“Sniper Rifles Capable of Taking Down a Commertial Jet”

We’ve all seen and heard the Propaganda:

.50 Caliber Sniper Rifles capable of taking down a commercial jet. We call bullshit, the antis say we lie. Well The Duck links this interesting article.

The NYPD began fitting police helicopters with heavy machine guns to shoot down terrorist airplanes about five years ago, after intelligence surfaced that al-Qaida was considering the use of crop dusters and other small craft for attacks, a senior city law enforcement official said Monday.

But while police officers have been trained to use helicopter-mounted .50-caliber machine guns against light planes, there was no intention to take down commercial passenger jets with such weaponry, said the official, who asked not to be identified.

Now first let’s just briefly mention the stupidity of the Civilian Police force using heavy machine guns. I’m curious how NYPD might be the FIRST to know that a terrorist is doing a light-plane strike. Generally I suspect post people wouldn’t know jack until after the plane crashed. And frankly I think the FAA might be the first to get the idea. No matter who finds out, don’t break out a traffic chopper with a Ma’Deuce and a door gunner. SCRAMBLE THE FIGHTERS!

OK onto the big point. This is what we all know. .50 BMG is a BIG round, but 0.511″ (12.7mm) isn’t shit compared to an airplane. The military used some crazy M2 configurations to attempt to take down aircraft…and most militaries instead opted for the auto-cannon (generally loaded with explosive shells) to take down aircraft. And we’re not talking Boeing 777s here we’re talking little Mitsubishi planes.

A Barret M82 (The Rolls Royce of .50 Cal target/sniper rifles) only feeds from a 10 round box, vs the belt-fed M2 which will just keep shooting until you run out of ammo, or the dork beside you forgets to clip on the next belt.

Can we throw a “The Science is Settled” flag on the play now?

**UPDATE**I only briefly touched on the militarization of the NYPD (among just about every other Police force that issues black fatigues and has a SWAT team and equipment) Thirdpower does an awesome job at expanding on that, give his post a read.

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0 Responses to “Sniper Rifles Capable of Taking Down a Commertial Jet”

  1. PISSED says:

    So, let me wrap my mind around this… a helicopter flying over densely populated NY city is going to be shooting rounds at airplanes from a .50 cal machine gun?

    Cue the lawyers after the first trigger pull as those rounds miss the plane and fall into the city….

    We live amongst idiots.

  2. bluesun says:

    And my brain is hurting just thinking about the amount of collateral damage a door gunner would make in NYC…

  3. deadcenter56 says:

    I wonder if anyone did a shots-fired-vs-planes-downed study (with M2) on WW 2 shoot-downs, from both a ground-mounted and aircraft-mounted perspective. It would make great rebuttal material to the likes of Schumer and McCartney’s idiocy over the Barrett.

    • Weerd Beard says:

      I’m sure they did. The Army is just as much of a bureaucracy as anything else, so it had to have taken an official study and paperwork in triplicate to pull all the .50 cals of planes and AA installations for guns that were 20mm or better and able to run HE and other specialty shells…or using guided missiles and rockets.

  4. T says:

    I dunno. I still think you could take down a commercial jetliner on takeoff with Barretts. You’d need as many guys w/rifles as the plane has engines, setup well past the end of the runway, and as soon as the plane loses contact with the ground, start punching rounds into the turbines. I’m not sure you’d crash the plane, but you’d sure as hell get catastrophic engine failure and an aborted takeoff.

    • Weerd Beard says:

      Well from my understanding the whole “Take down a commercial Jet Airliner” was from some Army pitches in selling the first M82s to the military. They sold the .50 Snipers as ultra-long-range (which is what Barret designed them for in the first place) and “anti-materiel” where specialty rounds could crack blocks or poke holes in armor of fighting vehicles, as well as plinking PARKED aircraft from a distance.

      That got twisted into knocking planes out of the sky.

      I don’t think the military even thought about CRASHING planes…just fucking them up bad enough that the enemy would be repairing damaged craft when they SHOULD be scrambling the fighters.

  5. Crotalus says:

    Yeah, T, but that would be a military style action, with planning, set-up, coordination, and skilled marksmanship. Someone would get wind of this, I think. Your run-of-the-mill crook will not have the capability to do this. And terrorists chose box cutters instead of .50 caliber weapons. Now why is that, I wonder?

  6. Tam says:

    Thousands of Germans and Japanese would tell you that you sure as hell can shoot down a plane with .50 cal M2s, especially when you put four or six or eight of them in the wings of a Hellcat or Mustang or Thunderbolt. They work pretty good in the turrets of Liberators and Flying Fortresses, too.

    And six of ’em in the nose of an F-86 Saber will bag a MiG-15 just dandily.

    But a semiauto Barrett bears as much resemblance to a Ma Deuce as your dad’s self-loading Remington .30-’06 deer rifle does to a water-cooled M1917 on a tripod.

    • Weerd Beard says:

      Yep that was my whole point, they made those crazy AA quad-mount M2s, and of course the crazy arrays on aircraft.

      Still There’s a reason why we still service buttloads of M2s in battle these days…but for AA applications (be it fixed armaments or aircraft-mounted) is all auto-cannon, or guided missiles.

  7. dustydog says:

    Shooting evil planes is the justification. Defending NYC against rebellious protestors is the basis. In Africa, we see regular people improvising armored vehicles, occupying buildings, overwhelming the police. The mayor of New York wants to be prepared against such a scenario in his city.

  8. Thirdpower says:

    If they’re talking about taking down jets w/ 50 cal rifles, they’re FOS. As cagey as they’re being, I’m betting NYPD got ahold of some Stingers.

  9. JT says:

    What Thirdpower said. My bet is that NYPD has some MANPADS, which is why the good (ahem) mayor isn’t talking details.

  10. Will says:

    as for the six .50’s against MIG’s, not so much. They upgraded to 20mm at some point in the Sabre’s life, IIRC. Problem was, the skin and structures of the jets were much heavier than the prop jobs were, due to the higher forces they had to deal with. At the typical low angles of impact you would encounter when shooting in a tail chase, too many rounds didn’t penetrate. They simply skipped off, leaving a dent. That’s why the fifties went away.
    I suspect that another factor was a shorter time frame that the MIG could be held in the sights, due to faster moving jets. The Germans encountered this with their Me-163 and Me-262.

    • Timmeehh says:


      The only model of F-86 that was armed with 20mm cannon was the F-86K, sold as an export model to NATO countries. No 20mm equipped Sabres flew during the Korean war. Every MIG killed by a Sabre during the Korean war, was downed by .50 cal MGs.

  11. Dann in Ohio says:

    Didn’t they make a movie about this called Blue Thunder?

    Apparently the NYPD is mixing up the Hollywood fantasy and reality…

    Dann in Ohio

  12. Old NFO says:

    Tam is absolutely correct… I remember reading a report that the ‘average’ # rounds required to shoot down a FW or Zero was in the range of 200-300 rounds, and that was from 6-8 .50 cal machine guns from a range of 400 yards or less… People are smoking dope if they think ONE .50 cal from long range can bring down an airliner, or even cause ‘significant’ damage. About the only possibility would be to have enough height to have the airplane coming directly at you and be able to fire directly into the engine without having to ‘lead’ any shots… I know and shoot with real snipers, they’ve told me the odds of actually hitting anything moving faster than about 5mph is pure luck (based on real world shots, not the crap you see in movies, read in books).

    • John says:

      I don’t wish to argue with anyone about anything-but I’d point out that a Barrett .50 with a 10-round mag loaded with Armor Piercing-Incendiary ammo with it’s very effective,recoil-taming muzzle brake in semi-auto mode with fast follow-up shots and long-range would do more to a soft-skinned commercial aircraft with un-armored fuel tanks and sensitive electronics,hydraulics and wiring harnesses,cables and hydraulic lines,etc. running the length of the airframe. As for the misinterpreted reports cited regarding the “average of 200-300 rounds per downed aircraft” While partially true-of those hundreds of rounds “fired” to take down a Zero-it was just a handful of those rounds “actually striking” vital areas of the aircraft responsible for the downing of the planes. Then there’s always the possibility of “the Golden BB” finding its mark as well. Take care

  13. Kirk Parker says:

    (generally loaded with explosive shells) AND don’t forget that the effectiveness of these went way up when proximity fuses were introduced.

  14. AuricTech says:


    Yeah, but what happens when someone fires one of these sniper rifles at an airliner that’s flying at 30,000 feet? The whole plane will disintegrate from explosive decompression, and then it’s too late!


  15. Linoge says:

    Other side of this moronic coin – .50 caliber anti-aircraft weapons, whether ship or ground or tank or aircraft-mounted, were typically “walked” onto their targets. After all, planes move kind of quickly, and the big ol’ strainer sights the turrets used to have did not have much in the way of target prediction algorithms.

    A semi-automatic .50 rifle can do no such thing, which basically narrows your engagement envelope to “dead ahead” or “dead astern” of your intended target. Or someone at the NYPD has to be insanely good at Kentucky Windage…

    • Weerd Beard says:


      Given stories like this, and the training protocols they use to clear officers to go out armed every day on the streets of New York, I suspect they couldn’t hit a cow in the ass with a barn shovel, let alone their service Glocks, an M2 Heavy Machine Gun, or a Barret M82.

      • alcade says:

        Now now, Weerd. I’m willing to bet the Mayor himself will go to Gunsite and take the class “Shooting Hijackers Between the Eyes 101” just to protect his fair city.

        Then he will start to troll gun blogs and forums informing everyone else that if they don’t have the firepower/training he has, they might as well be committing suicide.

        My .50 cal anti aircraft sniper rifle was forged in a volcano and quenched in the blood of the Taliban! One shot, one kill!


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