11 January 2013

FWS Armory: The Battle Rifle and the DMR

In our modern world, there are products that occupy the in-between space of two different products. Such is true of the auto industry, Aston Martin has the recent Virage that is between the DB9 and the DBS, or Porsche offering their iconic and god-like 911 in all manner of levels, or the recent trend of crossover vehicles, like the Land Rover Evoque. In the realm of military firearms, the battle rifle (BR) sits tucked between the assault rifle and the bolt-action rifle, while the designated marksman rifle (DMR) is in the slot between the sniper rifle and assault rifle. In FWS continuing mission to bring the reality of firearms to the world military science fiction, there is the armory blogpost on these two often overlooked military firearms by MSF, the Battle Rifle and the DMR.

What is an Battle Rifle?
More than the current assault rifle/carbine, the battle rifle echoes the original infantry rifles used since the times of Spanish arquebus all the way to the bolt actions rifles. Unlike their cousin, the assault rifle, the battle rifle uses a larger cartridge caliber, and due to this power, are often single-fire weapons.This larger round, like the 7.62x51mm, makes them heavy in construction, long in length, and less ammunition capacity in their magazines than the assault rifle. Historically, it is best to think of the battle rifle has the in-between stage from the old bolt action rifle to the assault rifle.

What is an Designated Marksman Rifle?
At there core, the majority DMR are fancy semi-automatic battle rifles that fulfill a gap between the regular infantry assault rifle and the out-and-out sniper rifle, engaging targets in the 400 meter to 1,000 meter range. Some DMRs are constructed around assault rifles and modified to chamber heavier rounds, like the Mk. 12 Special Purpose Rifle being based on the M16. These more full sized weapons often use calibers like the 7.62x51mm that fall ballisticlly between the assault rifle and the sniper rifle, around the 500 to 1,000 meters range. Unlike the sniper rifle, the DMR can be used by most well-trained infantry, allowing for them to be used in a counter-sniper role or for precision fire. Some sources use the term 'tactical support rifle' instead of DMR, especially when applied to 'sniper' variants of an assault rifle that receive little changes, like the DMR variant of the IDF Galil or the Steyr AUG 'sniper' variant, the AUG HBAR-T.

And They're Different From Assault Rifles How...?
Splitting hairs could be the best way of describing how these two weapon class are different than the typically assault rifle. The primary difference between the standard infantry assault rifle is the purpose and caliber. Most BR/DMR are going to caliber larger, more powerful rounds developed for more precision shooting. Rather than unleashing full-automatic fire at a target, the user of the battle rifle is trying to limit the amount spent brass and get the heavier round on target.

The History of the Batte Rifle
When we discuss the development of the battle rifle, than we have to discuss the same weapons that led to the development of the assault rifle. These semi-automatic rifles started with the Mexican Mondragon rifle of 1887, then the 1900 Italian Cei-Rigotti, followed by the Russian First World War Fedorov Avtomat, the American  BAR LMG, the French Ribeyrolle 1918, and the French Chauchat LMG.
When the technology was proven for military magazine-fed, semi-automatic rifles, weapons like the M1 Garand are placed in the hands of fighting men that offered the power of the bolt action cartridge and the functionality of modern technology. These types of weapons could be seen as a intermediate step between the old bolt action rifles and the assault rifles which all occurred between the First and Second World War.
What allowed the battle rifle to survive pass the post-war years even after the Nazis developed the first real military assault rifle (STG44), and the Soviet Union, the largest military at the time, is due to several factors. NATO adopted the 7.62x51mm cartridge for use in all of their member military rifles. As what was seen with firing the FN FAL on full auto testified is that 7.62mm NATO round was to powerful for a weapon more akin to the AK47. Another factor played into this, much of the military was being run by the WWII generation, who seem favor accuracy over volume of fire, and the large cartridge, which may be due to the ineffectiveness of the .30 M1 Carbine round during winter battles during the Korean War.
In 1952, the British abandoned their plans to adopt the .280 round in favor of the 7.62x51mm, in exchange the US would adopt the FN FAL has their new infantry weapon. It was believed at the time, that all member NATO states should use the same rifle, not just the same caliber. When it came time of the US to adopt their battle rifle chambering the 7.62x51mm round, they tested both the M14 (called the T44 at the time) and the FN FAL (called the T48 in the trials). FN of Belgium offered the FAL design for free to WWII-era allied nation without licensing fees as a thank you gift for the liberation of Belgium.
During the cold weather tests, the M14 was modified for the cold, while the FAL was not, causing the Belgium-made rifle to fail, and it is believed that the US military rigged the rifle trials to favor their 'merica-made weapon over the European sourced rifle. The US was alone in NATO when they did not adopt the FN FAL design. What is historically odd, is that US military seem to completely change their minds, when forced by the Kennedy administration, that is, during Vietnam to adopt the smaller 5.56x45mm round. This was directly against their original agreement with NATO, and until really the 1980's, the US was alone in using the 5.56mm. During the next two decades, most of the battle rifles were converted over to DMRs, only the reunited Germany used their G3 battle rifle until the mid-1990's. The fate of the old rifle seemed to be sealed...until combat operations in Afghanistan, Somaila and Iraq demonstrated the lethal effectiveness of the larger, heavy rounds. This led the development of the Mk.14 EBR and 7.62mm firing battle rifles/DMRs within a modular rifle family. In addition, American shooters have re-embraced larger rounds, with AR15s being chambered to fire the 6.8mm, .300, and 6.5mm, and mainly used for hog hunting.
There has also been a rise in popularity of the good old 7.62x51mm round, increased sales of the AR10 and the new CM901 bear that out.
For some of us, our first introduction to the world of battle rifles was the 1980's G.I. Joe figure 'Ripcord', the HALO specialist that carried a full-sized olive colored FN FAL. Today, it is odd to me that Special Operator that made his mark in the GI Joe Team would wield such a massive rifle. This was one of my favorite GI Joe figures back in the day!

The History of the DMR
The history of the designated marksman rifle is more cloudy than the battle rifle, mostly due to its unique battlefield role and confusion with regular sniper rifles. It seems from my research that the first rifle to bear the title of DMR was the 1940's Soviet SVT-40 battle rifle. Out of the more than one million built, less than 50,000 were mounted with a scope, and due to inaccuracy, the bolt action Mosin-Nagant rifle was a better choice.
The 3rd Reich, not to be out done by the USSR, saw the potential of a semi-automatic rifle  and pushed forward with their Gewehr-41/43/K43. After some initial issues, the Gewehr-43/K43 was deployed in the last years of the war, including a DMR variant with a Z-F 4x scope.What is interesting, that the around the same number of K43 and SVT-40 DMRs were built. This variant was used a few years after by a few eastern bloc nations.
 The next big event in the history DMRs came in 1962, when the Soviet Army developed the iconic and well-named Dragunov SVD DMR and was deployed on massive scale. This not only confirmed the usefulness of a mid-range accurized rifle that was not a full-on sniper rifle, but also triggered NATO nations to start thinking on developing their own DMR...and the funny thing was they already one...the Eugene Stoner's AR-10 and the M14. As early as 1960, the AR10, which chambered the heavier 7.62mm NATO round was being deployed, and some were outfitted with scopes, and being used in a similar role.
By the time the Vietnam War was hot and heavy, the conversion from the M14 to the M16 was underway, and it is reported that M14 was being turned into a DMR by marksmen and snipers. The effectiveness of the DMR was proven by users of the M14 DMR variant, especially when we look at Sgt. Ed Eaton and actions during a night raid on some VC in the Mekong Delta. In April of 1969, a small ten-man team including Ed Eaton a marksmen outfitted with the XM-21 and a starlight scope. After the raid, their evac helicopters came under VC fire, and crash landed. During the confusion, and VC attack on the crash site, Eaton used his NVD scope to locate the enemy and direct fire. With the enemy closing in, Eaton used the DMR to kill or scare off the incoming enemy. Another example was the actions of Marine sniper Chuck Mawhinney, who during a night op, killed 16 NVA soldiers with 16 bullets from his M14 fitted with a starlight scope.

While the M14 was performing good deeds in the jungles, there were groups already using the M16 as an DMR. There a few pictures of flat-topped M16s outfitted with scopes being utilized by special units, like the SEALs, LARPs, and MACVSOG. Some sources state that the Marines at Khe Sanh used an M16 DMR. According to other sources, these were the Colt Model 655 and 656, and fitted a heavier barrel, scope attachment for the carrying handle, and various sights, from 3x to 9x. These early Colt special rifles were the earliest forerunners to the Mk.12 SPR of today.

During the 1970's and 1980's, the role of the DMR was expanded with the increased threat of terrorism. After the 1972 Olympic terrorist attack, special police units and elite counter-terrorism military forces began employing the sniper rifle in urban situations  along with the DMRs. The primary favorite of these units was the H&K G3, and later led to the development of the PSG-1.During a black ops mission in the late 1980's, US military used a FLIR-equipped OH-58 helicopters to 'interdict' Iranian minelayers and gunboats during strictly night operations under Project Ernest Will. Stripped to the outside of the helicopter, was SEAL Master Chief Jim Kauber and his M16 DMR matted to a Litton M-845 NVD. This was not only an important operation in of itself, but also to pioneer the use of night vision and FLIR in aviator special operations.
Between 1992-1993, the US was involved in operations in war-torn Somalia, and in an echo of things to come, elite special forces units, like DELTA and SEALs were involved. One important element was securing their base of operations, and SEAL operators were often photographed using the M82 Barrett and a DMR variant of the M16 or even the CAR-15. It is also well documented that the DELTA and ST6 operators were used has helicopter sniper support, and from the evidence, armed with the M21 DMR and a custom M16 DMR. Technology was also catching up with lower cost, more compact optics, like the Aimpoint 3000.
However, most of these DMR were still hanging on the fringe of the military, and not has widely accepted a tool of warfare until the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Combat conditions were in flux, causing soldiers to be engaged by all manner of soldiers and rebels over various terrain. While there was still a place for the traditional two-man sniper team, on-the-ground units needed a precision fire and counter-sniper weapon, that led to the explosion of DMRs on the battlefield. Also fueling this increase in DMRs is the modular rifle systems, like the AUG, G36, and the cancelled XM8, which all had a DMR variant. For some of us, me included, our introduction to the DMR, especially the buffet of M16-based DMRs was the class 1980's GI Joe figure 'Frostbite' that came with the Snowcat vehicle, who used a classic Vietnam-style M16 with a 30-round magazine and a massive starlight scope. I used to use this gun has a plasma sniper rifle against Terminators in a GI Joe/Terminator mash-up...yeah...it was epic!

The never ending debate between the larger cartridge vs. the smaller cartridge is seemly not over, and some believe that the battle rifle will return to the top spot in military organizations, like King Arthur or something. In a interesting historical note that I came across when reading Andy McNab's books and research why the SAS in COD use the M16/M4, is that SAS units in the Falklands and other operations, used the M16 over the FN FAL. Why? The M16 was less weight, more ammo could be carried, and the the SAS liked the ability for having a 30mm grenade launcher. This trend of SAS/SBS using the M4 has continued throughout today.

The Future of the Battle Rifle and DMR
Given the urbanization of Terra, and the continued prospect of low-intensity warfare, weapons like the DMR are going to be continued to be developed for precision fire and/or counter-sniper, especially if infantry transition to smaller HV ammunition to defeat ballistic armor (Ghost in the Shell anyone?). It is also likely that with the trend for modular rifle systems that the DMR variant could be chamber some sort of special DMR cartridge, like the cut-down .50 Beowulf, or a hot-load 6.8mm, or even the current .338 Lapua. For the time being, the DMR looks like it still has a bright future...I wish I could say the same of battle rifles.
There are few new production battle rifle weapons being rolled out, and most of those are original designed to be DMRs. Some, like the H&K 417, the SCAR 'H', and the Colt CM901 .308 are as close as we are going to get, and this trend may die off with the development of better cartridges, like the 6.8mm, 6.5mm. Simply put, the trend in firearms development and usage by the military/LE/Private Security is for more compact carbine weapons that are at home in cities, the vehicle, and the field equally. That is, of course, unless we encounter seven foot tall blue aliens that with tough armor or skin, that require the heavy hitting power of larger projectile, like HALO's 9.5mm.

Examples of Real-Steel Battle Rifles

The Springfield .30-06 M1 Garand Rifle
According to my research, the M1 Garand rifle was the first widely-adopted semi-auto military rifle and named for it's designer, Canadian John C. Garand. First developed between 1924-1932, adopted in 1936 and completed outfitted the US Army by 1941. Much deserved praise has been leveled on the M1 Garand and how it gave the US the edge in infantry combat, but it was also a trailblazer for the military semi-automatic rifle and the being the first battle rifle. Unlike the bolt-action rifles of the day, a soldier could fire eight rounds with breaking visual contact with their target, and achieve superior fire suppression with the M1 over the bolt-action rifles.
I recently held an current production M1 at a gun show in Fort Worth, and I shocked how heavy and large this weapon when compared to the M16/M4. Being only 5'6, I couldn't imagine running through Europe with this monster. My Grandfather who fought in the Pacific, used an M1 Carbine, and after comparing the two, I can see why!

The FN FAL 7.62x51mm Rifle
This long serving battle rifle is considered the 'right arm of   thefree world' and the western world's counter to the AK-47. Serving with nearly 70 nations, including the former Rhodesia, Great Britain, Israel  Australia and nearly the United States, the FAL can still be seen on the battlefield today.
Developed by FN of Belgium in 1951, and was original designed to fire the 7.92x33mm 'Kurz' cartridge of the STG44. This was changed when NATO decided to adopt a common rifle cartridge  the 7.62x51mm, and made the FN FAL a more powerful weapon than previous  Given the abilities and quality of the FAL, it found a home with the re-arming post-war military organizations. Often, the FN FAL was their military's first assault rifle, but, unlike the American M16, the FAL was nearly uncontrollable on full-automatic, making most single-fire. During the Falkland's War of 1982, the British and Argentina both used the FN FAL (the Brit version was called the SLR), but the Argentina FAL was full-auto, and British troops liked the choice, and dumped their own single-fire for the full-auto. The FN FAL is still being used, especially in the War in Afghanistan, where Pakistan/AQ/Taliban all use it.

The Gewehr 43 7.92x57mm Mauser Battle Rifle
Most people believed that Nazis field either the old bolt action K98k and the first real assault rifle, the STG44. However, the 3rd Reich turned out 400,000 of semi-automatic rifles that fired the full sized Mauser round, the 7.92x57mm: the Gewehr ('long rifle') 1943. Sources pointed to the Soviet SVT-40 being the father of the Gewehr 41/43 and the drive behind the Nazis attempting to upgrade their army with semi-automatic rifles. Shortly after the production of the Gewehr 43 began, the weapon was relabeled the Karabiner 43 (K43). During the end of the war, some of the G-43's were modifed to chamber the STG44 'Kurz' round, the 7.92x33 and the magazines as well.Out of these massive number of battle rifles made, some 50,000 were the semi-automatic sniper variant. I am ashamed to admit this, but, without Call of Duty 2, I may have never learned of this weapon, has it has revived poor attention from mainstream WWII media prior to the video games.

The H&K G3 7.62x51mm Rifle

In the DNA of this iconic long-srving battle rifle is first attempt to develop an assault carbine by the 3rd Reich that was later known as the long-lived STG45(m). After the war, the German engineer involved in the STG45(m) Ludwig Vorgrimler was relocated to France, and he worked on a few post-war military rifles for the French, then moved to Spain and began work on the CETME rifle. This Spanish rifle was retooled to chamber the 7.62x51mm round after NATO adopted it for their standard cartridge. When the West German army selected the CETME rifle for standard rifle in 1959, however, the German government required that weapon be manufactured in German, given the work to Heckler and Koch. From the 1960's through 1997, the H&K G3 served has the infantry rifle of the German Army until replaced by the G36. This has not ended the rein of the battle rifle, it still can be found on battlefields across the global. Oddly, the G3 has been on the both sides of a conflict, both Pakistan and India use the G3, along with the Tilban and AQ fighters. Out of all of the weapons on this list, this is the only one I've fired, and I can tell from my experience that the G3 is a beast of a weapon, in both weight and power.

The SVT-40 7.62x54mm Rifle
The Tokarev self-loading rifle model of 1940, or SVT-40 was the semi-automatic rifle of the Red Army during World War II, and 1.6 million were manufactured, with over 50,000 being the DMR variant. Some sources call this 'the Soviet M1 Garand' of the war. These were good that the German army actually took the SVT-40 for themselves being low on semi-automatic rifles. There were quality issues with weapons, causing them to be phased out in 1942, some of them were converted over to full-auto LMGs, but by 1955, the SVT-40 was completed phased out in favor of the AK-47. This weapon's legacy is the German Gewehr 41/43, the SKS, and FN FAL. I am ashamed to admit this, but, without Call of Duty 2, I may have never learned of this weapon.

The Springfield M-14 7.62x51mm Rifle
When my father was in boot to go to Vietnam, this was the weapon he trained with, and despite it's short service life has the US infantry rifle, it is highly thought of, and continues to be used today as a DMR. Development of this battle rifle came during WWII, when commanders wanted to replace all of the different weapons used by GIs in the field, and replace them with one weapon and one caliber, the hard-hitting 7.62x51mm. The M14 was adopted by the US Armed Forces in 1957, and was more closely related to the M1 Garand in function and forum, being a heavy steel and wood rifle.
When Vietnam started up, the M14 was first to go, and was in service with the US Marines longer than in the Army. Despite it abilities to work in the harsh conditions of Vietnam, and delivery hard-hitting impact of the enemy, the gun was heavy, the ammo was heavy, and humping this weapon in the bad bush wore down our troops. This caused the M14 to be phased out in 1964 for the lighter M16. Those who have used the M14, preferred it over the plagued M16. This stands out has the shortest infantry rifle of the US Military. The M14 has come back from the grave has the Mk.14 Enhanced Battle Rifle (EBR). However, I cannot find any examples were the new Mk.14 EBR is being used as a battle rifle instead of a DMR...maybe on Modern Warfare 3? I know my MW3 Mk.14 is a battle rifle!

The H&K 417 7.62x51mm Rifle
Battle rifles are not always based on the first generation of semi-automatic military rifle, but are still being developed due to the effectiveness of the full-sized 7.62mm cartridge as seen in Afghanistan. Normally, the 417 is used has a DMR, but there have examples were it fulfills the role of the battle rifle. Much like the AR10 and the CM901, the HK417 chambers the 7.62mm NATO round and is fed from a 20 round magazine.

The FN SCAR-H 7.62x51mm Rifle

FN developed their own modular rifle system in 2007, nearly specifically for Special Forces, called the SCAR. The 'L' range of SCAR weapons chambered the 5.56mm round, and the more limited 'H' weapons fired the larger 7.62mm. In 2009, SOCOM cancelled funding for the 'L' weapons, and turned their attention to the 'H' battle rifle (Mk.17) and DMR (Mk.20). from 2011 to the present, photos of the SCAR-H has been seen in the hands of Special Operators in Afghanistan serving has a heavy-hitting rifle.  

Examples of Real-Steel DMRs

The LMT L129A1 7.62x51mm DMR

The British have the offensive tools in their infantry military units to deal with threats for 300 meters and beyond 1,000, that being their L85 bullpup rifle and their L96 sniper rifle. But within 400 to 1,000 range, their was no offensive, and the British army decided to hold trials for a DMR. At first, it was believed that the British, similar to the American M14, would dig out their old FN FALs. However, the weapon that rose to the top during the heat contest was the Lewis Machine & Tool LM308MWS, now known has the L129A1. Issued in A-Stan to trained sharpshooters (one step down from snipers) to engage fire from 400 to 1,000 meters, and is proving to be a excellent weapon. Rumors abound that the British military will be trading their unloved L85s for the H&K416. 

The SEAL Recon (Recce) Rifle 5.56x45mm DMR
The modular nature of the new Colt   M4 platform inspirited the SEALs to develop in-house at NSWC-Crane their own DMR out of a 16inch barreled M4. What was wrong with the Mk.12 SPR M16/M4 based DMR? It seems that SEALs were less than impressed with the result of this weapon, and turned to the Santa Workshop that is NSWC-Crane Division, to turn out this weapon.
The SEAL Recce Rifle is an special, purpose built 16inch Lilja barrel M4 or even M16 with the ability to fire any 5.56x45mm ammo, and attach a number of optics, stocks, bipods, and suppressors onto this DMR. Given the rapid nature of upgrades being cracked out for the M4 platform and the evolving mission of Naval Special Operations, the Recce Rifle is always being upgraded. Hard facts on this M4 variant are hard to come by, and at SEAL public events, the Mk.12 SPR has been seen on the display tables, so it is uncertain if the SEAL Recce Rifle was a temporary solution to an early version of the SR-25/Mk.12/M110 M16-based DMRs. There rumors around the internet that the US Rangers us the Recce Rifle as well and that LaRue Tactical of Texas builds something very close to the Recce Rifle.

The SDM-R 5.56x45mm DMR
To the average semi-aware civilian, any DMR fashioned out of a M16/M4/AR15 is classified as a SR-25 or Mk.12 SPR. However, there are a number of inspirited AR15 DMR platform rifles, and yet another of these weapons is the SDM-R or US Army Squad Designated Marksman Rifle. Originally, the SDM-R was called the Squad Advanced Marksmen and was dreamed up during an USMC urban warfare project called 'Project Metropolis' in 2002. The Army, specifically the 3rd Infantry Division developed the SDM-R to fulfill the role as a DMR/Counter-Sniper Rifle, and the USMC developed the SAM-R for the same purpose. Fort Benning Army Marksmen Unit produces the SDM-R using Armlite lower receivers, some bits and pieces for other makers, including Knight's Armaments, along with a 20inch with an M16A2 flash hider, with a number of optics to fit the shooting conditions, and a bipod. This weapon has been mostly with the 3rd ID, along with a known 18inch barreled variant with the 82nd Airborne.

The Dragunov SVD
In service with the Soviet Union since 1963, and chambering the older 7.62x54R round, the Dragunov SVD has become one the  most common DMRs in the world. This commonality was due to the Warsaw Pact military practice of giving nearly every single infantry unit an SVD marksman. Some make the mistake of believing that the Dragunov are an accuarized variant of the AK47, due to the style similarities.However, there are some design differences to allow the SVD better accuracy than the AKs. One of the odd features of the some of the original Dragunovs is a bayonet lug. Dragunovs enjoy some bit of celebrity more than most DMRs due to its rather cool name, including in 1980's action movies, and appearing a massive number of shooter video game. Most of  us that play Call of Duty online have been drilled by an Dragunov. 

The USMC SAM-R 5.56x45mm DMR
Similar to the SEAL Recce Rifle, the SDM-R, the Mk. 12 SPR, is the USMC Squad Advanced Marksmen Rifle (SAM-R). Conceived during a urban warfare training project called 'Project Metropolis' in 2002 and developed by the USMC Warfighting Labs. It was decided to us the M16 has a base for an DMR to allow for easy-of-use, and for this DMR to be used has a counter-sniper, long-range rifle, and helping mortar with aiming assistance. This 20inch barreled M16A4 is outfitted with a number of different stocks, bipods, scopes to fit the shooter and conditions. Most of the 'true' DMR work is done by the Corps via the M14 EBR.

The FN SCAR-H Mk. 20 Mod 0 SSR 7.62x51mm DMR
The 7.62x51mm variant of the FN SCAR modular rifle system originally was developed for use has a DMR, but was further modified by the SOCOM and reclassified has the Mk.20 Mod 0 'Sniper Support Rifle' (SSR). This was designed for use in a two man sniper team, has the weapon of the spotter. Fitted with a 20inch barrel, rail system, 20 round box magazine, non-fold-able stock, and any number of optical system. This has been seen in use with US Special Operations units in Afghanistan since 2011.

The NSWC-Crane Division Mk.14 7.62x51mm DMR

It is commonly believed that the M14 was broken out of storage after operations in Afghanistan, however, the M14 has been use for a DMR since the 1969, as the M21. One of famous example was the M14 DMR with an Aimpoint 3000 used by DELTA Sniper and recipients of the Medal of Honor Sgt. 1st class Randy Shughart in 1993. It is believed that the path of the M14 becoming a more mainstream DMR began in the early 1990's by the USMC, however, the Mk.14 EBR was developed in 2000 by the request of the SEALs by the Navy's Crane Division. Between 2001 and 2008, three separate types of M14-derived DMRs were in service: the Mk.14 EBR, the M39 DMR, and the the USMC DMR.

The H&K 417 7.62x51mm DMR
Despite being able to be deployed has a battle rifle, the piston-driven H&K 417 is mostly seen in the role of DMR. This is verified by photos coming out of A-stan, where the 417 is in service with European nations (France specifically) and in it's DMR livery.With the rail system, the DMR 417 can be outfitted with all manner of optics, bipods, barrels, and stocks. The real advantage, I've read that the 417 has over something like the Mk.14 DMR, is weight and user familiarity due to the similar to the M16/M4. The 417 is on the edge of being THE DMR for the 21st century.

The Knights Armament SR-25/Crane Division Mk. 12 SPR/M110 SASS DMR
Original, Eugene Stoner envisioned his new age combat rifle has a modular system, where one base weapons could be outfitted for different combat roles, including an DMR. When the US Military M16s started to appear on the battlefield in Vietnam, a few were used in the role of a DMR with little more than a scope, and we pictorial evidence of that. Some sources say that first real attempt to forge an out-and-out DMR from the M16 platform was in late 1989 or 1990 using the 7.62mm AR-10 rifle, which itself had been around since 1955(!). Reports state that early copies of the SR-25 DMR were the US Forces (mostly stated as the SEALs) in Somalia, even before the events of Oct.3rd, 1993. Some say that DELTA Sniper and Medal of Honor recipient MSG. Gary Gordon was not carrying a modified M16 DMR, but actually an early SR-25.
By the time of the war in Afghanistan, there were two M16 platform DMRs (and maybe more) in service with US Special Forces, the 5.56mm 18inch barrel Mk.12 SPR and the 7.62mm 20inch barrel SR-25 (then known has the Mk.11 Mod 0/1). It seem that only the cartridge, barrel length  and a few pieces and pieces seem to separate these very similar M16 DMRs. In 2008, the older bolt action M24 sniper rifle was being phased out for the Knights Armament 7.62mm M110 single-action sniper system. Now, at this time, 2008, in service were the Mk.12 SPR, the Mk.11, and the M110 SASS, along with various other DMRs born from the M16/M4 platform. Confused? Good because so am I! It seems that from the onset of the War in Afghanistan and Iraq, there these three main DMR variants of the M16 rifle that descended from the original 1990's Knights Armament DMR idea, along with other DMRs mentioned above. From what I can gather, the M110 SASS
One of the unique features of the SPR is that it does not fire the standard 5.56x45mm NATO cartridges, due to poor performance for an DMR. Black Hills Ammunition assembles the Mk.262 Mod 0/1/2 for use in the weapon. The original 'mod 0' round was a MatchKing 77-grain hollow point boat tail without a crimping groove. This dependence on a special type of the standard NATO 5.56mm bullet is why the SEALs developed their own M16-based DMR.

Could there be an DEW Battle Rifle and/or DMR?
Given the realities of real-world military directed energy weaponry, specifically lasers, it seems more likely that laser DEW rifles would be more akin to battle rifles than assault rifles. Since shot placement, dwelling time, cooling, and batteries are all factories that future soldiers will have to take into account, this label these types of military DEWs a 'battle directed energy rifle'.
This weapons would favor impact power, accuracy over rapid 'pulsing' ability. One of the closest examples in science fiction to my theory is the  Arasaka HLR-12X and/or the SPARTAN Laser from HALO:3. Slow, accurate shots that emit from larger weapons with highly trained soldiers.

Battle Rifles/DMRs and Science Fiction
Most battle rifles and DMRs make their way into science fiction via mostly blind luck. Often prop masters will base a futuristic weapon on a certain real-steel weapon, given rise to this fictional weapon being labeled an BR or DMR. This lack of these types of real-world military weapons arise from the simple lack of development and/or education in sci-fi military organizations or a lack of understanding on the author/creator. Recently, the field of BR/DMR in sci-fi has expanded due to shooter-type video games, specificlly, HALO. When the online community took off, gamers wanted more types of weapons, Bungie answered with weapons like the DMR and the battle rifle. Players today, include yours truly, can pick and chose a weapon that mets there style of play. I personally love the DMR of HALO: Reach and the battle rifle of HALO:4. 

Examples of BR/DMR in Sci-Fi

The M392/M395 7.62x51mm DMR from the HALO Universe

Bridging the gap between the sniper rifle and the battle rifle, the M392 DMR is a bullpup powerhouse, chambering the 7.62x51mm and has a 3x zoom scope. This weapon was commonly seen prior to 2548 in all branches of the UNSC, when the BR55HB became to replace the DMR. When the battle of Reach occured in 2552, the DMR was only in serve with the UNSC Army. However, by the time of HALO: 4 in 2557, the UNSC had upgraded the older DMR and placed them inventory of the UNSC Infinity. It is possible that the SPARTAN-IV project was the reason for the upgraded DMR, and that they are the only users of the weapon. I personally have a hard-on for the DMR, and use in SPARTAN OPS, and War Games with grim effectiveness.

The STARCOM M-9 RIP Rifle from STARCOM: The US Space Force

This is a long shot, but among the 1980's STARCOM: The US Space Force toys had this magnetic propelled KEW called the M-9 Rapid Impulse Projectile (RIP) Rifle. This man-portable railgun was not pictured in the short-lived animated series, but was available on the figure, mostly the Astro Marines. Given the toy gun, the RIP takes a great deal of power, requiring a power backpack, and could be considered a battle rifle.

 The BR85HB SR 9.5x40mm Battle Rifle from HALO: 4
Given the effectiveness of the tri-burst against alien energy shielding and biology, the UNSC updated the older BR55HB into the BR85HB SR for 2557. Still mounting a 2x scope that is more compact than the older model, allowing for accurate fire, especially with the advanced technology keeping the rifle on-target, even when firing the massive burst. It is unknown if the BR85HB SR is only being deployed to crews of the UNSC Infinity. This battle rifle has been a massive favorite among us HALO: 4 on-line gamers for the accuracy and power.

M590 Battle Rifle from Space: Above and Beyond
Here is a science fiction weapon could be classified has an assault rifle, which is were I original place the USMC 2063 M590 in a previous blogpost, but now, I think it may be a battle rifle. First off, the M590 shots the heavier 7.62x51mm  cartridge, and it is never seen on-screen firing full-auto or even burst-fire. The Marine Corps is also emphasizes marksmanship, and they are more likely ti field a battle rifle than the big army. The case could be made further also be made for the M590 being a battle rifle due to the limited capacity magazine seen through much of the series.

Callahan Full-Bore Auto-Lock 'Vera' from Firefly
One of the more celebrated sci-fi weapons is the Callahan Full-Bore Auto-Lock DM rifle from Firefly. In the few examples of Vera firing, it seems to closer to a DMR in usage.
Okay, let us break down the complex name of this weapon. Callahan is the name of gun-maker and a reference to the Dirty Harry films, 'full-bore' speaks to that this gun can adjust itself to various cartridges, and lastly, 'auto-lock' is an aiming assistants system mentioned a few times in the series. The prop weapon was actually based around Russian Saiga-12 shotgun and originally built for the 2002 Showtime has some sort of a supergun that fired depleted uranium shells.

The BR55HB SR 9.5x40mm Battle Rifle from HALO:2 and HALO:3
The BR55 was already in service weapon when the alien war begins in 2525, and proved its use It seems from some of the canon describes of the BR55 battle rifle, it is the weapon that every member of the UNSC is trained on...could this be the weapon they use in basic? Official sources talk about everyone being able to use the BR55 rifle, and could be referring to the hard recoil of the MA5B assault rifle. One of the key points with the BR55 was that it's powerful round, the 9.5x40mm fired in a burst could knock down an alien foe, even the big bastard elites with one or two bursts, allowing for more accurate fire than the MA5B, especially if the user is panicked. Because HALO is a game first, Bungie made many mistakes with the capacity of the magazines...like the 7.62mm chambering MA5B having 60 rounds, and the original BR55 in HALO:2 having 36 rounds. Another interesting point was that the live-action HALO: 3 Land Fall has the Marines and ODSTs firing their battle rifles on full automatic...which never appears in the games. Odd.  

The SMR .308 Battle Rifle from Black Ops:II
This is the highest damage assault rifle in the Black Ops: II game, and fires an 7.62x51mm round for a bullpup layout and is based on a real-steel firearm, the Russian Saritch 308. Here is a video from Drifter, my favorite youtube COD gun and gear reviewer:

The H&K HK91 DMR from Space: Above and Beyond

During the one of the best episodes of SAAB, 'Who monitors the Birds?', Cooper Hawkes willingly signs up for an assassination mission to off a high-level Chig commander. The two-man sniper team used a 7.62mm Heckler&Koch HK91 (a single-shot only variant of the G3) outfited witha massive NGD scope. This is an interesting choice, especially for a show set in 2063 and about US Marines. As far as I know, the US military has never officially used the HK91 for a DMR, but some how in 2063, the USMC Force Recon does.
I wished that SAAB had developed a DMR variant of the M590 instead of this misfit. I do give credit to the show for using a gun that is used for the same intended purpose. The prop gun was sold off recently, and here is the description:
 A high-powered sniper rifle used by Lt. Cooper Hawkes, played by Rodney Rowland in the episode "Who Monitors the Birds?" of the television series Space Above and Beyond (20th Century Fox Television, 1995-1996). This stunt version of the rifle is molded off a German-made HK 91 rifle and has a large plastic molded sniper scope attached. The rifle is hard plastic with aluminum and rubber detailing. Also added is the attached green nylon web shoulder strap.

The Type-3 Federation Phaser Rifle from the Star Trek Universe
Unlike the more aggressive and battle-ready Type-3a that appeared after the film First Contact, the original Type-3 rifle seems more akin to a battle rifle. It is just an impressive that I have when reviewing the differences between the two phaser rifles. The older, less aggressive Type-3 seems to be used mainly the same purpose and style has the battle rifle, precise hits.  As I said, there is no direct evidence of this, just an impression I had from years of watching Trek.

The Morita Mk.1 'Sniper' Variant from Starship Trooper (1997)
Ugh. That is what I have to say about this oddball DMR from 1997's Starship Troopers. As I've bitched before about this massive pupbull assault rifle, I wouldn't rehash that, but just pick on the 'sniper' variant. There is only one seen in the film, making them similar, in role, to a DMR, there is little change on the surface of this variant from the standard AR, save for the "Dirk Diggler" oversized scope assembly mounted on the carrying handle.
When I mean that is the same base Morita AR, that means right down to the shotgun, fully automatic. During the film, there is only one usage of the rifles has a DMR, when Lt. Rasczak mercy-kills another MI trooper after a flying bug grabs him up. This is only view through the scope, and we can the advanced zooming technology and accuracy. Pvt.Watkins never seems to unitize the DMR function of his weapon. He simply blasts away like the rest of the MI on full auto. For the life of me, this scope systems appears more similar to a old style IR scope from the 1950's than a 27th century DMR. Like I said...ugh.  

The MACO EM-41 DMR from Star Trek: Enterprise
The Earth Government military elite of the 22nd century was the MACOs, and their gear differed a great deal from their Starfleet counterparts. Most of the MACO operators used the EM-41 pulse plasma assault carbine, within the team deployed to the NX-01 Enterprise was a DMR variant. Only seen in one episode, it was set apart from the other EM-41s via a longer barrel that allowed for more powerful EM sabot to be formed around the plasma, and a pop-up scope that protected the optics until needed, allowing the user to use the normal iron sights.

The M-99 Saber DMR from Mass Effect 3
I've yet to play Mass Effect 3, however, the wiki mentioned that the Alliance M-99 Saber was a big hitting semi-auto assault rifle...which to me means actually that the M-99 is a battle rifle. What is interesting, is that Bioware balanced the M-99 out in a similar manner to a real-steel BR, by having impact power countered by the heavy weight.

Sedonian Battle Rifle/DMR from Hunter Prey (2010)
In the rather excellent 2010 B-movie Hunter Prey, an alien warrior team was tasked with tracking down an escaped prisoner on a desert world. These Sedonians were armed with some sort of magazine feed semi-automatic rifle that fires plasma bolts from individual cartridges. that is a cross between the battle rifle and DMR. The prop rifle was based around Nerf N-Strike Longshot CS-6.

The Blastech A295 and A280 Blaster Battle Rifles from Star Wars
I'll admit that I made a mistake when I wrote the Armory blogpost on Assault Rifles...I included the Star Wars Rebel Alliance Blastech A295/A280 rifles, when they should been battle rifles. Why? Unlike the Imperial Stormtroopers with their commando-length blaster carbines who seem to favor volume of fire over accuracy, the Rebel Alliance troopers want power and accuracy to defeat the white body armor of Stormtroopers. Given the portrayal of the weapons onscreen (battle of Holt is the only time the A2954/A280 is fired), they are a single-shot rifle, and given the scopes and impact power, these are battle rifles. The A280 prop was based around the M16/AR15, while the A295 is based on the STG44.

The Covenant Type-51 DMR Carbine from the HALO Universe
Firing 8mm radioactive projectiles, the Type-51 Covenant carbine is a lethal weapon, and can be used for limited range (2x zoom) DMR or even a battle rifle when not in the scope. This is one of those great examples of a DEW BR/DMR.
I now believe after playing HALO:4 that the Type-51 is descented from the Promethean Light Rifle.

The Covenant Type-31 'Needler' DMR Rifle from HALO: Reach
When Bungie designed their final game, they threw in a great deal of new weaponry, and one of the more unique, but under-used is the Covenant Type-31 Needler rifle. This was the alien version of the DMR, and is used by players in the same manner. Much like the Needler pistol, this used the kinetic energy needles couple with an micro-explosion to take down the target. I've never care for this weapon, and never pick it up when playing Reach.

The Z-250 DE Engagement DMR Weapon from HALO: 4
343 Industries fused the UNSC battle rifle and the DMR into a single DEW rifle, the Promethean Z-250 'Engagement' weapon. In HALO: 4, the player can use the Z-250 for both roles. click to use the scope, and it is an DMR with a hard-light bolt. Click out of the scope, and the Z-250 fires a three-bolt burst of the same hard-light, configuring the weapon into a battle rifle.

The Breen Distruptor rifle from DS9
Only briefly seen in a few episodes of DS9, specifically, Indiscretion (4x05), this Breen rifles seem to designed to be a battle rifle than a rapid-fire shorty distruptor like we've seen in so many ST aliens. For it's usage on screen, it is a semi-auto, pulse firing distruptor, and not beam-like directed energy blast. I always liked the design of this weapon, and was not surprised when DS9 recycled it for the Federation TR-116 KEW rifle. FWS will be covering that weapon in the Sniper rifle armory blogpost. 


  1. Interesting post, William- so, it seems that while militaries will continue to issue designated marksmen rifles, the old style battle rifle is going out of fashion?

    In the relatively near future, it does seem likely that our first laser rifles will be bulky, power intensive weapons, probably reliant on separate power packs. They would also needs some serious cooling, and even if the laser is theoretically capable of continuous output, the first models will probably limited to short bursts. Such lasers might first be used for long range accurate fire, so your comparison between early lasers and battle rifles may make some sense.

    I do recall hearing rumors that some company named TRW Systems was developing a portable chemical laser that would be used for sniping operations- however, I have seen nothing other than rumors. The actual chemical lasers designed by TRW Systems seem to be slated for anti-optical use (dazzlers).

    By the way, what is that large white laser rifle shown in the first picture in the "laser battle rifle" paragraph? It looks more like a toy than a film prop, needs a good paint job, I think...

    Going back to the imaginary worlds of SF, I think that the STNG's Type-3 phaser rifle resembles a pistol-grip shotgun more than a "rifle". ;D It is most easily fired from the hip, although the recoilless phaser can be fired even without steadying it much. It is best used as a short-range weapon, as in starship corridors, and even there you will probably miss a lot due to the terrible ergonomics.

    And, as another example of Star Trek over-fancy prop design, imagine hitting the button for your scope to pop out of your pulse rifle only to find out that the scope has jammed because of a speck of dirt that got stuck in the cogs!!

    The Rebel rifles in "A New Hope" were used much like battle rifles. The long ranges and trenches shown in that battle were reminiscent of WW1 trench warfare with early tanks. The AT-AT's head-mounted guns seemed designed for anti-infantry use, similar to the multiple guns carried on early tanks.

  2. Yeah...the type-3 phaser rifle was a stretch. That white plastic laser battle rifle was one of the coolest toys in 1986. In that year, two similar IR gun tagging systems were released, Lazer Tag by Worlds of Wonder and Photon. I had the Lazer Tag system, and one of the coolest pieces of kit was the Starlyte Pro Rifle, released in 1987. To this day, it is one of those toys from my childhood that I want to buy and hang in my writing office.

  3. Not a single weapon from the Borderlands games???

  4. I am going to add Borderlands to the games that I check...it is just so massive a gaming universe...thanks for the suggestion!

  5. More than the current assault rifle/carbine, the battle rifle echoes the original infantry rifles used since the times of Spanish arquebus all the way to the bolt actions rifles.
    GW2 Gold

    Cheap GW2 Gold

  6. Glad to see Aquapunk given some attention - everyone mourns the lack of lunar bases, but no one seems to remember we didn't get our undersea colonies either.

  7. Aside from niche uses by SOF units and the like, I feel that the era of the battle rifle is all but over. I know it might not endear me to all the M1/G3/M14/etc. aficionados out there, but the future of military small arms rests with smaller weapons like the M4 chambering intermediate calibers such as the 5.56x45mm, no matter how much one decries them. And for all they may offer, I really doubt exotic calibers like 6.8 SPC and 6.5 Grendel will be happening.

    1. I don't mean to imply that rifles chambering full-size cartridges don't have a place on the battlefield, because they surely do. But their role as the standard issue infantry arm has since come to an end.

  8. I believe, as you do, that the full-sized cartridge will be coming to an end as well, especially with the advancements in 6mm

  9. Sick post, next time can u do sniper rifles/ amr & snipers in msf, be an interesting idea. & also the reason for the small caliber usage was for the "shoot to wound" policy of conventional warefare. Not that Manny people expected dedicated drugged up radicals that take up bullets like in mw3. So it's unserten on the future battlefields. I do hope for the return of the 7.62 "zombie killer" round. Used scar h in Afghanistan & i wouldn't trade it in if u paid me.

  10. The Sniper Rifle blogpost will be incoming sometime this summer. The SCAR-H is an interesting weapon that was a slow-burn, nice to see it finally getting the respect it so richly deserved.

  11. Wish it was the standard issue rifle instead of the m4/m16a4 or at least the 416 or the Remington acr

  12. The primary reasom for a perceived resurgence in the popularity of 7.62 rifles is the longer-than-expected engagement ranges in Afghanistan. In addition, people who believe that 5.56 cant kill anything larger than a prarie dog have existed since Vietnam, and still cling to their M14s and FALs.
    Yet another factor is the issue of weight, with old-school battle rifles being considerably larger and longer than modern small arms. Even the AR-10 is considerably heavier than its AR-15 deriverative. Then the SCAR H comes along, weighing less than most of its competition (nearly a full pound less than the hyped HK417) and all the while being accurate, ergonomic and reliable. Since then companies like Larue, Windham and DPMS have introduced rifles that are lighter still than the SCAR, using direct-impingement rather than a heavier and more complicated piston. An interesting sidenote is related to the perceived unreliability of the direct-gas impingement operating system made infamous by the M-4 in Afghanistan, that is the reduction in weight from previous generation AR-10 pattern weapons is primarily in the bolt carrier of the weapon, being larger and heavier than necessary to slow the action and supposedly make the gun safer: the modern weapons use a smaller and lighter bolt carrier assembly with a more precisely-tuned gas system which makes the weapon both more reliable and smoother operating.
    I personally have two battle rifles, on opposite ends of the spectrum. The venerable M1 Garand, and the SCAR 17S, the civilian variant of the Mark17/SCAR H. While I love my Garand as both a rifle and an heirloom, my SCAR puts it to shame in pretty much every aspect. Still, my SCAR is neither as light nor fast as its 5.56 caliber equivelent.

    1. Lucky bastard, I've been trying to get the money for a scar 17s to no avail.

    2. I saved up for over a year for mine. It's not perfect, but I still prefer it over pretty much every other 7.62 I've ever handled. I shot it competitively against an M14 the other day, and found the SCAR is not only smaller and lighter, but has less felt recoil and is faster back on target. Haven't done an accuracy comparison yet but both rifles shoot fine enough.
      In summary, totally worth it, highly recommended.

  13. The um, SVT-40 is actually the second weapon in a series, because the first one was unreliable sadly. The SVT-38 really could be better.

    Oh and the FAL was also meant to fire the EM-2 cartage, but of course the whole NATO standardization thing happened.

  14. Quick note, that third image right next to "What is an Designated Marksman Rifle?" isn't a DMR. It's just a standard infantry L85A2 with the new forward rails, vertical foregrip, and an ACOG optic.

    The L85 has always been issued with an optical sight for combat deployments (which is handy because the iron sights are dreadful). The ACOG turned up alongside the ELCAN as a replacement for the ageing SUSAT usually seen on the rifle. British military doctrine has a long standing fixation on accuracy of fire and they opted for an individual weapon long enough and heavy enough you probably could call it a battle rifle rather than an assault rifle.

    That said, L86 LSW with the same 4x optics as the L85, a notably longer barrel, and proper bipod had been standing in as a marksman's rifle prior to the adoption of the L129A1 real higher calibre DMR. Officially it was issued as a light support weapon but did that about as well as you'd expect a for SAW with 30 round mags and no easy way to change the barrel. So it got used for precision shooting beyond the comfortable range of the L85 if there was no better weapon available.

    An aside, the SAS doesn't use the M4 it uses the C8, the longer heavier barrelled Canadian carbine derived from the AR15.

  15. The BR55 is seen firing full auto in Halo: Landfall because the BR-series weapons are all selective fire. All of them are capable of semi-automatic, three-round burst, and full-automatic firing, however, the games limit the player to using the burst mode only. Similarly, both models of DMR possess a full-auto function in addition to the semi-auto mode seen in the games, and the MA5 assault rifles have a semi-auto function also not seen in the games.

    1. Additionally, it is unlikely that the Covenant Carbine is derived from the Light Rifle, as the ammunition used is drastically different. The Light Rifle fires hard light projectiles, while the Covenant Carbine fires radioactive chemical slugs similar to those used by the Fuel Rod Cannon, which leave a distinctive trail of energized gas and deform upon striking the target.