USMC Fields Heckler & Koch M27 as M38 Designated Marksman Rifle

Matthew Moss
by Matthew Moss
USMC M38 DMR (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michaela R. Gregory)

The USMC has begun fielding an unspecified number of M38 Designated Marksman Rifles. Converting existing M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle’s to the designated marksman role by adding a Leupold TS-30A2 Mark 4 MR/T 2.5-8x36mm variable power scope, replacing the standard ACOG. The Leupold has previously been used with the Mk 12 Special Purpose Rifle.

The M27 has been found to have the best range of the Marine squad’s individual weapons and this move follows reports in May, by Soldier Systems Daily, that the Marine Corps was looking to expand the M27’s role.

Close up of the M38's scope (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michaela R. Gregory)

Earlier this month, 8th December, Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines were photographed with the newly configured IAR’s during a live-fire exercise at Camp Lejeune, NC. From the captions of the photographs, taken by Lance Cpl. Michaela Gregory, we learn that the newly reconfigured M27’s have been designated the M38. It’s worth noting that the Corps seem to be following a naming convention that takes the unit numbers, in this case 3/8, who have been working up new small arms and naming the rifle after them. This was also the case with the Infantry Automatic Rifle as the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines trialled the IAR concept. The 3/8 is also one of the units currently trailing general issue of suppressors, and the M38 pictured appears to be suppressed with a Knight’s Armament NT4 QDSS.

The exercise saw Marines training with both the M27 IAR and the M38 DMR, the M38 is reportedly a re-purposed M27, itself based on Heckler & Koch’s HK416. Both the rifles appear to be using the same Harris Bipod.

The use of the M27 as a DMR rifle is not new, with Marines using it to qualify as Designated Marksman since at least 2016. Similarly, the Norwegian Army, which currently uses the HK416N as its standard-issue infantry rifle, also fields the rifle in a DMR configuration.

Marine with an M38 DMR (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michaela R. Gregory)

H/T to Nathaniel F for catching the naming convention

Matthew Moss
Matthew Moss

Managing Editor: & Overt Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. Matt is also runs The Armourer's Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms. Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news. Reach Matt at:

More by Matthew Moss

Join the conversation
3 of 97 comments
  • LCON LCON on Dec 29, 2017

    It's the whole package that gets the designation it seems. Change what is in the package and they change the number. It seems like the Marines want a predescribed accessory set up for there weapons.

  • Brett Brett on Dec 29, 2017

    *looks at last picture*
    Who gave these children guns?...oh yeeeeaaaaah..

    • Ron Ron on Dec 30, 2017

      @Brett It is Uncle Sams Misguided Children after all