Ever wondered what kind of firepower a Green Beret carries into the fight?

From standard-issue rifles to specialized grenade launchers, this insider’s guide reveals the arsenal of choice for one of the world’s most elite fighting forces.

Get ready for a firsthand look at the weapons that make Special Forces operators so effective in combat.

Assault Rifles/Carbines

M4 Carbine

The M4 rifle is a shortened M16 carbine and is by far the most common weapon in US forces today.

Special Forces troops carry the M4 and utilize the SOPMOD 2 package, which includes the EO Tech 553 holographic reflex site, LA-5 infrared laser, foregrip, the M3X visible bright light (tactical light), and associated accessories.

Also included is the Elcan Spector telescopic sight, which is adjustable from 1 power to 5 power via a throw lever on the side of the optic.

M4 rifle
Soldier firing an M4 rifle. (Image source: DVIDS)

While this is an interesting idea, nearly all Special Forces troops leave these sights in the cardboard boxes to collect dust and simply use the EO Tech 553. We felt that the Elcan was a little bit too much and perhaps over-engineered.

If we had been facing long-range engagements in Afghanistan rather than precision raids in Iraq, we might have felt differently. Along with the EO Tech, the LA-5 is much smaller than the PEQ-2, and together, these are the most valued items in the SOPMOD kit.

FN Scar

The SCAR rifle has been in field testing for I don’t know how many years now. I was told by someone who works in the military’s weapons acquisition program that if the SCAR had a SEAL trident on it, we would have had the rifle ten years ago.

That’s the Army for you, I guess. The SCAR uses what FN calls a gas piston system of operation. I can’t tell how this is any different from the gas tappet system that has been around for over a hundred years.

Setting these complaints aside, the SCAR is a step up from the M4. It is not the revolution that I think some expect it to be, but it is the next step in the evolution of infantry small arms.

FN SCAR-16 rifles
US Naval Special Warfare Task Unit Europe (NSWTU-E) at a small arms range using FN SCAR-16 rifles in Cyprus. (Image source: DVIDS)

I found the rifle to be insanely accurate. I was able to zero the SCAR in the unsupported position (without a rest or sandbags), which I would never have been able to do with an M4.

The included suppressor functioned extremely well, much better than the suppressors we have had for our M4s in the past. On automatic, I could hold my sights on target while easing through an entire magazine with ease.

Impressive, to say the least. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the SCAR is that it is a modular platform that allows the user to switch bolts and barrels to fire different calibers and have various barrel lengths.

This benefits the soldiers and, in my opinion, was a very shrewd decision on the part of Fabrique Nationale. They managed to end the 5.56 vs. 7.62 debate, as the user can now have it his way.

Two main issues persist. First, the placement of the safety selector makes it difficult to manipulate from fire to automatic and back again. Second, the charging handle is difficult to rack due to the overlap of the EO Tech sight off the top rail. I’ve been told that FN is working with EO Tech to correct this issue.


M9 Beretta Pistol

The M9 Beretta pistol is essentially the military version of the civilian 92F. I never cared for the pistol due to the double action trigger and poor placement of the decocking lever.

Another failure of this weapon is that it is chambered for the 9mm round. Most of us would have preferred a .45 caliber handgun. How this pistol is carried may also be unfamiliar to some, so I will explain here:

To load the pistol, the slide is locked to the rear, a loaded magazine is inserted, and the slide is released to chamber the first round.

The decocking lever is then depressed to safely drop the hammer.

Next, the decocking lever is switched back up into the fire position.

Special Forces do not consider the decocking lever to be a safety measure and do not use it as such. The weapon is considered to be safe while on fire with a round in the chamber due to the fact that it has a double-action trigger. At this point, the pistol is safely holstered.

As I mentioned above, I never cared for the double action trigger; it makes sight alignment difficult, with such a long squeeze needed before the hammer drops.

Glock 17

The Glock 17 is a semi-automatic pistol chambered in 9mm. It’s a popular choice among law enforcement and military personnel due to its reliability, durability, and high magazine capacity. The Glock 17 is known for its simple design, easy maintenance, and “Safe Action” trigger system, which enhances safety without sacrificing speed or ease of use. Special Forces operators appreciate its lightweight and compact design, making it ideal for concealed carry and tactical situations.

Glock 17
During a Glock 17 marksmanship exercise. (Image source: DVIDS)

While the Beretta M9 has been a longtime standard issue sidearm, I’ve seen more and more operators transitioning to the Glock 17. Its simplicity and ease of use make it a favorite in high-stress situations. It’s reliable in harsh conditions and the lighter weight is a definite plus on long missions.

Machine Guns

M249 SAW

The M249, or SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon), is somewhat looked down upon Army-wide due to malfunctions.

However, I suspect many of these issues derive from the machine guns getting “shot out” and never being serviced by armorers or refurbished.

For instance, the SAWs we had in Ranger School were a nightmare to keep operational. Still, when properly maintained, the SAW works like a charm and is an important force multiplier in a firefight.

In Special Forces, the SAW is usually left in the Humvee as a contingency weapon, while in Ranger Battalion, each Fire Team has one Private carrying an SAW (now the newer Mk46) even while clearing rooms.

You can only imagine the devastating effect that this machine gun has in close quarters when fired standing up as you would shoot a rifle. Special Forces and Rangers utilize the shortened SAW barrels and collapsible buttstocks, making the weapon much more versatile and adaptable for mounted operations and CQB.


The M240B is generally used by Special Forces teams by being mounted on their humvees to supplement the M2 .50 cal. Usually, the M240B is mounted on swing arms positioned on the sides or the back of GMVs (Ground Mobility Vehicles, Humvees designed for off-road travel) and crewed by riflemen until the convoy reaches the objective.

With the widespread use of armored vehicles, the M240 is more often than not mounted at the rear air-guard hatch. This was the case when we used the Stryker armored vehicle and, later, the MRAP.

Little changed; the M240B continues to be a mainstay in the US arsenal as a superior general-purpose machine gun.

M2 Browning

The M2 .50 cal: Known affectionately as the Ma Deuce. This .50 cal is no stranger to soldiers or military enthusiasts. I had an instructor in the Q-Course who told me that his father fired the M2 in Vietnam, his grandfather in Korea, and he himself was a .50 cal gunner in Afghanistan.

M2 Browning
Soldier operating an M2 Browning 50 cal. (Image source: DVIDS)

I suppose that tells you everything you need to know about this timeless weapon. Not much has changed, except that you might see some strange-looking funnels at the end of the heavy barrels used by the M2. These are flash suppressors that, as Weapons Sergeants, we fitted onto the barrels. At night, they do a fairly good job at reducing muzzle flash.


Mossberg 500

Mossberg 500: A timeless weapon. One thing I would like to clarify so there is no confusion is that we never used the shotgun to clear rooms or otherwise use it as a primary weapon.

The shotgun is carried for ballistic breaches only. It is loaded and carried in a particular manner to ensure safety and ease of use once on the objective.

The weapon is always left on fire, never on safe, as the safety is difficult to manipulate, especially while wearing gloves and under pressure.

The user shucks the shotgun and then pulls the trigger on the empty chamber. Now, the shotgun is loaded, usually with Hatton rounds made specifically for door breaches. Once the shotgun is fully loaded, it is snapped onto the operator’s kit, usually by an elastic bungee cord, and stowed into an aluminum holder on the soldier’s belt or body armor to hold it in place.

On the objective, the shotgunner moves forward to the breach site, slings his rifle, and releases his shotgun.

Shucking the weapon, he loads the first round into the chamber. The muzzle of the shotgun is placed above the locking mechanism of the door and canted at an angle. When fired, the shot blasts through the wooden door jamb. SOP is to fire two shots into the door jamb, then kick the door and step aside for the assaulters to flow through the entrance.

If you want to take a look at more shotguns in the US Military armory, just click here.

Sniper Rifles


The M110 is the newest addition to the sniper’s arsenal and was conceived and developed to meet the sniper’s need for a semi-automatic platform for close-in urban engagements.

I carried the M110’s predecessor, the SR-25, and was very happy with it. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the M110. Issues include the trigger mechanism breaking, resulting in the rifle firing on full auto. Friends of mine in the sniper course also tell me that they have had barrels get shot out extremely fast, with just a few hundred rounds.

This results in rounds flying wildly off target, suddenly dropping off eight Minutes Of Angle (MOA) or more.

I believe that one day, the Army will have a quality, reliable, semi-automatic sniper rifle, but due to the bureaucracy involved, it will probably take another ten years or so to work out all the issues with the M110. For now, I would much rather stick with the tried-and-true bolt-action M24.

Sub-Machine Guns

MP-5 SD3

MP-5 SD3: An outstanding weapon that lives up to the expectations that most people have in a suppressed weapon.

With the integral suppressor, the HK-made sub-machine gun is so quiet that all you really hear is the bolt racking back.

The first time I fired it, I kept performing corrective actions because I thought the gun was malfunctioning when it was actually cycling perfectly.
I had a great time shooting drills with this gun out at the range, but suppressed weapons are usually used in a little less dramatic fashion than most people would expect.

Normally, they are used to shoot dogs in a quiet manner while approaching the objective during a mission to avoid the compromise of a loud gunshot.

That might sound harsh, but these are feral animals. I was on one mission where a soldier got bit in the ass and had to get a series of rabies injections afterward.


M67 Grenade

On most missions, each Special Forces operator carries two M67 grenades.

These grenades now include safety clips that snap into place over the spoon as an added precaution.

According to the Army Safety Center, soldiers are no longer permitted to tape up their grenades, as the safety clip is sufficient.

We discarded the safety clip and taped up our grenades anyway. I’ve seen these grenades used in tight and enclosed spaces such as alleyways in Iraqi cities. The effect this has on enemy insurgents is devastating, to say the least.

M84 Stun Grenade

Over the years, I saw a variety of different flash bangs used in the military.
Some of them were actually recalled due to manufacturing defects that cost a few soldiers their fingers.

But on my final deployment in 2010, we used the M84 flashbang to great effect. I also issued some of these to my Iraqi troops to use during missions. Sometimes, they would come back to us in bewilderment and say they pulled the pin, threw it, and nothing happened.

We would explain that you have to pull BOTH of the TWO pins before throwing the flashbang.

Remember, these grenades don’t work like ordinary fragmentation grenades. Flashbangs usually have a one-second fuse and have to be thrown directly into the room you want them in.

Any attempt to “cook off” a flashbang will result in lost fingers or hands. It was our SOP that once the pins are pulled, you throw the flashbang no matter what, even if not needed. If the situation no longer warrants a flashbang, you just toss it in a closet or out on the street with no attempt made to put the pins back in place.

Thermobaric Grenade

Also known as the vacuum bomb or aerosol bomb, we only had one of these in my team house, and I was dying to use it. Thermo (Heat) + Baric (Pressure) is the basic formula used to destroy bunkers, enemy compounds, spider holes, and the like.

The trick is that the thermobaric device needs to be thrown or shot into the interior of the compound. The rapid increase of heat and pressure is what actually collapses the structure from the inside.

Grenade Launchers

Milkor Mk14 Grenade Launcher

Much to my delight, we received this brand-new weapon halfway through our deployment last year.

Based on the older South African design, the Mk14 was a pleasure to shoot. Basically, it fired like a giant-sized revolver…because that is exactly what it is. The cylinder has to be rotated as it is spring-loaded, then the 40mm grenades can be loaded. The frame of the weapon is then swung shut and locked into place. Just for fun, I once loaded it full of flare rounds and cleared our shoot house.

Mk47 Grenade Launcher

The Mk47 grenade launcher, which replaces the MK19, is in the inventory of most Special Operations units at the moment. Internally, the Mk47 also functions much like a giant revolver, as it has a rotating cylinder inside that ferries the 40mm rounds into position.

One interesting feature that soldiers quickly notice is the rip cord. Instead of a charging handle, the gunner pulls a plastic grip attached to a nylon string that charges the weapon. It’s almost like starting a lawnmower.

The Mk47 includes an elaborate thermal imaging system. It is easy to zero and fire, as the onboard computer quickly and accurately computes trajectories for you and tells you exactly where to fire to hit your target.

In fact, the system is too elaborate to use for mounted operations with cables running everywhere. The grenade launcher can be stripped down when mounted in the turret of a vehicle, otherwise, the full set-up can be used in static defensive positions.


On my last deployment, we were no longer permitted to use the MK19 inside the cities, so these were left to collect dust in my weapons shed until I or my Junior Weapons Sergeant gave them a cleaning every so often.

While fun to shoot, I always found the 40mm rounds to be underpowered, not providing sufficient explosive impact.

Then again, I never had the chance to use the MK19 against dismounted infantry. I did have a friend who was an MK19 gunner in Afghanistan when his convoy was ambushed.

He rotated his turret and let it rip on the enemy positions to devastating effect. One point to remember with the MK19 is that you have to charge it twice, that is to say, rack the charging handles, drop the bolt, and then repeat the procedure once more to seat the first round all the way down onto the bolt face.

Not knowing how to do this properly can result in an accidental discharge, or worse yet, leave you firing on an empty chamber during a firefight!

Foreign Weapons

Additionally, various foreign weapons can be signed out from higher headquarters elements by Special Forces teams for training or deployment. The warehouse at Ft. Bragg contains just about every gun you can imagine and some you can’t.

Whether your team requests an Uzi sub-machine gun, a 106mm recoilless rifle, or a Mauser, you can get it if you request it ahead of time and your team has a legitimate use for it.


These are just a few of the weapons that a Green Beret might carry on a mission. Each weapon is carefully chosen for its specific role and purpose, reflecting the versatility and adaptability required of Special Forces operators.

Remember, these tools are only as effective as the skilled hands that wield them.


This article has been reviewed and updated by the SOFREP News Team.