What is a Designated Marksman
As in the real military, the role of the designated marksman in airsoft fills the crucial gap between rifleman and sniper at the squad level.
Equipped with a more specialized loadout and a designated marksman rifle (DMR), the designated marksman provides longer range, accurate support fire, improved sight range and target acquisition abilities, all while remaining an organic part of a team.
Typically, in an airsoft game a designated marksman will be given a minimum engagement distance of 75+ feet and possibly be subject to other field limitations, depending on how hard hitting their DMR may be.
What’s so special about an airsoft DMR (Designated Marksman Rifle)?
A designated marksman tends to be equipped with a more specialized airsoft rifle than that of a running and gunning rifleman.
This is known as the Designated Marksman’s Rifle, or DMR and, owing to their more niche role in an airsoft squad, it generally has a few features that make it uniquely suited for the role and fairly distinct from other airsoft rifle loadouts.
Accuracy and Range over RPS
An airsoft DMR, being a marksman’s primary tool, needs to be as accurate as possible.
A marksman’s role isn’t to cackle maniacally as they recklessly fill the air with BBs (that’s the support gunner’s job), but rather to identify targets and place their BBs as precisely as possible, with a minimum of needless shooting and ideally taking out as many targets as possible before their team gets into an engagement range.
Therefore, a proper DMR isn’t just a standard AEG airsoft rifle with a scope thrown on it
DMRs should be capable of hitting targets well over the the 150+ft (45m+) effective range of most standard airsoft rifles, letting their BBs (in theory at least) somewhat reliably hit home at the 200+ foot range or more.
We say in theory because obviously this will usually be limited by maximum allowable distances of the field you play in.
While effective distance may vary (like fishermen airsofters tend to exaggerate their effective distance and accuracy), the overall idea is that a DMR should hit targets reliably where more standard loadouts struggle.
All this means means in addition to cool external mods, a true airsoft DMR need to have well-built internals as well that will give it better accuracy and range such as:
- Tighter bore barrels
- Better quality and properly adjusted hop ups
- Better motor and gear ratios
- And more
Increased Sight Range – Magnified Optics
Probably the most identifiable, and arguably one of the most important parts, of a DMR is their use of magnified optics.
Owing to their role, DMRs need some kind of magnified scope or optic set up to allow their marksmen to properly identify and acquire targets at range, increasing their effectiveness.
Generally speaking, an airsoft DMR should be equipped with a 2-4x magnification scope, such as an ACOG or similar.
While it’s certainly tempting to step onto the field with the largest possible scope out there, anything more than 4x and the scope risks being too powerful for the range that most airsoft marksmen will find themselves.
Over Magnification can make it hard to identify targets properly and even lead to tunnel vision, that is focusing too heavily and too closely on the target to the exclusion of the rest of the field, which can cause them to miss important visual information or threats.
Although not strictly necessary, DMR builds often feature a folding bipod and other features to help keep the rifle stable when in the prone position.
The role of a designated marksman in an airsoft game means players can and will spend a considerable time in the prone position in addition to advancing with the rest of their team.
Although these do add some weight, when extended they can keep the rifle more stable and prevent wobbling.
At the ranges that airsoft requires this isn’t as critical as with a real gun, but they can make aiming easier and faster and the lack of jiggling provides a clearer picture of the field through the optics.
Airsoft DMR Loadout: Some Important Considerations
Unfortunately, an effective airsoft DMR isn’t exactly an easy build.
The role of a designated marksman means that users have to balance accuracy and range in a way that other airsoft loadouts do not.
In fact there are a few things you’re going to want to look for in a DMR, in terms of functionality.
Keep in mind these are broad strokes, and building a DMR is a fairly involved process that we will discuss in a future article.
A solid platform that will take modification
A true DMR is not an out of the box solution.
You will be modifying barrels, gearboxes, hop ups and more and any airsoft rifle you choose should be able to support (or even take) modification fairly easily and without breaking.
If you’re considering an AEG, you’ll want to look for an upgradable gearbox so you can play around with the gear ratio (something like 14:1), there should be roomfor adding a mosfet and ETU so you an use an 11.1V LiPo.
If you’re more into gas, you’ll probably want to look for a gun that can accept an HPA tap, due to its increased consistency over standard cartridges, although keep it mind it can get quite pricey (and bulky).
Some fields and milsims may have certain requirements for what guns can be used by DMRs, as well, so you might have to take that into consideration as well.
Importantly, those interested in DMRs will probably have to go over their gun several times to make sure that its fit and finish is as good as it can be, as bad fit, leaks and (particularly) wobbling barrels can severely hamper accuracy at distance.
FPS power and consistency is critical with DMRs, as you’ll need your BBs to actually reach their target and not over/under shoot at random.
As a result, most DMRs undergo a complete makeover with their internals, with users installing higher quality, flat or rhops, more durable gearboxes, high torque motors (including those with rare earth magnets, such as neodymium motors), Deans connector, heavy duty pistons and steel bushings and plenty of shimming.
This is especially a concern since DMRs typically use heavier BBs (.32g+) that will be subject to more wind resistance.
Quick Trigger Response
This is more of a concern if you’re running an AEG DMR, since they tend to have a slight delay between trigger pull and firing.
The last thing you want is to miss due to a slight delay.
Those running electric should invest in a good quality MOSFET and ETU, which should cut down on trigger response time significantly (assuming it is installed correctly and mated to a proper 11.1 lipo battery).
While barrel length can have a slight effect on accuracy, more critical is having a straight, tight, high quality bore.
It’s not uncommon for DMRs to be fitted with 6.01-6.03mm bores, for example, and some may spend considerable time polishing and lapping their barrels (running an abrasive through the barrel) to remove marks, imperfections and accumulated dirt and debris that can send a BB off course.
Play Style: How does the Marksman fit into an Airsoft Game
Integrated Team Play
One roll of a marksman in an airsoft game, particularly in more open terrain and when stalking and maneuvering, is to be closeby and move organically with your teammates as they advance, covering them, extending their sight and range of fire and using your optics to call threats and identify targets on the move.
When moving with the team, marksmen will often be tasked with advancing, finding, securing and then using various areas of cover such as buildings, wrecked cars and so on, from which they can provide support, eliminate targets or provide more accurate information.
Longer, more immersive scenarios and games may even have the DM be called upon to provide quick intelligence gathering, temporarily moving to better vantage points and using their superior optics to gather information about the field, obstacles and any enemy player positions, before returning to their team.
A classic role for an airsoft marksman, especially when moving into range of objectives or when moving into built up or fortified areas, is to provide overwatch.
A force protection tactic, acting as overwatch means hanging back, typically from an elevated or fortified position of some kind, and using the DMR’s greater range and optics to cover your team’s advance or assault and make sure nobody is trying to flank them.
What’s it like playing as a designated marksman?
In an airsoft game, being a marksman fits somewhere between a rifleman and sniper, and their playstyle reflects this, falling somewhere between the two.
Compared to a sniper role in airsoft, there is generally a higher overall tempo to the role. DMs will be expected to move at least some of the time with their teammates while periodically hanging back to provide accurate support fire from cover.
Overall, there is not as much benefit of camping and shooting from concealment and DMs will generally fire more often than snipers but less often than their rifleman teammates.
Limitations of the Role
The main limitation of the Designated Marksman is if or when the game shifts to close quarters or moves into dense/built-up areas.
Due to the mounted optics on a DMR, a marksman’s natural home is in nice open areas with multiple opportunities for finding a clear line of sight to targets, such as an open field with items of cover or a small built up area.
In closed spaces, around dense trees or obstacles that can obstruct view, the range-oriented DMR can be a hindrance, due to the magnification and tunneling effect of its scope that can prevent them from firing accurately at targets.
What makes a bad Designated Marksman in an airsoft game?
Not having a DMR or the right equipment to do the job
The role and responsibilities of a designated marksman in airsoft are centered around accuracy, distance and increased sight and it ultimately requires the right equipment for the job.
Calling yourself a designated marksman may be a nice ego boost, but it doesn’t help your teammates if you show up with an airsoft rifle that ultimately has the same effective range and capabilities as theirs.
As with most things in life, a large part of the role is having the right tool for the right job.
Impatience and lack of self control
Although perhaps not as important as in sniping, patience is still a virtue when it comes to being a designated marksman in an airsoft game.
Shooting at range requires more careful aiming and a marksman does their team no favors by simply shooting whatever they see.
Your job as DM is to strategically picking your targets and hang back when necessary despite the excitement of a game.
As a DM, you’ll ultimately have to have the self-control necessary to avoid simply running and gunning.
Poor aim and coordination
Seeing a target at longer range is one thing, but hitting that target at range is something else.
A DMR can only carry a player so far, they’ll also need the skill to use it to reliably hit targets at range.
Lack of team play skills
An integral member of a squad, the designated marksman needs to be a team player and able to effectively communicate and coordinate their movements with the rest of the team.
A marksman needs to coordinate with the team leader and find an effective position from which to provide supportive fire, as well as report back what they see clearly, providing valuable and actionable midrange intelligence to the rest of the team.
Playing Airsoft as a DM vs a Rifleman
Although it may not carry the same cool title, in many ways playing an airsoft game as a rifleman can be a more fast-paced and dynamic experience than playing as a designated marksman.
A rifleman is a more tactical flexible role in an airsoft squad, operating with more or less the same intensity at both midrange and CQB and is able to joyfully let loose with BBs as they run and gun, kick doors down clear rooms and more.
Properly played, a Designated Marksman’s role is far more tactical, being more of a specialized part of an airsoft squad.
They’ll fire their weapon far less often during a game, be expected to hit targets with greater precision, and will often be called on to provide support and even intel on other players and their positions.
What an Airsoft Designated Marksman is NOT: A Sniper
Despite their seeming similarities, in an airsoft game (as well as the military) , the role of a designated marksman is quite different from that of a sniper.
While they both engage other players at greater distances than regular riflemen, and may camp in one spot for periods of time, there are several key differences between the roles that should be noted.
A sniper often engages enemy players and collects intel at longer ranges, although when it comes to airsoft how true this is practice depends on the field and its regulations.
More critically, a sniper is expected to operate more independently on the field, operating alone and at typically distances further removed from other members of their team and often designating and engaging targets at will.
Finally, a sniper’s airsoft gear will be quite different, being configured for accuracy and power to a far greater extent than a DMR.
The designated marksman, on the other hand, is usually meant to operate at midrange and operates as an organic and key component of their team.
They need to stay close by order to provide direct support and generally exercise far greater coordination when it comes to their movements and actions.
As a result, a useful designated marksman will not act like a sniper on the field.
They won’t break away from the main group to pursue their own targets, camp for extended periods of time and will generally work to help maintain team cohesion during play.
The designated marksman can play a critical role in airsoft.
Understanding the nuances of the role, the peculiarities of the DMR and the limitations of each can often make the difference between being a successful and useful marksman and a hindrance to your teammates.
Will Martin – Will has been into airsoft and paintball for well over 10 years, and has done it all – from upgrading and fixing gearboxes as a tech to building custom airsoft loadouts for his friends to supporting off those friends as a DM.