What Makes a Rifle a DMR? (With 9 Examples)


If you’ve been around firearms long enough, you’ve almost certainly heard fellow shooters mention the acronym “DMR” at some point. Because of that, you may have been left wondering: what is a DMR?

What makes a rifle a DMR is adding a scope, precision triggers, a longer barrel, and a stabilizing bipod to it. The Designated Marksman Rifle offers a higher rate of fire, accuracy, and terminal ballistics made to sit in ranges between those of standard rifles and dedicated sniper rifles.

Read on for insights into the defining characteristics of a DMR, their caliber, whether the law allows civilians to own one, and some of the best designated marksman rifles you can buy.

What Makes a Rifle a DMR?

Now that I’ve given a brief overview of what a DMR (Designated Marksman Rifle) is, let’s explore them in depth.

Some of the distinctive characteristics of a DMR include:

  • Magnified optic: DMRs feature optical sights with magnification levels higher than standard rifles but lower than sniper scopes. DMRs often use variable scopes, allowing the shooter to find targets at lower magnification and engage them with more precision at higher ones.
  • Quality trigger: To make a rifle a DMR, you should fit it with a two-stage, precision trigger, which gives smooth take-ups and crisp breaks. A typical precision trigger should break between 3.5 and 6.0 lbs.
  • Heavy contour barrel: DMRs require the best barrels for high volume and long-range use to avoid the problem of heating up quickly. They often feature heavier barrels to make shots within the required range without a significant drop. As a general principle, a 20-in long barrel is ideal for a DMR.
  • Box magazine: Because of its rapid rate of fire, a box magazine is a common feature in DMRs.
  • Bipod: DMRs may sometimes require support platforms, and that’s where quality swivel bipods come in handy.

Examples of DMRs

Some examples of DMRs include:

  1. ARMALITE AR-10 SUPERSASS
  2. HK417
  3. LWRCI REPR
  4. M14
  5. FN SCAR – H
  6. G28
  7. FN MK20 SSR
  8. M110
  9. LM308MWS

More on these in a bit.

What Caliber Is a DMR?

Despite their distinctive features, DMRs are often chambered in the typical calibers used in standard rifles. This is to allow the marksman to interchange ammunition with other team members.

The most common calibers are the 5.56×45 mm and the 7.62×51 mm NATO cartridges, thanks to their availability to civilians and soldiers.

Pros of the 5.56x45mm Cartridge

  • Compatible with .223 Remington cartridges.
  • Lighter.
  • Higher magazine capacity.
  • More accurate follow-up shots thanks to its lower recoil.

Pros of the 7.62x51mm Cartridge

  • Compatible with .308 Winchester cartridges.
  • Better penetration and stopping power.
  • Extended barrel life and accuracy.
  • Heavier, wind-resistant bullet.

What’s the Difference Between a Marksman Rifle and a Sniper Rifle?

As their names suggest, a DMR means the rifle is designed for use by a designated marksman, while a sniper rifle is built for a sniper.

Based on the distinctive features of DMRs mentioned previously, we can identify several differences between a DMR and a sniper rifle.

This table below describes some of the differences between the two in more detail:

ParameterMarksman RifleSniper Rifle
AccuracyAccurate at a high rate of fireBuilt for single round precision
CaliberUses the same caliber as standard riflesMore powerful calibers
ActionMostly semi-automaticMostly bolt-action
OpticsLow to medium powerMedium to high power
RangeUp to 800 metersBeyond 800 meters

Is It Legal To Own a DMR?

Under the Second Amendment, US citizens and residents enjoy the right to keep and bear arms and the purchase of rifles is legal in most states.

However, you must comply with the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the National Firearms Act of 1934 when buying, selling, or handling a DMR or other gun type.

Some of the mandatory requirements to own a DMR include:

  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • You must not be a fugitive.
  • You must be mentally sound.
  • You must not have been found guilty of unlawful possession of controlled substances in the past year.
  • You must not have a restraining order concerning threatening, stalking, or harassment.

Additional restrictions apply to dishonorably discharged military personnel, illegal migrants, those with felony and misdemeanor sentences, and those temporarily visiting the US on non-immigrant visas, such as tourists.

The 9 Best DMRs

If you’re thinking of getting a designated marksman rifle, here are some of the best options you could buy:

1. ARMALITE AR-10 SUPERSASS

The ArmaLite AR-10 is a magazine-fed, semi-automatic, 7.62 mm NATO rifle. 

Borrowing from the design and features of the M16 and M4, this DMR features a 20-in (50.8-cm), triple-lapped stainless barrel, an adjustable gas system, a National Match trigger, and a free-floating rail system.

It’s also compatible with SR-25 magazines, making it one of reviewers’ favorite designated marksman rifles.

2. HK417

This semi-automatic 7.62 mm NATO DMR features a proprietary gas system. It’s designed to handle up to 15,000 rounds without failure or accuracy degradation. It comes with ambidextrous controls, a retractable buttstock, an optional suppressor, and 10- or 20-round magazines.

3. LWRCI REPR

This semi-automatic, magazine-fed, 7.62 mm NATO rifle comes with a NiCorr-treated, 18-in. (45.72-cm) barrel. It has a non-reciprocating charging handle on the left, a flattop upper receiver with folding iron sights, a contiguous rails system to support various accessories, and a Magpul UBR stock. It also comes with a two-stage Geissele trigger and works with or without a suppressor.

4. M14

Once common in the paddies and cities of Vietnam during the Cold War, the M14 remains one of the best DMRs to date. It features a fixed front post sight with wings for protection, an adjustable rear sight, and a two-stage, 5 – 6.5 lbs. precision trigger.

If you’re looking for a DMR that’s accurate, reliable, and effective, you’ll never go wrong with the M14.

5. FN SCAR – H

The FN SCAR – H is one incredible DMR designed for rapid and accurate fire at different ranges. It’s lightweight and durable, making it one of designated marksman and sniper teams’ favorites.

The FN SCAR – H is an all-around rifle and its controls are similar to those of the AR-15.

6. G28

The G28 deserves a spot on the list of the best DMRs on the market. This variant of the HK417 is the most preferred by the German Army—the 15th most powerful army in the world—according to GlobalFirepower’s 2021 ranking.

This DMR features:

  • Remarkable accuracy of up to 1.5 MOA.
  • Cocking in different positions for maximum safety.
  • A firing pin.
  • A telescopic stock.
  • Starlight and a thermal imager for full night fighting capability.

7. FN MK20 SSR

The MK20 comes with a 20-in, chrome-lined barrel, a monolithic hard coat, and an anodized upper receiver. The DMR also features a side-folding retractable stock with an adjustable cheek pad.

Additional features include:

  • Day and night sniper optics.
  • An ambidextrous charging handle.
  • Pistol grip.
  • A two-stage trigger for smooth operation.

8. M110

This 7.62 mm NATO caliber rifle is highly acclaimed for its remarkable performance. Its unmatched accuracy, ambidextrous controls, and flexible mounting capabilities are some of the features that make it one of soldiers’ and civilians’ favorite DMRs.

At the heart of the M110 is a 20-in. rifled barrel. The durable dark earth-colored coating extends its durability.

9. LM308MWS

The LM308MWS rifle has proven to be accurate, reliable, and effective while engaging targets at close-quarters combat and distances beyond 800 meters.

Its features include:

  • A stainless steel barrel for extended durability.
  • A monolithic rail.
  • An adjustable front post sight.
  • A two-stage trigger.
  • An anodized finish on all metallic parts.

Tip: Regardless of the rifle you choose, shooting sports are more enjoyable if you have the right skills and experience, which you can build up through practice. To improve your skills, I recommend that you read this Navy SEAL Shooting book. It teaches some of the groundbreaking methods developed by one of the most respected firearm instructors, retired Navy Seal, Chris Sajnog

Wrapping Up

In a nutshell, DMRs are designed for designated shooters who bridge the gap between servicemen and aim at targets in close-range and snipers who aim at targets in longer ranges.

Therefore, DMRs feature:

  • Optic sights with magnification levels somewhere between those of standard rifles and sniper rifles.
  • Two-stage precision triggers.
  • Heavy contour barrels.
  • Box magazines.
  • Bipods.

Finally, when buying or using any of the DMRs mentioned in this article, or any other type of gun for that matter, ensure you comply with the relevant Federal and State laws.

Jim James

Hey, I'm Jim and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!

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