I picked up a Scout Squad with my eye on making a DMR. Most of you probably already know but for those who don’t, let’s define a DMR.
Wikipedia explains the Designated Marksman’s tool like this:
“The Designated Marksman Rifle is the weapon used by soldiers in the designated marksman (DM) role. The DM’s role fills the gap between a regular infantryman and a sniper, typically being deployed at ranges of 250-600 m (273.4-656.17 yards). DMRs have been developed with this middle ground in mind.”
This is the type of roll that I hoped to fill with the Scout Squad M1A from Springfield.
I’m new to shooting farther than 100 yds. Not brand new, but admittedly I have limited experience. As a boy, I was introduced to shooting primarily through hunting. Lots of my early shooting experience was connected to simply sighting in my .270 Remington BDL before season. Most of the rest of it was shooting at clay pigeons tossed by my father or a friend, or shooting his old Smith & Wesson model 29 in .357 to hit cans off of fence posts.
I always liked it but didn’t really get into shooting until after college when my new wife and I moved to East TN. An older friend named Sam became a bit of a mentor to me and he introduced me to some of his friends. Most of these new friends belonged to a couple local gun clubs/ranges, and many of them were into various forms of competition shooting.
Because most of my shooting was handgun, shotgun, and carbine shooting within 100, most of my focus had been on red dot optics and lower power scopes. When it comes to scope evaluation, I bring a pair of fresh eyes to the table. I have a lot to learn but have been shooting long enough to know what I’m looking for; I’d encourage you to take the journey of optics evaluation along with me. I don’t know what has me so interested in longer ranges, but I am.
I picked up a Ruger Precision Rifle but quickly determined I was going to spend too much money too fast if I got into the long range game now, so I pulled back for a while. For one, in my current urban environment, I don’t have access to a 1000 yard range without a longer drive, and secondly, the scopes and kit for long range setups can command serious bank. I traded the RPR for a Scout Squad and decided to try my hand at a DMR set up.
I liked the Scout Squad’s handy length, but its scout rail wouldn’t suit my intended purpose. I removed the forward mount by simply removing a few allen screws and replaced the scout hand guard with a full length old USGI hand guard from Fulton Armory. Then I reached out Bassett Machine for a scope mount option that I’d heard good things about. Ms. Bassett was kind enough to send one out to me for testing. Steiner sent out a GS3 and I picked up some simple scope rings to mount it on. I installed a Harris bipod I had in my parts bin, attached a USGI style sling, and cheek riser from Voodoo tactical.
I sighted the rifle in and began testing. Truthfully, I had used the rifle to test a scout scope before I removed the mount, so I was already familiar with the rifle. The M1A in scout length isn’t designed for precision shooting, but respectable groups can be had. I hoped to circle back to my roots of hunting this deer season, but due to work schedule conflicts, I only got out in the woods one morning.
However, the range and alternative private land options are much closer and less time constrictive, so I’ve been to the range with this rifle quite a bit over the last few months. I’ll tell you about the Steiner and Basset mount in more detail in another article, but for now: the Steiner is bright and clear and the Basset has a uniquely handy mounting tool and is a steady and true mount.
The rifle is a brick. There’s no getting around how heavy it is, but its classic Americana charm can cover a multitude of sins in my book. Every time I pick it up, I feel like I’m connecting to a history that’s bigger than I am; that needs to be remembered.
In fact, to my eye it’s so pretty that I may mount it on my office wall as a piece of art when it’s not in use. The safety, located in the trigger guard, took a little getting used to, but it was ultimately no problem. I like the break that Springfield used. The gun disassembles easily and is easy to maintain, though its maintenance is a bit different then some newer rifles— familiarize yourself with the use of grease if you plan to purchase one.
The mags are easy to find, and the ones I’m using from Springfield, Checkmate, and Fulton are performing well. I like the door on the butt plate designed as a cubby hole for cleaning supplies. The gas adjustment had been turn sideways when I first took possession of the rifle, and it took me a little time to discover that the gas needed to be turned to the vertical position before the gun would function like it should. I was afraid I had traded for a lemon at first— it was like a single shot gun until the gas was properly aligned but simple twist with the flat head on my multitool, and we were off to the races.
You 1911, CZ 75, and High Power guys will get what I’m about to say: there’s just something about owning this rifle that provides a kind of enjoyment that is different than run-of-the-mill Glocks and ARs. I’m still in the process of determining what I think of this DMR set up. I know that I like the individual components, but it takes time to become the marksman with the chops to know if this set up is ideal or should be tweaked. So for now, I’m working on me, honing those fundamentals, I’ll get back to you on this one.
In the meantime I’d like to hear your thoughts, what do you think makes a good DMR rifle?