First Army Unit Gets New Squad Designated Marksman Rifle

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Soldiers fire the U.S. Army’s M110A1 Squad Designated Marksman Rifle at a sniper range on Fort Stewart.
Soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division take aim with the U.S. Army’s new M110A1 Squad Designated Marksman Rifle at a sniper range on Fort Stewart, Georgia on June 5th, 2020. The 1st ABCT was the first unit in the Army to field this rifle. ( U.S. Army)

Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division this month became the first combat troops to receive the Army's new M110A1 Squad Designated Marksman Rifle.

Army weapons officials fielded the new semi-automatic 7.62x51mm SDMR to soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at Fort Stewart, Georgia in early June, according to a service announcement.

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The Army adopted the variant of the Heckler & Koch G28/HK417 as part of an effort to make infantry squads more lethal at longer ranges ahead of the service's planned fielding of the new 6.8mm Next-Generation Squad Weapon system in 2023.

Sergeants from the Raider brigade learned how to disassemble and assemble the new rifles before taking them to the sniper range for zeroing with live rounds.

"We have given them a rifle that is precise and capable of closing the capability gap of 300-600 meters, which means it fills the maximum firing distance gap between the standard issue rifle and the sniper rifle," David Parris, a former infantryman assigned to the team civilian experts from the Army's Tank-automotive and Armament Command out of Detroit, said in the Army's release.

Once the fielding process is complete, these sergeants will act as trainers for squad designated marksmen in their units, according to the release.

The Army began pushing to arm infantry squads with more potent weapons in 2017, when leaders told Congress that the service's M855A1 5.56mm enhanced performance round would not penetrate modern enemy body armor. Ultimately, the Army plans to equip infantrymen with rifle and automatic rifle variants of the NGSW, which is chambered to fire a specially-designed 6.8mm projectile.

As a short-term fix, the Army selected the new M110A1 -- a weapon it originally chose in 2016 as its new Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System -- to serve as the SDMR. It will be used with the service's new 7.62mm enhanced performance round to give squads more penetrating power to defeat enemy body armor, Army officials say.

"This weapon is an upgrade to the whole squad layout, said Sgt. Patrick Nissen, a scout from the 1st ABCT's 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment. "I shoot long range, both in the Army and recreationally, and I really like getting down behind this weapon. ... It is a great rifle, and I really do enjoy it."

During the war years, soldiers used the Enhanced Battle Rifle 14 in Iraq and Afghanistan. A modernized version of the 7.62mm M14, the EBR was equipped with an adjustable aluminum stock with pistol grip, scope and bipod legs and was capable of reaching out to hit enemy fighters at longer ranges.

But it was heavy, weighing just under 15 pounds. The M110A1 SDMR weighs about 11 pounds.

Heckler & Koch Defense Inc. officials announced last year that they planned to deliver up to 6,000 new SDMRs to the Army this year. The rifles are manufactured by H&K in Oberndorf, Germany and then shipped to the H&K-USA facility in Columbus, Georgia, where H&K-USA workers install scopes and mounts purchased by the Army under a separate agreement.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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