SIG 550-1 Sniper: Answering a Question Nobody Asked

Today at the Kessler auction house in Kreuzlingen Switzerland, we are taking a look at a SIG 550-1 Sniper model. This is mechanically a SIG 550, aka Sturmgewehr 90, but made to a very high level of quality control and fitted with a number of elements suitable for a marksman’s rifle. It has a long (25.6 inch / 650mm) and heavy barrel, a thoroughly;y adjustable folding stock, a nice bipod, a Hensoldt scope, and a redesigned match trigger.

The rifle was originally designed at the request of the Swiss police, not the military. It met their requirements quite well, but only got one other significant order (the Jordanian Royal Guard). The problem was that it was chambered for the 5.56 x 45mm cartridge, and was extremely expensive. Most police and security potential purchasers preferred a rifle in a heavier caliber, typically 7.62mm NATO. Well, for the same weight and price as the 550-1 Sniper you could get a rifle like an H&K PSG-1, which offered all the qualities of the SIG but with a larger cartridge.


    • Well, we don’t want to accidentally hit something/someone behind the mad hostage taker, so that may explain the need for 5.56×45 NATO.

      • Exactly. When taking a head shot on a hostage taker, a 70-grain 5.56mm match hollowpoint will do the job, basically detonating inside the perp’s head without exiting.

        By comparison, a 150-grain 7.62mm match hollowpoint will also do the job by making a nasty hole as it expands- and then exit the back of the target’s skull with appreciable retained velocity and energy, even though at this point it will probably be at least traveling base-foremost if not actually tumbling.

        For a military sniper, that’s entirely acceptable, on the grounds that anyone on the far end of his muzzle is a valid target.

        For a police sharpshooter (we never called them “snipers”), that’s strictly out of the question. The saying “It sucks to be a hostage” is applicable, but the job is to minimize civilian casualties.

        The .223 round has proven extremely accurate with proper loads, as at least three generations of varmint and benchrest shooters will attest. They measure groups in fractions of an inch, and anything less than a basically one-hole, three-shot group at 200 meters is defined as unacceptable. The .223 delivers that level of accuracy in varmint and benchrest rifles, which are generally bolt-action single shots.

        For police sharpshooting purposes, the trick is to make a service rifle shoot as much like a varmint or benchrest rifle as possible.

        The SiG 550-1 comes pretty close to doing just that. And if your police tactical team is equipped with SiG 550 .223s to begin with, as the Swiss Federal Police units were, there’s no problem with training on a new and dissimilar rifle.

        For that sort of work, especially in urban areas, a sharpshooter’s rifle like the 550-1 makes perfect sense. For military purposes, it would be questionable.

        Note that the British forces tried the Enfield LSW in 5.56mm as a Designated Marksman’s Rifle (DMR) in Afghanistan after it was obvious that it was a failure as a SAW. The fact that it wasn’t any good at the DMR job just shows that like the L86 IW, the problem was that the entire platform sucked. Note that it was replaced by the L129A1 DMR in 7.62 NATO;

        Which is very much like the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System rifle used by U.S. forces;

        Somehow, I do not think this is a coincidence.



      • Not many, if any, “hostage takers” in Switzerland.

        How could this not fail, lookup swiss average salary, no way this could be not uber expensive (although its basicly a stamped sheetmetal gun, unlike its predecessor).

        • the ttolings for stmped sheetmetal are expensive, but last for large production runs. Same with plastics. They are only cheap with large production numbers. And with the SG550-1 there was only a small number built. Basically a production run of custom guns if you will.

      • The Swiss taxpayer would have been allowed to raise a referendum on the question, which is not the case for most other taxpayers.

        • This and the swiss like good quality tools. Especially when swiss made. So i doubt anyone would have thrown a fit. This was such a small procurement in such small numbers for a handful of police marksmen, that it went without notice. Also there are lots of international organizatiosn in Switzerland like the UN in Geneva or the regular WEF meetings in Davos which need police protection with such rifles.

  1. Very nice and interesting video. Thanks!
    I didn’t found if you already covered standard SIG 550/Stgw90. It would also be very interesting. 😉

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