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The Barrett M82A1, an Anti-Material Rifle Anyone Can Buy

Do you need to destroy radar installations from long range or disable light armored vehicles from a safe distance? Do you have too much hard-earned money and need to convert some of it to noise? If you answered yes to any of the above, the Barrett M82A1 could be the perfect rifle for you. 

The M82A1 being artsy.

The Barrett M82A1 in front of "normal firearms."

The market is saturated with 5.56 NATO modern sporting rifles, making even .30 caliber rifles seem big-bore these days. Intermediate calibers like 5.56 NATO satisfy the needs of most people. However, sometimes folks just need more and .50 BMG (Browning Machine Gun) gives shooters much more power and has done so for nearly a century. 

Detachable 10 round box magazine.

Created by John Browning at the end of the Great War, the .50 BMG round fed the M2 heavy machine gun. The Great War prompted gun manufacturers to design bigger ammunition due to the increasing presence of armored vehicles on the battlefield. Machine guns in the .30 caliber range could not penetrate vehicles protected in armor. The .30-06 round served as inspiration for Browning’s .50 BMG caliber. The half-inch, high-velocity bullet provided better armor defeating capability. The .50 BMG brought an exponential power increase over standard rifle rounds and continues to dominate the battlefield to this day. 

Mission Purpose

Ronnie Barrett created the .50 BMG M82 in the 1980s as a semi-automatic anti-material rifle. America fielded the lightened and improved M82A1 during Desert Storm, where the US-led coalition fought to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi forces. The M82A1 took advantage of the various loadings of .50 BMG, from regular ball to API (Armour Piercing Incendiary) and many in between depending on mission requirements. 

The M82A1 is incredibly stable when using the bipod and rear monopod

The Barrett M82A1 can be pressed into an anti-personnel rifle role, however, it was not designed exclusively as a sniper rifle. One might use an anti-material to disable a parked aircraft or disrupt power to a military installation. The M82A1 is accurate at long range and has made mile-long shots in countless combat zones, from Afghanistan to Iraq and many places that we may never know about. 

Always watching over you.

Operation and Construction

The M82A1 runs on the short recoil operating system with a rotating triangular-shaped bolt head. When a round is fired, the barrel and bolt are locked together and move back a short distance under recoil. After the bullet has exited the barrel, the barrel unlocks from the bolt and the bolt continues farther back under recoil. Once the case ejects, the barrel comes forward and the cycle starts again.

Almost a ten-foot pole.

The Barrett M82A1 uses a 29-inch fluted barrel. Fluting in the barrel saves weight and also aids in cooling. All barrels are chrome-lined for long life. Rounds are fed from a 10 round detachable box magazine.

Barrel flutes aid in cooling and lower weight.

The short-recoil operating system is perfect for a rifle like the M82A1. There is no gas tube or piston attached to the barrel to interrupt barrel harmonics. Fewer parts equal lower weight, and the M82A1 already weighs 32.7-pound. Because of this, the M82A1 is humorously known as the “Light Fifty.” Naturally, all parts of the action are massively overbuilt to handle the powerful .50 BMG round.

Barrel disconnected from recoil springs and collapsed.

Note the massive bolt carrier and recoil spring.

The M82A1’s construction follows the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) approach. The M82A1’s upper and lower receivers are welded from heavy-gauge steel stampings. Just like an AR, the upper and lower can be separated to fit in a case smaller than it would need if the rifle is fully assembled. This feature makes the rifle a relatively small, easy to transport package. The Barrett M82A1’s grip and safety sector are laid out very similarly to the M16/M4 family of rifles. 

Anyone missing a howitzer?

Shooting the M82A1

The Barrett M82A1’s rifle’s bark is much worse than its bite and the recoil impulse is controlled through several important features. Thanks to physics, the weight of the rifle helps to mitigate recoil because heavier objects are harder to push. All self-loading firearms use energy from the fired round to load the next one. The short-recoil operating system soaks up most of the recoil to run the action. A large and very efficient muzzle brake sits on the end of the barrel. The M82A1’s muzzle brake diverts gases to the sides and rear of the barrel. 

The recoil impulse of the Barrett is more than that of your average AR in 5.56, or even.30 caliber rifles. I would put it in the range of a semi-automatic 12 gauge shotgun shooting heavy 3-inch magnum loads. The recoil is much more of a heavy push than a sharp impact. One can comfortably shoot the M82A1 from the standing position in a pinch or the bipod can be utilized to provide a more stable shooting platform. To be clear, the recoil of the M82A1 is heavy but manageable. 



In most states, anyone that can legally purchase a rifle can obtain an M82A1. Unfortunately, if you live in California, you cannot legally own a Barrett M82A1 in .50 BMG. If you want to join the “Light Fifty” club, bring a thick wallet, because the M82A1 can cost over $8,000. Most folks purchasing a Barrett will treat it as an investment as it is really the only name in the game for long-range .50 BMG precision shooting. Classic Firearms has M82A1s for sale at a great price.


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