This month soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division became the first combat soldiers to receive the new M110A1 Squad Designated Marksman Rifle (SDMR). The semi-automatic 7.62x51mm weapon was fielded to soldiers in the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
The SDMR is a lightweight version of German-based Heckler & Koch’s G28/HK417 sniper rifle, and as The National Interest previously reported, the company was awarded a $44.6 million contract in 2016 to develop a special version with a baffle-less OSS suppressor. It has a 16-inch long barrel and weighs 8.7 pounds with an empty magazine—meeting the U.S. Army’s Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS) program size and weight requirements.
The Army adopted the M110AI as part of an effort to extend the reach of infantry units that are still largely equipped with short-barreled carbines—so this shouldn’t be seen as a true sniper rifle, but rather a marksman weapon. According to the Army, the SDMR is designed to fill the 300-600 meter capability gap between the standard issue rifle and a sniper rifle.
The SDMR will give one in nine infantrymen the ability to not only penetrate existing body armor but also to engage point targets at ranges of up to 600 meters. It will thus enable a squad to be more lethal at longer ranges ahead of the service’s fielding of the new 6.8mm Next-Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW). The Army is currently in the final phase of evaluating the three options for the NGSW.
The H&K M110A1 will replace the Enhanced Battle Rifle 14, a modernized M14 that has been used by infantry squads in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Military.com reported that sergeants from the Raider brigade have already learned how to disassemble and reassemble the new rifles before taking the weapon to the range for zeroing with live rounds. The soldiers were trained on the process by a civilian team from the Tank-automotive and Armament Command (TACOM) out of Detroit.
“The whole intent for this is new equipment training,” said David Parris, a former infantry Soldier, and one of the civilian experts from TACOM. “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.”
The SDMR is equipped with a variable zoom scope and fitted with a bi-pod, adjustable butt stock and upgraded trigger to enhance the weapon system’s precision fire capabilities.
“This weapon is an upgrade to the whole squad layout, and you can even work it in to combined arms warfare.” said Sgt. Patrick Nissen, a scout from the 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1ABCT, 3ID. “I shoot long range, both in the Army and recreationally, and I really like getting down behind this weapon, it is very comfortable, it is a great rifle, and I really do enjoy it.”
H&K will deliver up to 6,000 new SDMRs to the U.S. Army this year. Those rifles are being manufactured by the company in Oberndorf, Germany and then shipped to H&K-USA’s facility in Columbus, Georgia where workers will install the scopes and mounts purchased by the Army in a separate agreement.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.