Navy SEALs use a wide variety of weapons matched to the different types of mission they undertake, such as covert intelligence gathering, counterterrorism, hostage rescue and other types of special operation.
Assault Rifles and Submachine Guns
The primary weapon of the Navy SEAL is the assault rifle. A number of models are in use, but the standard issue is the Colt M4A1 carbine. This is a flexible, modular weapon that can be configured to the task at hand through the use of accessories such as a sound suppressor, laser sight or night-vision scope. For close-quarter combat, the SEALs use the lighter and more compact Heckler and Koch MP5-N submachine gun. The "N" stands for Navy variant, which was specifically designed for use by SEALs. It has a burst fire option in addition to semi-automatic and full automatic modes.
For long-range, high-precision work, the Navy SEALs use sniper rifles. The Mark 11 SWS, or Sniper Weapon System, is the military variant of the SR-25 rifle, firing NATO-standard 7.62 mm ammunition. For use by the SEALs, the barrel was shortened from 24 to 20 inches to make it more suitable for urban combat. The SEALs also employ a larger sniper rifle, the M82A1 SASR, or Special Application Scoped Rifle. This fires .50 caliber rounds and is effective against hardened targets as well as enemy personnel.
The M67 hand grenade is one of the simplest and yet most lethal weapons used by Navy SEALs. It can be lobbed over a wall or into an enclosed space, and has a kill radius of 15 feet. For more distant targets, the SEALs can employ a grenade launcher such as the M79, capable of firing various types of grenades more than 1,000 feet. A grenade launcher can also be fitted to the M4A1 assault rifle. For non-lethal applications, SEALs can make use of "flash bang" grenades, which aim to disorient the enemy with a sudden flash of light and a loud noise.
Navy SEALs use a variety of hand guns, including the .45 caliber Heckler and Koch Mark 23 SOCOM, specially developed for the United States Special Operations Command for use by several special forces units including the SEALs. For silent, close-quarter combat, however, a SEAL may prefer to use the Daniel Winkler fixed-blade knife. At the other end of the scale, the heavy-duty M240 machine gun also has a place in the versatile armory of the Navy SEALs.
Andrew May has more than 25 years of experience in academia, government and the private sector. A full-time author since 2011, he wrote "Bloody British History: Somerset" and "Pocket Giants: Isaac Newton" (to be published in 2015). He is a regular contributor to "Fortean Times" magazine, and also contributed to "30-Second Quantum Theory." May holds a Master of Arts in natural sciences from Cambridge University and a Ph.D. in astrophysics.