What is a DMR (or Designated Marksman Rifle) 

two modern soldiers practicing with their 5.56 chambered m14

On the battlefield, infantry units need a mix of weapons and combat tactics to overcome and defeat their enemy. Assault rifles are perfect for up-close action and suppressing fire, while sniper rifles are ideal for long-range precision targeting. But what if you need accuracy and speed when faced with an oncoming enemy assault?

That’s where the designated marksman comes in, equipped with a designated marksman rifle (DMR). This individual has a scoped semi-automatic rifle for those situations where a regular rifle is too ineffective, and a sniper is too slow to respond, integral to any squad or platoon.

In this article, we’ll dive into the mechanics of a designated marksman rifle and how vital it is on the battlefield. Also, these rifles are tons of fun for civilian marksman shooting if you can get your hands on the right scope.

What is a DMR?

A DMR is a scoped semi-automatic assault rifle and is designed to be accurate between 330 and 660 yards. This range is more effective than a traditional assault rifle but shorter than a sniper rifle. 

Essentially, the designated marksman has to be able to identify and clear targets within this range for the benefit of the squad. So, these rifles must be accurate and deadly but also fast and efficient. (1)

What Makes a DMR Rifle Different?

7.62 caliber rifle equipped with a high magnification optic for long range shooting

When talking about what makes a DMR “different,” it depends on which rifle you compare it to. For example, the primary difference between a DMR and an assault rifle is that the DMR has a scope and is semi-automatic without the option of going full auto. Also, the barrel is often a bit longer to ensure better accuracy, up to 660 yards.

When compared to a sniper rifle, the primary difference is that a DMR is not bolt-action and can carry much more ammunition. Plus, the barrel is shorter because it’s not meant to be accurate past 660 yards.

In many cases, a DMR will use standard assault rifle ammunition, making it easier to keep the squad equipped while in the field. Otherwise, soldiers would have to carry multiple ammo types, making it harder to reload and stay fully stocked during a mission.

Characteristics of a DMR

Let’s break down the anatomy of a designated marksman rifle and all the unique characteristics that make it a practical and vital addition to any squad:

Variable Optical Scope – This scope must have a maximum range of about 660 yards with a reticle (sights) to make it easy to pinpoint targets. Having a variable scope allows the shooter to maintain accuracy at different distances. A DMR can also be equipped with a thermal scope for nighttime raids and operations.

Extended Barrel – Assault rifles are designed for up-close action, so they don’t have to be accurate for more than a couple hundred meters. DMRs have longer barrels so that shooters can take precise shots at longer distances. However, this barrel is not as long as the one you’d find on an official sniper rifle.

Semi-Automatic Firing – If you’re unfamiliar with the term, semi-auto means you take a shot every time you pull the trigger. A fully automatic setting means you’ll keep firing as long as the trigger is activated. A bolt-action or single-shot rifle needs to be reloaded after every shot. 

This setting is helpful for a DMR so the shooter can act quickly and take multiple shots in rapid succession. However, these rifles don’t have a fully automatic option.

Large Box Magazine – Most sniper rifles carry around five to 10 bullets, but a DMR can carry up to 30. Again, the purpose is to allow the shooter to accurately take on multiple targets at once while supporting the rest of the squad.

Assault Rifle Ammunition – For the sake of efficiency, many DMRs use standard assault rifle rounds, so soldiers don’t have to carry special bullets. These rounds are still accurate, up to 660 yards, thanks to the scope and longer barrel.

Bipod – Since movement and breathing can affect the accuracy of a shot, many DMRs will have a built-in bipod to steady the rifle when firing.

Examples of DMR Rifles

A high power ar 10 rifle with a 5.56 chamber cartridge
  • Armalite AR-10 SuperSASS Gen II – This rifle was initially designed for military use, but civilians can also purchase it for their own needs. SASS stands for semi-automatic sniper system, and this rifle can be equipped with a suppressor and different scopes to accommodate unique requirements.
  • LWRC International REPR MKII – You can find multiple versions of this DMR, some with bipods and some without. As with the Armalite, this rifle was initially designed for military marksmanship but adapted for civilian use.
  • HK417 A2 – There are three versions of the HK417, each with a different barrel length. The A2 is a better version of a DMR, complete with an equipped scope, front stock, and laser sighting add-on.

What is the Best Caliber for a DMR?

Since DMRs use standard assault rifle ammunition, they’re often most accurate and deadly with NATO rounds. There are two specific measurements: the 5.56 x 45mm or the 7.62 x 51mm. Although both calibers are suitable for a DMR, they’re best used for different situations. 

Here’s a quick comparison of both options:

5.56 Round

This casing is lighter and doesn’t have as much recoil, so a shooter can take multiple shots accurately in succession. This adaptation is useful if a target doesn’t go down after the first shot. 

Also, because this round is a bit thinner and smaller, you can fit more of them into a magazine. Overall, this round is perfect if you’re primarily engaged in a close-up battle and need speed over accuracy.

7.62 Round

As a heavier casing, this bullet isn’t as affected by wind and other environmental factors. The bullet is also a bit longer, making it ideal for penetration and taking down a target with a single shot. Overall, the 7.62 is more accurate and deadly, so it’s favored among DMs.

Who Would Use a Designated Marksman Rifle?

A AR-15 gun seen with various cartridges

That would be the Designated Marksman, an essential person in an infantry unit. This person can provide cover fire and identify targets from greater distances than those using standard assault rifles. The DM is also versatile because they can be accurate at short and long distances as necessary.

When it comes to civilian use, designated marksman rifles are helpful for some hunting situations, but they’re more fun to shoot on the range to practice your precision aiming.

How Accurate Should a Designated Marksman Rifle Be?

A DMR should be accurate up to 660 yards. However, these rifles can also offer “harassing” fire beyond 660 yards, meaning they can be mostly accurate and work for suppression or wounding targets.

If a DMR is highly accurate beyond 660 yards, it’s getting into sniper rifle territory, and the shooter will need additional training and education to maintain that accuracy.

DMR vs. Sniper: What’s the Difference?

DMRSniper
RangeUp to 660 Yards870 to 1600 yards
Rate of FireSemi-AutomaticBolt-Action or Semi-Automatic
OpticsLow to Medium PowerMedium to High-Powered Optics
CaliberSame as Assault RiflesHigh-Caliber Bullets for Long-Range Targeting
AccuracyAccurate With a High-Rate of FireAccurate for Single Shots Only

These days, both a DM and a sniper play vital roles within a larger infantry unit. Additionally, snipers no longer operate as individuals – they’ll be paired with a spotter for better accuracy.

Reconnaissance

Although DMRs can be used for surveying a battlefield, their relatively limited range means they can’t provide much tactical information beyond what other infantry units can see. Snipers, however, can see much further and offer covert details on troop movements or placements, which can then be used for other teams and mechanized divisions.

Combat

Snipers are usually deployed for covert missions to eliminate high-value targets. Once a sniper is discovered, a long-range rifle doesn’t offer much protection against an attack. DMRs, however, work in both close quarters and at a distance, making them more versatile in different types of engagements.

Support

A DM is often deployed with other infantry units, while snipers are usually left alone. Snipers can support mechanized divisions, while a DMR is mainly helpful for infantry mobilization.

Position

Snipers almost always fire from a prone position to avoid disturbing the shot with movements or breathing. DMRs can be fired from the shoulder or prone position if a bipod is attached.

What is the Best DMR Scope Out There?

Now that you know what a DMR is, make sure to check out our article on the best DMR scope options on the market.

FAQs

Is it legal to own a DMR?

Yes, it is legal to own a DMR if the weapon is rated for civilian use. Because these rifles are semi-automatic, they don’t violate federal or state laws. Also, civilians can swap out optical sights as needed for different purposes. For example, you can attach a thermal scope for night hunting.

What does DMR stand for?

DMR stands for Designated Marksman Rifle, and it’s the weapon of choice for a Designated Marksman in an infantry platoon or squad.

References

  1. Army Times, Squad-level sniper rifle to complete fielding by next year, retrieved from https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2022/03/30/squad-level-sniper-rifle-to-complete-fielding-by-next-year/

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