Should India Buy Designated Marksman Rifles?
In today’s military context, Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR) is a modern scoped high-precision rifle which acts as a middle-ground between standard assault rifles and long-range sniper rifles. They are considered the best options in combat engagements for around 300-600m. DMRs are supposed to be very versatile systems as in general terms, even with standard rifle rounds, they do have a much better build and certainly pack a lethal punch. Now let’s see where DMRs differ opposed to sniper rifles –
- Team– While for a specific sniping team, it will consist of two members – the spotter and the sniper himself. But a designated marksman will tactically act with his platoon and is tasked with making accurate shots at both close and long ranges.
- Firing system – DMRs are semi-automatic rifles which can act as a medium-range rapid-firing sniper due to its fast rate of fire, and is also effective in close-range shootouts. Unlike the snipers which use .300 Winchester Magnum, .338 Lapua Magnum or 50-BMG, DMRs take the standard issue rifle rounds i.e. NATO 5.56, 7.62 or other equivalent cartridges. Although at longer ranges, where normal Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) rounds may not have impressive results, sometimes high quality/better penetrating ammo are designed for special purposes.
- Range – DMRs are known for their accuracy and are suitable for accurate shots in case of cover fire for ground units. Even the single round shots are very accurate for both short and medium ranges. DMRs are supposed to have good consistency in hitting shots at 300m-600m while better variants can even hit up to 800m-900m, while snipers can hit shots at 1500m; or even more, as history has seen men with those feats.
- Barrel – Modern DMRs have generally considered to have very high-class barrels, which play a part in their consistency, high accuracy and precision. The high-quality machined barrels improves range and reduces bullet drop while also withstanding high volumes of ammunition testing and muzzle overheating. Some of them also feature cold-hammer forged barrels which are considered one of the best in class in terms of exceptional precision, accuracy and quality. For visual differences, DMRs have longer barrels than standard assault rifles but are Shorter than snipers.
- Trigger Mechanism – Most modern DMRs have a two-stage precision trigger system which provides significantly high stability and accuracy than standard rifles.
India’s DMR Scenario:
The semi-auto Dragunov which has an effective range of 800m is one of the most common rifles of Indian Armed Forces which is extensively used for both DMR and sniper rifles. Even SSS Defence grabbed the deal of upgrading the SVDs with better kits and attachments. But this Soviet-era rifle is just not cut out for today’s combat engagements because however good the upgrades may be, it itself has become an old sniper system and will hopefully be completely phased out in coming years. India has ordered Sako TRG-42 for sniper roles but there have been no such deals in midrange DMR contracts. In the case of the Indian Special Forces, the NATO 7.62x51mm firing, semi-auto SCAR-H, is a multi-purpose assault rifle, which can be also modified for satisfactory DMR missions. But then again, the cost of this system is pretty high as the 2020 SCAR deal for our SFs cost INR 200-300 crores, so equipping various platoons of our massive army with this will cost a very decent fortune. For another instance of our SFs, even the IWI Tavor Tar-21 is used as a makeshift designated marksman for some specific roles. This totally bottlenecks the rifle’s capability as it is just a NATO 5.56×45 mm firing, bullpup assault rifle meant to dominate short-range combat engagements. IWI Tavor family does have a DMR variant called the STAR-21, but it is also not a suitable future contract to consider because the shorter barrels of bullpup don’t pull off the long-range performance that normal AR variants can do, and will fall short in conventional DMR accuracy, precision and will have more bullet drop with lower muzzle velocity. India’s current potential conflicts are all likely to happen in the northern heights of the Himalayas. Indian army is a tough cake to gobble and our soldiers are well-trained in the most extreme environments some other countries don’t even have the biomes to try. So paired up with our top-notch sharpshooters, we do need that all-around package of range, quality, accuracy, precision and modernization to deal that lethal punch. For this reason, it is likely high time to consider some true reliable DMRs which will not only add that firepower to our Armed Forces but will also be a feasible option for sustainability and modernization.
Now, Let’s See The DMRs India Can Potentially Rely Upon:
Knight’s Armament SR-25 – The SR-25 MK11 Mod is a NATO 7.62x51mm, semi-auto designated marksman rifle, manufactured by American firm Knight’s Armament Company. It is a big name because the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) took interest in it due to its high magazine capacity and fast-paced engagements unlike most others in its category and adopted the rifle in May 2000. It works on a gas-operated rotating bolt mechanism and features a 24″ free-floating cold hammer forged barrel, 20 round detachable box magazines, Leupold Mark 4 Mil-dot riflescope and a KAC Rail Accessory System. This rifle also served in the USA-Iraq war and is known for its quality, durability and pinpoint accuracy. Since late 2011, US Marine Corps had started to replace it with the KAC M110, but the SR-25 is used by several other countries including Australia in its all military divisions, South Korea’s Navy Special Warfare Flotilla (UDT/SEALs), Polish Armed Forces, Thai National Army, Turkey’s Gendermarie Command Guard etc.
H&K G28 – The NATO 7.62×51 firing G28 of Germany’s Heckler and Koch is one of the best military-grade designated marksman rifles out there, which boasts an impressive maximum range of 800m with excellent accuracy and precision. This semi-auto rifle features a STANAG 4964 NATO Accessory Rail and the best in class HK’s in-house manufactured cold hammer forged barrel, another reason H&K is known for. The G28 DMR system also comes with the Schmidt & Bender 3-20×50 PM II or Schmidt & Bender 1-8×24 PM II, which are very capable military rifle scopes. This piston-operated piston system rifle has a very unique low-observable camouflage-grade green-brown/tan-desert finish. The G28 is used in the German Bundeswehr (Federal Army) and was also extensively deployed in the long-drawn War in Afghanistan. It was also chosen for the United States Army’s Compact Semi-Auto Sniper System (CSASS) in 2016, which will be a modified and lighter version of the original G28, and has been named M110A1. Apart from these, all divisions of Portugal’s National Military, Uruguay Special Forces etc. use this battle-proven rifle.
L129A1 – Manufactured by the US company, Lewis Machine and Tool, the L129A1 Sharpshooter is a similarly capable 7.62x51mm NATO platform which is currently in use by the United Kingdom Armed Forces and the New Zealand Army, and an alongside civilian version for the US Markets (LM308MWS). This accurate and reliable DMR has been in operational military use since the British Ministry of Defence sealed the deal in 2009 for this rifle as an intermediate rifle between their standard-issue assault rifles and the Accuracy International’s L96A1 sniper rifle. The L129A1 Sharpshooter comes with a TA648-308 6×48 Trijicon ACOG, Trijicon RM01 Ruggedized Miniature Reflex, extended Picatinny Rail, a standard M1642 flash suppressor, and a free-floating, 16″ cold-hammer-forged barrel and 20-round detachable box magazines. It can accurately fire shots upto 800m but can be also deployed for ranges even at 1000m. This DMR has also seen its fair share of combat throughout the 2001-2021 War in Afghanistan.
FN SCAR 20S – Designated in the military as the MK20 SSR, this DMR is a very platform for medium-long range engagements and effectively shoot even upto 900m. It is one of the flagship variants of the famous SCAR family, produced by FN Herstal of Belgium. Like the previous contenders, this also features a state-of-the-art free-floating, cold-hammer-forged barrel which is 20″ long. It has an aluminium-polymer, fully adjustable non-foldable stock and a composite polymer trigger module with a two-stage precision trigger mechanism. But unlike the previous names, it has dual controls with ambidextrous charging handle and magazine release buttons. It is capable of holding 10/20 detachable steel-cased box magazines. The robust SCAR MK20 is currently specifically used by the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
P-72 – Moving on to an indigenous entry, SSS Defence has developed its own Designated Marksman Rifle called the P-72 which operates on a short stroke stroke system and is chambered in 7.62x51mm and 7.62x39mm rounds. It features a chrome-lined 18″/20″ barrel and can shoot upto a range of 800m. It features 20/30 round magazines, ambidextrous charging handle, foldable stock with adjustable cheek rest, and an extended Picatinny Rail system. But unlike the other entries on the list, this doesn’t have any actual combat operational history.
Also Read, SSS Defence: New Leader In Indian Private Sector Defence Manufacturing
CARACAL 817 DMR – This is a high-precision, semi-automatic, gas-operated system, designated marksman rifle chambered in 7.62×51 mm rounds, available only in 10/20 round magazines. It is also void of any actual combat experience but the latest deal between UAE’s CARACAL and India’s ICOMM for the complete production of its weapons line along with the full Transfer of Technology (ToT) might play into India’s favour.
Also Read, The Great Indian CARACAL Deal
It is a high time for the India’s Department of Defence to take a decision of DMR contracts, because on paper, Indian Armed Forces have a significant need for Designated Marksman Rifles in terms of modernization, sustainability and making the military divisions/deployed platoons as versatile as it can be. The current rifles of India are just being used as multi-purpose guns, which may bottleneck their original capabilities during certain scenarios while some of them are just not suitable for today’s high-accuracy engagements because of the dated systems. What DMRs will be suitable is totally the call of our soldiers on which gun will perform better in our variety of environment biomes but brands like Heckler & Koch, Knight’s Armament Company etc. certainly have those battle-proven mechanics. While KAC might be a totally new name in our inventory, Heckler & Koch isn’t as Indian troops are acquainted with their quality and controls in form of the MP5 and the PSG-1 sniper. But their drawback is the cost. FN, HK, KAC etc. will cost a heavy fortune if we need to arm the pan-Indian troops with millions of ammunition. SSS Defence and CARACAL are those names which can improve the indigenization of our equipment but considering how important, reliable and versatile a DMR system should be, these names might be a gamble for the future because of their absolute zero combat experience, and we definitely can’t predict how totally new systems can compete against the rifles such as China’s QBU-88 and QBU-191 DMRs. India has always lacked the modernized touch and continues the deliver the punch with our extreme training and dated systems, and in the midst of a growing search for long-term capable sniper rifles and developing indigenous small arms industry, a deadly sustainable DMR deal would certainly be a game-changer.