Correction: The article was updated March 30, 2022, to correctly name the manufacturer of the NGSW fire control.
Every close-combat squad will have a sniper-like capability in its soldiers’ hands by late 2023, when the last of the 6,000 squad designated marksman rifles are delivered.
The SDMR gives squad-level fires a chance to reach out and touch a target at the 600-meter range with precision for combat engineers, scouts, and of course, infantry units.
The M1101A1 is a semi-automatic, 7.62mm rifle. It is based on the Heckler & Koch G28/HK417 system, according to a company release and Army officials.
Capt. David Stephens, assistant product manager for SDMR, recently told Army Times that the systems were likely to complete fielding within the next 18 months.
The SDMR was adopted under the Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System, or CSASS, which kicked off back in 2008 with the Knight’s Armament Company SR-25.
The lower-recoil M1101A1 SDMR winner was announced nearly five years ago but had to undergo testing and evaluation before it began fielding in 2020.
Army officials previously told Army Times that the SDMR was designed to be smaller, lighter and more ergonomic. The 82nd Airborne Division tested it in parachute operations back in 2019.
The shorter barrel — 16.5 inches, compared to most sniper systems with 20-inch barrels — and sound suppressors came in handy for airborne training, snipers said in an Army statement.
Part of the ergonomic differences include an adjustable stock both for transport and ease of use, experts said. That’s helpful when dismounting vehicles, whether a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, Humvee or Stryker.
The new rifle can also fire a more punishing round — the M80A1 Enhanced Performance Round and the XM1158 Advanced Armor Piercing Round — that might damage weapons not designed for higher velocity rounds.
The package weighs in at about 10 pounds
During the 2019 testing, Spc. William Holland, a sniper with the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, said the compact design made the weapon more manageable, especially for post-drop operations.
The weapon’s “zero” also maintained itself, soldiers found after jumping and then moving to shoot on nearby ranges. The scope that held that zero is another new feature for squad shooters.
In 2018, the Army selected the Sig Sauer TANGO6 as the rifle’s scope. A variant of the 1-6x24 Riflescope is a “second focal plane” scope that was chosen by U.S. Special Operations Command in 2019.
According to Sig Sauer, the optic has the following features:
- Flat, dark earth anodized aircraft-grade aluminum main tube.
- An M855A1 bullet drop compensation illuminated reticle with holds for close-quarters to medium range engagements.
- An ultra-bright red Hellfire fiber optic illumination system for fast daylight target acquisition.
- A locking illumination dial.
- A power selector ring throw lever.
- A laser-marked scope level indicator for intuitive mount installation.
Another new optic, made by Vortex Optics with their subsidiary Sheltered Wings, could swap on and off of the rifle easily. The Next Generation Squad Weapon-Fire Control was selected by the Army in January. It’s slated to sit atop the new NGSW, which will fire a 6.8mm round.
The fire control is practically platform agnostic, Army officials told Army Times in January, and it has ballistic tables for nearly all individual small arms in the Army inventory.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.