Designated Marksman AR in 5.56/.223: A review and why

From the military through law enforcement special operations groups the use of a designated marksmans rifle is an integral part of unit operations. Of course it helps when you have someone that is capable of using one effectively. In this case the person is myself and the unit is my family.

The other carbines in the family have easily acquired red dot scopes and stocks that absorb almost all recoil with compensator’s that effectively direct sound away from the shooter making them extremely easy to shoot and something they can be accurate with a much smaller amount of work. These setups are also the dedicated “house guns” used mainly for defense of the castle like a crossbow would be while the dedicated marksman package is a bit more like the long bow of old.

None of the packages are extremely expensive, but all of the packages are efficient, lethal and quite accurate as well as being reliable and for all intents and purposes point and shoot works well. Contrary to the typical anti gunners belief it is quite impossible to spray and pray with any real consistency and because my family is taught riflemans cadence and proper basics they are functional support shooters.

This article is not about their training, rather it is about this specific package, the designated marksman rifle. The designated marksman rifle fills the gap between the standard infantryman and the sniper, being employed at distances between 100 and 500 yards its purpose is to provide support and the ability to widen a gap so the others can maneuver in closer and succeed with close arms support. There was a time when all soldiers or fighters were expected to be designated marksman, however, as with all things war changes and the philosophy of use changed.

In most cases the 5.56 caliber is laughed at as a designated marksman caliber. Rather the United States military uses either an AR10 (SR25) or the M-14 chambered in .308/7.62×51. However, because I am working with a family unit versus a military one recoil is something that must be addressed and when this plus accuracy plus ability of the round is placed together you come up with the 5.56 in 62-64 grain, open tip, bthp or bonded lead tip. I have found that for my gun and the combination of barrel length, twist and type the 62 grain round functions best and still provides more than adequate performance at 100-500 yards. Now it could be argued that this is not enough bullet for ranges out to 500 yards, however, I would counter by saying that having tested this on local Arizona pest wildlife such as coyotes and javelina it functions quite well and is more than equal to the task of keeping other two legged critters at bay. Bearing in mind the same body armor that will defeat 7.62×51 will also defeat 5.56 and as a result the more important feature will become accuracy and the ability to hit unarmored portions of the targets as intended. This will bring us back to the 5.56 as a designated marksman platform after all, with a well put together round it will penetrate light barriers and still penetrate and cause bleed out in the intended target.

When I set out to build this platform I decided that it had to be under $1000, sub moa accurate at 100 yards and absolutely reliable. I wanted others to be able to mimic what I had done and do so without needing to get a second mortgage as so many do when building their ultimate failures. I have known many individuals who have spent tens of thousands on their rifles and while they are heavily invested and therefore unable to admit it, generally the builds are failures in the long run. I believe that a well built firearm does not need a break in period. Rather, a well built firearm will function reliably and without failure with all ammunition types and from round one through the last round fired. After much research and several thousand rounds expended through a test rifle, three barrels and four stocks later I came up with the following three setups, all function within desired parameters and all are under $1000 after changes are implemented.

DPMS makes a sporter line of AR – at $500 base price, this is the first one that met my protocols as a base firearm.

Olympic Firearms also makes a sporter line – at $500 base it also met my protocols for a base firearm.

Delton firearms are very well put together and at between $500 and $750 they also meet my protocols for a base firearm.

The barrel I added is the Radical Arms 1/9 twist 16” QPQ Melonite treated barrel – after significant testing (2200 rounds approximately) I came to the decision that this barrel for $119 is both accurate, reliable and well made with 5 round groups under 1” at 100 yards and 30 round groups right at 1.5” at 100 yards this barrel is an amazing addition to any platform, however, to any of the above mentioned firearms it is a cost effective, efficient, reliable addition.

For the designated marksman package I decided to go outside the box a little, I went with a made in China Rifle Supply 12” free float rail system. It is necessary to understand that this setup while quite sturdy and light is metric which makes it a bit more difficult to setup. However, once setup it functions quite nicely and makes for a beautiful looking and functioning piece.

The scope was $139 through Amazon prime and is the Bushnell Drop Zone AR .223 optics 1-4 x 24 easy click turrets. After doing minor drop testing and removing it and placing it back on using the Monstrum Tactical offset two point quick release mount, I found that it held its zero and has been extremely accurate. Some individuals complain that the reticle is large and difficult to use past 200 yards. This is only true if you do not dial the power up to 4, the scope is designed to work when dialed to 4 power at ranges of 200 – 500.

The backup iron sights I chose are the Ade angled sights for a whole $21 dollars. I tightened them down all the way and leave them up. There is NO reason to put them in the down position as it would mean several additional movements if I needed to rapidly transition to them.

Lastly I added a UTG Super Duty Bipod at $39 and a Red Rock Outdoor Gear two point sling at $14 and a Hexcon 1 compensator which was by far the most expensive single piece but absolutely well worth the money at $65.

All together my Designated Marksman package came to a grand total of, $920. This of course means more ammunition to shoot with! 

After over 1000 rounds this rifle setup has not failed to fire, has maintained its accuracy and continues to prove that to have a solid system you do not need to waste thousands of dollars on the name of a product when simply testing and purchasing solid materials will allow you a system that functions reliably and is accurate. I would and have put this up against $2-$4000 dollar systems and while it is a few ounces heavier than some, it is far more reliable than most. As stated before someone that I once called friend has taken out second mortgages to build his “perfect” systems, of course he doesnt actually use them and rarely has a trip to the range without an issue from them. Myself on the other hand, I have a rifle that I could easily sell to someone and make money on. It is absolutely reliable and cost me less than $1000.

Each of my non designated marksmen packages came in well under $700 dollars apiece, one being a sweet DPMS base and the other being a wonderful Delton base. Each of these firearms is a proven design, extremely solid and very accurate. Lastly the firearm most used in my vehicle, (my truck gun) isnt even an AR but that is another article.

How have you approached this “issue” has it even been a consideration?

If it has, what are you taking into consideration and why?

Thanks again for reading-

Free the mind and the body will follow –


About Jesse Mathewson

Jesse Mathewson is the author of the popular blog, and provides commentary to many varied places based on a background that includes education in criminal justice, history, religion and even insurgency tactics and tactical training. His current role in his community is as an organizer of sorts and a preacher of community solidarity and agorism. He also runs Liberty Practical Training, a self defense school specializing in the practical applications of defensive approaches versus the theoretical. As an agorist, voluntaryist and atheist his life is seen as crazy and wild by many, though once they get to know him most realize he is a bluntly honest individual who will give you the shirt off his back if he believes it is necessary to help you. Very simple, "That which is voluntary between all individuals involved is always right, if it is not voluntary, it is always wrong."
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3 Responses to Designated Marksman AR in 5.56/.223: A review and why

  1. edspad says:

    Great Review of Designated Marksman .
    The Designated Marksman term wasn’t as widely used when i replaced my Oly H-bar upper with
    new M4 stacked with specification’s similar to your requirements. i made these changes because
    Technology had evolved to the point making it cost effective to convert to Close to Medium Range Carbine with a operation of 0-600 yards thus squeezing out its full effectiveness. This Philosophy was applied to the 7.62 as well.


  2. Alfred E. Neuman says:

    Reblogged this on The Lynler Report.


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