Follow Up: Long Range Shooters – by Misfit

Update: Patriot Dawn: Sequel in Progress
January 27, 2014
Combat Patrol 18-20 Jan 2014 AAR #6 – Eddie
January 29, 2014


Misfit follows up with more excellent information and detail on the Squad Designated Marksman (SDM). I was disappointed at some of the response to his previous guest post ‘Long Range Shooters‘, because it seems some are determined to take it down the caliber debate rabbit hole. Let me be clear on that: It’s OK to discuss the relationship of caliber to long range shooting, and how you may want to equip your squad with a certain caliber. However, statements along the lines that the 5.56 doesn’t work will, from now on, just be moderated out in the interest of getting to the nub of the point here.

The point here is to learn, discuss and implement the important concept of adding a longer range shooting capability to your team.

Let’s not lose sight of some important points:

1)  Inter-operability of weapons and ammo within your squad.

2) The need to multi-purpose even the SDM.

3) The need for the SDM to also be able to engage in close combat, ‘fighting through,’ should that be the case.


Misfit sends:

The Squad Designated Marksman(SDM). Rifle should be of a standard caliber common within the squad. I’m not advocating any specific caliber since I don’t know what everybody’s load out is. The 5.56 naysayers can go back to the last 10 years the US has been engaged overseas and see that it does work within the capabilities defined earlier. At 600m a match grade 5.56 round will do the job and even beyond. Shot placement is the final say. If I was shot in the foot with a .50 cal I would more than likely survive. I like the heavier 7.62 also but some of the draw backs are that you have more drop and less danger space so your dope has to be more precise and ammo is heavier bullet for bullet, ounces equal pounds/pounds equal pain. Also not having the ability to spread load ammo after contact is a problem. Your only getting maybe an extra 200m out of a SDMR in 7.62. You might run all soviet block weapons and have a SVD or Tabuk. I don’t know your situation, it just comes down to logistics in the end.

For the rifle I would run a 18″-20″ 5.56 AR with a scope that runs from 1-10(1-6X,1-8, 2-7X,  3-10X are some examples) power possibly with offset back up iron sights or small red dot. The reticule should be a BDC or mil dot with the ability to rapidly adjust the turrets. I would also recommend looking into a Horus H59 or Tremor (1 or 2) reticule. Once you understand these reticules you will be able to self-correct based off of your impacts and will reduce the amount of time messing with turrets. The Tremor also increases the SDM’s ability to adjust for wind quickly. As a SDM field of view is critical since you are still part of the patrol and contact at close range is very possible. The wider field of view will allow the shooter to pick up targets across at least a squad size front much faster than on 20X. For ammo I would run a minimum of 60 rounds of 77gr match ammo with another 60 of what is common in the squad. That way the SDM isn’t blowing through his match ammo on chance contact with the enemy. This being said he should patrol on a 300m BZO until in position to transfer to his match ammo.

The SDM will also need the ability to range his target fast and accurately. This could be with a pocket laser range finder (PLRF) or his ability to range estimate with his reticule. This will allow him to make quick accurate adjustments for precision fire and build situational awareness for the squad leader. I would also recommend a pair of small binos of at least 7X preferably 10X. A set of sturdy bipods are also a must have. If possible the SDM should have NVG or FLIR capability and some form of IR laser since he will more than likely be placed in an advantageous position to identify the enemy for the squad he is supporting. If you can get an in line nigh sight all the better. I would also advocate for the SDM to be suppressed if possible. This gives him the advantage of possibly delaying the enemy from his position for multiple shots while the rest of the squad elements maneuver. He should not be patrolling with the suppressor on but have it as a tool to be used when necessary loud noises scare people. I would also add a hand held ballistic computer and weather station from Kestrel with Horus or Applied Ballistics. They cost a little but pay for themselves over time in the amount of ammo you save during data collection. It also allows the shooter SDM to have his dope for multiple types of ammo and automatically adjusts for atmospherics.

The SDM is a concept that needs to be hashed out within your specific group. It can be just one guy in the squad tasked and emplaced in the best fire team to allow him to do his job when necessary. It can also be used as a crew served weapon employed in pairs if you do not have automatic weapons at your disposal. This would mean two rifles with an observer controlling their actions and giving them solid corrections and directing them onto priority targets. Having precision fire on the objective allows the squad to maneuver under fire much closer than with automatic fire. It can also be used once the automatic riflemen have been shut off and gives them the necessary time to displace while being covered by fire. The SDM is a capability that is only limited by training and imagination. That being said the SDM still has limitations since it is a member of the squad and operates within the scope of the squad’s capability and under the leadership of the squad leader. One last thing to add is that he should always be at a distance to mutually support his elements. What distance is that? My rule of thumb is half the distance of the weapon system. This gives the supporting element in a perfect scenario 300m of maneuver forward or back until the SDM can no longer effect the enemy. If you get pinned down at 700m from his position and the enemy over runs your position he isn’t doing you any good. You have to have time and space to move and that’s preferably done under fire.


Ok, great stuff. Some commentary, applying this back to some of what I have talked about the squad and the assault cycle:

The Squad – Size and Organization

More on The Squad & the Assault Cycle

I often use the 8 or 9 man squad as a training tool, and advocate for the ideal use of a 12 or 13 man squad, which is really a half platoon, a big squad, but ideal. The reason for the odd number is that the squads are made up of multiples of 4 man fire teams. If you have the numbers, you can put the squad leader outside of that organization in order to allow him to place himself free of a specific fire team, with the main effort.

With my fire teams, I usually advocate for them to be identical. I do this because it allows for inter-operability and also accounts for the uncertainty of which element will end up in contact. The disadvantage with a specialty team is that, if for example, it is not equipped for close combat, but is ambushed and finds itself in it, then it is not in its intended role/position to be able to perform an overwatch role, and is in the thick of it. This is particularly relevant when  employing the three team satellite patrolling method.

This is why it is ideal to have a SDM in each team. Really, what you actually want is an overall high level of marksmanship in your squad, but failing that you will have individuals who are better and more ‘trusted’. Those that talk about how all their guys are in effect DM’s and can all shoot out to ‘X’ distance often fail to take account of the difficulties and stresses of combat. In effect, its often armchair tactics, based on a low stress environment on a target range. PT/maneuver capability anyone?

When we do our bunker drills on CRCD/Combat Patrol I talk about the fire base coordinating fire, and switching fire, with one designated marksman (who can be simply a good shot!) tasked to ‘fire in’ the grenadier as he crawls up to the flank of the bunker. Rounds are put through the bunker opening until the grenade goes in. (Note, this does not actually happen, for safety, but is simulated against a ‘switch fire’ target to the flank).

If you have an 8/9 man squad, and want to add an SDM pair, then this is, as per the article, like adding a ‘gun group’. It gives you a suppression capability, by precision fire rather than volume and weight. This SDM ‘gun group’ if you like, can be kept with the squad leader and then deployed out into overwatch or fire support as needed.

Ideally, with access to weapon systems, you would have each team consist of: team leader, SDM, grenadier (203) and SAW gunner. That gives you some firepower options to really rain down the hate on the enemy, allowing you to maneuver to either assault or break contact. . Failing that, work on the precision fires and shooting skills of your teams, and try to add an SDM to each one.

There are so many options, and you need to deploy them as per your task organization, mission and circumstances. If you have the three team 13 man squad, then ideally you have SDMs in each team. Or, you have a single specialist team, with perhaps two SDM’s, protected by the other two guys when they move to an overwatch or fire support position. You can split such a team into two pairs, each with an SDM, and have them perform a task. Just remember, that if this team unintentionally finds itself in close contact, the weapons they have must be capable of close range firefights. Prima donnas with match standard bolt action rifles are  not going to cut it. If your team is equipped with 5.56 rifles, then have the SDMs equipped with slightly better, longer range capable versions, with the required optics.

It is important to remember that this is not really about shooting capability. It’s about a team’s overall combat capability, utilizing the ability to shoot accurately to range as part of your combat power as a force  multiplier. This is  not sniping, this is not a range or caliber fetish. It’s not lone wolf stuff. It’s the squad in combat.

Live Hard.

Die Free.



  1. Chuck says:

    Outstanding. Really useful stuff. I love it when I read a post and really learn things I either didn’t know or hadn’t considered.

    On that note, PSA has 18″ Cold Hammer Forged uppers (with or without BCGs) on sale today. Looks like a good start on building a DM rifle. BTW, that’s one advantage of the AR platform: being able to switch out uppers based on mission.

  2. Brian from Georgia says:

    Excellent article. The need to have close range capability in addiiton to longer range is exactly what led me to a 20″ AR with a 1-4X scope.
    I like the Burris XTR 1-4 with illuminated reticle, BDC, mil-dot hash marks for range estimation and all of that. Works well in an all-around role.

    • RobRoySimmons says:

      One thing about a scope is that it can be a light gatherer. I’ve never used a low power scope so how well does a 1x scope work compared to a 3-9×40 like my Leupold in gathering light?

  3. Sanders says:

    Technology is nice, but it would also be a good idea to learn how to estimate range using a variable terrain known distance range. Learn your pace count, and set one up for your group. Then teach them not only how to estimate range, but also how to walk it out using their pace count.

    It is one of those simple to acquire, but invaluable skills many people overlook because they depend on their gadgets.

  4. RobRoySimmons says:

    Ironically the set up with two DMs and two cover guys was the “Lone Survivor” setup, plus their scopes had a small reddot on top.

    IMO mil-spec and not too far from it, specifically chrome bore and chrome chamber cut to mil-spec dimensions.

    An idea stupid or not, for the bunker assault type exercise one could have a friendly competition, and friendly competition is good. A twelve inch steel plate set at unknown distance no electronic doo dads and see who can consistently hit it at sustained fire rates while using cover.

    That sized plate should simulate a bunker opening. And it could tell the students if they are still in the noise making, ammo humping category.

  5. Submariner says:

    Suppressor. On another list. In for a penny, in for a pound, eh, Max?

    Which do you recommend for 5.56mmX45 and why? Mount?

  6. MPorter says:

    I ran across this post a while back, and this thread reminded me of it. There are a few nuggets in here, esp. post #13

  7. Bakken Insurgent says:

    So what I visualize a squad carrying after all this DM talk is 9 guys with an M16-A4 and RCO (or M4’s if your mounted or in urban areas) , and 3 with some sort of free floated 18″-20″ barrel AR with a match stainless barrel and a 1-10 power optic, and all the accompanying gear and ammo to put it to good use. It is basically a Marine rifle squad minus the SAW and 203’s, and replaced with DMR’s. I guess I’m not seeing why this has to be treated as if it is a special subject. 12 guys shooting at an expert level with the proper equipment basically negates the need for a special “designated” marksman. I never remember seeing much talk of it at all until the U.S. Army realized it had a big problem in the marksmanship department after issuing out all the Aimpoints and seeing how effective the USMC was with ACOGs. Not trying to sound biased, I just think we are discussing a solution in search of a problem.

    • Max Velocity says:

      I think you are missing the depth to this, simply trying to reduce it to “oh, that’s easy, no effort required.”
      I also think the flaw in the attempt to reduce the concept to ‘stupid, no added effort required’ is right here: “12 guys shooting at an expert level.”

  8. RobRoySimmons says:

    One thing about this is that you can satiate your inner feelings about being a GQ (gear queer) without sounding too GQish.

    You can practice much of this at a square range. Even my range will allow fire rates of one shot per two seconds (some won’t). Though I have a choice between 100, 200, 300 yards known ranges and not unknown range for distance estimation.

    5.56 easier on the wallet, shoulder and if you have a pudding head like mine more rounds can go down range before marksmanship falls off than 7.62.

    And of course if you are smart enough to have an AR platform instead of special snowflake look at me type rifle its modular. I can take my super special LMT strip it of its irons, Aimpoint patrol optic, replace it with a low power scope and the rifle is above my capabilities. I might be the only person on Earth who likes a .mil two stage trigger, but that is me. Or a designated upper if you want to squeeze that last bit of accuracy out of it, or at least make you think you can.

    As for the last couple of comments here, I think of that saying by Heraclidus or whoever about the 100 and of how many of them can perform under pressure.

    Then see my comment about a friendly competition with everyone looking on and razzing you about buying dinner and drinks for being the ammo humper for those who can make that plate dance under pressure.

  9. Mt Top Patriot says:

    1st rate stuff.
    I’m getting so much out of this it’s a personal game changer. Not to mention application as intended is quite the practical effective force multiplier within the scope of small unit tactics and resources a partisan fighting team would find themselves.
    I really appreciate the thought and effort put into presenting SDM and incorporating it into fighting the right way.

    Good stuff good job Max and Misfit.

  10. Stump says:

    Ok, I’ve been reading a lot of stuff here for about a month or so now, and it’s providing some helpfull information.

    But I look and the list of gear suggested in this post, and all I’m seeing is $$$$.

    Now I don’t know about you guys, but with a family of 12, 6 of which are special needs children, dad being out of work due to kidney failure, and a list of other factors we are not made of money by any means, most people are not.

    So that means most of that list dosen’t do me any good, I mean a laser range finder could be posible, but night vision? not likely. Balistic computer and weather station? doubt it. Infrared? Hell No.

    See my dilema?

    So what I, and most people probably, need to know is what I can get by with, and still be effective in a SDM or any other SUT role.

    So please remember that a lot of people have to work on a tight budget, myself included, and possibly include that factor in future discussions, it would help many people out, and be greatly appreciated.

    Don’t want to make anyone mad or anything, just my honest opinion, other that that, I like the post.