On 15 March a report from Russia’s Federal News Agency featured an interesting semi-automatic sniper rifle that hasn’t regularly been seen in use during the conflict – the MTs-566. The report shows a sniper team from Wagner, Russia’s largest private military contractor, in position in Bakhmut. The date the piece was filmed is unclear but the rifle itself is rarely seen and the footage gives us a decent look at the rifle and even of it firing a couple of rounds.
The MTs-566 is produced by TsKIB SOO, the Central Bureau for Sporting and Hunting Arms at Tula. It’s chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO and uses a short-stroke gas piston system. It fulfills a similar role to the US M110 series of rifles or Ukraine’s UAR-10s. The MTs-566 [or MC-566] was developed from the OTs-129 designated marksman rifle developed for a Russian military requirement. It has a 24in barrel, feeds from 7.62 P-Mags and has a full-length top rail. It also has a pair of folding iron sights and a side folding stock, a quad-rail forend and a suppressor which partially shrouds the rifle’s barrel.
In the civilian version at least the suppressor is more of an empty expansion chamber without baffles, whether that’s the case with production guns or rifles purchased for military use is unclear. If the expansion chamber can is in use here then it appears to help somewhat. TsKIB SOO list the weight of the rifle as 4.8kg or 10.6 lbs and its overall length as 125cm or 49in though other sources do vary slightly. Notably, the weapon’s lower receiver is much shallower with the pistol grip positioned much higher than on an AR-10, suggesting a different firing mechanism requiring less space than the AR-10’s hammer.
It was displayed for the first time in 2018 and was reportedly aimed at the civilian hunting market and due to be on sale in 2020. Hrachya got a good look at one at the 2018 Russian Arms & Hunting Expo. The rifle has some interesting features including integral folding iron sights rather than rail mounted sights – the Russian military believed that these could be too easily damaged so Tula engineers designed integral sights, the rear sight folds back into the hinge of the stock. There is also rail space attached directly to the rifles receiver, seemingly for the mounting of accessories.
The Russian news report says the sniper team is at work in Bakhmut. The sniper describes his rifle and notes it’s mounted with a 20x optic and that he often works ‘a a distance of 700-800, sometimes 1000 [meters]’. It’s unclear how many MTs-566s might be in use in the field but this report represents the best look at the rifle we’ve had so far.
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Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. He also runs Historical Firearms, a blog that explores the history, development and use of firearms. Matt is also co-founder of The Armourer’s Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms.
Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news.
Reach Matt at: [email protected]
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