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The Resurrection of Two Legends

The Man and the Rifle

sniperprintUntil very recently, the term “sniper” was veiled in mystery, secrecy and misunderstanding. The current conflict has thrust snipers and sniping into the forefront of military terminology and the public lime light. What was once considered almost a “dark art” has now become more popular than the elite fighter pilot, and only seconded by “special operations” in notoriety. Unfortunately, past generations of these truly elite warriors have become almost lost in the discussions and stories coming from their brethren of today. The reality is that the modern sniper owes everything to those who went before him and did the same job with less training and lower quality equipment.

Chuck Mawhinney is one such warrior. Chuck Mawhinney joined the USMC in Oct. 1967 Chuck in VNright out of high school. He attended Scout Sniper School at Camp Pendleton and graduated in April 1968. From there he received orders to Vietnam where upon arrival he was assigned as a rifleman to 1st Marine Division, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Battalion Lima Company. He remained in this unit for 3 months until he was re-assigned to 5th Marine Regiment HQ Scout Sniper Platoon. There he worked as a scout sniper for different companies with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions. He also worked with the South Koreans (Rock Marines), Force Recon, Army CAG Unit, but the majority of his time was with Delta Company. He served a 13 month tour with two back to back extensions. During this tour he is credited with 103 confirmed NVA-VC kills and 216 probables. Like many fellow service members, following his service in Vietnam, Chuck returned home (Oregon) to resume his life and he resides there today.

Chuck in VN

During his service in Vietnam, Chuck used the tools that were provided to him in order to accomplish an extremely difficult job. Despite what Hollywood and various novelists have depicted, the job in Vietnam was a dirty and dangerous endeavor done with the most minimal of equipment. The stories of 1000 meter head shots and “one shot one kill” adventures make for good ticket/book sales, however the reality was much more mundane and much more terrifying than anyone could actually imagine unless they were there. Of particular note is the equipment these heroes actually used and made work in difficult circumstances. Chuck’s primary weapon was the new for the Marine Corp M40 sniper rifle outfitted with a variable power 3-9x Redfield day scope. By today’s standards, this rifle was essentially a very accurate hunting rifle reconfigured and modified for combat duty. The rifle was based on a commercial Remington Model 700 fitted with a with a 1:12 RH twist and non-gloss black finish barrel placed into a walnut stock. Upon receipt, the USMC bedded the rifle and performed some modifications they felt were necessary in order to sustain combat operations. Chuck’s record (as well as his fellow Scout Snipers) is proof positive that this rifle worked and worked well, so much so that it has gained almost legendary status.

Despite returning to civilian life after his service in Vietnam, Chuck remained an avid shooter, hunter and instructor. It has been this continual contact with the shooting community that has kept Chuck coming back to the rifle that served him so well in the harshness of combat. His fond memories of this rifle and the stories that depicted his success with it captivated every professional shooter and hobbyist he came into contact with. One such person was Andrew Evans Hendrick, a trained sniper and accomplished shooter in his own right, who owns Riflecraft LTD in the UK. A company specializing in training professional shooters, sourcing relevant military equipment and modifying/manufacturing what operators need.

For many years Vietnam era snipers like Chuck, as well as hobbyists and collectors have attempted to build and/or procure an M40 rifle so they could relive that time and revel in the weapon that served them so admirably. In 2004 the USMC Scout Sniper Association (SSA) approached Remington in the hopes that this rifle could be manufactured once again as a special commemorative product for this niche market. As a result of many individual’s efforts, this rifle was released to the public via the SSA and approximately 1500 were sold. The one issue that plagued this initial effort was the lack of synchronicity between the various individuals and companies, thus when the rifle was released it was done so without a comparable optic and as such was an incomplete piece.

In 2006 Chuck and Andrew joined forces to reinitiate this project with the concept that they would procure this “base” rifle and turn it into a historically accurate copy of what the Scout Snipers were issued in Vietnam. Subsequently they approached Michael Haugen who at the time was the Manager of Military Projects for Remington and explained their concept. Michael, who is himself a Special Forces sniper and sniper instructor, immediately recognized the historical importance of this project and agreed to promote it within the company. Changes within Remington and life’s verities in general resulted in almost a two year delay; however in 2009 this program was approved and began to move forward.

A key component to the manufacturing effort was the procurement of an appropriate optic and mounts to ensure that the finished product was a true representation of the actual M40 used by the USMC. To accomplish this Chuck and Andrew turned to Leupold who had purchased Redfield a number of years previously. Working with Kevin Trepa a former USMC officer and the current Vice President of Leopold’s Military/Law Enforcement division they were able to arrive at a period correct Redfield marked optic. In addition to this, Marty Bordson owner of Badger Ordnance, sniper rifle collector and amateur sniper rifle historian, was contacted to manufacture a period correct mount for the optics. Marty was exceptionally helpful as he had in his possession an original USMC M40 mount and was subsequently able to meticulously reproduce the mount.

As all of these pieces fell together so did the final concept of what these rifles would become and how they would be built. The rifle was produced by Remington as an exact replica of what was built originally with the addition of Chuck’s initials “CBM” and the designation 8541 (the Marine Corps designation for the MOS for a Scout Sniper) on the receiver on the bolt side of the rifle. Once received the rifle was sent to G.A. Precision, located in Kansas City, MO, and owned and operated by George Gardner. There they pillar bedded with 7075 T-6 pillars and skimmed in Marine-Tex. They also free floated the barrel and added the correct length TG screws and had the floor plates engraved. Each rifle has the floor plate engraved with a replica of Chuck’s signature and a designation number depicting one of number of kills 001/103.

There will only be 103 of these rifles authorized by Chuck. A record will be kept for authenticity purposes of those rifles authorized by Chuck. The butt plate is the original alloy plate as on that era of rifles and each rifle comes with a green web sling, similar to what was originally used.

Chuck will personally fire each rifle putting the first rounds through the rifle to check for accuracy. Each rifle will have a personal log book filled out and signed by Chuck after firing the rifle. Break in ammunition will be Black Hills Ammunition 175 gr. Match ammo. Rifles will be shipped to their new owners in a black Plano case. Chuck’s company will coordinate all sales to valid Federal Firearms License (FFL) holders.

This rifle has been replicated as close as possible in this modern day. Some minor changes had to be made for safety and legal policies of Remington. Many people were necessary to make this project materialize into the most accurate rendition of the rifle possible. It has been a long time in coming, however now prospective buyers can own a functional piece of history.

Chuck has always credited the high number of kills in Vietnam to the longevity of the time he was in country, a target rich environment, outstanding spotters he worked with and the dedicated Marines he served with. SEMPER FIDELIS