Airsoft Basics: What is a DMR?
What is an Airsoft DMR?
DMR stands for Designated Marksman's Rifle and is a term used both in the real firearms world and in Airsoft. Real world DMR rifles fill a void in capability between a standard assault rifle and longer ranged weapons such as sniper rifles and medium machine guns.
An Airsoft DMR is an Airsoft rifle which is typically longer than the average rifle, locked to semi-automatic fire only and capable of shooting at a higher FPS, depending on the limits set by the skirmish site the DMR is being used at.
DMR rifles are generally for advanced users and require extensive internal upgrades which need to be carried out by a professional or a technically inclined Airsofter with experience under their belt.
A DMR is more of a build objective than an off-the-shelf rifle you can buy, though there are some Airsoft companies that have made out-of-the-box DMR rifles, such as ARES with their AR-308L DMR, which is the easiest way currently to get your hands on a proper Airsoft DMR.
DMR-style Airsoft rifles are very popular at woodland skirmishes, but actual DMRs which are locked to semi-auto are quite rare due to the expense and difficulty of building them.
It is absolutely possible to play as a Designated marksman with a long-barreled AEG with a magnified optic, and you will find you are able to fulfil the role effectively even without upgrades, though they are always a possibility down the line.
While extra FPS that a DMR build has will give a range increase, the jury is still out on whether the extra range gained from an extra ~50FPS is worth it as a trade-off for giving up fully automatic, and whether similar performance can be gained with a sub-350FPS AEG with an inner barrel and HOP-up upgrade, and the right ammo.
Airsoft DMR Types
There are two types of DMR rifles you will encounter at an Airsoft skirmish; the high FPS DMR builds, and the long barreled DMR style rifles. Which of these you go for depends on your experience level, technical knowledge and what you want to achieve on the battlefield. Read on if you want a bit more detail about each type of DMR!
Semi Auto Locked High FPS DMR Rifle
High FPS DMR rifles are usually complex builds put together by experienced Airsofters at great expense, either in time or money terms. These rifles are usually allowed to shoot at up to 400 FPS, but this will depend on which skirmish site you are attending.
This type of DMR build is restricted to semi-automatic fire only, and must have its full auto mode either mechanically or electronically locked. This is to both maintain game balance and keep players safe while skirmishing.
When it comes to externals, a high FPS DMR build will usually have to be a replica of a real-world DMR rifle, or otherwise be heavy and long in design so the DMRs are easily recognisable by marshalls who will have to pay particular attention to them to ensure the rules are being followed.
Most sites will not allow a DMR build with a short barrel as this would be bad for game balance, not to mention realism. If you have the desire to build your own DMR rifle we suggest first starting with a long-barreled DMR style rifle and an optical sight so you can try out the DMR role without having to first upgrade your rifle which is costly, labour intensive and requires a lot of research to get right.
Once you have had some experience with your long-barreled rifle you can then decide whether or not you want to upgrade to a higher velocity, and lock the fully auto function off to make a high FPS DMR.
If you don't have experience working on Airsoft internals we recommend you have this work carried out by a professional Airsoft technician as the modifications are quite complex and not the best entry point into the world of upgrading Airsoft guns.
DMR Style Long Barreled Airsoft Rifle
These are the most common DMR rifles on Airsoft skirmish sites today, and are usually just regular semi/full auto AEGs firing at under 350FPS with a longer than average barrel and a magnified scope mounted to allow for easier spotting at long range.
Popular DMR style rifles include the MK.12 SPR, the SR-25, the M14 and the G3, though any long-barreled rifle will fulfil the task as intended. If you are looking for a DMR style rifle and you want to easily mount a scope, make sure you get one that has a 20mm Picatinny rail on the receiver (this will usually be stated in our specifications and product description).
The advantage of a DMR style rifle which is essentially a standard rifle on the inside is that you still have the full auto fire mode, meaning you can improve your hit probability by firing a 3-5 round burst instead of a single shot, which is a massive advantage when engaging moving targets.
If you want a bit more range than the average AEG, there is always the option to simply upgrade your HOP-up rubber, HOP-up nub and inner barrel, which has noticeable effects and is far easier than upgrading gearbox internals.
High FPS DMR rifles are also under a lot of excess strain when compared to a standard rifle, meaning parts failures will happen more frequently and maintenance will need to be more in-depth to mitigate this. A standard FPS DMR rifle will not suffer this issue, as it will be operating well within the design parameters of the internals, and should last much longer.
To play the role of a designated marksman (DM), high FPS is not required. What is needed is the right mindset and adherence to the DM role. A Designated marksman's primary tasks are counter-sniping, engaging high value targets (the people with the biggest guns) and providing long-range spotting to their squad.
All of this can be done with practically any Airsoft gun, so there is no need to restrict what role you fulfil on the skirmish site because you don't have a high end, upgraded DMR build. If you keep your mind on the role and are cool under pressure you can fulfil this role with practically any gun, and if you decide the DM role is for you, you can set your sights on a high FPS DMR build.
Why use a DMR?
DMR and DMR style platforms tend to be used by Airsofters for outdoors skirmishes, both to give them a bit of extra range and because DMR style rifles have their own look which can only really be taken advantage of in an outdoors environment.
Most DMR and DMR style rifles have long barrels, usually between 15 and 20 inches in length, which makes them a real pig to manoeuvre around a CQB site with its cramped corners and multiple engagement vectors.
At a woodland or other outdoor skirmish, the advantage of having a short barrel becomes less important, and long barrels paired with big scopes tend to be more common as they can actually be used to their strengths without inhibiting mobility.
These rifles are also very popular due to being a common sight in the real world, where the designated marksman is the guy with the biggest and coolest looking gun in most Military and Police units. Who wouldn't want to be that guy on the skirmish site?
Some of the best-looking platforms are longer-barreled guns and having a DMR in your arsenal can satisfy the urge to run a big rifle, justified in part by their better performance over longer ranges.
High FPS DMR builds are usually sought after by experienced Airsofters who want to broaden their experience of Airsoft, and add some variety to their gameplay. After many years playing as an Assaulter, even Airsoft can become a bit stale. This is when many go for a DMR or Sniper rifle, or another specialised platform which is more challenging to run, like a support weapon.
Some Airsofters learn technical skills so they can put a DMR build together themselves, others prefer to have the work carried out by experienced technicians for some assurance that the build will be done properly, and to avoid doing the fiddly and niggly bits themselves.
With your DMR queries answered, you should now know the differences between different DMR-style rifle types, and what type suits you best. If you have set your sights on building your own DMR, check out our favourite Milsim DMR base guns here, and our picks for unique DMR base guns here. If you care not for our opinions you can get straight into the search for your ultimate AEG DMR below!