With the advent of tanks in battle — infantry firearms v. armor — during WWI, a need arose for anti-materiel rifles (AMR), those rifles designed to stop military vehicles rather than combatants.
The caliber of choice for the AMR was the .50 BMG (.50 Browning Machine Gun): 12.7×99mm NATO, an armor-piercing (AP) cartridge developed for the Browning .50 caliber machine gun in the late 1910s.
Essentially a beefed up sniper rifle chambered to fire the exceedingly powerful .50 BMG, fitted with a muzzle brake, the AMR was extremely effective against tanks and, when needed, as a Heavy Anti-Personnel Rifle (HAPR), taking out snipers or other enemy combatants at long range.
In the 1980’s a resurgence of AMR’s took place, responding to the advances in military armored vehicles.
One such AMR, the Robar RC-50, found a critical role with the United States Coast Guard.
As written in Thomas P. Ostrom’s book, The United States Coast Guard and National Defense: A History from World War I to the Present:
To meet its diverse mission requirements, Coast Guard personnel undergo rigorous training. Coast guard members exchange information with their colleagues in the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, and U.S. Air Force.
. . .
These exchanges enhance the shared interests of the Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security.
The HITRON teams [The Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron] have shared training and information with Special Forces units of the other U.S. Armed Forces
This military exchange and integration enables Coast Guard personnel to achieve weapons proficiency. USCG aviation crews have learned to use the M-240 and 7.62 mm machine guns, and RC-50 laser-sighted .50 caliber rifles. These weapons have been used to disable the outboard engines of contraband-carrying speedboats in Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea Operation New Frontier missions.
Mission articulation and cross-training are essential policies because drug and migrant traffickers and terrorists use aircraft, sailboats, motor craft, boats, ships, and freighters.
And Globalsecurity.org details the weapon usage:
The HH-60J Sea Hawk, informally known as the “Jayhawk,” is a medium-range recovery helicopter. The HH-60J is used to perform search and rescue, law enforcement, military readiness, and marine environmental protection missions.
The aircraft can also be fitted with the US Coast Guard’s Airborne Use of Force (AUF) package, including an M240 machine gun and Robar RC-50 precision rifle (subsequently replaced with an M107 rifle) for firing warning and disabling shots, and armor to protect the aircrew from small arms fire.
When fitted with the AUF package, the aircraft is designated as the MH-60J.
Jack Satterfield includes the RC-50 in his Tactical Life article, “Locked & Loaded“:
In 2003, HITRON expanded its mission to include countering potential terror threats to U.S. ports and waterways. The same weapons that can take out “go-fasts” will have similar impact on any likely terrorist vessel.
HITRON air crews include two gunners who can fire M16 and M14 military rifles, an FN (Fabrique Nationale) M240H 7.62-mm belt-fed machine gun, or either the Robar RC50 laser-sighted or Barrett M107 .50-caliber precision rifle, or others. USCG relies on the latter big-bore weapons, used as long-range sniper rifles by other U.S. and many Allied armed forces, specifically to disable engines in recalcitrant “go-fasts,” leaving them dead in the water. Few marine engine blocks can withstand the impact from a .50-caliber full-metal-jacket round.
After more than twenty years being an integral element of USCG homeland defense and enemy interdiction, the Coast guard is beginning to retire the Robar RC-50.
As a lasting memorial to the rifle, Robar presents the commemorative RC-50 engraved with United States Property USCG (prototype photos to follow).
Military Factory describes the venerable RC-50:
The RC-50 features a precision CNC-machined customized bolt-action system of operation and feeds from a 5-round detachable magazine inserted into the underside of the receiver in the usual way. The gun weighs a hefty-yet-manageable 25lbs and sports an overall length of 36 inches with a barrel measuring some 29 inches long (a 24-inch barrel is also available).
Like others in its field the RC-50 is chambered to fire the massive and powerful .50 BMG which gives it good penetration against light armor and fortified structures. Such weapons are useful in disabling armored vehicles by targeting specific components in their design – sensors, track links, driver positions, etc….
Effective range of the RC-50 system reaches out to 2,000 meters and sighting is primarily through a 16X telescopic scope. The receiver is designed to accept a plethora of after-market scope types to suit mission and operator requirements.
Externally, the RC-50 showcases the design lines of a traditional sniper rifle — its dimensions simply enlarged for the heavy rifle role. A Large slotted muzzle brake is fitted to the business end of the gun and the shoulder stock is adjustable by the firer. A hinged folding bipod is fitted under the forend to support the forward mass of the weapon when shooting.
The magazine feed sits just ahead of the trigger group and the bolt-action handle is within easy reach of the primary hand.
Robar’s RC-50 has been a proud weapon in the defense against enemy incursion into our waterways and coasts for decades.
And now, as the United States Coast Guard begins to retire this powerful rifle, shooting enthusiasts will have the opportunity to own a piece of history.
Stay tuned for the reveal of the Robar RC-50 Commemorative Rifle on or about Veteran’s Day!