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Understanding the DMR Rifle | AR-10s and Other Platforms

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For quick and precise target shooting at long ranges, Designated Marksman Rifles, or DMRs, have set a high standard, of which few rifles meet the standard. These rifle variants have become incredibly popular, as their versatility makes them a great choice for various applications and distances.  

What separates a DMR from a standard carbine is that these rifles are purpose-built for long-range precision while retaining much of their close-range capability. As such, they’ve been used in some capacity by enthusiasts for competition, hunting, and recreation alike. 

Today, we’re delving into the rich history of these rifles, as well as some of the most popular options for civilian DMR builds such as the AR-10, M14, and SCAR rifle platforms.  

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History and Evolution of DMR Rifles 

It’s challenging to pinpoint the exact inception of DMRs. Although the U.S. Military has fielded rifles that meet the requirements of a DMR since the early 1960s, they weren’t called ‘Designated Marksman Rifles’ until much later. In 1989, the U.S. Marine Corps started a new program to upgrade left over M14 rifles to fit a newer squad designated marksman role. These rifles would later be implemented in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  

Many of these rifles were upgraded with lighter fiberglass stocks and upgraded barrels. This made M14 much more versatile in a supporting marksman rifle role. Many M14s were updated to be more accurate and to accept proper optic systems, turning them into the DMR. During this time, the upgraded M14 rifles had a mixed reception, and they would eventually be upgraded further. This final iteration would become the now iconic Mk 14 EBR (Enhanced Battle Rifle), which saw widespread use as a DMR. 

Over time, DMRs have evolved to feature more modern comforts and capabilities as the combative landscape changes. New DMR variants would be introduced too, using different rifle platforms like the AR-10. Regardless of the model, current DMRs like the SR-25, Mk 14 EBR, HK417, and the FN SCAR 20 all feature M-LOK or quad rail handguards for mounting lights, IR lasers, bipods, and other accessories. 

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What is a DMR Rifle? 

As we’ve said before, DMRs serve a key role when in use. Essentially, they bridge the gap between standard carbines and dedicated long-range sniper rifles. But what distinguishes a DMR from any other battle rifle? There are few key aspects that make a rifle a DMR, those being the action, caliber, and their barrel length/effective range.  

Action Type 

For a rifle to be considered a DMR, it generally must have a semi-automatic action and have an effective range of 600 to 800 yards. With this design, these rifles are excellent for scenarios with multiple targets over a vast span of distances. 


DMRs are usually chambered in full-power rifle cartridges (with the 5.56 MK12 being one notable exception). Most commonly, they share common battle rifle cartridges like 7.62 NATO/.308 Winchester, but they’ve can also use other calibers such as 6.5 Creedmoor. These cartridges perform exceptionally well when shooting at long distances, but the controllable recoil makes them suitable for close ranges as well.  

While .308 Winchester and 6.5 Creedmoor are similar in size, they differ drastically in how they perform. Our guide on 6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308 Winchester goes in depth on both options, delving into the specifics of each. 

Barrel Length 

Lastly, while not a hard rule, DMRs typically have barrel lengths that fall somewhere between 18 to 22 inches long. These barrel lengths allow for the propellant (gunpowder) in the cartridge to fully ignite, propelling the bullet to peak, or near-peak, muzzle velocity. Velocity is a key factor in making accurate shots over long distances, as the more velocity a bullet has, the faster it will reach its target, reducing the influence of wind and gravity. 

Together, these features and qualities all culminate together into an effective and versatile rifle system. As effective as they are, something to keep in mind is that DMRs aren’t a total replacement for dedicated long-range setups like a long-action precision rifle, which will still outperform DMRs at extreme distances.  

DMR vs. Other Long-Range Rifles 

At their core, DMRs offer versatility in the form of fast target engagement and precision at greater distances. Dedicated long-range rifles, however, are in a league of their own. Designed for ranges beyond what DMRs are capable of, precision bolt-action rifles can use long-action magnum rifle cartridges such as .300 Winchester Magnum to hit targets at a kilometer and beyond.  

Bolt-action rifles excel when pinpoint precision is needed over great distances, but bolt-action mechanisms don’t have a high fire rate, making them less than ideal at short to medium distances. This is where the DMR comes into play, as they’re more versatile in these scenarios. 

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Best Civilian DMR Rifle Platforms 

If you’re thinking that a DMR would be a solid addition to your collection, we couldn’t agree more. That said, there are a lot of DMR platforms to choose from. We’re focusing on some of the most common variants used by enthusiasts, those being the AR-10, M14, and the SCAR Platform.  

AR-10 Models 

Considered the big brother to the AR-15, AR-10 rifles have many of the same controls, features, and offer the same degree of customization. The major difference between the two is that AR-10 is larger, as it’s built for full-size rifle calibers like 7.62 NATO and 6.5 Creedmoor.  

And give its similarity to the AR-15, it should be no surprise that the AR-10 is one of the most common platforms for DMRs worldwide. In many ways, they have all the same benefits as an AR-15: great accuracy potential, a reliable design, lightweight ergonomics, and a tremendous aftermarket with support from hundreds of reputable manufacturers. 

That said, here are a few of the top brands for today’s DMR-style rifles:  

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Daniel Defense: Daniel Defense is one of the premier manufacturers of AR-10 style rifles. The Daniel Defense DD5 is their take on the AR-10, available in multiple configurations. Depending on the model you look at, they can come with either 16-, 18-, and 20-inch barrels, and be chambered in 7.62 NATO or 6.5 Creedmoor. DMRs tend to have a barrel length between 18 and 22 inches long, so the DD5 V4 and V5 are some of the best candidates for a DMR setup.  

Daniel Defense is renowned for their use of high-quality parts and components, such as their lightweight receiver and handguard designs, as well as their use of cold hammer forged barrels in each of their rifle variants. No matter which rifles you choose, you can be confident they’ll give you the precision and performance needed in a DMR.  

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Seekins Precision: Another high-quality AR-10 manufacturer is Seekins Precision. Like other manufacturers, their rifles are available in different barrel lengths ranging from 18-inch to 22-inch models. These rifles are available in both 7.62 NATO and 6.5 Creedmoor.  

Most SP10 rifles come from the factory in a PRS (Precision Rifle Series) configuration. This means that they are already outfitted with upgraded parts and components such as Timney single-stage triggers, Magpul PRS stocks, and adjustable gas blocks—a definite bonus if you want match-grade performance out of the box. 

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LaRue Tactical: LaRue Tactical has become a well-renowned leader in the firearms industry for their innovative firearms and specialized components. Amidst their rifle lineup, LaRue AR-10 models, known as the PredatOBR 7.62 and 6.5, have become immensely popular options for enthusiast DMR setups.  

Available in both 7.62 NATO and 6.5 Creedmoor, each rifle comes standard with upgraded LaRue furniture, LaRue MBT triggers, full-length quad rail handguards, and a direct impingement gas system with LaRue’s PST™ port-selector. In addition to these features, they also come with two 20-round magazines and three 3-inch rail covers for the handguard. Optionally, they can come with iron sights, and LaRue’s TranQuilo muzzle device.  

Depending on the model you look at, there are some slight differences, mainly in their available barrel lengths. The 7.62 NATO version of the PredatOBR can come with either a 16.1-, 18-, or 20-inch barrel, while the 6.5 Creedmoor model is only available in a 22-inch configuration. Still, regardless of which one you go with, they’re all guaranteed to have sub-MOA accuracy out of the box, making them more than worth considering for your next DMR-style build.  

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SIG Sauer: SIG Sauer needs little introduction. They’re one of the most popular firearm manufacturers in the world, producing many pistols, rifles, and optics. Of the rifles they produce, the SIG 716i TREAD and MCX SPEAR rifles are suitable options for DMR setups.  

The 716i TREAD rifle is more akin to what most consider a traditional AR-10 rifle. It uses a direct impingement gas system, comes standard with a full-length M-LOK handguard, and is compatible with most AR-10 components. Currently, it’s only available in a 16-inch 7.62 NATO configuration, but it’s still viable as a DMR, as most, if not all, of the components are interchangeable.  

Moving to the MCX Spear, it was initially designed as a civilian version of SIG Sauer’s next generation weapon program. While sharing a similar control scheme to the AR-10, it features fully ambidextrous controls, a short-stroke gas piston operating system, and is available with a 16-inch barrel. Currently, the only full-size caliber it’s chambered in is 7.62 NATO, though 6.5 Creedmoor and the new .277 SIG Fury calibers will be available later.  

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M14 Variants 

The M14 is an iconic, historic rifle design. Developed around the legendary design of the M1 Garand, the M14 was chambered in the new (at the time) 7.62 NATO caliber and retained a similar layout to the M1 Garand. As we mentioned before, long after the M14’s retirement as a standard issue rifle, it’s still in use as a DMR to this day in its more modern EBR/EMR configurations. 

Springfield Armory: One of the most popular producers of M14 style rifles, Springfield Armory is well known for their wide array of handguns and rifles, including the M1A. The Springfield M1A is essentially a modern take on the M14 rifle. In its standard configuration, it keeps nearly all the features of the original M14, but Springfield also produces multiple configurations of the M1A rifle, with distinctive features. Most notable are the M1A Loaded, Scout Squad, and Standard Issue Variants.  

The M1A Standard Issue variant keeps the classic look and feel of the M14. It comes standard with a 22-inch barrel, a wood or composite stock, a two-stage trigger, and traditional aperture style sights. The Scout Squad rifle is similar; however, it features a shorter 18-inch barrel and comes standard with a forward scout-style picatinny rail for scout-style optics. It also has an enhanced proprietary muzzle device, but aside from these features, they’re largely similar, using the same stock, trigger, and sight options.  

The M1A Loaded is the most upgraded variant of the M1A. It’s available in either 7.62 NATO or 6.5 Creedmoor, and comes with an upgraded National Match barrel, a wood or upgraded adjustable ergonomic stock, as well as a national match tuned 2-stage trigger.  

Though the M1A loaded is the most premium model, each one mentioned above, the options can be equipped with specialized accessories to make them more fitting of a DMR role. For instance, Troy Industries, Sage International, and VLTOR all produce optic mounts and chassis systems that can turn the M1A into something like the M14 EBR.  

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The SCAR from FN America has become one of the most popular rifles available. A successful modern firearm design, it’s seen in use by various military and Law Enforcement groups around the world. The SCAR-20S is an excellent rifle to use for a DMR setup. Our AR-10 vs. SCAR article does a deep-dive on both platforms in a head-to-head comparison.  

SCAR 20S: The SCAR 20S is a short-stroke gas piston rifle that shares many of the same features as the SCAR-17S, such as the non-reciprocating charging handle (only on NRCH variants) and control scheme. It differs in that it comes with a much longer 20-inch cold hammer forged barrel and it has an upgraded stock with an adjustable comb and length of pull. As such, it’s an incredible candidate for a personal DMR setup. Since this rifle was initially built with long-distance precision in mind, it’s more than capable of making shots beyond 800 yards. 

Which Rifle Reigns Supreme?  

Of all the rifle models and variants listed above, each one is more than capable of being an effective DMR. That said, which is best? Like we said, each one would make for an excellent DMR, but that doesn’t mean that all of them will meet your needs.  

For extensive customization options, the AR-10 stands out as one of the best options for you. The degree of customization that’s available for AR-10 rifle is on par with the AR-15s. Almost every part is replaceable, allowing for the highest degree of personalization out of all the rifles mentioned. Price-wise, the AR-10 is by far the most affordable of the platforms mentioned. Though premium AR-10 rifles can be upwards of $2,500+, they still aren’t as costly as a fully configured SCAR or M14 setup. 

If you’re interested in a traditional rifle design, the M1A is an excellent choice. Calling back to the classic design of the M14, it’s a well-built, accurate rifle that can come from the factory with modern components, or they can be made as such through aftermarket parts and chassis systems.  

Finally, if you’re interested in using something that’s more purpose-built from the factory, the SCAR 20S is an excellent choice. For a DMR role, the SCAR 20, being built for long-range shooting, is a solid option. Its durable gas piston system and cold hammer forged barrel make it a top contender that’s ready for use once paired with an optic.  


Designated Marksman Rifles are incredible purpose-built rifles that would be a fantastic addition to anyone’s personal collection. Suitable for all purposes, ranging from recreation to duty and hunting, these rifles can make shots up to and beyond 600-800 yards.  

A final thought to consider is training. Having a rifle that’s capable of landing precise impacts on targets up to 800 yards away is awesome, but a slick setup and capable riflescope doesn’t overcome a lack of training. Our article on mechanical vs. practical accuracy breaks down the difference between these two concepts.