The biggest French sniper rifle is intended for specific military purposes. Cut for the work of Hercules at very long distances, it is carefully designed and manufactured on high-precision machines. It is an exceptional weapon created for the most powerful sniper’s ammunition: the 12.7 x 99 or .50 BMG.
PGM Précision describes the Hécate 2 this way: “The PGM Hécate 2 is designed for a specific military use: long-range interdiction and demolition firing, sniping and counter-sniping, harassing shots in the “hunting groups,” demining, both maritime and terrestrial, with special ammunition.”
The French army and some French corps have in the PGM Hécate an excellent tool to do well in their special missions all around the world, to protect and to fulfil its counter terrorism and humanitarian operations.
In service in France since 2000, each company of the French army owns two PGM Hécate 2 (altogether, about 250 rifles): French Marines with the 1st RPIMA (Régiment Parachutiste d’Infanterie de Marine), Commandos Marine, COS (Commandement des Opérations Spéciales), RAID (Police Nationale), BRI (Brigades de Recherche et d’Intervention) and GIGN (Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale). The GIGN has replaced its Barrett M82A1 and its McMillan M87, to adopt the Hécate 2 in 1998.
The Swiss army also chose the PGM Hécate 2 after intense testing. Contracts have also been signed with Luxembourg, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Qatar.
During the Sarajevo events, when snipers shot French soldiers and civilians, the need for a heavy sniper rifle was apparent, to help reduce the existing gap between the 5.56 Famas and the 20mm automatic cannon. Therefore, the designer of the PGM Ultima Ratio rifles, Gilles Payen, engineer and gunsmith, previously under contract with the French Unique company, imagined and designed a large and solid Ultima Ratio rifle, capable of firing a John Moses Browning-designed big cartridge. Thus the Hécate 2 has become the big rifle for French military marksmen.
Unique was created in 1923 and produced, under the name MAPF (Manufacture d’Armes des Pyrénées Françaises), different pistols for police forces, sport shooting, several 50-meter and 300-meter competition rifles, free pistols, and some carbines for recreational shooting. The creation of the Unique TGC carbine provides the base to the general design and conception of the Ultima Ratio, with a fully floated and quickly interchangeable barrel.
The Big Ultima Ratio
Used for big to long-range objectives, the Ultima Ratio is built strong, and manufactured carefully on CNC machines (parts for aeronautics and military materials) in a modern factory near the French Alps and Switzerland. The inventive and ingenious gun maker Gilles Payen developed the Hécate 2 for the needs of the army with a prototype based on the same structure of the Ultima Ratio—a modular, easily transportable weapon. The principles are the same on the Hécate; French snipers carry it disassembled in a backpack with its optics, its collimator and the sound moderator, which reduces the 25 decibels noise, but especially allows hiding of the flame at the muzzle (anti-signing).
Starting from a match weapon—the tried-and-tested T 3000—Unique developed a modular, scalable hunting rifle with interchangeable barrels. The basic principle of the design is a solid and respectable-sized lightweight alloy receiver equipped with a quick disassembling barrel, performed by an action on a single BTR screw—and three screws to stabilize the barrel.
A steel bolt, striated longitudinally, with three lugs at the head, is locked into the barrel extension and provides all the rigidity necessary for proper operation.
Sniper weapons manufactured by PGM (Ultima Ratio, Commando, .338 Lapua Magnum) work in the same way—a floated barrel mounted on an alloy receiver, fixed on a solid beam.
Unlike the Ultima Ratio, the Hécate has a steel receiver with a floated barrel. But its barrel cannot be removed on the field; this remains the domain of the gunsmith.
The Hécate is developed with the same qualities of simplicity, modularity, versatility and reliability—with a high level of quality for manufacturing and raw materials. Therefore, the rifle has quickly become an essential element of the French combat units’ armament.
Manufactured by Teissier Technique
The factory adds: “The overall design of this weapon is broadly based on the construction principles of our Ultima Ratio sniper rifle: High precision and optimum shooting comfort, manual repetition combined with a high-quality gun guarantees unusual accuracy for this type of weapon. Weight and length are reduced to their minimum possible, the stock is removable instantly without tools, which allows easy transport and facilitates cleaning and maintenance operations. No adjustment of the headspace is necessary after the installation of barrel. The weapon may be equipped with a NATO standard snap-mount (STANAG) that allows the use of any optical sighting system, including light intensification systems.”
The international distribution of Hécate 2 was handled for some years by FN Herstal but today—after the takeover by the company Teissier Technique (based in Poisy in Haute-Savoie department, near the Alps), the manufacturer of all the machined parts of rifles—PGM Précision took over all the commercial activity on the behalf of France and the rest of the world.
The vast majority of components are CNC precision-machined on state-of-the-art automatic machines that also work for demanding customers such as Thales, Alcatel, Alstom, Bosch and Staubli. Each element of the rifle (receiver, bolt, housing, breech, trigger, muzzle brake, moderator, bipod, emergency sight, optical rails) is machine-made and checked by hand by PGM technicians and engineers.
Rigorous quality controls are carried out in a special room equipped with machines to check dimensions and low tolerances (up to five microns). Turning, milling, electro-erosion, grinding, anodizing are carried out in Poisy.
An Indestructible Barrel
The central artery of the rifle is a high-strength alloy beam of light, on which is screwed an all steel action. The barrel is stellite-chromed FN made that receives a stellite insert—a very hard steel alloy, which is diamond-milled—on the part of the barrel located after the chamber, as it exists on machine-gun barrels. Its life is extremely long—the DGA (Direction Générale de l’Armement) has tested one to 12,000 rounds. Optionally, PGM can mount a 90-centimeter tube to increase the speed of the bullet by 80 m/s. According to the professionals who conducted the tests, the powder burns better and the projectile takes on more speed (+ 50 m/s) but in return the recoil is more violent.
The barrel is screwed into the steel receiver and locks a ring designated to receive and lockthe bolt head. It can be removed but only in the armory. The scientifically designed muzzle brake reverses gas flows and makes shooting extremely easy without subjecting the shooter to abnormal efforts. The enormous bolt head locks into the ring with three tenons, with a rotation angle of 60 degrees. It is removable in the field, for example to replace the firing pin, thanks to a special notch provided in the polymer stock (or wood butt) to block the bolt. A seven-cartridge magazine that is easy to put in place and remove provides reliable feed. The trigger is adjustable from 1.4 to 2.2 kg.
“The extensive study of the muzzle brake, equipped with a flow inverter, has reduced the recoil of the weapon to that of a standard .300 WM. Finally, its ergonomics allows use by shooters of any morphology. This weapon accepts all 12.7 x 99 (.50 BMG) ammunition. The accuracy is excellent up to 1,800 meters, its effects obviously depending on the class of ammunition used,” explains the engineer François Brion.
The rear monopod is one of the major assets of the Hécate: it allows it to be quickly in action on the ground, and proves to be an indispensable part of the rifle. Fully machined, it deploys on a 90-degree angle and is quickly adjusted in height with a double thread that effortlessly keeps the scope reticle permanently on the target. Cheek support and buttstock are also adjustable.
Versatility and Modularity
The stock can be removed from the center beam by a simple screw. The PGM manufacturing bipod is made of steel and light alloy, it is solid, stable and easy to deploy. On the model tested, we have a military mount with rail and quick lock. Picatinny rails have been installed on request and a 500-mm long rail is available to allow the fixation of all types of optics including night-vision instruments.
A sound moderator for the Hécate provides discretion for military shots. They are manufactured by Teissier Technique and are available for all PGM rifles. The sound suppressor reduces the sound by 25 decibel and allows hiding the flame at the muzzle.
French soldiers carry this modular weapon—with optics, collimator setting and moderator—in a backpack. A complete unit includes a Scrome optic 10 x 40 mm, PGM emergency sight, bipod extension, short bipod, repair kit, cleaning kit and suppressor kit.
This French scope is specially designed for the Hécate 2 with a special military reticle graduated from 500 to 1,800 meters and a built-in bubble level that facilitates focus on the target without losing concentration. It is also possible to shoot below 500 meters by keeping the rafter 500 for aiming and clicking to fit the distance. The settings are per thousandth; each click (per thousandth) represents 1 cm at 100 meters. Its weight is 740 grams. Each optic is delivered with an adjustment collimator. Scrome also manufactures optics for other PGM rifles, one for the .308 (Scrome J8) and another for the .338 Lapua Magnum.
To adjust our rifle and scope, we decide to shoot several rounds at 300 meters using ammunition loaded with SFM primed cases (Société Française de Munitions), 653-grain French Anthena G4 training ball (42.3 grams) and Vihtavuori 24N41 powder. And we used some RUAG Ammotec training ammunition for short-range tests. We obtained, at 300 meters, scores of 59 + 67 mm (H + L) and 52 + 45 mm. We commenced our longer-range tests, 550 and 1,000 meters, in Mailly-le-Camp, 170 km east of Paris, a military shooting range for the tank Leclerc, where we can shoot up to 4,000 meters.
The accuracy obtained with the Anthena G4 training ammunition is less than or equal to 128 mm at 550 meters and 265 mm at 1,000 meters. Anthena claims that Hécate groups the perforating PFF2 groups to 9 inches (22.86 cm) at 1,000 meters and 14 inches (35.56 cm) at 1,500 meters. Other accuracy tests allows us to get a score of 135 x 105 mm with reloaded ammunition at the distance of 1,350 meters, in the private park of Langeac. The primed brass are French SFM, 16 grams of Vihtavuori 24N41 and Lost River bullets.
There are quite a few different .50 bullets on the French market: Lapua, IMI, FN, RUAG Ammotec, Sierra and 750-grain Hornady A-MAX that are considered to be the best for accuracy, from 650 to 750 grains. The .50 BMG presses and dies are easier to find than bullets, primers and brasses. Today, the Swiss company Ruag Ammotec produces .50 BMG bullets and loaded ammunition, using the same process than Anthena, after the purchase of the Anthena bullet patent.
On the Hécate II, the shooting position is excellent and the comfort of the shooter is real—you do not feel anything extraordinary at the shoulder. The muzzle brake is so effective that shooting produces less recoil than with .300 WM. On the other hand, the ammunition produces a powerful shock wave that resonates and shakes the ground. The detonation and vibration generated by the energy of the .50 provide amazing sensations. But the shooter gets used to it very quickly. The 12.7 caliber shooting, especially with Hécate 2, is an exceptional experience that deserves to be attempted.
“The Hécate 2 is designed for punctual treatment of hard-to-reach targets, requiring great accuracy out to 2,000 meters. The speed of implementation and the fluency of transport, coupled with high firepower and shooting comfort, unrelated to the power of ammunition used, designates this weapon to combat groups. It provides an indispensable tool to modern fighters,” says Brion.
The PGM leader François Teissier and engineer Brion have a lot of projects and new concepts in the works and are actively developing new products. To improve and upgrade PGM products, they are listening to the official markets and to the needs of soldiers operating all around the world. Their last rifle, the Ludis, is a single-shot bolt action Ultima Ratio conceived for sport shooters and produced at an affordable price.
PGM Precision Hécate 2
Model: PGM Hécate 2 Polymer
Manufacturer: PGM Precision. BP 29. 74334 Poisy, France
Distributor: PGM Precision
Operation: Bolt action by rotating head (60 degrees) with three lugs.
Locking in a ring placed in the steel case.
Security: Two positions (safe, fire)
Trigger: Adjustable from 1.4 to 2.2kg
Caliber: 12.7x99mm or .50 BMG
Magazine: 7 cartridges
Barrel length: 70cm
Twist rate: 8 grooves on the right. 1 turn in 15-in (38.1cm)
Muzzle brake: PGM with flow inverter
Dimensions (with optics): 138.6×16.6x34cm
Total weight with optics: 17.1kg
Optics used: Scrome LTE J10 F1 10x40mm with built-in spirit level and military reticle graduated from 500 to 1,800m
Materials: Barrel in steel FN stellite-chrome. Receiver and bolt action in steel.
Bipod in steel and alloy. Rear pod in alloy. Center beam and buttstock in 7075 aluminium.
Polymer stock with adjustable pad and height-adjustable cheek. Polymer pistol grip
Finish: Anodizing and anti-reflective matte black phosphating
Accessories and options: Canon 90cm, suppressor kit, straight or inclined Picatinny rail (20 MOA, 30 MOA or 1 degree), long rail kit (500mm top rail + side rail), eyewear rings, repair kit, cleaning kit, carrying case, night-vision telescope, thermal visor, PGM emergency sight, bipod extension, short pod, go and no-go gauges, collective unit.