This is SDMR, the new US sniper rifle: lightweight and with millimeter accuracy at 600 meters.

Armies need constant updating of their weaponry, even more so at a time of geopolitical instability such as that involved in the war in Ukraine. In this regard, the U.S. Air Force does not want to be left behind and is in the final phase of delivering nearly 1,500 units of the SDMR sniper rifle to its specialized squadrons.

This new rifle from German manufacturer Heckler & Koch, which was first put into service in 2021, takes advantage of its versatility to be able to fulfill multiple missions, both in its defensive aspect in U.S. bases distributed around the world and in special operations.

In addition to the M24, the rifles used so far by the U.S. Air Force, the SDMR will replace the M110 semi-automatic sniper rifle for paratroopers and rescue teams known as Guardian Angels.

Lightweight and accurate

The SDMR, short for Squad Designated Marksmanship Rifle, is a 7.62x51mm caliber semiautomatic rifle that increases the shooter’s ability to pierce enemy body armor, a challenge that standard NATO 5.56×45mm rounds are unable to meet. According to the German manufacturer, the weapon is a substantial improvement in accuracy and reliability over previous models, while providing a more maneuverable and compact design with a shorter barrel. Its precision firing range is between 300 and 600 meters.

An example of the SDMR’s versatility is that it can be used by explosive ordnance disposal technicians to eliminate small enemy devices or munitions from a safe distance. In addition, the SDMR weighs less than 4 kg with an empty magazine and without optics, suppressors or accessories, which, compared to other 7.62 mm caliber weapons, will save soldiers more than 1.5 kg of equipment during their missions. Weight reduction features include adjustable buttstocks and lighter bipods, as well as the elimination of forward assist.

The rifle moves away from the traditional black color and equips a tan-brown color scheme. That, coupled with a finish with special low infrared sighting properties, makes it a suitable weapon for camouflage in a variety of environments. It also features ambidextrous controls, an improved trigger and an upgraded one-piece silencer.

The SDMR is the second sniper rifle model the Air Force has acquired in recent years. In 2020, the service completed delivery of 2,700 GAU-5A rifles, lightweight 5.56mm, 10-pound units intended to be carried in a pilot’s ejection seat. These rifles, which take about 30 seconds to assemble, are designed to hit man-sized targets at a distance of 200 meters.

The light weight of the latest U.S.-purchased models can be a critical advantage in combat, especially in conflict zones such as Ukraine, where Ukrainian urban guerrilla tactics and Russian troop sieges rely on sniper work to eliminate threats from long range.

Dragunov SVDM sniper rifle

By comparison with the new U.S. Air Force rifles, the latest Dragunov SVDM rifles purchased last year by the Russian military and currently deployed on several fronts in the invasion of Ukraine weigh 5.3 kg, have a caliber of 7.62 and 54 mm cartridges.

The rifle, an upgrade of the legendary rifles manufactured by Kalashnikov Group, is based on a gas-operated system and features chrome-plated chambers. It is equipped with a rail that extends the possibility of mounting different sights, day and night, and dramatically improves the effective range to 800 meters, considerably more than its German “competition”. The stock is adjustable and foldable to make the equipment more manageable, while the grip is designed to increase ergonomics and stability for the shooter.

The design and material solutions of this modernized Dragunov ensure a balance between a thicker, heavier barrel, for greater accuracy and reliability, and lighter, shock-resistant polymer parts, which lighten the weight and provide greater strength.

Ukrainian Precision Rifles

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian army, in need of wide-range weapons against an army that outnumbers and outguns it, relies on the recently acquired LRT-3s from PGW Defence Technologies and the Barrett M107, two large sniper rifles ideal against heavy vehicles, with a range of up to 1.3 kilometers and the ability to pierce armored protection thanks to their .50 caliber cartridges and their great destructive power.

Ukrainian troops also take advantage of the reliability of the Malyuk, a home-made assault rifle that has become a favorite of their special operations teams. Its ‘bullpup’ configuration is its most prominent feature, which involves placing the mechanisms and magazine behind the grip and trigger to make the rifle more maneuverable in tight spaces.


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