How Does the Designated Marksman Concept Apply to the Prepared Civilian?

Defense.gov_News_Photo_101101-M-6340O-058_-_U.S._Marine_Corps_Lance_Cpl._Steven_J._Zandstra_provides_security_at_a_checkpoint_in_Sangin_Helmand_province_Afghanistan_on_Nov._1_2010

In practice, the Designated Marksman concept revolves around additional training more so than additional equipment. Sure the different branches have “accurized” versions of DMR style rifles such as the SAM-R, Mark 12 SPR, and the SDM-R, but they all accomplish the same goal: enable an individual soldier with additional marksmanship training to better engage targets at intermediate ranges. So how does this apply to the prepared civilian? Can any rifle function as a DMR? Can a civilian shooter ever take advantage of a long shot? The first part of this series will define the gun. Hint: It’s not that special.

Defining The Gun

Let’s start off with this: anyone with an AR15 which sports a 1/8 or 1/7 twist barrel where the gun is capable of shooting at least 2 MOA has a weapon that can function in the role of a designated marksman. All the sexy shots of DMR rifles are nothing more than eye candy, and anyone with a decent rifle in the safe can set up their weapon to quickly take advantage of the inherent accuracy of the AR15 platform. You would benefit from three things:

  • Free Float System
  • Glass
  • Ammo

In all likelihood, your weapon may already be free-floated. Manufacturers want to increase profit margins through perceived value of accessories such as the rail you have equipped now. I am firm in my belief that you don’t need a free-float rail inside of 300-600 yards depending on your goals and experience.

I have shot to 600 with and without a free-floating barrel, and Shawn makes me look bad when he shoots to 1000 with rack grade Colts. It can be done, but when we set our goal to deliver accurate and consistent fire upon a target at intermediate distances, the advantages of the free float system become apparent.

Glass is an essential and modern tool. Many more people have woken up to the advantages of glass, and the old timers with “irons only” attitudes are fading away. Quality glass unlocks the inherent accuracy of your weapon by giving you better target resolution and precise cross-hair alignment. Don’t skip it. Instead skip the next rifle purchase and equip the weapons you already have with quality optics.

Ammo is the final tool you need. 55 grain isn’t going to cut it. At our intermediate distances, we should feed our weapon quality ammo that matches our BDC. I use 69 grain ammo since it translates well for my TA31F, but if I had to do it over again, I would have gone with a .308 BDC ACOG shooting 77 grain ammunition. Here too, out to 500-600-700 yards one could shoot the lighter stuff, but that would lead to frustration and inconsistency.

M4A1 accuracy vs M16A2

The above chart is from a military power-point presentation discussing the advantages of proper ammunition selection and upgraded optics. As you can see, a typical M4A1 when equipped with glass and better ammunition (in this case 77 grain MK262) greatly reduces group size on target. The M16A2 *as is* is simply outclassed. This picture makes a valid argument against anyone who still wants to rock the irons or who claims they don’t need glass. No, you don’t *need* it, but you would benefit from it!

So wrapping up, we can see that any AR15 in your home with a barrel capable of 2MOA or better will be well suited for a DMR type role when equipped with quality glass, better ammunition, and a free float system. A true testament to the AR15’s design.

With the next post, we will discuss the shooter, and how, when, or if he (or she) will ever have to use such skills as a civilian. – The New Rifleman