Photo Information

Chief Warrant Officer Christian Wade, battalion gunner for 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion adjusts the scope on a Mark-12 designated marksman rifle during a live-fire exercise at Sahl Sinjar, Iraq, April 27, 2009. Wade says the medium tactical scope is a key factor in making the Mark-12 such an accurate weapon.

Photo by Cpl. Alan Addison

Marines train with designated marksman rifle

15 May 2009 | Cpl. Alan Addison

Gunfire erupts in the distance after which rounds impact targets down range and bury themselves in the dirt behind the targets.  Unlike the expected sounds of an M-4 carbine or another other variant of the M-16 service rifle, the shots heard here lack the sharp crack of those weapons and are instead slightly muffled.

Marines from 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8, recently conducted live fire exercises with their new Mark 12 designated marksman rifles. 

Unlike the M-4 or the M-16, the Mark-12 comes equipped with an M-16A1 lower receiver, a match grade free-floating barrel, a muzzle break suppressor, and an adjustable bipod.  Other additions include a medium range tactical scope and back-up iron sights.

Although the Mark-12’s production began in the late 90’s, it didn’t reach the hands of Marines until 2003.

“Marines don’t get these weapons back in the states,” commented Chief Warrant Officer Christian Wade, battalion gunner for 3rd LAR.  “These Marines are issued them when they’re deployed, so I try to conduct ranges like this so they can become mechanically sound and proficient with the weapon.”

Mark 12’s are not issued to every Marine within a unit; they are specifically issued to one Marine per company who has received advanced marksmanship training.

“This weapon is issued to certain Marines, because of its precision firing capabilities,” Wade said.  “As far as weapons within a rifle squad it’s definitely the most precise, and offers good advantages.” 

Wade was not the only one singing the praises of the M12.

“This weapon is definitely my favorite Marine Corps weapon,” said Sgt. Robert Montanaro, a chief scout with Company E, 3rd LAR.  “The added suppressor is a great tool because it gives you the opportunity to be stealthier which is really important.”

Montanaro also added that since the weapon’s frame was similar to an M-4 or M-16, it made it easy for him to become familiar with the weapon.  The medium range scope was another feature the Marines seemed to enjoy.

“Optics are key when dealing with a precision weapon, and I’m definitely happy with the optics on this weapon,” said Montanaro.

“The scope is definitely better than a Rifle Combat Optic (RCO),” said Lance Cpl Kevin Mitchell, a rifleman with Company C, 3rd LAR.  “The RCO only does so much, but with this scope you can view more, and it helps you to better determine the size of targets.”

Size and added accessories aren’t the only things that separate the Mark-12 from its predecessors.  The Mark-12 is also more accurate

“The M-4’s maximum effective range is about 500 meters and the Mark-12’s maximum effective range is about 600 meters,” said Wade.   “At 100 yards the M-4’s shot groups are about three and-one-half inches, but the shot groups from a Mark-12 are one inch or better,” Wade added.

“The consistency, accuracy, and stability of this weapon are definite advantages, and any advantage we can gain over the enemy is good for us,” Mitchell said. 

Marines once again took their positions behind their weapons and rapidly unleashed rounds toward targets downrange.  As cartridges ejected from the weapons and fell to the ground, it’s easy to see that Marines not only enjoy the stifled sound of the weapon but they are equally pleased with its accuracy.

For more information on the ongoing mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, visit