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What are the trade-offs between the different semi-automatic Recon Class rifles (including the co-op unlock) in Battlefield 3 in terms of:

  • Rate of fire
  • Damage Done
  • Other important Factors?

(To clarify, I want a comparison of the semi-automatic rifles, not a comparison of bolt action vs. semi-automatic.)

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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Here's information for the standard multi-player semi-auto rifles. There's also partial information for the M39 EMR, which you can only unlock through playing in co-op mode. I don't play co-op, so I'm unable to analyze that weapon.

I assume we're talking about these:

  • MK11 MOD 0
  • SVD
  • SKS
  • M39 EMR (Co-Op unlock)

Unlock progression

There's no significant difference between their unlocks. Their origin, Russian (SVD and SKS) vs. NATO (MK11 and M39), will affect which faction's holographic sight and red dot sight they get first, for example. But ignoring very minor differences, the unlock progressions are the same.

Damage

This earlier question points you to damage information for these weapons, from a weapon stat spreadsheet that includes other information as well.

Here's a table copied from that answer (thanks Jeff Atwood). For comparison, player health on a standard server is 100.

RANGE   5  10  15  20  25  35  40  50  60  80  100 meters
SVD    50  50  49  48  47  44  43  41  38  34   34
MK11   50  50  49  48  47  44  43  41  38  34   34
SKS    34  34  34  34  33  32  32  30  30  30   28
M39    50  50  49  48  47  44  43  41  38  34   34

So the SKS is lower than the others, but still decent on a per-shot basis.

Rate of Fire

Unfortunately the spreadsheet mentioned above says nothing about semi-auto rate of fire as of this writing. The problem is that semi-auto weapons don't have a rate of fire in the same sense that auto weapons do.

You'd think ROF is just "as fast as you can click, but with an upper limit enforced by the weapon." And while that's roughly true, it's not quite that simple.

Empty a few semi-auto magazines as fast as you can. You might expect to hear a regular rhythm constrained by the weapon's upper limit, but you'll actually hear something pretty irregular, including some very fast spurts. There almost seems to be a sweet spot, meaning it's less about how fast you click than about whether you click at just the right times.

Given that caveat, here's information on the MK11, SVD, and SKS. I don't co-op, so I haven't unlocked the M39. For a semi-realistic number rather than an optimal (impossible) one, I emptied 10 magazines for each weapon, timing with a stopwatch, and averaged the time needed... i.e., there's lots of room for observation error.

So a disclaimer: understand that these numbers are very, very squishy.

Pseudo rate of fire (rounds per minute)

MK11    210
SVD     215
SKS     240

Spread

I have no great idea for measuring this precisely.

What I did was to measure—on my screen with an actual ruler—the distance between the white reticule brackets when the weapon is equipped. Obviously the mm measurement will vary with screen size, but it'll give you a basis for comparison between weapons.

Note that this was not scoped in. Once you scope in, the reticule's brackets disappear, making it look like every weapon is equally accurate... which I doubt is true. My leap of faith is to assume that differences when firing from the hip will translate into differences when you actually aim. That could be wrong.

I've included a couple of other weapons for comparison.

Smaller number = better (tighter) spread.

Semi-Auto spread in mm

Weapon  Stand   Crouch  Prone
MK11    45      39      33
SVD     45      39      33
SKS     33      26      21

Other weapon spreads for comparison

Weapon  Stand   Crouch  Prone
AK-74M  33      26      20
M9      14      14      14
G17C    10      10      10

Overall

The SVD and MK11 are pretty comparable, as you'd expect since they're the starting weapons for the two factions. Personally I feel the SKS works well for front-line recon play. It's less powerful than the others per shot, but it has less spread and a slightly higher ROF.

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"My leap of faith is to assume that differences when firing from the hip will translate into differences when you actually aim" almost certainly not true based on what I've read -- firing from the hip has its own set of rules vs scoped in, which you can see in add-ons like the laser pointer which only affects hip fire. But this is otherwise an excellent and well researched answer –  Jeff Atwood Jan 4 '12 at 9:30
    
note that SKS changed radically in the latest patch, many are calling it overpowered. –  Jeff Atwood Apr 9 '12 at 20:15
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The Semi-Automatic weapons that can be wielded by the recon class (not including all class weapons) function quite differently to their bolt action counter parts.

The main advantage is a higher rate of fire, which is more useful in close quarters, and allows faster kills than a bolt action rifle (unless you get a headshot with the bolt action rifle).

The downsides are:

  • Less damage per shot

  • Much lower accuracy

These two coupled means you'll only get a one shot kill at short-mid range using a semi auto sniper, and at very long ranges, it's very hard to even get a hit at all.

If you're going for extreme ranges, and are good at aiming, bolt action is your friend. If you're going for shorter ranges or aren't so reliably hitting headshots, semi auto is your friend.

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That is not true. I am getting headshots with the MK11 regularly. If you hold your breath and aim above enough, you land a head-shot alright. Semi-auto and 4X ACOG at short to medium range - well that's another story. –  Bora Nov 10 '11 at 9:03
    
@Bora I'm not saying it's impossible to headshot, it's just harder, and also unless you're at mid-short range, a headshot with a semi auto won't one shot kill. Will edit to clarify. –  Mr Smooth Nov 10 '11 at 9:33
    
Sorry I might not have been clear. I meant the differences with the semi-autmoatic rifles. I.e. MK11 vs M39 EMR –  Kyle Brandt Nov 10 '11 at 14:06
    
@KyleBrandt I see. In that case, I don't know the answer, apart from different ammo ammounts, you'd have to look up the stat comparisons somewhere. I'll edit your question to clarify, but I'll leave this here in case someone else comes looking for it. –  Mr Smooth Nov 10 '11 at 15:19
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