Designated Marksman Overview


The role of the Designated Marksman is to provide surgical short-medium target interdiction, bridging the gap between the short range assault rifle and the long range SWS. This goal is achieved by equipping the soldier's weapon with magnifying day and night optics and stabilizing devices. While snipers are typically armed with distinct weapon systems such as bolt action rifles with high-power calibers, Designated Marksmen are typically armed with a similar weapon platform as used by their fellow team mates, which allowing for ammunition commonality and rapid follow-up shots using semi-full auto rifles.

The IDF Designated Marksman project began in the late 1980's with two competing weapon platforms – the Galil SAR and the M16A1. Both weapons were fitted with similar accessories – cheek piece, El-Op Eyal 3x20 and a bipod. Eventually, the more accurate M16A1 was chosen over the Galil SAR, but the project was disbanded.

In mid 1990's, as part of an overall move to modernize the infantry oriented units weapons and gear and improve their sharpshooting skills, the IDF introduced new weapon systems including the M24, which replaced the M14, the IDF standard issue SWS at the time. As the M14 was deployed in the IDF more similarly to a Designated Marksman platform rather then a sniper rifle, its replacement created a void. The solution was the resurrection of IDF Designated Marksman project and it was indeed reintroduced in 1997. The new project primary objective was providing infantry oriented units, including both special and conventional units, with the ability to accurately and quickly engage targets in ranges up to 500 meters. The Designated Marksman project introduced proved to be very successful, and today the concept is widely spread across all the combat units as well as Law Enforcement units.



Initially, the IDF Designated Marksman project was based on the M16A2-E3, an A2 variant of the veteran M16A1. However, the IDF SF found the full size M16A2-E3 too bulky for their needs and instead placed its accessories on the CAR15, creating the CAR15 Designated Marksman platform. Most CAR15 used by the SF were already fitted with 1:7 twist heavy barrels replacing the factory 1:12 twist barrels. Those CAR15 that weren't fitted with the heavy barrels and were intended for the role of Designated Marksman rifles, were soon fitted with them. As often the case with the IDF, the success and popularity of the CAR15 Designated Marksman with the IDF SF, quickly led to its adoption by infantry units.

In the late 1990's and in 2000-2001 few hundreds M4 and M4A1 were procured by the IDF, and were issued to SF units. Many of these weapons were converted into Designated Marksman configuration creating the M4 and M4A1 Designated Marksman platforms respectively. Shortly after, the IDF began mass procurement of the M4A1 and soon become the standard issue assault rifle for all infantry oriented units including both conventional and special units replacing the CAR15. Accordingly, the M4A1 Designated Marksman replaced the M16A2-E3 in the infantry oriented units and it is now the most common Designated Marksman platform in the IDF.

In the Law Enforcement SF community, part from the M16A2-E3, M4 and Colt Commando were also converted into Designated Marksman configurations. However, today most Law Enforcement SF units shifted to the M4A1 Designated Marksman same as with the IDF.

While M16 variants served as the IDF Designated Marksman platforms since the concept introduction in 1997, Tavor variants are now also in service. The Tavor has several Designated Marksman variants: based on the TAR (known as STAR), the CTAR and the Micro Tavor. The CTAR was in short service with the IDF, but was since replaced with 15" barrel Micro Tavor.



While the Designated Marksman project was originally based on a dedicated weapon platform - the M16A2-E3, today the IDF Designated Marksman concept is based on the soldier's standard issue weapon fitted with the following additional accessories:

  • Trijicon ACOG 4x32

  • Litton Aquila X4, which is now gradually replaced by the Lior X3

  • Bipod

  • Cheek piece for fixed loop platforms



In fixed loop weapon platforms such as the M16A1-E3 and the CAR15 the optics were mounted on the weapon via a dual ARMS rails setup: the lower rail was an ARMS Model 2, which was attached to the M16 carry handle on one side and connected to an ARMS Model 19 (for ACOG) or ARMS Model 11 (for Aquila) on the other side. In flattop platforms such as the M4A1 only one rail is required - the ARMS Model 11/19. The ARMS Model 2 rail also featured a see-through tunnel allowing the usage of the iron sights even when the optics are mounted.

The dual ARMS rails setup made switching from a day optic to NVD fast and convenient without losing zero. Moreover, as the upper rail could be quickly release, the operator could rapidly remove the the optic if it is damaged. This is also why the upper ARMS Model 19/11 rail is typically secured with a paracord to the weapon, so if a fast removal of a damaged optic is required, the operator can simply release the rail's two levers and the optic will fall and hang aside of the weapon until the operator can safely detach it from the weapon and put it in his vest. As for the ARMS Model 2, as it allows the usage of weapon's iron sights even the rail's see-through tunnel there is no need to detach it.

Left - ARMS Model 19; right - ARMS Model 2.


Close up on the ARMS rails dual setup. The lower rail is an ARMS Model 2 while the upper rail is an ARMS Model 19.


IDF SF operator armed with CAR15 fitted with the ARMS Model 2 rail and an ITL AIM1/D during deployment in the Territories.


Operator armed with CAR15 fitted with flashlight and ARMS model 2 rail during deployment in the Territories.



Unlike IDF snipers, Designated Marksmen don't undergo a formal training course. Instead, a staff member from each unit typically attends a Designated Marksman instructors course, held in the IDF Sharpshooting School. After graduation, the instructor returns to his home unit and pass his knowledge to the future Designated Marksmen, usually with the assistance of more experienced instructors from the Sharpshooting School. Many of the Designated Marksmen later proceed to Sniper School and are qualified as snipers.

Designated Marksman Guide