Marine snipers working in Iraq and Afghanistan know all about the benefits of smaller rifles. The latest sniper rifle design to be put forward by the leathernecks is a 16-inch-barreled .338 Lapua Mag. The thinking is that by lopping off 10 inches of barrel, the rifle can be shortened to fit inside a pack so that a sniper can deploy with an M4, like a regular grunt, and not attract undue attention with a long, scoped weapon, marking him as a sniper. There is, however, a more sophisticated solution to miniaturizing a sniper rifle.
Bullpup rifles incorporate the rifle’s action behind the trigger, allowing for a compact overall length without shortening the barrel. Bullpups are not new; they date back to World War I, but they’ve never been very popular outside of Europe, where the best examples originated. The Steyr AUG might be the most widely known bullpup. The British army began issuing a bullpup in 1985, the SA80; FN’s P90 is a more recent example.
The great advantage of a bullpup is that it allows you to scale down the overall length of a rifle without giving up downrange ballistic performance by shortening the barrel. The disadvantage is that by placing the action behind the trigger, usually about where the shooter takes his cheek weld, ejection of spent cases prevents the rifle from being used by left-handers. There are some bottom-ejecting designs, but by and large bullpups are right-handed only.
Recognizing the need for a short overall length sniper rifle, yet not wanting to give up any ballistic performance by cutting the barrel, a German company named AMP Technical Services has produced a bullpup sniper rifle of exotic design.
Designated the DSR No. 1 (for Defensive Sniper Rifle), the rifle comes with a 25.6-inch barrel yet stretches the tape only 39.4 inches overall. Compare this to the current issue FBI sniper rifle, a .308 with a 24-inch barrel measuring 45 inches overall.
The DSR is to a sniper rifle what a dragster is to a family sedan. Like a dragster, the gun is built on a long rail with the action, barrel, sighting plane and stock all part of the aluminum and titanium rail. The entire rifle is modular and can be disassembled virtually down to the ground without tools.
The bolt is a six-lug, front locking design with a nice, short throw of what appears to be about 40 degrees. The bolt handle is positioned just behind the locking lugs, giving the shooter maximum leverage and greater control over the bolt throw for faster follow up shots.
The receiver is made of a high-strength aluminum alloy. The locking recesses for the bolt are in the barrel, obviously, and not in the front of the receiver. The match-grade barrel is made by Lothar Walther.
The action is fed by a detachable box magazine holding either four or five rounds depending on caliber choice. The DSR No. 1 is available in .308, .300 Win Mag and .338 Lapua Mag. There is a spare magazine receptacle in the rifle’s rail mainframe, forward of the trigger.
The trigger is a two-stage design with a definite “catch” at the second stage. The safety is a three-stage type with the full-safe position locking the bolt, half-safe locking the sear but releasing the bolt and, of course, the fire position.
“Stock” is not the right word to describe the rear portion of this rifle. Call it a “shooter interface” but whatever it is, it’s the epitome of ergonomic design. The heel is adjustable for length of pull as well as angle. The cheek piece rises up or down to position the shooter’s head comfortably in line with his choice of optic.
The DSR has a vertical riser inside the rifle’s mainframe just forward of the heel. Inside is a spring-loaded monopod for adjusting elevation. The shooter grips the monopod tube housing using the proper two-handed hold on a benched rifle with the support hand tucked back, and can instantly deploy the monopod by pressing a deeply knurled release knob.
Extended to touch the ground by spring tension, the monopod can then be fine-tune adjusted by turning the release knob with the support hand, all the while maintaining a proper rear support grip on the monopod housing. The monopod has a second leg inside itself, a telescoping design, which can be extended for extreme downward angle targets. I’ve never shot, let alone seen, anything as well designed on any precision rifle.
The rifle’s grip is a target-style pistol grip with a heel support, finger grooves and a palm swell for right-handed shooters.
The rifle incorporates an unusual bipod mounted on top of the rifle’s mainframe rail. A complete reversal of the usual bipod, the entire rifle hangs from the bipod instead of being supported by it. There is a wide range of cant and traverse built into the bipod. The legs telescope, spring loaded, to extend as needed. When not in use, the legs pivot back and lock into recesses on the mainframe.
Our test rifle was chambered in .338 Lapua Mag, the monstrous long-range cartridge built on the cavernous .416 Rigby case. Its ballistics are a 250-grain FMJ at 3000 feet per second (fps), making it a true 1000-meter round with a high ballistic coefficient to make it over a half mile without suffering too badly from wind drift.
Thanks to the dual-port, titanium muzzle brake on the DSR No. 1, shooting the big cartridge felt like nothing. Our test rifle, complete with a Leupold Mark IV scope and an Aimpoint in a custom SureFire scope mount, weighed about 19 pounds, so recoil was totally mitigated.
With a 200-yard zero, I was able to ring a 500-meter gong by holding at the top of the plate. Using the rear monopod’s adjustment wheel, I could traverse a row of plates from 200, 300, 400 and 500 with ease. While the recoil was negligible, the muzzle blast was pronounced. I would not want to be next to the gun with that muzzle brake.
Working the bolt was awkward, but like anything else, if you practice with it, I’m sure it will feel natural after a few thousands reps. Repetition is the mother of all skill, as an instructor used to say.
The factory claims that the DSR No. 1 produces accuracy of 0.2-MOA, or 2 inches at 1000 yards. The best we could do between three shooters was a 6-inch group at the grand mark. Needless to say, wind and mirage play a big role in long-range shooting.
For an exotic design, the DSR is the most radical rifle available. It makes the Blaser 93 Tactical look pedestrian in comparison. The DSR No. 1 was developed for Germany’s GSG-9, the elite anti-terrorist police unit. It is every bit the ultimate bullpup.
Marine snipers working in Iraq and Afghanistan know all about the benefits of smaller rifles.…
by Rich Grassi / Aug 28, 2008