McMillan Tac 50
It took Rob Furlong 3 shots to get fully on target. It was a hot March day, with full sun exposure and an unusually low ambient density of air, and the target was, at the time, the longest confirmed sniper kill in history. An Afghan insurgent on a ridge a full four seconds of .50 caliber travel speed away at nearly 2,450 meters, was moving with his rifle and two of his closest terrorist buddies, towards a stronghold position in a mountain cave. It’s a wonder Corporal Furlong, a Canadian marksmen embedded with the 3rd Canadian Battalion in the Shahi-kot Valley in the Afghani region of Paktia in the eastern part of Afghanistan, was even able to land the shot on a moving target, at such an incredible distance.
Shahi-kot means “In the place of the King”. It’s accurate. The Afghani insurgent got in the way of the King. The king of sniper rounds: the .50 Caliber. The round exercised its legendary royalty enthroned on top of the long range active engagement cartridges with the adept work of Corporal Furlong on that March, 2002 day on the other side of the world. But this range was uncommon even for a king, being near the maximum lethal range of the projectile. It was the Tac 50 by McMillan that delivered the .50 caliber to its place in the Valley of the King.
The Tac 50 is something of a king in its realm in its own right. For years it has been the go to .50 cal sniper rifle. Sure you have your Barrett’s and a few other guns, but far and wide for many years, if you needed the most accurate .50 cal sniper rifle, you went to the McMillan Tac 50.
At the time of the shot mentioned above, there was perhaps, no other more suitable weapon for this shot. Perhaps the United States .50 cal of choice, the Barrett M82 could have put the rifle back on target quickly, but there is nowhere near the accuracy in the Barrett Semi auto as there is with the Tac 50. By the way, for clarification: the Barrett wasn’t cleared for the United States military, until after this shot was taken, and Furlong was Canadian, fielding the then top rifle in the Canadian Forces arsenal.
Specific purpose from factory of the Tac 50: The Tac 50 doesn’t dance around the facts; it was made for killing people and making holes in engine blocks. But it’s also good at detonating IED’s and the controlled detonation of long range explosives and dangerous explosives demolition.
Adaptations of the Tac 50 that have become the norm for operators: Again, there isn’t a way to dance around this; the Tac 50 is made for a purpose. It’s good at that purpose: killing people and making long distance shots. Originally intended for use as a long range anti-material rifle, it has become essentially a dual purpose sniper rifle.
Calibers Available for the Tac 50: .50 caliber
Effective Range of the Tac 50: Well, the longest shot taken with a Tac 50 that has a confirmed kill is over 2,425 meters, and that was a torso kill, with immediate effect, so in theory, if the optics and the spotting team, as well as the environmental conditions, the terminal range could be out past 2,750 meters.
McMillan Tac 50′s Notable accomplishments: Obviously the Afghanistan shot made by the Canadian team, with Rob Furlong behind the trigger, is of note. For some time, it was maintained as the longest confirmed kill by a sniper team in history. Law Enforcement agencies of note have used it to take control of Hostage situations with increasing frequency, the Tac 50 is a popular weapon, because it is simple, effective and isn’t outside the budget for many agencies. Of note as well: just prior to Rob Furlong’s shot, another Canadian team member was behind the trigger of a separate Tac 50 to record the then longest range kill shot in conflict. Aaron Perry made a 2,310 meter kill with the rifle as well: that is notable.
Engagement History of Note: There are many engagements on a localized level, and too numerous to count. The Canadian forces have used the weapons in the Middle east conflict areas for years, and have a heavy engagement record for the weapon. The Navy Seals have used the weapon (they call it the Mk15) for several strategic implementations. Israeli Special Forces Units have used it in several Gaza strip encounters with Pakistani teams.
Factory configuration on the Tac 50: Takedown stock; adjustable cheekpiece; Adj. buttstock/recoil pad; anti-reflective coating; a 29” barrel with an O.A.L. of 57 inches. From the factory it was not until recently, shipped with optics but they are available as a kit, or an additional accessory. As it sits now, the McMillan company is offering a Night Force 9-32 x 56 mm Objective, at no additional cost, or others for nominal add-on fees on top of their kit price.
Additional options for the Tac 50: Elite Iron Brand suppressor at around $1500 USD; additional 5 round magazines at around $400 USD. Yes that’s not a typo: $400 for a 5 round magazine; sounds a lot like CA prices around the original HI-Cap ban.
Basic Information about the Firearm: At around 25 pounds, the Tac 50 is heavy but it’s built to incredibly high tolerances, and the gun is slick, despite its brutish looks. The Tac 50 is a manually operated rotating bolt design with a fully adjustable but more utilitarian than customized exterior look and feel to it. The barrel and bolt are fluted straight and helical respectively. The barrel is free floating.
Pricing on the Tac 50: $8000 is about the going rate for a Tac 50, with the integral steel bipod and muzzle brake and a host of user centric build items including stock adjustability and the duracoating. It’s right at $10k USD for the kit price.
Expectations: The expectations exceed those posted by any other precision rifle manufacturer. This weapon is in the top tier of all precision rifles beyond 300 yards for accuracy. Once zeroed, a shooter with excellent skills and a spotting team can expect groupings on a man sized target at 1800-2100 meters.
General information about the McMillan Tac 50:
A semi-modular heavily bedded fiberglass stock employs a square recoil lug and bedding block to ensure the action moves nowhere during the assembly and firing process. McMillan points out 13 different shooter specific build notes to help the Tac 50 accomplish its job; they include:
- Adjustable saddle cheekpiece
- High tolerance threads, chamber and action mounting
- An extended bolt handle to clear optics
- Precision surface ground recoil lugs made to incredibly high tolerances
- A duracoat finish to serve as a basis for camouflage customization or to serve as a long term exterior finish for those not in need of custom schemes.
- A proven muzzle brake design which cute the recoil of the Tac 50 considerably
- Helical fluting on the bolt and straight fluting on the barrel to cut some of the overall weight and to aid in heat dispersion, and maintain torsional rigidity
- Their barrel is hand lapped and made out of chrome moly steel to keep it’s tolerance for a long barrel life.
- The Tac 50 has an integral steel bipod purpose built for the firearm
- A detachable heavy machined magazine which holds 5 rounds of the venerable .50 BMG round
- A tuned firing mechanism allowing for a 3 lb trigger pull and a fully adjustable group
- A detachable stock for easier transit
- A L.O.P. adjustable recoil pad system for easy customization
It is these thirteen points of note that helped this weapon become the rifle of choice in two of the three longest confirmed kills in the history of conflict by a shoulder fired weapon.
It’s important to note that the Tac 50 isn’t as impressive to look at, as it is to shoot, and it is perhaps the most understated and muted of all the precision rifles available anywhere in the world. It also has one hell of a track record and was one of the original gangsters of long range ant material rifles in the shoulder fired .50 BMG chambering.
The 29” barrel is a 1 in 15 twist and the finish is applied to all the parts except the scope mounts/rail and rings; which are non coated, black. The detachable magazine, while ridiculously expensive, is every bit as solidly built and precision as the rifle itself and demands some ogling for its build quality. The bolt is finished in the proprietary np3 finish made famous by Robar, and it stays well lubed and doesn’t attract unnecessary fouling.
The rifle is available as rifle only or with the following package items:
- Leupold Mk 4 40mm obj. optic with a mil dot reticle
- 30mm scope rings
- A pelican case
- A sling
- A cleaning kit
- An extra magazine
- A ruggedized cloth bag (they call it their version of a drag bag)
It’s still a hefty price for a gun, but you can’t easily match its accuracy, and you would be hard pressed to ever equal its track record of confirmed conflict kills. It’s perhaps, the most straightforward of all the sniper rifles around: it’s made for one real purpose, and it’s good at its job; it also doesn’t try to be fancy, it just delivers on promises.
Author’s personal experience with the Tac 50:
EDIT 7.22.2012: I have now shot the Tac 50 extensively as a test bed for a weapon I am designing. The rifle is at its core the simplest of the niche it is a part of. The Tac 50 is ridiculously accurate and while it doesn’t seem incredibly high tech at first glance, you quickly realize the immense capability of the Tac 50 upon the first cold bore shot landing at 800m+. This last sentence is given that much more importance when you are a shooter without special training for long distance shooting.
The Good: This thing is far more accurate at distance than I can shoot. It is pure destruction, yet, is one of the most satisfying guns you will ever have the pleasure of shooting. It feels like a precision machine, the tolerances are ridiculous, but there is nothing wimpy or fragile about this thing. There is a reason that this gun holds two former distance kill records: it’s built like a tank, and bred purely for killing. I was able to shoot 9 rounds from a prone position at a 1,000 meter range. I’m sad that the range wasn’t bigger. I grouped incredibly well, far exceeding my estimate for my performance, but my range test was in a relatively controlled environment. I think I could have taken an 1800 meter shot and been hitting the target in 3-4 shots. That is beyond what I can normally say. This thing was built to reach out and touch someone.
The Bad: It’s heavy as hell. Be glad that you aren’t likely to have to run with it, as you will likely out-range any of the opposition’s guns by ¼ mile. The thing is simple looking and despite having a distinct look, it isn’t the prettiest, and it isn’t the most impressive piece I have ever shot. It’s tangible though. I could see a hunter using one of these as a hobby purchase. It’s outlawed nearly nowhere in the United States and it’s available, without insane waiting lists or having to know the Governor or a Military General.
The Ugly: As of now, they are not available in California, that’s just another gross misuse of power that hurts the sportsmen in this state. The price is a bit of sticker shock for the guy who has it in their head that a bolt action shouldn’t cost above a few thousand dollars.
A final note about the Tac 50
One final note: I don’t think it’s pretty, but there is something inherently beautiful about the best in class; something inherently alluring about the winners. Even though it has an anti-reflective finish, it shines brighter than almost all of its peers.