Designated marksman

Designated marksman
US Marine Corps Designated Marksman, armed with the Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR), derived from an M14 rifle with a telescopic sight.

The designated marksman (DM) is a military marksman role in a U.S. infantry squad. The term sniper was used in Soviet doctrine although the soldiers using the Dragunov were the first to use a specifically designed designated marksman's rifle. Sniper is also used in Russian doctrine. The analogous role in the Israeli army is sharpshooter.

The DM's role is to supply rapid accurate fire on enemy targets at ranges up to 1,000 metres (1,090 yd) with a rifle capable of semi-automatic fire called a designated marksman rifle equipped with a telescopic sight. Like snipers, DMs are trained in quick and precise shooting, but unlike the more specialized "true" sniper, they are also intended to lay down accurate rapid fire.


DM / sniper differences

The DM role differs significantly from that of a specially trained sniper. A sniper is a specialist highly trained in fieldcraft who carries out a range of specific missions independent of others, and more specialized than standard infantry tasks. In contrast, a DM is a soldier who has received some additional marksmanship training. The DM's role is to provide an additional capability to the infantry platoon, which is the ability to engage targets at greater ranges than the other members of the squad or section.

The DM operates as an integral member of the infantry platoon, providing a niche capability contributing to the overall firepower of the platoon in the same way as a grenadier with a rifle-mounted grenade launcher, allowing the team to have a better chance against groups of enemies and armored vehicles; or the machine gunner who employs the squad/section machine gun to lay down suppressing fire for an amount of area denial to the enemy. The DM weapon provides a capability to the infantry platoon in the shape of increased precision at a greater range than that provided by the standard infantry rifle, by virtue of its sighting system and/or larger caliber. By comparison, the sniper role is much more specialized with very comprehensive selection, training and equipment.

Snipers are ordinarily equipped with specialized, purpose-built bolt-action or semi-automatic sniper rifles while DMs are often equipped with accurized battle rifles or assault rifles fitted with optical sights.

Snipers are mainly employed for targets at ranges from 600 metres (660 yd) up to more than 2,000 metres (2,190 yd) using rifles with larger caliber ammunition while DMs are utilized for targets at ranges of up to 600 metres (660 yd) using a rifle chambered with standard-issue rifle ammunition. In addition, snipers often take a fixed strategic position and camouflage themselves (e.g. with a Ghillie suit) while a DM will generally move with his unit and be otherwise equipped in the same way as other members of the infantry platoon.



The designated marksman is intended to fill the gap between the typical infantry rifle and longer-range sniper rifles. The typical service rifle is intended for use at ranges up to 300 meters while sniper rifles are generally used at ranges of 1,000 meters and greater. Designated marksman rifles are designed to fill this gap, typically being employed at ranges of 300–800 meters.

In some cases, the designated marksman rifle is simply an accurized version of the currently-issued assault rifle (in the case of the Mk 12 SPR) while in other cases, the designated marksman rifle is adapted from a formerly issued battle rifle (in the case of the M14 EBR). In some cases, the designated marksman rifle is purpose-built.

Regardless of which of the three categories a designated marksman rifle fits into, it retains semi-automatic firing capability and a magazine capacity of 10-30 rounds depending on the firearm in question.


Designated marksmen will carry whichever service pistol is issued by their nation's armed forces, if they choose to carry a sidearm at all.

Worldwide use

Australian Army

SR-25 in Australian service.

A typical Australian Army fireteam of four soldiers will include a scout employing a F88S Austeyr (5.56 NATO) fitted with an enhanced optic device, usually either an ACOG or ELCAN C79. Additionally, 7.62 mm marksman rifles (SR-25s) are employed by the maneuver support teams in the platoon.[1] However HK417 rifles have been procured by the Army as a substitute for the F88S during operations in Afghanistan and possibly after.[2] The SASR also uses the Mk 14 EBR amongst its four-man infantry sections.[3]

British military

Recently, the role of the L86A2 Light Support Weapon has been in the designated marksman role due to its increased range of up to 1000m while also capable of giving accurate automatic fire, now usually delivered by the Minimi. The Royal Marines and United Kingdom Special Forces also use the HK417 rifle in the designated marksman role.

On the 28th of December, 2009 the UK Ministry of Defence announced the adoption of the L129A1 rifle for use as a semi automatic DM rifle, firing the 7.62mm NATO round, providing accurate fire of up to 900m as an urgent operational requirement in Afghanistan.[4]

Israel Defense Forces (IDF)

SR-25 rifle

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) implemented significant changes to sharpshooting doctrine in the 1990s. Doctrine, training program, and courseware were completely rewritten and snipers were issued the bolt-action M24 SWS instead of the M14 rifle. A major change was the introduction of a new battle profession – the designated marksman (קלע סער, "kala sa'ar" in Hebrew) – intended to improve the accuracy and firepower of an infantry platoon and compromise between the role of a sniper and an assault rifleman. These soldiers were generally called "squad snipers" to describe their role. They are armed with SR-25 rifle and sharpshooter variations of the M16A2E3 and M4 Carbine.

United States Marine Corps

The U.S. Marines uses M14s which are rebuilt at Marine Corps Base Quantico and designated as Designated Marksman Rifles, which are being replaced by M39 Enhanced Marksman Rifle. The Corps also utilizes an adaptation of the M16 assault rifle, the Squad Advanced Marksman Rifle (SAM-R).

United States Army

The 101st ABN (Air Assault) Division recognized the need for a Squad Designated Marksman, when they encountered fires beyond the 300-500m range. The 82nd ABN DIV deployed with designated marksmen, trained on the M-4 using ACOG's with great success out to 600m. The U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division saw limited use of a modified M16 which was accurized in a manner similar to the SAM-R, unofficially designated the AMU Squad Designated Marksman Rifle (SDM-R) This rifle was designed for an up to 1000m engagement.

The U.S. Army DM also uses the predecessor of the M16 rifle, the M14, in certain infantry line units. These are commonly equipped with Leupold optics, a Sage stock and are designated the M-14EBR. The XM2010 is being fielded as an interim solution to Soldiers deploying to Afghanistan.

United States Navy

The United States Navy SEAL Teams employs SDM rifles in roughly the same manner as the Marine Corps and Army, although there is no specific "Designated Marksman" role in a SEAL platoon. Known used weapons include, but are not limited to, the Mk 14 Mod 0 Enhanced Battle Rifle, M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System, MK11/SR-25, the MK12 Mod X, the much elusive "SEAL Recon Rifle" and in some cases even regular M14 Rifles fitted with optical scopes.

Soviet snipers

Although referred to as "snipers", the Soviet Union and its allies have since World War II employed specially-equipped and trained "sharpshooting" soldiers at a section ("squad") level to increase the range of their section to 1,000 meters (1,100 yd). This is commonly accepted as the first example of what came to be known as a designated marksman as opposed to a true sniper.

Since 1963 these soldiers have been equipped with the Dragunov (or "SVD") rifle that shares all the characteristics typical of a designated marksman rifle (Semi-automatic fire, telescopic sight, chambered for standard military rifle cartridge).

See also

Related military roles
  • Soviet sniper, the Soviet equivalent of a Designated Marksman.
  • Sniper, more specialized military marksmen.


External links

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