The country's soldiers are about to get more killing power with a new weapon which will better the range and accuracy of the rifles used by the enemies they are likely to be fighting.

A 7.62mm marksman's rifle will be issued to each section of eight to 10 soldiers after the New Zealand Defence Force completed a study of 10 of its weapons systems, mostly small arms issued to soldiers.

Three sections make up a platoon and the army said today one soldier in each section would get the new weapon when the army decided what rifle to buy. The rest of the soldiers in the section would continue to be issued with Steyr rifles which fire a 5.56mm standard issue Nato cartridge which was limited in range, said Deputy Chief of Army, Brigadier Dave Gawn.

The new rifle would fire a more powerful cartridge with greater range and accuracy.

Brig Gawn said most hostile forces used the Russian-designed AK47, which fired a similar 7.62mm round.

"In terms of range and hitting power there is a mismatch between the 5.56mm (bullet) which has a maximum range of around 300m versus the 7.62mm which is closer to 600m."

He said giving the soldiers more powerful 5.56mm cartridges would overcome some of that difference but the new weapon would have a range of up to 1000m.

The army would also replace its specialist 7.62mm sniper rifles.

About 3000 of the 13,000 Steyr rifles in the Defence Force armory would be fitted with a new sighting system, which would increase magnification from 1.5 times to four times magnification. They would also be modified to allow thermal sighting systems to be fitted.

The Steyr rifles were likely to last another 10 years before they were replaced, but Brig Gawn said it was too soon to say what calibre rifle would be adopted.