Introduced in 1988 as the Army's designated sniper weapon system, the M24 SWS the first bolt action rifle to see dedicated service with the US Army since the .30-06 caliber Springfield Model 1903. With the withdrawl of the Springfield 03 during the Second World War, all army sniping activities have been carried out, more or less, with either scoped regular-issue rifles (in the case of the M1C and M1D) or match-grade variants of issue rifles (as in the case of the M21 sniper rifle.)
While the use of issue rifles has eased the logistical demands on the army supply system, the use of semi-automatic rifles for sniping applications is not with out serious drawbacks. Although the M21 is a very accurate weapon, it is not designed to stand up to battlefield abuse. The wood stock was subject to warping, the gas operating system was subject to fouling and contamination, and because the weapon was semi-automatic there was no way to ensure every round was chambered in exactly the same way. All of these conditions could grossly affect the accuracy of the rifle beyond 500 yards.
In light for these limitations, the Army initiated a program in the 70's to re-introduce a bolt-action sniper rifle to its inventory. Eventually, the weapon the Army settled on was the M24 bolt-action rifle. Chambered for 7.62mm NATO (.308 Winchester) the M24 is based on the Remington Arms 700 action and is very similar to the civilian 40X target rifle and the Marine Corp's M40 series rifle.
As with the M40, the M24 utilizes a custom-built fiberglass stock but with an adjustable cheek pad as well as an adjustable pad on the butt stock to adjust length of pull. Both utilize an internal 5 round magazine, are scoped, and are adaptable to the use of night vision devices and weapon scopes. The greatest difference between the two is the fact that the M40 is a "short" action and the M24 is a "long" action. The reason for this difference is the Army ultimately wanted to adopt a more powerful .30 caliber cartridge (such as the .300 Winchester Magnum) which would require the "long" action to extract the larger cartridges in its re-chambered sniper rifles.
The M24 Sniper Weapon System is a bolt-action rifle chambered to fire 7.62mm NATO (currently either the M118 Special Ball Cartridge or the M852 Match Cartridge, though it can fire any standard NATO 7.62mm cartridge.) The Kevlar-reinforced fiberglass stock is custom built by HS Precision and incorporates an adjustable cheek pad and as well as an adjustable pad on the butt stock to adjust length of pull. The 24" barrel is bolted to the full-length aluminum bedding block in the stock to reduce vibration and loss of zero. The scope is a Leupold & Stevens Mk. IV M3A day telescope and is mounted on the rifle using Mk. IV rings and base.