Some time back we posted that the Syrian jihadis had gotten hold of Accuracy International AS50 .50 caliber sniper rifles. We posted several pictures, and sure enough there was a greater variation between various examples of the AS50 than there was between the Syrian weapon and the AS50. Here’s the video again
But we were probably wrong. According to CJ Chivers, best known for his New Journalism style book about the AK-47, the weapon is a Chinese M99. A close comparison of the video from our older post to pictures of the M99 shows that Chivers is correct, at least about those particular rifles in the video. Look at the video (screenshot below), and compare it to the image from the M99 from Max’s world.guns.ru. (World.guns.ru is one of the more authoritative small arms sites out there).
The scope is different, in the two pictures, but the gun is the same. The two bright metal scope mount fasteners are the same on both guns (although some of Chivers’s photos from Syria show round black fasteners on Syrian rebel M99s). Both the M99 and the AS50 have an extensible stock with upper and lower rails and a gap in between. But the daylight between the upper and lower rail on the AS50 is rectangular. On the Chinese M99, the daylight between the upper and lower is irregularly shaped — just like the Syrian jihadi’s gun. The reason for this appears to be that the protrusion from the upper rail is the adjustment lock that must be pressed to slide the stock in or out. See below:
The M99 is an export weapon, used by China in 12.7×108 but exported in both that round, used in the DShK and NSV among other weapons, and 12.7×99 Browning. The weapons in use in Syria are reportedly chambered for the Russian 12.7x108mm round. The rounds are ballistically equivalent.
The gas and bolt systems of the two guns are also different. The Chinese M99 uses a direct impingement system, often used in .50 sniper rifles to reduce weight, and a rotating bolt. The AI weapon uses a short-stroke gas piston and a tipping bolt (like a Tokarev, Simonov or Saïve design). According to World.Guns.ru’s specifications, the Chinese weapon is about 2.1 kilograms (4.6 pounds) lighter than its British counterpart.
Many people still think the People’s Liberation Army of China is still the Korean War vintage levée en masse, poorly equipped, barely trained, and armed with crude hand-me-downs to be thrown away in human-wave attacks. That image wasn’t even true in 1950 (except, perhaps, of former Kuomintang formations that shuffled up the line to death with Communist formations in their rear), and it’s positively not true in 2013. In our experience, Chinese weapons were even before 1990 often the best finished and most trouble-free of the guns made in the Eurasian communist nations. In the decades since, they’ve only gotten better.