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Breaking Out the Big Guns

For special tactical missions, nothing can beat the power and range of a .50 caliber rifle.

August 01, 2003  |  by Dave Douglas

L.A.R. Grizzly

The bullpup-style design of the L.A.R. Grizzly is evident in this photo. The 45.5-pound rifle has a compensator to soften recoil.

L.A.R.'s Grizzly is a single-shot, breach-loading, bolt-action, bullpup- style .50 caliber rifle. It is 45.5 inches in length and weighs 30.4 pounds. The 36-inch 1:15 twist heavy barrel has a compensator that makes the recoil feel like less than the recoil of a 12-gauge shotgun. The receiver is made of 4140 alloy steel. The bolt is 4340 alloy steel.


The Robar RC50 is one of the lightest .50 caliber sniper weapons on the market. Each custom Robar rifle is built to the customer’s specifications.

The Robar Companies enjoy an international reputation as one of the world's leaders in precision rifles. Robar guarantees a rifle of uncompromising accuracy and reliability. It doesn't sell off-the-shelf, take-it-or-leave-it rifles. Each weapon is built to the customer's needs and specifications.

The Robar RC50 and RC50-F are the lightest .50 caliber rifles available today. They weigh only 25 pounds but have the lightest recoil on any rifle of comparable size. The action is machined from solid bar stock on state-of-the-art CNC machines. The company says this ensures the highest quality action available, and it backs up that statement in open shooting competitions.


The Serbu BFG-50 is made from MIL-spec alloy steels and proof tested with an overpressured cartridge to ensure quality and reliability.

Serbu Firearms makes machine guns, suppressors, short-barreled shotguns, gadget guns, even things that just look like guns, and .50 cal sniper rifles. As you may imagine, this work is done for the alphabet soup government agencies. Don't ask them about it or someone will have to kill you.

The Serbu BFG-50 is constructed using the most modern manufacturing methods. It is made from the highest quality MIL-spec alloy steels. The safety factors to which all the critical parts are designed are very high; more than double what you might find in a typical production military rifle. Yet, the BFG-50 is very competitively priced.

A Mechanical engineer designed the BFG-50 for safety and solid performance. All highly stressed parts are made from MIL-spec, certified materials and are heat treated by a certified process. To ensure safety in the field, each gun is proof tested (fired with an overpressured cartridge of 65,000 psi instead of the nominal 55,000 psi) and then Magnafluxed per an ASTM specification in order to check for defects before it is shipped.

Buying a .50

The .50 caliber BMG rifle is a highly specialized tool, and the cartridge fired is huge in comparison to what most of us are familiar with.  Bullet weight varies, but a 750-grain projectile is about the norm.  And when you compare that to a typical .308 police precision rifle round of 168 grains or a .223 round of 60 grains, it gives you a little perspective on just how much power the .50 BMG wields.  If you or your department is entertaining the thought of acquiring a .50 BMG rifle, here are a few issues you should consider.

Caliber .50 BMG rifles take a lot of engineering and a lot of materials in order to build them properly.  The cost for a good rifle of this caliber runs anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000, not including the optics. In comparison, a typical police precision rifle in .308 caliber will run in the $2,500 range, including the optics.

These are very heavy guns.  They weigh between 30 and 45 pounds. This is not a weapon for every tactical deployment. You don't want your tactical operators humping one of these over fences and up into trees.

As mentioned previously, the .50 BMG is a big bullet, and it takes a great deal of powder to launch this round down range. We can never get past the physics of these weapons. However, most available .50s these days have efficient muzzle breaks or compensators.  But even with muzzle breaks in place, the first time you light one of these babies off is like an IV of quadruple-shot espresso. It will stand your hairs right up on their tips.

You can't hit what you can't see, and you can only see so far. These are easily 1,000-yard guns and many mentioned in this article can reach out to 2,000 yards and beyond. The optics you put on the .50 BMG will make the difference between being able to make a well-placed shot or missing it. Remember, these bullets can travel for miles, and you don't want misses for obvious reasons.

Practice Space
Before scraping together the money to buy a .50 for your agency, you need to find an area where the gun operator can practice. A 100-yard range just won't do. When preparing for this article, we were shooting at a minimum distance of 450 yards and out 1,600 yards.


Plan on pulling a $5 bill out of your pocket every time you squeeze the trigger. Even OK practice ammo is going to run $3 a shot. When you figure that it will take a good thousand rounds to be truly proficient and comfortable with the gun, ammo cost becomes quite a training investment.

For More Information


Barrett Firearms Manufacturing

EDM Arms


LAR Manufacturing

The Robar Companies

Serbu Firearms

Sgt. Dave Douglas is a 25-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department and a Police magazine contributing editor.

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