Arash: Iran's Really Big Sniper Rifle That Fires One Massive Bullet

May 15, 2020 Topic: Security Region: Middle East Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: IranIRGCSnipersSniper RifleArashArash RifleMilitary

Arash: Iran's Really Big Sniper Rifle That Fires One Massive Bullet

Too big to handle?


The Arash, as it is known in Farsi, is almost too big to handle.



Large caliber sniper rifles give a shooter the distance needed to put rounds down range and on target—sometimes from really far away. In theory, the Arash could do that—big gun, big bullet. But it’s actually not that simple.

The Arash is massive—based on pictures readily available online, the shoulder-fired rifle looks like it’s around six feet, or nearly two meters long. It has an odd cone-shaped quadruple baffle on the end of the barrel which would help to mitigate the recoil somewhat. And the recoil would be huge.

Big Guns

The Arash is chambered in a 20 millimeter round, likely the 20x102mm, which is quite a large round. Rather than targeting individual soldiers, the 20x102mm is better suited in an anti-material role, against lightly-armored vehicles or against buildings, though rarely by a one-man shooter.

In the United States, the 20x102mm round is used in the M61 Vulcan, a 6-barreled rotary cannon originally developed after the Second World War—but for jet airplanes, not for individual soldiers. It was an upgrade from earlier .50 caliber machine guns that lacked the range and stopping power to effectively engage enemy aircraft during the Second World War. Needless to say, a 20x102mm round’s recoil is beyond manageable.

Bad Ergonomics

The Arash has a pistol grip and an odd-looking buttstock. The rifle actually rests on the shooter’s shoulder, similar to how a rocket-propelled grenade launcher is held. Though the Arash is somewhat similar to a bullpup configuration (the magazine is inserted behind the trigger assembly), it is even further back, actually behind the shooter’s back. Thanks to these unhelpful ergonomics, reloading would probably be somewhat awkward.

The scope is also oddly set up. From the prone position, it would likely be very difficult to get a good view through the scope, since the scope attachment is so high. The Arash may be operated by two-man motorcycle-mounted teams, which would solve the prone shooting problem, though shooting from the back of a motorcycle would likely be challenging.

In keeping with Iran’s quasi-tradition of reverse-engineering foreign weapon tech, the Arash appears to mount a Barrett-derived ballistics computer. This neat gadget attaches directly to the top of a scope and can take into account factors like atmospheric pressure and temperature to better aid shooters in getting shots on target.

This video shows just how powerful the Arash’s recoil is—and how unwieldy the platform seems to be. Like other Iranian weapon platforms, the Arash may be more smoke and mirrors than actual firepower.

Caleb Larson holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. He lives in Berlin and writes on U.S. and Russian foreign and defense policy, German politics, and culture.