What kind of person doesn’t think the DMR above isn’t cool? It’s certainly cool enough for the United States Marine Corps. That’s for sure.
So let’s chat for a bit about how great the designated marksman rifle is in the realm of Airsoft. Assuming you play at a field that allows them, they can be very useful tools in eliminating your opponents before they are able to get within range to eliminate you or your teammates. That’s, of course, assuming you have a well-tuned rifle and you’re an excellent shooter to begin with. But we’ll get into those issues later. For now, let’s talk about the purpose of a designated marksman in contrast to a sniper.
In the context of airsoft and in actual military tactics, the designated marksman is responsible for engaging targets at generally longer ranges than a basic infantryman and shorter ranges than what a sniper would be tasked with (basically he’s the middle man), all the while supplying accurate shots in rapid succession. Sniper rifles differ in a number of regards, one being they are generally purpose-built, single shot, bolt-action rifles designed for a specific type of engagement (long-range), where as designated marksman rifles are generally designed to be fired on semi-automatic (higher ROF than a sniper rifle), and are usually accurized battle or assault rifles, like the M14 or M16 for example. While snipers operate largely on their own or with a spotter, detached from any form of larger unit, designated marksman (or DMs) are usually integral members of a fire team, squad or platoon consisting of more than just one or two members. If you’re thinking you want to be a “sniper” but you want the capabilities of rapid fire and effectively running with a squad, then you want to be a Squad DM. True snipers are as much intel-gatherers as they are shooters. If not more so. Consequently, if you simply want to shoot tangos from far away instead of staring at them through a magnified optic from a bush without firing a single shot and subsequently informing your teamies on comms of their location, then you should probably opt for the semi-auto DMR over the bolt-action sniper rifle. Just a thought, dog baby. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about the long-range weaponry. But I feel that there is an aura of misconception about the glamour, or lack thereof, involved with being an airsoft sniper. If there was any glamour to be had, I’d say it was to be obtained by the designated marksman and their 7.62mm airsoft sex machines. But maybe I’m wrong.
DM rifles do share similar characteristics of sniper rifles in that they are equipped with a telescopic sight or optic.
A bipod for stability during temporary use of fixed fire positions,
Harris Bipod Photo by LaRue Tactical
As well as often times having an adjustable stock, like the one featured on this G&P Squad Advanced Marksman Rifle
G&P makes the stock to be sold separately as well. Just an FYI for those of you that find that style to be sexy.
Here’s the popular Magpul PRS Adjustable Stock for M4/M16 models
Magpul PRS Stock Image from www.Magpul.com
So let’s talk about the different types of DMRs available in the airsoft world.
First up, if you couldn’t guess, would be the Airsoft M14.
In my quasi-humble opinion, the Airsoft M14 makes for the best platform with which to build your designated marksman rifle. Tokyo Marui, Classic Army, and G&P produce the top three platforms at this point. There are several other brands that make a decent M14, including Cyma, but the safest bet would be to stick with one of those three brands for your DM rifle and that way you won’t have to worry about after-market parts compatibility. The Marui is probably going to be the best choice out of the three.
There are several designations for the M14 DMR as well as several style variations, depending on the branch of U.S. Military that uses it. So I’ll just list them off now.
The United States Army M21
Designated Marksman using an M21
DM Rifle Image from www.ArmyProperty.com
Here’s an airsoft M21 that uses a rail system and custom paint job.
Piano Black’s M21 with Mock Suppressor
Airsoft M21 DMR Photo by Piano Black
United States Marine Corps Designated Marksman Rifle (M14 DMR)
There is talk of the Marine Corps replacing the M14 DMR with the
United States Marine Corps M39 Enhanced Marksman Rifle (M39 EMR)
Here’s another shot of the M39 EMR without the magazine.
This Marine looks like he’s having a good time with his M14 EMR.
United States Navy SEALS M14 Mod 0 Enhanced Battle Rifle (M14 EBR)
For the unobservant, the main aesthetic difference other than color scheme between the EBR and the EMR is the length of outer barrel used. The M14 EBR’s short outer barrel makes it a bit more suitable for CQB applications given the ease of maneuverability over the longer M14 EMR. The U.S. Army also equips its soldiers with EBR when the need calls for it. I believe the SEALS were simply the first to develop the rifle.
Now that we’ve got the M14 variations out of the way, let’s change gears and discuss other types of DM rifles. How about the accurized M16 models? Sure. Why not.
First up is the USMC Squad Advanced Marksman Rifle (SAM-R).
This one made by G&P Laser Products.
This rifle is known for its use by the Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). So those of you that are MEU enthusiasts, you should probably pick one of these up. Pictured below are a few more variations of the M16 SAM-R.
Here’s a Classic Army SAM-R
Custom Painted SAM-R
For you Systema lovers, here’s a SAM-R based off a PTW platform
Airsoft SAM-R Photo by Rainbow 5ive
Here are some Marines of the MEU, one of whom is running a SAM-R.
Another fine USMC SAM-R specimen from G&P, this one sporting the very sexy Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, commonly referred to as the ACOG.
Next, and very similar to the USMC SAM-R is the U.S. Army’s version, designated the Squad Designated Marksman Rifle (SDM-R). As far as I’m concerned, aesthetically, they’re pretty much the same thing. But some have called me an idiot in the past. They might be right. Plus, in terms of Airsoft, they’re the same internally as well, or at least very similar. Here’s some shots of a few SDM-Rs for good measure.
Airsoft SDM-R Photo by Slu
Airsoft SDM-R Photo by Beretta
Airsoft SDM-R Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Time to show some more love to the Navy SEALs and another of their designated marksman rifles, the Mark 12 Mod 0 Special Purpose Rifle (SPR)
Mk12 Mod 0 DMR Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Airsoft Custom Painted Mk12 Mod 0 SPR
Airsoft Custom Mk 12 Mod 0 DMR Photo by Husker
So I’m not a huge fan of the SPR, but I’ve got to give some major props to Jonathon F, who has managed to broaden my horizons.
Here’s his Navy SEAL Mk12 Mod 0 SPR
Airsoft Mk12 Mod 0 DMR Photo by Jonathon F
DMRs from Around the World
Armed Forces of the Phillipines Marine Scout Sniper Rifle (MSSR)
DM Rifle Photo from Wikimedia Commons
How about these beautiful German Frauleins:
The Heckler & Koch HK417
HK417 DMR Photo from www.heckler-koch.de
HK417 DM Rifle Photo from www.heckler-koch.de
HK417 DM Rifle Photo from www.heckler-koch.de
The Heckler & Koch G3SG/1
Airsoft G3SG/1 DM Rifle Photo from www.Pbase.com
The Heckler & Koch PSG-1
Airsoft PSG-1 DM Rifle Photo by Whitedingo
H&K PSG-1 with Rail System & Suppressor
Airsoft PSG-1 DM Rifle Photo by Lon
Let’s take a look at some of the Russian Motherland’s finest rifles, most notably, the Airsoft Dragunov.
Airsoft Dragunov DMR Photo by Trasher
As much as I dislike the style, I need to be fair and mention the Airsoft Steyr Aug. I can personally attest that these rifles can be upgraded to shoot very accurately. Just like every other airsoft DM rifle out there, it takes a good technician to do so, but it’s definitely possible. So if you dig the Aug, there’s some good news for you.
Getting back to the U.S. rifles…in addition to the M14, perhaps one of my all-time favorite DM rifles is the Knight’s Armament Company SR25, specifically the M110 S.A.S.S. (Semi-Automatic Sniper System).
KAC M110 SASS DMR Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Yes, I know it says “Sniper,” but I’m going to go ahead and classify it as a DM Rifle for the purposes of Airsoft. Why? Because it’s my website. There are a number of companies that are now producing M110 replicas, but there are really only two worth buying.
Those two companies would be the Classic Army CA25…
Airsoft DMR Photo from Classic Army.com
and the G&P SR25.
Airsoft DMR Photo from www.GP-web.com/en/
TECHNICAL ASPECTS OF THE AIRSOFT DESIGNATED MARKSMAN RIFLE
When it comes to Airsoft fields and how they classify guns, it all really comes down to the power of the rifle. Basically, how hard does it shoot? The general limit standard for assault rifles at most California fields is 400 FPS with a .20g BB (1.48 Joules). Usually, if allowed at all, anything over 400 FPS and below 550 FPS, is considered to be a designated marksman rifle. In addition, many fields will require the DMR to have a magnified scope and bipod, in addition to shooting being restricted to semi-auto only.
There is something that I need to tell those of you that are inexperienced when it comes to building an Airsoft designated marksman rifle.
It takes a lot of time and patience to tune this type of rifle into an accurate long-range weapon. Simply slapping all the name brand parts into the gun and pulling the trigger will not be enough. You’ll need to test and retest the gun, tuning and tweaking various elements of the rifle. While the type of tuning needed for each DM rifle is as unique as a snowflake or fingerprint, there are several common characteristics of the internal gearbox parts that should be in all AEG rifles in this class. I will list them for you now (this list may not be ENTIRELY complete, but it’ll have just about all the major components specific to DM Rifles).
- Upgraded Spring (120 or higher) -
- High-Torque Gears -
- High-Torque Motor -
- Hard-type hop-up bucking -
- Tightbore Inner Barrel with length proportional to the volume of the cylinder -
- Bore-up Cylinder & Cylinder Head -
- Reinforced Piston & Ported Piston Head -
- Minimum 9.6V NiMH Battery. I recommend 11.1V Li-Poly Batts with a C-Rating (Amperage) for High-Drain applications. High mAH ratings (1800 mAH or more) are nice to have as well, as you will be able to use it longer in game before it needs to be swapped out, if at all. Your physical battery size and thus, mAH rating, will likely be limited by the amount of space your rifle has to store a battery.
There are, of course, a number of other parts you’ll need as well, however those parts are not necessarily specific to high-powered DM rifles. Parts like Spring Guide Rods with bearings or Air Seal Nozzles, for example. For a detailed list and explanation of how to select the right part for your rifle, see the AEG Internal Parts Section of my AEG Page.