it’s not), the M82 is maybe a 1.5 MOA rifle; plain old ball it’s a very loose 3 MOA weapon. Not the stuff tack drivers are made of, or that was the take of McMillan Firearms.
The offshoot of stock maker McMillan USA and now owned by Strategic Armory Corp. (Armalite’s Parent), set out to take the AMR to the next level. The answer was the Tac-50, and it was a much different take on the system than what Barrett brought to the table.
The main break the McMillan TAC-50 makes with its AMR predecessor is it's a bolt-action rifle. Logical, given the gunmaker was aiming at accuracy and turn-bolts have that down pat.
The rifle has a large bolt with dual front locking lugs and a safety rear, which works in massive enclosed action. To this is mated a heavy match-grade, stainless-steel barrel made by Lilja Barrels out of Great Plains, Mont. The company has a solid reputation, with its fire tubes accounting for numerous world records and championship titles. In the case of the TAC-50, the barrel maker supplied a 29-inch tube with flutes to reduce weight and improve heat dispersion. This is topped off with a massive muzzle brake, necessary to tame the .50-calibers excessive recoil.
As far as user interface, the stock is—logically—supplied by McMillan, a fiberglass model specifically designed for the rifle and for exclusive use with a bipod. Unsurprisingly for a precision rifle, the buttstock is adjustable for length of pull with rubber spacers that can be removed to cut down the firearm’s size. Furthermore, the integral cheekpiece is adjustable for height.
Given the rifle isn’t a gallery gun, it comes sans iron sights of any kind. Instead, it has a McBros 30 MOA (1/2 deg) scope base for mounting an optical sight. Preferably a high-power scope, given the effective range of the rifle. Canada—one of the TAC-50 most famous users—both the Leupold Mark 4-16x40mm LR/T M1 Riflescope and the Schmidt & Bender 5-25×56 PMII telescopic sight have been used. McMillan also endorses the Nightforce NXS 8–32×56 Mil-dot telescopic sight for the Tac-50.
As for magazines, the rifle feeds off 5-round detachable box mags. It’s trigger is a Remington-style single-stage, adjustable from 3.5 to 4.5 pounds. Despite all these bells and whistles, the TAC-50’s most impressive aspect is its overall weight, which for the class of rifle is light at 26 pounds.
Since the McMillan TAC-50’s introduction, the company has come up with several variants of the original design. Most notable, the TAC-50 A1 and the TAC-50 A1-R2, and more recently the TAC-50C. Both were released in 2002, but have some notable differences.
The A1 defining feature is the rifle’s take-down fiberglass stock with a longer fore-end than the original model. Extending the fore moves the balance point of the bipod forward, thus creating a steadier overall shooting base. Additionally, the stock includes an integral cheekpiece, buttstock monopod, smaller pistol grip and repositioned magazine-release lever (in front of the trigger).
Essentially, this TAC-50 variant is identical to the A1 but includes a proprietary hydraulic recoil mitigation system. Situated in the buttstock, recoil compresses a piston to vastly reduce the amount of recoil a shooter must endure.
The 50C version of the rifle somewhat veers from previous iterations. The twist here is it’s a chassis rifle (hence the “C”), with a Cadex Dual Strike chassis. In addition to the rigidity the design brings—thus improving shot-to-shot consistency—the unit also boasts a fully adjustable buttstock and full-length Picatinny rail.
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Given its success with the rifle, the Canadian military is the best-known user of the McMillan TAC-50. However, the rifle has shone for several armed forces around the world, including the French Navy, Israeli Special Forces, Jordanian SRR-61 and the United States. Yes, you heard that correctly, the U.S. While the U.S. Military as a whole never came to adopt the precise .50-caliber bolt-action—it didn’t see the need for one when aiming at targets the size of the side of a barn—the Navy SEALs deemed it a worthy addition to its arsenal where it’s designated the MK15.
So given all of the McMillan TAC-50’s assets, how accurate and how far can the rifle shoot? That, in some respects, is difficult to answer. The company boasts a ½ MOA guarantee with match-grade ammunition and pegs its effective range at 1,970 yards (1,800 meters). These are under ideal conditions mind you. How about real life? Well, there it seems it outperforms its sales-sheet specs.
Dandy as the unnamed Canadian soldier’s confirmed kill at 2.2 miles was, it’s been backed up by nearly equally impressive shots by Canuk snipers.
In one month in 2002 in Afghanistan, Master Corporal Arron Perry and Corporal Rob Furlong recorded two of the all-time longest confirmed kills, each behind the TAC-50. Perry connected at 2,526 yards (2,310 meters) and Furlong at 2,657 yards (2,430 meters). Incidentally, those are the fourth and fifth longest shots in history, which means the McMillan TAC-50 owns three of the top five all-time longest shots.
Yeah, it’s not lab data with all variables controlled for, but it speaks volumes about the rifle's potential. Enough so, it backs up many contentions the TAC-50 a legitimate anti-personnel sniper rifle, in addition to an AMR.
Certainly, the McMillan TAC-50 isn’t as well-known as some of its .50-caliber counterparts, but it’s more than staked its claim as one of the best. It’s one of the few AMR’s designed to bring precision to the battlefield. While that’s a questionable asset when aiming a 30-foot by 30-foot radar, it more than has proven an advantage. With a motivated sniper behind the trigger, the rifle delivers death from afar and is among the deadliest small arms in use today.
For more information on the McMillan TAC-50, please visit mcmillanfirearms.com.