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Barrett Firearms Celebrates 40th Anniversary

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Ronnie Barrett has a passion for extreme long-distance shooting and genius for design that spilled onto his dining room table. It was there that he came up with early drawings for his first, shoulder-fired .50 BMG-chambered rifle that, ultimately, led to Barrett Firearms Manufacturing officially opening in 1982.

The company has built an enviable reputation among precision shooters, law enforcement and militaries across the globe in four short decades, but not everyone was convinced at first. “When I took those drawings to machine shops for help, instead of getting encouragement, they laughed at my ideas,” Barrett said. “Not to be discouraged, I just did it anyway. The original Barrett rifle concept has turned into a world-class manufacturing company doing business around the globe.”

The firm’s first commercially available model appeared in 1983. It was named the M82 Light Fifty and sales were brisk on the civilian side, but most militaries didn’t see the role it could play. Norway’s army was the first to purchase, harnessing the safety advantage of ordnance disposal from distances made possible by the rifle.

The Marine Corps ordered 100 for use in Desert Storm, the M82A1, then the Army ordered. A semi-auto version was subsequently fielded for precision shooting duty. Today Barrett firearms are in use my American troops across the globe, and not just those chambered in .50 BMG.

When Ronnie Barrett’s son, Chris, served as lead designer and company president, he led an initiative to improve on his father’s M82 design. The result was the MRAD MK22. USSOCOM ordered a number of the rifles in March of 2019. U.S. Army Contracting Command followed suit in early 2021. It serves as the Precision Sniper Rifle and the innovative design allows troops to easily swap chamberings to .300 Norma Mag., .338 Norma Mag. or 7.62 NATO to address each mission’s demands.

From humble dining-room beginnings, Barret now has products in use by more than 70 State Department-approved countries. It’s also home of the first father/son team to have each designed a rifle adopted by the U.S. Military—the M107 and MK22, respectively.

Article by GUY J. SAGI

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