When it comes to the testing of large scale weapon systems such as 155mm artillery pieces and 120mm mortars, U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground boasts a long and storied history.

Proving ground testing offer many benefits to customers, such as specialized data gathering equipment, some of the longest ranges in the western world, a remote location, and deep expertise that began in the early 1950’s. Testing large bore weapons remains an important component of the Yuma Proving Ground’s workload today, with customers from friendly nations around the world.

Though proving ground facilities are optimized for the testing of large scale weapons, smaller weapons such as rifles and machine guns have also undergone frequent testing, though in much smaller numbers. One example occurred in early July when six German Special Forces soldiers visited the proving ground to fire the German army’s G29 sniper rifle in a real world desert environment.

Master Sgt. Andreas Jung, a 24 year German army veteran, explained that the new rifle is replacing one used since 1997 and that it is important to test it in climates outside of central Europe. “We are firing at ranges between 300 and 1100 meters for one week,” he said, “including at night.” The soldiers fired a total of over 500 rounds.

The bolt-action G29 rifle fires a Swiss-made .338 Lapua Magnum round, which will travel extremely long distances. The G29 rifle is much more accurate and precise than rifles carried by typical infantrymen.

Planning for the test at YPG began several months in advance when the Germans requested to test at the proving ground through state department and military channels. According to Training Coordinator David Dupuis of YPG’s Training Exercise Management Office (TEMO), planning went smoothly.

“My role was to be facilitator,” he said. “The Germans had been here a couple years ago to test a machine gun so were well aware of the benefits of YPG testing. Basically, anything and everything they needed came through TEMO.”

Items needed included setting up targets, constructing target housings out of wood, arranging for cameras to monitor each target, and a great deal more. During the actual test, Dupuis functioned as range officer in charge. This meant he ensured supporting elements were on hand each day, provided safety briefs each morning and maintained a close watch on events as they occurred. Weapons and ammunition were secured and locked each night – in a separate arms room and storage containers, as per Army regulation.

“It was an excellent test and I know the Germans liked it because of the realism YPG offered,” he said. “They have the same attitude regarding the value of real world testing as we do.”

Martin Hummel, an exchange engineer from Germany assigned to the YPG-managed Tropic Regions Test Center, provided critical assistance. Fluent in both the German and English languages, and seamlessly able to go back and forth, he was able to interpret as necessary.

“It was fortunate I was here to help,” he said. “I can support the Germans just as they require, plus I find what they’re doing interesting.”

After the Germans completed their YPG testing, they packed up everything and boarded a plane bound for the humid jungle of Central America where they conducted an additional week of firing at Tropic Regions Test Center facilities.

Hummel, who journeyed with them, said it was important to conduct the testing in real world desert and tropic extreme environments because the realism brings out situations and problems that don’t occur in artificial environmental test chambers.

“The combination of factors such as humidity, temperature, ultra-violet radiation, insects, animals, and more can combine to cause a variety of negative situations,” he explained. “In Yuma the rifle was fired in a hot/dry environment, while in Central America we experienced a hot/wet environment. Both proved valuable.”

The most common role of snipers on the battlefield is to accurately fire long distances from concealed positions to take out high value targets. This reduces enemy fighting capability as well as pins down forces and reduces morale.

According to one report, the average soldier using a standard rifle hits a man-sized target ten percent of the time at 300 meters. The typical well-trained military sniper achieves a record of 90 percent first-round hits at 600 meters.