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Indian-Made Sniper Rifle Marks New Export Milestone

Evan Berridge
Evan Berridge
Evan is an analyst specializing in Indo-Pacific affairs and has over 5 years of experience as a freelance writer.

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Indian small arms manufacturer SSS Defense, based in Bengaluru, southern India, has completed a major contract to supply the 338 Sabre to an unidentified friendly export nation, marking the first time India has done so.

Sources within the Indian defense industry allege that more nations are “in talks” with the company after visiting the testing and manufacturing sites in Bengaluru, which could lead to more orders.

In addition to the rifles, SSS Defense has also procured a contract worth around $50 million for ammunition for sale to allied nations, although the company did not say which countries. The country that placed the order is thought to be Armenia, but it is not officially confirmed.

The SSS Defense 338 Sabre Rifle

The 338 Sabre is a bolt-action sniper rifle chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum fed by a five- or 10-round detachable box magazine firing out of a 26″ free-floating bull barrel designed for engaging targets up to 1,640 yards (1,500 meters) and further. The barrel also features a muzzle break to manage recoil and muzzle rise.

The 338 Sabre also features an adjustable stock, cheek riser, a lighter-weight aluminum chassis and is ambidextrous. For mounting optics, along with other accessories, it features mounting picatinny rails on top, both sides and underneath the front handguard. The company claims the rifle can shoot sub-Minute of Angle (MOA), meaning it can hit the same 1-inch area at a given distance multiple times.

338 Sabre on display at a defense expo. Source: SSS Defense

The .338 Lapua Magnum round (8.6x70mm) is a cartridge commonly used in small arms designed for longer ranges. It is in service with more than 30 nations, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Israel. The cartridge also has applications in law enforcement.

Velocities of the cartridge differ on grain (weight of projectile), with a 200-grain soft point projectile traveling around 3,360 ft/s (1,023 m/s) and a 300-grain Scenar GB528 VLD load traveling around 2,780 ft/s ( 847 m/s).

Why This Contract is Important for the Indian Defense Industry

The sale of rifles and ammunition to other nations is part of a plan by India to position itself a top defense exporter. India is making increased efforts to sell its indigenously made equipment to the rest of the world. SSS Defense could also expand operations, which could result in more contracts, as it manufactures other small arms, such as the P-72 series or Viper in 7.62×51. The ammunition portion of this deal could also bolster ammunition production.

A host of nations already run .338 in military or law enforcement applications, among other calibers for sniper rifles. Purchasing and issuing another platform in .338 could streamline logistics by having more personnel use the same ammo and the same platform, making training easier.

Exporting the 338 Sabre rifle may also offer nations an opportunity to replace older stock, including India itself, which still uses older Soviet-era Draganov SVDs and H&K German PSG-1s, as well as nations that use these older platforms too, such as Thailand, the Philippines, or Indonesia. India may also be willing to sell to nations that have human rights violations on record, whereas most Western nations will not. Depending on the unit cost, the 338 Sabre may also be a cost-effective option to American alternatives such as the Barrett MRAD, the Desert Tactical SRS, or the British AWM.

The .338 caliber could also offer an alternative to nations seeking a round more powerful than the widespread NATO-standard .308 (7.62x51mm) and lighter than the .50 BMG (12.7x108mm). The .338 has a higher velocity than the .308 and more energy behind each shot compared to the .308. It is lighter than the .50 BMG, cheaper, has less harsh recoil, and can be used in lighter-weight rifles.

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