For many, it is absurd to think that US Navy SEALs, one of the most elite and famous special operations forces in the US military, may be running out of something as simple as service rifles. However, Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a former Marine who has seen three combat tours in the Middle East, says he has been contacted recently by concerned SEALs regarding a shortage of combat-ready rifles. According to the Christian Science Monitor, rifles are among the least expensive of the equipment purchased by the tech-heavy Navy, costing an average of $1,000 each when purchased in bulk from manufacturers—although additional modifications and accessories can raise that price significantly. Despite this, rifles are reportedly shared by SEALs in what is called a “weapons carousel,” which only SEALs on deployment have access to. This, critics say, ignores the “train like you fight” philosophy that many US servicemen and women follow.
“They want their rifles,” Hunter told the Associated Press. “It’s their lifeline. So let them keep their guns until they’re assigned desk jobs at the Pentagon.”
Hunter, and the SEALs he had been talking to, argue that even SEALs not on deployment should have access to the same rifles they would on the battlefield, especially when it comes to training. Hunter pointed out that the problem is not due to the lack of funding, but a wasteful spending of the funds by a slow and inflexible bureaucracy. The congressman recently wrote a letter to Rear Admiral Brain Losey, leader of the Naval Special Warfare Command, regarding the issue. That led to a statement by Army General Joseph Votel, head of the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), during a House Armed Services Committee.
“We’re certainly running that down,” Votel said, promising to take immediate action if it turns out that the rifle shortage is having a negative impact on the SEALs.
There are currently about 69,000 servicemen and women assigned to SOCOM, including headquarters staff. Of these, about 2,700 are SEALs. As a diverse and versatile force, SEALs utilize a wide variety of weapons and equipment in their operations. The current service rifle for the force is the FN Scar—variants SCAR-L Mk 16 Mod 0, SCAR-H Mk 17 Mod 0, and SSR Mk 20 Mod 0. Other weapons used by SEALs include the more familiar M4 and the M16A2. Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL who became known as the most lethal sniper in US military history, famously used a .300 Winchester Magnum 24, SPR Mk 12 Mod 0, and a SR-25.
Image courtesy US Navy